Les Monaghan and Gillian Wearing

Les Monaghan’s oevre, The Desire Project, is quite similar in concept to Gillian Wearing’s Signs That Say What You Want Them To Say Not What Others Want You To Say. Both bodies of work reflect the thoughts and concerns of the subjects. Both Wearing and Monahan’s work encompasses the public vs private persona of the individual. However, where Wearing has chosen to photograph her subjects in a variety of places – on the streets, in alleys, in the malls, Monaghan has chosen to photograph his subjects in about four consistent locations which lends more of a coherence to the work. He has also photographed all his subjects from a lower angle so that they are looking down at him slightly, which seems to empower them. This was further emphasised in the exhibition which was held in the Frenchgate Centre in Doncaster where the prints which were enlarged to almost life-size and hung high on the shopping mall’s walls.

Monaghan’s images are captioned with answers to one question posed to them, namely, “What do you want?” The answers to this question range quite a bit, but most people just want happiness, peace, health and a better world.

“Political and societal changes have rendered us all as individual consumers, those portrayed have been photographed alone, but when exhibited they are grouped together and their desires for health, happiness and a better world coalesce.

“We want the same things, we want to get along, we want to be social, we want community.”

Les Monaghan, BBC News

Gillian Wearing made her first major work in a busy area of South London. She stopped pedestrians and requested them to write down what was on their mind and with photographed them holding their statement.

As indicated by the title of the work, Wearing has written that this collaboration ‘interrupts the logic of photo-documentary and snapshot photography by the subjects’ clear collusion and engineering of their own representation.’

Gillian Wearing (Tate)

Wearing made her series in the 1990’s when economic conditions were quite different to what they are now and this is reflected in the thoughts written on the signs. Back then there was no social media and the ordinary man in the street didn’t really have a public voice. In making her body of work Wearing affords the man or woman in the street of whatever class or station in life, an opportunity to voice their concerns.

By Gillian Wearing

There is a feeling of randomness running through Wearing’s work. This is probably due to the variety of poses, crops and background that occur in her work. I can see now why my tutor has been urging me to try and keep the same shooting format and distance as I do think it makes for a cleaner presentation.

Reference List

Coombes, Phil (2016). The Desire Project: What Do You Want? [online] BBC News. Available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/in-pictures-36132932 [Accessed 10 May, 2017]

Gartenfeld, Alex (2012). Gillian Wearing [online] Interview Magazine. Available at: http://www.interviewmagazine.com/art/london-gillian-wearing/ [Accessed 10 May, 2017]

Wearing, Gillian (1992-3). Signs that Say What You Want Them To Say and Not Signs that Say What Someone Else Wants You To Say [online] Tate. http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/wearing-signs-that-say-what-you-want-them-to-say-and-not-signs-that-say-what-someone-else-66092/2 [Accessed 10 May, 2017]

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3 thoughts on “Les Monaghan and Gillian Wearing”

  1. I’m probably imagining it but Gillian Wearing’s work has less depth to me, as if it was a playful exercise at an early stage. I think Les Monaghan’s work is more thoughtful and it fits in with his other work in giving people a voice.

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