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  1.          Sofa Portraits is now available for pre-order from my website (orders will deliver in October/November)   The pric...

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Flower Photograms

Fuck it, flowers it has to be. Sorry Elaine - and the colours too! Ou est le fromage?

Elaine Duigenan

These images are from the Hairnets and Nylons series by Elaine Duigenan (her show Intimate Archaeology opens at Klompching Gallery on July 10th).

I interviewed Elaine yesterday for the BJP and she was so lovely and eloquent about her work I thought I would post.

The images are from digital photograms, and explore Elaine's obsession with the underbelly of the ephemera of everyday life, something she has been pursuing in her earlier images of old animal specimens.

Photographed on an ordinary household scanner (an old epson), they have a weird organic quality - they're a kind of photographic Rorschach Test.

Anyway, Elaine has really pushed the digital photogram to its limits here, but anyone can do it, albeit without the depth and complexity. Just one recommendation from Elaine - "You have to move on from flowers."

Remember that everyone, No Flowers!

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

new work up on site

New work is up my website at www.colinpantall.com, including the Life on Mars series and Flora, the Flower portraits, both of which are works in progress. Any thoughts or comments are welcome, especially on the new Life on Mars images.

Thanks to Tadhg Devlin who did my website.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Flower Portraits

I'm in the process of updating my website (thanks Tadhg ), including these new flower portraits.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Peter Goullart, Joseph Rock and Tribal Wives

The Heading East Blog featured the marvellous photography of Zhuang Xueben.

There is a huge resource of old images of China and Tibet, starting with British Photographers in Central Tibet
(Spencer Chapman is a highlight here).

Tibet has been romanticised at least partly by the absurd myth of Shangri-La (as featured in James Hilton's novel, Lost Horizon), a paradise where nobody ever grows old and wisdom and peace reign supreme.

Hilton's notion of Shangri-La emerged at least partly from the photography and writing of Joseph Rock (whose images you can see here).

Joseph Rock lived near Lijiang in Yunnan, and he recorded the people, flora and fauna of the region for National Geographic.

Hilton borrowed a few of these ideas for Lost Horizon and the result is - Lijiang is the real site for the mythical Shangri La.

Nice line for a travel story and one that the Chinese have lapped up - since the 1996 earthquake in Lijiang, tourist numbers have risen from a few thousand annually to a few million - and Lijiang has been tranformed from a lively and beautiful regional market town for Yunnan minority people to a sanitised showpiece of the Naxi people teeming with Chinese hotels, restaurants and tourists.

Joseph Rock was a marvellous but mad photographer and you can find his images here and in Colour here.

And if you want to find a record of what the places he photographed look like now, go to the In the footsteps of Joseph Rock blog.

Best of all you can read about Joseph Rock and the culture of Yunnan in Peter Goullart's magnificent record of Yunnan market-life Forgotten Kingdom.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Mutilated Landscapes

One of my favourite things about Parr's New Brighton is the flawed landscape it shows ( it's the landscape that is flawed in The Last Resort, not the working classes - unless you think that people are defined by their environment).

New Brighton is a mutilated leisure landscape, a landscape that is as apparent in Britain today as it was in the eighties. But all British landscapes are mutilated, including the idealised ones that appear on chocolate boxes.

It's just that their modifications took place a long time ago and have been redefined and assimilated into a traditional ideal of Englishness.

That traditional ideal is what you find around Bath - the beauty of its mutilated landscapes, deforested hills, and managed woodland tied in with human habitation and an overwhelming obeisance to the car.

It still makes for beautiful places though, and these are two of my favourite places in the west of England - Brown's Folly and, overlooking Solsbury Hill, the Larkhall allotments.

pictures by Colin Pantall

Friday, 13 June 2008

Timothy Archibald's Weird Pictures

One problem with photographing children is taking it beyond the sentimental and cliched, especially if you are photographing your own children.

If you are going to produce something that is worthwhile, you need a clarity and honesty that gets under the skin - you also need an intelligence and understanding of yourself and the world around you - and part of that is recognizing what you don't know, what you can't portray, what lies beyond your reach - and still trying to portray it. It's difficult and requires experience, sensitivity and a willingness to lay yourself open through your artwork.

Which is what Timothy Archibald has been doing with his Series on his son. Tim's never quite sure what he's doing or how the work will be seen, he ties in the ephemera of everyday life with staged images that reflect both himself and his son's view of the world, and all the time there is a mystery about the work, work that is controlled yet chaotic, personal but distant, with resonances that go beyond the family environment where they are produced.

As he says on his blog

"If you are creating and sharing, you gotta get used to the fact that people may or may not get what you are working on. Or sometimes they get it, but most of the time they don't. Or they think they get it...and you think they get it...but you slowly realize they just aren't getting it. And sometimes you meet someone who totally gets it. But maybe they are insane? Crazy like you? Or insane in the way that manifests itself as just bad taste? Or are they the only one whe understands your genius? Or maybe you mis-interpreted them? This stuff can go on and on and on, but there is good that comes from sharing, no question there."

See it here.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

James Mollison: The Disciples

James Mollison's hilarious series on music fans, The Disciples(you can probably guess who the people here are going to see) , can be seen in quiz form at The Guardian.

They will also be on show, with his fantastic Ape portraits, at Hasted Hunt Gallery.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Vewd, RCA, Ludwig, Adesko, Small and Ressler

The multimedia presentation (ie sound and slide show)Hotel Poverty is the highlight in the new Documentary Photography Magazine, Vewd.

If you haven't checke it out already, have a look at the Review Sante Fe participants - I especially like Douglas Adesko's work (his Family Meal series is fabulous), Susan Ressler's pictures from 1970s Quebec, and Sarah Small's mix of the domestic-peculiar.

Also worth having a look at is work from the RCA's photography show - check out the text for how to talk the talk!

pictures from top to bottom: Susan Ressler, Susanne Ludwig and Douglas Adesko

Martin Parrsley

Alexei Sayle got into trouble in Liverpool for questioning Scouse commitment to culture - he dismissed his critics by saying "You've got to remember that a lot of people who write in to newspapers or call phone-ins are actually nutters" - and Martin Parr got into trouble for showing that New Brighton - just across the Mersey from Liverpool - was anything less than a garden of earthly delights.

First of all, The Last Resort was in colour but more importantly, it portrayed the people of Liverpool without resorting to the Noble Northern Savagery that was expected of photographers - it's grim up north, but it's grim in black and white, goddamit!

The Last Resort also helped make Parr the quintessential eighties photographer - not a Thatcherite, but certainly a man of the times in terms of his opportunism and relish for extending photography beyond its very narrow limits.

For which all of us in the UK should be grateful - Martin is a spark of life, a mischief maker in the machine.

Recently Parr gave a talk at the University of Wales, Newport (possibly the only university campus
in the world that was built on a Roman Cemetery. If you've seen the Amityville Horror or if you study at Newport, you'll know why that's a bad idea!), and somebody asked Parr if his current success was due to his work or "The Martin Parr Brand".

He didn't answer the question then, but he has indirectly on other occasions - he says his best work (The Last Resort) is probably in the past, and to be sure, he's milking the Parr personality and Parr style for all its worth. But at the same time, the Photobook Histories, the curating and the public face of Brand Parr do add up to more than a hill of beans - British photography life would be tremendously dull without him. And given his perverse nature, he'll probably come up with some fabulous new take on the world and surprise us all.

So God Bless Martin Parr - but not too much. He can bless himself if he's not blessed enough.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Familiar British Wildlife

Last week I saw around my home in Bath a fox, a doormouse, a hedgehog, a green woodpecker, Peter Bowles, a Ronnie Wood lookalike and, resplendent in his socks and sandals, walking towards Pulteney Weir, Martin Parr.

The West of England is a small place, so Martin's easy to bump into (I think there may be more than one of him) - here is a picture I took of Martin when I bumped into him in Clifton, the outrageously snooty and twee (it's tweer than Bath - it is, it is, it is!) suburb of Bristol that Martin calls his home.

Don't Buy the Sun

Continuing on the subject of football, the first part of Alexei Sayle's Liverpool showed on the BBC last Friday.

Sayle (bald, leftist comedian who holidayed in the DDR when he was a Kid) focussed on the eighties - "When Thatcher came to power in1979," he said, "me and all the other left-wing comedians knew that here was a true monster who was soon going to make us rich and famous."

More eighties nostalgia came with the Toxteth Riots and Derek Hatton, the sharp-suited Militant leader of Liverpool City Council who's now into golf-course property development in Cyprus ( confirming what many of us knew all along).

Sayle also looked at the role football played in Liverpool and the effect the Hillsborough Disaster (when 96 Liverpool supporters got crushed to death) had in the city, and how the city responded to the subsequent reporting of the event in the Murdoch-owned Sun newspaper (see front page left and check out the Don't Buy the Sun here). Just to show how good Liverpool is at bearing a grudge, Sayle burned copies of the paper in the street. A cheap, but wonderful gag.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Euro 2008

Tying in with Fred West (just one reason we in England shouldn't get too up ourselves in discussions on the small town Austrian psyche), is Austria, joint host of this year's European Championships.

Here to commemorate England's involvement in the 2006 World Cup is a picture Isabel made - that's me in the middle.

Due to England's failure to qualify, there's no picture for this year's event, and none of the usual build up of scepticism, hope and inevitable realisation of the disappointment we would have avoided if we hadn't qualified in the first place. Instead I will look forward to Ronaldo missing a few penalties and put our money on the Anti-Christ of football - Italy.

I love the pictures Isabel (and all children) make, including the ones in Yeondoo Jung's Wonderland series. I like the remakes as well. They're light and fun, and reveal something of his vision of childhood - but they do lack the brutal directness of the originals.

What went wrong with Fred West

What went wrong with Fred West? That was the line used to accompany this picture and advertise a documentary on the man.

The assumption is he looks like a lovely, innocent child, but I'm not so sure. He has that West Country look about him (I know so many people who look like this!), but with a scary stare - before the spliffs and cider take hold.

But then Tracey Emin has a depth to her in the second portrait of a childhood - so perhaps it's just a projection on my part or something to do with the formal portrait era in which the pictures were made and the children grew up.

A young Liam Gallagher completes the set, shown here with with his dad, Thomas. Not sure how he got in, though?

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Sunday, 1 June 2008


Fundamentalist Christians believe in the ultimate demise of Israel and the consignment of all Jews, Muslims and non-believers to hell, and so does President Ahmedinejad of Iran (except the muslims going to hell bit), who has his own end-time beliefs according to Ian McEwan.

"In Jamkaran, a village not far from the holy city of Qum, a small mosque is undergoing a $20m-expansion, driven forward by Ahmadinejad's office. Within the Shi'ite apocalyptic tradition, the Twelfth Imam, the Mahdi, who disappeared in the ninth century, is expected to reappear in a well behind the mosque. His re-emergence will signify the beginning of the end days. He will lead the battle against the Dajjal, the Islamic version of the anti-Christ, and with Jesus as his follower, will establish the global Dar el Salaam, the dominion of peace, under Islam. Ahmadinejad is extending the mosque to receive the Mahdi, and already pilgrims by the thousands are visiting the shrine, for the president has reportedly told his cabinet that he expects the visitation within two years."

Belief has many shades though, and not all Iranians share Ahmedinejad's nutjob beliefs (so don't bomb it - it won't end well!), especially not Marjane Satrapi.

Satrapi is the author of Persepolis, her graphic memoir (and film) of growing up in the Iranian revolution. The book melds the politics of religion, gender and exile with a cynical humour and a zest for life that gives a real feel for the contradictions of Iranian society. Just fabulous!

Among the Believers

picture - Carmen Winant

Bringing together Waco, the Great Disappointment, sacrificial Red Heifer's, the Third Temple on the Mount and a spurious sprinkling of Susan Sontag, Ian McEwan writes about End Times and the Apocalypse in last weekend's Guardian.

He quotes (and questions ) various opinion polls. "Ninety per cent of Americans say they have never doubted the existence of God and are certain they will be called to answer for their sins. Fifty-three per cent are creationists who believe that the cosmos is 6,000 years old, 44 per cent are sure that Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead within the next 50 years. Only 12 per cent believe that life on earth has evolved through natural selection without the intervention of supernatural agency."

McEwan concludes that "We have no reason to believe that there are dates inscribed in heaven or hell. We may yet destroy ourselves; we might scrape through... The believers should know in their hearts by now that, even if they are right and there actually is a benign and watchful personal God, he is, as all the daily tragedies, all the dead children attest, a reluctant intervener. The rest of us, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, know that it is highly improbable that there is anyone up there at all. Either way, in this case it hardly matters who is wrong - there will be no one to save us but ourselves."

Which brings us to Carmen Winant. She has fine work up on her website here, and an interesting blog, especially this post on her beliefs. Carmen isn't one of the ninety per cent mentioned above, but one of the 4% of non-believing Americans. Here she talks about the isolation she felt at college regarding her lack of religion.

"...what isolated me most profoundly from my teammates was not my religion. The chasm I felt most sharply was my godlessness.

My teammates -- who were among my dearest friends, with whom I survived grueling workouts, logged up to 80 miles a week, and traveled to races in cities like Terre Haute and Boise almost every weekend – more or less despised what they termed “a person without faith.” I suddenly felt more was more non-Christian, and more Godless, then I had ever been.

And this was how I went in the closet.


I could confront my teammates – including the men’s team -- on their attitudes about homosexuality. I argued with them about abortion rights. I went to the mat defending Title IX protections of equal access for women’s sports. But asking them to comprehend, let alone, respect my atheism seemed too daunting.

Godlessness is the great taboo. According to a 2006 study of attitudes toward marginalized groups conducted by the University of Minnesota, atheists win the popularity booby prize in America. Asked which group “least shares their vision of society,” a shocking 40% of Americans picked atheists. We beat out Muslims (26.3%) and homosexuals (20%) by a landslide. We are also deemed the worst marriage prospects: Almost half (47.6%) of respondents also checked “atheists” in response to the statement: “I would disapprove if my child wanted to marry a member of this group.” ( Muslims again followed suit, and as for gays, well that's barely legal in the first place.) A March 2007 Newsweek survey found that 62% of people would refuse to vote for any candidate admitting to being an atheist (and this is after seven years of seeing what havoc a born-again Christian president -- who claims his policies come to him from God -- has wreaked on the earth).


Last year, the Pew Forum on Public and Religious Life conducted another survey. They report that there has actually been a modest increase in those who state they are atheists, from 3.2% to 4.0%. This gives me hope that one day I will feel safer with my old teammates, and that this country will grow past our discrimination. That public universities will come to uphold the separation of church and state. That the burden of proof will not always fall upon those who do not believe in the supernatural.

I know it will take a long, long time. But I’ve got faith."