Yesterday, i went to the Saatchi Gallery to see Korean Eye and the most charitable comment i'm willing to make about the show is that it has a few good moments. However, the exhibition on the top floor, The Nine Eyes of Google Street View, is worth the trip to King's Road.
The nine eyes are the cameras mounted on the pole on top of each vehicle that Google sent around the world 5 years ago. The technology of Google Street View has sparkled moments of deep humiliation, interest from the press photography community, privacy concerns and brilliant artistic reactions.
Jon Rafman was one of the first artists who spent hours looking at the images collected by the cars and searching not just for the amusing, the ridiculous and the fortuitous but also for postcard perfect moments. And does he have an eye for stunning images...
As the artist writes: With its supposedly neutral gaze, the Street View photography had a spontaneous quality unspoiled by the sensitivities or agendas of a human photographer... capturing fragments of reality stripped of all cultural intentions.
Without indication of their location:
Looks like Trellick Tower in North Kensington, London.
Probably my favourite:
Previously: Community Performance in Google Street View, Aaron Hobson's Cinemascapes: Google Street View Edition which i discovered at the London Festival of Photography, and Michael Wolf, We are watching you...
Publisher Routeledge says: In an accessible yet complex way, Rebekah Modrak and Bill Anthes explore photographic theory, history and technique to bring photographic education up-to-date with contemporary photographic practice. Reframing Photography is a broad and inclusive rethinking of photography that will inspire students to think about the medium across time periods, across traditional themes, and through varied materials. Intended for both beginners and advanced students, and for art and non-art majors, and practicing artists, Reframing Photography compellingly represents four concerns common to all photographic practice: vision, light/shadow, reproductive processes, editing/ presentation/ evaluation.
I'm guilty of a serious case of Judging a Book by its Cover. The indecisiveness in picking up a single image for the cover put me off. Once you open the book, i can't say that the design gets much more appealing (although it is remarkably effective) but the content is literally mind-blowing. Bringing together rigorous theory, idiot proof 'how to' tutorials, artistic works that illustrate each concept and method might sound a bit too much for a sole book written by only two authors but somehow, it works. Theory, techniques and illustrative works complement each other efficiently.
The texts are extremely rigorous and well-researched but the authors never take readers' knowledge of any concept nor reference for granted. Nothing is too pedestrian: the tutorials are extremely detailed and info boxes regularly pop up on the side to explain in few words what is a magic lantern, a chiaroscuro or an installation. Who is Lacan, why Bauhaus matters.
Reframing Photography is probably not a book you'd want to read from cover to cover in one afternoon (it's 500 dense pages, my friend!) I headed to chapters presenting the work of the artists, looking for new names as much as new perspectives on artists i already knew. In the coming weeks i'll probably be back inside the book for the step-by-step on how to construct a pinhole camera and use it. I'm also quite tempted by the one detailing how to hand-colour black and white images.
Another quality of the book is that it doesn't abstract photography from its social context, discussing issues such as censorship in military operation, the place of photography in social networks like facebook, or comparing notions of originality and reproduction in photography to the same notions in genetics, etc. I learnt a lot from the paragraphs dedicated to the right to photograph, the authors not only explain that private parties have no right to confiscate your film if they don't have a court order, they also explain how to handle confrontation.
Reframing Photography: Theory and Practice is accompanied by a website of the same name. The online resource is so action-packed i sometimes wondered if the publishers were not shooting themselves in the foot.
Here's a few works i discovered in the book:
With Objective Distortions, Garth Amundson questions photography by manipulating the image with lenses made from recycled water bottles.
Rebecca Cummins converts trucks, buses and mobile homes into moving camera obscuras.
Somewhere in France, long before Cindy Sherman:
Shizuka Yokomizo sent an anonymous letter to people living in ground-floor apartments asking them if they could stand in their front window at a specified date and time, for them to be photographed. Anyone unwilling to participate, they are suggested to draw their curtains. Because the seance takes place at night, Yokomizo's subjects can only see the photographer as a dark silhouette.
Just because i love Edward S. Curtis' photos:
German expressionists were pioneers in the art of playing with shadows:
I love that movie btw, and it's now in the public domain in the US.
The London Festival of Photography is one of my favourite events in town. The theme this year was as broad as it can get: Inside Out: Reflections on the Public and the Private. I've seen a magic lantern performance, archive photos of Libya before and during Gaddafi's regime, documents from Apartheid era South Africa, a photo film of the world's biggest event for dog lovers. Some of the festival 18 exhibitions and 30 events were hosted in London's most famous institutions (Museum of London, British Library, British Museum, Tate Modern, the V&A, etc.), some of which relegated the festival exhibitions to a wall by the entrance or a room you could access only when it wasn't booked for some symposium or reception. Fortunately, independent galleries did a more laudable work.
Most of the exhibitions are now closed. Except these four! Here's a quick roundup of the ones i've seen:
Starting with what will hopefully be my only reference to the Olympics: Gymnasium by Tarryn Gill & Pilar Mata Dupont.
Do me a favour and watch this one on full screen mode:
The film is a direct reference to Olympia, Leni Riefenstahl's film documenting the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. The aesthetics and the innovative motion picture techniques developed by Riefenstahl are almost universally admired. Her connection with the Third Reich, however, don't draw much sympathy.
Gymnasium transposes fascist aesthetic to comment on Australian nationalism. The artists hired 20 actors and dancers to perform as proud ''athletes'' participating in a mid-century-style choreography. They wear forced smiles, stiff haircuts and bodies slightly heavier than the ones of contemporary's athletes.
You have until Friday 20 July to go to Photofusion and watch the full version of the film. It's part of Hijacked III, a survey exhibition of photographic talents from Australia and the United Kingdom.
Next is the hardest show to find ever! But it was worth the search. Evgenia Arbugaeva was born in the the small Siberian town of Tiksi. She wrote: In the days of the Soviet Union, Tiksi was an important military and scientific base. People came from all over the country, some driven by employment opportunities, and others driven by a romantic dream of the far North. As the introduction implies, although the town is very far north and surrounded by vast expanses of tundra, there was an abundance of beauty. After the fall of the USSR my family, along with many others, boarded the windows of our home and left for a bigger city.
The photographer went back to Tiksi last year. She found an almost abandoned town and asked Tanya, a young girl in awe of Jacques Cousteau, to be her guide to Tiksi. This year, Tanya's family will leave Tiksi too. They see no future in the small town and plan to move to a larger city.
1976 was a critical year in South African history. The first real cracks in the apartheid system of racial segregation appeared when black school children took to the streets to protest against new laws, which had been introduced to reinforce an inferior education system. The authorities struck back ruthlessly, killing and wounding many defenseless children.
One of the main exhibitions in the festival was titled The Great British Public because, you know, everything British has suddenly become 'great' in the UK: the food, the landscape, the music festival.
It was also great photo documentary. Great British photo documentary that celebrates the idiosyncrasies of life in the UK. The photo below is actually too english to be true: the main protagonist in Martin Parr's photo is a performer dressed as a bobby, standing in a mock street in the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley, Midlands.
Arnhel de Serra toured the U.K.'s agricultural shows. His series, When The Sun Sets Over The Royal, shows that agricultural shows are not just for farmers anymore. They provide an entertaining escape for urban dwellers.
Nick Cunard's audio slide portrays the working day of an ice cream van man. Mr Whirly aka Ron Sutherland of Chard in Somerset maintains a sunny disposition in spite of the gloomy economic climate, price busting supermarkets, distracted customers and another seemingly crap British summer!
Giulietta Verdon-Roe presents a dramatic portray of rural life. She documented the sharp decline of population in North Ronaldsay, the northernmost islands of Orkney, in Scotland. On her first visit in 2008, the island had 63 inhabitants with four children in the school. When she traveled back to the island two years later, the population had dropped to 51. The school was open but there were no children to teach. And the owner of the only pub couldn't sell drinks because of the prohibitive costs of the government licensing laws.
75 years ago, J B Priestley published English Journey, a study of England in 1933. The writer shared his observations on the social problems he witnessed while touring the country, and called for democratic socialist change. Photographer John Angerson recently set out to follow in Priestley's footsteps to document an England facing recession, homogenisation, celebrity culture and technology addiction.
As the title of the series suggest, Hackney - A Tale of Two Cities by Zed Nelson, shows the two faces of a neighbourhood that is associated with gang culture and dereliction, but has also recently become London's trendiest neighbourhood.
They were donated to the museum by Wilfred's son after the death of the photographer. Most of them had never been shown before and they came with little to no comment about the scenes and people portrayed. They depict a London slowly emerging from the aftermath of WWII.
Don't miss their fundraising auction on 19 July! I'm really annoyed i can't get there.
For some reason, London's festival of photography is probably not getting all the attention it deserves. Hence this first hasty story to try and convince you to flock in droves to some of its exhibitions before they close. If i had to recommend just one venue it would be the Fitzrovia Community Centre. All the artists exhibited in the show are new to me and most of their work is of the 'documentary and heavy in urgent-social-issues' genre, just my kind of photo show!
The community center hosts 2 exhibitions. One presents the winners and finalists of the London Festival of Photography Prize. Their photo-essays or multimedia photo-films reflect the festival's theme: Inside Out: Reflections on the Public and the Private. The second show, Behind Closed Doors, is about the maids and slaves hired or brutalized to bring order in ordinary households.
My post mix and matches both exhibitions. Just because i can and also because i actually didn't perceive a separation between both shows during my visit.
Quick march through:
Hector Mediavilla talked to the Elevator Operators of a residential complex in Mexico City. The eleven buildings contain a total 1,100 apartments and were designed in 1947 following the principles of Le Corbousier: "In order to fully develop in a place, the human being needs access to three basic sources of well-being: light, space and green areas". Contradicting these principles, an elevator operator 'lives' a third of their day inside a metal box - just 2 metres square - which, in addition, they have to share with the lift users.
Kim Badawi's photo film follows the The Gaza Stripper. Her name is Ari Lauren Souad Said. Born of an Israeli mother and a Palestinian father, she spent much of her childhood torn between two conflicting faiths and cultures in Israel. In her teens she was sent to live with her grandparents in Texas where she lives today with her four year old daughter, Avigail-Jerusalem Said.
Mom by day, and topless dancer by night, the "Gaza Stripper " as she is known, is her stage name. Once a practicing Jew she now identifies more closely with Islam. Her tattoos act as a witness and corporal stigmata of her clash of identities.
Dionysis Kouris visited the undocumented migrants living in the rumbles of Columbia in Athens. Columbia, established in 1930, was the first record company to operate in Greece. It was also the preeminent record company of the country until it closed down in 1991.
Most of the migrants are Algerians. Nearly all of them want to leave for any of "the big and rich European countries, because in Greece there is not enough work".
Bruno Quinquet has spent the past few years tracking down male Japanese office workers in the streets, in public transport, in bars and other public spaces. The men are framed and portrayed. Yet, they are never recognizable.
Raphaël Dallaporta's photos of houses and apartment blocks in and around Paris are as dry and unassuming as possible. Each image is accompanied by a text written by Ondine Millot. The short stories tell the horrific stories of non-documented immigrants and naive young women whose visa is confiscated by people eager to get domestic help at the lowest possible cost. The young women are beaten, humiliated, underfed. What makes the stories of the Domestic Slavery series all the more heartbreaking is that they took place here and now, that the perpetrators of the crime might not only be our neighbors but that most of them get away with it after having been ordered by the court to pay a pitiful fine.
For the past twenty years, Ingar Aasen has lived on a communal area called Øra, Norway, in between a sanctuary for migrant birds, large industries and a garbage-recycling factory. Ingar's belief in freedom has excluded him from participating in society in any ordinary way. He lives off-the-grid, on communal property, in old Russian army trucks. (...) Three years ago, Ingar invited some selected Rome Gypsy families to get off the streets in Fredrikstad and come to live with him in his camp. They had migrated to Norway to beg and collect usable garbage to bring back to their families in Romania. Unfortunately, various incidences attracted negative attention from the media, and the governing conservative party has demanded that Ingar depart the area. The Roma Gypsies now live back on the streets, while Ingar is mobilizing his camp, building a caravan with all his trucks, which is slowly transforming to a massive art installation, manifesting his internal frustration and desire for freedom.
The London Festival of Photography takes place in various venues all over the city (but mostly around King's Cross St Pancras) throughout the month. The exhibitions Behind Closed Doors and Inside Out: Reflections on the Public and the Private remain open until 30 June 2012 at the Fitzrovia Community Centre.
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: