5 Feb 2019

the unbelievable truth

I'm trying to develop my ideas around New Europe so when I saw an event billed as Experiencing Europe: Borderless Artists I had to go. 
It was really rewarding in ways I didn't expect. Elisa Perrigueur described the motivation behind her powerful illustrations of refugees seeking to enter mainland Europe and the UK was to find a better way of describing her experiences than through her primary role as a journalist. The practice of photojournalism is well known but Perrigeur deliberately didn't choose this medium. Illustration as an art form without any obligation to be faithful to reality, visually at least, gave her the liberty to tell her own story.
Borderless Artists talk
For me it illuminated a topical debate about truth and photography. It's easy to say we're at the point now where it seems na├»ve to put both those words in the same sentence. As well as the ease and sophistication with which images can be manipulated, there is a broader cynicism about any attempt to document real life in words or in pictures. 
For those taking pictures on the street it's an even more contentious topic and the preservation of an unadulterated decisive moment an article of faith for many. Using film my only involvement with post production is scanning prints to publish on my website so my opportunity - and interest - in any manipulation is minimal. My interest in this topic has always been around context and the caption in particular which can be a far more powerful way that the viewer can be misdirected
All of which brings me back round to thoughts on my own work. Apologies for the tangents but hey it's why I blog. I've never used captions on my work - well OK then, maybe Untitled once in a while - but inevitably any kind of titling of a collection or a book certainly leads the viewer towards a particular interpretation of the related photographs. In the past these have been more around their compositional relationships.
Distance Between Us spread
Distance Between Us spread
That technique will certainly be a factor in the New Europe zine but I'm looking at another strand to help tell my story. Will it be purely how I sequence and layout the images or are there are other techniques I can use. Introducing other media as I've done before in Portrait of a Street Photographer? Perhaps different sorts or paper to give a more tactile impression? Or is now the opportunity to use augmented reality to really engage the senses? 
Well that was fun. Thanks for reading.


26 Jan 2019

renga time

I'm thinking of making a zine with the photographs from my New Europe collection. Why zine? Wouldn't it be an opportunity to add to my fabulous publishing empire? Well I'm seeing this as a punctuation point not an end. This is still very much a work in progress, as is the immigration debate itself of course.
I have to credit my friend Fabrizio from my local LIP group for the inspiration as he has used the zine format to really complement his wonderful work. 
One characteristic of a zine I like is that you can do away with the reverence of the high end reproduction values of a book. For me it's a more accessible way of presenting images and their sequencing in a visceral way that can really engage you. It reminds me of my conscious rejecting of what I called the white gloves school of photography back in the day. For me the word zine recalls the work of Jamie Reid. In no way could I call myself a punk but the DIY ethos of creating art - whether music, design, film or photography - of picking up whoever or whatever is around you and expressing yourself is really vital to the individual and society.
Zine planning
This is also another opportunity to do something different to how I've worked before by collaborating on the selection and flow of my pictures. Typical of my practice it's always been a solitary process. I had a foray into collaborative working thanks to the Ambiguous Book Project which was quite magical so the seeds are there. This time I'm keen to use the process to interrogate my own work.It's taken me time to feel comfortable doing that myself so I'm excited...and a little nervous.
Fabrizio and I have shared our separate experiences of taking photographs in Tokyo and so listening to the radio this week I was caught by the Japanese phrase Renga.  It's a genre of collaborative poetry but for me it captured perfectly what I'm trying to do...and I never miss an opportunity to see serendipity.
Kore wo yarimashou!


8 Jan 2019

selfies and sunsets

I'm fascinated by the role cameras play in reflecting our social relationships at any time. The boom in image making is well documented and I was interested in a recent stat from Google that 10 - 15% of them are of receipts, shopping lists i.e. "practical things" and not just selfies and sunsets. The article describes how this insight drives the thinking behind Google Lens 
...it will help you search what you see, browse the world around you, and get things done. 
It's an arresting statement and got me thinking about how it could be applied to my own practice of browsing the world around me. I went so far as to download the app to see if its powers of identifying the breeds of pets and species of plants could be used on the street to reveal anything. Sinister? Well yes but not so far fetched
IMG_20190108_110654
I'd like to think my motivations are more altruistic. Hey I'm an artist right? I've written about my consciousness of the shadow of history while I'm walking the streets of London. Rather than reveal an individual's personal data - although that's already a risk of using digital - I'd love to make some kind of visual connection between people across time sharing the same space. I know it's all possible in post production but real time is a phrase I'm intrigued by.
The truth is of course is that there is no journey. We are arriving and departing all at the same time.   David Bowie                                           

12 Dec 2018

power of love

I've neglected writing about my roots for a while now. Granted they're bubbling beneath my current project but the death of my mum almost two years ago seems to have consciously or not put that to one side. In fact that's the subject of a blog post that's been in draft for over a year now following my discovery of a wonderful book by Paul Treacy called SE26 at the 2nd London Photography Symposum.
Paul lives in a part of south London my mum spent her last weeks in. The photographs that make up his book are, for me, a beautiful and evocative reflection on the time I spent with her in and around that area. It's a special book even without the connection I made to it as it's a portrait of a neighbourhood as lived in by the photographer. Each image stands alone but you can appreciate it is part of a larger experience and set of narratives you're privileged to glimpse into and wonder about.
In the serendipitous way I love life works my interest in anything street was piqued by the publication of How Graffiti Saved My Dad's Life. It's both an important document of contemporary social commentary across the landscape of London and a love letter from a daughter to a father commemorating celebrating his passion and her efforts to sustain it through his terminal illness.
Colossive Pres
I found the story an inspirational illustration of how pictures can act as a bridge between different worlds on so many levels and to its viewers in so many different ways. What's that sound? Ah, just another echo of Ambiguous.
My own connection was that while reading the book it became evident that the wonderful photographer was in the same hospice as my mum at around the same time. It gave me an illogical sense of comfort and a reconnection with both the power of photography...and the power of love too.

30 Nov 2018

nocturne

I've eased the transition to post-season by going to some talks by photographers about their practice. Being me there's a London angle to them of course. 

I welcomed the opportunity to revisit the London Nights show at the Museum of London. Both it and the talk gave me such inspiration I was propelled into the streets outside. There's a tension in my relationship with the City. I love the diversity of the West End versus the homogeneity of the street life of the square mile however I can't deny a fascination with its historical context. To that end it was inevitable I was drawn to an icon of the show, St Paul's Cathedral.
It's hard not to look at the image of St Paul's featured in the show in the midst of the Blitz by Herbert Mason in the context of today's debate about Britain's role in the world. It's suffused with a sense of standing alone against European tyranny and it's propaganda value is just as powerful today as in 1940. So it was with fascination I found in its grounds a funfair that had been installed for the Lord Mayor's Show that weekend contrarily, or perhaps not, shared with the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day.
St Paul's photograph
The carousel's seats, occupied by cut-out figures swaying lifeless in the wind and rain presented too easy a metaphor for the current political climate. However the role of the night was the dominant feeling for me. The darkness accentuated the spot-lit dome like a surreal inverse of a wartime blackout. The only sound was of the wind through the carefully placed trees. The amusements observed their own embarrassed silence, knowing it wasn't the time or the place to hook a frog, prize every time.  
All these sensations were in stark contrast to my daytime experience of London and they were brought to the surface again thanks to another night-time talk, this time on the other side of the City in Aldgate. 
After hearing Tom Hunter passionately give London Independent Photography's annual talk (reminding me of another Hackney advocate) I was drawn to wander the streets outside around Petticoat Lane in the shadows of the office blocks and converted warehouses of Bishopsgate. 
Petticoat Lane photograph
Despite the encroachment on all sides those streets still bear some testimony to another London. One well documented by some of my favourite photographers so there was undeniably a feeling of nostalgia but also one of embracing the future. As much as these new buildings represent life for the few not the many London, indeed any city, is constantly in flux.
Like months to a flame people are drawn here.