Monday, 24 April 2017

While Leaves are Falling: Un libro eccelente sulla schizoprenia

Oggi, scrivo un recenzione del libro While Leaves are falling da Takahiro Kaneyama.

Questo libro racconta la storia della famiglia di Kaneyama. È una storia sobre le donne nella famiglia; sua madre, due zie e sua nonna. Quando Kaneyama era un ragazzo, sua nonna era come sua madre perché sua vera madre è ammalata di schizofrenia.

Poi la nonna mori e la madre divenne più malata e malata. Lei crede  è un cantate di karoke professionale. Vive in ospedale dove lei canta e lei fuma.  È molto triste e le immagini sono molto bello e emotive.

When Leaves are Falling  è una album familiare con una differenza; racconta una storia della malattia della madre. All'inizio vive in un appartemento. Alla fine, vive in un ospedale. In mezzo, mangia nel ristorante, cante e lei viaggia nelle montagne del Giappone con sua famiglia.

Questo libro è un libro dove il viso della madre è come un maschera. Non sappiamo cosa la madre pensa pero sappiamo lei è in un mondo diverso.

È molto molto buono!

Compra il libro qui. 

E con Google Translate per gli Inglesi pigri

And with Google Translate for lazy English

Today, I write a review of the book While Leaves are falling by Takahiro Kaneyama.

This book tells the story of Kaneyama's family. It is a story of women in the family; Her mother, two aunts and her grandmother. When Kaneyama was a boy, her grandmother was like her mother because her true mother was ill with schizophrenia.

Then Grandma died and her mother became sicker and sicker. You believe it is a professional karoke sang. She lives in the hospital where she sings and she smokes. It is very sad and the pictures are very beautiful and emotional.

When Leaves are Falling is a family album with a difference; Tells a story of her mother's illness. At first he lives in an apartment. In the end, he lives in a hospital. In the middle, eat in the restaurant, sing and she travels in the mountains of Japan with her family.

This book is a book where the mother's face is like a mask. We do not know what the mother thinks but we know she is in a different world.

Is very good!

Buy the book here.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

The Post-TV Interview Staring Competition. It really exists!

This is one of the strangest things I've ever seen. It's Taryn Simon being interviewed on Russian TV in Moscow and being asked to stare at the interviewers for a few minutes at the end of the interview. Her discomfort is palpable and understandable.


What is going on here?

Apart from they want some shots of her looking shifty.

And of course it gives me an excuse to run the Big Train Staring Competition Final footage again. I never thought I'd see it in real life, but here it is courtesy of some creepy TV interviewers.

Monday, 10 April 2017

The Worst Restaurant Review ever. With the pictures to prove it.

Who says we don't believe photography when we want to?

I'm believing in Jay Rayner's pictures of his meal at Le Cinq in Paris (Meal for two, including service and modest wine: €600 (£520)). That's because I want to believe them.

They accompany a scathing, scathing, scathing review of the restaurant. Here's the basic idea of ow bad it is

'In terms of value for money and expectation Le Cinq supplied by far the worst restaurant experience I have endured in my 18 years in this job. This, it must be said, is an achievement of sorts.'

You can read more here.

And more here.

From a visual point of view, it's the perfect example of the importance photography plays in the real world, and of the unpredictability of the overlapping of its different functions. Here you have press images backfiring (not through the fault of the photography. The food looks great) even though there is nothing about them that is false as long as you understand exactly what they are used for. If you think they represent any specific meal or experience, well, they don't.

And here are Rayner's notes on the differences between the images.

Spot the difference

Some readers may notice a difference between my description of the onion dish – “mostly black, like nightmares” – and the picture of it above, which is golden and rather beautiful.
There’s a reason for this.
Le Cinq would not let us photograph their food, as we usually do after I’ve reviewed, and insisted that we use press shots. This is extremely unusual. However, I did take pictures during the meal, on an iPhone 7 using the available light. And that makes things a little clearer, as you can see.

Anyway, here are Rayner's pictures of his meal doubled up with the restaurant's pictures.

'Sticky, like the floor at a teenager’s party’: gratinated onions.

Photograph above: Jean Claude Amiel

Photograph below: Jay Rayner

 ‘Draped in an elastic flap of milk skin’: chocolate mousse cigars.

Photograph above: Jean-Claude Amiel

Photograph below: Jay Rayner

The Smell of Paper

There was a stand at Bristol Artists' Book Exhibition last week where you could commission a poem for a pound.

The idea was started by Amber Hsu and she is sometimes joined by Gareth Brookes. At Bristol they had a queue of poems to tap out on the Remington typewriter.

My poem choice was the smell of paper and the poem created by Hsu is quite beautiful, poignant and touches on those ineffable moments that make books such description-defying objects.

It is also an example of how something that seems quite distant is made completely accessible and desirable - qualities we don't necessarily associate with poetry. The thing is Hsu and Brookes are drawing people in - they are making poetry accessible in a multitude of ways.

This is what Hus says about One Pound Poems.

People always seem to be positing whether poetry is dying as an art form (look two examples of people asking here and here). A lot of poetry gets tucked away in rarefied, literary journals that just aren’t that accessible. Everyone says that no one’s buying poetry anymore and no one’s willing to slow down and take the necessary time for poetry’s rewards.

But if this experiment has been proof of anything, it’s that people want more poetry. Seriously, they will literally stand in line and wait for it. See the pic below? That’s an actual QUEUE we had going at the Hackney Fleamarket DIY Art Market (which you should totally check out if you haven’t already, and btw if you don’t know Gareth’s comics and zines you should totally go and get each and every one of them here too because they are all amazing). We actually had to turn people away at the end of that day. Pretty good going for two random kids and a typewriter, eh?

You can read more about One Pound Poems here. 

So one week I get a poem about the smell of paper. The next week there's an article about the smell of paper in the Guardian, in this article, Can you judge a book by its odour.

This is about the odours that books have, our emotional and descriptive responses to them. and research by Cecilia Bembibre that has attached these smells to specific chemicals that date the books. Somebody has even invented a book odour wheel. This is from the text.

Audience members responded with their own sense impressions. Peter, a pensioner, said he experienced books as smelling of salt and pepper – “that dryness when you open the cupboard … with a touch of the sea”, while 46-year-old Donna confessed that she had recently bought a book for her young son partly because it “smelled of the rain”.
To conservators and historians, smell has always played an important role in assessing the origin and condition of historic books, and in working out how to look after them. “I have no vocabulary to define this, but there is a curious warm leathery smell to English parchment, unlike the sharper, cooler scent of Italian skins,” wrote the Cambridge University don and librarian Christopher de Hamel in his bestselling Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts.
But that lack of vocabulary could be about to change, thanks to a groundbreaking project by researchers at UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage, who have devised a way of relating such apparently subjective descriptions directly to the chemical composition of books. In a paper published this week in the journal Heritage Science, Cecilia Bembibre and Matija Strlič describe how they analysed samples from an old book, picked up in a second-hand shop, and developed a “historic book odour wheel”, which connects identifiable chemicals with people’s reactions to them.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Death of A Hasselblad!

I've had lots of cameras die on me. But the death of my Hasselblad was especially expected. These pictures heralded the end - loose light-leaking back, un-synched lens, flappy auxilliary shutter, the last rolls were a death rattle of black, blur and the ultimate Malevichian end!

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

John Myers. Pictures from the Unbeautiful World

John Myers is a somewhat ignored English photograph whose work in the Midlands in particular is, in its quiet way, epoch defining and reflective both of the New Topographics and of the working practices of the  British Colour Photographers that would come in the late Seventies and early eighties.

Photographs of Middle England shows his portraits of British people in their interiors, he shows series on televisions (and series on televisions are great!) and he shows pictures of the boring side of 1970s suburban England via his hometown in the Midlands, Stourbridge ( and 1970s suburban England could be mighty boring).

He had a show at the IKON Gallery in 2012 which led to a spurt of interest and now his work is being shown again (catch it until 29th April at the Gageway Gallery in Luton) which you can buy in this Cornerhouse publication. It's called ...the world is not beautiful. Fabulous!

Buy ...the world is not beautiful here. 

Read Francis Hodgson on why the work of John Myers is almost forgotten. This is an article by Simon Denison for Source Magazine. And this is from an article by Stacy Baker on Myers in the New York Times.

'For Myers, the real world was Stourbridge, the “normal small English town” that has been his home for nearly 40 years, and where most of his pictures were taken. His subjects, shot using a 4X5 Gandolfi camera, were people he knew and their children, as well as the houses and roads around town. “There’s nothing particularly remarkable about where I actually ended up working and living and eventually marrying and settling down,” he said. “This is the world that the great majority of people live in.”

Myers stopped photographing in 1988 when the Stourbridge College of Art faced closure, and a lot of his time was spent “trying to save my job.” Stourbridge survived by merging with the University of Wolverhampton, but Myers never returned to photography. He says he doesn’t miss it. “I don’t believe in going back,” he said. “For me, the stuff in the mid-’70s, if it has got any kind of quality, it’s the excitement of discovery. It’s the excitement of coming across influences. I don’t think you can go back.”'

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

I Cavalli sono bella però triste: The horses are beautiful but sad

Questa settimana ho scritto un recensione sul libro B to B da Brenda Moreno, una fotografa Messicana che amava i cavalli quando era una ragazza

Il libro racconta la storia della ragazza Moreno e la sua famiglia, pero anche la storia e i ricordi dei cavalli perchè I Cavalli erano la sua seconda famiglia. Il libro inizia con le foto passoporto del Brenda quando era giovane. Allora conosciamo il cuore del libro. 

Poi vediamo la sua casa, la sua famiglia e i cavalli. Ci sono i immagini vecchii che sono tagliati e sul uno sfondo rosso. Qui vediamo la sua famiglia vecchia e la sua famiglia nuova. Questo  è la storia del messico anche. 

C'è un foto d'uno cavallo morte, un foto d'uno cavallo nella piscina, d'uno puledro in stalla. I cavalli sono vita e morte, sono il mondo naturale. E la sua famiglia, sua madre è  un po triste. La madre dorme e sogna mentre il mondo trasforma della vecchio messico al nuove messico. 

Allora, B to B è un libro molto interessante con molti strati. Mi lo piace perchè il libro è familiare pero straniere, è intelligente e emotivo. Anch'è universale. Possiamo capire il mondo dei cavalli, cavalli che sono bella. 

Compra il libro qui.

E con Google Translate per i pigri Inglese

And With Google Translate for the Lazy English

This week I wrote a review on the book B to B by Brenda Moreno, a Mexican photographer who loved horses when she was a girl.

The book tells the story of Moreno girl and her family, but also the history and the memories of the horses because Horses were her second family. The book begins with passoporto photo of Brenda when she was young. So we know the heart of the book.

Then we see his home, his family and the horses. There are old pictures that are cut and on a red background. Here we see her old family and his new family. This is the story of Mexico too.

There's a photo of one horse's death, a photo of one horse in the swimming pool, one foal in the barn. The horses are life and death, are the natural world. And his family, his mother is a bit sad. The mother sleeps and dreams while the world turns the old Mexico to New Mexico.

So, B to B is a very interesting book with many layers. I like it because the book is familiar but foreign, it is intelligent and emotional. Universal will enchant you just. We can understand the world of horses, horses are beautiful.

Buy the book here.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Fuck it, Fuck me, Fuck you, Fuck Off this, Fuck that, Fuc

It's time to write another blog post. One of the many disadvantages of contracted hours teaching at multiple educational establishments  is you have to jam the hours in as best you can while the goings good and on top of that do everything three times all in a rush so you have enough to live on over the summer - the economic dead zone of the zero hours contract. It's like being an out-of-sync squirrel storing your financial nuts for the winter.

The doing-things-in-triplicates comes when you have to remember 3 sets of passwords, you have to get used to negotiate 3 online learning environments, and you have to do 3 sets of online health and safety or equalities and diversity assessments.

But it has to be done. And I always quite like the equalities and diversity training. The latest one I did last week was the best I've seen (the actors really enjoyed it, especially the ones being racist and prejudiced).

One set of questions featured a scenario where a group of eastern European workers were given dodgy tasks by a racist English team leader and his sidekick Jason. Jason and his mate would sit around drinking tea and reading the paper while the Eastern Europeans cleaned the toilets, burnt themselves on nasty chemicals and generally did all the dirty work and had a nasty time (Jason pointed out this was fair enough considered they all had massive houses with swimming pools back in their countries of birth and were used to dirty work anyway). One of the questions went something like this.

Artur: "I am from Albania, Rad is from Serbia, Goran is from Croatia and Lukas is from Poland but they say we are all from the same place and Jason calls us illegals."

Q: In what ways does Jason's treatment of the workers constitute racial discrimination?  

So the assessment is dealing with real life situations and it's all good, especially in photography where the possibility for insensitive use of language, behaviour, and photography is apparent every week. If you're not going into difficult places, you're probably not making anything interesting. One part of teaching is to redirect students away from insensitivity - which most of the time happens due to a lack of awareness and global knowledge. Students are mortified when they are told how things will be interpreted or if they are being insensitive.

The story of Enver and friends made me think of Romain Mader's project on Ukrainian mail order brides. I first saw it when it was the feature picture for a Tate Modern show. And I must say it is one of the most annoying pictures of all time, and was supposed to be. So there's a success there. It stuck in the mind.

In the project, which is supposed to be a kind of comedy of stereotypes, Mader doesn't distinguish between different Eastern European countries - he does what Jason does, quite deliberately. Several people were uncomfortable about this at the time of the Tate show, but didn't point it out, because... well, it's Tate Modern. Surely they know what they're doing!

Then Mader won the Paul Huf award, and the objections grew. And a petition was made asking for the award to be taken back.

If I was awarding the prize there is no way I'd reconsider it even if it's a bad choice. We make bad choices all the time and you have to live with it and move on to the next choice and hope to make it better.

In fact the petition, though entirely justified - entirely, made me feel a bit bad for Mader because the problem is a big bigger than it should be and it puts him in a little spot which he doesn't deserve. I don't like the project because it does lack a certain finesse whatever anyone says, and it is just a rehashing of stereotypes with a lack of self-awareness, but it's not exactly evil.

A letter was also written which had the perspective of the equalities and diversity assessment I took earlier in the week - and it's a good perspective, which can be summed up in this article on Calvert Journal here.

The merit of the project might be that it offers some kind of escapism — this isn't a sex tourist looking for love, nor is it the real Ukraine. But it's also a western photographer exploiting stereotypes about a region in which Russian lawmakers have recently decriminalised domestic violence and Polish conservative politician Janusz Korwin-Mikke has described women as “smaller, weaker, less clever”. Somehow things aren't so funny anymore.

Essentially what is being said is this really matters and it has real life repercussions. A a reply was received which responds in a more theoretical (and rather evasive in my view) tone. Follow the link here for a view of the project and all the letters and responses.

So you've got two different ways of talking about photography working at cross purposes - one rooted in academia and theory and one rooted in a more concrete world of equalities and diversity.

It's two different worlds not finding any common ground and that's a shame. And though I have sympathy for Mader (and know that half the photography I really like is found questionable by many on all kinds of grounds) I also think a little bit of recognition as to why people found the work objectionable would be good.

That's what missing. And that's all that is being asked for.

So it's different ways of talking about work or writing about work. And sometimes people make the assumption that in this tiny, tiny corner of photography there is only one way of talking about work or thinking about work.

That one way is really serious and it is painful, it lacks soul, it ignores emotion, it has no poetry and doesn't connect to the real world. I've got a bunch of books at home I'm reading at present and god help me, it's like doing homework. Occasionally you'll get somebody who injects some life into their thoughts, but most of the time there's no pleasure involved whatsoever, it's as if the writers have tried to remove any passion or interest from the writing - which is a puzzle when you consider the work and themes they are writing about are absolutely fascinating. But still I read it and semi-satisfy some strange self-flagellating work-ethic masochism about what knowledge is while all the time dirtying myself just a little bit more

When people write about music or film or fashion, there is a different voice and a different use of language. It can be uplifting, it can be fun. We don't get that too much in photography. No, that's bollocks. You do, but not in this particular corner of photography.

Perhaps that's because often parts of the small photography world I inhabit feel guilty about pleasure. It's that Calvinism creeping in again. Yet at the same time the way that people talk about photography and look at it completely revolves around the pleasure of great story telling. It can be quite confusing - to the point where people are not sure if they're 'allowed' to like something. I've heard that this week - "we don't know what we're allowed to like".  Or what they're allowed to photograph. That's how disabling it can be - no, is!

At the Format Festival in Derby which I wrote about here, the pleasure is to do both with the images and the fantastic venues. It's also to do with meeting people and eating and drinking and talking about what you liked. That's why I went to Derby at the end of a very long and busy week - to enjoy myself with lovely photography and lovely photography people. I think it's the reason most people went there.

Yet there is the idea that there is a right way of looking at an exhibition, or a book, or a project. And this is what is annoying about the response to the petition. There is the idea that there is correct understanding of the work, only one. It's infuriating, in the same way that if you don't like something you get told it's because you aren't smart enough to get it. Maybe, or maybe there's just not that much to get, or the story being told is a piece of shit. But we are all pissing in the wind and don't really have a solid clue about what we are talking about. And it is a good thing to be able to recognise that.

Pretending otherwise leads to  a patronising attitude and one that you don't find quite so much in other visual arts, even those with a supposedly close family resemblance. I bought the cards here from Bristol Artist's Book Exhibition - which is all about the pleasure of the book, of paper, of printing.

It's tactile, it's material and it's sensory. Bu, it's quite distinct from photobookery, even though it's half a step away.

Anyway, here are some of my favourite bits.

Here's a poem I commissioned at the exhibition. It's called Smell of Paper. 
I like saying I commissioned a poem. 
It makes me sound important.

Here's a bag my daughter bought - which is kind of contradictory but so it goes.

Here are some Mai 68 cards - I've shown one of these before. 

Here's a poster I almost bought. 

Here's my life. 

And this is who made the fuck-set cards. 

Monday, 27 March 2017

Format Festival Highlights.

Format was exhausting but enjoyable with lots of real faces put to virtual faces, short conversations and missed meetings.

The range of photography on display is quite something and shows the ways in which photography operates functionally rather than as a unified whole. It's not a single industry, it's a series of extremely delineated tag-ons which are bounded by mental divides. They all share the same problem however - how do you make the story you want to tell interesting. Basically there is work where the story is told primarily through the photography, there is work where the story is told primarily through fabrication, there are those who consider the audience when telling their stories and provide a way in, and there are those who don't do this. It's too obvious is sometimes the rationale as though being obvious was in some way bad (sorry Shakespeare, power struggle, forbidden love, mad  king, it's too obvious!.)

The stories? They to tend towards the scientific and informational, and the tone can be somewhat lecturing at times, like a bad text book. Sometimes a bit more confidence in showing work would help hook viewers into what is on show, sometimes a bit more consideration that yes, actually, entertainment is a part of the show, would help. But overall it's a great mix.

Anyways, here are some of my favourite things.

I really liked Hannah Smith's mad installation , The Malfunction Model, that looks like something out of Mars Attacks. It hooked me in visually and the statement (the installation mirrored a sight disorder ) tied in perfectly.

A post shared by hannah (@lahannahsmith) on
A lot, I mean A LOT, of people try to visualise sight disorders and it rarely works. This was great.

Lisa Barnard's overview of the global gold industry was transformed into a three wall projection of a web-based documentary by Alejandro Acin. IT was visually striking, interactive (there weren't too many interactive displays) and was wonderfully ambitious in presentation. There were some technical hitches (it's a work in progress) but you can see the direction it's going in which is fantastic.

The presentation of Ying Ang's Gold Coast project  caught the eye. Rather than having a dry statement on the wall, the text drew this viewer right in - and by the time I got round to it, I needed to be drawn in. It looked simple but a lot of thought went into this. It worked.

My favourite picture of the whole show was the one above (from 1904) from the engaging and very traditonal studio photography exhibition, People, Places and Things. Just timeless.

The most photogenic installation was this virtual reality one by Kenta Cobayshi.  The irony of the virtual reality thing was that you end up on a boat in this magical seascape with a big black shadow and then look down and there's  a talking head video. My brain was aching after a rather demanding week so I didn't quite know what was going on by this time, but it looked great and I just let it flow over me. Which is sometimes all you need to do.

The most-photographed peeling paint award goes to the Pearson Building, one of the incredible locations that make Format such an enjoyable festival. We all channelled our inner Aaron Siskind with those walls, including Julie from Magnum. Half the pleasure at Format is in the buildings themselves and the non-photographic displays on show at places like the museum and Pickford house..

These displays were put to great effect at the New Ornithologies exhibition at Joseph Wright's old house where Rodrigo Orantia integrated the photobook images of birds with the exhibits. And what a great location for the subject.

I like maps and Carlos Alba's map of London was really nice. As was Truth Leem's graphic example of insecure Seoul living.

Animals at night. I love these. I want to do this in my allotment but why bother because Lee Deigaard has done it so well (not sure about the statement though).

The best jellyfish award goes to the hotel I stayed at. As does the best electrics and many other things.

And the best food award. Derby is supposed to have some of the best Japanese food in the UK because of the nearby Toyota plant, but I didn't get to sample that. Instead I got the best thali and dosa I've had outside South India. Absolutely brilliant!

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