Category Archives: Exhibitions and Photographers

Strange and Familiar – Manchester Gallery

I visited the Strange and Familiar exhibition at the Manchester Gallery on 15 May 2017.

The exhibition was curated by Martin Parr and included the work of leading photographers, documenting what it means to be British over the ages.

I was particularly interested in Bruce Gilden’s images.

These images were huge; in some ways they reminded me of the scale of Les Monaghan’s work in The Desire Project. More than life size, and of ordinary people, they demand that you look at every mark and imperfection on faces that would ordinarily go unnoticed.

Gilden, in his introduction to these images says ‘What I am searching for when I walk the streets are people I can engage with, somebody whose face, and particularly eyes, scream a story.’ These images were created as a contribution to the Black Country Series which documented working class Britain. Gilden focussed on the ‘invisible people’ of Dudley, West Bromwich and Wolverhampton.

His images show individuals who are not typical in terms of our expectations of portraits, and as such are quite uncomfortable to look at. Gilden’s approach is controversial, he takes his images without consent and uses bright flash light to capture people unawares, showing them in unflattering poses and in minute detail. I recorded my discomfort with this approach at the beginning of this course, and looking at these images, I still feel the same.

Jim Dow’s work also interested me.

Façade of Chapman’s Hardware, Islington, London 19.2.93

Window detail, wallpaper and lino shop,Leytonstone, London, June 83

Interior of Bert’s eel and pie shop, Peckham, London 15.7.85

Southward’s sweet shop, Scarborough, North Yorkshire 3.6.83

The introduction to his work says ‘..when the French emperor Napoleon was asked what he thought of Britain he is supposed to have replied that it was nothing more than a nation of shopkeepers’. This idea of representing England by showing the traditional local, or ‘corner’ shop appeals to me; it says a lot about the nature of work and consumerism, and the orderly displays seem to suggest a sense of pride.

Jim Dow was fascinated by this local architecture, and he travelled to Britain (from America) ‘on numerous occasions between 1980 and 1994, recording this traditional way of life slowly beginning to disappear’. He says, of the local shop: (it is) doomed by the juggernaut and ‘park and shop’ megastores.

I like the idea of making images like these to record history and change. Peter Mitchell’s recording of the demolition and rebuilding in Leeds, similarly, makes an important historical document. Please see my post on Mitchell’s Planet Yorkshire.

Being part of a family with an almost 60 year history of retail in a small northern town, I was particularly interested in Dow’s documentation of the local shop as an important British institution. I am hopeful that there will be a return to the valuing of honest local traders. I would like to consider the documentation of my husband’s family’s business further as a photographic project in the future.

List of Illustrations

Images are my photographs of work at the Strange and Familiar Exhibition, Manchester Gallery 15.5.17

Bibliography

Exhibition. Strange and Familiar. Manchester Art Gallery (25 November 2016–Monday 29 May 2017)

RPS International Print Exhibition

I visited the 159th RPS International Print Exhibition, at The Civic in Barnsley, on 13 May 2017.

The International Print Exhibition comprises images from 75 diverse photographers from 16 different countries. Entries are from both amateur and professional photographers. It was interesting that for the first time, all medal winners were women.

This silver medal winning image caught my attention. The photographer, Polly Braden, started her work on this project in 2014. She wanted to produce a body of work that showed what people with learning difficulties could achieve with the right support. The image below shows Lucie, who had been watching the boys jumping in the water and showing off for the camera. Polly asked her if she wanted to swim underwater for a photograph. She captured this image after a few attempts.

Lucie

This image appeals to my interest in ordinary people. I think it shows an ordinary young woman doing something extraordinary and making it look easy. I like how there is both a sense of movement, in the actions of her legs, yet a feeling of peace and freedom in her expression and the stillness of her arms.

I was particularly interested in Peter Zelewski’s images from his ‘Twins’ series. I had seen these images before, on Zelewski’s website. I was genuinely surprised to see them at this exhibition in my home town, and delighted. I am an identical twin myself, and I admit to being fascinated by other twins. I, along with the rest of the population, enjoy looking to see how alike sets of twins can be. However, for me, and I assume for other identical twins, the representation of us solely in terms of our physical similarities and differences is more complex than that.

Thomas and Lorenco.                                                            Kira and Taya

Bibliography

Exhibition: The RPS International Print Exhibition. Barnsley Civic: (11.4.17-3.6.17) At: http://www.barnsleycivic.co.uk/events/the-royal-photographic-society-international-print-exhibition-159

Adrian Ashworth – Somewhere in Time

I visited Ashworth’s exhibition Somewhere in Time, at The Civic in Barnsley, on 13 May 2017.

The exhibition is shown as part of ‘Dementia week’. The introduction explains that:

‘Not everyone’s stories are life changing – some are happy, some sad, some very tragic, but they are real stories from real people living day to day, helping each other the best way they can’. Ashworth documents ‘just how innocent dementia can appear while quietly beckoning away our loved ones’. he says, of his images: ‘some are meant to make you laugh, others to share their pain and suffering, all real people from our community struggling and coping their best with such a debilitating condition that cannot be undone’. (Ashworth 2017)

The title of his work is Ashworth’s description of the significance of an incident he recalls while speaking to his 84 year old father. His dad, who has dementia and struggles with short term memory suddenly recalled an event from his past. He had a ‘somewhere in time moment, suddenly dropping into a time and reliving the experiences by telling his story’. This incident gave Ashworth the inspiration of joining a narrative with a picture to capture and embellish the moment.

Ashworth’s images are all in mono, which I feel contributes to a documentary style and emphasises the subjects faces without distraction. It is interesting that it is not always clear which subject in the image has the illness, and I presume that this is part of Ashworth’s message that dementia appears invisible. The thing that I noticed most was the obvious love and closeness depicted between the individual and their carers, and the determination to find the good in what is a terrible situation. These images show the strength of emotion in human relationships and how love and commitment prevail in the most difficult of circumstances.

Barnsley Civic is a fabulous gallery. In some shape or form ‘The Civic’ has existed for many years but this gallery is a relatively new extension to the old Civic Hall buildings. This exhibition starts at the bottom of the stairs and continues to the upper gallery.  Below are my images of some of the photographs displayed, to illustrate the exhibition.

Roger 64, and Lynne 62

Ashworth was unfortunately unable to complete his interview with this couple because of Lynne’s condition. This image shows a happier shared moment and illustrates the continuance of humour and playfulness despite the tragic circumstances.

Stephen 87, and Emily 85

This image is named ‘The proposal’. Stephen is wearing his wedding suit and declaring his undying love for Emily. Theirs was a romantic love story of missed opportunities before they finally married. This is an example of an image where I felt that it was not possible to be entirely certain which subject had the illness. At first, I assumed it was Emily.

This image is of Adrian and his father. They used to joke about his ears. This shows how humour and laughter is still possible. To me, however, this is not an entirely kind image.

I am very interested in the lives and experiences of ordinary people and I feel that this exploration by Ashworth of a very difficult subject that includes members of his close family is a very brave and challenging undertaking.

Bibliography

Ashworth, A: Somewhere in Time (photographs). Available at: http://www.barnsleycivic.co.uk/events/adrian-ashworth-somewhere-in-time (Accessed 20 May 2017).

Exhibition: Somewhere in Time. At: Barnsley: Civic: (21 April 2017 – 2 June 2017)

Street View – Photographs of Urban Life

I visited this exhibition on Saturday 11 March 2017, the last day of the event, at Graves Gallery in Sheffield. The promotion described it as a bringing together of work by various artists to explore how photographers have captured street life on camera.

I first heard about the exhibition in October and had made a mental note to visit but then forgot about it. It is lucky that I remembered on the last day. I am also pleased that I had forgotten the details of what I had read about the collection since I was subsequently surprised and delighted that the exhibition included images from several of the artists that we have studies on the course.

I was initially attracted by the thought of images of Sheffield, since I have worked in Sheffield for many years and know it very well. In fact, the images of Park Hill flats by Roger Mayne, were particularly interesting to me, and nostalgic, since I have spent much of my work life with the people who lived there.

Image 1

Mayne, Roger (1961) Deck, Parkhill, Sheffield

Park Hill flats were built to replace the city’s tower blocks and to provide a sense of community that was lacking in the cramped high-rise flats. This image, above, perfectly illustrates my experiences of these flats many years later. At the time that they were built, they were considered very modern and a viewer of this image, in 1961, may well have a different interpretation to mine which comes over 50 years later.

I believe there was a sense of community among the people who lived in Park Hill flats and I think Mayne’s image, above,  captures this feeling very well in the positions of the women, as neighbours, interacting with each other, and the open front doors. However, I think this photograph also shows the institutional feel and lack of green spaces, perfectly captured by Mayne, in the ‘endless’ row of doors, disappearing into the distance, the lack of windows, and the identical fronts. The girl on the left appears to be looking out, as if over a view that she has no access to. Knowing the flats as I do, I know that this image is probably of a ‘street’ two or three storeys above ground, and any green space is a significant walk and a few flights of stairs away. The photographer captures this sense of confinement through the clinging of the girl to the barrier. Perhaps in 1961, this posture may have been interpreted as playful rather than confining and more positive than my present-day interpretation, but this itself illustrates the significance of a viewer’s experiences, and of the context in which it is viewed, in the interpreting of an image.

I also liked Glenn Herbert’s image Sheffield Refuse Collection. Herbert took images of ‘bin-men’ at work in Stocksbridge, when he himself worked as a refuse collector while he was a student at Sheffield College of Art. We were not allowed to take images in the gallery, and I have been unable to find a copy of the photograph to use here. However, the image shows a refuse collector standing, in shadow, behind a flash-illuminated metal ‘dust-bin’, ready to lift it onto his shoulder as he goes about his work. The shapes of houses in the background are in silhouette against a darkening sky. The photo-summary alongside the image says that Herbert wanted to ‘create dramatic and theatrical images of everyday subject matter’. This image reminded me of my thoughts about taking images of ordinary things for assignment 4 and of the beauty of artificial light.

Among the other photographs in the exhibition were images by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans, Eugene Atget, Faye Godwin and Garry Winogrand, all of whom we have studied on this course. This was a particularly welcome surprise, and I very much appreciated seeing these images as physical rather than digital pictures.

Cartier-Bresson’s   Palermo, Italy 1972 was a particular favourite. I could have looked at the image for a very long time. I have seen this image before, on my computer, but, in print, this picture is fascinating and enthralling.

Image 2

Cartier Bresson (1972) Palermo, Italy

I found that the concept of the decisive moment was very clear to me in this image. The young boys, full of life and movement, are juxtaposed with the stillness and certainty of death.  The image celebrates the joy of children while also showing us that it has to end.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this exhibition. I valued being able to see the work of artists I have been introduced to through this course, and of others that I had not been aware of.

List of Illustrations

1       Mayne, Roger (1961) Deck, Parkhill, Sheffield (Photograph) At: http://rogermayne.com/urbanlandscape/urbanlandscape0.html(Accessed 13.3.17)

2       Cartier-Bresson, Henri (1972) Palermo, Italy (Photograph) At: https://www.bing.com/images/search?&q=cartier+bresson+palermo&qft=+filterui:licenseType-Any&FORM=R5IR40(Accessed 13.3.17)

Bibliography

Exhibition: Street View – Photographs of Urban Life. At: Sheffield: Graves Gallery: ( Oct 2016- 11 March 2017)

Chris Steele Perkins

In the same way that John Davies photographs Mount Fuji as a backdrop to his images of the industrial landscape of Japan, Perkins also ‘relegates’ the volcano to highlight the ordinary life of the city. In doing so, he presents a different view of life in Japan, challenging the conventional representation of the city as wholly about the volcano and the beauty of the natural landscape.

Perkins’ images show the everyday experience of life in the city, despite the volcano. By this, I mean that, in the same way that people who live on the coast may fail to notice the sea, people in Fuji City are perhaps not constantly overawed by Mount Fuji, and their everyday life is not consciously affected by it. The images include, but do not ‘over-do’ the volcano. Instead, we see images of people going about their business, filling their cars, walking in the street in the snow, playing sport, getting on with their lives.

References:

Pictet, P. (2017) Chris Steele-Perkins. Available at: http://www.prixpictet.com/portfolios/earth-shortlist/chris-steele-perkins/ (Accessed: 23 February 2017).

NB

See my post on John Davies

John Davies

I first came across John Davies when my tutor mentioned his work in his feedback on my Square Mile assignment. I had taken a couple of industrial landscape images in my consideration of lines for EYV Exercise 1.3 and my tutor said that the high viewpoint reminded him of the work of John Davies. I had a look at some of Davis’s images and liked their sense of depth and space. My assignment images had been taken with a long lens, my favourite lens at the time, and they were rather ‘squashed’ as a consequence. Davis’s images encouraged me to appreciate a wider viewpoint, and to no longer rely on my telephoto lenses.

However, I now consider John Davies’s image in terms of their creative challenge to convention. At the link below, I was interested in Davies’ comment:

‘…I decided to make an additional set of work centred on Mount Fuji … as a backdrop to the industrial and urban reality of the modern Japanese landscape’.

Mount Fuji as a backdrop is certainly unconventional.

Davis’s images show industrial landscapes and busy streets against the traditional backdrop of the familiar Mount Fuji. His ‘relegation’ of this ‘national symbol of Japan’ forces the viewer to a different understanding of the reality of the city. Davis challenges the convention that emphasises the beauty of the landscape by presenting the volcano surrounded by cherry blossom. Perhaps Davis’s images also emphasise the beauty of the natural landscape by contrasting it with the harshness and ugliness of industry, but it makes a very different statement. Davies describes the city as ‘one of the most concentrated industrial urbanised areas I have seen’ and his images reflect his desire to understand the on-going changes in the built environment.

References:

Davies, J. (1976) John Davies Shizuoka prefecture text. Available at: http://www.johndavies.uk.com/fuji%20text.htm(Accessed: 23 February 2017).

NB

See my post on Chris Steele Perkins who photographed Mount Fuji as ‘incidental’ to scenes of the everyday life of the city.

Anya Campbell and Sato Shintaro

I came across Anya Campbell in Photography: The New Basics by Diprose and Robbins, a book recommended to me by my tutor.

The book included an image by Campbell, of a horse and trap. She had used a slow shutter to capture movement, and the image, though it cuts out the horse’s head on one side of the frame, and the rider’s head at the other, is striking in its portrayal of movement and the point at which the rider and horse come together. This image prompted me to look further at this photographer’s work.

Campbell’s Parties project uses artificial light to create bright and vivid images with intense colour. Her work reminded me of the street work of Sato Shintaro.

‘Japanese photographer Sato Shintaro uses the ‘blue hour’, the period of time between dusk and night, to depict a Tokyo made of light. His series Night Lights demonstrates that night photography doesn’t have to be dark.’ (Course notes p 85)

shintaro-1

shintaro-2

These images contrast strikingly with the work of other photographers taking images of the city at night, producing photographs that show the city as bright and lively, beautiful and exciting. See my post on Brassai   for a contrast to Shintaro’s night time city images. I like the work of both these photographers but am struck by how very different they are.

References

Diprose, G. and Robins, J. (2012) Photography: The new basics: Principles, techniques and practice. London: Thames & Hudson.

Brassai

Brassai (1899-1984) was Picasso’s favourite photographer. ‘His Paris by Night (1936) was one of the most influential photobooks of the twentieth century'(course notes p85).

‘Brassai created dramatic pictures of Paris in the 20s and 30s. He photographed only at night creating an ‘insomniac’s’ view of the city…(His) pictures reveal nocturnal Paris as a bittersweet place of tenderness and sex, loneliness, violence and melancholy’. (Ingledew  p51)

Just as I had an image in my mind of Rut Blees Luxemburg, walking the city streets, alone, capturing images of things usually unnoticed, I can picture Brassai, walking the familiar streets of Paris, saying hello to the people others would avoid, capturing the scenes that day time city folk never see. Brassai photographed ‘gangsters, prostitutes, night-workers and down-and-outs…the city’s graffiti – drawings, carvings, scratchings, initials and love hearts..’ (Ingledew p51)

In his interview with Tony Ray-Jones, Brassai explains ‘I used to not like photography at all. When I was twenty I had never photographed anything. I started when I was about thirty in Paris. I walked around Paris a lot at night and saw many things. I sought a means of expressing these sights that I saw and a woman loaned me a small camera. And so I begun to take night photos in 1930. I knew Andre Kertesz and worked with him doing articles for magazines but I wanted above all to photograph the night, which excited me..’

Here are some of Brassai’s image from his Paris by Night collection:

brassai-1

brassai-2

brassai-4

brassai-3

Brassai’s Paris images are compelling in their documentary of the hidden night-time life of Paris. To me, they have a dreamlike, magical softness, despite their high contrast, and their frequent depiction of the hardness of life. I imagine his habit of frequenting the Paris streets at night got him well known among other night street people and gave him access to places that would be intimidating or frightening to most people.

Brassai used the ambient night lighting and flash to capture his images, his shots took advantage of the cooperation of his relationships with other night time city people in his use of staged compositions and close-up portraits.

Please see my post on Sato Shintaro  who also photographed city streets at night, but with very different results.

Images:

At: https://www.bing.com/images/search?&q=brassai+paris+by+night&qft=+filterui:license-L2_L3_L4_L5_L6_L7&FORM=R5IR42 (Accessed 19 February 2017)

References

Amer (2011) Tony Ray-Jones interviews Brassai” Pt. I (1970) | #ASX. Available at: http://www.americansuburbx.com/2011/08/interview-brassai-with-tony-ray-jones.html (Accessed: 19 February 2017).

Ingledew, J. and Gullachsen, L. (2013) Photography. 2nd edn. London: Laurence King Publishing.

Rut Blees Luxemburg

Rut Blees Luxemburg is a German photographer who ‘has made a name for herself by producing vibrant photographs of urban landscapes and environments at night’. (Interview 2012). Her series Liebeslied ‘reveals a kind of alchemy at work, a secret process that uses artificial light to turn the streets into gold’ (course notes p83)

I was intrigued by the image I have of Luxemburg, out on the streets of London at night, possibly alone, producing only one image a month ( ‘Yes, it’s very slow and selective. I probably make about 10-12 works a year’), using very slow exposures (‘It’s usually between ten and fifteen minutes’), and capturing the things that we don’t often notice.

In her interview with Mint Magazine, Luxemburg says:

‘I’m fascinated by the city, by its dense, urban condition. … it’s a very vibrant and productive environment.’

She continues: ‘The city is a place of possibility.  I work at night because, again, it’s an interesting zone when the daily events and informal laws, the commerce and trade, all of which dominate the daily experience, come to a standstill.’

 rut-blees

image 1

Image 1 shows what could be an unnoticed and mundane set of steps in any city. She has used artificial light to highlight what is often missed, and ‘turn the street(s) to gold’.  She says: ‘I’m not interested in the obvious, I’m interested in that which is slightly on the side and on the margins…. In my work .’I’m interested in what is overlooked’.

I am particularly interested in Luxemburg’s images of city buildings at night and how beautiful she makes them, with the strong warm colours and high contrast. The slow shutter softens the lights from the flats, giving them a lived in look that acknowledges them as homes, with human activity and people living their lives despite the absence of people in the image.

rut-blees-city

I particularly enjoy cities at night; Leeds, near me, has gorgeously lit industrial, commercial and residential buildings, that really come to life after dark. I hope to try to capture some night time cityscapes as part of my consideration of the beauty of artificial light.

Image 1

Luxemburg, R. At: https://www.bing.com/images/search?&q=rut+blees+luxemburg&qft=+filterui:license-L2_L3_L4_L5_L6_L7&FORM=R5IR42 Accessed 9.2.17

References:

Magazine, M. (2012) An interview with photographer rut Blees Luxemburg. Available at: http://www.mintmagazine.co.uk/art/an-interview-with-photographer-rut-blees-luxemburg/ (Accessed: 9 February 2017).

 

Doyle, Wazir, and Artificial Light on People’s Faces

In researching the beauty of artificial light, (EYV Part 4, Project 3) I initially looked at Christopher Doyle’s lighting technique in the film: In the Mood for Love (Directed by Wong Kar-Wai 2000), as recommended in the course notes (p83):

I am new to analysing film lighting, but I felt that the use of light to highlight people’s faces had the effect of separating them from their background and consequently emphasising that the film was  a story about people and about their personal experiences. Highlighting the face suggests that this is a film about emotions and feelings. Below is a still, taken from the film, which shows the light highlighting the man’s face while he is engaged in the ordinary activity of eating, and consequently making it significant. Eating alone is a recurring image in the film.

in-the-mood

Image 1: In the Mood for Love

I was interested to learn that Doyle was also the cinematographer behind the film Psycho.

I include a link here to the film’s trailer. I was struck by the similarities, despite the very different genre.

I particularly liked the use of this image (below) in the trailer. The composition and viewpoint and the hard directional lighting all emphasise the horror, the character’s power over his victim, and the feeling of menace and fear.

psycho

Image 2

Next, I looked at a short film on vimeo, recommended to me by my brother in law. This film may be more appropriate to study in terms of ‘studio’ lighting,  but I felt that to include it here, highlighted the effect of lighting in photography and film making, and mirrored the effects in the Doyle films.

This short film uses what appears to be different coloured lights moving in a circular path around the woman’s face. Such is the effect of the different angles of light that her face and hair appear to be moving even when they aren’t. This technique conveys feeling and emotion, the light creates a sensuous effect, as if it is physically touching the woman’s face.

I also looked at Wazari Wazir’s images of his children’s faces, lit by the artificial light of a lantern (is candle light artificial light?) against a naturally lit background. I found these images very beautiful. The children held the lanterns close to their faces, highlighting them as the subject of the image and creating a soft warm feel that links their childhood with the neighbourhood as a happy place. Please see the link below.

Images:

Taken from films, as referenced below.

References:

Michaela (2007) Psycho trailer. At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NG3-GlvKPcg(Accessed: 9 February 2017).

MicrosoftPrivacy (2017) In the mood for love (unofficial trailer) – Bing video. Available at: https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=you+tube+in+the+mood+for+love&view=detail&mid=E4852EAD168F83EBBDB8E4852EAD168F83EBBDB8&FORM=VIRE Accessed: 9.2.17

Noisey (2013) Opale – ‘ sparkles and wine’ (official video). At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AdsYpi_1Zc4(Accessed: 9 February 2017).

Wazir, W. (2016) Wazari Wazir photographer Blog, Malaysian photographer. At: http://www.wazariwazir.com/ (Accessed: 9 February 2017).