Miniclick presents ‘Another Way of Looking’

Coinciding with the 2014 Brighton Photo Biennial and Brighton Photo Fringe this October, Miniclick are curating a season of free talks, participatory events, discussions, exhibitions and workshops centred on the theme of ‘Another Way of Looking’.

The events will take place at The Miniclick Business Concern, a new temporary exhibition and talks space at 68MS in the centre of Brighton, and will feature photographers and artists including Rob Hornstra, Jason Evans, ABC, Louis Porter, Tom Pullen and many more.

I’ve joined Miniclick for a number of their events in the past including their original Response Exhibition and 2014 (P)review of the Year and they’re always so enjoyable and thought provoking. You can read the full press release for the ‘Another Way of Looking’ programme here and keep up to date via their website.

Pioneering Photojournalist Christina Broom

I’ve long admired the work of Christina Broom, one of the UK’s earliest female press photographers. Broom came to photography in her forties, and the remarkable body of work she produced from 1903-1939 provides a vital social record of this era. Her photographs regularly appeared in publications including The Tatler, The Sphere, and The Illustrated London News, and were self-published as picture postcards during the height of this industry.

Christina Broom, photographed by her daughter and only assistant Winifred Broom, showing a stall with examples of her work at the Womens War Work Exhibition, London, May 1916. Collection: Museum of London

Christina Broom, photographed by her daughter and only assistant Winifred Broom, showing a stall with examples of her work at the Womens War Work Exhibition, London, May 1916. Collection: Museum of London

It has been especially wonderful to see Broom’s work reach a wider audience recently due to the Museum of London’s important acquisition of  around 2,500 of her images. The many documentary subjects Broom’s photojournalism covered included the suffrage movement and its most prominent members. To coincide with new National Portrait Gallery display Suffragettes: Deeds not Words, this week I produced a new slideshow presenting highlights from the work of Christina Broom in the Gallery’s collection. The slideshow can be viewed here, and I recommend keeping an eye on the Museum of London’s future plans for a retrospective of Broom’s work, currently scheduled for autumn 2015.

Snowdon: A Life in View

Snowdon: A Life in View, Times announcement, July 2014.

Snowdon: A Life in View, The Times, 16 July 2014.

I’m delighted to now be able to share news of a major display on the life and work of Lord Snowdon which I am curating for this autumn. Snowdon: A Life in View at the National Portrait Gallery from 26 September,  is selected from a very generous gift of photographs from Lord Snowdon to the Gallery in 2013, and will coincide with a new monograph published by Rizzoli.

Snowdon: A Life in View – Written by Antony Armstrong Jones, Foreword by Graydon Carter, Contributions by Frances von Hofmannsthal and Tom Ford, Introduction by Patrick Kinmonth. Publication date: 23 September 2014

Snowdon’s extensive career in portraiture and fashion photography has included a six-decade working relationship with Vogue magazine (from 1951). He also produced pioneering photo essays on social issues for The Sunday Times (1962–90). Highlight portraits in this display will include studies of writers such as Nell Dunn and Graham Greene, actors such as Julie Christie and Laurence Olivier, and cultural figures such as newspaper editor Harold Evans. The display will also offer the opportunity to enjoy new selections from book Private View (1965), Snowdon’s important examination of the British art world created in collaboration with art critic John Russell and Bryan Robertson, then director of the Whitechapel Art Gallery. You can find out more about Snowdon: A Life in View via the National Portrait Gallery’s recent press release.

I also recommend exploring Snowdon Review, an online collection of stories from the photographer’s vast archive, beautifully curated by the photographer’s daughter Frances von Hofmannsthal.

Coinciding with a new monograph published by Rizzoli, Snowdon: A Life in View (26 Sep 2014-21 Jun 2015), will highlight studio portraits from the 1950s to the 1990s, alongside selections from Private View Snowdon’s important 1965 examination of the British art world created in collaboration with art critic John Russell and Bryan Robertson, then director of the Whitechapel Art Gallery.

Curated from a major gift to the Gallery in 2013, in close consultation with the photographer’s daughter Frances von Hofmannsthal, the display includes over 40 black-and-white portraits taken throughout his expansive and influential career.

– See more at: http://www.rps.org/news/2014/july/snowdon-npg-donation#sthash.J6l2eiOZ.dpuf

Coinciding with a new monograph published by Rizzoli, Snowdon: A Life in View (26 Sep 2014-21 Jun 2015), will highlight studio portraits from the 1950s to the 1990s, alongside selections from Private View Snowdon’s important 1965 examination of the British art world created in collaboration with art critic John Russell and Bryan Robertson, then director of the Whitechapel Art Gallery.

Curated from a major gift to the Gallery in 2013, in close consultation with the photographer’s daughter Frances von Hofmannsthal, the display includes over 40 black-and-white portraits taken throughout his expansive and influential career.

– See more at: http://www.rps.org/news/2014/july/snowdon-npg-donation#sthash.J6l2eiOZ.dpuf

Coinciding with a new monograph published by Rizzoli, Snowdon: A Life in View (26 Sep 2014-21 Jun 2015), will highlight studio portraits from the 1950s to the 1990s, alongside selections from Private View Snowdon’s important 1965 examination of the British art world created in collaboration with art critic John Russell and Bryan Robertson, then director of the Whitechapel Art Gallery.

Curated from a major gift to the Gallery in 2013, in close consultation with the photographer’s daughter Frances von Hofmannsthal, the display includes over 40 black-and-white portraits taken throughout his expansive and influential career.

– See more at: http://www.rps.org/news/2014/july/snowdon-npg-donation#sthash.J6l2eiOZ.dpuf

Collaborative Community Portraits by Alicia Bruce

Last month I joined Featureshoot as a new staff writer. I’m very glad that in my first post I was able to highlight the work of photographer Alicia Bruce, who since 2010 has established a significant reputation building long-term collaborative photographic projects with local communities.

Bruce’s ongoing project Menie: a portrait of a North East coastal community in conflict has focused on an area of outstanding natural beauty and site of special scientific interest in Aberdeenshire, and the residents there who faced compulsory purchase orders on several of their homes as part of the construction of Trump International’s golf course and proposed housing development.

You can view a selection of works from this important project via my recent Featureshoot article, and explore Alicia’s work in-depth via her website.

On curating photography

As part of an ongoing series of interviews with photography curators, Ideas Tap recently spoke to me about portraiture, how the National Portrait Gallery discovers new work, collects and exhibits photography, as well as my personal background and writing in this field.

Thank you to editor Rachel Segal Hamilton – the full interview can be read online here.

Picture Post photographer George Douglas

George Douglas photographed during the 1950s

George Douglas photographed during the 1950s

For a current exhibition project, I have been researching sittings by key Picture Post photographers taken during the 1950s, including by Bert Hardy and George Douglas. (I am very grateful to Sarah McDonald, Curator of the Hulton Archive, for her ongoing assistance and advice.)

While Bert Hardy is known to many, the work of George Douglas is arguably less remembered today, despite the significance of his remarkable output while a commissioned freelance photographer for Picture Post. The great diversity of his work ranged from picture essays on celebrity figures; such as Audrey Hepburn at the time of her breakthrough performance in Gigi (1951); to photojournalism, documenting topics such as Olive Walker, one of Europe’s few female chimney sweeps, and the work of a speech therapy clinic in Stockton-on-Tees.

Within the last few weeks I was delighted to visit Brighton photographer Nigel Swallow, who is researching the Douglas Archive and organizing its long term care, alongside the Archive’s owner photographer Roger Bamber. (Bamber inherited the archive following Douglas’s death, and the subsequent death of his widow Jill Renton).

Next month, a small display of thirty photographs from the vast Douglas archive, will be staged at his former home at 14 Sillwood Road, Brighton. Douglas had bought the house in 1964, and though he spent much of his life in California, returned to live here permanently from 2007 until his death. This display will be part of the Brighton Artists Open Houses Festival 2014, and further details can be found on the event page. This display marks the beginning of a new exciting journey by the Archive’s owners to fully unravel and research this collection of several thousand negatives from the 1940s-1960s. I look forward to following their news, and I hope that in time, their work will lead to a reappraisal of Douglas’s legacy.

 

The Changing Face of Contemporary Photography

Aesthetica Art Prize 2014

Aesthetica Art Prize 2014

Photography has had an interesting history, first being connected to science, then struggling to be recognized as fine art, and now, with the digital age, the concept of what a photograph is or can be is changing, as are the photographers themselves – what challenges and opportunities does this present within the established tradition of the art museum?

At the dawn of photography, the technical experiments of pioneers including Joseph Niépce and Louis Daguerre in France, and William Henry Fox Talbot in England, established the medium’s basis in science; and photography soon became an alchemy of wonder to the mid-Victorian age. Its early connection to science introduced the concept of the photograph as truth, a direct recording of the reality found in front of the photographer’s lens.

However we do not need to investigate far into the medium’s first fifty years before we find significant examples of photographers who challenged this blind faith in photography’s veracity, and pushed the practical and ideological limits of the medium. Hippolyte Bayard’s Self-Portrait of the Photographer as a Drowned Man (1840) was arguably the first example of the photographic lie. Camille Silvy’s River Scene, France/La Vallée de l’Husine (1858) and Henry Peach Robinson’s When the Day’s Work is Done (1877) are both complicated compositions made from multiple negatives. Traditions such as ‘spirit’ photography, popular from the 1850s onwards, and the trend for ‘headless’ photography often found within photo collage albums of the Victorian era are further examples. In her essay on photography for the Quarterly Review in April 1857, Lady Eastlake wrote: “Photography has become a household word and a household want; is used alike by art and science, by love, business, and justice…”

I present these historical examples to argue the point that while the challenges brought by the digital age are expansive and complex, photography has always been a highly experimental medium, ambiguous and fluid in nature, often moving between classifications. Any artist-photographer working today either consciously or subconsciously is working within the historical context of such forebears discussed above. Once we have dismissed a singular view of photographic history, and accepted that a straightforward linear narrative from science to art with clear ideological beginnings and ends is not appropriate, we are free to explore the role of photography today.

Considering the traditions of the art museum, what conceptual challenges does the digital age bring to a museum’s practice in terms of its understanding and exhibition of photography? As photography moves further away from film and paper-based techniques, and a born digital image becomes increasingly screen-based, and adaptable in how it can be merged with other mediums, our past understanding of this term needs re-evaluating. The digital age can necessitate that the art museum reconsider its traditional object-based view. It must be adaptable in acknowledging that contemporary photography has further blurred distinctions between genres, the still and moving image especially. Many photographic artists working today are currently exploring the hybrid found when the mediums of photography, painting, computer technologies, and film meet. The work of Susan Sloan, whose motion capture portraits were exhibited at the Photographers Gallery in 2012, is an example of this development.

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Todd Hido: Excerpts from Silver Meadows

Todd Hido: Interview for Of the Afternoon

Todd Hido: Interview for Of the Afternoon

San Francisco based photographer Todd Hido was born in the small town of Kent, Ohio, where growing up his first introductions to photography came through MTV and magazines such as Rolling Stone and Interview. His early influences were extremely broad, and among the genre of cinema, he particularly remembers the impact of seeing Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire at age twenty. This film has been especially influential to Hido in the way he approaches sequencing a book, and planning its flow as if floating in an out of people’s lives.

Hido came to international attention with the publication of his first monograph House Hunting in 2001. This collection of twenty-six nocturnal studies of suburban houses, photographed using long exposures and available light, introduced key themes found within his aesthetic vision. This series presented the viewer with a discomforting ambiguity in the concept of ‘home’, as both a source of comfort and isolation. The underlying sense of detachment in House Hunting can partially be attributed to Hido’s objective visual distance which clearly referenced the influence of ‘New Topographics’ photographers such as Robert Adams, and perhaps the pioneering work of Wright Morris’ The Inhabitants (1946). Hido’s subsequent books Taft Street (2001) and Outskirts (2002) further explored this Midwestern domestic suburban environment to great effect.

In 2006, Hido introduced portraiture to his published work, with Between the Two, which juxtaposed images of dilapidated interiors with studies of women. Later monographs such as A Road Divided (2010) presented Hido’s own interpretation on the contemporary American landscape, and the mythical allure of the ‘open road’. The latter book further expanded Hido’s artistic style, with many photographs taken through the blur and fragmentation of the car windscreen, becoming more abstract and painterly in style. In 2013, all of these previous chapters in Hido’s publication history came together to form his most ambitious book project to date, Excerpts from Silver Meadows.

It was a great pleasure to recently interview Todd Hido for photography magazine Of the Afternoon. Hido and I discussed many topics including the tradition of the family album, the influence of his former teacher and mentor photographer Larry Sultan, Hido’s portrayal of women, and his photographic techniques and approaches to photobook design and publishing. You can read the full interview in issue #5 of Of the Afternoon which is available to order online.

 

Carlotta Cardana: Mod Couples

'Amanda and Jon' © Carlotta Cardana, Reproduced with kind permission.

‘Amanda and Jon’ © Carlotta Cardana, Reproduced with kind permission.

Back in October 2013, I was a selector for the Association of Photographers Open Awards, an annual competition and accompanying exhibition for professional and amateur photographers. My fellow judges and I were unanimous in choosing Carlotta Cardana’s portrait of ‘Amanda and Jon’ from her documentary portrait series ‘Mod Couples’ for The Best AOP Student Award.

Cardana’s series documents young couples who belong to the Mod scene, the sub-culture which first began in the late 1950s and reached its original peak in the mid-1960s. Cardana’s simple but bold compositions are immediately engaging, in part due to her sensitivity to the formal conventions of portraiture, and also her detailed attention to the personal style, fashions and environments carefully chosen by each couple. However the series as a whole also invites much quieter, more complex questions regarding the construction of identity; both individually, as a partner, and collectively as part of a sub-culture. Viewing these photographs one also questions the increasing role of nostalgia in contemporary society.

I’m delighted to see Cardana go on to receive wider recognition for this series, most recently as a winner in The New York Photo Awards 2013 and as a shortlisted photographer in the 2014 Sony World Photography Awards. Further portraits from the series can be enjoyed on the photographer’s website.

Photographers’ Archives and Legacy Project

Since 2013, photographer Jem Southam has led the Photographers’ Archives and Legacy Project based at Plymouth University, a pioneering research project which aims to consider the many practical, personal, and cultural issues surrounding the archiving of photographers’ work.

This valuable project has already raised wider awareness of the issues involved in managing photographers’ archives and making them accessible, and in due course will provide advice and guidelines on best practice. First case studies with leading contemporary photographers Liz Hingley, Daniel Meadows and Mark Power can now be explored online, and I look forward to following the research project further over the next year.