Review: Every City Tells a Story


Paris Paris collage © Adrian Brannan

I’m no art critic; I suffer from museum fatigue, an affliction I’m sure many of you have experienced. No matter how riveting the pieces on show in any museum, gallery, or exhibition, I can only withstand half an hour before my eyes implode, my knees ache and my jaw forces out a yawn every thirty seconds. There goes my attention span.

Luckily the exhibition I’m about to review consisted of one cosy room on the third floor of Foyles bookstore, Old Compton Street. I’d been invited by Lonely Planet to check out Adrian Brannan’s photo collages of urban destinations around the world, which now feature on Lonely Planet’s recently re-launched city and pocket guides. It was called Every City Tells a Story.

And what a story these pictures tell.

Singapore Singapore collage © Adrian Brannan

Each individual work is like a mosaic, comprised of what must be hundreds of small snippets of the same scene, shot at different times of day, and put back together again. The end results reveal patchwork skies of differing blue hues, frenetic movement, life in action; the essence of a place, captured in time.

These pictures - which I dubbed ‘travel in fragments’ - spoke to me as a traveller. (‘Spoke to me’? Maybe I could be an art critic after all…) When I leave a destination, I don’t have a picture perfect image of the place in my mind, but rather a patchy sense of what it was to be there. The memory of a face in the street, the hustle and bustle of the urban landscape, the smile of a stranger. These separate instances form my lasting opinion of a city. Adrian Brannan smashes all of these fragments together on the canvas. He encapsulates a location with simplicity and honesty. And I could relate.

Castro Castro collage © Adrian Brannan

My museum fatigue was nowhere in sight. I got right up close, nose nearly touching the glass, to inspect each and every fragment of each and every image. I wondered where those two feet were walking to - why the glum looking man in Glasgow looked so down, or who the smiling girl was running towards.

Especially since moving to London, it has become clear to me that we all occupy a relatively small space. Millions have trodden the pathways I walk every day. Breathed the same air. We share these surroundings with one another. We’re part of them, and what we think is ordinary, has been presented here in an extraordinary way. Awesome.

You still have a few days to get yourselves to see the exhibition at Foyles. If you can’t make it, check out the photographer’s work on his site,

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