Whoever Heard of a Black Artist, Britain's Hidden History was a wonderful BBC documentary that looked at the artists, themes and id...
Wednesday, 8 July 2020
Friday, 3 July 2020
I began working on this story in 2018, but it started as an interview project through videoing conversations between Dad and our family, capturing how his short-term memory affects his daily life. These were really the foundation of this current project, as it led me to realise the importance of humour in understanding how we deal with illness as a family, and everyone who watched the videos came away loving my Dad for it. Therefore, I decided to restart this project as a photographic collaboration. I feel as though it wasn’t a question of if, but of when I’d begin photographing Dad. He exudes personality and has no ego in his presence, it’s like he was always meant to be in front of a camera in this way.
What are the difficulties of photographing immediate family?
There are certain difficulties in photographing your parent. Sometimes I felt there was a sense of urgency to create work every time I saw Dad, which wasn't realistic and could sometimes taint the times we spent together at the beginning. But once I let that pressure go, I realised that the times to photograph came more organically and didn't overwhelm our relationship. Another challenge we’ve found is when we organise to shoot, we can’t guarantee Dad will be feeling up for it, as some days are more difficult than others. It had been tough for the last 3 months, as both Dad and I are high risk and had isolated separately to begin with, which made making images near impossible. But now we're back together, we've been able to make new work.
How does your relationship come through?
I think the most prominent parts of the images that show our relationship, is the notion of care and intimacy that comes across in the project. Dad and I are both very sensitive people, and I believe that shows in the imagery we create. Also, the sense of humour that comes across is definitely a reflection of our relationship, and how we interact with each other in daily life too.
Has photography changed your relationship in any way?
In some ways, yes. I'm definitely more aware of the nuances of Dad's memory loss. So even when we're spending time together, without taking photographs, I'll start spotting things I would like to photograph such as the Post-It notes, or all of his hats. But our relationship doesn't feel as though it has changed, more that we just have an extra thing we do together now.
What is the dark side of your father's condition? Have you and can you photograph that?
Physically, Dad suffers from severe migraines and gets very tired throughout the day. Mentally, it can be very damaging to his self-confidence at times. Dad often describes how frustrating it can be when he forgets something important, and how he can find it hard to trust his memory. I have got audio from conversations, but I'm yet to photograph these moments. I do believe in the future that we'll start to document the tougher times too, but as a daughter, I put the photographer in me to the side at the moment.
How will the project progress?
Thursday, 25 June 2020
They know little about the man they rescued, but they hope his good fortune will provide a lesson to others. “Maybe it will change the views of racists,” said Russell. “I hope it shows that whatever they think of us, we’re cool, we’re good – we just saved your life.”
For Otokito, though, every bit as important is the message that he hopes the image sends to the black community.“As a brother, son, nephew, friend, I wanted to set an example, that it’s our responsibility to take ownership,” he said. “And hopefully it sends a different narrative to how the image of a black man is usually painted.
“Normally, it’s the picture of George Floyd with a knee on his neck. This is a completely different image – the tables are turned: a black man picking up a white man to put him on his shoulders to take him to safety in the midst of a situation that he’s created for himself. Hopefully, it sends a message that we are capable of being great.”
Monday, 8 June 2020
This is what journalist Mike Gardner wrote about Colston.
"Between 1672 and 1689, Colston's company transported more than 100,000 slaves from West Africa to the West Indies and the Americas. To maximise profit, his ships divided their hulls into cramped holds, so they could transport as many slaves as possible. They were stripped and chained in leg irons – the women and children were caged separately and were frequently victims of sexual abuse. Unhygienic conditions, dehydration, dysentery, smallpox and scurvy meant mortality rates for the eight-week crossing were as high as 20 per cent. Slaves who died or refused to eat were thrown overboard.
A third perished within three years of arriving in the New World after a short life of unimaginable horror, flogged and chained and starved until they could take no more, farming the fields of cotton, sugar, tobacco and molasses."
Wednesday, 13 May 2020
Wednesday, 22 April 2020
Gosh, JimminyCricket, Gee Whizz, how many weeks in are we now. In the UK, it's the fourth week, and it's dragging through the most beautiful spring anyone can remember.
In photography, there's new work being made. Lots of work is being made around online conversations - Skype and Zoom and Whatsapp portraits.
I'm working on these with Asia Werbel, on an Instagram account called @12smallpieces. It's fiendishly difficult because for me the images themselves are really not that interesting. It's the global reach of coronavirus that is interesting and the way it is affecting people in ways that can be very quiet.
So I love the stories where little glimmers come across of something that reaches beyond coronavirus. I like this piece from Sarker Protick about Emily Wabitsch, who became pregnant after a fun night out in November, and is now waiting for the coronavirus to end. "Last 11/11 I pretty much twisted my life upside down due to one beautiful thoughtless night. I forgot to take care of almost everything after that, except for my sleeping hours."
Or this one by Vincen Beeckman about Charlotte, who tells her life story in a couple of hundred words. "If you want to know everything, my life is a joke, a big joke. With two or three hiccups. Let's go. I had happiness, I had everything. A good job, good health and never sick!
I got married at 21. With a boy of 23. A postman. He drank with his colleagues after work and was violent so I left...." And so it goes on.
If you know someone who has an interesting story to tell, do get in touch.
I don't know if these kinds of projects do much good, or if they are much good, but that's perhaps beside the point. They are an escape from the coronavirus inertia, and that's what matters right now. We all need distractions because Netflix and the online world are not really that interesting.They really are not a substitute for 3-dimensional, sensory life.
And so the visual representation goes on - masks, empty squares, singing neighbours (nobody's showing their absolute fucking nightmare neighbours), clean air, and video conferencing images still pop up in the news.
Online there are re-enactment of art works, pictures of home schooling, exercise, park walks, cooking, gardening, allotments, homemade haircuts, DIY gone wrong, fashion shows, dressing up and cocktail hours. I have suddenly discovered that I have been doing isolation pictures for years, so that's what I've started posting on my Instagram account. There is nothing new under the sun, instead meanings shift, new connections are made, and something new emerges out of it. That's why every story hasn't been told, even when the story has been told. The story, like the song, never remains the same.
There are still pictures of shops, queues (below is the longest queue I've had to face at my local Morrisons, a picture taken at every social distancing mark), the tape marks and the vernacular posters of social distancing are getting a look in, and there are lots of pictures of nature, of walks, of people far away, of whatever everyone is doing to pass this tedious time. There are countless projects showing people in their windows or doorways. Especially if they're smiling, with fortitude. These are my pet hate. I can't stand them. My pet hate would be pictures of people on Skype or whatever, but I'm doing one of those, so it can't really apply.
Not many are very good, but then that's not really the point. Being very good is rarely the point.
Some are doing it for fun, some are projects, some are fundraisers, some just to take one's mind off things. There's a bunch of books that are being planned, but how much of an appetite there will be I don't know. There will be the window books, the queue books, the screengrab books. There will be photojournalistic surveys, there will be old school piles of bodies books once it really gets going. There will be books which come with a medical textbook typeface with scans and data, there will be mask and glove books in a variety of forms, there will be still lifes and typologies, all grids and white pages, there will be books with graphs and statistics, there will be multiple AI books, and even more books with a surveillance theme (and one of them will be really good). God help us, what else? I am looking forward to an Ed Ruscha type sequence of people queuing, that might be cool, or a graphic one of all the dashes of tapes, splashes of paints, and scrawls of chalk marks people are using to redefine personal space - it's like the Enclosures Act and Agriculture Revolution all over again, but instead of walls and hedgerows, we've got post-industrial striped markings in red and white and yellow and black.
But images are not fixed, they change over time, so it will be interesting to see what is/will become relevant and important in 1 year, 5 years, 10 years time. A lot of what will be relevant is what we take for granted now.
One of the first photobooks that will come out is Novis Corpus, a book made by mostly Southern European photographers that is a paean to the enforced domesticity and confinement of the time, and is raising
This is what Tereza Uzeda and Gabriela Cendoya Bergareche came up with; Novis Corpus , the book, is about confinement, and it has been made in less than a month. Next week it will go to the printer. The pre order of the book has already sold about 400 copies! The book is completely self published. And all benefits will go to nursecarers working hard to save the people.
It looks great and proceeds go to the charity, so if you would like to buy a copy,
The most interesting thing for me right now is the psychological impact of coronavirus. I find myself talking about PPE, about isolation, about clusters, about quarantine times with unrelenting repetition and I wonder where all this comes from. I didn't talk about this or think about this four months ago, I didn't know what covid-19, PPE, intubulation, or social distancing meant.
Now every time I use those words it makes me aware of the suggestibility we all have. It's like our brains are occupied (by some hugely contradictory and incompetent creature), and we are spouting complete and utter nonsense that changes from one week to the next with no real attachment to anything other than some weird form of group psychosis fed by every unreliable news channel under the sun. All of us who are staying at home are absolutely a part of this. And it's not necessarily a bad thing to be part of - there are plenty of other psychoses at play that you really don't want to be part of because a) you will be surrounded by awful people, and b) you might very well end up sick and dead.
How will that mental state be visualised, how will it connect across time to the images we make, to the countless graphs, statistics, warnings, and etchings that we see all around us and that become part of a barely remembered history so quickly. I look back at a blog post from a few weeks back and it seems a lifetime ago, the graphics both so innocent, but also even more of a figment of a fevered design imagination than they were at the time. I wonder what we'll be looking at in a few months time. It will bear little relationship to what we're seeing now, of that I am sure.
And so we continue on our corona obsessed way. In the meantime news is happening, all smothered by coronavirus. And maybe that's the real news.
Friday, 17 April 2020
Image by Elina Brotherus
Susan Bright gave her second talk on Tuesday, on photography and motherhood, based around the show she curated for both the Photographers' Gallery and the Foundling Museum. Thank you to everybody who joined and took part in what's a really enjoyable series of talks.
Susan talked about the invisibility of motherhood, the way it has been made invisible (lots of masks and concealing featured), controlled and iconicised, split into polar opposites that leave a fragmented and destructive way of seeing and being that you'll find echoed in mythology (I saw Madeline Miller give a great talk on her book, Circe in which she categorised witches in a way that mirrored the way that mothers have been categorised).
These are reflected through representations in photography, in art, in mythology, in film, that gravitate towards either abundance or loss; the abundance of life, of vitality, of glowing skins and idealised children, of a future that rises like the sun over a 1930s meadow. And the loss of identity, of sexuality, of body, of mind, of child, and partner too.
Most poignant were Elina Brotherus' Anunciation, showing pictures of her failed IVF treatment. I remember seeing these at the exhibition and being moved by the directness of the images and the emotions and parallel universes they brought up. There was something unmediated about them (despite their highly mediated nature) that cut across multiple emotional, cultural, personal and physical worlds. Though there were no children in site, the intensely physical craving, the hope and despair created a shadow world. These images revealed the power of photography to occupy a space where a single image can make visual leaps across time, across space, across art forms. I absolutely loved them and wondered that until they were shown in the Home Truths exhibition, they had never even been shown to anybody else. That's another form of invisibility.
What was also interesting was the fact that the two exhibition sites allowed for the curation of two very different shows, coming from very different perspectives. This was a theme that also featured in her first talk, on food and photography Which leads us into the next talk which is on curating and photography, in particular her guest curation at PHotoESPAÑA last year.
It's on Tuesday 21st April, at 1pm UK time.
And if you're interested in joining, use this link - meet.google.com/niw-aarn-rrs
It won't work until the meeting is opened about 15 minutes before the talk.
Or send me a message and I'll send you an invite (which will also send you the link but with a quicker join)