The stunning thing with this outdoor exhibition of double portraits is the gap between the curators’ rhetoric and the relative indifference of the public passing these large prints in the square outside Marseille Hotel de Ville and the Vieux Port.
It would be foolish to dismiss any photography initiative in the land of Cartier-Bresson and not far from the photography college at Arles so I was people-watching, looking to see which (if any) of the images exhibited by The Anonymous Project lived up to the rhetoric. We are told these images were found and purchased as an archive with very little information as to provenance, names etc. Display of these images is the work of The Anonymous Project so what we are seeing is a double selection, by both the photographer(s) - names unknown - and then the curators.
The uncomfortable reality is that most of the public walk right by and the ones that do engage, stop only for the display with the cut-out faces through which to add your face to the body of the photo, like on a pier. With cameras on almost every phone we favour self-publicity over considered and curated photographs of strangers.
The intriguing thing with the images in the main exhibition is that there’s a clear bond between the pairs of people pictured in each of the portraits and this is evident even without touching or an eyeline between the participants. There’s family resemblance, holding hands and other body language indicating cohesion and even looking directly apart but with bodies leaning together.
Too subtle for the passing public or at least apparently so, but to those of us sitting and looking slowly and long, the power of these images becomes persuasive, or at least educative. But whether that reflects the intention of the photographer(s) or is an imposition by the selection process is impossible to say.