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Exeter City Council’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery to display Michelle Sank photographs acquired through the Contemporary Art Society’s Rapid Response Fund

The Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery (RAMM) announces an exhibition of work by internationally-acclaimed Exeter-based photographer Michelle Sank.

Entitled Breathe, Sank’s photographic series documents the first Covid-19 lockdown in the Wonford area of Exeter.  

Taken on her daily walks, Sank’s photographs offer poignant visual records of individual and shared experiences of social isolation under lockdown. The artwork explores how people negotiated their relationships to each other alongside their interaction with private and nearby public spaces during the pandemic.

Michelle Sank says: ‘I am delighted to be exhibiting my work at RAMM. While creating this body of work I have been drawn to how people of all ages have negotiated this new way of being and how their interaction with different spaces has unfolded – those living on their own, those in relationships and those with families.’

Photographs of residents’ homes will complement the portraits. Sank felt this ‘took on a new sense of relevance. Having previously gone unnoticed as part of my everyday urban landscape, they became symbolic references to the presence and fragility of life and death in unsettling times.’

Amal Ghusain, Exeter City Council’s lead for Communities and Culture says: ‘The Covid-19 lockdown of 2020 has had a profound impact on the city and people of Exeter. Michelle Sank’s evocative images capture those weeks of empty streets, tranquillity and social isolation. They also illustrate the community spirit and human resilience that allowed people to survive such extraordinary circumstances. Acquiring the photographs and displaying them at RAMM helps us to reach out to new audiences and tell their personal stories of Exeter’s lockdown.’

The works displayed in the exhibition were acquired by RAMM through the Contemporary Art Society’s Rapid Response Fund in summer 2020. They form part of RAMM’s new contemporary photography collection, which was developed as a result of the six-month Art Fund-supported Assistant Curator of Photography position in 2019.

Breathe by Michelle Sank will be shown in Gallery 20 at RAMM from 18 September to 21 November 2021, alongside RAMM’s Covid-19 commission Biophilia: The Exeter Florilegium by Exeter artist Amy Shelton.