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Sofa Portraits now available for pre-order

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

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Sarah Charlesworth or Leica?

The pictures above are from Sarah Charlesworth Modern History series. She died earlier this week; here is her obituary, with a snippet below explaining the above images.

 Ms. Charlesworth is perhaps best known for her “Modern History” series, which she made from 1977 to 1979 by producing photographs of the front pages of various newspapers, typically excising all the content except the nameplate and photographs. In some pieces she followed one newspaper for a number of days, showing how its contents changed over time. In others, she sampled numerous papers on the same day, looking at how different outlets selected and presented images for the day’s news. For one of her most iconic pieces from that series, April 21, 1978 (1978), she printed 45 newspaper covers that featured versions of a photograph of Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro after being kidnapped by the Red Bridge.

Here's another view of history from Leica - a kind of love story between Robert Capa and his Leica III. Truly awful, the reason why people moan about the glamourisation of photography, war and the heroic photojournalist. 

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Summer, 'Gyrle' by Jennifer Loeber

It's summer time and Jennifer Loeber's Gyrle is a perfect match for the season, a project with personality, vision and beauty shot through flowers in hazy 70s light. I get the feeling that it is as much a project about the relationship between Loeber and Lorelei and that takes it into a different field than your standard transition story.

I especially like the pictures of Lorelei with foliage, maybe because I like plants and trees. And though Lorelei performs for the camera, her passions and personality seem to come through. And a certain vulnerability.

This is how the project started. It's still continuing and I'm guessing that as it develops it will gather even more depth.

'I met Lorelei when we were teenagers at a non-traditional summer camp I chronicled in my series Cruel Story of Youth. She was still identifying as male then and went by the name Mac.

 We reconnected when my Cruel Story of Youth series started being written about and exhibited. I found out about her transition when she added me on Facebook and I asked her to pose for a nude series I'm working on- that lead to this series.'

Friday, 21 June 2013

Martin Bogren's Tractor Boys

Youth culture, cars, road trips and rites of passage have made for some of the most dynamic work of the last 10 years. Think Trent Parke, Mike Brodie and Stacy Kranitz - and then add Martin Bogren to the collection for his Tractor Boys book. 

The title is the worst thing about the book. It reminds me of Ipswich Town (a football team in the East of England whose nickname is the Tractor Boys - countryside, farms, cider, tractors...) but the pictures are really rather lovely with a far more sensitive and loving touch than might be expected.

The book (published by Dewi Lewis) opens with a super-grainy picture (they're all super grainy) of a bunch of kids sleeping in a car. They look about 14 or 15 but they could be three or four so far are they into their sleep. And that is where the book succeeds, in catching that childlike air of adolescence, and mixing it with the bravado and high jinks of burning the rubber off souped up 'tractor cars'.

But even these acts of youthful machismo, the boys trying to impress the girls, have an air of innocence about them. This is the car as an adrenalin tool - it's a slide or a rope swing or jumping off a bridge into a river below. The boys try to impress the girls, but they are in it for their own satisfaction.

So we see them queuing up for a ride, watching the blurred smoke pour out of a blurred engine, clinging onto a bonnet as the car spins round and round. Then we see them smoking and kissing, wet  crotch against hard crotch before we're back into sleeping again. Like toddlers, they drive and they kiss and they get exhausted and they sleep.

I feel that the cars and the smoke get in the way of this kind of picture(there are tremendous smoking car and clouds of dust projects out there) because what makes the book special are the insights Bogren gives us to the teenagestate of mind. He has a feel for that age group and the subjects that is touching and also  feels kind. And kindness is good, especially in photography; a medium which is remarkably unkind given all the lip service it pays to doing the right thing.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Andrew Smith's Steel Soul

I mentioned Andrew Smith's Steel Soul earlier and because the project is so much a labour of love, a labour that emerges from a fascination with something that is out there in the real world, I put a few questions to him.

It also gives me an excuse to run a few more pictures; the one above is by Andrew Smith and the ones below are by some of the great industrial photographers; Maurice Broomfield, Walter Nurnberg and Wolfgang Sievers. 
Buy the book here. 

Where did you get your passion for industrial photography.

I think that it developed over a couple of years.

The first photobook that I ever bought was Robert Adams 'The New West'. I've no idea why I was browsing  the book shop shelves that day, as at that time I had a quite undeveloped interest in taking photographs.  The book was face out, and the simplicity, starkness, and strangeness of the cover just grabbed me. I bought it,  even though it seemed a bit hostile at that time. That book made me realise just how creative an outlet photography  could be.

This is where I first encountered industrial subjects, beautiful industrial subjects. This in turn led me to
the New Topographics, then onto the Bechers, John Davies, and then Maurice Broomfield, Wolfgang Sievers, Walter Nurnberg. I made the connections via the books and Internet searching etc.

During this period of time I also made the transition from point and shoot compacts to a DSLR setup. I think it was the 2nd   compact that I owned that let you get into the the manual controls easily, that really pushed me to get a DSLR.   Once the DSLR arrived I went out landscaping, I would just photograph anything, but one day I found an enclosure out  in the countryside that contained some kind of gas facility. I'm not really sure what it's actual function is to this day.  But that is definitely how it all started.

How did you make Steel Soul?

Steel Soul came about through a succession of pieces of good fortune.

The east end of Sheffield, the Lower Don Valley, is the area where the heavy steel industry was established, where it  grew to it's peak, and where it was eventually decimated. The area has been regenerated, so now there are the usual  drive-to leisure destinations, office space, retail parks, malls etc, but if you get out there and poke around industry past and present is visible.

In 2009 I took a lot of photographs there and made a hand bound book called 'Valley, that was now, this is then'. I got to  exhibit a number of these photographs in a disused shop window in the center of Sheffield. A curator who was putting together a group exhibition that was looking at how industry had changed the architectural face of Sheffield saw the work. I was asked  to contribute. The images that I hung were 3 nearly sequential photographs, a trilogy, of the buildings on one part of  Forgemasters site. The chief executive of Forgemasters became aware of the photographs, and his PA rang me to arrange a
meeting. At the subsequent meeting I was invited on-site to photograph the steel manufacturing processes.

Who are your influences?

I think my visual influences are many really, and not all are photographers, and sometimes it may be just a particular work or book. Things shift around,  there is so much to discover. I like Walter Nurnberg (Men and Machines), Wolfgang Sievers, Gerhard Richter's landscapes, Stephen Shore, Luigi Ghirri,  Gabriele Basilico, Vermeer, Robert Adams, Paul Morrison, Eric and James Ravilious to name but a few. I also like a number of the Cafe Royal books  that have been published recently.

What are the characteristics of great industrial photography?

I like industrial photography that has some intrigue. I like to look at what is being presented and to not initially have much of a clue as to what I am   looking at, or why I'm being required to look at it. I think the not knowing what, but being somehow fascinated, is testament to the skill of people like   Broomfield, Nurnberg, and Sievers. Of course we always find out eventually due to the text. I wanted to see if I could achieve a little of this with Steel Soul,  hence the separation of images and text (the simple descriptions are in a table near the end of the book). Perhaps the opposite of what I am trying to describe  are the images typically found in corporate literature, but these images are functional and documentary by their nature, and neccessary, and often beautiful.

How did Steel Soul get funded and published?

Steel Soul at the present time has 2 elements, the book and the exhibition. The exhibition, in the Sheffield Winter Garden, finishes on 15/06/13.  The exhibition was very generously funded by the Arts Council as it was a part of the Sheffield Galvanize festival of contemporary metal. This is a bi-annual festival that encompasses all the metalworking traditions within the city - cutlers, jewellers, silversmiths, heavy industry. This year is the centenary of the discovery of stainless steel in the city by Harry Brearley, so the festival has seen quite a lot of focus.

The Steel Soul book was funded and published by myself. Forgemasters have licensed a number of the images, this allowed me to finance the production of the  book. It's the 3rd book under my BYMYI imprint, the 2 others being 2 editions of the Vélo book that accompanied the Vélo project last year.

How will you continue the steel project?

I'm hoping to develop Steel Soul into a set of documents over time, so 'Steel Soul...photography from xxx'. We will see. I'm hoping that the Forgemasters  work may open a few doors and lead me to some new industrial subjects. I do have a few places in mind. I also have a number of other non-industrial projects
at various stages of development...although some do have an industrial element.

How do you find your work?

Steel Soul developed due to the good fortune previously described, but I suppose that most of the time the work finds me through what's going on inside my head.   For instance, the Vélo project came about from a combination of reading Tim Krabbé's book 'The Rider' many years ago, and then fantasising about my ideal of the ideal cycling photobook whilst out cycling one day. Ideas can come from what I'm reading, looking at, or listening to, people I meet etc.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Mark Hilton's Home Made 20 x 16 camera

I saw this on Source Magazine's website  (Congratulations Briony Oates) and was blown away and intimidated at the same time by Mark Hilton's home made camera - Miroslav Tlichy it is not.

I can think of a million different reasons why I don't build my own 20x16 camera, but I am still hugely jealous of somebody who has done so - and knows how to use it so beautifully.

Here's how he did it.

This is what Mark Hilton says about his work (and the 20x16 is the work)

I designed and built a 20x16" ultra-large-format camera that exposes onto direct positive black and white paper. It came about through a determination to find a far more involved way of creating photographs, inspired by the craftsmanship of early photography. It is also an exploration of trying to create a unique object, each photograph produced is individual and un-reproducable.

The photographs themselves are inspired by early romanticism, exploring the inner thoughts of an individual rather than trying to create a direct representation of the outer.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

From Clare Strand to Eric Clapton in 3 Easy Steps

So I was writing about Clare Strand's Skirts series for the BJP (which I really like, especially after talking to her and seeing how they tie in to her other work and her particular way of working - which is organic and mysterious!)  and somehow I started imagining that the skirts look like cupcakes and chocolates.

That got me thinking about chocolates and then I started singing Savoy Truffle by the Beatles - so I googled that and suddenly I'm into Good News chocolates, which my nan ( that's her above, second from the left, on a temperance March in Chorley ) n used to buy me when I was a kid because they weren't as pricey as Milk Tray and they came in smaller boxes. They were a kind of starter chocolates.

And they are also what Eric Clapton used to eat - that's what the song is about. That's why they have the bit about having teeth pulled out, something that resonates both with me and my nan, who had them all pulled out when she was 20, as you did.

So there you have it. From Clare Strand to Eric Clapton in 3, 4 easy steps with a bit of dental history along the way. 

Crème tangerine and Montelimar
A ginger sling with a pineapple heart
A coffee dessert, yes, you know it's good news
But you have to have them all pulled out
After the Savoy truffle

Cool cherry cream, nice apple tart
I feel your taste all the time we're apart
Coconut fudge really blows down those blues
But you'll have to have them all pulled out
After the Savoy truffle

You might not feel it now
When the pain cuts through
You're going to know and how
The sweat is going to fill your head

When it becomes too much
You'll shout aloud

You'll have to have them all pulled out
After the Savoy truffle

You know that what you eat you are
But what is sweet now turns so sour
We all know Ob-la-di-bla-da
But can you show me where you are?

Crème tangerine and Montelimar
A ginger sling with a pineapple heart
A coffee dessert, yes, you know it's good news
But you'll have to have them all pulled out
After the Savoy truffle
Yes, you'll have to have them all pulled out
After the Savoy truffle

Monday, 10 June 2013

Andrew Smith, The Tramshed, Industry, Cardiff and Sheffield

There are any number of new photography festivals springing up around the world, but for atmospheric new venues there can be few places better than the Tramshed in Cardiff, part of the first Diffusion, Cardiff International Festival of Photography. 

This was the home for both Geoff Charles' Structures of Feeling (see above) and The Valleys Represented - an exhibition that had wonderful photography from lots of fabulous people connected with Newport (including Peter Bobby's High Rise - which manages give British tower blocks the Julius Shulman treatment).

 In the industrial setting, however, I was hugely taken with Maurice Broomfield's large prints. I was struck by how dynamic and theatrical they were, workers acting out for his immaculately lit picturesin the perfect setting.

A couple of days later I was contacted by Andrew Smith, who has made a book called Steel Soul - a book inspired in part by the great industrial photographers of the 1950s (more of whom before the summer shutdown).

Here are a couple of pictures from his Steel Soul, a work that is based on Smith's passion for steel, industry and the history of industry in Sheffield, the city where Steel Soul was made.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Alison Rossiter's Lament and Paper Packages

So the basic story of Alison Rossiter's Lament is they are a series of found  and chemically created images made from old papers that Alison bought on ebay.

That is the basic story, but within that story there lies a social, cultural and economic history that has echoes of the technological and aesthetic developments of photography in the first half of the twentieth century.

The story of finding and buying the papers is also fascinating,the packages the papers are contained in so beautiful and evocative of a different time and approach to the production of the photographic print, one that is slower, more considered and in keeping with Alison's background in both conservation and the darkroom, part of a photographic subculture where material, chemistry and tonality take centre stage.

Alison's work will be on show in Arles. Below are some of the paper packages on their way to a show at Marian Goodman in Paris - absolutely beautiful and all bought from ebay.