Susan Benn who has a wealth of experience in the performing arts, publishing and textile design is a self-taught photographer. She moved recently to Rye and joined the Rye Art Gallery (RAG) as a Trustee. In terms of photography her primary interest is to explore the place which working women have in society. Her love is storytelling through pictures which the present exhibition in the RAG studio is presenting together with Mary Stormont’s photo images she bequeathed as part of the permanent collection.
Susan was commissioned by ‘Womankind’ in 1990 for four years to tell the story of women in south India and she visited the region of Chennai (capital of Tamil Nadu) several times over the years. Her pictures in this exhibition of the women at work are aesthetic, beautiful and capture the essence of the life the women live.
Susan said that one particular story touched her which was about a woman with mental health difficulties who was shunned by her community, yet she had a fountain of knowledge about herbs and healing with plants. Because Susan involved her equally in the photographic journey while there, the woman’s standing in the village became more positive which lasted beyond the end of the commission.
Susan said she learned from this experience explaining: “Tribal women are freer than caste Hindu women. They are determined and pugnacious with little material wealth but riches in traditional skills, courage, vision and humor. Together they are a collective powerhouse for change.” The response to this exhibition was very positive which has encouraged Susan hopefully to develop more photographic projects. One of the comments she had:” What an interesting show and there should be more photography and diversity in the arts presented in Rye.”
The exhibition ends on May 12. On Friday May 3 there will be a a film screening: The Silver Footprint at 6pm followed by Q&A with Robin Bell (Art of Master Printer). For more details, contact Rye Art Gallery.
Image Credits: Heidi Foster.