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Review: Sometimes Losing is Better Than Winning by Simon Patrick Gabriel at Future Walls Gallery

In this collection of photos by Simon Patrick Gabriel, the sunny sepia warmth and overshadowing grain that filters the mundanity of Birkenhead is just plain surreal. There’s no reason that 1970’s California should form the visual cue for these images (or that this slightly-too-saturated style should be so popular in 2024), but it is, and it works.

Usually, I feel like I’m staring into something false, and I just get annoyed but, here, the otherness that captures Birkenhead in 2024, as some distant place, without any clear time, is useful, because I’m looking at my day-to-day through someone else’s lens.

Now I’m recognising my prejudice against stylised analogue photography, and I’m confused.

here is no rule, or set property of analogue photography that makes images seem like they were taken forty years ago, so the fashion of making them look that way can be frustrating. But it makes sense, because it’s desensitising me to what’s familiar.

After sitting down for a minute to take it in (it’s a small show, but is worth spending time with) I realised, there are literally photographs of California here too. And of Toxteth. And of New York (maybe?).

So part of this othering of what is familiar is because I don’t know what is and isn’t. I don’t, while staring at literal photographs, know what I’m looking at, or where it is.

And now to the point… this whole show is a celebration (wrong word?) of the mundane. It’s a “visual meditation on solitude”. So it doesn’t matter where you think these pictures are of, because every one of us experiences the same feelings when we see something so incredibly mundane that it hurts.

The collection is, according to Simon Patrick Gabriel, selected from a wider body of work, because he realised just how barren his images where. They are compositions of stuff, things, and nothings, to the point they are “painfully normal”.

The only thing protecting us from the pain is that it’s so hard to recognise which images are home, and which are not.

I realise this text is quite rambling, but I’m still trying to get my head around it.

Sometimes Losing is Better Than Winning by Simon Patrick Gabriel is on display at Future Walls Gallery (part of Future Yard, Birkenhead) until 6th June
Words, Patrick Kirk-Smith