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Category Archives: Exhibitions
William Klein, for the benefit of those who don’t know, is an American photographer/writer/film maker based in Paris, whose utilisation of mixed media to provide an almost visceral energy to his work seems as electric today as it did in the 1980′s when it was also pretty revolutionary.
Daido Moriyama is a Japanese photographer whose prolific and edgy photography accelerated the growth of the form in Japan and propelled him to worldwide renown on the back of a staggering body of published work initially recording impressions of Tokyo and latterly New York.
Combining these two in one exhibition is a masterstroke of curation. At a high level, both artists seek to provide an impression of location; in the case of New York to convey the mad energy typified by swirling crowds and endless neon. They do it in very different ways. Klein controls his medium, rephotographing contact sheets, vandalised with paints; Moriyama takes an opposite approach, photographing endlessly, creating a cumulative almost voyeuristic view of the city. At times the two approaches crossover, Klein photographed Tokyo, Moriyama New York and its fascinating to see the extent to which these two different artists ran parallel.
The other striking element of the exhibition is the extent to which both photographers push the envelope of the medium. Moriyama in his “Farewell Photography” pushes the image through extremes of focus, contrast and grain to almost unrecognisable abstraction. Klein’s manipulation of the multiple media he employs, similarly breaks out of the mould, manipulation of focus, framing and depth of field alone is striking enough, to add other media into the mix takes his work to a place where the impression is everything.
The vitality of the work on exhibition here is astonishing and energising. When I say I remember why I went to film school, I’m not being flippant. I lived in London for thirty years and lost the ability to see it. Its one of the reasons I left. These two artists succeed in what I consider to be the test that differentiates art from craft. You leave this exhibition with your perceptions altered, a different person. It is that good.
The exhibition closes in three days time, one last visit then…
Last tuesday, flushed with the success of being awarded gold in the Brighton & Hove Camera Club Projected image competition I impetuously volunteered to give a short talk about my work to an audience more used to hearing from proper photographers like Guy Edwardes and established photojournalists like Toby Smith and Andrew Hasson. This week has been spent in the main trying to work out what I can talk about that wouldn’t come across as arrogant, patronising or fatuous!
Interestingly, for me at least, the realisation that I was going to structure the talk around a set of images meant that I looked at my portfolio in an entirely different way and this helped me to discover a few things about myself and my photography. It helped me to pick out threads of commonality that I wasn’t particularly aware of, or perhaps hadn’t considered before.
I started with digital photography about five years ago, but only began to take it seriously two years ago after I’d lived in Brighton for a year and a half. It’s been a hell of a learning curve and I’ve enjoyed every minute. I bought a Canon EOS 550D in spring 2010 and upgraded to a Canon EOS 5D Mk III this summer after realising that a lot of my work could broadly be described as landscape photography.
And that is an important step – I’d deliberately refused to specialise, reasoning that as a relative beginner, albeit one with a degree in Photography, Film & Television gained in 1984, I had a steep technical curve in front of me and I didn’t want to box myself into a corner by learning a limited set of techniques allied to a particular style of photography. So for twelve months I’ve dabbled with Street photography, Macro photography, Landscape, Urban, Architectural, Night, Travel….you name it, I shot it.
I have learned a lot of technology in the last two years, not least about light. I’ve been using Lee filters, Polarising, Neutral Density, and am leaning towards getting it as right in the camera as I can, before working on the picture in Lightroom. And all the while, reading , looking and learning from other photographers.
Realising that compared to many people in the audience I am a raw beginner encouraged me to think of a framework in which I had something to offer that would be interesting and I hope amusing. Eventually I decided to structure the presentation around the notion of deliberation. By this I mean that the percentage of my best work that could be described as happily accidental has fallen over the last two years and I am now much more likely to capture the image I set out to capture, even when time and conditions are unfavourable. Accident still plays a part, in fact I would say that experimentation and pushing the boundaries are just as important to progress as technical mastery, however I’m now in the position where I can be pretty confident of getting decent shots regardless of the conditions I’m working in.
I chose seven images to talk about, all of them flawed from a purely technical perspective, but all were in some manner experiments and in concept at least say a lot more about me as a photographer. These pictures represent where I want to be. I’m remembering the influences that made me go to Film School, the cinematic genius of Orson Welles, Nicholas Roeg, the german expressionists and american directors such as John Huston. And I’m seeing the influence this has had on my photography, the drama of “A taste of Evil”, the abstract expressionism of “Walkabout” and “The Man Who Fell To Earth”, the sweeping landscapes of John Huston all bring a sense of drama that I’m seeing in some of my own work.
Skywalking for example was an image I planned fairly meticulously. The inspiration was a sequence from the film “Walkabout” directed by Nicholas Roeg in which a girl becomes lost in the australian outback and there is a wonderful point of view shot of people walking towards her, rendered indistinct by the heat haze they seem to float above the desert floor. This shot was taken at low tide and sunset on Brighton Beach, reflected in a large puddle and flipped 180 degrees to get that other worldliness.
‘My Bird Sings’ is a different kind of shot. One that I’m particularly proud of given that it was taken in a tiny window of opportunity (about 90 seconds) in very difficult lighting. The picture is a very private moment shared between the lady cleaning the floor and a bird, singing on the window. I knew the moment wouldn’t last so my challenge was to capture enough detail to be able to bring the lady out of the shadows, without blowing out the window entirely. I composed the shot into three zones, leaving a lot of foreground to emphasise the privacy of the moment. The camera is an interloper here.
The final image, “Hope” was one that presented itself by accident. I was in the right place at the right time. as soon as I saw this couple, the picture was fully formed in my mind. The pose reminded me of second world war propaganda posters – people looking up into the sky at the sparring fighter planes. Without wanting to validate the prime minister’s ridiculous assertion that we are in the economic equivalent of a war, I saw in this couple’s demeanour an element of hope for a future. Another private moment.
I rarely shoot people and don’t think of myself as a people photographer. For all that, people bring another dimension to some photographs and I am seeing more opportunities as I continue my journey.
Finally, the evening wasn’t just about my journey! There were nine other photographers presenting, none of them less than fascinating! It made me realise more than ever the value of the advice my tutor at Film School gave me “Don’t worry about ‘style’, you are who you are, your ‘style’ is in everything you do.” Looking at the variety and quality of work on display yesterday I couldn’t help but agree.
I really enjoyed the experience of presenting to an expert audience. Beyond that, it’s an interesting way to get to know people in the Club and encourages interaction. I certainly hope to do more in the future – must go and shoot a few more photographs first!
Manufactured Landscapes is a film by Jennifer Baichwal following photographer Edward Burtynsky as he documents the effects of China’s industrial revolution on the planet. Sites such as the Three Gorges Dam, which is bigger by 50% than any other dam in the world and displaced over a million people, factory floors over a kilometre long, and the breathtaking scale of Shanghai’s urban renewal are the subjects and the work creates a cognitive dissonance between the appreciation of the pictures themselves and disgust at the scale of the disruption to the planet.
Burtynsky has been described as political and an activist but he is neither of these things. He is not a polemical artist in the truest sense of the word, rather he puts these things out into the world so that the viewer might make up his or her own mind. As he put it himself during the Q & A session that followed the screening, the viewer is being invited to consider the possibility that the luxuries we take for granted, produced by the oil age have another side to them, that we are wrecking the planet in merely maintaining a standard of living that we have come to expect. This is a tough message and Burtynsky draws a parallel to the research that suggested a causal link between cigarettes and cancer in the 1960′s – people chose to ignore it because it was easier and more comfortable to pretend it was untrue.
One point Burtynsky made during the Q&A session resonated particularly with me. Many of my peers in the IT industry subscribe to the prevailing neo-liberal, libertarian school of thought on the basis that there is no problem because as was demonstrated by the Information Age, our capacity to dream up newer, faster and better solutions will keep us one jump ahead of the game. This is a dangerous fallacy. As Burtynsky pointed out, the Information Age and the oncoming Biotechnology age depend on the continuation of the preceding Industrial age to provide components. The wreckage continues, illustrated in photographs of computer components piled higher than houses being picked over by peasants for any recyclable metals. all the while, degrading slowly and leaking their poisons into the earth to the extent that on this particular site the water table is contaminated.
The photographs are often breathtakingly gorgeous, even though they describe the toxic effects that mankind has visited upon the planet. I will be visiting his exhibition OIL at the Photographer’s Gallery which is running until July 1st and if you are even slightly interested I suggest you do too!
Thanks to the London Festival of Photography for organising this screening, and thanks too to Edward Burtynsky for taking the time to participate in the Q&A session. It was an excellent and stimulating evening and time very well spent.
Update: 22 June
I visited the OIL exhibition at the Photographer’s Gallery yesterday and I really can’t recommend it enough (exhibition and venue both!). Seen as full size prints, these photographs are absolutely outstanding. I may very well go back…
I’m really delighted to have had two photographs selected for the “Perspectives of Brighton” exhibition at FaB. As things turn out, the pictures were taken about 15 minutes apart on the same day. Strange.
The exhibition runs from 5th to the 27th of May 2012 as part of the Brighton Fringe Festival.
FaB is a very popular hangout for photographers and various creative types working in the buzzing North Laines area of Brighton. It’s close to the station and rivals Cafe Coho as my favourite Brighton cafe!
We are having a preview night on the 4th May where all the contributing photographers will be available to discuss their work and consume copious amounts of coffee and cake!
Check us out in May – FaB is at 64-65 North Road, Brighton BN1 1YD