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The Home Front examines the relationship between leisure and the military in the UK, in particular the air shows that take place at Royal Air Force bases and in the skies above our seaside resorts.
Air shows are a fun day out for the family. On the ground, tank rides are on offer and armed forces’ recruitment drives afford children an opportunity to indulge in their fascination with guns. There are elements of fantasy and the carnivalesque here and a clear disconnect between this ‘play’ and the actual effect of weapons. In Friend’s photographs the beach and the landscape become uneasy, surreal spaces, temporarily militarized by the fleeting presence and roar of fighter jets. Civilian aircraft displays are interwoven with military ones, whilst nostalgia for World War II is evoked by the presence of ‘war birds’ such as the Lancaster bomber, only to be followed by the ‘shock and awe’ displays of contemporary fighter jets such as the Tornado, recently deployed in Libya and Afghanistan. By contrast, the trade days of the larger air shows such as Farnborough promote military hardware in a more direct way, while deals are negotiated behind the closed doors of the hospitality chalets.
In her early career Melanie Friend worked as a photojournalist, and radio reporter. From the mid 1990s she shifted her focus to longer-term photographic projects, producing work for exhibition as well as for her books which include Homes and Gardens: Documenting the Invisible (1996), No Place Like Home: Echoes from Kosovo (2001) and Border Country (2007). Friend is currently a part-time Senior Lecturer in the School of Media, Film and Music at the University of Sussex.
The Home Front is introduced by Hilary Roberts, Head Curator of Photography at the Imperial War Museum and includes an essay by Pippa Oldfield, Head of Programme at Impressions Gallery, Bradford.
Hardback, 96 pages,
40 colour plates, 245mm x 295mm
Published in association with IMPRESSIONS GALLERY, Bradford