McCullin: The documentary

Last week at the age of seventy-seven, war photographer Don McCullin returned to the front line, to document the conflict in Syria alongside reporter Anthony Loyd for The Times. My first must see of the New Year is documentary ‘McCullin’, released in UK cinemas from 1 January.

To coincide with the film, McCullin gave an interview to the Guardian this weekend. While the sensational headline ‘Photojournalism has had it’ is unfair to a new generation of highly talented photojournalists working today; McCullin’s stature remains that of one of the most important photographers to shape our understanding of modern warfare. With McCullin in the news, one should also pause to remember Philip Jones Griffiths, and his groundbreaking book Vietnam Inc.

McCullin official UK trailer – in cinemas & Curzon on Demand from 1 January from Artificial Eye on Vimeo.

A Paris notebook

A number of excellent in-depth reviews have been published on this year’s Paris Photo, including those by Sean O’Hagan and Francis Hodgson. So instead, a personal note here about what I especially enjoyed during my short weekend in the city.

Paris Photo

Paris Photo 2012

Among displays by 135 exhibitors from 23 countries, I was drawn to the work of many photographers. However particularly of note due to my long-term research interests; Czech born avant-garde photographer Jaromir Funke. A contemporary of the better known Josef Sudek, Funke founded the Czech Photographic Society with Sudek, Adolf Schneeberger, and Ludvik Dvořák in 1924. Taking inspiration from Alfred Stieglitz and his circle, Funke’s modern subjects included an extended series of still lifes of darkroom materials, made between 1924-30. In 1931 he became a professor of photography at the School of Applied Arts in Bratislava, and then in 1935 at the State Graphic Arts School in Prague. He also edited the journal Fotografický obzor (Photographic Horizons). Examples of Funke’s work can be seen online in the first instance at The Met, and his work has been previously exhibited by Howard Greenberg, New York.

Archive of Modern Conflict exhibition 'Collected Shadows'

Archive of Modern Conflict exhibition ‘Collected Shadows’

This year, Paris Photo’s private collection exhibition was curated by Timothy Prus, founder of the Archive of Modern Conflict. A personal and critically agreed highlight of the fair, the works on display spanned from the early 1850s to the present day, by photographers known and unknown. The themes represented included earth, fire, air, water as well as divinity, astronomy, meteorology, flight and dance, reflecting the remarkable diversity of this archive of some 4 million images. A behind the scenes look at the Archive can be enjoyed in a film and feature published by Source Photographic Review. Read More

Cornel Lucas: Creating Icons

NPG x127031, Self-portrait, 1952, © estate of Cornel Lucas

Cornel Lucas, one of Britain’s foremost and best-loved portrait photographers has died aged 92. One of eight children, he was born in Highbury, London in 1920. Lucas studied photography at the Regent Street Polytechnic. During World War Two he worked at the RAF Photographic School at Farnborough, before joining Denham Studios in 1945.

His career was firmly established by his now legendary sitting with Marlene Dietrich, while she was in England to film No Highway in the Sky (1951) opposite James Stewart. Dietrich had fallen out with the first photographer assigned to her, and Lucas recalled this pivotal encounter for Time magazine (11 September 2012):

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Helen Levitt: ‘In the Street’

“Levitt’s pictures report no unusual happenings; most of them show the games of children, the errands and conversations of the middle-aged, and the observant waiting of the old. What is remarkable about the photographs is that these immemorially routine acts of life, practiced everywhere and always, are revealed as being full of grace, drama, humor, pathos, and surprise, and also that they are filled with the qualities of art, as though the street were a stage, and its people were all actors and actresses, mimes, orators, and dancers.” From “Looking at Photographs” by John Szarkowski.

This Sunday was spent in the company of old favourites including Saul Leiter and Ernst Haas, and new including Boris Savelev, in highly recommended exhibition Henri Cartier-Bresson: A Question of Colour. I keep returning to the work of Helen Levitt in my thoughts, and wanted to simply share here her short film ‘In the Street’, made in 1948 with novelist and critic James Agee and fellow photographer Janice Loeb.

Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2012

Congratulations Jordi Ruiz Cirera who this week won the Taylor Wessing photographic portrait prize for his image of 26-year-old Margarita Teichroeb, a member of the reclusive Mennonites community of Eastern Bolivia. The portrait is from Ruiz Cirera’s long-term project Menonos, which can also be explored in a recent feature published by Foto8.

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Media Space: opening June 2013

Media Space, 2nd floor Science Museum, before construction Photo: © Kate Elliott

Following several years of anticipation and discussion in the photographic community, the Science Museum has announced its launch date and future plans for Media Space. The new purpose-built venue at the Science Museum will open in June 2013 with a major exhibition featuring contemporary artists’ responses to scientific photography from the last two centuries. Key facts are as follows:

  • Based on the 2nd floor of the Science Museum, the £4m capital project will comprise of a 500 m² exhibition space, a 290 m² flexible studio space for installations and events, and a café/bar.
  • Media Space will showcase the National Photography Collection from the National Media Museum and use this as a starting point to explore, exhibit and discuss works by contemporary artists across a variety of disciplines. It plans to present two major exhibitions and a series of free installations in its studio space each year.
  • Media Space’s inaugural exhibition, Revelations: Experiments in Photography (June-September 2013) will explore contemporary artists’ responses to scientific photography from 1850 to 1920. It will include works by a broad spectrum of photographers including William Henry Fox Talbot, Joris Jansen. Eadweard Muybridge, Harold Edgerton, Sarah Pickering, Clare Strand, Etienne-Jules Marey and Hiroshi Sugimoto.

For more information see the Media Space’s full press release and recent coverage in The British Journal of PhotographyThe Guardian, and The Telegraph.

Foto8: Leaving home

Last night I was very sad to learn of the forthcoming closure of Foto8 at the end of November. Through its gallery at Honduras Street, publication, website and activities, Foto8 has been a constant voice and home for photojournalism in London. Read Jon Levy’s farewell statement here.

William Klein + Daido Moriyama

Last Friday I could wait no longer, and escaped the office for an afternoon to see Tate Modern’s new dual retrospective William Klein + Daido Moriyama. Having just seen the long anticipated film adaptation of Kerouac’s On the Road, my thoughts were already preoccupied with remembered and imagined urban landscapes and escape… Tate’s fantastic exhibition charts the individual careers of photographer and filmmaker Klein and his Japanese contemporary Moriyama, who established his career through the Provoke movement of the 1960s, while also inviting dialogue between the two artists’s individuals interpretations of urban life. Its one of the best London photography exhibitions I’ve seen for a long time, and one I will return to regularly in the months to come. Recent press coverage of note includes Francis Hodgson’s review and Time Pictures’ special feature.

William Klein, ‘Life is Good & Good For You in New York’ (1956)

Looking at the Land

I first started chatting to Andy Adams some months ago. Andy produces online photography website FlakPhoto.com which has fast become one of the defining resources for contemporary photography online.

In collaboration with the Rhode Island School of Design exhibition America in View: Landscape Photography 1865 to Now, Andy has curated an accompanying online exhibition Looking at the Land – 21st Century American Views. I’ve returned to the selected photographs and interviews here regularly, in addition to press coverage such as Time magazine’s Lightbox. Personal favourites among the selected works include Kate Peter’s Plane, Las Vegas Nevada, 2007, Christine Carr’s Roanoke, Virginia, 2005, and Rebecca Norris Webb’s Badlands, South Dakota, 2010 from her deeply contemplative book My Dakota.

I admire how projects such as Looking at the Land are currently challenging traditional notions of exhibiting photography, and essential reading from the last few days on this subject has included Joerg Colberg and Oliver Laurent’s report on Magnum Photos‘s new direction online.