24 May 2019

home again

I'm always interested in work of Irish photographers so I was really pleased to see Eamonn Doyle and his collaborators speak at Photo London last week, just after I discovered The Republic by Seamus Murphy. I'm shamefully late finding out about Murphy's work so I have to thank Ben Smith's Little Voice podcast. Recommended listening.
Each of their bodies of work are fascinating - and timely - for me. As well as my ongoing project on European citizens, this year's show for my local photography group is on the theme of Home which I'm using as an opportunity to think about my own roots.
My mum Kate passed away two years ago. A migrant from Galway in the 1950s as my dad was from the north of Ireland it was a given for me that she'd be buried in the place she was born and raised in. The word home was always understood in our house as Ireland. On reflection it's an obvious sign of the dislocation of our lives.
To portray that in a single image presents a challenge, for me at least but hey it's one of the reasons for joining the group. I could look at constructing an image, perhaps a still life of an object, to symbolise my emotions. Perhaps it's more of a collage of different elements. Yesterday I heard a word I hadn't in a long time. Kaleidoscope. It really brought back a memory of one I had as a child. As well as the act of losing oneself in a miniature world of shifting shapes it had a maracas-like quality when you shook the little crystals inside. Simple pleasures.
image of gate,field and tree
An alternative route, inevitable in a way, is a landscape image. I say inevitable as land has both political and personal resonance, as it has I'd guess for many emigrant people. It's the place you left and yet it still has a magnetism that draws you back, sometimes despite yourself. 
I've taken landscape before as holiday snaps, scenic views for the record, with a visual language of fine art oil paintings. None that I ever feel really engaged in the way I do my city pictures. Too proud a townie to be bothered with nature. Perhaps it's time to revisit that. 
The Republic Book Cover
Murphy's book is inspiring for me in this regard. I just needed to see the cover image and it was interesting to hear him talk about that on the podcast as it appeared at a moment when he had real doubts about continuing the project, about his work being good enough to justify its subject. Like a vision he came across this particular stretch of road - that he could never find again - and he was on his way.
Eamonn Doyle's Made In Dublin
Doyle's work really made a splash about five years ago and I was really pleased to see the manner of how he presented his work firstly at Arles and now when I saw it in London. I've considered how to present urban/city/street work and never felt comfortable with a purist white wall gallery experience. In fact my first effort back in the late 80s was at a former synagogue in Spitalfields where I photocopied and pasted my pictures across sheets of re-purposed corrugated iron in the basement. A reasonable DIY first attempt at an installation but writing this now has really made me think of what more I could (still?) do.
I wasn't aware, ignorantly, again, of K a subsequent project by Doyle inspired by the death of his mother Kathryn. It's in a way figurative but certainly of the landscape as well. The result is an imaginative contemplation of a woman's life. Something personal but co-created with two friends as a multi-sensory piece of work.
So all in all a timely - as always - intervention of art and life. I wonder if photography for me is less about making sense of the world around me and more about making sense of myself. 

Or does everyone think that.

Do you?

22 May 2019

tell me a story

I've just experienced the most remarkable evening of photographers discussing their work. A new initiative called the Photojournalism Hub brought together Rob Pinney, Giovanna del Sarto, Tavis Bohlinger and James Hopkirk to tell the stories of their work. They each well met the ambition of the evening to expose and engage pressing social justice issues through committed and courageous photojournalism.
Refugees' experiences connects the work of Rob Pinney and Giovanna del Sarto but each of their approaches are distinctive. Pinney's searingly honest description of his initial emotions at The Jungle in Calais and the evolution of his work as he became more familiar with the people - camp refugees and town residents - and their codes of behaviour was fascinating. 
Del Sarto's work explores the power dynamic between photographer and subject, turning it around in her Polaroid for a Refugee project. Recognising the significance of family photographs in the journey into the unknown, the act of taking - then giving back - an image with the commitment to follow its path is incredibly powerful.
The next story took us inside a very personal reflection by a father on his son's journey with autism and epilepsy. Tavis Bohlinger's The Epileptic felt like a real time commentary on his emotional struggle in dealing with what was happening to his son by having the presence of mind - such an apt phrase - to make a photographic record of his interactions with health carers. Using them to interpret the impact on his son of this process was both harrowing and insightful and, as someone with family impacted in the same way, thought-provoking.
The final story was another dimension to the refugee journey, that terrible period of uncertainty once arrived of being granted permission to remain. The Blood of a Woman by James Hopkirk is far more than a documentary project. His involvement with the issues raised by following the story of Mirela cross the traditional boundaries of the objective photojournalist but for me represent a far more humanist approach than the questionable practices of some contemporary photographers.
Do spend time with each of these stories. They are all inspirational. 

19 May 2019

insta fame

Well I've enjoyed my 15 minutes of fame this week c/o a post on Instagram and a chance (more of that later) meeting with Matt Stuart outside Tottenham Court Road station. 
I first met Matt many years ago when he - and others - were conceiving In Public arguably the first collective of street photographers. I was oblivious to the fact that I was the subject of a selection process for the group and had simply appreciated the chance to meet some like-minded souls! In a nicely circuitous way I've now found myself recognised under the flag of new name of the group Un Public whose Instagram account Matt's currently curating.
Unpublic Instagram
I was really interested in Matt's selection of a set of images from my website. Of the 10 only one is recent and to be honest does "fit" well with the older ones.
One person with arm around him
Without dwelling on it too much - as if - it's a useful piece of insight into how I'm trying to develop my work with the New Europe project and how I can balance those standalone images with less obvious ones that are developing that story.
Oh yes. Chance. Yes I'd seen that Nick Turpin, the other driving force behind In Public was in town the same day and thought about trying to meet up with him but in the end found myself on Oxford Street with a real sense I was going to see someone. Well my street photography diving rod was obviously on to something when I saw Matt.
There you go. It's all street.

13 May 2019

first shoots

My first crop of work from this season includes pictures from Berlin. It was a flying visit so having the framework of New Europe in my mind was a useful focus, as much as in my contact sheet editing as on the street. It's a tricky balancing act. I've shied away from looking for pre-meditated - as much as anyone can - pictures but I think I've found a position that creates the possibility of pictures that still have my beloved ambiguity without being too didactic.
Anyway. I'll let you be the judge.  
Willkommen to my world.
link to New Europe photograph
link to New Europe photograph
link to New Europe photograph
link to New Europe photograph 
link to New Europe photograph
link to New Europe photograph
Now I feel ready to add these to the ongoing zine project. 
I'm looking forward to some cool origami action.