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The Guardian
Interview by Andrew Pulver, 2011
The Independent
Photo slideshow, 2011
Welcome to the world of big bingo. Michael Hess has captured the quintessence of bingo UK, the social sphere of the OAP. The collection is an intimate look at the bingo world, from the dazzle of the podium to grannies in stockings. Hess' work personalises the world of bingo, and the photographs have a distinctly human aspect to them. This is more of a commentary than a selection of documentary photographs, containing an air of solidarity between 'bingoists'. His editorial style has you looking for the story behind the images and these are provided by his girlfriend Maxine Gallagher. The exhibition and the book Bingo and Social Club is the culmination of four years of exploring bingo halls around the country.

The use of black and white images gives the exhibition a nostalgic feel, so that the viewer feels as if they are transported back in time. 'Many bingo halls haven't changed their interior in many many years, so you feel like you have stepped back in time. I felt that black and white really portrays this, because you wash away all the signs of modern times', says Hess and there is something about seeing neon lights in black and white that exudes ageing glamour.

Mixing the large prints with smaller ones, which hunger for attention, gives the viewer the sense of both the grandiose and cosy nature of the bingo hall. To Hess bingo halls are 'a small space with amazing characters. There are flashing neon lights and references to Vegas everywhere. They really wanted to make it as timeless as possible, but you see signs of better times. There are so many empty chairs; only about 10% are used these days. Bingo is on the verge of dying out in the UK', which makes this exhibition all the more poignant.

Although the subject matter may not be appealing to anyone younger than fifty, Hess has presented the underside of bingo in an intriguing way. The book is designed so that you begin with the typical morning of Jack, the manager of a fairly small club in Newcastle, and proceeds gradually through the day being introduced to different characters. The book is punctuated by the wisdom of Jack, but there are also comments from some of the patrons and references to a blossoming romance. It develops real lives and both the commentary and the images are candid, rather than feeling voyeuristic.

It is a quirky eye opener to the non-initiated to be allowed to see into this world. At times there is a hint of glitz in front of the lens and Hess has documented the camaraderie with warmth and depth. He shot up close and personal, which he didn't find to be too difficult with his subject matter, 'it was really surprising how open the older generation were. The younger generation tended to be more conscious of the way they look and might be portrayed in the book, but the older people welcomed you in, which is very much the social aspect of the bingo hall.'

This exhibition will interest any photographer that is interested in developing documentary projects and of course anyone drawn to the timeless allure of bingo. What is unique about Hess' style is that there is the sense of intimacy between his subjects and the lens, but his work with Gallagher has also made the images truly lifelike. Even the setting of the Book Club allowed the intimate atmosphere to radiate from his photographs.
The Telegraph
Audio slideshow, 2011
Exhibition review, 2011
Interview by Lucia Davies, 2011
Photosense >>>
Exhibition review by Oran Blackwood, 2011
Interview by Liz Foggit, 2011
Nude Magazine
Book review by Suzy Prince, 2011
Who's Jack
Interview by Lu Orcheston-Findlay, 2011
The Other Side Magazine
Interview, 2011