Glimpses of other people’s lives are always fascinating, so it’s unsurprising that the two photographers in this exhibition chose to document everyday existence in China and Mongolia.
Grace Gelder hails from Wolverhampton, and graduated last year with an MA in International Photojournalism, Documentary And Travel Photography. She hopes to counteract misconceptions of Mongolia as an under-developed country, and her series of striking colour portraits, each depicting one woman in her professional context, follows up a UN report last year that placed Mongolia first in a league table for women’s participation in the workforce.
In contrast, Laura McCallum offers an account of her own experiences as a participant in Beijing’s burgeoning internet dating scene. ‘The preference for male children meant the one-family-one-child rule resulted in many girls being aborted,’ she explains. ‘Now there’s a shortage of women for marriage, so many turn to the web.’
After answering personal ads on lonely heart websites, McCallum recorded her preparations and meetings, but was careful not to exploit her dates.
‘It’s a subject I could only document by taking part,’ she admits. ‘In the pictures, you see me, but my dates are hinted at within the situations, rather than shown directly. I realised my outsider’s viewpoint made it interesting. I hope the subjective angle means the project can be read as a contemporary art piece.’
A direct comparison of Chinese and British dating scenes was part of the original plan, but after abandoning the UK part, she believes some conclusions can be drawn. ‘Perhaps the most striking difference I noticed was how connections are more openly informed by financial and social status in China. Those are factors here but they aren’t discussed. We still like to feel it’s all about love and romance.’
Wed Aug 13 until Aug 28, Light House, The Chubb Buildings, Fryer Street, Wolverhampton. Mon to Fri 9am to 8.30pm; Sat one hour before screening to 8.30pm; Sun 5.30pm to 8.30pm, free. Tel: 01902 716055.