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Richard Sawdon Smith: A life lived through photography

8 August – 9 September 2023 | An artist in residence and archive exploration

A Life Lived Through Photography, Sawdon Smith’s live five-week artist residency in East Gallery, disrupts the traditional ‘white cube’ space as it seeks to engage with his own archive of photographic and film work spanning more than three decades

Richard Sawdon Smith’s art practice takes the form of staged self-portraiture and the body. His photography can best be described as issue-based work – exploring concerns of identity, sexuality, gender, queerness, and masculinity as well as the construction of subjectivity. Over the last 30 years this has primarily been in reference to representation of illness/health.

Using his own body to represent the ideas he is interested in photographing, Sawdon Smith has created different personas, like The Damaged Narcissist and The Anatomical Man that he inhabits to both produce the images and keep a critical distance and perspective on the work. In his most recent series, The Unknowing…X he reflects on the different parts of his life – from gender bender to boxer, drag queen to leather queen, AIDS patient to University Professor, son to Daddy! – by dipping into an adult dressing up box to create new and potentially different roles.

Working collaboratively with a graduate researcher, and staff from East Gallery and Norwich University of the Arts, the project explores different modes of display and representations of archival material. Over the course of his residency, Sawdon Smith will revisit and restage images from his archive, bringing to life a series of social-historical concerns from the 1980s to the present and into the future. The work is experimental and aims to provide insight into Sawdon Smith’s creative process and to explore alternative approaches to presenting archival material.

Artist biography

Richard Sawdon Smith (he/him) is an internationally exhibiting and award-winning British photographer. He is Professor of Fine Art and Programme Director for Fine Art and Photography at Norwich University of the Arts. He is a former winner of the John Kobal/NPG Photographic Portrait Award (1997), on the Editorial Advisory Panel of the Journal of Photography & Culture and Co-editor of Langford’s Basic Photography and The Book is Alive!. He is a Patron of Norwich Film Festival, Trustee of Norwich Pride, a founding member of Norwich Queer Contemporaries and a Trustee of the Council for Higher Education in Art & Design (CHEAD). His photographs and writing are widely published. He has exhibited extensively in group shows in the UK and internationally, at institutions including Whitechapel Gallery, Royal Academy of Arts, National Portrait Gallery, The Photographers’ Gallery, ICA, Manchester Art Gallery, National Museum & Galleries of Wales, MACT/CACT Museo d’arte Contemporanea Ticino (Switzerland), International Museum of Surgical Science (USA), Gallery of Contemporary Art Bunkier Sztuki (Poland), Kiasma, Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinski (Finland), and Palais de Tokyo (France).

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Opening times:
Tuesday – Friday 12–5pm, Saturday 12–4pm
Admission free

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