At first glance, you might not consider that the Fitzrovia Chapel would be the first choice for a wildlife photographer to display his enormous, black and white, fine art prints. However, delve a little deeper by talking to Martin Sean (who has his first exhibition at the chapel in April) and a real synergy emerges. Out of the Grey opens at the chapel on 9 April.
The chapel interview
Chapel: Where did your relationship with the chapel begin?
Martin: I was fortunate to be asked to take pictures of the chapel when it reopened after restoration. I loved the idea that it looked nothing very much on the outside but as soon as you opened the door, a whole world of colour just unfolded in front of you. The exterior just doesn’t prepare you for what greets you inside that intimate space. It’s genuinely gorgeous and spectacular. I spend a lot of time looking upwards in London, and the starry, golden ceiling in the chapel is the perfect spot for this. And when I had the opportunity to photograph images for the chapel’s Dwelling exhibition in November 2018, I developed that connection further and appreciated the team and their role in preserving this real gem.
Chapel: So why pick the chapel for your show?
Martin: I’ve been working towards an exhibition for a long time. Discovering the chapel gave me purpose and direction because when I stepped inside, I realised the images would have to black and white. There is no way colour prints could compete with this space. I’ve worked in colour for 18 years but last year I began to curate my monochrome images for the chapel. Every time I go to exhibitions now, I think that they are great but I always spot some images that could be better in black and white!. Also, the size of the chapel has made me focus on choosing my very best images for Out of the Grey. There is only space for a certain number and that has helped my creative focus.
There are times when all the photographic rules need to be broken.Martin Sean
Chapel: What do you want your exhibition visitors to leave with?
Martin: I want people to take away the beauty of the chapel and hold that with them like a talisman. I’d like them to ponder the images and the challenges around wildlife. I’m also working with a local homeless charity, the Soup Kitchen, and wildlife charities including AfriCat and Elephants for Africa, so that they will benefit from print sales. Out of the Grey is a beginning for me. I would love my images to have an impact for good. My daily talks, Two at Two, won’t just be describing the images but will also be about my challenges and struggles. I will also be discussing the changes I’ve observed over the years in animals and their environment.
On a personal note, I want my little boy, Gabriel, to be happy when he sees the pictures. All he’s talked about since my recent trip to Antartica is what Daddy did there and the animals he saw. He is inspired. We need to inspire the younger generation to be involved in the future of their planet. I’m so pleased that his nursery class will be visiting the exhibition.
Out of the Grey is on at the Fitzrovia Chapel between 9 and 14 April (11:00 to 16:00). There is a talk at 14:00 each day. Both are free and you don’t need a ticket.