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Thursday, 2 October 2008

Vanessa Winship

As Lexi at Subjectify points out in her fascinating post on women in photography, "the internet can sometimes make itself a small place".

Absolutely, and sometimes too small. But then again, that smallness does have its advantages so it was lovely to get a lovely email from Vanessa Winship, saying she follows the blog and clarifying some points on the authorship of her Sweet Nothings work.

"These portraits are something of a departure for me ( though not
entirely) and partly the reason for this was what I consider the
problem of presumed absence of the photographer especially in
reportage style photography, which plays/alludes very much to this idea.

For me this has become a huge issue.

In the portraits I wanted to created this space for the girls ,
but I also wanted to create images that were so direct so much about
being face to face, that there is no possibility of denying my
presence ( and therefore that of the viewer) in fact it is a very
conscious effort to address this question.

When I make an image i am very much part of the whole process, the
whole construct, I bring with me all of my baggage, they are
absolutely emotionally loaded if you like.

So the structure of the technique is one thing, the space I create is
one thing, and of course finally what happens between myself and my
subject (these small vulnerable girls in this case..and me too for
that matter).

I want to say I am absolutely present and responsible, not absent and
passive....this is in fact meant to be anti passive...."

Which is really clear but I still think that withdrawal, that creation of a space, despite the performance of the dance of the large-format, though not passive, does allow something that is not part of herself to come in, that does have an authenticity that is tied both to Winship's anti-performance and the noumenal entity that is those children. They're truthful in other words, and it's not just Winship's truth.

A lot of people try to do that and use a similar method - the internet is a small place - follow the links - but not many people succeed. Winship does, both because of who she is and the way she photographs, but also because of who she photographs.


Anonymous said...

There is a nice video lecture with Vanessa Winship (among others) here:
(Lumix Festival for Young Photojournalism - the other video lectures are also good (for those intereseted in documentary photography), but some of them are in german).

colin pantall said...

Thanks for the link, Jakob - are you the Jakob Thomsen who does the otherworldly, ethereal pictures of the exotic and mundane (sorry for my incoherence and if I got that completely wrong)- great stuff!

Anonymous said...

You're welcome!
I've just looked up those words in my dictionary, and I do think, it is fair to describe my pictures in that way, so yes, I could be that Jakob Thomsen - at least I'm responsible for those in my homepage (www.jakobthomsen.com).
No matter, who you're thinking of, I would like to give you compliments for your blog, which I like, and also for your pictures, which are great! (I have been showing your television-pictures to my photography students).

colin pantall said...

Thanks Jakob. I love your work too and it's especially nice when other photographers like the work.

You showed the sofa portraits to your students - excellent. What did they think of them? I'd love to know.

Anonymous said...

You're right; it's always nice to learn that someone has seen your work and appreciate it - so thank you for your kind words!
My students also liked your sofa portraits. I cannot remember excactly what were said (I think it's a year or so, since I showed them), but I can say that I find the pictures moving and compassionate. I think it's a great excample of successful photography done at home. No need to go somewhere exotic!

simon anstey said...

Well, I think it worked so well.
The presence in the images is completely compelling, and it seems so much as if they portraits are really capturing the 'dance', the importance of the moment, the thrilling adventure of a foreigner coming with a camera to portrait probably some of the most overseen people in that society. These are no happy snaps but serious experiences in a country where cameras and photographing are not the common place we in the 5,6 or 7% of the worlds richest populations take so for granted, surrounded as we are by cameras in all ways - on the streets watching our moves, in our mobiles, the digital dimses we carry like small change in our pockets - published on our sites and blogs and flickrs and family computer albums and digital frames and on and on...
And truthful they are and a testament too; to history and politics and the changes in a society, to education and what it may bring, though not necessarily for these girls, perhaps there granddaughters. To religion, to economics, to the striving and surviving of childhood and to diligent and proud parents; to the rugged landscape where it is all taking place......mostly holding hands, mostly touching, mostly holding, serious, in the moment, preened and proud and fine.
Like the very best of most of the 'documentary' work I can call to mind, the photographer is at least half of the experience and that is just an added bonus and the icing to a very fine piece and really belies and confounds the idea of the absent neutral impartial objective reporter conferring truth upon us through their lense work.

colin pantall said...

It works fantastically, Simon - couldn't agree more. Very well put.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I suddenly realize that I was going on about "no need to go anywhere exotic" in a comment to Vanessa Winship, whose portraits from Turkey I also find truely great.
What I really wanted to say was that I like pictures dealing with family and everyday (but I often seem to be going exotic places myself to take photos).
Once again, thank you for a good blog!

colin pantall said...

I would love to go somewhere exotic, Jakob! I'm sick of England, lovely though it can be.

Anyway, I know what you mean - one thing is making the everyday exotic or dramatic or bringing different elements to it. The other thing is making the exotic everyday and de-exoticising it - which is what Vanessa does I think. There's nothing exotic about her schoolgirls - thought there is a certain drama and nostalgia.

Mmm, I'll have to think about this one a bit more...

simon anstey said...

Sweden is REALLY exotic - come on over and take some really mundane snaps ;)

colin pantall said...

Sounds great, Simon, or are you for real on this one - what if you're pulling my chain and I go over and it's mundane, then do I have to do exotic. But then what if you're right and it's exotic then do I have to do mundane. And how about if it's mundane and I do mundane pictures or it's exotic and I do exotic pictures. Or is anything permissible, then where do we stand. We need some rules on this or a diagram at least. And what is exotic, and what is mundane.

Aaarggh, stop fucking with my head, man...