A photographer at the Hay Festival 2016

“The illiterate of the future will be the person ignorant of the use of the camera as well as the pen.” Laszlo Moholy-Nagy

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an avid reader

A two hour drive in the early morning through misty landscapes and roads largely devoid of the cars that later on in the day will be infesting them as it is the Bank Holiday at the end of May and a Saturday which is change-over day resulting in people going on holiday and coming back from holiday not always in opposite directions. However, the mayhem does not start till later and I find myself reaching Hay on Wye in the time suggested by my Sat Nav in spite of a wait at the toll bridge.

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the 60’s comes to Hay !?

I call my friends who are camping here but there phone is not switched on as yet. Finding the appropriate camp site is not difficult since I have been texted their exact location.
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Moray, a friend, brewing up in the campsite

Julie is out and about as I approach and Moray is sitting up inside over a brew with toast in the cooker’s grill. We chat awhile over breakfast about the Hay Festival. The folk musician Danny Thompson comes up for discussion following a concert the previous evening of Appalachian folk music. Moray is surprised that Thompson emigrated to the United States and so am I but reflect that this might have been a result of the ingrained attitude in the United Kingdom towards, well life in general at times! America is much more liberal towards the arts as a whole and I expect Thompson ironically found more support for his folk music across the pond.
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bus stop outside the festival

I mention this because as I walk into the site, an official accosts me. Perhaps he saw me taking a photograph of the bus stop outside where people were queuing up or maybe he just noticed the camera, a small one hardly bigger than a phone, strung around my neck. Of course, I am used to being challenged as a photographer but am still surprised to be told that no photography is allowed on site and that if I am seen with a camera, I might be asked to leave since cameras are not actually allowed on site unless one has permission.
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entrance to the festival

After burying the camera in my bag, I enter the site and seeing the media centre, decide to enquire further about photographing here. Although I am with a group of students for whom I would like to provide photographs for our blog, permission can not be given. They can however send me a link from where photographs can be downloaded; they also inform me that contrary to the official who challenged me on entry, photography of the general site is permitted subject to the usual restrictions such as not including children.
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The food hall

I can’t help reflect a little upon this. The attitude of the Press Office would be understandable if they had sent the link to where photographs can be downloaded (later I find it on the Hay Festival website) as they said they would but they don’t; the official seems to reflect the popular misconception of photography as a form of aggression. Photographs can appear to be devoid of imagination yet they are also objects to be read though in a different way to the books that are the lifeblood of this festival. Someone in the cafe where I write this shows me a Guardian headline discussing literary festivals.
Last night I was photographing an exhibition on the request of the painter. I found myself met with a blinkered response. Painters tend to see photography as a particular kind of representation they do not see that it might also have depth, a depth similar to that found in a painting, to that which can be read in a book. However, the public are largely uneducated in regard to photography and do not see the implications inherent within it. Painting continues to largely dominate the arts yet, of course, it is photography we see everyday and almost everywhere, not paintings.
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tutor Nina and her son

There is a convivial attitude at the festival. The need to share a table while drinking one’s beverage does not incur any hostility rather friendliness. At the beginning of the talk, a sign flashed up to say that photography is forbidden during the events which helps to clarify the situation; I also hear that to photograph briefly at the beginning of a talk is also acceptable. This makes sense.
The first talk I attend is about the artist Velasquez. I can not help but be struck by the author talking as if the characters in one painting must have existed because Velasquez painted them. He was however, not a photographer and his mode of representation can not be as realistic as the photograph is even though there is a remarkable realism in his work. His faces are lifelike in a remarkable way yet this surely contains a fictional element unlike that of the photograph.
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outside the festival toilets

My next talk is about 1606, the year Shakespeare wrote King Lear among other plays. The book being aired here is about the relationship between the politics of the time and the matter of the plays Shakespeare wrote. Afterwards, I see the actor Benedict Cumberbatch in the crowd, leaving; he has recently been acting in a series of Shakespeare’s history plays in the BBC film, The Hollow Crown, in which he played Richard II. Am starting to get a feel for the festival.
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My final talk is the Russian Nobel prize winning author, Svetlana ???, who is interviewed by BBC Russian correspondent . A riveting talk.
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Nina Milton, authoress, creative writing tutor with the OCA

I meet and chat with OCA tutor and author, Nina Milton, and another student called Pat;The Open College of the Arts account of the visit is HERE Before leaving, there is dinner with my friends to be enjoyed.

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goodbye to my friends after a pleasant dinner

Yes, I would come again.
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other diners in the camping area

Photo London 22.05.2016

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Somerset House flying a Photo London flag

A cuppa at the Real Food cafe before the first talk.

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Ewing who was responsible for series of lectures

The chat is with a dance photographer of many years standing who has worked at Sadler Wells among many other places. Lois Greenfield has had three books published. “Breaking Bounds” pictures from the optical unconscious! Or King within the square using Hassleblad. No auto focus! Perfect framing. Looking for the miracle moment. “Moving Still” making an art form. No longer concerned with gravity. Using mirrors meant off screen space involved. Curating and sequencing work! Co-created work. Studio based; wants to understand the dancer before making pictures of them. Gesture and expression not just position of the body. Photoshop, the P word, is not part of her work!! No compositing. “Airborne” another body of work. Looking for relationships between forms. Deciding to shoot before or after the peak moment rather than at what might be the optimum moment. Instability appearing as stable! Speed a technical issue; Lois uses strobes to get enough lighting! The chat ends with notification of a book signing!
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I do not really want a copy of the book or to meet the photographer but there is another book signing going on at the Atlas Gallery. Officially, it is over and the photographer, Nick Brandt, is no longer doing dedications so I just pick up a copy, shrink wrapped, which has been signed. The exhibition of which I do not buy the book, is a series of poignant large photographs, which show areas of wasteland in which large photographs have been placed ( a series of photographs on show reveal how this was done; Photoshop was not used). The fact that areas in which these creatures once roamed ( elephants, giraffes, rhinoceros, lions etc) are now scenes of urban decay is a chilling one; a comment on the mad rush of contemporary civilisation in which progress is proving destructive. The photographs seem a little lower in contrast which is a good alternative to the high contrast imagery that tends to dominate much photography. This work is another example of nature photography in Photo London!
I go back to Damiani books to purchase a copy of Diorama by Hiroshi Sugimoto; I have other work by him but since I saw this exhibition I am interested in buying a copy. The book is expertly printed. I remind the publisher that he had offered it to me for €60 and he seems surprised; the cost is €100 but being offered for €80 during the show. He agrees to sell it to me for €60 though; it is the last copy but the end of the event and since he had offered it to me for €60 … !!
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my version of an M.Parr meal

Lunch at the Real Food cafe; veggie pies sold out so try a Tortila that looks incredibly unappetising under it’s plastic seal with blue cutlery attached. In spite of the banality, Real Food has been a highlight of Photo London for me.
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Sandra Kantanen has a photo called forest 4 which has a dreamy look.
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Awoiska Van Der Mollen black and white forest growth
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There is something truly poetic about Kertesz’s imagery which is further emphasised by his black and white prints.
Gregory Scott Van Gogh’s bedroom
Humour, video and photography
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“Loose Women”: discussion among women photographers

The last talk I attend is by women who are in photography! I also meet up with a fellow female photographer, Dimple Agrawal.
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Dimple in front of a tintype

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view from the Terrace

Photo London 21.05.2016

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After a meeting with friends in Queens Wood Highgate for an hour of silent meditation and an hour of chat over breakfast, I make my way down to the Embankment and walk along to Somerset House, a different approach to the previous days. After making my way to the TOURS desk, I wait to be served but the small group of women talking amongst themselves clearly have no time for me. Should I interrupt? Instead I go and deposit my bag and return when there is now an extra woman who is prepared to talk to me. Where is my ticket? I was just sent a letter asking me to report to this desk before the tour starts! After hesitation, I am told to wait.
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Jean Wainwright is the tour guide; she is an academic at UCA which is affiliated to the OCA through whom I study. This lead me to book her tour
Different kinds of printing on show! The most sophisticated printing is called pigment printing which does not use ink … or so she thinks! Wainwright is wrong on a number of points such as claiming at one point that the Manx photographer Chris Killip is dead! I am made aware that there is a lot of hype around this show.
A6 
Jim Campbell shows an image that is both still image and video.
Aerial photo of scars in landscape. (Burtynsky)
Jimmy Nelson of people in wild landscape.
“Photography is sculptural”
My notes of her informative chatter follow.
Robert Morat real life designs looking at different angles in room then projecting light on them. Like Cubist abstracts!
A5 Purdy Hicks
Tessa Traegar started making food portraits of food for Vogue. Very much an analogue worker! Photographed people but found glass negatives in a shop; decided to make prints from these “ghostly” originals even though some are damaged.
Fragility of nature, black and white prints made using medium format camera.
Pinhole camera techniques. Tom Hunter has used them for their special effects. Time and duration.
Betting Von Zwehl’s images of children in classic style. Preciousness of image!
Edgar Martin’s imaginative images.
B8 Micheal Hoppen
Stitched images to give impression of city.
Has collected Hungarian photography e.g. Brassai City life vignettes mostly Paris
Photographs that have been painted on.
Pieter Hugo weaves stories!
B9
Staged photos of Caballero; mini movies in stills! Adds text bubbles.
B10
Kafka and Chena Madoz insects.
B1 James Hyman Estate
Andy Warhol dodging McArthy administration.
Sam Haskins took portraits of stars. About selling the stars.
Andre Kertesz
John Blakemore nature studies (Wainwright calls him Blackmoor!)
Negre
Other archival works
Chris Killip, important photographer, now dead (according to Wainwright but the net does not agree!), from Tyneside; North very poor with docks closed yet people still living there.
Tom Wood; similarities with Martin Parr who visited later. Both photographed around New Brighton also in colour which was new at the time.
Graham Smith photographing gay scene that was emerging from the shadows.
B3 Catherine Edelman
Sandro Miller making rephotography like iconic photographs of photography. Humourous and clever!
Video and still combination.
Damien Hirst commentary.
B4
Kilc hi Asano
Portraits of street people who were paid for sitting
B5 Nailya Alexander
A.Titarenko Moving crowds in city also Studies of city with soft colourations and low contrast
B6 Holden Lutz Gallery
David Yarrow elephants in black and white. Pigment print with excellent reproduction.
B7
Egglestone’s colour work hangs by a Martin Parr. Did not make a lot of photographs but early colour worker. Interested in Bauhaus aesthetic.
Bruce Davidson documentary images. Humour in the moment. Are the nannies not responding to the camera!?
A3
John Baldessari work sold.
Picture of shoes in light by Brian Griffin.
A2
 Todd Papergeorge installation of photographs
Larry Clarke, precursor of Nan Goldin.
A1
Photos from Japanese sewers
1885 Unknown photographer, cameraless
Claudet Daguerrotype
Jungian Lee painterly prints
Antonine Dugata blurry colour nudes
C11 Caroline Smulders
Gerard Malanga, a Factory insider working for Warhol
Photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe also Patti Smith also Andy Warhol and William Burroughs with rifle in NYC
Vibrancy of the scene
Portraits of old analogue studios
Juanito Fontanive
Ornithology
Man Ray
Salgado
C14
Stephen Wilkes
Steve MacCurry
Stephen Gill who buries negatives later printing them. Time and Nature.
Thierry Cohen
About not seeing the stars anymore because of light pollution. Impressive black and white prints with starry starry nights!
Susan Derges
Guided tour ends! A romp that leaves me feeling exhausted yet much better informed.
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Ed Burtynsky chat with David Campany; he has recently done a retrospective book with Ewing which will be shown in the autumn ( at Flowers Gallery.) Ed has done a lot of books but also exhibits prints in galleries. 15 minutes for 45 minute show! Changing landscapes such as rail cut about transport system slicing through landscape. Mines are further cuts in the landscape. Representing scale of human enterprise.
B’s work a world of images. Trying to make the superlative image!? Persistence of image making with little horizon. Elevation helps open up subject of imagery. Imagery can be understood in different ways, no particular response required. Not offering moral response. National Geographic aesthetic not his approach. Human agency! Photographs about humanity by stepping outside. Images point towards acceleration of population growth.
Anthropocene, a new word, a new era of human history concerned with approaching extinction. Burtynsky now interested in this such as large ivory burn, about 150 million dollars worth. Ivory trade driving elephant to brink of extinction. Doing 3D printing. Uses Internet for research particularly Googlearth also drones. Has a website for deseminating his message.
Meet a fellow OCA student who is now doing an M.A. after finishing his B.A. which he will be awarded in a ceremony in London next month; we last met two years ago at The Photobook week-end in Bristol. There is also another student, a female, who I met last month at the Performing for the Camera exhibition.
Wander through the hallowed ground of the DonMcCullin exhibition. My third attempt to be admitted and this time I am in. The black and white photographs are printed large and the lighting in the gallery is low. McCullin is not the master photographer of Photo London for nothing, his remarkable record of events from peace and war is well composed and flawlessly printed. I am struck but not attracted to the photographs of human conflict rather it is still the image of sheep being herded along the Caledonian Road in 1965 that attracts me; in fact, they are being driven to the abbatoir but the picture does not tell us that rather it is a reminder of how much London has changed in my lifetime as now the Caledonian Road is a busy thoroughfare that a human being might have difficulty crossing.
See the Webbs in The Leica Gallery; they seem to remember me from their workshop in London a few years ago. Meet a buyer from China called Frank who has also bought a book; he is an interesting guy and amusing.
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Attend talk with female nature art photographers; Hannah Starkey and Sophie Ricketts (both Sophie speaks in general about her work. After awhile, her work becomes something other!
Hannah talks about experience of being a woman in photography (more tomorrow)!
How much can a photograph say?
I go for a cuppa at the Real Food cafe which is just closing and is out of veggie pies.
Contemporary nature photography is something of personal interest and I decide to scour the galleries in search of it! The first image I want to see though is one from this morning’s talk and of a herd of elephants.
On the way there, I pass by Purdy Hicks and see a couple of 78 by 61 cm blow ups of colourful Finches by Leila Jeffreys; these are “fine art inkjet prints” from 2015 and reveal feather detail to the point where it appears patterned.
I am also struck by Awoiska Van Der Molen’s black and white prints of nature printed at 120 by 100 cm.
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I find the elephant photo in the Holden Luntz Gallery which is based in Palm Beach. Called The Circle of Life it shows a herd of elephants in Kenya and is 56 by 96 inches having been printed in 2015. It is one of 12 prints and was made by David Yarrow. There is a book called Encounter that sits on the floor below the artwork. The suggestion by the tour guide that this is a chemically produced black and white print made with a large format camera struck me as unlikely because of the capture; elephants don’t hang around for a photographer with a tripod, a ground glass which shows the image upside down and needs a cloth draped over so one can see it. I suspect a medium format camera was used and there is a photograph of the photographer crawling over the ground in front of the herd but one can not see what camera he has in hand. The photograph has sold for £30,000!
One criticism might be that the image is too sharp, one would not in nature normally see such detail yet for some this is probably it’s selling point.
Ysabel Lemay in The Poets, 2015 has fashioned a piece showing two Common Starlings surrounded by flowers. Although photographic, this has been obviously photoshopped.

Photo London 20.05.2016

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The third day! I wish this event was a bit more enjoyable although I did laugh helplessly at Erik Kessels photographic slide presentation yesterday while the Real Food restaurant provides support of various kinds … a place to sit down, a warm cuppa etc I think I am missing out on what is going on, acting more like a journalist than a photographer.

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Arrive early and see fellow OCA student, Vicki Loader. We chat for awhile but while waiting for the tea to brew, I need to leave as I have booked another talk.
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Olga Sviblova who is a giant among photographic curators; from Multimedia Art Museum ( as it is called) in Moscow. She has rescued much Russian photography from rubbish dumps!
I find her talk quite inspiring because she seems to have worked selflessly for photography and that is not the undertone of Photo London. Her talk is forced to end early as people are queuing up for Alec Soth who is booked out (Ewing the curator of the over 30 talks taking place says this is not actually the case and that there are always places free as not all the invited VIPs show up). She meets and greets a few people outside afterwards and I thank her for her talk which I consider the best so far; I grow tired of adverts and she is just talking about photography out of a love for it. Disappointing that she could be interviewed as this might have been very interesting. There is a book of Russian Photobooks up for an award and I wonder if she has anything to do with that.
I leave to visit the Painting with Light exhibition and although I am due to return for the Robert Misrach talk, I do not make it back. Not really enough time and I want to do the Painting with Light exhibition in depth which I have blogged about here.
An expensive day at Photo London. Almost £50 for about an hour and a half and one talk that started late and was ended abruptly!

Painting with Light; Art and Photography from the Pre-Raphaelites to the modern age @ Tate Britain 20/05/2016

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The London Eye

I walk along the Thames from Somerset House to Tate Britain which takes over half an hour; one is forced to make something of a diversion around the Houses of Parliament which directly border the Thames.

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Houses of Parliament

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monument near Houses of Parliament

I buy the catalogue on the way in but have little time to see it before going into the exhibition. Jonathan (our mothers were life long friends) is where we arranged to meet near the ticket desk and we go for lunch. We do not discuss the exhibition beforehand; he has read some reviews, I have not even got that far yet there is something to be said for seeing an exhibition blind rather than with a mind conditioned by reviewers who often have to satisfy the preconceptions of their readers. One reviewer talks about the impact of photography on painting yet the intriguing message of this exhibition seems to be that photography and painting nurtured each other. For the practitioners, they were understood as two different mediums which existed coindependently rather than engaged in business rivalry although there is mention of copyright issues.
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We spend over two hours walking around this exhibition and I am not even making notes merely chatting with Jonathan. He finds some of my insights helpful such as pointing out the use of more than one negative to make a photograph as in Gustave Le Gray’s seascapes. I find his asides relevant such as his feelings towards the artist Watts whose work he has seen en masse elsewhere.
It is interesting to note the way the two mediums interact with each other. Painters employ photography to make records of scenes they can finish painting later while photographers themselves are inspired by painting to make similar looking photographs. Although this exhibition ends with the dawn of Modernism in the early twentieth century (others see Modernism as beginning much earlier with the Pre-Raphaelites being cited as early Modernists), a similar dialogue continues today.
One surprise is a photograph made by John Ruskin. His is not a name I associate with photography although obviously he can not have been blind to what was then a new and emerging medium although it was generally regarded as a method of recording rather than an art. Photography was another mechanical invention in an age characterised by many yet during the latter part of the nineteenth century it was started to be seen as something more than this with the rise of Pictorialism of which Henry Peach Robinson, featured in the show, was a major exponent.
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Jonathan waiting patiently for me; I am on time!

I do not make notes during my visit with Jonathan as I am returning later as part of a guided tour with the curator. The critique seems to be that this exhibition is too academic and not visual enough. Photography is a visual medium yet more and more, photographs are being read as cultural objects rather than being seen as visual marvels; this is presumably because there are just too many photographs out there and many are being imposed upon us notably in advertising.
Curator Carol Jacobi worked with an expert in nineteenth century photography! This exhibition is about the conversation between photography and painting.
Celebrating early painter-photographer relationship, Hill and Adamson. There is a painting and engraving of Edinborough by Turner from the top of Calton Hill as well as Hill and Adamson’s photography made in similar vein. Hill also painted this view.
Small, miniature painting by Hill of city from elevated position following deaths of Adamson and his daughter in childbirth. It is called In Memoriam!
The Disruption portrait is a huge painting of a convention that took place when there was a schism in the Scottish church. Every individual was photographed for Hill to paint at a later date; some of the photographic studies are also on show alongside the painting which has not been out of Scotland for over 100 years.
6 of the photographers in this exhibition are women; it seems to have been an acceptable occupation for them!
Daguerrotypes are also on show; they face each other!
Photography has a direct relationship to what is in front of the camera. Idea of truthfulness in art assumed greater importance. Photography aided the development of photography.
Ruskin’s albumen print is from Northern France. His photographs were used by his students to make copies. Detail in this image of ivy over medieval carving. His Perennial Cornflower is a wonderful study using pencil and brown ink while his Dandelion Seeds is actually a photoglyphic engraving.
Use of photographs as preparatory studies. Views of Jerusalem. Photographs might take a few hours to make but paintings took days. The photograph became aide memoires! Photography became a useful form of communication which is one of the reasons for it’s rapid growth.
Important essay now online is P.G.Hamerton “The relationship between Photography and Art” from his book, Thoughts on Art. For instance, deals with the problems of painting with white as it always off white of some kind is one subject discussed.
FG Stephens in 1850 from The a Germ; “Truth in every particular ought to be the aim of the artist .”
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Sometimes not easy to distinguish between a painting and a photograph; curators have been careful to label each image.
Photography not able to make instant views, snapshots, so tends to be more contemplative at this time.
Fenton was a prolific photographer of this era. He used wires to hold objects in place which later needed to be painted out. Required “patient models”.
Creation of tableaux vivants, story telling from British literature. The Lady of Shalott who could only see the world through a mirror; part of Arthurian legend. Julia Margaret Cameron a photographer who was inspired by Tennyson.
Album of photographs, privately owned by members of the royal family. The Davenport album used members of the family!
Photographs exhibited only for a relatively short time in the interests of archival preservation.
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“Whisper of the Muse”, the Holland Park Circle as it was known, included both painters and photographers. Use of friends and family as models. Relationship between Cameron and Watts for example. Rossetti made 18 photographic images of Morris’ wife with help from someone with technical knowledge; enabled him to make many paintings of Jane Morris over the next two decades. Woman waiting for her lover not knowing he has gilted her.
A photograph of the artist, GF Watts, by Cameron and a similar looking self-portrait of Watts are other artifacts on show here.
Turning point in exhibition! Photography no longer concerned with definition, more subjective with softer outlines.
Landscape became more important. Whistler is exhibited here. Rise in interest of naturalism and realism; ideas coming from intellectual development in Paris. “Life and Landscape on the Norfolk Broads” by Emerson is also being exhibited; the copy is a bit tatty having belonged to T.F.Goodall, the painter who travelled with Emerson and used his photographs in making paintings. I have to say that I find the photographs more attractive although they did not take nearly so long to make! P.H.Emerson had not just an eye for a beautiful image but the ability to capture one.
Naturalism had a real eye for beauty which is apparent in Emerson’s photography. Atmospheric effect and light! Luminous beauty not unlike that of Turner paintings whose Picturesque Views in England and Wales were a direct inspiration for members of The Linked Ring. There are a few views of Harlech Castle.
Whistler is quick to see the values of photographic representation. The way photography flattens things into designs, asymmetry within views.
Grimshaw was painting over photographs; the images were taken during the day then painted as night scenes.
Influence of turn of the century craze and fashion around Japanese art. Effected painting and photography. Photographs made in Japan became a source of inspiration for artworks. It was also around this time that the autochrome came into use, the beginnings of colour photography.
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Exhibition concludes with recognition of photography’s immense influence; no longer so intimate, more international.
Painters and photographers sharing theories of art, similar aesthetics. Recalling physique of Michelangelo subjects for instance. Idealised notions of beauty prevailed. Fred Holland Day exclaimed that photography was now less about chemistry and more about poetry; it seems he did not use the “A” word.
Holland Day’s work is featured in this final room; in “The Vision” he has superimposed images to make a study of the myth of Orpheus. Day was an American who was inspired by Keats. A nude by Day shows a much darkened figure whose form is barely visible in shadow but outlined by a meagre amount of side lighting; this image was probably influenced by a Michael Angelo study and is an example of work that won praise from the critic, Charles Caffin. Day was also a publisher.
Photographers could now make a lucrative career out of making photographs. (Could they not do so earlier as with the Daguerrotype?)
Subject of goddess who took a bite of pomegranate! International sharing of ideas and spirited relationship between painters and photographers. Biting of fruit signifies notion of shame. Three artworks deal with this theme with Rosetti painting, a photogravure by Zaida Ben-Yusuf and a more modern photograph by Minna Keene. Oscar Wilde also wrote “A House of Pomegranates”.
It is interesting to hear from the curator yet I wonder whether she might be coming from a background of painting as art rather than a photographic background in which art tends to be seen as an aspect of photography rather than it’s purpose.
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Photo London 19.05.2016

I scour the net for mention of Photo London yet there does not seem to be much in the news!

One website, L’Oeil de la Photographie, talks about the over-consumption of images this event encourages and also points out that galleries struggle to survive in cities like London and New York as well as these days of the Internet so this event gives them much needed support. There is also an interview with the festival organisers, Michael Benson and Fariba Fershad, who talk about the success of the event in terms of the stimulus it gives to the photography market. Many galleries did well and more are back this year paying costs of around £350 to 500 per square metre.
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McCullin can smile and look happy! image from Photo London after his talk.

Don McCullin is featured in The Guardian and quoted as saying photography is more about feeling than merely looking, an interesting insight into the craft. He is honoured by Photo London 2016 as a master of photography. A wonderful photo from 1965 of sheep being herded down the Caledonian Road.
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Mary Mc Artney, daughter of famous photographer Linda McArtney, wife of the incredibly famous and much loved Beatle, Paul McArtney; her famous background might not have helped but a mother who photographed probably did! She did a 5 day course in the basics of technique at University of Westminster. Her approach is spontaneous, she is not interested in making incredibly sharp images! She did not do a degree since those she met who had said that while they found the space helpful to consider photography, it was not otherwise much help.
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when I made this photograph, the guard on the right said I might need him to sign a model form; I agreed. When I saw him later, I told him I was actually photographing the figure in the background, Erik Kessels!

Erik Kessels I have heard before and find his view of photography humourous! He is promoting a book #FailedIt which reveals some hilarious images. Are they photoshopped? Apparently, they are genuine mistakes and amusing unintentional double exposures. Appalling photos of black dogs the subject of another book.
Also talking on this theme are an American, Lucas, who does use Photoshop and Joachim Scmidt who makes books of other people’s mistakes, a body of work that has now reached 96 different books.
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There is a need for humour and playfulness in photography says Kessels.
Again, after the talk we are sheparded out, and have to queue outside for the next talk. I guess this is about security since surely they could check the tickets of those who wanted to stay on with relative ease. However, on the way out, I see a room in which magnums of champagne stand in ice and am reminded of the fact that some people are welcome here, I just don’t happen to be one of them. As a student one often encounters the nicer side of photography while here at Photo London it is more about the backside!?
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queuing again; fortunately it is not raining!

The next speaker is Don McCullin who Simon Barber from Tate Modern describes as needing no introduction! McCullin comes over as a very courageous man who has witnessed a lot of horrible events which he however managed to photograph. I have mentioned him before so won’t repeat myself as he did in his talk, telling us the same story twice about a recent trip to Palmrya to rephotograph the temple destroyed by Isis. He was not able to gain access and although he managed a single photo, he was soon shooed away by a Russian soldier so that his journey of a few thousand miles was largely frustrated one but such are the tribulations of photography.
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Don McCullin (left) with Simon Barnes (Tate Modern)

After the talk, I breath a sigh of relief at it being the last to attend for the day since the room is stuffy and I did not enjoy the queueing ritual. Instead, I make my way to the photography book section where I meet OCA tutor Helen Warburton who is behind the counter at Thames and Hudson. I mention my incredulity at fellow OCA students making derogatory remarks about McCullin on a forum currently running; she replies that McCullin has a reputation for old fashioned views in particular towards women though she has never heard him talk. I buy a couple of books, one by Harry Gruyaert, whose work I saw recently at the Print Room at Magnum Photos as well as a book on better writing about photography or at least art which Helen has found helpful.
At Dewi Lewis Publishing, I finally get to purchase a copy of Love on the Left Bank which I have wanted awhile. It is a reprint of a classic Photobook and I am reminded that my choice of Photobooks is somewhat at odds with the kind of photography I do. In fact, I aspire to other kinds of work but have not met with sympathetic response from tutors and fellow students!
Another publisher, Damien is selling copies of books by Hiroshi Sugimoto including the book of dioramas that he made. I saw and blogged about the exhibition but the book is a signed copy and hence rather expensive. The publisher seems ready to give me a discount and so I shall consider it!
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I go down the steps to Hamilton’s Gallery where Don McCullin’s photographs are on show but get refused entry because I am carrying a bag!? My second attempt to see his work.
On the terrace, I enjoy a vegetable pie at Real Food and follow it with a cup of tea (plain and ordinary nothing fancy like green tea here!) Susie Parr is serving. Jem Southam is sitting at a table in conversation with someone so I decide not to bother him but would like a chat if he is still around later.
I wander through a few galleries (bag allowed) and start to get a feeling for Photo London (there is a lot of good work on show) and am impressed by Nick Brandt whose black and white work of animals juxtaposed with third world poverty feature on the walls. He will be in on Sunday to sign copies of his reasonably priced book. I shall try and attend!
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Before leaving, I meet Harry Gruyaert, Belgian Magnum photographer, who signs a copy of his book of colour photographs. He is from Antwerp which I have visited a couple of times to see the Photo Museum there. He has a large exhibition planned for next year or possibly the year after to be held there.

Photo London 18.05.2016

I arrive at the street entrance, overlooking the river! The information office is not open but am directed upstairs where I speak with a woman who is able to give me a map of where to go for the first talk, an interview with Nick Knight. She looks at my tickets, does not seem to hear what I am saying but hands over a sealed copy of the catalogue which I have ordered and have a print out for. The place seems to be buzzing with excitement yet also a certain amount of confusion!01-20160518-deli food-2815
Over a veggie wrap at the deli, I read a bit of the catalogue. The introductory essay is a blast of information that heralds Photo London as an event not unlike that which celebrated the arrival of punk music, a festival bringing to light the “white hot” creativity present in London. Photography which anyone can participate in is a democratic art.

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The talks are to be held in an auditorium that seats well over 100 perhaps as many as 200 people. It is reached down a spindly staircase, a reminder that we are in Somerset House, an old government building, which does not seemed designed for an event such as this.

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                                                 Nick Knight (left) with Hans-Ulrich Obrist

After a long queuing session, the talk starts almost a quarter of an hour late yet lasts an hour. Autobiographical, Knight is interested in what goes on around the models he photographs and has been making interviews of his subjects asking what the photographs mean to the sitter. He has been videoing himself photographing people since 1989 and so now has a fantastic archive. He did a degree in photography at Bournemouth after giving up his original career choice of being a doctor. I see Martin Parr in the audience.

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                                                        Sandy Nairn (left) with Nadav Kander

The next talk follows soon but we are all ordered out (I am asked personally to do so three times by different people as I sit waiting to join the queue) and again we need to queue in the stuffy corridor. Am American woman complains loudly about British air conditioning. A woman asks us to queue in single file against the wall and then says we need not bother. Finally, we are allowed back in to the auditorium.
The atmosphere seems ghastly and I miss the relaxed feel of Photobook Bristol. People are complaining about the queen because the state opening of Parliament (actually it was the Queen’s speech) delayed their journey here. The man introducing the speakers makes a rather dud joke about the queen not being welcome at Photo London. The royal family certainly have a somewhat difficult relationship with photography yet rely on it for their own promotion; in fact, Queen Victoria saw the advantages inherent in photography making the presence of royalty felt around the globe.
Kandar does not like to reveal everything in a picture at once. The less you see of a person in a portrait, the more one needs to personally mine the subject. Admits to making slightly uncomfortable photographs; not trying to impress or ignore the viewer. Kandar uses Photoshop to emphasise light in his images which is often dramatic. Sublime quality to his landscapes. Aware of a difference between commercial work and personal work; it is almost impossible to depend on the latter! Kandar’s work is showing in the Flowers gallery. He is from South Africa originally yet the name sounds Arabaic.

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Wolfgang Tilmans “Stay in Europe” exhibition

A Garam Assam Chai with a piece of Apple Crumble cake. As I consume this, I read a piece by Francis Hodgson that glorifies Don Mc Cullin, famous for being a war photographer but also competent at other genres such as landscape. Is photography becoming something of a cult? I do not see how it could be. While drinking tea, I see M.Parr again and Dewi Lewis (publisher) through some glass doors and make my way there later. This is an area where books are for sale and there are going to be book signings.

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Parr excels again, this time with an installation that doubles as a cafe

Security is now tighter. I do not have a pass for the day but did manage to attend two talks! With entrance barred to most of what is going on, I make my way on to the terrace and the Real Food restaurant which is in fact an installation for Parr’s latest book called Real Food. It does function as a restaurant which serves somewhat tacky looking food though I am sure I shall try the vegetable pie sometime during the next few days. Characteristic humour from Parr, one of the most brilliant photographers of my generation although many seem to disagree, and who I see again as he turns up for a cup of tea; I decide to likewise indulge before I make my way back to the hotel.

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