I was commissioned to write this a few years ago for the Central European House of Photography in Bratislava (and thank you to all the photo...
Friday, 31 October 2008
Thursday, 30 October 2008
Monday, 27 October 2008
Friday, 24 October 2008
Thursday, 23 October 2008
pictures: Chris Killip
It's grim up north, but the good news is Chris Killip's In Flagrante is being reissued, sort of, by Errata Editions. Also coming up are Walker Evans' American Photographs, Sophie Ristelhueber's Fait, and Eugene's Atget's Photographe de Paris.
picture: Henri Cartier-Bresson
Another Magnum blast from the past, Cartier-Bresson's one insightful image from India, of the outrageous Mr Nehru propositioning Lady Mountbatten in the presence of the good lord himself.
Wednesday, 22 October 2008
picture: Eve Arnold
While looking through Lise Sarfati's edition of the Magnum Fashion Magazine, Eve Arnold popped up, which reminded me I hadn't seen this Eve Arnold picture for a while. Simply incredible!
Tuesday, 21 October 2008
I love Tadhg Devlin's pictures of Peckham, The Ballad of Rye Lane. The project isn't on his website yet, but should be soon. In the meantime, it will be on show at the University of Wales Documentary Photography MA Exhibition.
His work is a vision of London as an organic entity with undercurrents and eddies that mark out the different perspectives and identities that make a city what it is. In Tadhg's own words:
"I am trying to explore what Jonathan Raban referred to as ‘the soft city’ – a city that involves the complexity of relationships and individual’s experiences, not only the physical space within a city but the psychological terrain created by its occupiers. ‘The city as we imagine it, the soft city of illusion, myth, aspiration, nightmare…. as real, maybe more real, than the hard city one can locate on maps, in statistics, in monographs on urban sociology and demography and architecture.’ "
Via Shane Lavalette
Ridderkerk II, 2003
© Raimond Wouda
During the first “call for entries” period for Lay Flat, a number of photographers expressed that were very pleased that there was no entry fee involved. I am too! From the beginning, it was important to me that photographers were able to submit their work to be considered free of charge. Because of this, however, I have to ask for your help now. At this point, Lay Flat is just shy of the funds necessary to print and distribute the first issue but, with a little support from all of you, we can easily cover these costs!
If you’re a photographer who has submitted or simply a lover of photography, I urge you to take this moment to consider donating to Lay Flat. As a donor, you can know that you are supporting an exciting new publication that celebrates photography in a way that is unique from other publications. There is no minimum amount accepted - every penny counts! - but donors that give more than $20 will be thanked in print and will receive an advanced e-mail regarding the release of the publication.
To donate, just head to the website and find the “donate” button.
It has been a long wait, but things are finally coming together with the help of all of you. Thank you so much!
Monday, 20 October 2008
picture: Peter Marlow
The Bath Film Festival comes around once a year - one of the highlights this year is Serious Steve McQueen's Hunger, which the story of the IRA Hunger Strikes of the 1980s. The Troubles have been reinvented a little (they gave warnings bless!) in the wake of the London Tube Bombings and 911 - an event characterised at the weekend by Stella Rimington, ex-head of MI5, as a normal terrorist incident, but one which had a response that was a huge overreaction.
Anyway, it's always good to cast one's memory back a few years and remember the days when bombing campaigns almost annihilated the entire British government and the terrorism threat consisted of rather more than the vulnerable individuals bearing incompetent bombs of the present.
In connection with all that, in the weekend's Observer, Sean O'Hagan writes a fascinating article on the Dirty Protest and Hunger Strike, and connects it to current security conditions. As Dostoyevsky said, "The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons."
"Back then, the most vivid description of their conditions came from Cardinal O'Fiaich, the then-Roman Catholic Primate of All Ireland, who visited the prison in 1978. 'I was shocked by the inhuman conditions prevailing in H Blocks 3, 4 and 5, where over 300 prisoners are incarcerated,' he said. 'One would hardly allow an animal to remain in such conditions let alone a human being.' O'Fiaich compared the H Blocks to 'the slums of Calcutta', adding: 'The stench and filth in some of the cells, with the remains of rotten food and human excreta around the walls, was almost unbearable. In two of them I was unable to speak for fear of vomiting.'
His public statement prompted a response from the Northern Ireland Office, which began: 'These criminals are totally responsible for the situation in which they find themselves. It is they who have been smearing excreta on the walls and pouring urine through the cell doors. It is they who by their actions are denying themselves the excellent modern facilities of the prison.'The conflicting tone and message of those two statements, the one emotive and outraged, the other detached and clinical, prefigured the coming battle of wills between Republicans and the British state. In the eyes of the British government, led by Margaret Thatcher, the prisoners were simply murderers and gangsters and were to be treated accordingly. To the Nationalist population of Northern Ireland, who were becoming increasingly agitated about conditions inside the H Blocks, they were political prisoners standing up for a defining principle of Republicanism."
Read whole article here
Thursday, 16 October 2008
Raimond Wouda and Isabella Rozendaal (their pictures are above) are just two Young Dutch Photographers from this Young Dutch Photography site.
Be sure to check out Wouda's school shots which are so revealing about teenage use of public space and the scary world of schools.
Rozendaal has a mix of images which are harsh, funny and direct in an hit and miss kind of way. I know I shouldn't but I still love the hard-flash. Why pretend it's anything other than what it is.
Wednesday, 15 October 2008
I'm not sure who it reminds me of, but it reminds me of someone - someone with a touch of the dramatic and emotional.
More on Young Danish Photography
Tuesday, 14 October 2008
"You broke it, you dumbfu*cks. You broke the American Dream. You let some blue-blooded snake oil salesman put on a cowboy hat and smirk, adopt a Texan drawl he picked up after years of being educated on the East Coast, hoodwink you into electing him. You have been had! And now all of us are going to pay for YOUR mistake. For once in your self-centered, self-entitled lives, OWN what you've done and make amends!
Bush has never had any interest in how you'll get by when the sheriff comes to evict you. He never has had any interest in how you'll pay the hospital bills when you lose your job at the plant. He has never had any interest in how to rebuild your community when mother nature devastates it. He never has had any interest in what you'll live off of when you retire. He's spent his entire 8 years in the White House lining the pockets of his rich friends in the oil and defense and energy industries. He bankrupted the country to do so. He stole your children's future and, like trained monkeys being thrown doggie treats, you shout "U-S-A! U-S-A!" in response. Open your eyes. You have been swindled!
The only thing more idiotic than all that is how now you're willing to believe that electing two people selling more of the same will somehow bring a different result. And why???? Because voting for the Democrat will amount to admitting you were wrong. Well, here's the hard part: You were wrong! You were horribly, unforgivably, and selfishly wrong to elect that man in the first place."
Which leads naturally to William Burroughs and his Thanksgiving prayer - it's unlikely I know, but let's hope that the resurrection of the Last and Greatest of all Human Dreams is about to begin.
"To John Dillinger and hope he is still alive.
Thanksgiving Day November 28 1986"
Thanks for the wild turkey and
the passenger pigeons, destined
to be shat out through wholesome
Thanks for a continent to despoil
Thanks for Indians to provide a
modicum of challenge and
Thanks for vast herds of bison to
kill and skin leaving the
carcasses to rot.
Thanks for bounties on wolves
To vulgarize and to falsify until
the bare lies shine through.
Thanks for the KKK.
For nigger-killin' lawmen,
feelin' their notches.
For decent church-goin' women,
with their mean, pinched, bitter,
Thanks for "Kill a Queer for
Thanks for laboratory AIDS.
Thanks for Prohibition and the
war against drugs.
Thanks for a country where
nobody's allowed to mind the
Thanks for a nation of finks.
Yes, thanks for all the
memories-- all right let's see
You always were a headache and
you always were a bore.
Thanks for the last and greatest
betrayal of the last and greatest
of human dreams.
picture: Colin Pantall
From the spiritual to the political side of one's self.
To find exactly where you fit on the political map, how close you are to George W. Bush or Tony Blair, or even if you're on "the slippery slope to Socialism" like Ho Chi Minh (pictured above), take the test at Political Compass.
To see where the US presidential candidates stand in relation to each other (and yourself), go here.
This is where various political leaders stand.
Ho Chi Minh's not in there, so here's the starting point of his declaration of Vietnamese Independence from 1945 instead.
"The compatriots of the entire country,
All men are created equal; they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights; among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
This immortal statement was made in the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America..."
Read the whole thing here.
Monday, 13 October 2008
Alice Munro was brought up a Scottish Presbyterian, Timothy Archibald is a Unitarian, Carmen Winant an atheist and Sonja Engdahl a Buddhist.
Me, I'm 100% Humanist, 93% with Tim and the Unitarians, but only 13% Jehovah's Witness and in the low twenties for both Roman Catholicism and Islam, Alhumdulillah.
For a complete breakdown of your religious beliefs, go to Belief-O-Matic (if it works), the 100% scientifically proven belief-testing system that won't let you down.
picture: Colin Pantall
"How much of art is genuine, how much just a bag of cheap tricks - imitating people, manipulating their emotions, making faces? How can one affirm anything about another person - even a made-up person - without presumption?"
"Dreariness of spirit" is one of the great Munro enemies. Her characters do battle with it in every way they can, fighting against stifling mores and other people's deadening expectations and imposed rules of behaviour, and every possible kind of muffling and spiritual smothering. Given a choice between being a person who does good works but has inauthentic feelings and is numb at heart and being one who behaves badly but is true to what she really feels and is thus alive to herself, a Munro woman is likely to choose the latter; or, if she chooses the former, she will then comment on her own slipperiness, guile, wiliness, slyness and perversity. Honesty, in Munro's work, is not the best policy: it is not a policy at all, but an essential element, like air. The characters must get hold of at least some of it, by fair means or foul, or - they feel - they will go under."
Friday, 10 October 2008
A thought I have on a daily basis here in Bath.
The line (Am I mad, in a Coma or back in Time) comes from the fantastic Life on Mars, the British TV series about Sam Tyler, the time travelling cop who goes back to 1973.
This is the show that is the favourite cop show of every policeman/policewoman I have met in the last few years - and they all remember the real Gene Hunts (only much, much worse).
The American version has just launched with, amongst others, Harvey Keitel, Christopher Imperioli - Keitel is the spitting image of the English Gene Hunt which is a great start.
The British version was flawed in places, but still the best thing to hit our screens since Father Ted. I hope the American version is just as good.
“Because portraits are one of the most profound things that one can do – to express who we are through our material presence. To look at someone, to simply and truly see someone, and express their sentience.
This is a starting point with the portraits I have tried to achieve in my piece of work, I am attempting to show the dignity in the human beings I have photographed. By including the space they occupy for whatever reason that may be, shows how the space is being used, whether that be an interior of a church or a warehouse used for a clothing manufacturer, the area surrounding the person conveys a little more about the personthemselves. I wanted the viewer to have a direct connection with the subject, which is why many of the individuals in their environment are looking straight towards the camera and are the main focus of attention. The environment reveals more about the person themselves and also the reason they occupy the area. In the objective study and scrutiny of the individual I am trying to reveal more that is initially hidden beneath the surface.
Whether this is successful or not often depends a lot upon the individual and whether they want to reveal anything of themselves. Today people are so aware when a camera is pointed at them it is difficult to reveal anything other than a record of that moment in time with the individual, but I am trying to achieve some sort of connection with the person in front of me, and also with the viewer without any irony or cynicism. There is a certain amount of trust between myself and the sitter as I explain the reason behind the images and what I hope to achieve with them, but there is still a power dynamic involved with all portraiture, ultimately I am trying to make it believable but with a slight moment of tension. With this slight tension, either in a look or in the pose of the individual, I am trying to allude again to the sense of unease and alienation in the city the size of London.
Due to the fact that all the images were taken using a medium format camera and a tripod, which slows down the whole process of taking a portrait, it affects the whole procedure and gives the subject time to get used to the process of being photographed and gives me time to further explain what I am trying to achieve."
(Thanks to Tadhg Devlin for this)
Thursday, 9 October 2008
pictures: Paul Graham
Some thoughts on portraiture from Paul Graham and Andres Serrano (from a very old 1991 interview ) that connect to the previous Vanessa Winship post and also on the aestheticisation of the mundane and the mundanitization (??) of the aesthetic.
“Look at this person, really look at this person, what do you see of them? Do you see your friends, your loved ones? If you see someone’s burden, then you have begun to share their burden. To observe life is to influence life. So, do you see their humanity? Do
you see yourself?” (Paul Graham, End of An Age, 1999)
"I am pulling at the form. My intent as an artist is to monumentalize or aestheticize the mundane. But it is also important that I identify with my subjects. The Klan people and the homeless are outcasts. I have always felt like an underdog; I root for the underdog."
Andres Serrano (1991)
full Serrano interview here
Wednesday, 8 October 2008
Mrs A is a bit of a legend in Bath, her shop on the London Road was my favourite shop, a hotbed of herbs and spices and condiments deliberately kept at low prices for her more impoverished customers - with Mrs A always an inspiration and more than value for money.
Sad to say her shop closed due to ill health - so as a memory here are pictures of Mrs A with her family and on her wedding day with the late, lamented Mr A (he used to give Isabel bananas, lychees, mangoes, sweets, whatever was going).
"What has this man ever accomplished in government? What does he plan for America?"
John McCain, October 6th, 2008.
Tuesday, 7 October 2008
Monday, 6 October 2008
A few years back, I wrote a piece for Feer on Agent Orange - based on Philip Jones Griffiths RIP book of the same name. Interviewing scientists working in the field was a revelation to me. The completeness bitchiness and cat-calling, accusation and counteraccusation of the scientific community (though not by any of the people mentioned in the article of course!) was a revelation - this person was "a purveyor of factoids", that person's results were determined by the funding body (the chemical industry) and so on. And the worst thing was it was all true. As for Griffiths book - everyone agreed that it was a "coffee table book".
An exhibition of Griffiths' Agent Orange is on display at the Brighton Photo Biennale. Also on show are Paul Seawright, Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, Frank Hurley, Simon Norfolk, Geert van Kesteren, Larry Burrows, Susan Meiselas, Harriet Logan, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad and many, many more. Quite a line-up in other words and Brighton is always such a lovely place to be..
Here is the text from the Feer review piece.
Agent Provocateur (From the Far Eastern Economic Review: 2004, Vol 167(5))
Welsh photographer Philip Jones Griffiths first heard about the dangers of Agent Orange (the highly toxic herbicide used as a defoliant during the Vietnam War) in Saigon in 1967. "During the war there were these rumours that babies were being born without eyes and it became a quest to find them," says Griffiths. "I visited as many catholic orphanages as I could, but I was barred entry from most of them and I became convinced that the Americans had put the word out - don't let any press in."
Continue reading here.
She asked in such a lovely way I said yes, and I got the book the other day. I don't read German too well, but it looks fantastic. I feel there is a link between poetry and photography that ties the two together - a way of using the visual or the written word as a metaphorical pathway into our hearts and emotions.
Both poetry and photography are disabled by the futility of the endeavour, by a yearning for meaning or feeling that is always ultimately defeated, that is never definitive or clear.
But that defeat is also the strength of poetry and photography. That failure to settle or be still mirrors how we are, how we live, it mirrors the chaos and contradictions of our hearts, our minds, our lives and it recognises that life is something that goes beyond categorisation and the concrete, that we can look beyond and live beyond the ranking and grading and judging that stain our daily lives.
The poet, be it the written or the visual poet, recognizes what it is to be human. And long may that continue.
Friday, 3 October 2008
Thursday, 2 October 2008
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
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.
Wednesday, 1 October 2008
illustration: David Tazzyman
Talking about animals and creators of parallel universes, we saw Andy Stanton (author of the Mr Gum series of books) talk at the Bath Children's Literature Festival. It was great, entertaining stuff in which elements of Stanton's subconscious combined with the the absurdity of nature and emotion - or something like that.
His tips for writing were
1. Write down your ideas (that's how his second book Mr Gum and the Biscuit Billionaire came about - he was blocked to the eyeballs until in the middle of the night he had the idea of "a gingerbread man called Alan Taylor with electric muscles". Which he wrote on a piece of paper, forgot about and then one day happened upon, so causing his second great Mr Gum book to come about).
2. Once you have an idea, start writing - don't worry about the ending. The ending will come.
And that's about it really and it holds good for photography too. The rest of the time he spent running around sweating and shouting at kids - in a good kind of way.