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.
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.
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!
Staged photos of Caballero; mini movies in stills! Adds text bubbles.
Kafka and Chena Madoz insects.
B1 James Hyman Estate
Andy Warhol dodging McArthy administration.
Sam Haskins took portraits of stars. About selling the stars.
John Blakemore nature studies (Wainwright calls him Blackmoor!)
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.
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.
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!?
John Baldessari work sold.
Picture of shoes in light by Brian Griffin.
Todd Papergeorge installation of photographs
Larry Clarke, precursor of Nan Goldin.
Photos from Japanese sewers
1885 Unknown photographer, cameraless
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
Stephen Gill who buries negatives later printing them. Time and Nature.
About not seeing the stars anymore because of light pollution. Impressive black and white prints with starry starry nights!
Guided tour ends! A romp that leaves me feeling exhausted yet much better informed.
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.
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.
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.