Tag Archives: Talk

PhotoLondon – Compressed Life: Michael Wolf

Michael Wolf is a photographer to has pre-dominantly focused on creating work in a single place for him it is Hong Kong as place I have been fortunate to visit multiple times single the late 1980s. Though I viewed Hong Kong through the eyes of a businessman working abroad for short periods rather than someone who has been able to immerse themselves in the country. The other reason for listening to this talk is that Wolf has done mixed art installations mixing photographs of the environment and objects that he has found while creating his images (specifically chairs that have been repaired by their owners.)

Michael Wolf is a German photographer based in Paris and Hong Kong. His work focuses on urban life and the megacity.

Francis Hodgson is Professor in the Culture of Photography at the University of Brighton, having held positions as photography critic for Financial Times as well as Head of Photographs at Sotheby’s.

Michael Wolf and Francis Hodgson, PhotoLondon Talk, Simon Fremont, May 2018

Hodgson introduces Wolf as a photographer / art practitioner who collects objects. Wolf says he is a photographer who prefers to go deep having spent 23 years in Hong Kong  creating work. This is evident even from his thesis project from university where he spent a year recording images from a small mining town of 800 people that was bounded the railway track and a river creating a defined space for him to work within. Wolf described the work has having a humanist nature that pervades his future work of megacities and those that inhabit them.

He found the improvised chairs of the back alley’s mesmerising and the creative nature that owners repair them so they remain functional.

Wolf introduced the different project he has worked after he decided that he required a new direction as he recognised that income from photo journalism with Stiener was declining as the print industry started is now well documented decline. He decided to move in the direction of fine art photography and his wife gave him three years to make a success of this venture otherwise he would need to get another job to pay the bills.

The first project his discussed was Architecture of Destiny which was a series of images that show the megacity of Hong Kong. When shooting this work he made very clear decisions such as shooting images without sky so reader is surrounded by the building and there is no chance to escape the scene (Reflection: This is very different from my own landscape images where I have a clear horizon line even though I only allow the sky to occupy the top 3rd of the image.

The next project he discussed was titled 100×100 which was a series recording the homes of people living in these dense apartment blocks. The title comes from the fact each persons home consisted of a uniform 100sq feet but each apartment was stacked alongside or on top of another 100sq feet space.

Image from 100×100, PhotoLondon Talk, Michael Wolf, May 2018

In 2007 Wolf visited Tokyo and observed the passengers on the crowded train line. This resulted in the recognised project titles Tokyo Compression. Wolf explained that the work only became powerful when he observed the condensation of the windows of the train. He returned to the same station every day for a month to shoot between 7:30 and 8:45. He return for each year for 4 years and on his last visit discovered that the overground trainline was closing and ultimately this brought the project to a close because the environment that cause the specific circumstances ceased to exist.

Similar to Tokyo Compression Wolf had a residency in Chicago for this project to used a telephoto lens to record the view in windows of office buildings. The images were all shoot at 5:30pm and 6:45pm the light made it possible to see in the windows of the offices. The time of day meant the images had a blue cast due (Reflection: The Chicago Project has the same light as I decided to capture the most recent series of images for Points of Departure. The blue hour lighting introduces melancholy into the images that for me works perfectly to give that sense of uncertainty that is present for everyone in the UK while we wait to understand the exact terms of the departure from the European Union.)

Wolf’s wife wanted to leave Hong Kong and moved to Paris which meant Wolf spent time commuting between Hong Kong and Paris. He create a couple of projects while in Paris the first was images of the roof tops of Paris, though he refused to shoot on the streets of Paris for fear of being sued by people that might accidentally appear in his images. Instead he created a series of images using Google Streetview shooting images from his computer screen. The work therefore has the distinct moire we sometimes observe when recording computer screens with a camera.

When Wolf was a child his father would make his son wonderful wooden toys though at the time Wolf wanted the plastic toys that his friends would get as gifts. Wolf as a adult visited a shop and brought a back of plastic toys for a few dollars. This fascination resulted in him created a large installation using 20,000 plastic toys and them inserting images of the people who manufacture the toys into installation.

Installation View, PhotoLondon, Michael Wolf

He went on to work on a project about fake art on the Hong Kong China border there is a community of a 1000 artists who make fake works of art. Wolf decided to get these artists to create pieces for him and then he would record them in an environment with their piece of fake art.

Richard Prince Fake Art, Michael Wolf

(Reflection: I particularly like this image of a fake piece of art based on Ed Ruscha work as it links to my zine Portraits of Electric Charging Stations that took inspiration from Ruscha’s book of petrol stations produced for the Strategies and Surfaces module http://fineart.photography/week-13-looking-forward-research/.) 

Wolf shows a series of banal subjects that he finds interesting in the streets of Hong Kong.

  • Gloves
  • Boots
  • Mops
  • Flora

Hodgson asks Wolf about the power of photography. Wolf replied that pictures can create benefit of bringing awareness to a subject however they can cause harm. In China Wolf wanted to photograph a repaired chair but he was asked why he did not shoot a new chair. On one occasion Wolf shot one of his repaired chairs and when he went back later to purchase the he discovered it had been destroyed. Paying attention to a singular object can result in it being destroyed rather than preserved.

Hodgson enquired how working at Steiner had influenced Wolf’s style as the magazine required 6 images to tell a story. Wolf responded that when transitioning from photojournalism to art he did not want to create a picture like a Stiener picture. Though he did reference that Michael Schmidt had been an influence in the development of his style as you never wanted to have an important part of the picture in the gutter.

Hodgson asked Wolf about his relationship within German art. Wolf mentioned that in Germany it is very hierarchical and if you did not come from the Dusseldorf School you would not be considered as producing the right type of work.

Wolf comment that art provided him with freedom to create work that he loved and fortunately people like his way of seeing images which resulted in sales. Overtime Wolf has started to introduce objects into the installation such as the chairs that Wolf had purchased when shooting them in Hong Kong. Wolf considered the chairs a metaphors for China. a nation that is thrifty and does not throw anything away.

Hodgson comments that Wolf has swopped the mass market for a small audience however he has been successful in that transition. Wolf he feels is difficult to define as he has many facets anthropologist, photographer, sculptor seeing beauty in an object.

Wolf’s projects interlink though that was not part of a strategy they just naturally join together. (Reflection: This is maybe because the photographer’s voice is at the heart of the creation of their work. In my own work i can see that I return to common themes such as time though I use it different forms though during the MA the way I use the themes has become more refined as a better understand my own photographic voice.) He says it is important to trust yourself and your photographic instinct when creating work.

One of the audience asked why Wolf had gone back multiple times to the same station in Tokyo for Tokyo Compression. Wolf answered that it was because each time he thought that could create a better version of the image. Though it ultimately ended due to the closing of the station.

The talk closed.

 

 

PhotoLondon – Night Swimming: Esther Teichmann

I decided to attend this talk based on the a 121 tutorial with Wendy McMurdo where she recommended I look at thew work of Esther Teichmann who is running a workshop at the Photographers Gallery on the 2nd June 2018. When I saw Teichmann was part of the talk series for PhotoLondon I decided to attend to get a deeper appreciation of her work ahead of the Photographer’s Gallery event. The Talk was a conversation between Teichmann and Campany.

Esther Teichmann works across still and moving image as well as sculpture and painting. She is head of Programme for the MRes and Coordinator for Critical and Historical Studies at the Royal College of Art.

David Campany is a writer, curator and artist, working mainly in photography, as well as teaching at the University of Westminster.

Esther Teichmann and David Campany, PhotoLondon, Simon Fremont, May 2018

Campany provided an introduction to the talk talking about how art takes many different forms painting, music, writing and drawing. The introduction of Modernism created art into a series of distinct forms and in this period was where photography entered the cannon of art forms. Though today many photographers are working across different medium with Installation being considered as a medium of expression.

Teichmann’s work is an example of a practitioner who moves across these different forms and she states to share some of her work with the audience. There are still images captured both in the studio and on location. They help to create an environment and by bringing pieces together another space is created.

Arius, inkjet print on canvas, acrylic, wood, sponge, rope, Esther Teichmann

There are video pieces as well that include include a spoken piece. That has a very cinematic style. The whole piece is very haunting and reminds Teichmann of family holidays in a round tent with a thunderstorm going on outside. The piece links back to Teichmanns childhood in the Rhine Valley in Germany which she describes as having its own microclimate the green foliage due to the river, thunderstorms and the lighting adding theatre to the environment. Teichmann has used backdrops to create theatrical sets in the studio. Painting over photographic images.

She maintains a sketchbook of ideas and concepts evolve through discussions with other artists that result in collaborations.

Teichmann showed a set of cyanotype that had been combined together to create an overall installation piece.

Heavy the Sea, 3x4m Cyanotype Collage, Esther Teichmann

She moves on to explore her relationship between her mother and siblings and the slip relationship that exists between them.

Installation view, 130 x 180cm C type print toned silver gelatin fibre print, Esther Teichmann

Having German and America parents she describes visits to America and the homesickness her mother has for East Coast America she calls home yet the America of her mother imagination does not exist. This resulted in the creation of a zine for the Transformer exhibition that contained images plus short stories.

Teichmann discussed how works can have different forms an image used as a backdrop has a different meaning compared to its use in the pages of a zine or as a projection.

When creating work for exhibitions Teichmann combines multiple pieces together for example multiple moving pieces plus music composed specifically to go with the images.

In Teichmann’s working process everything is part of her archive and could be used as part of future work.

David Campany asks Teichmann if this an issue of not being able to let go? Teichmann responds it is not about letting go instead it that things are never finished. She expands to say that today artists are encouraged to thing in series and bodies of work which are artificial constraints. Teichmann counters that things merge together, their meaning requires context and pieces work in dialogue with each other. Iterations allow the work to take on different forms. (Reflection: This is another reference I feel to the slip shift of relationships between people and their contexts.)

Teichmanns work use multiple media though she explains that photography is at the core of her work. Campany responds to say that photograph he feels belongs where you put it. It is in fact a chameleon taking on different forms depending on the environment. Teichmann observed we are repeating the past with shifts that mean it is never exactly the same which is a reference to Freud and the idea that the subconscious has no concept of time it is a stream of thoughts.

Campany asks about the book that is currently in construction. Teichmann responds that the book is very different from her installations and until now she has resisted creating a book even though she has created zines as a way of discriminating her work. Campany challenges Teichmann is the reason creating a book more difficult than an installations  because a book is finite while installations are transitory in nature.  Teichmann is stumped. Teichmann eventually responds that exhibition allow you to take risks.

The conversation concludes with a brief discussion about Teichmann’s academic role and she comments that it is privilege to share and teach students. In the end art is non-hierarchical where one answer is not more correct that another.

The talk concludes.

Reflection

My own reflections on the talk are outlined below:

Teichmann repeatedly explores the same themes of relationship, shifting of time, narratives drawn from he own childhood experiences. Her practice is not restricted by a single strategy of representation or surface for dissemination the work shows a clear understanding how to use each strategy and surface something that we covered in depth during the strategies and surfaces module. Though one feels that currently she has a preference for the installation and the sense of theatre that surrounds an installation.

Listening to the talk has made me reflect on my own plans for installation with the portfolio review by Jonas encouraging me to think about breaking up a traditional linear hang for my work to create a more dynamic installation. Teichmann’s installations go a stage further using large 3m x 4m prints and layer 1 or 2 smaller prints in front of the large print. My most recent installation plan makes use of two sizes of prints A2 and B2 Gallery Test Layout. Additionally as I look to explore the installation as an art form I am introducing other media into the gallery space that will talk to my theme of departure.

Tim Paton – Magnum Workshop

Tim Paton Global Head of Commercial Assignments, Magnum Photos

Tim Paton is Global Head of Commercial Assignments, based out of Magnum Photos London office and is responsible for generating commercial opportunities for the agency’s photographic membership. Tim has spent his whole career in the photography business. He started out as a photographer himself working for the legendary music Magazine the NME. He then went on to set up his own commercial photo agency called Balcony Jump, which quickly became established as one of the best agencies in London. Tim has worked with many of the worldwide leading brands including Nike, Gucci, Guess, Ford, Volvo and IBM and in doing so has helped nurture the careers of many well established photographers and produced both large and small shoots all over the world.

Tim started his talk by explaining the different commercial activities undertaken by Magnum. Magnum has a large back catalogue of images that is sells for advertising purposes. Unfortunately many of the images do not have the required model releases and that impacts Magnum’s ability to generate revenue from those images (Reflection: If there are people in the images and you are looking to sell the images commercially then it is important to get a model release.)

In addition to the Magnum back catalogue Magnum photographers undertake commercial shoots clients of Magnum include Nike, Burberry and HSBC.

Afghan Girl, National Geographic, Steve McCurry, 1984

Images from the Magnum library that have generated significant income are images such as the Steve McCurry image of the Afghan Girl.

Magnum have been involved in shooting all of the USA Presidents since the 2nd World War when Magnum was formed.

Tim referenced the work by Jonas on the HSBC campaign and Land Rover. In the case of the HSBC campaign they has a team of 3 production assistants on location in Shanghai to scout out suitable locations as the campaign had to be shoot over a short period of time.

The Land Rover campaign required the creation of still and video assets as the campaign was intended for publication across multiple media formats. This included segments of the photographer talking to video as part of the road trip.

Magnum has a large social media following circa 1.1 million on Twitter which is a useful tool for brands and Magnum sometimes allows takeovers of the feed as to support a campaign.

Phil Rylance – Magnum Workshop

Phil Rylance Creative Art Director, JWT

Originally from Warrington Lancashire (now Cheshire), Phil Rylance attended Secondary Technical school, a peculiar Northern experiment, then a foundation year at Warrington Art School before moving on to the BA Hons Graphic Design course in Liverpool. He began a successful career in advertising after moving to London and has achieved the highest honours worldwide for his creativity, He has produced many campaigns including the much lauded Creature Comforts commercials and at one point was personally responsible for making Le Coq Sportif the biggest selling poster range at the Athena stores. Ideas are his passion, and most importantly – experience has taught him that idea led content never seems to go out of fashion.

Phil’s talk focused on his part of the creative process and how that relates to the role of the photographer. He started his presentation by describing his views on the creative process. To work in advertising you need to have curiosity and creativity in equal measures which needs to be discovered and developed over time. To understand the subject that is part of the campaign speaking to experts in the field can provide useful insights that can be incorporated into the creative process. Creative will form working groups that create the concepts that will be submitted to the Creative Director for approval.

Phil stated there are three key rules to successfully shooting a campaign.

  • Rule 1: Shoot the layout
  • Rule 2: See Rule 1
  • Rule 3: See Rule 2

If as a photographer you have better ideas than the proposed layout only suggest those ideas once the layout has been successfully shoot as the layout is the proposal that was approved by all parties prior to going on set.

Phil provided the group with a number of stories from his times of going on set. One story was a shoot with Peter Turnley for a Coca Cola campaign where they travelled around Paris looking for people drinking Coca Cola. The Producer travelled with a bag of Dollar Bills to pay each person $100 dollars for the image and to get a model release form signed. During that specific shoot they shoot 82,000 images.

He described a shoot with Land Rover where they took a new model into the studio and then shoot the vehicle from every possible angle to determine the best possible angles for shooting the car on location. Though typically cars look good from the front and rear 3 quarters which is why so many car images are shoot from those positions. Most car images are heavy in terms of compositing to get the car light perfectly.  In car advertising today they is heavy use of CGI however that can still go wrong because cars get light from multiple angles and there is no longer a coherent light source.

The next story was about a Land Rover shoot in Namibia where the images contained a Freelander and a Cheetah the images were created in-camera to as it was the best way to achieve continuity.

When approaching agents recognise agents start of by following them on social media if they have a social media presence as it gives insight into the type of work they are producing. There is a hierarchy of agents who work for different levels of clients.

If you want to pitch work to art buyers and agents build up bodies of work that relate to products where you have an interest.

  • Shoot a series of images for the product (i.e. 3 images)
  • If you have never shoot a car before get a car assistant to help you on a shoot
  • If you have never shoot fashion before then get a stylist to help you

Reflection: The key takeaways from Phil’s talk are the need to shoot what has previously agreed with the creatives and the art buyer even though you might realise on the shoot that a better outcome is possible. Once the layout is in the can then suggest alternative strategies if time permits. The other key message was as a photographer you are there to create better images than the ones that are available from stock agencies.

Jonas Bendiksen – Magnum Talk

Jonas Bendiksen MAGNUM Photographer

Jonas Bendiksen is Norwegian and was born in 1977. He began his career at the age of 19 as an intern at Magnum’s London office, before leaving for Russia to pursue his own work as a photojournalist. Throughout the several years he spent there, Bendiksen photographed stories from the fringes of the former Soviet Union, a project that was published as the book Satellites (2006). In Russia and elsewhere, he often focuses on isolated communities and enclaves. In 2005, with a grant from the Alicia Patterson Foundation, he started working on The Places We Live, a project on the growth of urban slums across the world, which combines still photography, projections, and voice recordings to create three-dimensional installations. Bendiksen has received numerous awards, including the 2003 Infinity Award from the International Center of Photography, New York, and second place in the Daily Life Stories for World Press Photo, as well as first prize in the Pictures of the Year International Awards. His editorial clients include National Geographic, Geo, Newsweek, The Independent on Sunday Review, The Sunday Times Magazine, The Telegraph Magazine, and The Rockefeller Foundation.

He was a Magnum Intern which provided him with a small bursary that he used to find help fund a project in Siberia which ended up lasting for 7 years. He pitched the project to magazines. The work was about unofficial satellite states that got created in Siberia following the breakup of the Soviet Union. Each state created its own currency and governments that did not have official recognition.

The next project was called places we live and was a story about urban slums which are the fastest growing habitat occupied by humans. Jonas describes his photography as storytelling and he feels that is grounded in his personal practice and crosses over into his commercial practice.

His most recent project is titled ‘Last Testament’ is a story about 7 men who have legitimate claims to being the new messiah (the second coming) and required him to visit different parts of the world to create the body of work.

Jonas approaches all work in the same way and commercial work informs other work. There are different modus operandi that require the use of different skills and build on each other.

Jonas described a number of his different commercial assignments that play to things that he enjoys in life.

Red Bull commission a lot of outdoor action orientated campaigns. Jonas describe these as tough guy imagery such as the Search and Rescue teams from his native Norway.

The next project was a campaign for Land Rover that was conceived as a photographic road trip that captured the vehicle in situations that play to the features of the vehicle. The campaign involved bringing multiple elements together including video of Jonas. Overall the project is aligned to the brand values of Land Rover.

The final project Jonas discussed was a campaign shoot for HSBC in Shanghai where the imagery would be used in HSBC communication with Chinese clients.

Reflection: Review the above narrative I can see how Jonas  is a good example of a photographer who combines art and commercial practices together where each informs each other. Combing the two would be for me an ideal strategy for my own photographic practice however I want to combine it with a third element which my current career in Financial Services.

Sarah Thomson – Magnum Talk

Sarah Thomson Head of Art Production, One Unilever at Ogilvy

Sarah is Head of Art Production at One Unilever at Ogilvy in London. Prior to this she was Head of Art Production at Fallon and an Art Buyer at DDB London and AMV BBDO. Before working as an Art Buyer, Sarah was Gallery Manager at the Zelda Cheatle Gallery, and worked for Nadav Kander and Photographer’s Agent, Catherine Collins. She has judged numerous Photography and Illustration Awards, and advised, talked and contributed to various books on the subject of advertising, photography and illustration.

I made a series of notes from Sarah’s presentation . which are recorded below:

During the first part of Sarah’s talk she discussed the importance of the photographer having a clear definition of who they are:

  • What genre of photography is your area of focus
  • Can you articulate your personal vision photographically
  • All show your best work
  • Show work that defines you as a photographer
  • Include that show how you work (behind the scenes)
  • Put your main themes at the front
  • Other work can be included as thumbnails at the back

Reflection: Based on my current project I view myself as a visual storyteller who uses the landscape a the backdrop to those stories. Though I have lifestyle and portrait images in my portfolio.

Creating a Portfolio

  • When creating a portfolio only show your best work better to have 20 strong images than 30 images of average quality.
  • Take an iPad to show moving images. In the evolving world of commercial photography it is now important to show a creative capability for moving images.
  • Personal projects can help underpin a commercial practice with many professional photographers combining both

Reflection: My current portfolio does not include moving image clips to show work I have created in video format in the past. i should review some of my video footage and if I conclude the work is strong enough I could create a short show real from that work.

How to get going?

  • Stay passionate about your work
  • Keep you website up to date
  • When you take a assignment consider the commercial benefits beyond that specific assignment. If it will complement your portfolio and allow you to take on bigger jobs it might make sense to accept the assignment at a lower rate than your normal rate.
  • Ensure you are comfortable you can deliver on the day for any commercial assignments

Stay Visible

  • Pitch work
  • Use social media: Blog, Tweet (link and reference members of your team)
  • Use creative networks
  • Enter competitions

Reflection: I am actively posting images on social media and I am entering competitions on a regular basis so I certainly ticking a number of boxes within this space. What I need to consider is more networking activities and working on building a team for commercial work though this is probably something which needs to take a back seat until after the MA.

Get Noticed

  • Remain focused on your work and don’t get sidetracked

Approach

  • Contact people via email initially, Use LinkedIn
  • Email to arrange a meeting
  • Research sources: AoP, Campaign, FileFx
  • Search advertising credits to find names of Art Buyer, Art Producers, Integrated Producers (today the role of identify photographers for a campaign is done by a number of different roles.)
  • Take cards when meeting art directors as they provide a visual memory to your work.
  • Consider using MOO custom cards that allow you to put multiple images on business cards
  • Create an on-line version for those who want a digital version
  • Once you have a contact create a newsletter to keep contacts up to date on your work

Reflection : I have business cards and when I introduced myself to Simon Roberts and Edmund Clark i handed them samples of my work to create a visual connection.

Agents

  • For some people having an Agent to represent you can reduce the time spent on developing and following up on leads
  • Use an Agent to secure introductions and expand your contacts list
  • Even having an agent on your side it is important to stay in contact with them and ensure they are continuing to work for you
  • At the start of the engagement agree the commission percentage for securing commissions
  • Provide them with up to date work to make their task of securing work easier
  • Make older work visible as this could also be a source of commissions

Reflection: Based on m y strategy of operating a commercial practice alongside my current employment engaging an agent might be a useful strategy to allow me to focus on the creation of work rather than following up on leads.

Production

  • Build a production team so that when you undertake bigger commercial projects you have a team you can call upon to ensure you are able to deliver the required project

Working to a creative brief

  • Show layouts so that creative understand how you will interpret the brief
  • Take responsibility for the brief
  • Read all the details of the brief to ensure you have correctly understood the brief
  • Speak to the creatives who are likely to have spent months working on the brief
  • Learn about the brand and its values to ensure the brief is interpreted correctly and will reduce the risk of going against established brand rules
  • Explain how you plan to shoot the job. This provides to the creatives that you have understood the brief
  • Stay calm and evolve with the brief
  • Stay within the overall budget

How to work with Creatives?

  • Be collaborative after all it’s a team deal
  • Shared responsibility with the creative
  • Contact with the end client is likely to be via the Art Producer

Pre-Production Meeting

  • Check all of the details with in the brief
  • Walk through the different elements with the creatives
  • The PPM is the time to convince the client that you can deliver
  • The pre-production meeting can be viewed as a piece of theatre where everyone has a role to play

On Set

  • Work with the creatives and shoot the layout
  • Keep everyone happy
  • Deliver on the day
  • This is the day that the magic happens
  • Coffee and food help keep everyone happy

Usage

  • Agree fees and confirm usage which will influence the fees
  • Some clients will ask for access in perpetuity which in essence like owning the copyright as it limits the future usage of an image
  • Ensure you confirm with the Art Buyer that you can use the images for your own portfolio to allow you to pitch for future work

Edmund Clark and Johnathan Watkins at PhotoLondon – Talk

Talk with Edmund Clark and Johnathan Watkins (Director at IKON Gallery in Birmingham) which is part of the PhotoLondon Talk that accompanies PhotoLondon Show.

‘Edmund Clark: The Day the Music Died features a linked series of publications and photographic projects completed over more than 10 years. This site-specific exhibition invokes an immersive and sensory engagement with the experiences of observation, detention, and disorientation explored through the artist’s work.’ (International Center of Photography, 2018)

Clark has recently exhibited at the IKON Gallery a show that will get discussed later in the talk. Clark is currently exhibiting in New York at IPC with a show titled ‘The day the music died’ ( a song by Don MacLean.) The IPC show is the third time Edmund has exhibited work from his war on terror bodies of work. This work has already been show in different forms at the Imperial War Museum (London) and in Germany. Each time the work has been shown Edmund explained that its configuration has changed to work with the gallery space and new work has been introduced alongside previous bodies of work. (Reflection: In preparing for my own exhibition this is useful point of reflection that the space can influence the way the work is read.) The shape of the gallery allowed Clark construct a central enclosed space to house projections for new body of work titled 198 2000 which is images of abuse of people held in detention. 198 relates to the number of images released. The space means that the reader will walk in front of the projector beam and the images abuse executed in our name by government will fall on our bodies.

Installation Shoot, Day the Music Died, Edmund Clark, IPC, January 2018

The outside of the space has television screen showing images of individuals who are related to the war on terror. Another wall hosts the redacted documents related to detention of terror suspects. Another wall show picture of the safe houses used to hold detainees as they were  transported or detained alongside images from the detention camps. Clark states that the banality of these images is a way for people to connect with these places as the images could be seen as similar to the images one might take of our own homes when trying to rent a room on a site such as AirBnB.

Extraordinary Rendition was a new strategy for visual arts based around Investigative Journalism (Reflection contemporary art can take on new genres and forms as we explore different ways of telling stories and therefore one should not be afraid to explore new paths.) Clark discussed the way technology has changed views on fighting terror and the legality of unmanned drones. Nobody is there to record the effects of these weapons and impact on the ground which can make its feel this type of warfare is somehow clinical with no collateral damage that photographers and journalists on the ground would traditionally record. There are questions of the legality of these types of strikes where power is projected from homes in the USA.

The IPC exhibition was named after one of the songs played to disorientate detainees. Clark indicates knowing this fact means has fundamentally changed the way he view this song. Many other audio that we associated with our lives such as the Simpsons was also played to control those in detention alongside the use of physical interrogation techniques such as water boarding.

The talk proceeded to talk about the recent exhibition at IKON ‘A Place of Hate’ (Ikon-gallery.org, 2018)  Clark has been in residency at the prison for a number of years and the work on exhibition has been created with the approval of the HMP. ‘

Edmund Clark, In Place of Hate, HMP Grendon, 2017, courtesy of the artist Ikon and Flowers Gallery

Established in 1962, HMP Grendon requires inmates to accept responsibility for their offence. Within the prison environment they can exercise a degree of control over the day-to-day running of their lives, making a commitment to intensive group therapy and democratic decision-making, whilst holding each other to account. Evidence shows that Grendon has delivered lower levels of violence in prison and reduced instances of reoffence after release.’ (Ikon-gallery.org, 2018

Edmund Clark, In Place of Hate, HMP Grendon, 2017, courtesy of the artist Ikon and Flowers Gallery

The exhibition was split across multiple rooms each room displaying different aspects of the life of residents of Grendon. 1.98m2 is lightbox constructed based on the dimensions of a prison cell. Residents spend from 7:30pm locked down in their cells. The lightbox contains pressed flowers that Clark collected from the unused spaces in the prison. Clark explained the flower were pressed using prison paper and due to a lack of experience with the technique a number of the flowers have rotted. He explained that once residents became aware of his collecting of flowers they who inform him of the location of different flowers in the prison. The plants in the display are symbolic of the variety, detail and fragility of the residents going through therapy. Johnathan felt the exhibition was transformative in way it makes us look at people in prisons. (Reflection: Using non photographic material to help convey meaning is something that during the last module I started to do with the rubbing of the piers and surrounding structures. This something that is potentially worth considering for inclusion in the exhibition. The rubbing patterns remind me of the general ripples we see on the surface of water surrounding the landing staging stages and piers. An abstraction of a physical structure can look the same as an abstract view of the water.)

The second part of the exhibition is screen showing paths that residents can take with the walls of the prison. The videos do not contain images of residents referencing the that that when you enter prison you disappear from society. When residents accidentally entered the videos of theses walks Clark has used a mosaic effect to remove them from the videos. The longest possible journey lasts some 14 minutes and is around the perimeter of the prison. The clips are exhibited as continuous loops to mirror the repetitive nature of journey’s with the prison. (Reflection at the current time my exhibition does not incorporate any form of moving images though early in the project I did create short timelapse videos of some of my walks that were used to capture images during the “Informing Contexts” Module. This is something that is worth considering as part of the exhibition.)

The third part of the exhibition is a recording of a group therapy session based on psycho-drama where protagonists of the crime play their victims. This is based on Greek tragedy. The process is a cathartic process where we see inmates wearing masks as they play out bad behaviours and then discuss  the experience from the perspective of perpetrator, victim and witness. The session was recorded from there different angles and is displayed on three screens placed on chairs from Grendon in a therapy circle. Clark was not able to use close-ups of the inmates to ensure that if they were released at a future date they could not be recognised.

Edmund Clark, In Place of Hate, HMP Grendon, 201, courtesy of the artist Ikon and Flowers Gallery

The final part of the exhibition uses consists of projections of inmates on to the bed sheets used in the prison cells. Clark created the projections using a pinhole camera to mask the identify of the individuals in the portraits. The images were created using long exposures lasting 7 minutes. During that time subjects answered questions about themselves during the exposure. Clark commented that the images are a reflection of the words of the prisoners and this gives meaning to the images. The images do appear almost ghostly in form but when the residents was they images they made comments about the images reflecting them as a person.

The talk concluded with a questions and answers session. I asked Clark where he has show work in multiple exhibition if he felt the work was ever resolved. Clark’s response was that he felt work could be resolved even though it might be presented in different forms at future exhibitions.

I presented Clark with an invite to my FMP show in August on the back of a photograph from the series ‘Last person to leave turn off the tap’ as the images use photographic language similar to that used by Clark in his Camps series.

 

(Ikon-gallery.org, 2018)

(International Center of Photography, 2018)

 

References

  • Ikon-gallery.org. (2018). Ikon In Place of Hate. [online] Available at: https://www.ikon-gallery.org/event/edmund-clark/ [Accessed 20 Apr. 2018].
  • International Center of Photography. (2018). Edmund Clark: The Day the Music Died. [online] Available at: https://www.icp.org/exhibitions/edmund-clark-the-day-the-music-died-traveling-exhibition [Accessed 20 Apr. 2018].

David Hurn and Simon Roberts at Photographers Gallery – Talk

I decided to attend the Photographer’s Gallery talk with David Hurn and Simon Robert’s for a number of reasons. They are both exhibiting in London at the same time as my show across the river at the National Maritime Museum. Simon Robert’s work has been has contextual relevance to my practice as The Pier’s in my project featured in Simon’s Book Pierdom. While David was the source of inspiration for the print swop activity organised by Philip Singleton at the Falmouth Face to Face event in February.

I created a set of notes from the talk and include my own thoughts on the dialogue.

David and Simon first met when David critiqued Simon’s work and now they are exhibiting at the same show. David’s view is that one’s photography gets better over time. David joined the army and the start of his photographic career can be traced back to a photograph in Picture Post of a Russian soldier buying his wife a hat and that resonated with David’s childhood memory of his father buying his mother a hat. For David photography is about capturing the intimate moments between two people. For him photography hits you emotionally and can counteract propaganda. (Though there are many cases where photography has been used for propaganda purposes such as 1930’s Germany such as some of the work by August Sander during that period.) David feels his photography is actually about life and the reaction of people doing stuff. His photography can be described as observed life.

David’s view is there are many good photographer like there are many good doctors., however not all good doctors are surgeons. There are a lot of photographs being taken today and photographers need to recognise that fact. Good photographers he felt take a lot of pictures (the 10,000 hour rule.(Anon, 2018) required to become an expert) however they need to master technique which is what photographers such Don MuCullen and John Bulmer have achieved in the opinion of David Hurn. He felt mastery of photography is in essence similar to a concert pianist you play the piano a lot.

Simon Robert’s photographic degree provides structure to his photography though listening to his story about his time as a photo journalist in Sheffield you start to understand that is where he learnt to operate photography as a business. He realised the importance of owning authorship of his images there was image he took of John Prescott that was syndicated by the local newspaper and earned them more than his salary for the whole time he work at the paper. David started shooting his own projects including work about a boxer Daniel Teesdale that went on to become a story about a tap dancing boxer.

Simon said that photographers need to create stories they believe in and need to control their archive (Simon’s pension scheme.) David commented that newspapers teach you about being on time shooting regardless of the weather and he felt providing Simon with a grounding for life.

The conversation moved on to talk about Magnum Photography which David views as a benchmark for a certain type of photography. Though interestingly the most recent photographers to join the Magnum family have not photographic educations they come from other disciplines and have started to use photography as a vehicle to communicate.  David was of the opinion that a unless you are careful when selecting a photographic degree you might end up with lecturers who teach you how not to do things. He recognised the importance of selecting lecturers who are master practitioners in the an area that you want to gain mastery in otherwise there are maybe better ways to spend the money required to complete a degree. (Note: An interesting point of reflection on my own decision to go back to university to complete the Masters and the decision to select Falmouth with its reputation for having lecturers who are photographic practitioners.)

We recognise the importance of a photographer developing their own photographic voice. The last time David accepted a brief was in 1970 since then all his work has been self-initiated. When creating work from your own ideas it is important to follow through on the ideas and understand the rules of the game. David asked Simon for his strategy to which he replied that you cannot wait for others you need to work from your own personality. They both felt it was analogous to composers one say’s that Mozart is better Bach they create different work. It is important to get your work out into the public domain Editorial is shrinking now stories need to be created in 3 days. Pitching ideas to editors can make their life easier and therefore they are more likely to commission the photographer who had the idea than get another photographer. Shoot to define your voice.

Simon got a commission from Parliament from the last General Election. He had to pitch his idea to a parliamentary subcommittee, he got the commission possibly because a number of other photographers turned down the project because it stipulated in the brief that parliament would own copyright. Once he was awarded the commission he renegotiated the contract so that the work would be created as an edition of 3 and parliament would own one of each piece of work which has allowed Simon to retain copyright.

Print sales for both David and Simon are important income streams. David has a unique strategy in that he produces his work in 3 different sizes. The large two sizes are editions however he retains he right to sell small size print in an uneditioned form which he feels sits better with his own values. Simon commented on the importance of having multiple income streams so that if the market moves you are protected. For him that is editioned prints, books and commissioned work.

David made the comment that photography transitions to being art when a gallery can sell the work. David reflected on the earlier part of his career he would visit Magnum and look through loads of contact sheets to understand the work of other photographers and the fact that photographers might only select 1 or 2 images from several rolls of film to develop into prints. He referenced a lunch conversation between Henri Cartier Bresson, Eugene W Smith, Bill Brandt and himself where Bresson asked smith how many good photographs he took a year. To which Smith replied about a dozen leaving Bresson to retort you always had a high opinion of your own work. (Note of reflection if master photographers such as these might only produce a handful of great photographs in a year that is a real challenge for an MA student to develop a representative body of work for exhibition in the 2 years of a part time course where we are still developing our voices.) The conversation moved on to bias in selecting of photographers as the Great British Seaside exhibition is 4 white male photographers possible not representing gender and racial equality of society today. Similarly Magnum has been dominated by white male photographers. David’s view was that Magnum was looking to select from a certain standard of International Photographers rather than their being any form of bias in the selection process, just a lack of talent because of the environment in countries in places like South America. 

The final part of the conversation moved on to photographic legacy. David has amassed an amazing collection of photographic images which he felt is worth in the region of £3.5 million. He has used that asa bargaining tool to have the Museum in Wales agree to take his own photographic archive and create a gallery for social documentary photography. The challenge for other photographers is the cost of space required to hold archives and especially film which needs to be kept cold to prevent it deteriorating overtime. After all who wants to spend time in a chilled room reviewing negatives.

The talk concluded.

After the talk I went to speak to Simon Roberts due to his influence on my current project. I has also printed a 5×7 from the WIP of the Walton Pier Superstructure and presented it to Simon as a hand written invite to my exhibition in August. Simon though that showed a level of imagination and foresight to do that. Though on reflection I should have got someone to take a picture of me giving him the invite and then posted it on Social Media.

 

References

  •    Anon, (2018). [online] Available at: https://problogservice.com/2012/03/15/what-malcolm-gladwell-really-said-about-the-10000-hour-rule/ [Accessed 20 Apr. 2018].

PhotoLondon Talk – Simon Frederick and Renee Mussai

21st November was the first PhotoLondon Talk of the 2018 series with Renee Mussai and Simon Frederick. Renee is a senior curator at Autograph and Simon is fine art and portrait photographer and Television producer.

The talk started with a discussion of shared photographic influences which include Ghanaian photographer James Barnor that they had both meet on separate occasions. James was a major influence for both of them and was a prolific photographer in the UK but shoot covers for Drum an influential South African magazine that employed photographers across both sides of the apartheid divide covering a mix of lifestyle, fashion and journalism.

Drum, James Barnor, (the Guardian, 2017)

Renee asked Simon who he would invite to a dinner party and his response was James Brown, Malcolm X, Winston Churchill and Edmund Mosses. Renee asked why Simon had selected a male orientated dinner party to which he replied if he had known the rules he would have selected a different mix.

Simon explained he does not have any formal photographic training he only started taking photographs seriously when he was in his 30s and was working in advertising.

He explained one of his early images was taken from a car in the wing mirror because he could not stop to take the picture of two men leaning against the wall in the East End.

Renee and Simon explained his career as a series of phases. He said “When photography falls in love with you it’s the only thing you can do.”

Phase 1:

Simon’s initial break was with a photograph he took of a boy band “Damage” at the Jazz Café which got used but the Independent newspaper as they did not have a photographer at Damage’s final gig. They asked Simon to photograph Erika Badu and this lead to a successful career touring with different artists including Lenny Kravitz.

After doing concert photography for a while Simon realised he did not want to spend his life on the road. He admired the work of Testino and LaChapelle so he spent time studying images by those individuals practicing until he could create images of the same quality. He put together his portfolio shooting friends and family however when to took the work to picture editors he was at best meeting the assistants and was not getting any assignments.

Phase 2:

Simon leaves the UK for Portugal and gets a different response he gets to meet Portuguese agencies who are willing to listen to his ideas and he gets to shoot campaigns for major clients including Volvo and Audi. He says his work is based on the 3 Hs (Head for ideas, Heart for passion and Hand the craft.)

He was asked to do a shoot for Benfica Television and decided to shoot in his own way which was to take images from the dressing room an area of the stadium that fans never get to visit.

Benfica Locker Room (Canvas.pantone.com, 2017)

While in Portugal he was asked to shoot a campaign for one of the political parties which is a point where Simon says he truly realised the power of imagery and the leader is now the Vice President of Portugal. Around this time Simon shoot a 12 page spread for an art magazine with a series of gay men that was designed to be viewed by straight men. The resulting images were very striking and managed to create a strong balance between naked men and dressed men.

Phase 3:

Simon returned to London and marked his return with a project mymates@work where he created a body of work using his friends and models but each image used a different style. Typically as photographers we are told to define ourself through a recognisable style and in this case Simon decided to break that rule which help differentiate himself from other photographers at that time.

I really like a quote from Simon where he was discussing this phase of his career where he said the the difference between and amateur photographer and a professional is that an amateur only has to create one great image to define their work while a professional photographer has to get it perfect every time.

He views the subjects of his portrait images as collaborators because it requires both to work together to capture the real person. He felt anyone get capture the likeness of the person but really good photographers are able to get to the mood of the person the inner person that most people never get to see. I recognise the trait in my own portrait photography as I feel my most successful images are created when the sitting is a collaborative event

Phase 4:

Simon got invited in 2015 by Sky Arts to go to Italy. He was in the room with the Isabella Rossellini and Oliviero Toscani thinking he had been invited to be a contestant but instead they asked him to be head judge for the first series of the show. This further boosted Simon’s profile and acted as a pivotal point and a friend suggested he should go into film production.

Sky Arts Master of Photography 2015 (rts.org.uk, 2017)

Phase 5:

This brings the story up to date with Simon producing his own show “Black is the new Black” about influential black people in the UK. The shows title was taken from fashion and Yves Saint Laurents comments about the fact that every women should have a little black dress where black will always be the new black.

The individuals featured on the show resulted in portraits that’s were acquired by the National Portrait Gallery to address the lack of pictures of influential black people in UK culture.

Simon Frederick is on the 2018 Powerlist of “Britain’s most influential people of African and African Caribbean heritage”.  The final comment maybe shows that even today we still view people based on how they look rather than the person. If fact these lists that segregate people based on race or gender do the opposite of promoting diversity they reinforce division. My own view is that we should recognise people on merit to create true integration and diversity.

References

  • the Guardian. (2017). ​Celebrating ​James Barnor – the first photographer to shoot Ghana in colour ​. [online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/gallery/2016/sep/22/street-style-ghana-fashion-photographer-james-barnor#img-3 [Accessed 10 Dec. 2017].
  • Rts.org.uk. (2017). Sky Arts to air pan-Europe photography talent show | Royal Television Society. [online] Available at: https://rts.org.uk/article/sky-arts-air-pan-europe-photography-talent-show [Accessed 10 Dec. 2017].
  • Canvas.pantone.com. (2017). The Locker Room S L BENFICA on Pantone Canvas Gallery. [online] Available at: http://canvas.pantone.com/gallery/6718705/The-Locker-Room-S-L-BENFICA [Accessed 10 Dec. 2017].

Krakow How To Collect Photographs – Gerry Badger

Location : Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts (Main Hall)

Venue: The venue was a large modern theatre in the Academy of Fine Arts.

The following text is a summary of my notes from Gerry Badger’s talk on collecting photographs. As a photographer who is looking to sell fine art images as part of my practice getting the thoughts of Gerry Badger who helps individuals collect images and has work with Martin Part of the influential books on such as the History of Photobooks (that some people consider as a bucket list of collectable photobooks) would help provide insight into the photographic art market.

Gerry’s talk started by summarising his key points in the first few minutes of his talk:

  • Buy what you like because there is no guarantee that photographs will go up in value
  • Buy best photographs that are in the best condition when looking for images to add to your collection

Gerry then provided us with a brief history of photograph as an art form.

The start of photography as art is linked to a number of different events:

  • Helen Gee put on photography exhibitions in the 1950s at Limelight in New York
  • John Szarkowski became director at the Museum of Modern Art and changed the museums curatorial position on collecting photography as art rather than a record of fact.
  • Ansel Adams starts retire prints to create rarity within a medium that is based on the ability to create an unlimited number of copies from the original negative.
  • Harry Lune founds the art market in 1970s with the Annual show in New York APAD Association of Photographic Dealers

One of the big concerns for collectors in the photography market is that it is easy for photographers to make more prints and therefore devalue images that have already been created.

To create rarity in the photographic art market prints are considered as vintage if they are created within 5 years of the negative being created.

The photo art market divides into a number of categories:

  • 19th Century – images created by 19th century photographers
  • 20th Century Master – images created by the icons of 20th Century photography such as Ansel Adams, Edward Weston.
  • Contemporary Market – consists of other published photographers. The contemporary photograph market divides into two broad groups photography and photography that is sold as art. Images considered as art are valued a factor 10 times comparable photography prints.

The final part of Gerry’s talk focused on providing the audience with advice on building a collection of photographs:

  • Library of Congress photographic archive: iIt is possible to print images from the archive for free and the archive contains many famous images
  • Photo swops: swop images with other photographers to build up your collection without having to spend money. David Huron is a good example of someone who has used photo swops to build a collection.
  • Gallery buying: buy from a reputable gallery always select the best condition prints if multiple prints of the same subject are for sale.

When trying to value prints it is important to understand the edition size and if those editions are location or size specific. Even if an image is an edition of 5 thought could equate to 30 or 60 images if the image is offered in 3 sizes from 4 different galleries. Some photographers adjust price as editions a start to sell however that can backfire as collectors can be viewed as mercenary. Another type of prints are those know as posthumous editions that are created by the families estate but have questionable value as it reduces rarity.