Collect Contemporary Photography by Jocelyn Phillips and Malcolm Cossons.
Publisher Thames & Hudson writes: The individual photograph exists as both image and physical object, and often the same image may be printed in different versions or media, which makes collecting decisions more complex.
From discovering photographers to determining editions and displaying prints, Collect Contemporary Photography accompanies collectors through the whole process of acquiring photographic works, while providing guidance on practical matters including information about different photographic techniques.
• Price guide to cover all collecting budgets
Forty photographers to consider when collecting are profiled in detail, with information about their background and training, and sources of inspiration.
Last year, a photo by Andreas Gursky, Rhein II (1999) sold for £2.7 million at Christie's, breaking the record for most expensive photograph. Such prices are still rather rare and the reason why collectors are starting to pay attention to photography (apart from the inherent quality of the medium) is that photos are still regarded as affordable. The price of a print from a young photographer is around 200 pounds.
I don't have the budget to collect photos, not even from emerging talents -not until i stop stop collecting Swedish Hasbeens- but that doesn't prevent me from being tempted once in a while.
Collect Contemporary Photography outlines in a few pages the basics of photography: its history, the techniques used by the photographers, the format, the ideal storage conditions, the importance that framing can have, etc. Although the book is not the ultimate weapon that will make you an expert in negotiating the price of a photo you covet, it does a good job at telling readers what to look for and at explaining why a photo can fetch a relatively higher price than another by the same artist.
The biggest section of the book traces the careers and illustrates the work of 40 photographers worth collecting. Some are fashion photographers, other documentary photographers, some are decidedly fine art photographers. The game for me was then to think about whom i'd want to collect. Martin Parr obviously and he's among the magical 40 but the other photographers whose work i'd want to buy were not represented in the book: Pieter Hugo (i'd become the biggest collector of Hugo's work if i could), Guy Tillim, George Osodi or Don McCullin. I was also very impressed by the Thomas Ruff's Nude series i saw at Gagosian a few weeks ago. Besides, i can't see how any self-respecting collector could do without a few pieces by a German photographer.
The fact that readers might not agree 100% with the choice of photographers selected in the book illustrates what is probably the most sensible piece of advice dispensed by the authors: take your time, visit as much photo exhibitions as you can and develop your own taste.
Here are some of the 40 photographers appearing in Collect Contemporary Photography:
Last week, i visited the Sony World Photography Awards 2012 at Somerset House. I object to paying £7.50 to see and exhibition which title starts with the name of a brand. I feel cheated when the show closes with a shop selling goods manufactured by the above-mentioned brand and i don't look kindly to being forbidden to take pictures (which i do mostly because it helps me document an exhibition i plan writing about) because that would mean that i won't shell out more ££ to buy the booklet of the exhibition. That said, the photos selected and exhibited are so remarkable that i still feel like recommending that you go and see the World Photography Awards if you're in London.
Here's some of my favourite images.
Cristina de Middel's The Afronauts won 2nd prize in the Conceptual category. The series pay homage to Zambian school teacher Edward Makuka Nkoloso, who started an unofficial space program in his home country in 1964. His ambition was not only to beat the Americans and Russians to the moon but also to send a rocket with twelve astronauts and ten cats to Mars. Fundings for the Zambian space programme never materialized.
Next on my list is the 3rd prize in the Sport category because you don't often see politics and social issues covered in a winning Sport photo series:
Andrew McConnell reports on Gaza Surf Club. Under Israeli blockade, the Gaza Strip is regularly referred as 'the largest open-air prison on earth'. With no recreational space to speak of, the Mediterranean, alluring in spite of the sewage, is an immense source of release for the local population. Surf is still a fledging sport, numbers being kept low by a dearth of equipment.
I was quite taken by the Winner of the Nature and Wildlife category:
And now in no particular order:
Alejandro Cartagena's Car Poolers won the 3rd prize in the People category for the images he took between 7 and 9:30 AM on one of the busiest highways in Monterrey, Mexico. They offer an intimate view on how car-pooling is practiced by workers in Mexico but also reflect the excessive growth in Mexico where suburbs are being built far from the urban centers, leading to greater commutes and consumption of fossil fuels.
Donald Weber was one of the first photographer allowed to enter the exclusion zone that surrounds the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. He's the winner of the Current Affairs category. "Odaka lies on the north-eastern coast of Japan. It was once home to 13,000 people, but today it is almost a ghost town. When the earthquake and tsunami of 11 March (2011) triggered blasts at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, a 20km radius exclusion zone was imposed by the Japanese government."
Weber's shots find a sad echo in the 3rd prize of the Still Life category. Rena Effendi met some of the people who, 25 years since the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe, still inhabit the restricted area around Reactor 4, named the Zone of Alienation. They are mostly elderly women who chose, just days after the accident, to return home. They live alone, harvesting contaminated food and berries known to absorb radiation, having outlived their husbands and children.
Alessandro Grassani (3rd prize in contemporary issues) spent part of a Winter in Mongolia, a country of 3.000.000 inhabitants, almost half of them living on top of each other in the capital, Ulaan Baator. With the Dzud, the hard Mongolian winter, becoming longer and snowier, thousands of nomad herdsmen, who saw their animals die of cold, were forced to move their Gher to migrate towards Ulaan Baator, in the slum which has developed around the city known as "Gher District".
3rd in the Nature and Wildlife category is Palani Mohan's work following the world's last remaining eagle hunters. For centuries, Kazakh nomads have roamed the steppe. When the modern borders were drawn, the Kazakhs found themselves cut off from their homeland, forced to settle on the arid, wind=scoured plains and foothills of the Altai mountains of western Mongolia.
I should stop going to these photo exhibitions, they've made me obsessed with Mongolia.
Nature and Wildlife was a very strong category. The 2nd prize went to:
I can't remember having ever been disappointed by any of the exhibitions on show at Fotomuseum in Antwerp. The current shows are particularly worth the trip to the city (one of my favourite places in the world and it's a mere 30 minute ride from ugly Brussels.) The main exhibition is dedicated to photographers who capture the past, another one is about young Belgian photographers, a third show explores subjectivity through history and on the top floor is a fascinating installation by Zoe Beloff. The work took as its point of departure America's longest running comic strip to explore the influence of cinema on the movement of the body and the mind. I might come back to these exhibitions in the coming days.
Beloff's exhibition contains a number of historical documents. Some of them show chronocyclegraphs of sportsmen and factory workers. I had never heard of the chronocyclegraph before.
The technique was developed by Frank Gilbreth and his wife, Lillian in the early 20th century to improve work methods. The couple employed time-lapse photography to reduce a complete work cycle to the shortest and most efficient sequence of gestures.
To look for this optimal "relationship of human effort to the volume of work that the effort accomplishes", they attached a camera to a timing device and photographed workers performing various tasks. The motion paths were traced by small lamps fastened to the worker's hands or fingers.
They called the essential elements of their subjects' movements therbligs.
The Gilbreths later built wire sculptures based on the trail of light created by the movement of the worker's hand.
The objective of the research was to minimize arm movement and hence speed and ease manual work. Gilbreth's findings were used in assembly lines but they also found their way into other contexts: Gilbreth was the first to propose that a nurse would assist the surgeon, by handing them surgical instruments as called for. He also devised the standard techniques used around the world to teach army recruits how to rapidly disassemble and reassemble their weapons even when blindfolded.
More images: Frank B. Gilbreth Motion Study Photographs (1913-1917) at Kheel Center Labor Photos.
Compulsion, an exhibition of new work by Alex Prager, i saw a few days ago at Michael Hoppen gallery is so impressive I'm breaking out of my habit of writing about exhibitions mere hours before they close.
In Prager's part film noir, part fashion shoot work, heroines wear impeccable make-up and synthetic wigs, pose as if they were in a Hitchcock movie, breathe through an atmosphere worthy of David Lynch, and are submitted to ordeals inspired by the images of crime photographers Weegee and Enrique Metinides. The stories might take place in Hollywood-like settings but they promise to never end on a happy note.
The Compulsion in the title might refer to our compulsion to gape at other people's tragedy. Underlining the voyeur theory are the dramatic close-ups of eyes that accompany some of the stills.
Along with the colour photographs, the artist is showing La Petite Mort, a short film starring French actress, Judith Godrèche.
La petite mort, literally "the small death," is a French idiom for orgasm. In Prager's film, we hear the voice of Gary Oldman saying that "the act of dying, and the act of transcendent love, are two experiences cut from the same cloth."
The main protagonist of the short film navigates the mystery of death through a series of experiences that involves being ran over by a steam train, being stared at by a gathering of stern-looking people, meeting a man and drowning in a river. The action unfolds very slowly but somehow all of the above takes place in a couple of minutes.
If you're in London, New York or (lucky you!) Los Angeles, go and see that show.
Alex Prager's Compulsion is showing at the Michael Hoppen Gallery, London until May 26. The work is also shown at Yancey Richardson Gallery in New york until May 19, and at M+B Gallery, LA until May 12.
The title of this post is a nudge to an old friend i met by chance while i was on my way to the BIP, the International Biennale of Photography and the Visual Arts in Liege. I hadn't seen him in ages and when i told him what my job was about, Didier looked at me in horror and said: "God! That must be soooo boring! Poor you!"
I'm sure he's never going to read these lines, bless him, but that won't stop me from carrying on with my miserable existence and turn my attention back to the BIP.
The precedent editions had the kind of politico-social theme i like so much. This year, the curators decided to take things lightly with a theme that revolves around love and a title like Only You Only Me. I'm not going to hold their choice against them. Given recent events and the number of beggars who stopped me in the streets, it's obvious that the city is in dire need of amusement and kindness.
To my surprise, i had a fantastic time visiting the main exhibition at the MAMAC, the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. I'll probably come back to the whole exhibition with a long post. In the meantime, let's just have a look at two photographers that made my Sunday.
Jean-Claude Delalande creates settings and scenarios that he inhabits with his partner, his son Valentin and his ever-deadpan expression.
In this bitter family album, the protagonists never look at each other, they perform the most mundane tasks, go on holiday with the same torpor that'd have on a supermarket trip, they iron, have showers, answer the phone and lead a joyless family life.
"We'll never be apart!" says the grandma to her little cat. Both of them live in a tiny world, with dignity, with mutual love. Still today, under the blue sky, Missao and Fukumaro work in the fields and in these natural surroundings, where they shine like the stars.
What is it with Japanese cats, eh?
Only You Only Me, the Liege International Biennale of Photography and the Visual Arts, remains open through May 6, 2012.
Since 2009 writer and filmmaker Arnold van Bruggen and photographer Rob Hornstra have been touring around Sochi (Krasnodar Krai, Russia), a small city on the Black Sea that will host the Winter Olympics in 2014. The choice of Sochi is not the most opportune one. Not only does the area boasts exceptionally mild Winters by Russian standards, it is also located in close proximity of some of Russia's most unstable regions. Hornstra and van Bruggen currently have a show at Foto8 gallery in London that focuses precisely on one of those regions: the Republic of Abkhazia.
You might never have heard of Abkhazia and that's probably because only a handful of countries regard it as an independent state.
Abkhazia broke away from Georgia after a short, violent civil war in '92-'93 and only Russia, Venezuela, Nicaragua and the atoll of Nauru recognised it as independent state in 2008.
The 13 month long war killed between 20,000 to 30,000 ethnic Georgians and between 2,500 and 4,000 Abkhaz. Over 250,000 Georgian refugees were displaced. Abkhaz 20,000 became refugees.
The artists spent four years witnessing and documenting the country's attempts to repopulate with new immigrants a country that is ravaged by the war, almost empty and in great economic distress.
In 2007 we first visited a refugee centre in Tbilisi, where we interviewed Georgians who had fled from Abkhazia during the war in 1992-1993. An estimated 250,000 Georgian refugees have since been living in 'temporary' accommodation, such as former student apartments, old primary schools and abandoned hotels. Every Georgian president has promised the refugees that he would end the frozen conflict and that the refugees would soon be able to return to their homeland Abkhazia. When we visited these refugees in 2007 in a totally rundown former student apartment in Tbilisi, they had already spent 14 years in their 'temporary' accommodation. But we could still detect a faint glimmer of hope among the refugees we spoke to.
In 2010 we visited many of the refugees we had met in 2007. All hope was gone. It was distressing to see that the situation had not improved for any of them.
Small selection of images with text found on Time Machine (as well as on a leaflets inside Foto8 exhibition space):
Pitsunda is a resort town on the shore of the Black Sea. In October 1964 Nikita Khrushchev was vacationing in Pitsunda when he was deposed from power. There are many hotels for Russian tourists, who frequent the area in summertime.
A blue painted wooden kindergarten has been used as a shelter for refugees. In the early 1990s for the ethnic Georgians forced to flee Abkhazia were housed in student flats, hotels and schools across Georgia, with the promise that they would soon be able to return to their homeland.
A kommunalka is an apartment building in which dwellers share facilities like toilet and kitchen. Until the early nineties this building was used as student housing. Since the Georgian - Abkhazian war, the building has been occupied by Georgian refugees from Abkhazia.
The image that Abkhazia wants to present to the world is one of a real country, with all the institutions and infrastructure that it involves: schools, healthcare institutions, administration, police stations and a prison. That's right, the whole country has only one prison but then there are only some 240,000 inhabitants in Abkhazia.
In the shadow of the war between Georgia and Russia in August 2008, a small war is still playing out. With Russian support Abkhazia captured the officially demilitarised Kodori Valley, a remote mountainous region on the border of Abkhazia and Georgia. Since then, Georgia has attracted another 2,000 refugees. As a notable exception, Abkhazia allows journalists to visit the region.
Previously: The Sochi Project.