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‘Stagefright’ – Dawn Mander’s exhibition wows at Tea Amantes venue

Once more on the service 3 bus to Tea Amantes to view local hero snapper, Dawn Mander’s, excellent street photography based exhibition.

On my arrival the place was already buzzing, full of the great and good of Blackpool creative society and others from as far afield as Leeds and Bedford. It was rather bizarre to see photographers taking photographs of photographs (including me), but so it was.

Dawn seems to have a reputation for keeping out of the limelight, but with this quality of work, the question is why? She says of her photographs:

My exhibition is called Stagefright because all the world’s a stage. Now I’m at a stage in my life when I feel confident to show my work. Being in the heart of my own community adds a deep sense of belonging to my pictures and empathy for my subjects. I simply love the spontaneity of street photography, particularly using film, which still can’t be beaten for an expressive monochrome image. These pictures capture Blackpool and I hope will continue to record it one frame at a time.

In fact Dawn is already an internationally exhibited photographer, with a theatre and dance background; however, this is a first solo show. She has pursued street photography for the last ten years. The tight composition of these shots reminded me strongly of photographers including Bill Brandt, Don McCullin (although no shell-shocked soldiers) and of course Henri Cartier-Bresson. She masterfully captures the somewhat bizarre spirit of Blackpool. Contrast is carefully controlled, giving the feeling of being in the pictures. I commented that if I tried to capture the same shots, I’d be nervous of being punched in the mouth, but that doesn’t seem to faze Dawn, who has clearly mastered the technique of grabbing a perfectly composed shot entirely spontaneously.

Dawn with Anna Margaret Paprzycka and Przemek Malachowski from Tea Amantes (Photo courtesy of Tea Amantes)

‘Stagefright’ is a retrospective of Dawn’s street photography years and includes both monochrome and colour images. As a long-standing monochrome fan who still misses printing his own pictures, I am biased towards the former, which I consider to be particularly strong, but every image here is genius. As well as the framed images on show, further pictures could be watched on a scrolling screen display. A slim booklet of the pictures was available, which I would have purchased but the intensifying rain outside would have turned it to pulp before I got it home. Dawn was back at the café for book signing the next day.

People lingered within and without the café, viewing and reviewing the pictures. The handy awning kept the rain off those outside; despite the precipitation, it was really quite warm, useful if you needed a nicotine boost. Everybody was happy, something to say nowadays.

Photo courtesy of Tea Amantes
Dawn busy signing. Photo courtesy of Tea Amantes

This really was the most convivial group of people. I got so deep into a conversation about good old wet process photographic printing that I missed my usual service 6 bus and had to leg it over to Funny Girls where I caught the service 3. Well I need the exercise. Thanks to the Tea Amantes team for putting together the ideal combination of drinks and nibbles. The fresh fruit went down particularly well with me.

I’m tempted to try a little street photography myself, mindful of not being punched in the mouth. Dawn’s exhibition is magnificent and it’s on at Tea Amantes until 5th September 2022.

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    I have worked in the housing and transport professions for several local authorities, specialising in policy, strategy preparation and bid writing. Having always had an interest in film, the visual arts in general, theatre, music and lterature, I thought it would be good to combine the writing experience with these interests to contribute to altBlackpool. In addition to writing, my hobbies include watercolour and pastel painting, photography, woodwork, cycling and vegetable gardening.

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