Archive for May, 2011

‘Without Sanctuary’ at Rivington Place

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Visited the moving and thought provoking ‘Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America’ exhibit at Rivington Place last week. It’s a very well done, low key exhibition, showing a collection of photographs and postcards portraying lynchings in the USA.

(detail from) The lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith, August 7, 1930, Marion, Indiana.

(detail from) The lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith, August 7, 1930, Marion, Indiana.

Visiting this exhibition is a harrowing experience, but I recommend anyone to go. I find it difficult to put my reaction into words. The newspaper clippings add excruciating background to the horrifying images. The story will stay with you.

There’s an excellent website for the Without Sanctuary project.

Street Photography

Monday, May 16th, 2011

So what is street photography? There are as many definitions as there are photographers but, for what it’s worth, here are the elements that I think must be present to make a picture truly ‘street’.

Man and scooter. Valencia 2002.

Man and scooter. Valencia 2002.

Observational

This is the key. The subject must be observed and the picture taken spontaneously. There must be no arranging or setting up – not of people, not of lighting, not of conditions. You’ve got to work with what there is.

The photographer should only be in control of himself, and of no other element of the scene.

Karadjordjeva, Belgrade, Serbia. February 2004.

Karadjordjeva, Belgrade, Serbia. February 2004.

Outside

Okay, so perhaps not necessarily actually ‘outside’, but definitely in a public space. I guess this goes without saying, but the fact that the photographer is not in control of the space is very important.

Locomotion. Vienna 2004.

Locomotion. Vienna 2004.

Movement

Unless there is something changing about the scene then I don’t think it’s street photography – it’s probably landscape. There has to be something fleeting about the composition – something that will never happen again – an alignment of compositional elements or lighting conditions.

That’s about all I can think of right now. There are other things that are essential to any good picture, but any good picture that doesn’t satisfy the criteria above isn’t ‘street’ – not in my book.

Oh, and no – I don’t think street photography has to be black and white, it’s just that mine is. Mostly! (See this post…)

Street Photography Courses

You can see further examples of my street photography here.

London buzzing with photography

Friday, May 13th, 2011

It really does seem that there are so many photography events in London these days it’s impossible to keep up. Last night was the launch of Léonie Hampton’s book In the Shadow of Things at an empty factory in Islington.

In the Shadow of Things

An item from Léonie's installation at the launch of her book 'In the Shadow of Things', London 2011

Léonie had made a fascinating installation out of items involved in the story of the book, and we all gathered round and drank home-brew. Fabulous!

There is another side to this buzzing photographic coin though. The astute reader of this blog will have noticed fewer posts about my own work and more about other people’s. While it’s clearly not a bad thing to engage with what other practitioners are doing – quite apart from being a lot of fun – I think I need to focus inside my own studio for a while. I need to make some new work.

As you’ll be aware, my work is defined by my approach rather than the genre in which I exercise it. Whether you call it fine art, journalism, documentary or shooting fish in a barrel, I approach it the same way. The sad fact is, though, that I haven’t been doing enough of it for too long. It’s time to change that.

The first step is going to be working through my backlog of exposed but unprocessed films to see if there are any gems lurking.

Diemar/Noble: Some Photographs Taken in France

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

The current show at Diemar/Noble in Wells Street W1 is, to say the least, eclectic. Extending from the late 19th century to the inter-war years, there is some extraordinary work here.

Raoul Ubac: Le Combat des Penthesilees

Raoul Ubac: Le Combat des Penthesilees (The Battle of the Amazons)

The Ubac above was the highlight for me. I’d never heard of the artist before but this is a picture I could look at for days at a time. Like many of the most interesting photographs of that period, I’ve got no real idea how it was made – and of course it doesn’t matter. It’s simply a beautiful piece. Of course the image above (which is not of the actual print in the show – that’s a much better print) gives you only a vague idea of what the real thing looks like. I urge you to go and see it in the flesh.

I don’t have time now to describe all the pictures I liked, but there are many. Get yourself down to Wells Street.

ASA Collective: Pictures by women

Friday, May 6th, 2011

To the Nomad Club on Old Street last night for the monthly ASA Collective slideshow. This time all the shows were by women photographers, and there was some fabulous work to be seen.

From: In The Shadow of Things by Léonie Hampton

From: 'In The Shadow of Things' by Léonie Hampton

There were eight different shows to see but I’ll only go into the four that really stood out for me, which were In The Shadow of Things, a thoughtful and heartfelt piece about her mother by Léonie Hampton, The Letting Go, personal work by Laura Hynd, a documentary about the homeless in New York entitled The Urban Cave by Andrea Star Reese, and Helen Rimell’s work on the The Forgotten Houseboats of Kashmir.

I’ve posted just one picture from each of these pieces here but I urge you to follow the links and check out the full work, it’s worth the effort.

From: The Forgotten Houseboats of Kashmir - Sunset over Nageen Lake after a monsoon storm.

From: 'The Forgotten Houseboats of Kashmir' - Sunset over Nageen Lake after a monsoon storm.

Some of the work is good straightforward journalism, some of it much more personal and intimate, but all of it shows the quality that can be expected from gifted photographers at the peak of their talent. It’s very frustrating to know that work like this struggles to get the audience it deserves.

From: The Letting Go by Laura Hynd

From: 'The Letting Go' by Laura Hynd

Last night was the first time I’ve been able to see the whole of an ASA event but I’ll make the effort to keep the evening clear next time. It’s quite a social event – the bar is open throughout and there are DJs going once the shows are done. Keep an eye on the ASA website and their twitter feed, and get down to the Nomad next time.

From: The Urban Cave by Andrea Star Reese

From: 'The Urban Cave' by Andrea Star Reese

Thanks to everyone for a great night and best of all luck to Léonie with the launch of her forthcoming book In The Shadow of Things on 12th May.

Bruce Davidson

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Visited the opening of the wonderful Bruce Davidson show at Chris Beetles Gallery last night.

Bruce Davidson: CATHY FIXING HER HAIR IN CIGARETTE MACHINE MIRROR WITH ARTY AT THE OCEAN TIDE BATHS AND BAR, CONEY ISLAND, 1959

Bruce Davidson: CATHY FIXING HER HAIR IN CIGARETTE MACHINE MIRROR WITH ARTY AT THE OCEAN TIDE BATHS AND BAR, CONEY ISLAND, 1959 (©Bruce Davidson/Magnum)

There’s not much to say about Bruce’s work that hasn’t already been said, but as ever it is a great pleasure to see real prints of such great work, and respect is due to Giles for putting on a fine show.

Davidson’s mixture of humility and perseverance, and his genuine affection for people, glow out of every picture here. No exhibition can ever encompass in full the long term projects Bruce engaged in – the two years of East 100th Street for instance – but selection is always the curators greatest skill, and the essence of his work is captured well here.

Bruce Davidson: MAN AND WOMAN REFLECTED IN CAR WINDOW, LONDON, 1960

Bruce Davidson: MAN AND WOMAN REFLECTED IN CAR WINDOW, LONDON, 1960 (©Bruce Davidson/Magnum)

It was another of those times when I wished my bank balance could absorb the price of a print. I reckon, for what it’s worth, that these prints are great value for money. I can’t see Bruce’s work doing anything but increase in value as the years pass.