Chris Shaw
Night Porter

Chris Shaw.
Lounge Blizzard.
From the series ‘Night Porter’.
1999.
© Chris Shaw Chris Shaw.
New York Rad Walcot Hotel.
From the series ‘Night Porter’.
2005.
© Chris Shaw Chris Shaw.
Sleepwalker.
From the series ‘Night Porter’.
1989.
© Chris Shaw Chris Shaw.
Sky at Night.
From the series ‘Night Porter’.
1999.
© Chris Shaw Chris Shaw.
Keep at Arms Length. Self-portrait as a night porter. Bonnington Hotel London.
From the series ‘Night Porter’.
1994.
© Chris Shaw

Chris Shaw. Lounge Blizzard. From the series ‘Night Porter’. 1999. © Chris Shaw

Chris Shaw. New York Rad Walcot Hotel. From the series ‘Night Porter’. 2005. © Chris Shaw

Chris Shaw. Sleepwalker. From the series ‘Night Porter’. 1989. © Chris Shaw

Chris Shaw. Sky at Night. From the series ‘Night Porter’. 1999. © Chris Shaw

Chris Shaw. Keep at Arms Length. Self-portrait as a night porter. Bonnington Hotel London. From the series ‘Night Porter’. 1994. © Chris Shaw

Moscow, 29.IV.2014—8.VI.2014

exhibition is over

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Chris Shaw is a leading light of modern British photography. He was widely acclaimed after publication of the book ‘Life as a Night Porter’ in 2005: influential critics called him the arbiter of a new genre and London’s Tate Gallery acquired several works for its collection.

His ‘Life as a Night Porter’ began in 1993. When one day Chris Shaw found himself with no money and no roof over his head, the prospect of employment as a hotel night porter seemed to offer the ideal solution by providing a place of sanctuary for the night. The work was exhausting. Twelve-hour shifts not always in London’s most fashionable hotels proved a real test of endurance. Shaw, an art college graduate, started taking photographs to stop himself falling asleep. ‘I was saved by photography; it has since become my vocation,’ confesses Shaw.

‘Life as a Night Porter’ is a diary of sorts covering a period of ten years. And, like a real diary, it bears the imprint of the owner’s personality. Blurs, marks, uneven edges and ironic captions give a constant, almost physical feeling of the photographer’s presence. Chris Shaw notes that chance events, mistakes and diverse factors ranging from fatigue to lack of time or money played an important role in forming his style.

This is how Chris Shaw describes his technique: ‘Many would probably not consider my raw, uncensored work as ‘traditional’, yet in a digital age as the visual norm becomes ever cleaner and more perfect, I keep redefining the tradition of shooting, then developing and printing the negative with my own hand. I strive for permanence; to archive the physical, to fix a place in time on paper with light, an obsession is with the nature and reality of the imperfect photographic print... What’s important here is not technical perfection in the spirit of Ansel Adams, but a physical connection with the print and what it depicts.’

Apart from the photographs Shaw took in his years working as a night porter, the series also includes shots of hotels where he stayed as a guest — in New York, Paris, London, Amsterdam, Berlin, Arles, Liverpool, etc. The author is often asked: ‘So where is this hotel?’ Chris Shaw points to his own head in reply: in reality such hotels don’t exist, but if you always work or live in hotels, then with time they all seem alike — and look that way, too.

The second project presented in the exhibition, ‘Weeds of Wallasey’, features Chris Shaw’s birthplace, the town he returned to many years later. Wallasey is situated on the Wirral Peninsula in the north west of England. The author writes of this photographic series: ‘I observed and documented the battle between nature and a post industrial blight, to express my own feelings about a landscape I grew up in, my roots, my weeds ...to document a time and a place ...the feelings for lost family members, the association of death and departure with my home town. Recently, Peel Holdings signed a multi-million pound property development deal in conjunction with Chinese partners to redevelop this area (‘Wirral Waters’). These photographs belong to the ‘before’, and if the after is all brand new mirrored high-rise glass and chrome, there will always be weeds.’

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