Inspired by Shrewsbury's links to Charles Darwin, this outdoor exhibition opens up the theme of evolution through the eyes of international photographers.
The streets of Shrewsbury now feature the work of 23 different Magnum photographers, a selection of 40 photographs introduced to the town where Charles Darwin was born. Darwin’s influence is paramount to the understanding of human origins; Evolution Explored celebrates his achievements in association with Shrewsbury and reflects on human evolution within its streets once again. The photographs selected are all from different photographic approaches including journalism, artist and storytelling, drawing from the diverse collection of the Magnum agency's archive. Each image represents a moment of discovery, shock or pride. The viewer might connect with each photograph differently because of their relation to that specific moment.
Rene Burri photographs the US moon landing in 1972 through the television screen. Many remember this moment crowded around the television screen with their family waiting in anticipation, however for those like myself, who weren't born yet, it opens up conversations to realise the excitement surrounding human discovery.
Martin Parr shows how leisure has evolved through photographs of the Ocean Dome in Miyazaki, Japan and Longleat Safari Park in Wiltshire, England. Parr photographs how humans have appropriated leisure experience with technological discovery. In Japan, pleasure seekers bask in the artificial lights and swim in the the chlorine sea of a remediated seaside resort. While giraffes interact with children excitedly leaning out of their families car at a drive-through safari in England.
The exhibition is reflective of human evolution but it also projects forward to possible changes in the Earths future. In particular, Jonas Bendikson's photograph of the Svalbard seed vault in one of the most northern civilisations on the planet. If industrialisation and pollution significantly affect the earth's resources then the vault in northern Norway becomes the 'Plan B', allowing civilisation to correct its excesses with the seeds from every country across the planet. Exhibiting outside loses the formality of the gallery space and facilitates an audience based on footfall. At the time of Darwin, consumption of artwork wasn’t open and accessible for everyone. However the advent of the internet and digital technology has given everyone with a linked digital device a platform to view and upload art freely.
Evolution Explored contains examples of human discovery, endeavour, exploration and change within the images displayed, whilst embodying a form that demonstrates the evolution of accessibility of information and art. Social networks such as Facebook, Flickr and Instagram are popular choices for the aspiring photographers to share their work. However, in Shrewsbury the Magnum photographs are part of the most important social network - the streets. As they become a window for passers by to look into historical, scientific and natural discovery through the lenses of some of history and our time's most influential photographers.
Evolution Explored is a collaboration between Shrewsbury Business Improvement District, the Hive Arts Centre and Grain Photography Hub and it supported by Arts Council England and partners. The exhibition will take place in two locations: The Square and St Mary's Church, Shrewsbury.
Words by Jonny Bark