Collective Observations

Hocktide Tutti Men.
Hungerford, Berkshire, 1992
© Doc Rowe

JournalArt & Culture

Collective Observations

Folklore photos are made of the rite stuff...

The sacred institution of marriage. A bit strange isn’t it really? People standing around in outmoded clothes, tribally arranged on one side or the other of the church like the gangs of a pitched battle, perfectly nice people throwing rice at the happy couple, who run cowering while trying not to lose an eye.

Yet this is by no means the strangest of the 720 recorded rites, rituals and ceremonies practised in the UK each year, and the Museum of British Folklore has gathered together in the sight of Eastbourne’s Towner Gallery a collection of images documenting the more unusual. The exhibition, Collective Observations: Folklore and Photography – from Benjamin Stone to Flickr, features (as it says on the tin) work by photographers such as Doc Rowe, Henry Bourne and work from the Benjamin Stone Collection archive, as well as the ever-growing web archive Flickr; and rather powerful it all is.

The very British rituals range from the somewhat familiar to the near-obsolete, but each is captured with a loving care that maintains the interest and relevance of even the most obscure. Don’t stand on ceremony – get down to the gallery before 13th January 2013.

Collective Observations: Folklore and Photography from Benjamin Stone to Flickr

Paul Murray,
Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestler, 2008
© David Ellison

Collective Observations: Folklore and Photography from Benjamin Stone to Flickr

‘Mari Lwyd’, 1983
© Brian Shuel

Collective Observations: Folklore and Photography from Benjamin Stone to Flickr

Mayfield Bonfire Society, Sussex
© Sara Hannant

Collective Observations: Folklore and Photography from Benjamin Stone to Flickr

Sir Benjamin Stone, Baal Fire, The Prepared Faggots,
Whalton, Northumberland, 1901.
Sir Benjamin Stone Collection,
Library of Birmingham.

Collective Observations: Folklore and Photography from Benjamin Stone to Flickr

Film still, ‘Death in a Nut’
© Tom Chick

Collective Observations: Folklore and Photography from Benjamin Stone to Flickr

Skeletons, Samhain,
Chalice Well, Glastonbury,
Somerset, 2007
© Sara Hannant

Collective Observations: Folklore and Photography from Benjamin Stone to Flickr

Christian Cornell, The Straw Bear,
photographed at the Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival
January 2010
© Henry Bourne

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