27 Aug 2022

talking pictures

It was lovely to have the opportunity to talk about my work in front of a live audience as part of London Independent Photography's Members Day. It's been a few years!

This was the first time the event was held in a local satellite group so it seemed fitting to talk about my Living Lockdown project from the streets of Ealing. I wanted to show the impact the pandemic had brought to my work so it was nice to resurrect some of my black and white photographs from London's West End too.

I brought some of Stuart Keegan's prints along too and it reminded me that there are many I never had scanned for the website. It would be great to find a way to do them justice!

The event was also the launch of the latest fLIP magazine where I've written a review of The Book of Veles by Jonas Bendiksen. Its origins were in a talk I gave to my local group earlier this year and I enjoyed spending more time on reflecting on its cosequences for documentary photography.

As Bendiksen reflects, for him documentary photography is photography which has the intention of being part of the conversation about us, us meaning us humans, and the situations we find ourselves in. The questions we're facing. The solutions that we're aspiring to. Documentary photography is photography that relates directly to those somehow. However you make it.

It's a candid assessment and, in the light of his experience, a view worth listening to. Is this a natural evolution or heresy? Will the Book of Veles be seen as prophecy or prank? 

If we care about this form of photography, I suggest we keep paying attention
.

 

23 Jul 2022

shadow of the sun

News of a sunny spell would have excited me back in the day. It was the essential ingredient and stimulation for my photography. 

Now it's a cause for anxiety

Ealing Broadway
Refrigeration van outside shops
Chalk sun

There's a terrible irony that while this is happening the bigger fear is the cost of living crisis or, more to the point, the cost of energy crisis this winter. The short term solutions are diverting attention from addressing the climate crisis itself. 

PXL_20220720_044155272Bottles on waste bin

These pictures, taken back to back, seem to capture the moment.


1 Jun 2022

three become four

Well what started as my response to the pandemic when it was novel and disruptive has, two years on, become a documentation of a place where it's been absorbed into daily live. It's inevitable, I suppose. Humankind cannot bear very much reality is a quote I often recall. We're encouraged for political reasons to move on, yet the consequences still surround us and will do for years. Oh yes and it still hasn't gone away

Selecting the images for the fourth book in my own quartet, prompted by the ending of final (?) restrictions in England in February, was an exercise in seeing the evolution of our experiences and attitudes over the period. Vaccination boosting was now a big theme, with the concomitant anti voices. Signs from the early days of lockdown became worn, leaving traces on walls and streets, laying down palimpsests for the future. The echoes were in our heads too. 

The optimism of the autumn - and of the autumn before - had been deflated by the threat of a new variant. See how we became medicalised, versed in the language of virology. The Greek chorus of newspaper headlines still provided a running commentary of the quotidian ebb and flow of public debate. 
 
Newspaper on street
Precipitously our attention has been immediately taken by news from eastern Europe. It adds to a sense of ongoing crisis, another cause to take up arms for. Ukrainian flags now appear in windows. The palette of the rainbows of lockdown reduced to blue and yellow. We know the routine. Fundraising for the frontline. However it isn't a simple binary exercise. The home front still needs attention and we just don't have the bandwidth of compassion for it. People's lives are still in crisis. 
 
I'm still driven to take photographs. It's a lifetime habit but I find this particular work rewarding in other ways. There's a first page of history buzz. This is a development of the theme for my pre-pandemic project, New Europe 2015-19, thinking about the wider political contexts that my images exist within. It's also still simply a way to engage with the world around. By definition it's superficial, on the surface, but that's the point. The street is a leveller, a common experience, and all the more valuable for that.

17 May 2022

memory lane

It felt significant to be in the Photographers Gallery visiting this year's Deutsche Borse show. I last attended two long years ago, in the early weeks of the pandemic. It some ways everything was back to what it was, but I sense there is still an awareness of social space. Not quite the choerography of lockdown, more a heightened politeness. 

It was a visit that prompted memories in another way too. I was particular interested to see Whatever You Say, Say Nothing by Gilles Peres.

Having spent my childhood summer holidays in Ireland, split between the north and west of the country, the images had a resonance as both reflections of experience but also representations of a reality that was not that long ago. 

Gilles-Peres at Deutsche Borse

The arrangement of the room, the use of the walls of the space and one across the centre, accentuated the significance of that form in the narrative of The Troubles, serving as a division, a hiding place, a canvas. The images were presented as excerpts from the structure of the book.of 22 fictional days. The text is woven into the display to create a richer, and more disturbing, experience.
 

Gilles-Peres at Deutsche Borse
 
I also appreciated the production of the images, in an almost bllboard style. Another acknowledgement of the street roots of the work. Certainly not the preciousness of a high end gallery and another remider of an early show of my work.
 
It was good to be back.


11 Apr 2022

a kind of homecoming

Honoured to have had the opportunity to review Kyun Ngui's zine It's Coming Home for the London Independent Photography group. It's overdue some publicity. 

It's Coming Home zine cover

I remember how impressed I was when Kyun originally introduced this to the Ealing group as a fully formed project soon after the tournament ended. 

The images fizz with atmosphere and...well, you'll have to buy fLIP to read the rest!


2 Apr 2022

terra firma

After so long at home, a short break away in Naples was a throwback to a pre-pandemic time for me. Looking at the photographs now, I can see the style of those days but my recent project has definitely left its mark too.

Naples street
Naples street Naples street Naples street  

Significantly signs of the pandemic - apart from conscientious mask wearing - are few but responses to the latest crisis in Europe are evident.

 
Naples graffiti
Naples street Naples street

So where's the black and white ones on film? Well it's another sign of my times. I did bring my camera but found my mobile - as I had a few years ago after a break - has become my new extension. The transplant is complete, almost.

 

6 Mar 2022

rites of spring

The first days of spring are bringing darker days, not lighter. The stress and struggle of the last two years have been put in context in an unimaginable way. 

West Ealing

It brings me back abruptly to my New Europe project. That project was borne of travelling to cities around Europe, freely. Of acknowledging London as a city of refugee and refugees.

 London Bridge

That also seems a distant memory right now.

 

3 Mar 2022

nocturne number 2

It's been a while since my last nocturnal walk around the city. What was a first though, was joining a group of other photographers on the adventure. I've always felt a little superior to the pack approach, playing on the lone wolf stereotype, but this taught me not to be so precious. It was really interesting to look through other people's eyes on the same scenes when we shared our work with the wider LIP group. 

 Watling Street

Gough Square

 Ludgate Circus

In addition the walk was well structured by Dan Dodman to reference points of historical note en route, so it brought together two of my passions. The only downside to the evening was my failed attempt to pirouette some street furniture in the dark. Ouch.

My slalom metaphor suddenly seemed very apt. 

 

17 Feb 2022

tale of two cities

As restrictions in London ease it's wonderful to have the opportunity to see some photography in real life. Two shows caught my eye to mark my return. They were, guess what, a throwback to black and white work from the fifties and sixties, an era that first stimulated my passion for photography.

The location of the shows were in many ways the antithesis of their roots. Swish, exclusive art dealers in London's Mayfair district are a long way from Roy DeCarava's roots in Harlem and Mary Ellen Mark's work in Seattle. 

I remember seeing Mary Ellen Mark's photography as part of a wonderful show in 2018 at the Barbican, Another Kind of LifeThere the context and stories of the participants were very much part of the experience. The way her work was displayed in Alike, My Friends, was strangely disconcerting. Stripped of any title alongside the image in such a body of humanist work felt wrong. Commoditised. Oh yes the titles could be found. In the price list.

Burlington Gardens

Walking past the Royal Academy and along New Bond Street my emotions were mixed. There was certainly an energy and buzz. Maybe it was the aftertaste. The haves and the have-nots have always been woven to form the fabric of London. However the latest iteration feel more monochrome.  

So I was concerned entering the next show. I've held Roy DeCarava's work close to my heart for a long time. I remember buying a monograph in the old Photographers' Gallery bookshop on Great Newport Street when that was really the only place I knew to educate myself. 

 Grafton Street

It was a relief to enter the space at David Zwirner and find the work presented so well. It's still a "selling" show but classy. It helped that the late afternoon winter sun  gave an ambience and warmth that literally gave life to the work. 

Faith restored.

 

12 Feb 2022

shifting plates

Well just adding this image to the page gave me a thrill. It's been a while.... 

 London Contact Sheet 2021

Back last summer I, ironically of course, posted an image of an exposed roll of film, the result of a wander around London's West End for the first time in a long time. Well plus ├ža change. True to form it's taken my usual gestation period for the images to see the light of day again. 

The style hasn't materially changed either. I've written at length about that and also how I'm at a point of reflection now too, but it was good to just reconnect with those familiar streets. Nothing's fixed in time of course. 

They shift beneath my feet, now more than ever.

 

12 Jan 2022

flatter to deceive

I first became aware of Jonas Bendiksen in a photography show at the PM Gallery when I remember being struck by an image from his Satellites project. This was a classic piece of Magnum photojournalism: humanist stories, documented against a backdrop of political and social turmoil. It was fascinating to discover that he had used the reputation of his persona and of Magnum to create a fictional documentary project, The Book of Veles, raising questions about authenticity, trust and the photography establishment.

It was a topic of interest for a number of us in my local photography group so I put together a short talk. In retrospect it's a companion to one I gave over a year ago on ethics.

There are lots of sources that describe the story but I found Ben Smith's interview very interesting and well worth a listen.