‘Let Us Now Praise Famous Bins’ – Cardiff gallery launches exhibition and legacy project
An innovative Cardiff gallery will be hosting a special exhibition of work by emerging photographer Tom Higgins, who took his own life in January 2021 at the age of 36.
Opening on Friday 4 November with an evening of talks and introductions, Cardiff MADE gallery and Tom’s family will announce a new scheme, inspired by his vision, which will be launched in the New Year.
After Tom’s death, MADE gallery curators Zoë Gingell and Josh Leeson invited his former tutors Faye Chamberlain and colleague Sarah Hayton, to survey his digital archive of 17,000 images and present this exhibition, as a step towards the next project
As a response, the exhibition entitled “Let Us Now Praise Famous Bins” was built around the vision of a young man who took images that paid witness to his intrinsic humour, humanity, and social activism.
Embodying the wit which underpins this series of images, the humble bin, present in every image becomes a surrogate for the downtrodden, the overlooked and undervalued.
Raised to the status of ‘subject’, his images ask questions about aesthetics, what is valued, precisely what is worthy to be captured within an image.
Tom’s compositions play with these ideas – seeing echoes in the grand and lowly, foreground and scenery, signage and symbolism, echoes of bin – ness echoed mirrored in architectural structures.
Zoe Gingell said: “Crucially, we’re showing this to pass the baton on. To demonstrate that in taking photographs and showing them, you are asking others to consider what you see, and that matters.
“Devised in honour of him, and with the blessing of his family, this exhibition is both a re-curation as far as possible of his own original favoured selection, (which formed his final project) but also significantly as the platform from which to launch a bigger legacy project, The Higgins Photography Initiative, which will be announced at the exhibition opening.”
Tom’s Parents said: “Our much loved, widely respected, intelligent and funny son Tom tragically took his own life on the 5th Jan 2021 at the age of 36 years.
“After the initial devastating shock, we as a family had to decide how to donate his monies to charities and organisations that we believe he would have wanted to support; among these was Cardiff MADE, where he had been very pleased to exhibit some of his photographs.
“We were very grateful to Zoe and Josh for the kind and sympathetic support they gave us when we offered the donation and are now delighted and excited by the imaginative way they are planning to use the donation to celebrate Tom’s photography and encourage other young photographers.
“We are equally grateful to Ffotogallery, Paul Woffenden from Cardiff and Vale College, Faye Chamberlain, Sarah Hayton and the Arts Council of Wales and colleagues for their enthusiasm for this project and for helping to bring it to life.’
His former tutor Faye Chamberlain said: “Tom’s political beliefs influenced his work, but they were made more accessible by his abstract humour, leading his pictures to be thought provoking yet visually and emotionally vibrant.
“ ‘Let Us Now Praise Famous Bins’ – the name a nod towards a book titled ‘Let Us Now Praise Famous Men’ by writer James Agee and photographer Walker Evans, published in 1941, which documents the lives of impoverished tenant farmers during the US Great Depression – was created for the course.
“My criteria was simple – present 6-8 good images, on a theme that interests you and can be completed over the 10 weeks of the course. Remember this was a beginners course, so generally people think about what’s easy and accessible to them – their family, a local park or reflections in puddles.
“But because of the way Tom’s mind worked, he came up with a theme so seemingly simple and accessible to all of us, within which he imbued his humour and his message.
“What were these bins but characters who appear in all of our lives? Full of things we no longer need, holding the detritus and now unvalued items, themselves becoming just things only noticed when we need one or to be complained about we can’t find one to dump our burden in.”
The exhibition ‘Let Us Now Praise Famous Bins’ is showing at Cardiff MADE until November 20th, 2022.
Special thanks also to Red Room, Elena Grace and Paul Wofenden for their contribution to the show.
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