Cambridge Faces

LEAF ARBUTHNOT enjoys something, but this time: it’s inedible.

alex jackson Art burden carr carr and burden chrystal ding eliska haskovcova Fitz Fitzwilliam Museum iPhone photographers photography queens art society The Union thurstan redding

Monday 12th March, The Fitzwilliam Museum, £20/£25; 14th -15h March, The Union, free entry.


At last, at long last, a platform for Cambridge’s finest photographers.  The university may boast some of the most pioneering drama in the country, its academics may be billy-whizz, but until yesterday, its readiness to embrace photography as a valid art form was deeply questionable.

We are sometimes presented with student photographs, of course, and some of these are quite impressive – but they do tend to adopt as their centre of gravity either a) snow or b) iPhoneography, both of which get quite boring quite quickly. 

No longer. Cambridge Faces, a project launched by the Queens Art Society under the direction of Thurstan Redding, has injected much-needed life into the university’s formerly flailing photography scene, by commissioning seven students to interpret the city with their cameras. While the majority of the photos are Cambridge-centric – featuring classmates you might know, supervisors who may have taught you, familiar buildings – as an ensemble, they reveal a new city, whose mysteries which neither you nor I have plumbed.

With each photographer broaching the theme from a refreshingly different perspective, the variety of imagery on show was striking. Alex Jackson approached the subject by “focusing on food and drink”, producing a series of shots displaying the backstage activities of some of the town’s most iconic restaurants and shops. “Over 40 Years Experience” is especially strong, showing an elderly Fitzbillies worker making sausage rolls, his personality and past seemingly concentrated in his magnificent eyebrows.

Alex Jackson – Over 40 Years Of Experience

Other highlights were Chrystal Ding’s “In Recovery”, of a convalescing anorexic mid-fag, her face obscured by smoke – mercifully, Ding managed to sidestep an entire mob of clichés that could have made both photo and topic unforgivably glib. Tab Fashion favourite Eliska Haskovcova chose Shakespeare as her muse. “Anthony and Cleopatra” was an especially powerful contender, capturing with unsentimental modernity the psychological ambiguity of the Shakespearian character. Carr and Burden’s combined effort offered eight images of fellows’ and the jobs they had wanted to do as children – the best, “The Mathematician” amusingly showed that the professor in question had indeed achieved his wildest fantasies by becoming precisely what he had yearned for, a Professor of Mathematics.

Eliska Haskovcova – Anthony and Cleopatra

Carr and Burden – The Mathematician

While the exhibition is imperfect – the montage could be slicker, the iPads feel gimmicky – it is absolutely worth your time, whether or not you usually savour photography shows. We can only hope that next year, the Fitz or some other big-shot venue will give the exhibition the entire room and run it deserves.

The photos will be shown again at the Union this Wednesday and Thursday, free of charge, although they can be purchased with proceeds going to worthwhile causes.