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All About Eve – the brilliant Eve Arnold exhibition

I have a rather shameful confession to make. Until recently I didn’t even know where Art Sensus, the gallery, was located. Oh, you didn’t either? Good. It’s behind the Army and Navy store in Victoria. And it’s a stunning building and a great exhibition space.

And now it’s hosting a brilliant – but with many sad undertones – exhibition of Eve Arnold’s photography, All About Eve. Which you can’t afford to miss as that would be a real shame.

So why is it sad? First of all, as you can see on the pictures, there were very few people there when I went. Of course it doesn’t mean anything as there might be other days when the room is packed, but it still struck me that such a brilliant exhibition received so little attention (although it was widely covered, and largely positively received, by the mainstream media).

But the saddest fact was Eve Arnold’s death literally weeks before the exhibition opened and three months before her 100th birthday. The photographer, despite her age, was actively involved in the preparations and helped select the hundred photographs on display.

And what photographs they are. Eve Arnold picked up the camera quite late, she was in her forties when she became a professional photographer, but her legacy is immense.

One word I constantly thought of when looking at her pictures was ‘human’. Human and sensitive. You can see Arnold’s human side and great sensitivity in her portraits of Marilyn Monroe – depicting a lonely and vulnerable woman – as well as in her documentary shots from China, Mongolia or Afghanistan.

She was as passionate as she was compassionate. When you watch the clips and snippets of interviews with Arnold, or about Arnold, shown in the gallery, you get to know a fantastic human being interested in  other human beings and, more importantly, interested in showing what’s human about them.

One other thing that really impressed me – even though I had seen it already in a book – was Eve Arnold’s very detailed notes regarding her every assignment. All those details – from the date to the location, subject and even the number and type of film rolls used – are displayed on one of the walls in the gallery and make you realise how huge her contribution to world photography was.

Eve Arnold chose London as her home for many years and if you live or at least pass through London before 27th April, you should find that quiet gallery at the back of Army and Navy and travel back to the times when photo assignments took months, cameras were bulkier, and human emotions – the same as always – were captured by an extraordinary photographer.

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