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Thursday, 27 September 2012

It takes a lot of work to make something new

So with the Brave New World of Photography all sorted out, there are a couple of conclusions we can make.

First of all, the people who are doing new things with the taking, making and distribution of images are incredibly hard-working. There are no short-cuts and nobody but nobody is in it for the money.

I'm guessing nearly if nearly all the people mentioned had settled on a job at MacDonalds or Tim Hortons or Sainsburys a few years back, they could have worked themselves up into a nice managerial position and be earning a whole bunch more than they are earning now.

Secondly, there is a lot of agonising thought on offer. People are considering all the choices, going backwards and forwards and not settling for anything that is not to the fullest of their satisfaction. There are pragmatic choices to be made, but there is no compromise. If something could be better, the people make it better.

And finally (and in different ways), people are getting out there and engaging with the world. Nobody is navel-gazing in wonder at the amazement of their tiny, little, domestic sphere. People are engaging with people in their work, with the history of the medium and with other people in their field. It's very social in other words. They are also extremely eloquent and assertive in talking about their work and promoting their work. Nobody is too shy in coming forward.

All in all, that means; it takes a lot of work to make something new.

Monday, 24 September 2012

The Brave New World of Photography - a fullish list

Further to the Brave New World of Photography, Joerg at Conscientious has made a collected series of links on the new photography posts that people have been posting.

You can see a complete listing here. If there's anybody you think is missing, do post a comment and I'll put a blog up later with some new ideas.

And here is Blake Andrews on tumblr and the effect it is having on seeing, viewing and producing photographs - especially in published form.

There are some interesting crossovers and ideas of what constitutes new - a surprising amount of consensus with a little partisanship thrown in (including from myself, I suspect), but an overwhelming respect for new ideas, energy and reworking of themes that are not as well-worn as many suspect them to be.

Blake Andrews: Philip Perkis

Stan Banos: Aaron Huey, Taryn Simon, Eva Leitolf, Matt Black, Brenda Ann Keneally, James Baalog, Edward Burtynsky, Bruce Haley, Daniel Shea

Harvey Benge: Paul Graham, Jason Evans, Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin, Jens Sundheim & Bernhard Reuss, Collier Schorr, Antoine d’Agata, Martha Rosler

Peter Evans: Obara Kazuma

Bryan Formhals: Asger Carlsen, Jessica Eaton, Kate Steciw, Alec Soth, Paul Kwiatkowski, Vivian Maier

Julie Grahame: Michael Massaia

Tom Griggs: Bryan Graf, Amy Elkins, Paul Graham, Abelardo Morell, Jessica Eaton

Stella Kramer: Sophia Wallace

Mark Page: Mishka Henner, Philippe Spigolon, Craig Atkinson, Stuart Griffiths, TomRS

Colin Pantall: Mishka Henner, Lauren Simonutti, Stephen Gill, Tony Fouhse, Paul Graham, Claus Stolz, Olivier Jobard and others

Christopher Paquette: Zoe Strauss, Alec Soth

Andrew Phelps: Peter Miller

Heidi Romano: Taryn Simon

Joerg Colberg: Thomas Ruff, Katy Grannan, Erik Kessels, Geert van Kesteren’s Baghdad Calling, Christian Patterson’s Redheaded Peckerwood

Friday, 21 September 2012

The Brave New World of Photography: Day 5 - Paul Graham, Claus Stolz, Olivier Jobard and others

Oh my giddy aunt, it’s Friday already. So who to choose? I think I’ll go for  Paul Graham just because he makes pictures that are make the USA look rubbish and are kind of rubbish in themselves but in a good kind of way. A case in point is The Present. For this Graham photographed New York – but it doesn’t look like New York. It’s just another city. It’s a bit crap. That’s quite an achievement. 


But then the other thing that is new is the scale of photography. There’s JR with his massive prints sited in strange places. It’s kind of new even though it’s been done before. I don't think the pictures are very good, but, hey, they have a certain impact and the siting is spectacular from particular perspectives.

Following on from Abelardo Morello and his transformation of rooms into camera obscura, there are Richard Learoyd’s giant long exposures made in a giant pinhole camera. Or there’s Chris Mccaw with his huge cameras and explorations of the burning nature of the sun. That’s not new – people have been staring at the sun in some form or other for millennia. 


Claus Stolz also works with the sun, burning negatives into beautiful patterns that have a certain physicality to them.This picture is from his Heliografien series


Oh, and while we're at it, how about some photograms. I love Elaine Duigenan's work (made on a scanner) and then there are Adam Fuss's BabyGrams (Darkroom, warm water, cibachrome and baby). Marvellous, elegant and new (ish)!

Finally there’s the whole multimedia thing, the use of sound and music to help tell the visual story. Is it new? I’m not sure it is, but we're talking narrative photography here. And ultimately it’s the story that matters. There's not as much good work out here as one might expect, but the work that is good is outstandingly good. My favourites  are Kingsley’s Crossing by Olivier Jobard and Prison Valley by David Dufresne and Philippe Brault.

Kingsley's Crossing is the story of one man's dream to leave the poverty of life in Africa for the promised land of Europe. We walk in his shoes, as photojournalist Olivier Jobard accompanies Kingsley on his uncertain and perilous journey. See the project at http://mediastorm.com/publication/kingsleys-crossing

Thursday, 20 September 2012

The Brave New World of Photography: Tony Fouhse

There seem to be a lot more photographers working closely with their subjects. It’s collaboration and at its best, it goes right up to the frontiers of photography, both in terms of ethics and personal involvement. I’ve featured a whole load of people on this blog who have worked closely with their subjects (Anthony Luvera, Timothy Archibald, Juliana Beasley, KayLynnDeveney and Scot Sothern to name but a few and to heck with it, I’ll include all of them in this listing as well) but Tony Fouhse’s work with Stephanie, Live Through This, really pushes the boundaries. 

The project is coming out as a book (published by Straylight Press ) in a couple of months time ( pre-order here). I’ve followed the project from its beginnings and it’s a driving force of narrative nature. So for incredible portraiture and a huge investment of physical and emotional energy, and for creating personal work that doesn’t necessarily sit that tidily with his commercial and editorial work and is somewhere just outside the realm of humanist photography while still being humanist, my choice is Tony Fouhse.

 More on Tony Fouhse here and here.


Wednesday, 19 September 2012

The Brave New World of Photography Week: Day 3 - Stephen Gill

The land, the land, the land? What are we going to do with the land? Especially when it is going to be dug up, have all the life ripped out of it and be turned into a shopping mall. Because, much as I loved the Olympics with its Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis and Bradley Wiggins, the Olympic site is just a big mall that mystifies sport, removes land from true recreation and will in no way whatsoever encourage or develop sporting activity in this country in any way, shape or form. Making all swimming pools free would do that. Building tennis courts, cycle tracks, parks and not building houses on sold-off school playing fields might help people get out more.  

So I loved the Olympics, but really let’s get back to reality. Stuff the Olympics. And whilst we’re at it stuff the World Cup and the Winter Olympics too. Let pockets be lined in some other way.

Where does that take us? To Stephen Gill. Stephen Gill is clever and as with Mishka Henner, he is adept at the one-liner; toy cameras, buried prints, flowery collages, decayed negatives, detritus in the camera, all underpinned by a homespun publishing house that came before homespun publishing houses were ten a penny.

However, it’s the theme of the land, in particular Hackney Wick and the Lea Valley, the area that was destroyed when London’s Olympic Park was built, that puts Gill into this week’s list. His practice is connected to the land, to marginal landscape that directly links to the people, the land use, found photographs, the visual history of Hackney and the foliage of the land. And it virtually unique given its focus on in-between places in being full of energy and life. It's rich stuff in other words. My favourite Gill book is obvious -  Hackney Flowers; it’s warm, witty, charming and gritty. There are seeds, there are flowers and everything’s pretty.

As you can see from the pictures below. 

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The Brave New World of Photography: Day 2 - Lauren Simonutti

 I hate sex.

I remember reading Rob Hornstra’s ( who should be in this review of new work for his funding of the Sochi project) thoughts on newspapers and how limited they were. He was publishing a newspaper
and wanted to loosen things up. The problem is, he was confusing newspaper design with newspaper use.
“That's the problem we're facing, people are still thinking about the idea of it being an actual newspaper. You shouldn't. You should think about it as being a series of pages with which you can do whatever you want. Most of the newspapers I've seen are still fairly conservative.”

 So the idea with Hornstra’s newspaper was that you could open it up and sequence it, pin it on the wall and do what you like with it. So you could that with Rob’s newspaper, but not with your regular run-of-the-mill non-Sochi newspaper. 

I understand exactly with what Rob is saying, but these comments (which are a little out of context here)  gave me the feeling that Rob isn’t much of a newspaper man. I am a newspaper man. I buy a newspaper every day except Sunday. And when I buy a regular newspaper, I do a lot of things with it.
I sometimes buy photography newspapers – Aperture Photo Review, the Prison Photography catalogue are a couple of fine examples I have got this year. But I don’t do much with them. I read them, then carefully fold them up and keep them safe. 

The regular newspaper, with its normal conservative design  I do all sorts with. Most days I start at the back, then move to the front. I do the puzzles and write on them. My daughter gets them and blacks in the eyes of Cameron and Clegg, Obama and Kate. I share my paper, I pull it apart so others can read it (try that with an ipad) I cut things out (try that with an ipad), I put them on the fridge and the wall. I save articles and read them again. I copy them, I paste them in books. I’ve wiped my arse with a newspaper (and I know we’ve all tried that with an ipad), I’ve ripped them up to make confetti, torn them into strips for papier mache, lined cupboards and floors with them, used them to protect furniture from paint, wrapped food in them, made paper planes and hats and kites with them, oh the list is endless to the things I’ve done with a newspaper.
So when I think of a radically designed newspaper, I’m not that impressed because I know that the use is not going to match the design of a regular newspaper. 

So for radical design, I’m not going to look at newspapers, but at a maker of handmade photobooks. The Dutch are pretty much recognised as the masters of photobook design and this runs through to small print editions and the handmade object. So I'm not going to choose a Dutch bookmaker - I'll leave that to others.

Lauren Simonutti made handmade books that were filled with self-portraits. The portraits are a record to her mental illness, made around the house with clocks and cakes and staircases as props. Simonutti lived in Baltimore, the birthplace of Edgar Allan Poe, so its fitting that there’s something darkly gothic about them. They are about being locked in, about a way of being that cannot be escaped, about being trapped with sounds and voices that can’t be escaped. But at the same time, there’s a life and a humour about them, there’s both a response and a kind of acceptance in the pictures – not enough of an acceptance though. Lauren Simonutti killed herself earlier this year. So for her handmade books, for having bells and feathers attached, but also for unblinking self-portraiture, I nominate Lauren Simonutti for both doing something new and doing something brave. I also get the feeling that Simonutti didn’t quite talk about her work in the way that you are supposed to if you are an artist, and she didn’t quite make it as you’re supposed to.

But this is the best of week, so while I’m running on a theme, I think I’ll add a couple of people. I just got Elina Brotherus’s  new book, Artist and her Model. One of her most recent series is called Annunciation. These pictures, as Susan Bright writes in her introduction, show "...a woman all too versed in being able to communicate and articulate herself but still having battles with sex, the pain of love and waiting for her life to shift... The photographs deftly illustrate how enervating the process of trying to conceive can be."
They are incredibly sad. Many, many people have made photographs of people crying, but very few of them move me, very few hint at any kind of interior life. Brotherus doesn’t cry, but the sorrow ( if it is sorrow) seems to reach out of the picture and clutch at one’s heart.

The picture below is one of Brotherus' earlier works, titled I hate sex.

 I hate sex.

Oh, and another one. Alright. Sally Mann, both for leaving the children behind and, over the period of a decade, making flesh live on the photographic page and making a visual representation of muscular dystrophy, the disease that struck her husband, Larry Mann. Marvellous and moving.