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Monday, 28 November 2011

More small publishers

Above pictures from À PROPOS DE GISÈLE by Estelle Hanania and JSBJ's very cool blue zines. Buy for 15 euros at JSBJ.

OK, so here are a few links of some more small publishers suggested by lots of people - thank you so much for your ideas. So many, so many, some are more affordable than others. 

Have a flick through the links below and see what is on offer - there is some fabulous stuff out there.

More self-publishing, but here is a taster of The Photobook Show in Brighton next week.

Also on self-publishing, here is ABC., the Artists' Boooks Cooperative.

This is where you find things such as  Mariken Wessels: Queen Ann. P.S. Belly cut off
which is where the above picture is from. Here's Joerg Colberg's review of the book

And here is Jeffrey Ladd's review.

Jeffrey runs Errata Editions which reprints old classics - part of the historical rediscovery of the photobook that the Parr/Badger Histories crystallised. More histories of Dutch/Mexican/Spanish/German photobooks are in the works as we speak and Parr is doing a 3rd Photobook History volume which has to be  good news.

For more on Japanese photography and photobooks, see Microcord, Japan Exposures and the Ivan Vartanian book on Japanese Photobooks of the 60s and 70s. Also note that The Photographers Gallery will be having show of 150 Japanese photobooks from the last year. It's in May 2012. It's a kind of bookshow/exhibition. Get your white gloves out. No kidding.

For many, many more small publishers go to last year's Amsterdam Art Book Fair.

 One Year of Books blog

 Où est passée la journée d'hier

Takiura Hideo

 Meier Und Muller

Oodee Books 


Above picture by Claudine Doury - Sasha

 Buy at  Le Caillou Bleu

Editions Fpcf

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

New Publishers

pictures by Maya Rochat's Ma tete a couper

I'm currently writing a feature for the BJP on small publishers. If you hadn't noticed, small publishers are sprouting up all over the place like mushrooms in the rainy season.

So I've been talking to all these people involved in publishing, printing, design and bookselling and what a delight it has been.

Most notably I was pointed in the direction of Delphine Bedel by Bruno Ceschel of Self Publish Be Happy.

Delphine Bedel runs Hard-Copy, a Master's Course in Geneva where students are teamed up with designers to produce their own books. More on this in a later post. You can see Delphine and others talking about publishing at last year's Amsterdam Art/Book Fair here.

Delphine led Ben Freeman at Ditto Press in London - they do all kind of fancy printing work, including risoprinting Maya Rochat's book for Hard-Copy.  My phone then headed up to speak to Alec Soth about Little Brown Mushroom and a Head with wings by Anouk Kruithof.

One thing all these small publishers have in common is a willingness to take a shot in the dark, to experiment and try new things. Unfortunately these things can go a little bit wrong as Alec Soth found out when he was confronted with 500 books that had to be filled with tipped in photographers - Alec can do lots of things but he can't tip photographs to save his life.

That similar Oh-My-God-What-Have-I-Done moment was also experienced by Elijah Gowin of Tinroof Press when his 3 pallet-loads of Of Falling and Floating arrived on his doorstep. See his video on Offprint Paris below - Offprint is a small publishers fair with all sorts of good things floating around.

Offprint Paris 2011 from Elijah Gowin on Vimeo.

The big fish, comparatively speaking, at Offprint was Markus Schaden who co-published Ricardo Cases  pigeon book, Paloma Al Aire. Markus talked of the excitement of the new photobook era but also the danger it posed to him as a publisher, and how everybody has to be everything (photographer, publisher, curator, exhibitor and distributor) these days - something echoed all around by almost everybody.

Markus led directly to Helge Schlaghecke of White Press. Helge published Doug Rickard's A New American Picture which was a google street view book which connected to one of Mr Parr's favourite books which is the CCTV based Looters by Tiane Doan na Champassak

And if anyone is thinking of Christmas present ideas, don't hesitate to get me a Pogo Books Boxed set,
some French elegance at JSBJ or something from Alec Soth's favourite restrained American design of Hassla Books.

See Anouk Kruithof's Happy Birthday To You here.And documentation of the making of it here.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU was published as a result of a conceptual social project by Anouk Kruithof, which she developed during her stay at "HET VIJFDE SEIZOEN" from January to March 2011. This is an artist-in-residence in the area of the psychiatric institution Altrecht in Den Dolder, the Netherlands. Kruithof has interviewed 10 patients about their wishes for their birthday and in accordance with those wishes, she organized and celebrated these birthdays for and with them.

Anouk Kruithof on Christoph Hansli's Mortadella. See the book here. It might be a tad expensive mind.

Now all I have to do is make sense of this chaos. I will try to do so, brought on by an overwhelming wave of optimism, creativity and openness from all the lovely people I spoke to.

And your favourite new publishers? I'd love to hear your ideas.


Monday, 21 November 2011

Of Falling and Floating and Printing in China

I have always loved Elijah Gowin's Falling pictures. He sent me his new book Of Falling and Floating the other day. It's published by Elijah's own press, Tin Roof Press
and is a wonderful exploration of various dark themes that add up to an apocalyptic perspective of the post-911 world. This view ties in with the birth of Elijah's own children, adding a layer of fear to his life, a concern for the future and for the legacy we bequeath our children that was not there before.

The first major themes is that of baptism, or birth - Gowin takes pictures from the internet and then combines and alters them so they look like distorted 'polaroid transfers' or instamatic prints. So people are baptised, there is water, people kneel and heads are held. It looks sinister, it looks like people are being tortured or shot, like people are dying. This effect is compounded by some other things happening at sea - a burning ship, a plume of orange smoke, clusters of people swimming. Perhaps they're swimming for safety or shore.

The falling pictures are  strange combination pictures where the colours and scale are all wrong, where joyful tumbles turn into plummets of death, where the evocations of Rodchenko and Siskind merge with those of the 911 Falling Man. People fall onto land, into Stephen Gill undergrowth, and into water. They fall flat and face first, sideways, upside down, braced for landing, ready to die.

The final scene is shots of sunlight from a camera pointed into the sun. There is no happy effect here, no 60s swing into psychodelia or McGinley tilt towards the happy and light.

Instead it's a Japanese sun, an atomic sun, a harbinger of a slow and lingering death amidst the parched earth and dead sea of all that Falling and Floating. Gowin says that there is an optimism in the pictures, but if there is the consolation in our falling is that we sometimes do it with a sense of rhythm and a sense of grace. .

See and buy the book here.

Tin Roof Press is one of any number of small publishers that have risen up in the last few years. I'm currently writing a piece on this for the January edition of the BJP - and what a pleasure it is to talk to so many open and committed souls.

Truth is there is no single coherent reason for this phenomenon, but Tin Roof is on one side of the new-publishers spectrum. See Elijah explain being on press in China here - On Press with Tin Roof Press.

Printing "Of Falling and Floating" from Elijah Gowin on Vimeo. And here he is at Offprint Paris (a gathering of wonderful small European publishers).

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Anthony Luvera's Residency

Another person I interviewed for my BJP article on collaboration (the whole article is in the November issue - or on the ipad version. ) was the ever thoughtful, energetic and talented Anthony Luvera

So it seems only natural to follow the previous post - which was essentially about reclaiming art from consumption - with this one where Anthony explains why he is interested in reclaiming photographic representation from the politics of (media) consumption as well as how he showed the work he and others had made on the London Underground. Fabulous!

Anthony Luvera – The Artist

“There is this preconceived notion of a homeless person as a bum or a down-and-out” says photographer and academic Anthony Luvera, “but I’m interested in the experience of homelessness as a transitional thing, as something you experience and then move on from.”
Luvera’s work with  homelessness and changing how it is represented began in December 2001 when he was invited to photograph in London for Crisis, a homeless charity. “I was really interested in the critical writing of people like Abigail Solomon-Godeau, Allan Sekula and A.D. Coleman. They question the context and meaning of documentary photography and how it is represented.”

 “So when I was told how I could help these people and how amazing everything looked, I wasn’t interested. I could have stayed two weeks and made amazing pictures that people hadn’t seen before. But I wanted to develop relationships with people, to hear the stories that they told and to make those relationships a central part of my practice.”
So Luvera rejected conventional top-down documentaries of the poor and gave the homeless people he met cameras to document the people and places they found  important. He also trained them how to use large format cameras and became an assistant in their making of Assisted Self-Portraits.

“Over the next five years, I worked with 250 people  and ended up with an archive of over 10,000 photographs. When I showed this work on the London Underground, suddenly I started getting these weird requests for images. I got requests from a bible manufacturer and a Hollywood costume designer. This  got me interested in the ethics of archives and what they are for and that’s how I got involved with Belfast Exposed.”

In Belfast, Luvera combined his academic with his photographic practice, the latter of which is collected in his recently published book, Residency.  “I’m interested in identity  because it’s a process that is always in flux. I’m not interested in why people are homeless so much as what they think about being homeless and being represented as homeless.”

“In London, I would ask people to take me to a place that was important. In Belfast that had a whole different resonance. If you’re from Belfast you’re from a particular area that carries economic, religious and political weight. So for the homeless in Belfast, there is a double whammy of exclusion because homeless people find themselves excluded from places both socially and politically.”
“There was also a level of suspicion of me as a photographer that I hadn’t experienced before. As a community, Belfast has been exposed to the polarising gaze of photography. Many people I met had memories of photojournalists being at events – this person parachuting in, taking pictures  and leaving. Then they would see pictures of Belfast represented as a rabid, warring place when the reality was very different.”

Through his work Luvera hopes to change the politics of representation and the relationship between the people and places involved in the production, exhibiting and publication of images.  “In Belfast I wanted to  involve the participants in every part of the process, from the photography to the exhibition where pictures were put at eye-level so the viewer would look them straight in the eye. People are used to looking at homeless people from above.” With his work In Belfast and London, that’s a perspective that Luvera is helping to change.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Art that sells is the destructive 1%

Joerg at Conscientious was sent a comment by Aaron Hobson.

Aaron asked:

 “I was wondering if art galleries, blogs, and magazines will soon only be filled with socially outgoing, marketing driven artists that also enter competitions?”

This got taken up all over the place including on Flak Photo Network, a Facebook resource run by the super-positive Andy Adams.

It seemed interesting to me how much the question became to do with the very nature of art. Essential things like marketing and galleries were central to the conversation, but why is this.

Of course marketing and selling is important to photographers and artists but that is not what art is about (although it is what Art is about). In a similar way, the making of art has very little to do with galleries. These places are, in the sense that they are commercial galleries, interested in a particular and very narrow kind of art that can be displayed within a space in a particular kind of way, they are interested in people who can produce work that galleries can show. And so people produce the kind of work that they can show, they kind of work that sells, the kind of work that wealthy people like - which is problematic. It's a symbiotic relationship where what galleries, gallery consumers, and gallery feeders produce is intricately linked in an unbalanced but self-replicating chain.

There are particular ways of communicating within this chain, but they all require a certain respect for the communicative and productive forms of discourse of the chain. Central to the forms of discourse is the idea of a product that is recordable in some way. If it can't be recorded, it can't be shown. If it can't be shown, it can't be talked about and it can't be a product.

The gallery and all its discourses (including the academic, media and online discourses) are about the tangible in other words, and because of this art becomes imprisoned by the politics of consumption.

So we lose a central element of the idea of art is some kind of near-mystical idea of the sublime, of its ineffability, its transcendence above the mundane details of the everyday. It is about beauty, elegance and grace or insight, poetry and emotion.

It is almost as if every time somebody looks at something in a gallery, they are looking at a way-of-seeing, a way-of thinking or a way-of-feeling that is outside their realm of possibility, that is from the heart and the soul, that is free and uninhibited by the preconceptions of the market. And if they try to buy something, they are trying to buy something that is outside their realm of possibility.

But by buying that something, one is at the same time destroying it. Similarly by selling something one is doing the same thing. The gallery makes a venue that is comfortable for the buyer, that has a familiar air of decoration and opulence, that plays to their vanity as a wealthy consumer. The very act of buying and selling, of marketing, of advertising, networking, of entering into a discourse of consumption is doing  something which must not have a pound or dollar sign at it's heart.

And in doing so, it destroys the art it is supposed to uphold. The gallery destroys art by making it something to be consumed. What it tries to do is sell taste and feeling to people who essentially don't have taste and feeling.

But at the same time, the artist who takes part in this, the person with the sense of the sublime, with heart and soul and feeling, enters into a diabolical contract. The price of the price is to lose one's heart, to lose one's soul, to become what one is supposed to be. It's a simple trade off - you pay me and I will give you my integrity, honesty and dignity - kind of like any job I suppose.

For me, art is something spiritual and physical. It's a way of being, a way of making that is more to do with the making than what is made - if you're into what is made, then you're talking about craft or design rather than art per se.

It is about relationships and escaping the earthly world, of emptying one's soul of the transitory and illusionary things in life - of escaping ideas of politics and power and wealth except to critique and belittle those earthly things - all the things that are absolutely central to the idea of the gallery and the people who consume there.

The problem with that kind of art is it doen't need to be recorded or preserved, indeed it shouldn't be recorded or preserved. It's an etching in the sand on a beach, a scrabble of twigs lined up against a log, a sculpture of thorns in a rosehip, a scribble on a wall, a stencil of an eye, a homemade manga cartoon or a bunch of dodgy birthday posters - just a few of the misguided artistic endeavours of this household in the last few months.

I know that most if not all gallery owners want to escape from the gallery-as-art-shop but find it difficult to do so because they have bills to pay.And that most artists find marketing and selling a grind that belittles both them and their work but still have to do it because, guess what, they have bills to pay..

People do need to make money, they do need to promote themselves but I think it would be good to recognise that galleries and their patrons do not have a monopoly on art, that patronage does not equal creation. We need a little redefinition of our terms where the art that is consumed is the destructive1% and the unearning and unrecognised art that never gets labelled or hung  is the positive and life-affirming  99%. Nobody's going to buy tickets for that kind of art, it's not a blockbuster show, but it's the art the matters - and it's not something you network or market or connect for. You don't sell it, you don't consume it, you just live it.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Chris Capozziello, Collaboration and the BJP

I have a lovely feature on collaboration in this month's BJP portrait special. Included are interviews with

Arlene Gottfried, 
We are the Youth,
Timothy Archibald,
Klaus Pichler,
Tony Fouhse, 
Anthony Luvera
and Chris Capozziello.

It was hard work but fascinating to talk to all the photographers involved. What came across was a lack of certainty about what they were doing, a refreshing questioning not just of what others do in photography but what they were doing as well. Nothing was clear cut and people were extremely eloquent in making their doubts apparent, whilst also being willing to defend their perspectives and their practice.

Everybody had a different take on collabaration with subjects, but Chris Capozziello's project on his brother Nick crystallized when he realised that it was about his relationship with his brother, about his ideas of kinship and suffering.

Below is the interview with Chris.

Chris Capozziello – the Brother

“I sometimes wonder why God put me on this earth the way I am. It feels like he never answers me, but I never get angry at God because if I didn’t have cerebral palsy I wouldn’t be the person I am.”

So says Nick Capoziello Nick has cerebral palsy and suffers from cramps that can suffer for minutes, hours and sometimes days. His brother Chris is a photojournalist who has photographed Nick’s life for the last 11 years.

“I was brought up a Catholic,” says Capozziello. “I remember being a kid and seeing this huge crucifix in the church during Mass and thinking why is there disease in the world, why is there suffering, why did this happen to Nick?”

Faith and suffering haunt Capozziello’s work with Nick, but it took time for Capozziello to allow his own voice and feelings be heard. “I used to have the pictures in my portfolio but I didn’t include text. I didn’t really want to have that conversation with editors. I didn’t want people to feel pity. I couldn’t know why I was making these pictures.”

“Then I was asked to show work at the Look Between Festival last year. I’d been sharing what Nick had been going through after brain surgery last year with colleagues they said the thing about the story was Nick was my twin. That’s what made the story so powerful.”

Capozziello made a multimedia presentation and suddenly  the response to the project changed dramatically. “What really solidified the project for me was when a woman came up to me after the multimedia presentation. She hugged me and told me she was a twin and how she had suffered as a twin. I asked her what she did and she said that she was an editor at National Geographic. I was amazed that she was in a job where she saw pictures every day but could still be touched.”

 “You can be so close to a story but miss the point of it. The point is that Nick is my twin brother and I’m the healthy one. The change in response came partly because of how much I was willing to disclose. When I was ready to talk, not just about what it is like to have cerebral palsy, but also to introduce Nick and myself as human beings, to say this is my twin brother, and question how and why he was born like this. When I could talk about that, everything changed.”

Suffering is also an essential element of the story. “Often when people look at Nick’s story, they feel turned on by him in a way that makes them care about him, and about our relationship. I think it is because they begin to think about their loved ones who suffer or who have suffered. It creates a connection, a bond of solidarity. My aim is not to raise awareness about cerebral palsy. There are organizations that do that now and they do it well. My aim is to tell an honest story, and share it with others.”

“There’s also an element of hope to the story. Five years ago there was no hope. Now, after the operation, there is. But hope is dangerous. It makes you think that things can better. And things don’t always get better.”

Below is the  slide show made by Chris, The Distance Between Us..

The Distance Between Us from Christopher Capozziello on Vimeo.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Ra One - not as bad as Baz Luhrmann's Australia

Ian Jack writes in the Saturday Guardian on the life and times of Sushil Kumar, the Indian winner of Who wants to be a Crorepati and how the BBC styled him as the real life Slumdog Millionaire. The winning prize of 5 crore rupees (about £400,000) was presented by Amitabh Bachchan, India's all-time Number 1 Film Star. Jack wrote about how Sushil Kumar's life was misrepresented by the BBC - who lazily decided  to go with a hugely innaccurate Slumdog angle.

As Jack had it,

Life often imitates art, but sometimes life is squeezed, bashed and bent into the shape of art because the complexities of reality are too bothersome to express, and in any case, fiction has been there first with a better version. We want fiction's echo, and you can hear it on the news.

Indeed. Tied in to that quote and also fascinating is the fact that Kumar's ancestral home had been repossessed by money lenders, a recurring theme in Bollywood movies, most notably in Mother India, Mehboob's fantastic but skewed perspective on rural Indian life.

With the exception of Amir Khan's more interesting projects (Peepli Live for a contemporary example, Lagaan for a historical one), poor Indians barely get a mention in mainstream Hindi Cinema anymore. It's all Mumbai mansions, outrageously opulent lifestyles and questionable ethics. Films like Dabangg or 3 Idiots may have their good points and it is hard to resist imitating Salman Khan do his policeman swagger-Schtick in Dabangg - the fact that boys in Peshawar and Kabul were inspired by him to wear their glasses on the backs of their shirts is inspired, but modern Hindi cinema is so far from being great film that it is laughable.

So it was with some trepidation that I accompanied my wife to see Shah Rukh Khan's latest movie, Ra-One. First of all the movie was playing at Cineworld in Hengrove Leisure Park. This is the sort of place that people should occupy, a wasted space of car park surrounded by the detritus of 21st century consumption - KFC, Mickey D's, Frankie and Benny's, a Premier Inn and Cineworld.

Fuck the magic of the cinema, walk through the doors of Cineworld and forget the ticket office - they have a machine for that now. Instead spread across the width of the foyer facing the entrance is a sales point of coke and popcorn. There's a type of phenomenally expensive coffee bean called kopi luwak - where the beans have been eaten by a civet and then shat out through wholesome civet guts. It makes the coffee extra tasty - and extra expensive.

Such is the price of popcorn at Cineworld, it must be a West Country form of Popcorn Luwak, made from the unpopped kernels that had been inadvertently consumed by bullet headed van drivers from Knowle West and Bedminster, and then shat out through wholesome Bristolian guts. There's a little Cineworld man somwhere who forages through all their waste products to sift out the little popcorny nuggets of gold. At least, given the price that's what I expect has happened. And given the taste too.

So that's the cinema. How about the movie. Well, there were 7 people there and that's never a good sign ( the reviews were never a good sign either). We sad down, watched the most misguided mega-ad ever (For Muller Rice and Yogurt. Watch the ad here. Insanely Crap!), laughed at the previews of some appalling upcoming Bollywood releases - Desi's Boys: a couple of muscle bound numbskulls become gigolos. Or how about Rockstar; a man wants to be a rock star but has never been in love. How can you write meaningful songs when you've never been in love... You get the picture.

Well, that was the best part of the evening. Because after that Ra-One started. How bad was it? Was it as bad as Baz Luhrmann's Australia? Well, nothing's as bad as Baz Luhrmann's Australia. That was so bad that it failed Dino de Laurentiis' bad test - that there are only two kinds of films worth seeing; the really good ones and the really bad ones. Australia proved him wrong.

So at least Ra One was bad in a way that was bad enough to pass the de Laurentiis bad test. It was amazingly bad, fascinatingly bad, a monument to badness. It started off with a disastrous dream sequence where a child is dreaming of his father being a hero in a video game. It made our stomachs shrivel like a dried up worm - this is a Bollywood movie, over 3 hours when you throw in the intermission. How would we survive?

The badness intensified, with a cringe-making performance by Shah Rukh Khan as Shekhar, a Tamil video game maker down on his luck. Ra One had been SRK's dream for 20 years and now he was finally getting it made. The only problem is he was 20 years too old for the part and nobody had dared mention this to him. Nobody had said no.

Similarly nobody had said no to the lame Tamil cooking jokes, the pitiful Jackie Chan cracks whenever the Chinese character (the best thing in the film) showed up. Nobody had mentioned that having a Terminator ripoff ("It's Terminator 1 and Terminator 2 - but in the same movie!") 20 plus years after the fact was a bad idea or that having a villain whose usp was being evil was not ideal characterisation - that once he had killed Shekhar's son, that was it, game over. Which is problematic because if you feel little sympathy for the son, then there is no real interest in seeing the villain-without-a-personality get defeated.

Ra One is a disaster of a film and it got made because nobody said no to SRK, and because he was too vain not to let it go or get somebody younger to play the lead role. Most of all the film is a failure because it was a plot written on the bag of a crisp packet, a crisp packet which was passed to some writer-underlings who were then expected to come up with a script. Well, they did and it was a stinker because nobody had dared say no.

Just say no next time boys! And that goes for you at the BBC too.

The pictures at the top are SRK with his Tamil hair, inspired by Rishi Kapoor in Coolie (pictured with Amitabh Bachchan). Rishi Kapoor's hairstyle was a direct influence on Harry Enfield's scousers (pictured at bottom). You can read more on Tamil stereotypes here.

 Let's end with a couple of good songs, ot-proof

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Daniel Meadows

I just love the idea that Richard Avedon was inspired by Daniel Meadows Free Photographic Omnibus portraits when he cranked up the subjects for his American West Series, taking the original free-in-every-way portraits  and overcooking, overspicing and overinflating them for the American market.

Of his own portraits, Meadows says, "Running the free portrait sessions was a discipline. It was a Quaker thing and also something I got from my Dad, I suppose. Duty. I had been brought up to be true to my word. It was a contract, plain and simple."

On a good day, I would get 60 or 70 people through the Free Studio, and because I had no film to waste I would try and photograph them all on just three rolls of medium format film. Twelve frames to a roll, two people per frame, 24 people per roll, give or take."

 Perhaps that simplicity comes across in the portraits which are as relaxed and revealing as you like. More of Daniel Meadows, Free Photography and the development of photography in 1970s Britain can be found  in Daniel Meadows: Edited Photographs from the 70s and 80s; a fabulous book with a great text and wonderful, wonderful pictures.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Class, prejudice and the British School System

 I love the way different people see different things in different pictures, how their cultural and visual literacy affects what they see and how they see it. The most visually literate may be culturally illiterate, may make critical assumptions that are based on less than solid assumptions.

I've shown the above pictures to diverse groups of students. The top picture is from Raimond Wouda's excellent school series. One Dutch-Somali student  (not a photography student) instantly identified the pictures as Dutch and then clicked off where different students came from, what their politics were, their interests, the degree of religious affiliation and where female Muslim students came from based on how they wore their hijab - something that would be beyond virtually every serious photography critic or commentator including myself.

I showed the John Davies picture of Mersey Square, Stockport (bottom picture) to a group of doc-phot students at Newport and one (hi Reggie!) started looking at the number plates and clicked off the year the cars were made and gave an educated guess to when the picture was made - 1986. I always look at the picture and look at the warehouse on the right - it was an indoor skatepark where I used to skateboard in the late 1970s.

Show the Rosa Parks picture to people who are not familiar with it and, as well as making the 'correct' interpretation (is there such a thing?) they guess that the two people in the picture are getting married, that he's putting a ring on Parks's finger or that she's hurt herself and he's putting a bandage on her finger (he has a kind face).

Anyway, all that talk of school gets me thinking of school selection in the UK. It's an incredibly divisive subject. My wife and I have just put down our choices for the school Isabel will go to next year. It wasn't too difficult 1) Because nearly all the schools in Bath are very good and we don't have the dilemmas that seriously urban parents have and 2) Because there is a great school called St Marks right on our doorstep with committed teachers, a dynamic head and an inclusive approach that means pupils get to engage and learn with a mix of students.

Not everybody feels the same way. Most of Isabel's female classmates are going to an all-girls school on the other side of town called Hayesfield. Many reasons are given for this (at St Marks the classes are too small, the drama department isn't as good as at Hayesfield, the art department's better at Ralph Allen, it's a faith school, it's too close too home, it's not a cool school, it's good to go to a big school, the pet snake is bigger at Ralph Allen, they had robot cars at the open evening at Beechen Cliff etc etc...)  but the underbelly of most of the reasons is that upper-middle class parents don't send their children to St Marks. So in the last few weeks I've had one parent tell me that only poor people send their children to St Marks so his daughter is going to Hayesfield  - another said they wanted to send their son to Beechen Cliff so he could meet wealthy kids and get free holidays. Yet another said they were going to send their son to Beechen Cliff because that's where rich people whose children didn't get into Kingswood or Royal High (very expensive Bath private schools) sent their boys too. And then just yesterday a parent asked how the new head at St Marks could overcome this problem of no-upper-middle-class-parents and attract parents from that wealthier socio-economic background.

And then I wondered? Why would any school want to attract parents from an upper-middle-class background? Why would a school  want to entice parents who are openly prejudiced against children who are economically less well-off?  Where does this impulse to pander and suck up to divisive and discrimatory wealthy come from? 

What do people think? That the 'rich' are going to make friends with you and spread their money around. That there is going to be some kind of informal trickle-down effect. I know some exceptionally generous wealthy people, but really, is that the way to govern your life - to let your ideals, values and opinions be swung by the sniff of mammon. And if that's what the parents think, well what about the kids? What kind of people are they? And would I want my daughter to be hanging around with the spawn of these lickspittle money-grubbing sychophants?

Bringing it back to photography, as well as wondering how much lickspittle sycophancy there is in photography, how can one portray the ideas in images? How can words and pictures convey the deep-rooted hypocrisy of free parental choice, the manner in which contempt and snobbery are passed on through family, education and association?

I think Raimond Wouda comes close in some ways, but in a Dutch context, which is very different. And he's not explicit in that respect. I'd love to see some British photographers really addressing class in their work and the way the kind of choices I've mentioned don't just affect a society but help make it destructive and negative. Perhaps I should give it a go.

University of Wales, Newport video of a Raimond Wouda talk.

Urbanautica interview with Raimond Wouda

The thing that fascinates me about the secondary school is the fact that is a closed world. I call it a micro-cosmos. The students are going there 5 to 6 days a week, they see the same people everyday, and the physical barrier is the fact that there is a fence that surrounds the schoolyard. In the development of a juvenile the secondary school plays a very important role because it’s the place were you will become aware of your identity. So in a way secondary school plays a major role on how people are formed, on how they develop as a person. In the environment of the secondary school the relationship with the other also plays an important role in the shaping of your identity. It’s always about who am I and how am I dealing with the others. In which group or subculture I belong? Who are my friends? How do they look like? What kind of music do they listen to? What books do they read? All this question that you are going to ask yourself for the first time are related to the context of the secondary school.