Archive for ‘Opinion’

June 27, 2011

The Power of the Curator

I Love Slideluck Potshow London

Last Saturday amidst the somewhat always expected, intermittent drizzle of England, kicked off episode three of Slideluck Potshow London entitled, “Visual Feast”.

The title however, found itself somewhat ironic. Had you read it on the website when booking your ticket (only £5), you might have conjured visions of bountiful imagery and a display that would be a celebration of the creative community. Though what occurred in its place were slide shows focused around the people and environments where the both the bountiful and the cause for celebration, has been robbed. This Visual Feast shrouded itself in imagery from a series of captivating bodies of work from some of the most endearing – often political – strifes  around Eastern Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Unusual to the formula of Slideluck Potshow – where the work shown is typically from across the creative spectrum – SLPS London III was a carefully crafted exhibition with a strong curatorial thumbprint courtesy of Yumi Goto. The slide show opened up with frequent Telegraph and The Sunday Times photographer, Anastasia Taylor-Lind and featured works from an array of documentary photographers including Stuart Matthews, Paul Hardy-Carter and Brett Van Ort to name a few. As a viewer of this artillery of documentary corpses, it was easy to find the work of each artist merge into the collective through the repetition of subject topic (with at least two series from the tsunami in Japan), the tone and even the style of the imagery. Goto’s eye for rough, stark and affecting imagery turned several photographer’s work into her own, identifiable, collective.

Brett Van Ort, Minescape: Old Forest[Old Forest from the series, Minescape by Brett Van Ort]

Stood in SNAP studios, on the upper floor of an East London building with views stretching out for miles as night fell, it was difficult not to question why Goto had chosen this to be the proper setting for such a critical exhibit of work. With an unsuspecting audience of photographers, writers, students and families from across the UK, Goto found herself an audience with which to raise awareness of the plights of others less fortunate than ourselves; whether she intended to or not.

There were a few series which stood out; particularly because they provided a relief, taking on the heavy subject matter in alternative formats (perhaps offering a solution to our increasing apathy towards traditional documentary photography). Brett Van Ort’s Minescape tackled the subject of the war-torn landscapes of Bosnia, where a large portion of the country has been rendered uninhabitable  by millions of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Minescape portrays the beautiful landscapes that have since grown in these danger zones without the hindrance of man and juxtaposes them against still life details of the IEDs. Through this work the viewer is confronted with the power of Mother Nature – growing where we cannot tread , navigating her way around these, often small, man-made and deadly devices, knowing that they are trivial to her existence.

'It's True, I'm Utterly Fascinating' Kim Jong Phil by Mr Toledano[It’s True, I’m Utterly Fascinating from the series Kim Jong Phil by Mr Toledano]

Another project of note was that of renown photographer, Philip Toledano (or Mr Toledano if you prefer) whose series, entitled Kim Jong Phil was prefaced with a humorous soliloquy into the intrinsic narcissism of the artist. Mr Toledano had commissioned copies of a collection of pre-existing dictatorial art; from North Korean propaganda posters to imitations of Saddam Hussein statues. Each replica, however, offered one small difference. In the place of the dicator’s face, was Toledano’s. Which, upon viewing at the Slideluck Potshow, provoked good humour as the majority of the audience reflected upon the truth of the piece.

This episode of Slideluck Potshow was in no doubt, a showcase of Yumi Goto’s talent as a curator and editor. However, in the forum of a SLPS where the slide show is typically as organic and dispersed as the potluck food, this narrow and specific exhibit of work was perhaps, at once, a success and a failure.

March 26, 2011

Aires de Jeux, Champs de Tensions Playgrounds, Fields of Tensions

photography exhibitions montpellier, south of france, wolfgang tillmans

Aires de Jeux, Champs de Tensions // Playgrounds, Fields of Tension.
Figures de la photographie urbaine en Europe depuis 1970.
Figures in European urban photography since 1970.

Currently showing at: Pavillon Populaire, Montpellier France.
25th February – 24th April 2011

Featuring the works of:

Bogdan Dziworski My View, Polish Impressions in Photography 1970
Seiichi Furuya Berlin-Est 1980
Jitka Hanslova Bewohner / Habitants 1994-1997
Helmut Kandi
Chris Killip In Fragrante 1988
Boris Mikailov At Dusk 1993
Muntean-Rosenblum To Die For 2001
David Rosenfeld Charades 1999
Christoph Rutimann Handlauf: Picadilly 2007
Micheal Schmidt Waffenruhe 1980
Wolfgang Tillmans Subways in London
Octavian Trauttmansdorff
Sergej Vutuc


Jitka Hanzlova Bewohner Habitants[Jitka Hanzlova Bewohner]

On Regarding the Exhibits

Having been previously unacquainted with her work, it was a pleasure to view Bewohner by Jitka Hanzlova. This corpus studies the inhabitants of a bleak industrialized estate where the modern buildings of the early 90s cast a disjointed and dismal shadow over their environment. The images are softly spoken, they appear to document the inhabitants but in the same instance it is unavoidable to leave the firm gaze of each subject. They are at once quiet and strong; humbling the viewer through their prevalent presence in the frame. Combined with the soft, sombre tonal palette of Bewohner, Jitka Hanzlova raises the question; how much does our environment truly reflect within us?


Octavian Trauttmannsdorff CCTV photography[Octavian Trauttmansdorff]


Octavian Trauttmansdorff 1994[Octavian Trauttmansdorff]

Aires de Jeux, Champs de Tension, as exhibited in the Pavillon Populaire in Montpellier, France, donates a large expanse of running wall to a continuous photographic installation by Octavian Trauttmansdorff. The way the space is laid out, it is unavoidable but to walk past the entire piece as it dominates one side of a narrow pathway down the upstairs exhibition space. When I had encountered the first specimen of this work in the downstairs gallery space I gave it a glance and walked on by – assuming on appearence that it was ‘not my cup of tea’. However, when funnelled through the upstairs gallery space I realised the impact the work was bearing on me. It was not that I simply wanted to avoid the piece because I was not interested, but I wanted to actively remove myself from it. The scale of the work – encompassing a good metre plus in height and traversing the entire side of a gallery wall (approx 10m) – created a virtual window to a busy urban space. On the most part, the subjects walked past (or was it me walking past them?) but occasionally one of them caught my glimpse and met my eyes in a penetrating stare – it was in these brief encounters that I realised the weight of Trauttmansdorff’s work; I had become a very active voyeur in his world and his subjects seemed to know it. In addition, Trauttmansdorff’s method of applying his images to the paper, through what appears to be having painted on the developer and fixative loosely before working back into the piece with knives and tension – creating fissures and breaks in the piece, lends me to question the similarity of this presentation to the advertising posters you might see on the underground. As if Trauttmansdorff is putting you, or us, back into the equation. Questioning whether we are looking; whether we should be looking.

The exhibition’s book, including work and essays on all the featured artists can be purchased here.

January 6, 2011

The World In 2011

edward lynn untitled staircase[Edward Lynn Untitled]



Every year the pinnacle business resource magazine, The Economist, publishes an issue entitled ‘The World in…” where they invite CEO’s, forecasters and educated minds to share their opinions and predictions for the forthcoming year in every sector – from Science to MTV. Sounds a little like an exercise in stock market fortune-telling right? Well it’s not. Peering through the veil of things yet to come holds a lot more clout than the image of an old crone with a crystal ball would suggest. The ideas and conceptions generated through ‘The World In’ offer an insight to our changing global climate and provide a discussion as to how we could respond. By thinking forward and responding to your surrounding environment,  you can craft your product, brand and business to work in it’s most effective and efficient manner.

Here’s the breaking news, this applies to everyone! Whether you’re the head honcho of Goldman-Sachs or a freelance photographer’s assistant – knowing what is coming next can only help you. Now, of course there are some big things that get missed and predicting everything in the future is an impossible task (who predicted we’d all be suffering the repercussions of an illegal war?) but forecasting is as much about reviewing what’s gone before as it is estimation. Photographer and lecturer, Paul Allen, drummed into his students who lacked context in their work that ‘nothing can be created in a vacuum’. In order to create imagery that resonates- whether still or motion – you have to negotiate a spectrum of visual semiotics that have grown and developed since the first Camera Lucida.

Forecasting is renown in the fashion industry – with companies such as WGSN profiteering from their educated gambling into the designs and colours of the next six seasons – but little less openly considered in the fields of photography and film-making. Perhaps our societal transgression into transparency will encourage a more open exchange of ideas amongst the photography and film community because, inevitably, knowing what people are going to be influenced by will help you cater your work accordingly – whether it’s to an agent you’ve been after for years or your dream client. Think about all the photographers and directors now posting short video montages from behind-the-scenes of their shoots – transparent, non? Providing a transparent visage to your photography business shows clients what you are like to work with, it gives them that personable impression that can’t be achieved when you leave your portfolio in a heap with everyone else. Transparency is also an aesthetic option you could display in your work – a clinical honesty akin to William Eggleston or a styling option through sheer fabrics or visible stitching.

Another unavoidable Millenial buzzword for 2011 is collaboration, or rather mass collaboration. As much as we love to hate social networks, they are ever becoming an integrated part of our virtual existence and with them comes an array of possible platforms of communication that you can engage with from both social and business perspectives. That, combined with a sense of philantro-capitalism (a term coined by Matthew Bishop, The Economist‘s American Business Editor where we act in a socio/eco-conscious manner for our financial gain – yes, incentives for being green help) brings the photography community to websites such as PhotoCrew. Cutting the costs and environmental impacts of remote shoots by out-sourcing your team of assistants, stylists, make-up artists etc not only benefits the client paying for your flights, but provides a rich, global, photographic community at your fingertips.

So you’ve photographed your lighting setup, shared your knowledge and outsourced your crew but you’re not sure if you’re still ‘on trend’? Depending on your location, there are a range of different options to keep you in tune without having to read every business journal back-to-back. Social media is reigning supreme and infamous bloggers such as Swiss Miss hold open-registration Creative Mornings where you can come along to a creative ideas-exchange. Alternatively you could locate your local TEDx event – some are free, with the larger events only charging a maximum of $100 – or find similar creative conferences, talks or workshops such as Karen D’Silva’s Trending Workshop held in collaboration with APA New York in February.

Recommended Read: Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything Tapscott, D & D.Williams, Anthony.