‘Arrival’ Exhibition: Art Review

 
Image:    Safari

Image: Safari

‘Arrival’ is the latest photography exhibition from travel and adventure photography-videography company Safari. On display in the arrivals hall at Melbourne Airport, the series of photos shows travellers arriving in Melbourne being greeted by their loved ones. The exhibit is a touching series that shows the diversity of people coming through the gates at Melbourne.

Created by Safari’s team of Gabrielle Reiher, Andrew Englisch and Nigel Camilleri, the finished product is a series of 15 portraits. Featured are men, women, girls and boys; groups and individuals; returning residents and arriving visitors. Inspired by ‘Humans of New York’, each photo is accompanied by a single quote that aims to tell subjects’ stories.

The unique and quirky characters they managed to capture are fantastic, such as a group of 49 people who came to meet two family members or men dressed as pirates.


The photographs are lovely images, with well-lit and focused subjects who look incredibly natural in front of the camera. It is hard to believe that the photographers didn’t instruct them on how to pose, which is a testament to the talent of the Safari team in making their subjects comfortable. Most of the pictures feature the subjects with arms around each other, smiling at the camera, but there is some variety with a few pairs instead embracing and looking into each other’s eyes. The unique and quirky characters they managed to capture are fantastic, such as a group of 49 people who came to meet two family members or men dressed as pirates.

One disappointing aspect of the series is the staged nature of the photographs. The emotion of the arrival and greeting moment is, to some extent, lost. To capture people the moment they first greeted their loved ones would have been more difficult but would have created a more powerful and emotional series. The looks on people’s faces as they saw their loved one appearing through the door after time away is something that is impossible to recreate. The final photographs were almost all just everyday smiling pictures – there were no tears, no faces bursting with excitement and anticipation.

A candid series would have been better for truly representing the emotion of the arrivals hall. It also could have better reflected the bustling atmosphere that is part of the excitement of airport greetings. The photographs are very clean, with nothing in them except the subjects and the blurry flight times board in the background. It gives the impression that the airport is stark and spacious, which is generally far from reality and adds to the staged feeling of the shoot.

The quotes from each person or group, obtained by Reiher and Camilleri as Englisch photographed them, create a more intimate and personal connection between the subjects of each photo and the person observing the image.

For the most part, the quotes provide a short but effective peek at the personality of the traveller or their reason for coming to Melbourne, but a few are less insightful…

Statements such as “I haven’t seen dad for 7 sleeps” by a young girl and “It’s been two years since I hugged my grandma” help create the emotion that some of the pictures may otherwise lack on their own. For the most part, the quotes provide a short but effective peek at the personality of the traveller or their reason for coming to Melbourne, but a few are less insightful, merely talking about how many hours they had spent in the air. One that stands out for this reason is a beautiful picture of a couple, where the woman is holding a Batman balloon and stands with her head pressed against the man’s forehead. The quote to accompany this image, however, is “26 hours in transit from Paris and I’m wrecked”, which is understandable but entirely detracts from the clearly emotional greeting between the pair. The reason for the Batman balloon is also unclear.

Overall, the pictures are nice and reflect the diversity of people arriving in Melbourne very well. They’re all very positive and upbeat, featuring people who are excited to be arriving in Australia and are coming for happy reasons.

The images can be viewed online or on the screens in the arrivals hall at the airport. The series isn’t worth making a trip to the airport for but is a nice thing to pass the time while waiting to pick someone up. Otherwise, a scroll through the online exhibition will easily suffice.

‘Arrival’ will be on display at Melbourne Airport until the 30th of June. You can also view the photo series online on the Safari website.