Photography in London

An easy journey up to London and to New Zealand House, a short walk from Piccadily. The event is organised in conjunction with Globalnet 21 who asked for a fee before the day began which made me look into this event a little closer;  the fee requested was not for the day which was free but for Globalnet 21, an organisation that arranges debate platforms.

The organisation running the day is called Photovoice, a charity that concentrates on the way photography can empower people not just in this country but around the world. Here is their statement …

PhotoVoice’s vision is for a world in which no one is denied the opportunity to speak out and be heard.

PhotoVoice’s mission is to build skills within disadvantaged and marginalised communities using innovative participatory photography and digital storytelling methods so that they have the opportunity to represent themselves and create tools for advocacy and communications to achieve positive social change.

However, there is a political edge to this event that puts me off wanting to become involved. For instance, this day was advertised as celebrating the opening of The Photographer’s Gallery yet there is no mention of the new gallery in the Photovoice space.

The first talk I attend is about Visual Literacy, in particular reading photographs, and is given by Jenny Matthews. More about this on my blog about a digital photography course that I am doing.

There is also a talk about text and photographs; I feel the need to understand photography as a medium as well as be working in it.

In the afternoon, there is a “keynote” panel debate with a few distinguished people such as the photographer Simon Norfolk who I saw last thursday. He however does not appear and there is no apology or explanation given for this; I was also looking forward to seeing the film about Norfolk and Burke but the time of this was changed and so I missed it. Instead, there was a collection of photographs projected called “Imaginario Coletivo” which presumably came from one of the projects arranged through Photovoice.

The keynote discussion is entitled, “What role does truth play in photography for social change!?” I am a little wary of discussions with political intentions but thought it would probably be worth listening to. It might have been but I left near the beginning when one of the speakers started talking, saying that she was in the habit of appropriating other people’s photographs to make her own composites. A photograph was also shown of Tony Blair using a mobile phone to photograph himself in front of fire and billowing smoke; this is an interesting photoshopped image but I think it is incorrect to view Blair as someone who got enjoyment out of sending people to war. Photoshop is being used to enforce a prejudiced point of view rather than truth although there might be some psychological justification for this.

One visitor felt he was mislead and commented, “The quality of the photographs at the various stalls was incredibly amateurish. It doesn’t matter how well meaning or radical you are in your outlook, if the quality of your photos is this bad than it is all meaningless. It was embarrassing. The organizers should hang their heads in shame but somehow I feel that these talentless deluded individuals will regard it as a great success.”

Leaving the Photovoice event early means that I have time to visit The Photographer’s Gallery which is staging it’s opening and what actually attracted me to London on this day. It is not a long walk and I find myself entering the gallery through a new door while in front of me is a digital wall showing large animated GIFFs. A staircase leads downstairs to an excellent bookshop while next to this is the print room.

Taking the new lift upstairs, I visit the present exhibition “Oil” by Burtinsky; more of this later. I look forward to seeing more of the new gallery especially the Camera Obscura room.

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