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Green Light in the City

Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Man - David Baird's Photography Exhibition on Paralympian Richard Whitehead

6 December 16 words: Shannon Challis-Smith

Forty marathons in forty days sounds like the impossible to any normal folk. However Richard Whitehead took on this incredible feat with courage, pain, and prosthetic legs. Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Man is a commemorative exhibition in Sneinton Market for Paralympic gold and silver medal winner Richard Whitehead that takes the viewer through his epic journey.

As well as getting to enjoy the exhibition, I was lucky enough to meet David Baird there, who was kind enough to talk me through his works and explain the lengthy, but rewarding job of being a part of the crew.

 

Giving a deeper insight into the exhibition was Baird’s book, published two years ago, that was presented chronologically on tables across the space, which allows you to follow the Paralympian through his personal journey. The photographs present emotions of gratitude and success as crowds of people, local residents of the area and even celebrities and fellow sports champions swarm the streets to support him, some even running or cycling alongside him. Swarms of primary school children can be seen showing their support, one little girl with prosthetic legs even joining in herself for a run.

 

Within the positive imagery, however, are the ones that reflect the brutal reality of Whitehead’s task, and these are the images where Baird has captured true emotion exceptionally well: the agonising expression upon Whitehead’s face as he enters himself into an ice bath, and the horrendously deep blisters from the prosthetic legs. Towards the end of the book, celebration of his achievement can clearly be seen.

 

The books, although substantial, are only a part of the display; the large photographs displayed upon the walls are undoubtedly some of the strongest you will see by Baird. The singular landscape photo, central to the others, is a significant focus point for the audience. Whitehead can be seen on a racing track, against a dark background, looking powerful and determined as he stares directly into the camera lens. On either side of this, Whitehead is seen working out during strenuous sessions of the gym, and in themselves they are photographic explanations of his great success. A selection of the images taken within the gym are monotone, the sharp contrast intimately communicating the raw pain and emotion.

 

Baird’s photography allows the viewer to see every detail of each image; every tensed arm, bead of sweat, and every line from each grimace. Although many photos show the nitty gritty details of the sport, the ones which show personal moments of reflection must not be overlooked. One such striking example is of Whitehead walking in the middle of a race track, back to the camera, head down. Nobody will ever know the thoughts passing through such a strong, active mind.

 

Despite every single element and emotion being portrayed through Baird’s photography, a separate wall is on display to present Whitehead’s memorabilia. Baird also showed me Whitehead’s Rio 2016 trophy and the prosthetic legs that he ran so heroically upon. As one leaves, it is important to look back at the photographic works as a whole journey, and acknowledge the quote above them all:

 

“I’m living proof that having a disability shouldn’t stop you from achieving your goals. I’m a strong believer in living a life without limits. What my life has been about is accepting who you are and making the most of it. Once you’ve done that, you can push the barriers as far as they’ll go.” – Richard Whitehead

Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Man ran from Saturday 26 November - Saturday 3 December 2016.

LeftLion's interview with David Baird and Richard Whitehead

David Baird's website

 

 

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