MEGAN WOOD: LOCKDOWN, 2020, THROUGH A 6 YEAR OLD’S EYES | ART PREVIEW
Like many artists, Megan Wood had already taken her first steps in her favoured medium by the age of five. Unlike most, she’s set to see her photography exhibited at a gallery – one with a growing reputation – barely a year later, reports Ben Woolhead.
People routinely talk about their passion being “in the blood”; for Megan Wood, it really is. Her dad is Dan Wood, an award-winning professional documentary and portrait photographer whose new book project Black Was The River, You See is about to be published by Kozu Books.
“I gave her an old point & shoot film camera (Olympus Trip) and she started using it straight away,” he says. “It was a bit hit or miss with the quality of the photos at first, but eventually they started turning out pretty good – a little out of focus, but I think that adds to the charm.”
While naturally keen to encourage his daughter, Dan is wary of being a pushy parent. “She definitely has an aptitude for it and her interest is a bit up and down, but I don’t put pressure on her to take photos as I want her to enjoy it. She has her own mind and only takes pictures when she feels like it.”
As someone who describes himself as “predominantly self-taught”, he’s also careful not to succumb to the temptation to give Megan too much guidance, instead allowing her to find her own subjects and style. “I do give her pointers sometimes,” he admits, “but only if I see that she might miss a good picture – mostly she does what she wants and just takes pictures of what appeals to her.” Indeed, it seems he may be learning more from her than the other way around: “It’s fascinating to see what she sees.”
What she saw last year is evidence of a keen eye inherited from her dad. “When I look at Megan’s pictures of the summer lockdown,” Dan says, “it really brings back vivid memories of how much of a surreal and scary time it was for us all.”
Some images are indeed oddly unsettling: a Miss Piggy puppet sprawled lifelessly on parched grass; a scrapped car appearing to levitate above a corrugated metal fence; a police van parked on a residential street, glimpsed from down an alleyway. But Megan’s favourite picture, taken on VE Day, is of colourful bunting adorning a hedge, because “we walked about and everyone was in their front gardens and spirits were high – there was no fear that day.” She was also struck by the fact that “every house had a rainbow in the window and there was something lovely about that and it made everything seem OK.”
“There’s an importance to this work,” Dan argues. “It’s a valid document of this unprecedented time through a six-year-old’s eyes.” Gayle Rogers, the founder, gallerist and resident artist of the Workers Gallery, evidently agrees: “Megan’s perspective on the new world that she found herself in seemed the perfect show to launch a responsive exhibition space for the future.” This initiative, entitled Art Pane Relief, will see Megan following in the footsteps of other artists who have had their work displayed in the gallery’s windows over the last year, while the interior has been closed to the public.
This is not the first time the Workers has experimented with innovative means of connecting with local people. When an exhibition of David Hurn’s work there closed in January 2020, Gayle dreamt up the Art Box Tour, which saw selected images taken out into the community for the benefit of those unable to visit the gallery in person. One of the objectives of the original exhibition and associated events was to engage young people and fire their enthusiasm for photography – and the decision to showcase Megan’s images has clearly been taken in the same spirit. “Seeing creativity blossom in someone so young in such challenging times is inspirational,” says Gayle. “It gives me hope. I think I will make others feel hopeful too.”
Megan herself is already hopeful, excited at the prospect of getting to spend more time with friends and family over the next few months. And it seems there’s a new photographic project in the offing, too. “She’s started taking portraits of her dolls in my studio where we set up proper lighting/backdrops,” reveals Dan. “She shoots them digitally so she can see the results straight away, which helps. They’ve turned out great so far, so I think she may expand on this.” Watch this space.
Lockdown, 2020 Through A 6 Year Old’s Eyes is on display at Workers Gallery, Ynyshir, RCT from Wed 14 Apr until Fri 14 May. Info: www.workersgallery.co.uk/exhibitions
words BEN WOOLHEAD photos MEGAN WOOD