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Extra-ordinary detail

review

Louise Crawford and StÚphan GuÚneau: Cinema At Streetlevel, 26 King Street, Glasgow, until 31 January The photographs in 'Cinema', all shot at night, are empty of narrative and the picturesque, but full of latent energy and essence of place.

Their city subjects, Paris and Glasgow, couldn't be more different. Paris, welldocumented city of romance, avenues, boulevards, the Seine, and great urban setpieces. Glasgow, Victorian, grid-like - a regenerated post-industrial landscape. Both cities have bridges, rivers, towers and underground railways. One is cinematic in its familiarity; the other, although filmed and photographed, is less etched on the consciousness of the viewer.

However, it is not to familiarity or direct contrasts between the two cities that Louise Crawford and StÚphan GuÚneau respond, but to places and views that are charged with expectation: in-between spaces, not pretty, and likely to be seen as leftover or marginal.

In Glasgow, such gap and empty sites were easy to find, but harder within the PÚripherique in Paris.

Unlike Brassai's photos of 1930s Paris and Oscar Marzaroli's of 1960s Glasgow, the human figure is all but absent, save in ghostlike shadows that sometimes appear, due to an exposure time of as long as 20 minutes, which can reveal layers of detail and colour not perceptible to the eye.

If one looks carefully at Brunswick/Wilson Street, 2002 (above right), a tiny lone figure can be seen standing still, waiting, while the middle-distance and foreground are empty of human presence. The light from a 1930s office block gleams from a grid of windows, car headlights trace round a corner, and the whole recalls an Edward Hopper painting.

In Paris, by contrast, in the photograph 10th Arrondissement, the beauty of a bridge over a canal is disguised by its being wrapped in tarpaulin for renovation. A reddish light shines across the rippled surface of the fabric, giving a Christo-like quality to this curious image.

These photographs illustrate and celebrate the ordinary detail of the city. Beauty is discovered in unadorned areas of Glasgow, while the obvious elegance of Paris is temporarily masked. This has a relevance to architectural practice, with its current interest in the 'everyday': the 'as found' elements of a context, or commonplace materials that are detailed and elevated beyond mere functionality. The artists are also looking back to their own photographic heritage - the work of Thomas Struth and the Dusseldorf school, for instance.

GuÚneau and Crawford refer to this as 'the celebration of the ordinary'. They show that photography has the power to transform our perception of places.

The photographs taken in Paris of the brooding underside of a railway bridge, with its riveted beams and stone walls (above left), could be Glasgow at first glance, while Brunswick/Wilson Street in Glasgow could be SoHo in New York.

The exhibition itself is beautifully hung, each image in a simple wooden frame and with its own presence in the white rectangular gallery of Streetlevel. The photographs exude a calm, meditative quality and draw you to examine the detail: cobbles, kerbs, signs, surface materials - the very stuff of the city's construction. In Blythswood/Cadogan Street, a close-in shot of a spiral car park decontextualises this functional building, but presents its compositional and material qualities. In this way the disregarded is re-presented for consideration, and places we felt we knew well, or did not notice, are refreshed for our senses.

Ian Alexander is an architect in Glasgow

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