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Exhibition: Precious Little Diamond at The Newbridge Project, Newcastle

An exhibition in Newcastle invites visitors to shine a light on its hidden treasures. And as Toni Marie Ford finds, it's a right little gem

Aaron Guy A discarded family photo album becomes a treasure waiting to be found
A discarded family photo album becomes a treasure waiting to be found

I had never heard the song Precious Little Diamond by Fox the Fox before.

It’s no wonder really, as the song reached just number 86 in the UK charts in 1984 and was the band’s only hit.

Yet, for fans of obscure Dutch disco music, what a treasure it would be to find this song on a scratchy old mix tape scavenged from a car boot sale or, in my case, by following a hyperlink down the virtual rabbit-hole of YouTube.

The everyday, intuitive hunt for hidden or overlooked treasure is the subject of a new photography exhibition Precious Little Diamond: Photo Treasure Hunters at the Newbridge Project in Newcastle.

An international group exhibition curated by Kuba Ryniewicz, the work on display explores the notion of aesthetic value and the photographer’s attempt to capture the treasure of his or her surroundings.

Featuring artists Aurélien Arbet and Jérémie Egry (New York and Paris); Estelle Hanania (Paris); Olia Sliwczynska (Poland); Peter Sutherland (New York); Nicolas Poillot (Paris); Jim Mangan (America); Bridget Collins (New York) and Kuba Ryniewicz (Poland/England), the work on display seems disparate at first and yet is linked by an acute concern for the everyday.

These artists all attempt to capture their subject in a unique way, revealing an image ordinarily unseen by the naked eye and in doing so endowing it with aesthetic value

In a playful subversion of the starkly lit gallery space, Precious Little Diamond is more like a dark room.

Visitors are invited to take a torch or use their own mobile phone flashlight to explore the display. Having control of your own little beam of light made the experience feel private and intimate.

Every time you lit up a photograph to have a look, it was as if the photograph was being exposed and developed for the first time, just foryou.

Although I may have stood on a few people’s feet and ended up accidentally looking for art on the walls of the male toilets, the experience was a unique and clever one.

Like a child, quietly examining their curious treasures, a jar of buttons, a feather or a shell found on the beach, I found myself looking just a little more closely, taking time to absorb the depth of detail.

For once the audience can illuminate the exhibition as they explore, orchestrating a treasure hunt of their own.

The treasure hunt continues around the gallery space and down stairways into the basement of the building where artists’ work is accompanied by photographs found at flea markets in West Poland, Mumbai and, even, South Shields.

These inspired additions to the exhibition bring in the notion of cultural value: what makes something worthy of a place in an archive or display?

Here discarded family albums and rolls of film once too insignificant to develop are placed in museum-style cases, granted the status of treasure.

Who decides what is worthy?

For me, Precious Little Diamond suggests that we all do.

Treasure is all around us, there for the taking, we only need to stop and look.

Part of the The Social: Encountering Photography, a month-long international celebration of photography in the North East, Precious Little Diamond is open until December 6 at the Newbridge Project, NewBridge Street West, Newcastle.

Visit thenewbridgeproject.com for more information on the exhibition.

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