Archive for ‘Review’

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.

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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 27, 2011

Bill Phelps is Moto

Amidst a foray of hipsters, sporting freshly dishevelled beards and cropped beige trousers in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, resides a photographer whose work itself is captivated by a sense of heritage. Phelps’ aesthetic encompasses the zeitgeist of an era inhabited by photography’s masters; August Sander, Horst P. Horst and Man Ray, placing Phelps as a well-deserved nominee in last years Lucie Awards for Fine Art.

Bill Phelps for Harley Davidson[Bill Phelps Harley Davidson]

Phelps’ photography presents a tangible sensuality in the raw, earthy portrayal of his subjects. It is this quality, perhaps, that earned Bill his chance to shoot for Harley Davidson – producing some of the most cinematic and captivating photography Harley have ever used in campaign. And if you didn’t already know – Bill is so infatuated with classic motorcycles that he owns a cafe-come-restaurant in Brooklyn called ‘Moto’ – I recommend trying the Date Cake!

However, when looking through the vast amount of new imagery on Phelp’s website, it is impossible not to notice the graphicism of his composition. Phelps work may allude to photography’s masters, but there is a subtle line of content on the website which is far more reminiscent of modernist graphic design. In his new portfolio collection entitled, ‘Advertising’, lies a campaign for Reebok where the creative scope of Phelps’ work has really come into play, incorporating Phelp’s stylistic quality with well architected design.

Bill Phelps for Reebok[Bill Phelps Reebok]

It seems odd that with all the on-trend qualities of Phelps’ work (name a brand store that hasn’t released a “Heritage” line in the past year!) that he is still so under the radar, though perhaps that is what makes his work so special. Looking at Phelps expanded online portfolio feels a little like discovering C.S. Lewis’ Narnia for the first time; it’s unique, worldly and I can’t wait to see more.

 

More of Bill Phelps work can be found on www.billphelps.com

January 11, 2011

The Social Photographer

Last December saw the end of the road for the Kodachrome film processor in Dwayne’s Photo Lab, Kansas, the only one of its kind that remained in commercial operation. The demise of Kodak’s signature film marks the grand shift to the digital medium, but it is not only our ability to develop film that is dying.

In conversation with British portrait photographer, Chris Floyd, he commented on the dissipation of the photographic community. At the height of film production, turning up to a photo lab was a sociable affair. You attended to drop off film, compile contact sheets and make prints; all the while you were surrounded by other photographers taking part in the ritual. It was a chance to have tea and a catch up as much as it was to get your work done, without which Floyd’s level of photographic social intercourse depleted. “It’s not the film I’m bothered about, but the people who I met and spent time with because of the film.” Floyd remarked, explaining that the photo lab had become more about the nuances of sitting around and meeting like minded people.

 

Alexa Brown[Chris Floyd, @alexabrown from the series: The Great Twitter Project ]

 

It was only two years ago that Floyd discovered his new portal to the community staring at him from the screen of his iPhone; Twitter. In 140-character gobbets of information, Twitter presents an apparently narcissistic platform for self-promotion, though behind this veil of social media marketing, it also gives its users access to talk to each other via tagging (placing an ‘@’ in front of a user-name) or a private message. “It’s like a classroom full of the people you wish you’d gone to school with” says Floyd, ‘tweeting’ regularly with the spectrum of people he follows, or who follow him.

A dating service of sorts, the relationships formed online through Twitter inevitably led Floyd to a comparison with his friends he had gained in the physical world – finding that he was communicating with the virtual presences more than anyone else in his orbit. When asked if he felt any nervousness toward conversing openly with these people, Floyd commented that when you watch the 5000 +/- tweets of someone, they cannot hide a sense of their personality and it is this which attracts us to keep following, to continue nurturing our connections.

 

Graffiti 6[Chris Floyd, @graffiti6 from the series: The Great Twitter Project]

 

This self-proclaimed ‘hollow addiction’ to Twitter led Chris to his ongoing personal corpus of work, The Great Twitter Project in which he aims to photograph every user he follows. Unlike a large proportion of Twitter users, Floyd does not hide himself behind a myriad of flagellant promotion tweets (though, no doubt, he has a large proportion of people following him for his photographic work), instead choosing to provide a more honest online voice. By embracing this sense of transparency and utilising the camera as a key, Floyd has unlocked a way to bring together and document his virtual-classmates.

So perhaps tea-time at the labs has got one step better? On Twitter, you choose who you want to listen to and they choose if they want to listen to you. The photographic presence on this social media platform is extensive and ranges dramatically in its use. Though a word of warning, as much as there are photographers, there are the people employing them!

 

Are you in the conversation?

@chrisfloyduk / Chris Floyd

@natalie_l_lloyd / Natalie Lloyd

January 7, 2011

Alec Soth, Rhymes with ‘Both’

Alec Soth, Broken Manual[Alex Soth Broken Manual]

 

THE HYPOCRISY OF THE HERMIT


When considering how his work formulates, Alec Soth quoted the words of Robert Frank in his Guggenheim Fellowship proposal, “the project I have in mind is one that will shape itself as it proceeds, and is essentially elastic.” Similar to Frank, Soth has been accredited as a ‘documentary photographer’ and thus has earned himself a ticket to the elusive gentleman’s club of the photography world, Magnum Photos. However, Soth himself confesses that, more often than not, his work is too self indulgent to adhere to the connotations of traditional documentary photography; instead, perhaps, his work is that of fine art -and an intrinsic study into the nature of the human condition.

Broken Manual is nothing short of the epitome of this study, presenting an intimate visual glossary of our yearning for escapism. It takes the reader along on Soth’s quest to explore his own desire to run away and through this we are encouraged to consider our own. The desolate imagery encountered in viewing the book detaches us from the fantastical view of the runaway adventurer – who as a child didn’t wish they were Huck Finn? Or in 2007, wanted to cut up their credit cards and kayak through America  after watching Sean Penn’s Into the Wild. The Manual, with help from writer, Lester B. Morrison, is an underground guide to escaping civilisation and almost satirically named ‘Broken’ for it’s inability to truly deliver. Soth’s project comments on life in a context of elective seclusion and its juxtaposition to our necessity for interpersonal connectivity. The hermits he photographed are, through the longevity and distribution of Soth’s imagery, no longer hermits – their faces and fragmented stories  made public through the camera’s presence.

Alec Soth, Broken Manual, Portrait

 

Through previous work in corpus’ such as Niagara and From Here to There, Soth developed a craving for a level of distance between himself and his subjects that shooting with a large format alone could not give him. In the Broken Manual, Soth captures his portraits by finding the hermits, survivalists and monks in distant scenes and enlarging selections of the images – much akin to the work of artist Richard Prince who rephotographed selections of advertising imagery – and in doing so, enhances the sense of visual distance through the distorted blurs of each face. It appears as if you are viewing the subject through a sheath of gauze which, in itself, is a somewhat romantic visual depiction of their desire to be removed from society.

By the end of the project, Soth claimed (FIT lecture 8/12/2010) that despite it’s hypocritical nature, he wanted to inhabit a cave of his own, but jokily said that due to the recession he  would “feel weird going to a banker and asking for a loan for a cave.” Thankfully, he chose instead to set about the task of designing how the book should be presented. Each primary edition of the manual, of which there are only 300, is presented as the insert to a secret compartment of another unique book – a laborious but equally eloquent alliteration of the book’s theme.

Alec Soth’s work can be found at www.alecsoth.com

 

Recommended Watch: Into The Wild Sean Penn 2007
Recommended Read: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain