Nostalgia Is Not Enough
Images from the Brady Club Archive
8 March-21 April 2017
9 March 2017 17:30pm-20pm
59-63 Whitechapel High Street E1 7PF
Nostalgia is Not Enough
When the Brady Club launched their 70th anniversary fundraiser in 1966, entitled Nostalgia is not Enough, the meaning and intention of these words is a call to the reader to steadfastly embrace the future, as the publicity states: “It’s easy to look back and remember the pleasant things. It’s easy to see the achievement. It’s easy to rest on one’s laurels. To be a little complacent. But perhaps our biggest test lies in the future.”
The concept of nostalgia is of course both subtler and more complex than the one suggested above, reaching beyond the function of memory, often signifiying a “sentimental longing or wistful affection for a period in the past.” Indeed, nostalgia has been associated with melancholia and pathological dysfunction, where the individual becomes submerged in longing for the past that extends beyond fond memories and associations. In fact, in the nineteenth century nostalgia had warranted status as its own medical condition. Certainly, extreme longing for the past impedes forward thinking and skews historic accuracy, but most of us have, to a certain extent, a “nostalgia tendency”. Perhaps the reason for this tendency is the permanency and certainty that the past offers in an uncertain world and with photographs in particular, little pieces of certainty regarding a precise moment in history are framed and fixed in silver gelatin for us to hold. The photographs on display here may indeed make us nostalgic, because they are reminders of a different, apparently confident world, where the narrative is enduring and clear. However, nostalgia is not enough and we should not get too absorbed in this lost territory because, despite whatever adventures there have been, despite the smiling faces, we are called upon to scrutinise these photographs with a cooler eye, to complete the picture invisible in the frame, to fill in the gaps, to remember the draughty tents, the basic food, the inadequate clothing and testing times.
The Brady Girls' Club is the focus of the exhibition, Nostalgia is not Enough, for Women's History Month 2017. The photographs date from the 1940’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s but few in the collection were labeled and the viewer is required to guess dates, judged on photographic technology and clothing styles. However, a few photographs do have the dates penciled on the back, such as the visit in 1960 of The Duke of Edinburgh; the visit by the 1966 home secretary, Roy Jenkins; and the six square colour photographs from camp, top row 1958 and bottom row 1968, changes marked by shifts in colour.
The exhibition has been thoughtfully curated by BA Photography students Matt Cotsell and Elisabetta de Guio with the assistance of Louis Hull, Laila Halilova and Zsofia Varga. The team addressed what they found in the collection and made groupings, loosely speaking from camp, outings, am-drams, clubs and events, focusing on history and photographic sensibilities. They responded to the original material in a variety of ways, by selecting a range of original material, by selecting images for large scale digital production and by producing four short moving/still screen presentations. The result is a warm and thought-provoking selection, which reflects the changing times both then and now.
Susan Andrews, East End Archive Co-ordinator