ReViewfinder Exhibitions at the Viewfinder Photography Gallery from June 2009 to September 2010
Catalogue writers: Bettina Brux Caroline Knowles Christina Demetriou Eloise Donnelly Guy Davies Kathleen Brey Lisa Robertson Ruby Russell Poems by: Elizabeth Gowing Catalogue editors: Anne-Marie Glasheen Lisa Robertson Parmida Zarrinkamar Catalogue proof-reader: Anne-Marie Glasheen
Signware Take Better Pictures University of Greenwich Individuals Catalogue designer: Mandana Ahmadvazir ReViewfinder2 collated by: Julie Ferrif Publisher: Viewfinder Photography Gallery Registered address: Linear House, Peyton Place, off Royal Hill, Greenwich, London SE10 8RS firstname.lastname@example.org www.viewfinder.org.uk
Guest curators: David Kendall Lanis Levy John Levett Tutors of BA Architecture Atelier 9: Thomas Goodey, Ioana Marinescu and Naomi Shaw Viewfinder curator & manager: Louise Forrester Exhibition sponsors: Ambigraph Artful Dodgers Bayeux Breckenridge Design Institutul Cultural Roman Greenwich Hospital Greenwich Peninsula Openvizor Polish Cultural Institute
First published September 2010 ÂŠ The artists and authors The views expressed in this publication are not necessarily the views of the publisher or the editors. The publisher and the editors accept no responsibility for any errors or for the results of the use of any information contained within the publication.
INTRODUCTION Louise Forrester
â€˜ReViewfinder2â€™ collates the key research commissioned for exhibition catalogues, and sample images. For the complete catalogues, please see the display copies available at the gallery or the online versions (which can be read for free) at www.viewfinder.org.uk/shop. None of these exhibitions or catalogues would have been possible without the unique and thoughtprovoking work by participating photographers (www.viewfinder.org.uk/exhibitions; the insightful contributions from writers; the support of Viewfinder members (www.viewfinder.org.uk/members); the dedication and incredible generosity of our regular volunteers (Kathleen Brey, Jamie Downham, Lisa Robertson, Mandana Ahmadvazir, Anne-Marie Glasheen, Barry White, Tatiana Akhmatova, Alicia Clarke, Eloise Donnelly, Elizabeth Gowing, Stephanie Warrick and Tina Rowe. I would also like to extend my thanks to our wonderful team of occasional volunteers and those on work placement with us (Alex Davies, Ben McInally, Christina Demetriou, Dominic Dawkins, Gregory Rebowski, Guy Davies, Julie Ferrif, Michael Wiafe, Nicola Denley, Peter Tomlinson, Rachel Stratton, Vivienne Todor and William Armstrong). We are also very grateful for the ongoing and invaluable support of the Viewfinder trustees (Michael Davies, Carolyn Nicholl and Camilla Halewood). We are also very pleased to have developed a strong relationship with local performance artists Lizzie Sells and Tiffany Charrington, whose performances have brought the gallery to life on several occasions. An extra special thanks to those who have delivered accompanying workshops (Anna Hillman, Anna Hindocha, Anne-Marie Glasheen, Astrid Schulz, Britt Hatzius, Elizabeth Gowing, John Levett, Karen Grainger, Nigel Rumsey, Richard Bunce and Sarah Garrod). Thank you also to the
organisations which have facilitated the delivery of our workshop programme: CUCR, Greenwich Community College, Greenwich Heritage Centre, Homerton Hospital, Pendragon School, Trinity Hospice and Urban Encounters. We are also extremely grateful to Grassroots Grants and Capital Community Foundation for funding our workshop programme, and to our patron Grant Mackie whose generosity has enabled us to expand and improve on our programme of outreach workshops. To see photographs taken on Viewfinder workshops, please see www. viewfinder.org.uk/events A very big thank you also to exhibition sponsors for supporting our exhibition programme (Ambigraph, Artful Dodgers, Bayeux, Breckenridge Design, Institutul Cultural Roman, Greenwich Peninsula, Openvizor, Polish Cultural Institute, Signware, Take Better Pictures, University of Greenwich). A particularly exuberant thank you to Jane Rowson and Edward Dolby at Greenwich Hospital Estate for their generosity in hosting three of our exhibitions: Open Salon Showcase, Not Here Yet and the Third Greenwich Annuale; and a thank you to Nicola Frost making the introduction. A further thank you to Shaun Caton at Homerton Hospital who has initiated a digital display of Viewfinder photographs throughout the hospital – we are delighted to play a part in brightening the experience for patients, and impressed by such an innovative response to patient care. ReViewfinder2 marks the end of my managing the Viewfinder – it’s been an absolute pleasure developing the gallery and working with such a wonderful team of photographers and volunteers. I am delighted to be handing over to Kathleen Brey, and look forward to seeing both the exhibitions she puts on, and to reading ReViewfinder3!
This exhibition explores the relationship between the body, femininity and domesticity.
Second Greenwich Annuale
3 — 27 September
24 July — 15 August
This exhibition brings together individual photographic projects that scrutinise struggles between transformations of ‘place’ and ‘space’.
20 — 30 August
3 — 19 July 19 — 28 June
A Line is There to be Broken
This exhibition presents portraits of strangers, exploring issues of trust between photographer and subject.
The Greenwich group of London Independent Photography returns to Viewfinder Photography Gallery in August for an exhibition reflecting the diverse styles, ideas and interests of this flourishing collection of both local and international photographers.
To celebrate being awarded the Quality Learning Outside the Classroom badge, Workshop Hotshots showcased the best of our workshops from the last year.
Water-land: Deptford Creek
Water-land is a series of photographic essays about Deptford Creek undertaken by a group of Architecture BA students from University of Greenwich. Situated in an old industrial area with a strong maritime character, Deptford Creek is a territory of contrasts: between water and land, between derelict warehouses and new development.
Myths and Fairytales
Car Park: Under Cover
23 Nov — 20 Dec
Three photographers present folklore and the imagined: re-enacting French literature, reinterpreting Greek and Roman myths and performing fairytales.
23 Dec — 10 Jan
29 Oct — 20 Nov
Part of the Photomonth and Deptford X festivals, Nestled consists of a series of black & white and colour photographs, in which individuals interact with the surrounding space and environment, in a humorous, playful and daring way – tucking their bodies into concrete structures or between tree branches.
15 — 25 October
1 — 11 October
Astrid Schulz’ solo exhibition ‘Car Park: under cover’ comprises twelve images, capturing the aftermath of a 24-hour snowstorm in the Czech Republic.
Kelly McCann’s project documents churches in South London that inhabit ex-commercial, industrial or residential buildings as opposed to traditional church buildings.
Shop Front Churches
18 March — 5 April Open Salon 2010
For the third time, London’s Viewfinder Photography Gallery turned its walls over to the public for an exhibition where every image it received was shown.
The group exhibition ‘Masked Ball’ presents portraits of people in a variety of masks – from animal heads to cheese slices.
Family Photographs: Reworked
8 — 25 April
Make Your Mark brings together the striking work of three photographers – each series explores how the placing of a mark in an environment recreates the space. Marks are documented at three very different scales: in cupboards, in rooms and across cities.
25 Feb — 14 March
4 — 21 February 14 — 31 Jan
Make Your Mark
Re: Landscape presents illusory photographs of English rural scenes and coastlines. Using mirrors when photographing each landscape, Karen Grainger blurs the boundary between the reflected and the real.
John Levett and Anne-Marie Glasheen, both use their family photographs as a resource in creating new series, and as a tool for understanding and reinterpreting their own family histories.
A Here and a There
How we make sense of, and move about in, the city depends on who we are and where we have both come from and ‘arrived’; gender, race, nationality and class inevitably weigh heavily in the equation.
As our cities and coast lines seem to change at an ever increasing pace, these photographs present us with a record of places on the cusp of dramatic reconfiguration.
Not Here Yet
Third Greenwich Annuale
12 Aug — 12 Sep
1 July — 8 Aug
The Viewfinder Photography Gallery presented a group exhibition of photographic images created using alternative techniques, cameras and media.
3 — 27 June
29 April — 30 May
The Greenwich Group of London Independent Photography returns again to Viewfinder Photography Gallery this August to showcase its exuberant collection of photographic talent and enthusiasm.
A LINE IS THERE TO BE BROKEN Photographers David Kendall Tristan Fennell Gesche Würfel Essay by Ruby Russell Sponsors Openvizor Bayeux
For all the monumental structures a city may encompass, it also exists as a network of psychological spaces in continuous flux. The term ‘Global City’ refers to a metropolis defined by its relationships to other places, its status as a centre for international, and in particular, economic, activity. ‘A line is there to be broken’ is a curatorial project that examines the dynamics of space and place in three Global Cities: London, Tokyo and Dubai. As a collective body of work it explores how official attempts to control the flow of economic wealth and human activity for the enhancement of the a city’s global status can conflict with the needs of the population for movement, connectivity, identity and the basic necessities of survival. In Tristan Fennell’s photographs of Midori Park in the centre of Tokyo we see bold blue tarpaulin shelters erected by the homeless, directly under the gaze of gleaming skyscrapers. The scale of these handbuilt structures, the details of carefully tied ropes and immediacy of the needs they address, evokes something universally human, in contrast to the alienating edifices that loom above. Fennell viewed the camp in part as a kind of organic protest. As well as creating a new kind of communal space for those who have been forced out of Japan’s ‘company society’, it appeared as a material manifestation of social inequality that demanded attention and questioned the very notion of public space in the city. Having lived in Tokyo for three years, it was only when the inhabitants of these shelters began to be moved on that Fennell felt compelled to document them. These living places were not to be integrated into new official spaces: the dwellers were not relocated, but pushed towards a less visible existence. By taking photographs of these places
This exhibition brings together individual photographic projects that scrutinise struggles between transformations of ‘place’ and ‘space’. Tristan Fennell, David Kendall, and Gesche Würfel create photographic works that explore social and spatial disruptions in ‘everyday life’ and the urban landscape. This ongoing curatorial project and group exhibition continues to question changes in socialgovernmental policies, spatial, economic developments, and initiatives in cities throughout the world.
he engages with their transience and creates a record of something that has not ceased to exist, but has been forcibly dissolved. Gesche Würfel’s photographs of the Lea Valley in East London engage with places that are disappearing in a more sudden and dramatic way. The area is currently in the process of a multi-billion pound Olympic redevelopment. ‘Go for Gold!’ focuses on places that have been deemed virtually worthless in their current state and which are being transformed into aspects of the Olympic Park. This dramatically disrupts the current uses of space to the extent of excluding current residents altogether. Through Würfel’s lens, seemingly inconsequential, disregarded elements are beautifully composed to suggest a sense of place. In part these notions of space are drawn from her research into the associations they have for the local people she connected with through the course of the project; in part they are result of her own active viewpoint. They suggest things that might have happened, things that might yet happen, and as in Fennell’s work, the absence of people makes them somehow more intensely human. Würfel questions the aims of the Olympic project and who will benefit from the area’s regeneration. She concludes that in focusing on London’s global status, the regeneration plan that won London the Olympics is in direct conflict with the interests of the existing local communities and ecology. In Dubai, too, architectural development is disenfranchising the resident population in favour of global status. Migrant workers make up around three quarters of the city’s population. Many of them are engaged in the construction industry where they work on projects designed to cater for wealthy tourists. The physical shaping of the city in which they are directly involved makes no concessions to the patterns and requirements of their own lives.
What struck David Kendall was the use of roads, in a city designed to be navigated by cars, by workers for whom owning a vehicle is a financial impossibility. In his photographs figures are glimpsed for the first time. Fences and roads illuminated by an unforgiving sun brutally divide the physical space, while the free-roaming pedestrians who follow and traverse these axes are faceless, hidden agents, represented almost diagrammatically. The layout of the roads presents a carefully controlled illusion of wealth and power, screening off areas of visible poverty and guiding visitors on a tour of the city’s most impressive modern constructions. Yet the workers – who contribute the Dubai as a global city by way of their transitory presence and as well the contribution of their under-paid labour – navigate the city on their own terms, track alternative trajectories and subvert the city-state’s official design. In the context of these hugely complex and dynamic urban systems, photographs can act as an eye in the centre of the storm, a quiet, still place for reflection. By framing a place in the viewfinder a new psychological space is created, drawing attention to the interaction between officially sanctioned uses of space and those dictated by the communities that occupy them. Revealing patterns and spaces that we can relate to on a human scale allows us to comprehend a city as a locus of infinitely complex and globally connected processes.
DROP-IN PORTRAITS Photographers Sipke Visser Elizabeth Gordon Essay by Lisa Robertson Sponsors Breckenridge Design
American photographer Walker Evans is best remembered for his haunting documentary portraits taken during the Great Depression. Commissioned by the Farm Security Administration and Fortune magazine, the project sent Evans and writer James Agee to Alabama in search of a story that would document the effects of the nation’s economic devastation. Although Fortune decided not to run the story, Evans’ photographs became emblematic of the hardship faced by a generation. In 1938, Evans began taking anonymous photographs on the New York City subway system. With his camera hung around his neck and hidden beneath a trench coat, and a shutter release fit down his sleeve, Evans captured the curious and unsuspecting gazes of more than 600 commuters. Unlike the portraits for the FSA which were intended to be authoritative and literary, Evans wanted the subway portraits to resist a narrative approach and to collapse interpretation. The photographs, which should be objective and anonymous, are instead deeply personal. How do we explain, then, the deeply charged emotional response to Evans’ subway photographs? Walter Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproducibility,” a notorious text in first year art history seminars, theorises this magical quality as the ‘aura.’ Associated with history and tradition, the aura is a mysterious quality that is partly based on the image’s participation in ritual and ceremony. In this sense, an image’s aura is not as much a quality possessed by it as an attitude towards it. More useful to this discussion, though, is Benjamin’s definition of aura as “the unique phenomenon of a distance, however close it may be.”1 Benjamin suggests that an image’s uniqueness and it’s sense of duration are destroyed by its reproduction. This polemic, too often interpreted as the advent of photographic reproduction signals a cultural shift from
This exhibition presents portraits of strangers, exploring issues of trust between photographer and subject. Both photographers invited total strangers to participate in their projects – Sipke Visser using the classifieds website Gumtree and Elizabeth Gordon using posters in the local area. The subjects had to take a leap of faith in participating in the projects – with Sipke Visser, visiting his home rather than an established photographic studio; with Elizabeth Gordon, meeting a stranger in a park.
original work to soulless copy, is in fact more complex. Benjamin’s earlier work published in 1931, “The Little History of Photography”, establishes the aura as a quality not necessarily inimical to technology – and not to photography. In fact, Benjamin points to the portrait photograph as the last locus of the aura’s appearance. He comments of Kafka’s childhood portrait: He would surely be lost in this setting were it not for his immensely sad eyes, which dominate this landscape predestined for them. This picture, in its infinite sadness, forms a pendant to the early photographs in which people did not yet look out at the world in so excluded and godforsaken a manner as this boy. There was an aura about them, a medium that lent fullness and security to their gaze even as it penetrated that medium. 2 Caroline Duttlinger suggests that this “imaginary encounter” between the viewer and the subject transcends historical and technological categories and can therefore provide an alternative auratic reading. 3 Equally important is her argument that the distance of the gaze between the subject and viewer becomes a tension between a presence and absence. This tension, then, becomes the source of the image’s aura. To revisit Evans’ portraits, we find a similar tension between absence and presence – but here the photographer is, very literally, at its source. In the Subway portraits, his identity as a photographer is mostly concealed. While many subjects were unaware of having their picture taken, it is evident that those who apprehended Evans’ gaze knew he was up to something. In a cloak of anonymity, at least one that concealed the artist’s status, Evans’ photographs capture a purposeful distance between subject and viewer. In her important work The Threshold of the Visible World, Kaja Silverman states that an image can achieve an auratic quality by “maximising the so-called
fourth wall and when it irradiates representation with ideality.”4 These two qualities entreat the gaze of the viewer, who then invests the work with the ability to look back.5 By removing the photographer to a degree, Evans’ subway photographs create distance by strengthening the presence of the fourth wall. Evans’ portraits identify, but they simultaneously obscure. Elizabeth Gordon’s “Meet me in the Park” series, included in the Viewfinder Photography Gallery’s ‘Drop- In Portraits’ exhibition, also evokes a tension between the absence and presence of the photographer. Although the photographer had no preliminary contact with her subjects and made no eye contact during the shoot, her presence is articulated in a number of ways. While Evans’ disguised his status as photographer for his subway series only by hiding the camera, Gordon calls attention to herself as the anonymous photographer. For the project, Gordon enlisted through advertisement a number of anonymous subjects to meet her in the park and have their portraits taken. As the participants arrived at their individually scheduled times, only a single frame was taken, and Gordon remained beneath the focus cloth while the subjects were present. Although the focus cloth conceals her physical appearance, the guise simultaneously calls attention to her presence as the photographer. As Gordon was unable to clearly see her subjects, the photographs exhibit compositional blemishes that also underscore her presence. The tension that emerges as a result of the photographer’s absent presence invests Gordon’s Park series, like Evans’ Subway portraits, with an element of the auratic. Although Gordon’s images convey the momentary and fragmentary, this tension sets the viewer beyond a distinct temporal definition. As Duttlinger suggests, this encounter (or gaze) between the viewer and the image is opposed to fixing the
image in a static historical or technological category.6 Sipke Visser’s ‘Gumtree’ series provides an interesting foil to Gordon’s ‘Park’ photographs. While Visser also experiments with absence and presence, any tension is ultimately resolved. For the works included in ‘Drop-In Portraits’, Visser advertised for sitters on the internet classified site Gumtree. The artist’s objective was to take photographs of people who were formerly strangers; that is, they were to become acquainted during the shoot. Visser did not perform the role of the anonymous photographer, but instead fixed his identity as the known photographer – and by requesting a photo of potential participants in advance, fixed the subject’s identity as such. Visser’s portraits also play with the shifting identities between the known and unknown during the photographic process. He remarks that ‘I enjoyed meeting people’ and spoke personally with each sitter during their shoot. The images are invested with an emotional authority that is the result of the artist and subject’s combined participation. What operates here is not a sense of distance, but of proximity. For Evans’, the interplay of alienation and identification assists in distancing the viewer from the image. Visser’s ‘Gumtree’ portraits, similarly, play with the identity of artist and subject but any tension is resolved by the emotional immediacy of the artist’s biographical approach. Thus with two opposing approaches to portrait photography – one of orchestrated anonymity and the other a process of familiarisation – both artists’ work is invested with a profound sense of personal significance.
1. Walter Benjamin “Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproducability, in Michael W. Jennings, Howard Eiland, and Gary Smith (eds.) and Rodney Livingston (trans.), Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings Vol. 3 1938 -1938 (London and Boston: Oxford University Press, 1999), 103 – 4. 2 . Walter Benjamin “The Little History of Photography”, in Michael W. Jennings, Howard Eiland, and Gary Smith (eds.) and Rodney Livingston (trans.), Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings Vol. 2 1927 -1934 (London and Boston: Oxford University Press, 1999), 515 – 7. 3. Carolin Duttlinger “Imaginary Encounters Walter Benjamin and the Aura of Photography” Poetics Today 29:1: 2008, 81. 4. Kaja Silverman, The Threshold of the Visible World (New York and London: Routledge, 1996), 93. 5. Ibid, 94 – 5. 6. Duttlinger, 87.
SYMBIOSIS Photographer Annett Reimer Essay by Eloise Donnelly Interview with the photographer by Louise Forrester Christina Demetriou
In her collection of photographs exploring the female body and identity, Annett Reimer presents us with a series of images that immediately challenge the photographic gaze. Headless, faceless bodies devoid of identity are depicted in ambiguous poses: fractured limbs in positions that are both vulnerable and threatening, the body merging with the furniture of the domestic interior. Yet the viewer’s response constitutes just one facet of each picture: as a contrived, stylised image we are witness to the end product of a piece of performance art in which the photographer is the protagonist. While exploring the public response to the female form and representations of female identity, for the photographer the collection also involved a personal consideration of memory and self. The photographs mark the fusion of these two registers: a conflation of the public and private where the artists’ emotions are projected onto universal themes of individual and collective identity. From the first image in the series The Unhomely Stage, the themes and atmosphere are clearly established: the viewer is aware of the staged, planned rigidity of an ordinary domestic interior. Yet the normalcy of the image creates a feeling of unease and suspense. The deerhead at the apex of the composition gives an impression of threat – the reference to hunting invokes a clear sense of patriarchal structure, while the art of taxonomy itself bridges the gap between the animate and the decorative, the use of parts of the body for aesthetic purposes. Despite this staged setting, the second image is shocking for the sudden appearance of the limbs. With just one arm and one leg reaching out from behind the sofa, the perpendicular composition and parameters of the body’s reach are at once comic and unsettling. A single highheeled shoe and red nail varnish are the only clues to the body’s identity. Reaching up to the deerhead, stretching
This exhibition explores the relationship between the body, femininity and domesticity. The artist presents a series of interior scenes, the normality of which is constantly challenged through playful interaction with the space. The work addresses the relationship between body, place and memory – Reimer’s body is surreally fractured behind everyday furniture, challenging the power of the photographic gaze. The collaborative series ‘Interpretation’ is also presented, in which photographers construct images according to a set of rules provided by Reimer. The results are striking in their variety, suggesting an inherent mystery within the supposedly unambiguous guidelines.
out in line with the skirting board, the woman’s boundaries within this domestic interior are clearly demarcated. The charged atmosphere is amplified in the following image, where we witness the body lying face down, covered with the rug. The pose invokes ideas of death and burial, with the rug acting as a shroud, yet in an inverted position symbolising a further reduction of the protagonist’s identity. This theme is taken a stage further in the penultimate image, as the body is rolled up inside the rug, identity removed, body fit for disposal. Pieces of furniture and decoration are gradually removed from the images as the series progresses– the domestic embellishments reduced to a Spartan cell, and in the final image, the room is completely bare aside from the ever-present deerhead and the woman’s plain heeled shoes. In removing pieces of furniture as the woman’s identity is further eroded, the photographer comments on the symbiotic nature of humans and furniture – how we construct our personal lives around these inanimate objects, and how they themselves take on the identity of the owner and provoke memory and emotion. The photographer’s performance is dictated by the furniture, and thus by extension, by the photographer’s grandmother; the performance and images are thus shaped by her memory of their relationship. In interacting with this very personal space the photographer examines her place among the women of her family and compares herself to her grandmother. She is reliving the experience of entering her grandmother’s house as a child – thereby viewing their relationship through the prism of two generations, yet also contracting that distance by comparing her own experience as a woman with that of her grandmother. While the boundaries of her grandmother’s life were set within the parameters of
the domestic sphere, the sense of threat and foreboding presented in these images brings these personal considerations into the public sphere, highlighting the photographerâ€™s unease at contemporary gender structures: the majority of women still defined by the roles of wife and mother and confined by their domestic responsibilities. The presentation of the female body as merging with the furniture reiterates her passivity in modern life; she is reduced to a submissive, decorative aspect of the domestic landscape. These themes persevere in the series Symbiotic Bodies, where the photographer focuses on the relationship between humans and inanimate objects through furniture. The first image in the series conveys a strong sense of the masculine; the straight back and red and white stripy covering of the chair suggesting a shirt and tie and implies a corporate male identity. The dominance of this masculinity is reinforced by the knocked-over high-heeled shoe beneath the chair (the last remaining reference to female identity in the preceding series). It represents a messy, uncontrolled detail within the strict order of geometric city life; it also contrasts with the order and delicacy of perceived female social norms as suggested by the three paintings of flowers on the wall behind. The second image furthers these ideas: a seemingly headless woman lying on a luxurious red velvet couch with her back towards the camera. The sofa here itself assumes the female identity; the curves and structure invoke the lines of the external female form, while the deep red colour suggests the internal. Even the top of the sofa here reminds the viewer of a female head, a tuft of hair. This strong sense of physicality again contrasts with the refinement of the trio of paintings, and reflects a disjuncture between idealized femininity and the reality.
In anthropomorphising the sofa and presenting the photographer in the image of the piece of furniture, her form echoing the curve of the sofa, the photographer emphasises that human identity is moulded by the furniture it inhabits as well as the other way round. As necessary fixtures in our homes, the piece plays bears witness to our private, domestic lives and combines the functional with the inherently personal. The third image develops this point – with two arms wrapped around two different armchairs, the identity of the owner exists in the space between the two chairs, in an apparent vacuum. In the fourth image the couch is encircled by the photographer’s legs. The photographic gaze is challenged by the dimensions of the sofa; seemingly too large to be spanned by a woman’s legs the reality of image is questioned, and the limbs assume an artificiality – similar to that of a mannequin. We are thus made more aware of the objectification of women within the photographic gaze, and the reduction of female identity and sense of self to the purely physical and corporeal. While the pose is in some ways comic and playful, the sense of vulnerability and powerlessness increases the viewer’s sense of voyeurism and intrusion. Perhaps the last image is the most revealing in the series, as it is here that we witness the photographer assuming a child-like pose which recalls the personal nature of the setting and the photographer’s relationship with her grandmother. Clutching onto the stem of a side table, the photographer suggests both the playful, innocent sense of a child playing hide-andseek, but also recalls the grasp of a child for its mother. We are therefore reminded of the familial associations the furniture has for the photographer, and the ways in which inanimate objects can be imbued
with powerful personal associations and memories, and can affect the behaviour of the people living around it. The series In Symbiosis presents us with two images that develop the ideas explicated in the two preceding series, but within a different setting and atmosphere. The photographer has established a colder, darker environment, with the domestic embellishments and human resonances apparent in the previous setting replaced with a more austere background. The net curtains serve to amplify the degree of voyeurism acknowledged by the viewer, while the grey carpet and duller light source create corporate and impersonal feel. This theme is emphasised by the choice of furniture: a black leather office swivel chair. The inclusion of a pale pink flower on the seat introduces a feminine aspect to this masculine environment. The fact that it looks so out of place, the delicacy of the petals contrasting with the cold solidity of the leather, highlights the incongruity of women within powerful corporate positions and the solidity of traditional power structures. While the previous two series pay closer attention to tradition and history â€“ both personal and public â€“ of womanâ€™s place within the domestic sphere, here the photographer underlines contemporary gender debates and presents the female form as merely an adjunct; she becomes an accessory to city life legitimised only by her association with masculine power. The final image, resonating with the first image of Symbiotic Bodies, shows just the legs of the woman wrapped around the leather chair, reminding us of the negation of female identity explored throughout the collection as women are portrayed in terms of physical objects viewed by the male gaze. Throughout this collection of images, the viewer is aware of the staged nature of the photographs, and of the resulting juncture between the conception of the performance and the result of the photograph as a
performed event. The process of organising, staging and performing the act is also explored through Reimerâ€™s collaborative project Interpretation. For this, she gave a written description of the same imagined scenario to a group of photographers who each submitted a photographic response. In both projects, personal responses emerge despite the rigidity of the planning and rules in their preparation. In Interpretation, we see a striking array of different responses to one text, a seemingly narrow direction. In Symbiosis, Reimer was performing within a space so imbued with the memory of her family and childhood experience that it affected the practical execution of the pieces. This body of work became a collaborative experience between human and object, reinforcing the symbiotic relationship the photographer seeks to explore.
Interview with the photographer by Louise Forrester Christina Demetriou
SYMBIOSIS (this body of work is made of three series, “In Symbiosis”, “Symbiotic Bodies” and “The Unhomely Stage”. Could you say a little about what inspired this project? The first photograph I took for the Symbiotic bodies series was taken in a room in my grandmother’s house that I never entered as a child. The door was always locked and children were not allowed in there. Because of this I was very intrigued by it the first time I entered as an adult; it felt forbidden and mysterious. I think it was the overwhelming feeling I had at that moment, and the furniture with female shapes that made me start to think of the fact that the female body probably was the source of inspiration for the designer of the sofa. This is what made me think of the symbiotic relationship between humans and furniture, and it becomes an exploration of the female body, sexuality, place and memory. My interaction with the space felt forbidden, and I had an urge to explore it. At that time I only took one photograph, but I soon went back to make it better and into a whole series. How important to you is the surrealism of the images in Symbiotic Bodies? The surrealism is important because it’s a tool in my exploration, it adds to the forbidden and nervous feeling I had when taking the photographs. It makes me a bit anonymous, and it makes the viewer think, feel and react. It’s my way to interact with the viewer. It helps me with the exploration of the female body, by exploring one body part at a time and through this dismembering the female body.
How much planning went into these photographs, were you clear how you would interact with the furniture or were the images created spontaneously? I think my images look very planed and very staged, but the scene I start with is always there, and then I develop it, almost as a story. The “In Symbiosis” series was was very natural. And so was the “Symbiotic Bodies” series, but I had planed in advance which furniture I wanted to explore, but it often changes. When I’m in my chosen space it is more of a performative act. When I started on the “Unhomely Stage” series I knew it would be very cold as it was in the middle of the winter and there was no heating. I tried to plan them in advance, but when you’re in that space something always just happens. The presence of memory collided with the large uninhibited space. “The Unhomely Stage” is set at a house that has not been lived in for almost a decade, the house has been left completely furnished and nothing has been removed since it was lived in. Did you feel it was important to be involved in front of as well as behind the camera, as the subject of these photographs? Very much so. It felt natural to be a part of the personal space, I had to be a part of the image otherwise it would not be personal. Using a model would have been strange as the model would not have had a personal connection with the space, and it would not be the personal female exploration I was working with. It is important to me to work with my own female body as the subject. How much postproduction work goes into the photographs in Symbiotic Bodies? I use postproduction as a tool to realize the surrealistic
feeling I want for a specific image. To make this possible I need to be very careful when taking the photographs so that the lighting doesn’t change and things like that which could make postproduction harder. This is also why the images have a staged feeling, because at some level they always are. I set up the camera carefully, and it always has to be straight. Every angle and distance is measured before a photograph is taken. The location is a key element in these photographs. How did you choose these locations and do they have a particular meaning for you? The locations used are of high personal value. I used the homes of my grandmothers as the surrealist stage for my exploration. I think this whole body of work began because I wanted to get to know my grandmother better; I’ve always had a bit of a distant relationship with her. Because of this distance with her, and the rest of my family too after moving abroad when I was 19, I started to see things differently. I see and think things I probably wouldn’t have if I were closer to them, if I hadn’t of moved abroad. Interpretation Could you say a little about what inspired this project? I wanted to investigate how different people interpret a description and work with set rules when taking a photograph. I was very intrigued to see how people would differently interpret my idea, and how like or unlike the images might be. Were there any unexpected results from the Interpretation series?
I’m not really sure what I expected to be honest; it’s very difficult to see different images in your head when you already have an idea of what an image will look like. I had to take my image before I sent out the description to others so I would not have the urge to look at their images before taking mine as that would have ruined the project. How did you find collaborating with other photographers? Do you feel this worked well? It worked very well; I felt that the other photographers were excited about the challenge. How did you choose the photographers? Did you know much about their work before the project? I asked a group of people that I knew had some photographic knowledge, but I had not yet seen their work. I felt that was important as it made the project more interesting as I knew nothing about their photographic style. Future Projects What projects are you working on currently? I’ve recently began a new project, which I’ve had in mind for a couple of months. It will most likely go by the title “Homebound” once it’s completed. It’s a continuation of work using myself and the female body as the subject. The ideas and inspiration come from my upbringing, where women’s duty has been to take care of the family and household. The series expresses my frustration over the gender inequality, and therefore the issues of women being “Homebound”. This project is something I will continue working on for my Master of Arts in Photography at the Royal College of Art.
THE SECOND GREENWICH ANNUALE Photographers Neville Austin Dan Bachmann Quentin Ball Debra Bazell Nicky Boyd Stephen Brockerton Corin Ashleigh Brown Jenny Johnson Burrows Bhaskar Chakravarti Anita Chandra Lisa Chillingworth Alicia Clarke Nicholas Cobb Anne Crabbe Melany Darke Brian Daubney Robert Davies Jenny Dawes Siobhรกn Doran Linda Duffy Orde Eliason Susan Folkes Louise Forrester Caroline Fraser Bogdan Frymorgen Anne-Marie Glasheen Alan Golding Elizabeth Gowing Tony Hale Laura Harding Anna Hillman Lotta Holmberg
The Greenwich group of London Independent Photography returns to Viewfinder Photography Gallery in August for an exhibition reflecting the diverse styles, ideas and interests of this flourishing collection of both local and international photographers. The Greenwich group formed in May 2007, meets monthly at Viewfinder and now numbers over 130 photographers. The diversity of this talent is reflected in the 2009 Annuale. The inaugeral Annuale of 2008 featured over thirty photographers, gathered extensive press coverage and exceeded the hopes of all who contributed. Commentary on the exhibition remarked on the professionalism of the entries and the curatorial skill of the presentation. Selected as top exhibition to visit in the British Journal of Photography, it presented 34 photographs ranging from street photography to landscapes, from larger-than-life human portraits to pictures of pigeons. The second Annuale, bigger and better, will present the work of over sixty photographers, a reflection of the growth of the group in the past year. Londoners dominate, the home counties send significant numbers and Europe (old and new) continues to contribute. The group is also blessed by those who join us while passing through - those at college and university, those on secondment to London offices, those on short-term contract. Some join for one meeting, some never miss one. The Greenwich group is inclusive - all ages, all stages. From those who bought a camera last week to those who bought one during the reign of the last King, all can enter the Annuale and all are accepted. .
Chris Hudson Martin Jordan Tiffany Jones Julie Kertesz Marysia Lachowicz Caroline Lamburd Jennifer Lanier John Levett Stefan Lubomirski de Vaux Peter Luck Dave Mason Jon May Alex McIlhiney Steve Miller Catherine O’Shea Alan Phinbow Michael Rodgers Nigel Rumsey Paula Salischiker Surinder Singh Bob Smith Krystina Stimakovits David Thorpe Duncan Unsworth Joanne Wallace Kate Wentworth John Whitfield Text by John Levett Sponsors Greenwich Peninsula
The Second Greenwich Annuale is a success! The Greenwich outpost of London Independent Photography (LIP) held its first show in August 2008 to rapturous applause, much backslapping, exultant adjectives and enough air-kissing to fill a sail. It was the group’s first show. It celebrated our creation, our continuation, our diversity, our joy, ourselves. We are beginners and professionals; we walk out with our camera at weekends and live with it during the working day; we’ve just taken it out of the box and we’ve got a spare room full of each model bought since birth; we’re everything in between and everything is in our photography. Portrait and landscape; brick and steel; privy and gasometer; dog and cow; sun, sea, sand and sex. The mix on show reflects the mix of our meetings. We are an inclusive group. We turn up with something to share or sometimes just to sit and look and be mightily impressed. Some never miss a meeting while some may just pop in because London is just where they’ve popped into. Everyone is valued, every contribution likewise. The Second Greenwich Annuale is a success because the Greenwich LIP group is. We are two years old and over one hundred and fifty photographers have passed though in that time. We are doubly fortunate- -first to have had the privilege to be astonished by so much outrageously fine work and secondly to meet each month in such a fine gallery. Viewfinder Photography Gallery is a pivotal feature of our experience; its welcome to us, its challenging exhibitions, its attendant workshops, its interest and participation in the activities of our group and, above all, the active and supportive involvement of its curator, Louise Forrester, enhance both the milieu of our meetings and the business we conduct here. Photographers meeting amongst photography--spiffing! London Independent Photography reached its twenty-first birthday this year.
Each exhibition at the Viewfinder is accompanied by a creative kickstart workshop. To celebrate being awarded the Quality Learning Outside the Classroom badge, we held an exhibition showcasing the best of our workshops from the last year. The exhibiting photographers each nominated their favourite workshop image, which was then displayed as part of Workshop Hotshots. To take part in a workshop, visit www.viewfinder.org.uk/ events to read about upcoming events.
WORKSHOP ACCOMPANYING ‘AMAZINGNESS’ Children aged between eight and twelve were invited to photograph examples of nature in urban settings. Winner – Tiffany Garrod, selected by photographer Anna Hillman: “The perspective in this photo is great. I love the fact that the little plant on the ground is so close and big and that all the way along the bottom of the photograph there are little bits of grass sticking up. It makes it really interesting that the buildings in the background are (almost) in focus too, and the police lamppost and the flagpole standing upright in the background, create intriguing echoes with the tallest piece of grass in the foreground.”
WORKSHOP ACCOMPANYING ‘LUSTRABOTAS’ School and university students photographed street activity and candid portraits. Winner – Clare, selected by curator Louise Forrester: “The graphic shapes created by this unusual perspective are great”.
WORKSHOP ACCOMPANYING ‘PECULIAR PROCESSES’ Workshop themes included the movement of colour, wetness and indoor comfort. Winner – James Cox, selected by photographer Natalia Skobeeva: “This image shows experimentation with the medium and responds to the brief by creating warm comforting light in a dark cold surrounding.”
WORKSHOP ACCOMPANYING ‘OPEN SALON’ Workshop themes: • connecting unrelated objects (thinking of the hanging of this exhibition, in drawing out resonances between photographs which don’t necessarily relate) • combining the wild and unruly (Sarah Garrod’s photograph of a girl in a wood) with the geometric and symmetrical (Tony Othen’s photograph of shuttered windows in France) • storytelling within photographs (Darren Coffield’s photograph of a performance alluding to 9/11) Winner: Clare Potts, selected by curator Louise Forrester “I love that Clare has combined two of the themes in one photograph – interlinking the wild and geometric, in such a striking image
WORKSHOP ACCOMPANYING ‘PICTURE THE MOMENT’ Workshop themes: • groups • unpredictability • movement
Winner – Giovani Frisari, selected by photographer Claire Davidson: “For me the image captures a moment of lightness, energy and synchrony- the first step which flows into a beautiful dance in my mind.”
WORKSHOP ACCOMPANYING ‘DREAMS’ Participants were presented with a lucky dip of the top ten dream types, from which they selected one each. Winner – Cassandra Rutledge, selected by photographer Shaun Caton who noted the: “Spectral quality of engagement, using rudimentary equipment in an innovative way.”
WORKSHOP ACCOMPANYING ‘PAPAINTERLY PHOTOGRAPHS’ Workshop themes: • Painterly objects / surfaces • Layering • Not quite there Winner – Sarah Garrod, selected by photographer Ben Ali Ong: “It reminds me of an abstract expressionist painting, has the feeling of a Franz Kline.”
WORKSHOP ACCOMPANYING ‘SCHOOL RUN’ Participants were given the option to follow one of two different routes for an hour, taking photographs along the way. Participants were also invited to look for details of the relationship between man and the environment. Winner – Tom Nolan, selected by photographer Jon Illingworth: “I liked Tom’s imagery of stacked skips and pipes, interesting compositions with relevant commentary of modern society, these being functionality and the monotony of modern urban planning behind the scenes.”
WORKSHOP ACCOMPANYING ‘DROP-IN PORTRAITS’ Children photographed their parent / guardian in the local area – choosing the location and deciding how the parent was photographed. Parents were also invited to photograph their children. Winner – Tiffany Garrod, selected by photographer Sipke Visser: “This is my favourite one because it’s surprising and funny – you see all but the face. Composition is good as well!”
WORKSHOP ACCOMPANYING ‘A LINE IS THERE TO BE BROKEN’ Participants walked with the photographers around the Olympic site in Stratford-Hackney Wick discussing the ‘theoretical implications’ of constructing this site. Winner – Annalisa Brambilla, selected by photographers Tristan Fennell, David Kendall and Gesche Würfel: “This portrait represents the workforce; temporary occupants of the 2012 Olympic site, caught within the spatial and social processes of urban regeneration. Individuals that have to remain socially vigilant, offering their employer’s and the architectural space protection and security. Nevertheless they remain constantly aware of and sympathetic to the rights of access of local inhabitants and visitors who move through the site.”
WORKSHOP ACCOMPANYING ‘SYMBIOSIS’ Workshop themes: • interlocking objects • limbs and furniture • anonymous portraits
Winner – Penny Matheson, selected by photographer Annett Reimer: “Penny has looked at the same subject from several interesting angles and the winning image, which is photographed from above, makes the image work in almost perfect symmetry. I like the parallel between the feet of the chair and the human feet. Throughout the imagery there is a constant relationship with the furniture.”
RE-PHOTOGRAPHING GREEEENWICH Participants were invited to visit the site of historic paintings (provided by Greenwich Heritage Centre) set in the borough of Greenwich and to re-photograph the scene. A further challenge was set to encapsulate the spirit of contemporary Greenwich in a separate image. Winner of Re-photographing challenge – Anna Hillman, selected by London Independent Photography magazine editor Britt Hatzius: “This photograph is both interesting as a single image without the reference to the painting - strong in it’s own right - while very closely relating to the painterly depiction of Severndroog Castle. The gardener or possibly live-in caretaker with his dog speaks of present times, bringing into questions the relationship we have to historic monuments and buildings, their use, renovation, value and meaning within present society. There is also a strange atmosphere with the light beaming out from behind the tower, the mans relationship to the dog - reminding a little of old english hunting scenes, but without any of the traditional garments, instead a rather mundane looking green overall suit - and the aura of ambiguity around the building itself, patched up entrance, boarded up windows.. Beyond an almost exact replica of the
painting, which I like a lot, it manages to say more than merely the< contemporariness of the photograph, which I feel is one of the most interesting aspect of this project.” Winner of Contemporary challenge – Alan Phinbow: “I think this photograph presents the most interesting composition, evoking more complex reading than any of the others. I feel it is relevant in its subtle critique of a growing ‘invasion’ of multi-national coffee and fast food chains, that often sit rather uncomfortably with the local, historically so signification community of Greenwich, but maybe too specific or simple to be an overarching representation of contemporary Greenwich. This photograph works well, I think, because of it’s human (but non-human / figurine) presence and the juxtaposition between the millennium dome (and it’s rather controversial past, and present as a building / monument and its changing use in relation to other historic sites of Greenwich) and the historical reference to Nelson, buried in Greenwich.”
NESTLED Photographers Anna Micinska Olga Micinska Interview with the photographers by Kathleen Brey Sponsor Polish Cultural Institute
The idea for this series emerged when we were preparing for a month-long trip around Europe. We thought we’d be happy to keep some kind of souvenir from our travels, and decided upon a sort of photographic memorabilia. To accompany the works featured in “Nestled”, we also took pictures of one another facing open spaces, like landscapes. We didn’t exactly deny our ‘tourist status’; on the contrary, we thought about our situation more insightfully and the state of being away from home for an increasingly long period of time. We were investigating the slight difference one notices between being a tourist and a traveller. The trip partly turned into a venture to take these pictures. The very heavy medium format Pentacon SIX TL we were working with meant we also felt the camera’s presence very literally. We soon started looking at the spaces around ourselves more carefully. The tourist attractions we sought out were of an unusual kind. The places we photographed are, most of the time, not recognizable in terms of our geographical whereabouts. The series, more than our memories from places, carries a feeling we travelled with. We’ve found that this desire to document space carriers on, which has provoked us to continue the project as we visit each other in our respective resident cities: Warsaw and London. We hope visitors to the show will enjoy these photos as much as we liked producing them.
Interview with the photographers by Kathleen Brey
You create unique, temporary sculptures of the human form, using the spaces you encounter. The photographs are the only concrete aspect of your project. How does this practice reflect your respective backgrounds in different artistic mediums? Olga: On everyday basis we do work in different disciplines, and we usually make individual projects. As it turns out, we can easily discuss our personal points of view and perfectly work together. It does have great meaning, the fact that we are twin sisters. We live in different countries and make investigations of distinct issues, but in my opinion we still keep a common attitude towards many subjects. I am still a bit astonished with this situation. Anna: During this collaboration, I don’t think we spent much time discussing these respective contributions. Most of the time we were working together intuitively on this. Although each of us has probably had a different idea of where the series would go, as time passed, I think we were establishing a common imagination about what it could become. We let the events and places we came across together lead us in a way. How well do you feel photography allows you to communicate your personal exploration of your surroundings? Did photography in any way limit the documentation of these explorations? Anna: One point of contrast between documentation and the action comes up is the physical tension in the body that exists while trying to ‘fit in’. At some point Olga proposed to make a stop-frame animation to accompany the photographs that would put this aspect in the foreground. I guess the body in most of these pictures appears comfortable, and that is part of it. But the physical strain is another part of how we try to handle this subject.
Olga: There is always a certain tension that appears while the photograph is being taken. It is the tension between the photographer and the photographed. The one who stands behind the camera wants to tell the situation in the best possible way- in his own understanding, of course. One is aware of what the person in front of the camera expects the picture to be (if one treats the person not only as a model). But each of them can’t change his own position, so the situation is equally shared but still remains subjective for both. What I find special about the pictures from the “Nestled” series is that every one of these situations was common for each of us. Although it was always me who pressed the shutter release, I wouldn’t say these pictures are the reflection of only my subjectivity. I tried to be totally aware of Anna’s expectations. I find each of these situations a result of equal shares. Your projects reflect your notion of “the desire to embrace a space.” Do you feel other people experience this urge? Olga: It is worth mentioning that in these pictures the relation between a person and their surroundings is expressed both in the abstract way (thanks to the absurdity of the places selected) and in physical way (as they present the struggle of the body at the end). Because of this duality we may talk about the internal (mental or emotional) capture of the space but also about the purely physical eagerness to stay in a certain place. Anna: I am really not sure whether such an urge is or should be common. However, I believe it does come up every now and then in everyday life. People like to inhabit their closest surroundings, e.g. bedrooms, offices, etc. with their personal objects. For some, the loss of these objects would feel harmful. But of course there also is this excitement in being detached from a single place... I’ve thought these photographs should
carry the feeling of such “desire to embrace” being fleeting, not to say futile. To cope with a dynamic and stable presence at the same time. The photographs in your series are very playful, displaying a childlike approach to the world. Did you play similar games as children? In making these images, did you feel as if you were recalling experiences from childhood? Olga: As children we played many imaginary games or n some competitions “for two” each time we were bored. I can tell there was something similar to those games in the process of making each pose, taking each picture for “Nestled”. But what I find more important about the childlike character of the series is the simplicity- making the form and the message not overwhelming within a complex structure. Anna: I imagine both of us enjoy keeping up a child-like spirit in our own projects. The nature of this project was also delivering a specific kind of imagination, or way of thinking, to us. Like that game when you close your own eyes and pretend to be invisible. It comes easy to play these games to between us. A lot of people played these simple and enjoyable games when they were little, therefore these pictures are all the more accessible, as well as stretching ‘adult’ habits of behaviour and an approach to the everyday. Would you like your photographs to encourage viewers to think differently about how they interact with their environment? Anna: Perhaps invite them into the game we play, yes. A lot of people tend to find some abstract patterns around them. It is a refreshing method of interaction with one’s surrounding and it is enough to enjoy it. But obviously we would also like there to be more than this that viewers will find in these images. Olga: It would be great if our pictures inspired someone
As you travelled, did you find yourselves seeking particular situations to interact with, or did they seem to present themselves? Olga: I think it was always a question of whether we wanted to come into dialogue with a certain place or not. We either liked the chosen site or it just seemed to be worth our attention. We avoided trivial situations as well as repetitive ones. Anna: Let’s say we were alert to the places and events that we wanted to approach. A lot of the time they showed up on the way, and we would ‘acquire’ them into our collection, bearing in mind what we had already seen and done. We also discussed what kind of space we would be looking for next and then searched for it. At other times a spot would offer itself to us unexpectedly. How important is humour to your work? Humour should be present in art, but not just to make us laugh. Even on the a level of an inside-joke, it provides a thread of common understanding. Humour is a very effective tool of communication.
WATER-LAND: DEPTFORD CREEK Photographers Nathaniel Burrows Micky Chan Christina Georgiou Nikolaos Giannopoulos Eleni Kokkinou Konstantinos Kontogiannis Ioanna Liasidou Thelma Mannion Georgia-Maria Maragkoudaki Nikoleta-Maria Mathioudaki Joanne Massey Sivakumara Moonosawmy Konstantina Nasioula Dimitra Papadopoulou Evangelos Pipis Christopher Quirk Michalis Thrasyvoulou Gulizar Sevin Niels Wergin Nicole Yip Sponsor University of Greenwich
Water-land is a series of photographic essays about Deptford Creek undertaken by a group of Architecture BA students from University of Greenwich. Situated in an old industrial area with a strong maritime character, Deptford Creek is a territory of contrasts: between water and land, between derelict warehouses and new development. As part of their teaching assignment, the students were asked to propose a series of architectural and landscape interventions within and around the creek. They used photography to discover latent qualities in the site and to investigate signs of human use and occupation. Experimenting with different types of photographic film and manual cameras, each student constructed their own narrative about the place. The images record fragments of the area, ranging from strangely familiar objects, such as discarded shoes or domestic items, discovered in unusual settings, to strong industrial structures. Each one captures qualities specific to the creek in colour and movement, in moments between the changing tides of the river Thames and in the marks of human habitation. Ioana Marinescu comments: ‘It was extremely interesting to work with this group of students, who had in most cases never used film and manual cameras before, and to see them work with the limitations of the photographic medium to construct very clear stories about a place and come up with some beautiful and powerful images. We helped them print these in the darkroom, in order that they understand and exploit the creative ‘mistake’ that can occur when you interact directly with the materials, in a process that is almost alchemical. Together with university colleagues, Thomas Goodey and Naomi Shaw, I encourage a craftlike approach to teaching architecture through the use of photography, hand drawing and model-making.’
MYTHS AND FAIRYTALES Photographers Rupert Jessop Hester Jones Francesca Tilio Sponsor Artful Dodgers
Three photographers present folklore and the imagined: reenacting French literature, reinterpreting Greek and Roman myths and performing fairytales. In his series on Greek myths, Rupert Jessop explores the nature of ancient gods, myths and parables and the role they have played from the ancient world to the modern day. Like nursery friezes, these pictures depict well-known stories, often with a moral undertone. Used time and again, the plight of the protagonists is used to describe and illustrate moral dilemmas. Stripped of their ancient religious reverence, Jessop’s work uses actors to play out mythical scenes, mud¬dling their meaning and reforming them at will. These pictures attempt to capture, in a brief moment, the essence of those myths as they relate to our daily lives. They are deliberately super staged, unreal and in high camp colour, to emphasise the way in which these myths have evolved, been manipulated and changed through the ages as we bend them to our will. Instead of becoming dusty and worn out, they have in some ways become pastiches ofthemselves. Jessop has sought to underline the sense of melan¬choly that pervades each scene, in which the characters, though much loved in some quarters, are aging and pining for rest. Through interactive games, Hester Jones records children enacting and playing out fairytales, dwarfed by high heels and absorbed in croquet and tea parties. By inviting children to participate in games, such as ‘Who Stole the Tarts?’, she activelyengages with children in the making of the final image, exploring the often dark and sinister world of fairy tales. The work chal¬lenges romantic and idealised portrayals of childhood, where the child is often ‘object’ as opposed to ‘subject’ as found in more traditional and historical paintings, photographs and cur¬rent media representations. Fascinated by fairy tales, and in¬trigued
by children at play, Hester is insp-ired by the therapeu¬tic possiblitites of the concept of play for both adult and child. The work explores identity, the loss of childhood innocence, and the child’s vulnerability in today’s society. Francesca Tilio’s photographs retell one of the masterpieces of French theatre, “Les Bonnes” by Jean Genet, a play inspired by the case which shocked the France of the thirties. In Genet’s play, the sisters Claire and Solange Lemercier perform a role-play every evening when their loved and hated Mistress is away, taking turns to portray Madame and the housemaid. The ritual is always the same and ends with the murder of the Madame. Genet describes the servants as “monsters, like ourselves when we dream of being this or something else”. Francesca records the moments of their daily, delirious performance in which the sisters exhibit evil yet erotic femininity. The air is saturated with drama, actresses caught in a suspended moment – the eight shots are a prelude to an ending that we will never see.
CAR PARK: UNDER COVER Photographer Astrid Schulz Text by Bettina Brüx Interview with the photographer by Kathleen Brey
For those living in the UK: do you remember the 2nd of January 2009? Britain had a lot of snow at that time, more than usual. It is our hope that, with this in mind, you will find the following images less abstract. When these images were shown to a group of young people (before the 2nd January!), one of them dismissed the case and said: It’s normal for Eastern Europe to have so much snow, isn’t it? Little did he know. When these pictures were taken in early 2006, it was only the beginning. Most of the snow fell in Eastern Europe and therefore did not make the headlines in the UK, but as it was a lot more than average, it caused a lot of damage. The furthest East, in Moscow, a market hall collapsed under the weight of the snow. Over 50 people died. Also in Moscow the collapsed roof of a well- attended swimming hall killed 10 children and 4 women. Some survivors ran outside into the snow without clothes and shoes, totally confused. In Poland more than 14 buildings collapsed before the most serious incident happened: in Kattowitz the roof of a congress hall fell down and buried its visitors. There were 170 injured, and 65 dead. Many of them died by freezing to death before being found under the ruins because the temperatures fell to -17oC (1.4oF). Germany also had a tragic building accident. The roof of an ice-skating hall in Bad Reichenhall caved in and 15 people died, 12 of them children. The depth of the snow reached 1.50m. The building was only 6 years old. Huge amounts of snow were also reported in Greece and parts of Sicily and Turkey, where people without adequate heating froze to death. The same happened in Romania, the Ukraine, Bulgaria and Czech Republic, where the temperature sank below -35oC (-29oF) and killed many homeless people. In Paris the homeless
were given pop-up tents; one could see them everywhere in the city centre. The harsh winter had led to a surge in demand for gas heating in countries from Italy to Russia, which lead the government to introduce emergency measures to preserve dwindling stocks. In March 2006 Germany had 175.41 pints of snow per square-meter, which is 143% more than the norm. When it started to melt, rain followed and resulted in rising tides and severe floods, which we are familiar with in many parts of the UK. So why am I telling you all this? Maybe you think â€˜what has this got to do with me? We all know that weather has been changing in recent years. Some of us may already have some experience with the effect this has on the environment. But have we realised that we may have to change our way of thinking and adopt our lives materially and intellectually to the new circumstances? We should all be aware of climate change and contribute towards a sustainable future. We cannot predict what is going to happen, nor can we insure that none of this is happening to us individually. The fact is that something unexpected can happen to every one of us at any time. However, there are many things we can personally change in order to improve the quality of our lives: reducing CO2 emissions, saving energy, walking or cycling instead of driving a car, giving up our â€˜throw awayâ€™ attitude and recycling materials, and so much else. I would like to encourage you to take action and responsibility for the future of this planet and the people who will live here after we have gone. Remember, we are all connected somehow, and nothing lasts forever.
Interview with the photographer by Kathleen Brey
Do you feel that people often treat their cars as shelter from or a fortress against the outside world? Interesting question… I’ve never had a car, so I do not know if it would make me feel safe. Thinking of people who’ve been involved in a car accident: they probably realise that ‘car equals fortress’ is an illusion. However, I can imagine that a lot of people do feel stronger in their vehicles; at least they behave like they do. Do you feel people deny the all-too real dangers that driving presents, just as they do the environmental issues? Sadly, yes. People behave as if they are immortal. And when something happens, the blame is often passed on to somebody else. Most people totally underestimate their own responsibilities or the law of cause and effect. The overwhelming whiteness of snow seems to suggest a fog of denial, would you agree with this? As in ‘covered in cotton wool’? Perhaps. I can imagine that people perceive this situation in many different ways. It is frightening for some, magical for others. I see all sorts of emotions triggered when I speak to people about the images. Denial happens when people fail to make the connection that this could happen to them. There is silence and stillness in these photographs, and a sense of fragility. Does the whiteness take on a symbolic role for you? The silence and stillness was actually quite beautiful. If you forget your hectic lifestyle and daily goals for a moment and give in to the sudden standstill, you may be able to notice the peaceful tranquillity of this situation. In Western culture we see white as the colour of purity, cleanliness and innocence. Indeed, this car
park looked incredibly clean at the time. I wish people would see this event as a clean new chapter, a new beginning even, directly at New Year, but I am afraid that all was quickly forgotten; as son as the snow disappeared, people went on as usual. What are the issues addressed by your work that people may be escaping? I think ‘escaping’ may not be the right term. The much greater problem is called ‘ignorance’. This may sound harsh, but I think people in our civilisation have all heard about climate change by now and are still not addressing that this will affect them - sooner or later. Would you hope that these images of nature eclipsing the man-made make us feel powerless or inspired to act? Definitely. Most people only act when something happens to them personally, but then it might be too late. I am hoping that these images contribute to some sort of ‘wake-up’ call. Much of your other photographic work addresses environmental issues, is this a key source of inspiration for you? I consider myself a curious and inquisitive person, with a strong interest in manmade settings such as urban landscapes and peoples’ homes rather than natural worlds. However, these two environments are obviously linked and sometimes coexist in harmony as well as in conflict. Human beings are very adaptable, which is fascinating, but they are also very ignorant to the side effects of their actions, which I find frustrating. Exploring the circumstances in which we live is teaching me some good and some bad, and I hope I can pass this on as an inspiration to others.
SHOP FRONT CHURCHES Photographer Kelly McCann Essay by Guy Davis Kelly McCann Interview with the photographer by Kathleen Brey Sponsors Openvizor Take Better Pictures
Kelly McCann’s project documents churches in South London that inhabit ex-commercial, industrial or residential buildings as opposed to traditional church buildings. In this solo exhibition, it is often not just the buildings themselves but their surroundings that make for an interesting and surprising exploration. The photographer comments: “I have discovered numerous examples of this type of church across South London, and there are several aspects that strike me. One of which is the way in which the churches communicate their identity to the public. The shop front signposting and advertisements displayed on the exterior of these buildings means that their appearance is often not dissimilar to the commercial premises surrounding them. Another feature that stands out is the modesty of the buildings in comparison to traditional churches which appear to shout out to you. These churches are less obvious, with some almost hidden away - despite the signposting, it’s easy for the eye to miss them.” The churches featured in the exhibition are far removed from the indulgence and extravagance of traditional, purpose-built structures. By making do with what is available or affordable, they are not immediately recognisable as churches. Their neighbouring shops or businesses are often in marked contrast to these places of worship. In one image, for example, the ‘Holy Ghost Christian Centre’ is next door to the ‘Love Lounge,’ a club for ‘strictly over 21’s.’ Using a standard, non traditional building rather than the more grandiloquent Victorian style holds practical advantages: the cost of maintaining and heating traditional churches can be astronomical, and shops provide a more affordable venue. The decline of religious attendees in England (Church of England
weekly attendance fell below one million for the first time in 2007, for example) further increases the financial burden on churches and places of worship, as congregations become unable to support them. A high street location makes these venues more accessible than those in more traditional locations, and potentially less intimidating to newcomers. The Bishop of Reading recently questioned Christian churches’ middle class image: “How did it come to this that we have become known as just the Marks & Spencer option, when in our heart of hearts we know that Jesus would just as likely be in the queue at Asda or Aldi?” Kelly McCann’s images brilliantly capture the setting of churches in unconventional locations. They draw attention to the way these institutions choose to portray themselves to the local community, as well as how they are influenced by their surroundings. Louise Forrester, Viewfinder’s curator, comments: “Like it or loath it, we are becoming increasingly accustomed to the commercialisation of Christmas, with shops stocking mince pies months ahead. What we might be more surprised by is the increasing number of shops which are actually becoming churches - Kelly McCann’s photographs of this emerging phenomenon are stark and mysterious, and I hope visitors will be intrigued by this series.”
Interview with the photographer by Kathleen Brey
What is it about these churches that first caught your attention? I first noticed these churches when I was travelling down Old Kent Road on the bus; I had to look twice at what I initially thought was a shop. The church had very commercial, lit up signage as well as a full-size billboard alongside it. So it was the similarity of the building’s frontage to surrounding commercial businesses that caught my eye. Was it important to you to photograph the names of the churches, such as “Believers Mission” and “Everlasting Life”, to suggest a contrast between the physical form of the buildings and their purpose? Yes, I think the names of the churches are absolutely relevant to the project. Their names and some of the statements that the churches display seem so far removed from what the viewer is looking at. Was it your aim for this series to contain similar repeated forms and structures? No, I have not looked for similar structures, only those that have surprised me the most. Is it your intention to present these churches with dignity? It is not my intention to present these churches in any way other than the way that they present themselves. By being such humble structures, do you feel that these churches are more about their congregation than traditional churches, with the church serving as a community meeting place? It is not my place to say that these churches are more about the congregation than traditional churches, but I think they definitely challenge the idea of what a ‘church’ is. Before I began this project, a reference to a church would, to me, have been a reference to a building.
Were you able to interact with individual church members, and if so, were you able to gain insight from them as to how they respond to that particular church? No, I have not so far approached the church members. I havenâ€™t felt the need to explore the churches to that level for this project, but I have considered developing the project further to include members of the congregation. Is there something about these shop front churches that addresses the idea of religion as a product to be sold or consumed? Yes, some of them appear to advertise themselves in the way that a business would, offering benefits unique to that particular church. There are many that are in close proximity to each other which makes you wonder how one chooses where to worship. How do these churches reflect the current climate of London, a city of people from diverse backgrounds, cultures and faiths? I am sure that these churches exist outside of London, but I would imagine that there is a higher volume here, as they appear to serve the black African/Carribean communities. These churches, of course, represent one faith. I have discovered that other faiths within London have made use, in a similar way, of premises not built for this purpose. How does this series relate to your other photographic work? The churches in this exhibition are all based in South East London which, to me, is one of the most interesting and diverse areas of London. It is London that I am interested in documenting, and have worked on other projects involving Greenwich Millennium Village and the general use of outside spaces within urban London areas.
MAKE YOUR MARK Photographers Naomi Stannard Ioana Marinescu Anna Hindocha Poem by Elizabeth Gowing Interview with the photographers by Kathleen Brey Sponsors Ambigraph Institutul Cultural Roman
Make Your Mark brings together the striking work of three photographers – each series explores how the placing of a mark in an environment recreates the space. Marks are documented at three very different scales: in cupboards, in rooms and across cities. Naomi Stannard’s series ‘The House I Once Called Home’ documents her childhood home and the ways in which personal belongings transform a built space into a home. By photographing each meticulously labelled cupboard, the artist creates her own archive and, in effect, a portrait of her family through their own ‘marking’. Anna Hindocha’s work investigates the personal and political use of urban space in London. The artist photographs modifications made to rooms by their inhabitants, from eccentric workshops to murals in squatted social centres. Her series ‘The People’s City’ examines manipulated spaces that appear static but which – through their physical modifications – speak of history and activity. Architectural photographer Ioana Marinescu’s documentation of gas pipes in Romania reveals how the insertion of a line completely changes the perception of a space. As the yellow line of pipes traverses the city, the pipes can be seen as inadvertent municipal branding. Whether subtle manipulation or willful transformation, Make Your Mark imaginatively considers the many ways in which our personal histories are written in the spaces that surround us. This unique exhibition is a timely reminder of our relationships to our environments, and should not be missed.
EXPOSURE by Elizabeth Gowing
We are the markmakers; we come here trailing muck and mists of our breath in the winter air. Scuff and trodden dirt of shoe, scurfâ€™s blown highlights on dark-collared coats, umbrellas dripping braille by the door; your fierce heels step and stop at every frame to form haiku on the floor; across the gloss of catalogues our hands spread smear and smudge, thumbnails ragged at edge of page. We all bring our latent images - her lips await his cheek; his glass of wine, her lips; girlsâ€™ faces rouged to patching plaster, and plaster pocked and picked to an image of a girl. Light as the scribble of felt-tip pen, light is the frownline creasing as we squint; light is the crystalled silver halide stain; it holds you here. Tread softly, feel yourself explored in prints on snow.
Interview with Naomi Stannard (NS) Ioana Marinescu (IM) Anna Hindocha (AH by Kathleen Brey
So often we casually observe and navigate our environments, oblivious to our own ways of establishing order. What is it that triggered you to take a closer look? When did you make the decision to photograph a familiar environment? NS: When my grandfather died last November, it was a big change for the family and started me thinking about what gets left behind once we are gone, and whether it matters. No one looking at my work would know what my grandfather was like or how much my mother is like him, but somehow the labellings have become more potent. IM: I was in Romania a few years ago working on a long-term project on Bucharest. On this occasion I visited my grandparents’ town in the mountains. It was winter and snowing, and I remember being slowly pervaded by a sense of absurdity. A whole network of yellow pipes and boxes had invaded the calm appearance of the old streets, moving with its own logic through the town: an over-ground gas system built overnight, a cheap solution for the heating system. Following this ‘disease’ most of the public objects (benches, rubbish bins, newspaper kiosks) had also been painted yellow. I began to take photographs with my 35 mm camera. Back in London, I processed the images and the pipes looked like drawings over the landscape. I waited another year and returned the following winter with a large-format camera to work on the ‘Gas Pipes’ series. I deliberately looked for snow, for flat light, no sun, no shade, no interference. The snow acted like a canvas, like a blank space; it quietened and equalized. AH: London is my metropolis, which, translated literally from the Greek means ‘mother city’. I have always been
excited by London and the city has often indirectly influenced my work, but I decided to examine it more closely when I began to realise that my view of it was quite different from others. People often talk about the city as inhuman and cold whereas I see it as being quintessentially human. Cities are designed and built by people for people and have ingrained in them the marks of all the people who have lived there over thousands of years. I wanted to show people how I see the city. As the project progressed I moved towards showing the interiors of spaces in the city that the casual passerby would not be aware of, places that show different possibilities for ways to live in the city. Did the environment or place appear unfamiliar when you looked closer at it? NS: To me photographing around the home has always been a natural thing, as the idea of home and our belongings fascinate me. The spaces began to feel more like home than ever before, and the changes that have since been made, now seem unfamiliar to me. IM: The yellow lines appeared in this place I’ve known since childhood and disturbed it. They seemed to draw their own narrative through the town in a rather absurd way. After I’d photographed them in my grandparents’ town, I began noticing them everywhere. The yellow gas pipes are symptomatic of Romania. They are a cheap, quick way of solving the heating problem. They are also specific to the long period of transition after 1990. There is a thin layer of reality that interferes with existing structures, an invasion of kiosks and billboards, of improvised structures. Something that is meant to be a temporary solution becomes the norm and is endlessly repeated – the art of permanent improvisation.
AH: Many of the individual places I went to photograph were unfamiliar to me as I was visiting them for the first time. However, the types of places were familiar to me (squats and warehouses); some were friends’ houses that I had visited before or places that I revisited several times over the course of the project. When I looked more closely, I noticed different things but felt I was getting to know the spaces better through the act of photographing them. As a photographer documenting a space, how are you in fact making your own mark? IM: The very act of documenting, of constructing and telling a story through images is a way of drawing attention to a phenomenon, a personal interpretation of a fact that would otherwise perhaps go unnoticed. Interestingly, since I exhibited the first ‘Gas Pipes’, friends or acquaintances have been sending me images of pipes; I’ve acquired quite a collection of other people’s pipe images. NS: As I photograph around my parents’ home, I find that when I return subtle changes have taken place, and so the negatives I own now represent the labellings and markings that were once there and those markings will last a lifetime. AH: I am making my mark because, by saying that use of space and how these spaces have been altered is important, I am urging people to look more closely. I have built an archive of images of these spaces which I believe is very important, as all of the squatted social centres I photographed have since been evicted. The spaces are no longer like this; what I have recorded is the time and effort people had put into transforming these spaces. My photographs are a permanent record of spaces that have disappeared; they have now
become ‘the mark’ that is left. All three projects are concerned with perception of the familiar. What do you perceive as the value of re-evaluating spaces? IM: Photography is a language that can be very effective in bringing out what usually goes unnoticed in our surroundings. By focusing on a particular subject, by framing in a certain way you draw attention to habits, to seemingly familiar situations which can in fact be extremely disturbing. The pipes are at the same time intrusive and subtle. There is an intrinsic danger in the thin metal pipes carrying invisible gas. NS: Spaces constantly change, so photographing and re-photographing the same spaces is worthwhile as the subtle changes will reveal themselves. AH: By looking at how city-dwellers have reclaimed, re-appropriated and recycled space in the city, I hope to raise questions about what spaces and facilities people require and whether these needs are being met. I also hope to challenge how we use the city through the order imposed by its structure, to say that we can use space in the city in different ways from those that were intended and that we can do this without permission. I found these spaces inspirational; they show that we can change the city by the way we use it. The value of this is that it opens up possibilities and empowers the people of the city. Do you wish that people would be more conscious of the subtle impact they have on their personal environment, or do you feel the most fascinating outcomes occur when people act unconsciously? IM: I’m trained as an architect so, by profession, I’m concerned with space-making and its usage. I began to
photograph almost as a reaction to my surroundings, as a way of commenting on reality. As an architect, I wish my environment to be perfect. As a photographer, I delight in its imperfection. NS: I believe that some of the most beautiful moments in life happen when we are not constantly re-evaluating ourselves. I think that my family home is so fascinating to me because my parents are so unconscious of the marks they have left. AH: All of the spaces I photographed had been very consciously modified by people but the parts I was most interested in photographing were often not the parts they felt were most important or were even aware of. Sometimes when people consciously change one thing (for example, the use of a building) they are not aware of the impact this has elsewhere that can end up being more interesting. What are the challenges a photographer faces in documenting human mark-making? IM: Human mark-making is so easy to miss and can go unnoticed. It is there waiting to be revealed, like a photograph exposed but not yet developed. The photographerâ€™s role is to reveal the latent image, to bring it to light. NS: The human mark-making that fascinates me is sometimes so subtle that even I overlook the subtle changes. But everything we do usually leaves a mark and for me, one of the biggest challenges in documenting mark-making, is capturing it all. AH: The marks are not permanent, they can be covered by other marks or eroded by time and other events. Many of the squatted social centres I photographed
were cleared and the squatters evicted before I could go back and re-shoot - sometimes before I even got there to shoot in the first place. This constant reworking is one of the fascinating aspects of the city but it has its frustrations. How do these projects relate to your other photographic work? Does mark-making appear in other series? IM: Most of my personal work looks at ways space is inhabited, at the slight absurdities that occur in everyday situations. Iâ€™m also concerned with the question of memory, how we remember things and why. NS: My work has always been hugely influenced by home and by the past. In another series I rephotographed old slides of my parents, placing them in the modern-day surroundings of the home; bringing their ghosts back to life. Home has always been the central theme and the thing that fascinates me most. We all strive to find a place where we belong and where we can make our own mark and this project is really about what our mark-making means once we no longer inhabit a space. AH: My current project looks at tattooed women, so I have moved on to people who make obvious, conscious marks on their own bodies.
RE: LANDSCAPE Photographer Karen Grainger Essay by Eloise Donnelly Interview with the photographer by Kathleen Brey
Re: Landscape presents illusory photographs of English rural scenes and coastlines. Using mirrors when photographing each landscape, Karen Grainger blurs the boundary between the reflected and the real. The resulting compositions feature subtle interruptions to more striking disturbances that complicate any normal, easy viewing. In each case, the images provide a compelling perspective on what often remains unseen outside of the frame. In some images, the mirror plane could almost be read as mirage or mist; in others, the image is evidently reflected but the mirrorâ€™s size and location is hard to pin down. The mirror is also used to refract and distort, duplicating trees and tilting pathways. These startling works call the viewersâ€™ attention to the processes of reading and seeing images. At first glance, the images appear to be conventional landscapes but soon reveal inconsistencies and improbabilities. Rather than being invited to simply gaze into the landscape, the viewer is presented with an image that challenges representation. The artistâ€™s use of mirrors stems from her interest in the photograph as both object and image; the mirror standing as a metaphor for the photograph; both being materially limited but visually infinite. The work appears impossible in its composition, but each breach of reality only points to limitless possibility.
Interview with the photographer by Kathleen Brey
What attracts you to photographing landscapes? I think landscape as a genre is one of the classic subjects that we have always been drawn to representing in art; thereâ€™s a long tradition of depicting our surroundings, historically in painting and now more predominately within photography. However the simple act of selecting and framing a portion of what we see out there, has always been driven by a complex set of social and cultural influences and neither the selection of the view to be framed nor the beauty we appreciate, is as natural as many believe. Because of this, I find the past and contemporary motivations of artists, everyday photographers and their social and cultural influences particularly interesting, worth observing and responding to. That said, I actually avoided taking photographs outdoors for many years. Having seen so many paintings, so many photographs in magazines, calendars, watched tourists taking endless shots of the same scene, I considered it fairly pointless to join in. For a while, I purposely didnâ€™t carry a camera when visiting places or going on walks. I would pride myself in trying to experience the moment of being in that place, really trying to take it in as a whole, to really register it, even though I knew I wouldnâ€™t be able to recall that experience effectively later. It seemed so much better a thing to do than to always be clicking away at everything; as though seeing the images relayed back confirmed you had been there. A strange dependency on seeing by proxy. It was also a sense of frustration at how more day-today landscape images were made and used to inform an imagined experience of the world that prompted me to experiment with a different way of looking at or engaging with our surroundings. I wondered if you could see something else of the world if you looked indirectly, a quick glance to catch something less
restricted by boundaries that’s missed when we stare straight ahead. That’s when I started experimenting with mirrors. Do the particular landscapes you photograph have any specific meaning for you? Initially I’d say no, not in a personal sense. They are places that are or were local to me that I chose as representative ‘types’ of landscapes; the forest, the field, the river, the coastline. However, the majority of the works in this exhibition are taken on the Isle of Wight, where I now live when I’m not in London. The varied geology and terrain of its 26 mile span has generated a microcosm of many English-ish vistas. That’s not to say that I don’t get anything from actually being in those places, but I engage very differently with an area if I intend to make work: the place moves to being located inside my head rather than my head being out in the place. Have you found that photographing landscapes presents any challenges? On a practical level, the main challenge so far has been one of transporting mirrors as well as my camera kit on foot when exploring a location. I started off carrying them underarm, but could only manage smaller mirrors that way, so I eventually rigged up a cart, based on an old golf-cart wheel-base. The mirrors could be strapped to that and wheeled along. The terrain was sometimes hard to navigate though and if I came across a style, I had to take everything off, carry it over and tie it back on again. I was conscious of looking a bit odd, wheeling mirrors around; if I came across other people, they would always be curious as to what I was up to, there was a strange performative element going on at times.
Choosing exactly where to start shooting at a site, was also problematic and sometimes didn’t bear fruit. The process I used with the mirrors was based on not being able to pre-visualise the shot, being blind to the image that could normally be seen. Although this meant I had to let go of the usual tight control over my work, what it did do was set up a situation that was open to greater potential. I really got a buzz from what could be discovered through the camera lens this way. I compare the experience of taking images in this way to a return to a time of innocence in photography, similar to when photography was a new invention and being used for the first time by someone like Henry Fox Talbot; those early exposures and the thrill of the images being revealed to sight for the first time. In that sense, I think these works are definitely an attempt at a new way of seeing photographically, in a time when we’re visually jaded, we’re hungry for the new, but we’ve surely seen it all before. Can you describe the process of incorporating mirrors in your image making? The images are all made ‘in camera’ and ‘in situ’. That is to say that mirrors are taken to a place and positioned in a variety of ways in front of the camera’s field of view until such time that an image of interest is formed (often just glimpsed for a second) and taken. The size of the mirror varies, as does its distance from the camera’s lens. An important part of the work is that you aren’t exactly sure where the mirror is within the composition, or within the image’s apparent space and depth. It’s not grounded, it’s not trying to be an earthwork, it’s not visibly of that place any more than the camera itself is at that point in time.
Why do you choose to play with distortion in image making? I’ve always been interested in the photograph’s imagespace or more precisely its apparent depth-space. Although many people take it as a given, I am drawn to the miracle of the photograph as being something that presents the appearance of reality on a twodimensional plane, that simultaneously colludes with you to defy this with the reading of infinite depth. Traditionally and certainly within an art exhibition context, photographs are experienced as paper objects, carefully preserved and presented in frames. In books and magazines they are still located in and on the paper-thin surface of the page. They are picked up, held, turned over, a tactile experience that perhaps goes some way to registering their contradictory condition. Today, we increasingly consume images through digital surfaces, the computer, the TV, the mobile; what little previously registered on the paper surface could now be said to be more or less absent, a transiently lit surface, where images come and go. An objective, therefore, has been to somehow disturb the reading of the image depth-space; for example to bring a normally receding plane, up steeper towards the eye or to try to make something register at the surface as we look through. Some acknowledgement of the photograph’s anatomy if you like and given its ‘perfect’ nature, I felt this could be done by intervening without losing the beauty or the pleasure we get from looking at photography. The effects range from being obviously reflections to very subtle interactions - did you have particular effects in mind or was the experimentation a more organic process? Firstly, I’ve been surprised to discover that different people perceive the images in different ways. Some
people deduce the mirrored aspect and what it is doing within the image-space straight away, other people ‘misread’ the compositions (although there is no right or wrong way to read them) or have difficulty re-arranging what they are looking at if they are subsequently told about the use of mirrors or indeed which portion of the image is mirror. What I hope most people do, is look longer at the images and exercise their deductive abilities switching from perceiving the composition as a whole ‘view’, to looking at the alternative portions and conceiving or imagining the constituent parts as more oblique volumes that contain space from outside the frame. When building up works for this series, the development was intentionally process-led and in that sense organic. Although as works were building up, I would consciously choose which to include and which to omit. It felt important to build a reasonable range of interventions. I would generally look for some aspect in an image that was different from the last in some way. I imagined myself as an exhibition visitor, looking through several on a wall, and decided how they would work as a group informing the interpretation of each other. When shooting over time, taking things to a subtler level seemed appropriate for a while to see what that did to the exercise of reading the image. So too did reverting back to a more blatant 8 intervention where the mirror casts off its camouflage again and almost blocks the eye’s progress into the space. The photographs play games with the viewer by blurring the line between what’s ‘real’ and what’s created or reflected - is that an important element of the work for you? Yes, more or less. Of course the mirror’s reflection is no less real than the photograph, which is
itself a reflection through a lens in the first place. Photography’s failings as an accurate document of true reality is well recorded. It is now often said that it represents ‘a’ reality or ‘realities’. On a material or technical level for example, the photograph has many flaws generated by lens distortions, the input of the element of time as an exposure is made, the varying quality of the receiving surface of chemical film or digital back etc., to mention only the first stage of the making of a photograph. In a similar way, the mirror echoes that aspect in the work. In places, some more visible than others; where it carries a green taint for example, the focus is at odds with the rest of the scene, it sometimes fractures the reflection or carries ghost traces of itself. What mainly establishes the mirror’s presence in the work though are its edges. All the mirrors I work with have beveled edges, a feature I really love. At times it will be a simple blur, at others a complex smearing or shearing of the image. Occasionally it will catch the light with highlight spots which resemble the sun in the sky and the associated lens flare that arises when shooting directly into it. Conceptually, it makes me think of the indistinct zone at the edges of our peripheral vision; or the fuzzy edges of photography’s images after travelling through the lens but before being trimmed off by the viewfinder, the film format, the CCD chip, the screen, the print… Retrospectively, I find it amusing that the beveled edges can be said to literally ‘blur the boundary between the reflected and the real’. I didn’t set out for that to happen. On a related note though, I feel strongly that photography still holds one truth, despite all the flaws mentioned, one thing that defines it and sets it apart from other forms of representation: and that is its indexicality. The index is the registering of an image, the causal aspect of an
image; light being reflected from objects, travelling to and then imprinting onto a sensitive surface. It may be the most unrecognizable distorted image, but one thing is undeniable, as Roland Barthes put it: ‘that-hasbeen’1. Because of this I’m not setting out to undermine photography as a dependable representational art form. I feel it still has more potential yet to reflect, beyond what we’ve experienced so far. How does incorporating mirrors in the installation itself change the experience for viewers? In the large frames with the mirror ‘cladding’ to the outer frame edges, I wanted to extend the intervention of the mirror into the physical presentation of the work. I had made work that was a critique of the photograph and its perception, and after that it seemed lazy to fall into the convention of presenting standard prints in frames. This meant that the tautology of using the mirror as a metaphor for the photograph in the work, the doubling, the reflecting, bounced further on in the work. I also felt strongly about underlining the work as a material object as it moved from being an intangible image on screen. The polished surface of the mirror, the green tinge at the edges, although they were devised so that any reflections within them didn’t interact directly with the printed images, they did work to lend a solid glassy effect to the whole instead. There are several precedents of using mirrors within sculpture and installation, from Robert Morris’s minimalist cubes, to Robert Smithson’s Site and Non-Site earthworks, and of course more recently Anish Kapoor’s use of curved distorting mirrors. I bring mirrors into the gallery space to interact with the photography, to play with attraction and deflection whilst the viewer engages with the images. They have the ability to attract the eye and catch the light and I
hope they make the work seem light and heavy at the same time. Are you interested in the use of mirrors in other artworks? Yes, definitely. I’m exploring several other possibilities at the moment - other ways of interweaving photography and mirrors, both working with mirrors internally within the image-space and also using their physical forms in a more sculptural, installation sense. It would be good to build on the work with landscape in this series and work more (site) specifically, rural or urban, but I’m open to other subject matter in the long term: there’s the whole ‘world of photography’ out there to be held up to the mirror...
1.Roland Barthes, ‘Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography’, (1981), publishers Hill and Wang.
OPEN SALON 2010 Photographers in the Open Salon Showcase: Audrey Tan David Megson Teresa Deacon Stuart Koenig-Roach Robin Bray Jonny Martin Colm McCarthy Grant Mackie Benoit Grimalt Anita Strasser Andre Jolles-Nudeants Lily Lau Karyn Schafer Marco Maggioni David Mason Jennifer Roberts Elzbieta Buslowska Peter Tomlinson Duncan Bay Astrid Schulz John Levett Carol Kenna Mike Kenny Nicola Denley Edward Simonson Tim Sutton Nigel Rumsey
Photographers in the Open Salon space: Gideon Raeburn Steven Kenny Ben Jeffreys Gianleo Frisari Rob Dunne Scott Keir Anna Hillman Bob Baker Aggy Chmielwska Caroline Fraser Morgyn Edwards Graeme Webb Terry Sales Lisa Chillingworth Pendragon School Peter Gosling,Lucy Ying Cheung Vittorio Moriconi Sybille Gburek Alison Licorish Elizabeth McConkey, David Barnes Lisa Larsson Joanne Peel Drew Harrison Nigel Sherman Fionnbharr Ó Súilleabháin Cinnamon HeathcoteDrury Alex Davies Clare Dickson Tony Othen
Alex Polakovs Tom Dingley Antonio Arca Thomasin McAnulty, Liz Muggeridge Michael Wiafe Michael McGuinness Anastasia Trahanas Katrin Nodop Penny Mattheson Barry White Alan Phinbow Miguel Sobreira Anita Chandra Ben Luxmoore Laura Commins, Gordon Coster Greenwich Community College Paulina Layz Sarah Garrod Peter Spurgeon Gary Meynell Jonathon Illingworth Isabel Albert Jean-Luc Brouard Alex Rankin Martin Chamberlain Philip Wong Vanja Karas Su Bayne Angela Buffoni Nick Raynsford Robert Simonson Lisa Beaumont
Alex Tradewell (age 11) Anne-Marie Glasheen Fiona Smithers Vicky Fry Helen Jermyn Peter Hayward Martyn Forrester Neil Clasper Clare Potts Tomoko Sakanishi Robin Dawe Karl Serret Robin Bray Keira Parish Ky Lewis Jake Whiley (age 12) Adam Balkwill Nigel Tradewell Sam Nightingale Paul Morhen Rebecca Pike Guy Sargent Danielle Leach Bart Brownell Yvonne Overton Mohammed-El-Haddi, Martin Carey Jamie Downham Frank Dickson Richard Little
Viewfinder Photography Gallery’s third annual Open Salon built upon the extraordinary success of two previous Open Salons. The gallery’s third Open Salon saw its walls turned over to the public for an exhibition where every submitted image was shown – and expanded into the Open Salon Showcase space. The exhibition featured hundreds of photographs that span the genres, and that entirely covered the walls of the Greenwich gallery spaces. Anyone could bring in a photograph to be displayed, on any subject and in any style. Entries could be made by professional photographers or amateurs, and everyone in between – you could even bring a holiday photograph, if you’d like to see it hung in a gallery!
MASKED BALL Photographers James Reid Laura Hensser Stuart Southwell Poem by Elizabeth Gowing Interview with the photographers by Eloise Donnelly
The group exhibition ‘Masked Ball’ presents portraits of people in a variety of masks – from animal heads to cheese slices. Laura Hensser takes self-portraits, wearing mundane objects that suggest her memories. Hiding behind a false façade, the artist challenges the conventions of performance based self-portraiture. Rather than presenting external details, the artist’s face is concealed and we see only hints of her internal self. In one, cup cakes are stuck to her face like inverted limpets. In another, cheese slices are pushed into every crevice of Hensser’s face, merging to form a mask that resembles latex. Whether her face is covered with glistening, red jelly or swaddled by a map, the viewer is offered little clue as to the sitter’s identity or persona. James Reid presents a departure from the norm of masked balls, with humans wearing formal clothing and animal heads – from oversize, colourful chicken heads to comic horse heads. The urge to read emotion in animal faces is invoked here - do the animal masks tell us anything of the sitters? Or do they simply conceal the emotions on their faces? The series was shot on location in big brand boutique stores in Paris - Reid questions whether buying branded clothing offers the chance to escape identification, to take on different personas. Stuart Southwell presents portraits of three generations, dressed for a variety of roles (from a general to a doctor) and in distorted, disturbing masks. Southwell explores the way in which we are shaped by others around us, adopting or rejecting hobbies, careers, and ideals. Southwell believes that in contemporary Western society we are unable to accept
our ‘true selves’ but instead choose to constantly recraft our physical appearance to suit any given situation. These macabre portraits suggest the extent to which we may have become puppets of the media. Curator Louise Forrester comments: “Although each photographer is using masks in portraiture, the results in each series is markedly different. Some unsettling, some funny, there is something here for everyone.”
Interview with James Reid(JR) Laura Hensser(LH) Stuart Southwell(SS) by Eloise Donnelly
What inspired your interests in masks? JR: A chance meeting. LH: The idea initially came from a strong interest in sacred masks. This concept of having highly distinctive forms placed across the face, to disguise or to offer a protection from society. The actual form of the masks and by covering my entire face was an idea of hiding the main area that identifies me the most. Typically a mask is used to protect oneself, so by only revealing a limited part of myself I am concealing selected areas that I do not want to be seen and in turn expressing inner thoughts. SS: Horror films started my interest and from there it grew. How did you initially select the masks that would be used in the final pieces? JR: They were selected for me. LH: The masks are built up around my face and initially I had no idea what they would look like. Once they had taken on the form and shape of my face the masks became very obscure and skin like. It was only when test shoots were finished that I could see the final mask. A large amount of altering to get the final shot became very much a part of the mask-building process. SS: I specifically made each mask for each character. To elaborate, once I had the idea for a character I specifically designed the mask with the intention of amplifying each characterâ€™s identity and persona, for example the mask used for Doctor Pinter-Bell I created from cut-up fashion magazines with the aim of referring to his identity as a plastic surgeon. Did the identity of the wearer affect the choice of mask? JR: To some extent, although the selection was mostly random.
LH: They objects relate to my personal memories so it is key that the viewer is aware that the photographs are of me. Every mask and object were chosen in relation to my thoughts. The choice of object and mask concealed and therefore affected my identity. However, through the absence of my identity a new one was extracted and imprinted on to the surface of the masks. My relationship to the mask was forever changing. SS: I played all the characters, the masks were selected for the character created and his or her identity. As a photographer, did you find yourself reacting differently to the subject once the masks were put on? JR: Slightly! LH: As both photographer and subject, my role whilst the photographs were being taken was changing constantly. My relationship to the camera became very performative, as if I were ‘acting out’ to an audience already present. I was extremely aware of the camera’s presence and position. Every move I made with the mask on would result in a loss of orientation. The lengthy process and concentration of wearing the mask resulted in building an ever-changing relationship. SS: No, being photographer and subject this did not really apply. Did you find your subjects’ behaviour adapting in any way once they had put on their masks? Did you feel it was a collaborative venture? JR: Not at all. LH: Once the mask was on, my sight was completely restricted. Everything was slowed down in terms of taking the actual photograph. The mask became a barrier and almost a disability, restricting my movements and breathing ability. Through being completely hidden I felt extremely exposed when in
front of the camera. The lack of an important bodily sense became very disconcerting. SS: Again, as it was me appearing in all of the shots, not really, however I did purposely create the behaviour I wanted the character to reveal. Did you have a very clear idea of the project initially or did it evolve gradually as more photographs were taken? JR: I was clear from the outset. LH: The project had originally been more about my relationship with the objects, not to completely cover the face, to make it more about a particular memory and placement. The more I exaggerated the objects the more they became a part of my face, to cover the whole area was a natural development. Having any part of me uncovered was irrelevant. My controlled position and photographic stance was a theme that followed throughout the whole project. SS: My ideas were clear, however not set in stone. As with any project, I have always found it best to allow the project to progress and form naturally rather than forcing it down a particular route. How important was the setting of the photographs to the final images? JR: Very important. LH: In terms of the shoot, everything had to be exact. The whole process of taking the photographs became very particular and controlled. As I was working in a tight series, lighting and camera position had to be direct and consistent. SS: It was very important. First, I only wanted the viewer to have the visual information of the charactersâ€™ identity from their costumes and masks. With this in mind I made the decision to have a simple backdrop. After trying a few I found that drapes worked best, they
gave the images a theatrical feel and appearance which I felt tied in perfectly with the main idea of the project. What role did the aspect of performance play in producing the image? JR: The subjects were already a set piece performance, I had to capture them as I viewed them. LH: The performative aspect and the process of taking the final image are evident through the use of time and space. I wanted to create an image that was very stilted, similar to a still life painting. I wanted to create a strong relationship between the camera and myself; I wanted to feel its presence and to feel pressured by this onlooker to perform, to become the object. SS: It had a big part to play. I spent a while getting into character before each characterâ€™s shoot, when the character was ready I took the shot. To what extent do you think the power of the photographic gaze shifts from viewer to subject when masks are used? JR: Not at all, no one will ever know who these people are, so itâ€™s irrelevant. LH: By exposing myself in an instance where I would originally use a sitter, the conventions of a portrait become very unidirectional and disturbed. As there is not a direct gaze between the viewer and myself, the implications of developing a relationship have been taken away. I feel as though the mask is creating a barrier, that I am holding something back, in a way to tempt the viewer but not expose all. I am holding back and only revealing a small part of a memory or slight bit of my identity to the viewer. Although I feel the gaze from the viewer, which initially comes from the presence of the camera, I, the sitter, am in control and can direct the viewerâ€™s gaze away from any part of me. In turn I become a part of the unknown and the anonymous.
SS: It definitely shifts, when a subject uses a mask he or she is restricting the viewer. Through the withholding of facial expressions, the viewer is left partially blind trying to gather information from the subject’s body language, clothing and eyes. As a result, the power shifts to the subject who is in control of showing as much or as little as he or she wants. How does this series relate to your other work, and what are your plans for future projects? JR: This series falls into my installation-type imagery, it has motivated me to make something of this work and produce something very different from it!! LH: An underlining aspect of the project is the balance between two opposing thresholds. Here, I am commenting on the idea of subject and object, this transition between both states. In other work I have considered the middle area between the two, using myself to become this ‘other’, middle region. In a sense, I am creating a photographic alter ego, controlling certain elements of myself I want to reveal. In the near future I am considering the idea of imitation of the landscape through the relationship of image and object, questioning the conventions of sculpture and photography. SS: I have used masks in other projects and the grotesque has been a dominant theme within my work for some time. This is an open ended project. I have plenty of ideas for new characters to build on the family, maybe another generation or two. Also I have plans to take these characters into everyday scenes mixing the ordinary with the extraordinary.
Poem by Elizabeth Gowing
My face is a map. You may trace on it the journeys I have made from jutted chin to jowl; from optimism to disappointment in the corners of my smile, from eye to eye as the crows feet fly; from my grandfather’s nose to my daughter’s dimpling. I ink in all the journeys I want to make; the cupid’s bows, curtsies of eyebrows, lengthening of lashes. Brands burn across my cheeks. And now today’s journey has begun between what you see and what I designed. The pupils stare out their circled You Are Here. And here is what travellers always reach out their fingers to like touching idols, rubbing this fixed place to emptiness, an aperture.
FAMILY PHOTOS: REWORKED Photographers Anne-Marie Glasheen John Levett Interview with the photographers by Eloise Donnelly Supported by Alec & Kaye Pettifer Anonymous (x2) Susan & Silvino Ferreira da Silva Suzanne Reed Joyce Pettifer Kate Glasheen Gladys Poncelet Helen Goulding Jacqui Poncelet Daniel Glasheen Lucy Williams James & Hannah Glasheen Annabel McLaren Barry Milton Dita Iserles
The Viewfinder Photography Gallery presents unusual reworkings of family photographs, by two artists: John Levett and Anne-Marie Glasheen. Both use their family photographs as a resource in creating new series, and as a tool for understanding and reinterpreting their own family histories. Anne-Marie creates new images, layering old and new photographs; John re-photographs existing photographs, finding new meanings in them through photographing them in different locations and on different surfaces. Anne-Marie’s series uses old and new photographs, old and new techniques, and feature three generations of her maternal family. Anne-Marie’s great-grandfather was a master baker in Lee High Road. Her grandfather was a butcher, also in Lee High Road, before enlisting. She presents reproductions of original family prints, images created combining these with digital ones, and pinhole shots of ‘Pettifer’ addresses; poems and texts inspired by stories told and information gleaned. Anne-Marie comments: “Having reached a ‘certain age’, I am increasingly fascinated by transience and the passing of time, and the nature and elusiveness of memory and its relationship to identity. How much do we know about the histories of the families we are born into? With each death, so much is lost. Family photos provide answers, but throw up questions. They hold keys, and they hide secrets. What is reality and what is myth in the various family stories that circulate, often modified depending on the teller’s viewpoint.” John Levett is also intrigued by the mysteries of family photographs. For John, the truly interesting feature of the family album is what the family hides— “the abuse, the ignoring, the lies, the violence, the gathering disappointments, the slow death of ambition.”
In 1987 John moved out of the house in which his mother had died eight years before. Amongst the clutter that went to the tip was (most of) the family photo collection—the repository of all the myths, assumptions, creations, deceits, omissions, avoidances and elephants in the room. He retained a handful of snaps, some taken by his father, some by himself, some by ‘an other’. John’s mother never talked to him of who his father was, or of her life before they met. Reworking the images complemented John’s revaluation of life with his mother—giving certain moments a fresh immediacy; asking who was behind the camera; who was absent; what events were never recorded; what was the photograph never taken—recreating the narrative, rewriting the memory. He describes this process as “failing again, failing better.”
Interview with John Levett Anne-Marie Glasheen by Eloise Donnelly
What inspired the project? AMG: Moving house! I discovered I was a stone’s throw from where my mother was born and grew up and that her father’s roots were strong in the area. Having come to England when I was six, I’d always been fascinated by where I’d been uprooted from, taking for granted my English ancestry. The more I delved the more intrigued I became. JL: Birth. Nothing made sense after that. I grew up in a family of me, mum and gran. Aunts, uncles and cousins popped in, fulfilled obligations and popped out again. Sometimes they talked loudly and sometimes in whispers. I asked questions, got answers on the easy ones and ‘We don’t talk about that’ or ‘You’ll have to ask your mother’ or ‘I’ll tell you when you’re older’ or ‘Let’s go and play in the garden’. I got various instructions about what to say if anyone asked about the family. We moved house a lot. Sometimes with gran, sometimes solo; sometimes into the attics of grand houses, sometimes one room; once by the seaside, once beside a park. I had no reason to suppose that this wasn’t life. Life settled in Luton sometime around 1948 or 49 (dates became important in fixing the transit of people and events). Enter Uncle John. I wasn’t keen on Uncle John (the moustache) and nor was gran who always went up to her bedroom when he turned up. That’s when the project began in earnest—who is he, why does gran go upstairs when he comes, why does he want to take me to the pictures, why do we have to talk quietly when he’s around, why is he building a chicken run in the garden, why is he building a bathroom, why does he tell me I’m going to be an engineer when I grow up?
Second birth: life as avoidance. As questions mounted so did avoidances. On everybody’s part. I can’t remember when it was I first asked ‘Who is my father?’ but it must have been early on when I discovered that most people around had one. ‘He died in the war’ was a catch-all that must have had a lot of currency in those years. By early teens (not that teens had yet been invented) I had decided that the weight of probability was on ‘Uncle John’. I asked mum. Mum said she’d tell me on my sixteenth birthday. She did. He died in the war. I got more details about the emergence of ‘Uncle John’ who was, allegedly, my father’s brother whom my mother had met while searching for my father after an air raid. I should have stopped her in full flight to save her the pain of invention. I did the next best thing and never asked again. What had evolved and what continued was an hermetic relationship in which two people lived with each other without communicating about the one thing that that had brought them to together. The question never went away. My mother’s history never surfaced completely. In what ways did the project evolve? JL: Both my mother and father died on the edge of the 1980s. Both took their connivances with them. It took more than another decade to return to the scene. I began writing a memoir for myself to try and piece together every memory I could gather, every conversation we had on family, every snatched aside, every coincidence of people and places. I recalled people who’d featured in my infant years and then left the scene; people who’d been frequent visitors to the cornershop my mother ran, who’d stayed, talked, left without buying; friends who’d come and gone; friends I’d lost for reasons beyond recall. A large part of a life
with gaps had passed and dredging up the sunken bits might fill spare time in the remainder. Over the decades, accompanying various programmes of self-destruction, I had destroyed much of the accumulated archive of my life including letters, photographs, memorabilia. Little remained to make much of. I began with a portrait of my mother; formal, posed, either intended for someone or out of the social practice of periodic sitting for a studio portrait. I manipulated the portrait by copying, photo-copying, sketching, overlaying, scanning, scratching, erasing and finally rephotographing. In the first instance I was expecting insights to emerge from simply immersing myself in variations of the same image but when I extended the exercise to other images what emerged were more questions and created narratives. Who took the photograph? Who was never photographed? What events were never recorded? Where was family? Where were the holidays, the birthdays? What about Coronation Day, the street parties, any parties? Where were friends, did I have any? Where was the progress of a life? There’s a photograph of me and a dog. Mine? Ours? Another dog, another question. There were photographs of my mother with cars, by a roadside, near a common, in a garden. I traced the car, the road, the common, the garden to the usual suspect. What turned up was a life that she never revealed, never shared part of, had no memorabilia that I could recall, once knew people that had become forever excluded. It was as if a life had stopped one day in August 1944 and a new one fashioned along with a fresh history. I came across Marianne Hirsch’s book ‘Family Frames: photography, narrative and post-memory’ and discovered that others had done this thing before. Through ‘Family Frames’ I discovered the writing of
Jo Spence and Valerie Walkerdine and began writing again. The image and the text became inseparable; neither would suffice alone. AMG: Initially it was going to be montaged images only and reproductions of originals. But after attending a London Independent Photography meeting at the Viewfinder, I felt inspired by members’ pinhole pictures. So I shot particular buildings using a pinhole camera, as I wanted to apply old techniques to contemporary views. The results weren’t great though, and some have had a dose of ‘reworking’! What factors guided your selection of images to be reworked and displayed? JL: There was hardly any selection process. I had a limited of number of images left after various episodes of destruction over the years and those that I had retained were the only ones to work with. Why those survived is worth considering. There are few that contain me and few that were taken by me; few that appear to express joy, love, tenderness towards the other. Mostly the gaze is uncertain, insecure, cautious; appearing to be (another) obligatory portrait for another. My memories of my mother are of someone who struggled against uncertainty, unfulfilment, loss of something that almost was. I recognised that in the gaze. Or I read it into it. I never asked, she never told. AMG: I wanted to use significant documents, old family photos of buildings and addresses that still exist (unfortunately two now sit under car parks) and photos of family members as they were. Having scanned them into the computer, I combined them with more recent digital shots.
What influenced the ways in which you manipulated the images? AMG: I put people ‘then’ together with other ‘thens’ and with places ‘now’ and with older ‘selves’. I wanted each image to tell a story. JL: Chance, serendipity, mood, randomness, boredom, time of day, time of year, anger, the catch of light. I tried anything that might suggest an insight, a recognition of memories that meet, a coincidence. I was more interested in what my feelings were while working with them and what the outcome of the project would be on a personal level. Did you have any unexpected reactions to your re-working of the photographs? AMG: No; the ideas behind the project have generated interest but the reworked images haven’t been seen by anyone. JL: First, ‘I’ve had enough of this’. I’ve been reworking these images one way and another since about 1995 and that’s quite enough. What doing it has achieved is acceptance that some questions will never be answered; that speculation is an ultimately futile practice and I might as easily invent another life story for all the suspects; that I have no more questions to ask; that living with uncertainty and ragged ends is no longer the issue that it used to be. I’ve achieved resolution by boredom. Second, I appreciate my mother’s humanity. She made some serious mistakes in her life and created a labyrinth of false trails that had more than one person guessing at what happened but I now appreciate that we all do that. I doubt that she finished up with what she wanted and I think she lived her life with a dull regret that sometimes surfaced; that’s not uncommon.
From what I pieced together I think that she grew up having a lark with life and then wanted normality which she got more of as she aged. The circumstances of life, however, stayed. When she was dying she said: ‘I’m being punished’. Third, she made a decent fist at bringing up her child to whom she handed down music, theatre, opera, film, seasides, moors, downs, marshes, trains, gardens, walking, motorbikes, poetry, novels, politics, history, painting, sculpture, cats, education as liberation, serious talk, love of complexity, tolerance, inclusiveness. I have left the project with avoidance, ambiguity, equivocation; left with the same nouns, different chapter. Both of you have pursued particularly personal projects; did you have any reservations about bringing these to a public forum? AMG: Not really, since so many of the players are no longer alive and the stories are, I hope, of interest to the living. There are things to be proud of and not so proud of, but a family’s history is its heritage and contributes directly or otherwise to its individual members’ sense of identity. JL: No. My mother fudged the truth. So do I. So do you. Did you have any input from other family members or relatives? AMG: My aunt lent me the family album so that I could scan in the images I needed. I also ‘interviewed’ her and my mother about their memories. This project is as much about what is forgotten as it is about what is remembered, and much has been forgotten.
JL: No. I had an input from Jo Spence who wrote: “We believe that we all have sets of personalized archetypal images in memory, images which are surrounded by vast chains of connotations and buried memories. In photo therapy we can dredge them up, reconstruct them, even reinvent them, so that they can work in our interests, rather than remainining the mythologies of others who have told us about that ‘self’ which appears to be visible in various photographs.” Family members and relatives are members of those ‘others’. How has this project affected your own approach to documenting family life and the creation of your own family albums? AMG: Although I love the mystery of old photographs and ‘imagining’ the stories behind them, I feel I should go through my bulging envelopes of photos, bin a whole lot, and catalogue and label the rest before I forget ‘who’, ‘what’ and ‘when’, and so that my children and grandchildren will know who’s who. I have however created a few ‘print-on-demand’ books that use photographs to narrate other family stories. JL: No family. No album. Speaks volumes. Do you think the advent of digital photography and webbased photo albums has fundamentally altered the tradition of the family album? AMG: Inevitably, but there is still nothing that beats physically opening an album; the feel and sometimes creak and even smell of the heavy pages. It’s like opening Pandora’s Box but releasing ghosts rather than ills. JL: Yes. The album reflected photography—it was an
occasional affair. Taking out the album, reflecting upon it, recalling events, fixing the position of family members, confirming status, constructing stories, creating reference points, establishing hierarchies and lineage—all these were rituals, supporting myths, embellishing stories, promoting unity, writing fiction. All tribes do it. Digital photography is no longer occasional, no longer needs the buying of the film, the taking of the camera, the remembering to rewind, the winding off, the taking to the chemist and all the paraphernalia that used to be. Any child born today will need a parallel life devoted to the archive once maturity arrives. However, the ‘looking behind the veil’ (to paraphrase Victor Burgin) won’t change. Annette Kuhn: “Family photographs may affect to show us our past, but what we do with them— how we use them—is really about today, not yesterday.” What are your plans for future projects? AMG: I’d like to see if I can track down and find out the truth about the ‘other family’ of my grandfather’s murdered brother. I have family photographs taken in Europe and beyond, and ancestral roots that stretch across this continent as far back as 1472. There are plenty more tales to tell in words and images… JL: Nearly all my stuff is about memory and I want to change that. Possibly sometime.
ALCHEMISTS Photographers Catlin HarrIson Christophe Dillinger Jo Mills Marysia Lachowicz Nicolas Gonzalez David Rann Poem by Elizabeth Gowing Interview with the photographers by Eloise Donnelly
The Viewfinder Photography Gallery presents a group exhibition of photographic images created using alternative techniques, cameras and media. Taking inspiration from painterly approaches, ‘pure’ photography and specialist printing techniques, these photographers challenge the potential ease and speed of producing a digital image, and defy picture-perfect effects in favour of more whimsical and mysterious images. Catlin Harrison is a Londoner by birth and inclination, who finds that the city provides a fresh helping of eclectic people to watch and wonder about every day. She is fascinated with the human form, especially meta-figures such as ghosts, dolls or archetypes. Her approach is akin to the Victorian collectors’ sensibility each piece of work is an independent specimen, a set of examples of a particular type. Presence, oddity, beauty and humour are important elements in all of Catlin’s’ work: strange objects in jars, classification, crypts, fashion, botany and medieval European painting are just some of the things that inspire her. The exhibited series came about after buying a collection of dolls at auction, and reflecting on the dubious privilege of once living in one of the most haunted houses in Britain. Christophe Dillinger practices what he calls “WYSIWIGOTN” photography, which stands for “What You See Is What I Got on the Negative”. His images are free from digital manipulation and are the result of a single shot. They are a fusion of film-based photography and traditional mark making techniques such as painting and drawing. His photography work features pigments, ink or curry powder, as well as till rolls, sugar paper, receipts, printers’ sample rejects and extracts from technical books. Christophe uses paintbrushes, toothbrushes, charcoal, wax pastels and
even sticks, superimposing their textures and graphical dynamism onto classical portraits or local landscapes. Randomness is allowed to seep through the image making process so that photography becomes a game, a discovery for the viewer as well as the photographer. Jo Mills is fascinated by the worlds of the real and the unreal, and the places in which they meet and overlap, such as the mirror. She explores the ‘mirror world’ where nothing is as it seems, and where nothing can exist without its polar opposite – light and dark, tragedy and beauty, creation and devastation. In fairytales, myths, legends and gothic literature the idea of the ‘looking glass world’, where nothing is what it seems, is deeply rooted: the beautiful can be deadly, humans can fly, and anything is possible. Her photographic practice stems from this, as she aims to create immersive spaces for the spectator to interact with and explore, or which hint at the unknown space beyond. Jo’s photographs are particularly influenced by the surrealist movement, play and the uncanny. Marysia Lachowicz presents ‘Shifting Tides’, an ongoing series of work about the coast. The exhibited images were all taken during coastal walks in East Fife, Scotland. This area includes picturesque villages, craggy outcrops and rock pools, as well as long stretches of sand. Marysia has captured the changing nature of the villages and continues to document the coastline both in colour and in black and white. She feels that the tactile nature of liquid emulsions and early photographic techniques bring out the history and physical nature of this environment by producing an often imperfect but unique image. Some of the processes Marysia utilises involve salt prints, cyanotypes and using liquid emulsion.
Nicolas Gonzalez creates abstract images using light within a photograph. The impressionistic portraits are ‘painted’ straight onto the film using coloured lights and extremely long exposures. Nicolas is interested in exploring the texture, intensity and movement of the light in the image, and in creating a painterly effect. For David Rann, alternative photographic printing processes like Gum Bichromate and Cyanotype are an occasional but welcome diversion from his day to day photographic work. His first series of Gum prints, ‘Know the Place’, which depicts details of the Hebridean island of Eigg, has inspired further such projects. David finds the uniqueness and unpredictability of these processes is part of their charm.
Poem by Elizabeth Gowing
Everywhere I go, I go too. Along the shopping street I squint at the reflections, the mannequins, in shop windows. Across the beach the sun shines on me like magnesium, like a spotlight, like a simile on the shimmer of the sea. Out on the water, the boat lurches, the land lurches back in the lighthouseâ€™s catoptric gaze that makes me blink. The kitchen window, swinging open, takes me with it. Smaller; distorted, In the fields I scowl at the black brackish lens of rain in the ruts. At the museum I am superimposed on the exhibits in the glass display case. In the gallery the walls have eyes. I look to you, see something familiar twinkling where youâ€™re watching me. Everywhere I go, I go too.
Interview with Catlin Harrison (CH) Christophe Dillinger (CD) Marysia Lachowicz (ML) Nicolas Gonzalez (NG) Jo Mills (JM) David Rann (DR) by Eloise Donnelly
How did you first come to explore and develop your practice of the techniques used in this project? CD: I think I quickly got tired of trying to depict reality via photography. Everything was so sharp and exact and, ultimately, boring and limited. JM: As an artist, I tend to experiment with a range of processes and mediums, and this was part of my exploration of the photographic medium - using old cameras, creating ones from everyday objects and manipulating images. CH: I learnt darkroom techniques on a BTEC Foundation course, and, together with digital scanners I realised the possibilities of ‘painting with light’, and making images without using a camera. NG: I started to scratch some photographs. I was fascinated by the movement created from the lines all over the photographs and the feeling of it. I decided to take this further and I came to explore long exposures. I was no longer scratching my printed photographs with a nail, I was doing it in real space with light torches. DR: I tried Gum Bichromate and Cyanotypes at uni and instantly fell in love with them. I think it’s the unpredictability and uniqueness of each print that appeals to me most. ML: I started experimenting with manipulating images when I was studying for my degree in photography back in the 1980s. I was addicted to blue tone but also used other toners and staining and played around with chemicals in the darkroom. This was really before I discovered all the early techniques. A few years after I’d finished my degree, I took some short courses in alternative techniques, including salts, bromoils, photoetching and photogravures.
Has your work and choice of technique been influenced by any individual photographers? CD: No, I don’t think it has. I was more influenced by painters such as John Virtue and Franz Kline. JM: I am influenced by artists who reveal the beauty in everyday scenes, such as Eugene Atget and Uta Barth. I also draw influence from the photography and art of the surrealist movement, creating objects and scenes which sit between the real and unreal and invite the spectator to explore them further. CH: Hans Bellmer’s Doll work has been very influential. NG: There are many, but the most significant to me is the work of Dryden Goodwin. DR: Not really. Or at least not consciously. ML: Books more than individual photographers. The Keepers of Light is the main one. The short course tutor, Randall Webb, was also a huge influence. He co-wrote Spirits of Salts with Martin Reed who runs Silverprint – the place to go for all the chemicals for these processes. Randall is incredibly knowledgeable and his enthusiasm for the subject certainly inspired me. Is there a particular relationship between the subject of your photographs and the processes you use? CD: Not really, no. I use whatever is available; I just make sure it is fairly central in the composition. The technique works with landscapes, still life, classical portraits, etc. I am going to try it on nude studies soon. On the other hand, I doubt it would work with a sports shot or straight documentary photography. JM: Not really - I tend to photograph things fairly spontaneously, and sometimes without knowing exactly what the image will look like when it is
processed (for example using the Holga or the pinhole camera. It is a balance between what I see and what equipment I have to hand at the time. CH: Yes, hopefully an inextricable one - the marriage of form and content has always been my goal. I made photograms for years (just as an experiment) before I got an idea for a piece of work using this process. NG: Yes, I am using a body of photographs I took in a road trip to the desert of Atacama. I was very interested in portraying the physiognomy of people and their places. I see people’s faces as a canvas on which the print of life and time emerges. I thought it was a good context to start exploring my technique. (Light, Movement and time.) DR: I would say so, yes. My subjects tend to be quite textural and/or natural and these processes seem to accentuate that. ML: These early techniques often invoke a sense of history and that’s what I hoped to achieve with the photos of the East Neuk fishing villages. The life in these villages is changing and for many people fishing is no longer their prime income. I wanted to capture a sense of their past. For the beach scenes I think the liquid emulsions add a more fluid and tactile feel than traditional b/w prints: each is unique, just as each moment that the waves come in the beach changes. How do the techniques you have used impact on the viewer’s reading of the final image? CD: Some people cannot connect at all with this type of photos. They seem to be suffering from blurophobia. I guess you need to be able to consider photography as a fine art medium that doesn’t always need to represent reality faithfully. Some viewers, on the other hand, are transported. They appreciate the dream-like quality of
the imagery, its poetry and subtlety. JM: Some cameras, for example the Holga and the pinhole create an image that is quite ethereal and out of focus, which may make the viewer identify with the dream-state that I often work with. Others, such as where I have altered the colours of the image to emphasise the form and texture of the subject, may encourage the viewer to seek out the beauty in the most mundane everyday situations. CH: I hope that viewers will be reminded of the early days of photography, and the nostalgia this evokes. To see a picture forming in the red semi-darkness of the darkroom is magical and I would be delighted if even a faint sense of that experience comes across in the work. NG: As I am registering the movement of light on the negative, the viewer will be able to see the speed, intensity, sequence and strength of the trace of the light on the film. DR: Hopefully, it just takes the viewer one step further away from the reality of the subject. I don’t attempt to make high-resolution prints. I prefer the process to make the details harder to read if anything. ML: When I’ve shown these in the past they seem to have confused people. Those who are new to the techniques get caught up on what it is – a painting, a drawing, an etching. Interestingly never do they think it’s a photograph! I hope they enjoy the images for themselves. Did you encounter any practical challenges as a result of your choice of technique? CD: Oh my, yes. I broke quite a few rolls of film indeed (although so far, touch wood, I haven’t broken a camera yet). Trying to guess the correct exposure through
different paper can also be quite fun. And of course I have to process the film myself: particles of pigments, paint and glue usually stick to the film and ruin the chemical baths. Processing labs can’t really handle what I do with the film. JM: No. However, I was grateful to the university where I work for allowing me to take part in workshops on alternative photographic processes and to use their facilities, which has helped enormously in the creation of the pinhole images. CH: Unpredictability is a feature of this method, composition can be challenging when using objects on paper. NG: Yes, I have found many. For instance, with control over the long exposures. Repeated movements of the light burns the film in areas I don’t want to, as I can’t see. It’s very difficult to control this. (Sometimes I like the resulting images a lot, but I would prefer to be able to control it.) I am challenging my ability to retain a mental image of what I am doing. I am trying to retain every trace whether short, long, slow or fast in order to be able to see before processing the film what I have been working on. My maximum time of focus and concentration is about 30 seconds, and my work it extends for up to 6 hours. Another technical challenge is colour, but slowly I am making progress. Now I am finding a way to produce tonal range and depth. I am still working on this, but it is definitely a challenge. I forgot to say that I work in complete darkness. I can’t see much, just the little light in movement. DR: There are always challenges using these techniques as everything from the exposure to the age and type of the “ingredients” used can affect the final image. One of my major challenges is usually choosing one image over another.
ML: The main challenge for me always is getting the right density of negative for each technique and, of course, waiting for the sun to shine! I do use a UV lamp if I have to but I prefer using sunlight when I can. How has your knowledge and use of digital manipulation software affected your practice of traditional photographic techniques? CD: I do not use digital manipulation in any of my photographic work. I used to teach Photoshop classes though, so I could if I wanted, but I decided not to. I only use software to scan the image and correct the colours from said scans. I also clean up the bits of fluff and dust I get when scanning (I use a cheap and cheerful home scanner). JM: It has helped me to explore and exploit the limitations and possibilities of these techniques using ‘in-camera’ methods such as double exposures, motion blur, soft focus and distortions. CH: I have to think harder about what method is appropriate for a particular subject, more choice means tougher decisions - fewer ideas get realised. NG: I wouldn’t know what to say, as I don’t work digitally. DR: If I didn’t incorporate digital technology anywhere in my process I would be limited by the physical size of the negatives I could make – so my images would be no bigger than 10” x 8”. Using a digital image as a starting point enables me to create larger negatives (up to A3 size) and this ultimately means up to A3 sized prints. ML: The negative, just like the digital file, is just the beginning. The diversity of what you can produce depends on your creativity. I think the main change has been that I can produce negatives from digital files that I can then use for these techniques. But actually all the
images in the exhibition were shot on film. Do you feel there has been a renewed interest in traditional and alternative photographic processes now that digital images are seen as the norm? CD: Definitely so, yes. I guess it is fair to say that straightforward film photography (let alone weird experimental film photography), has become an alternative process. Working with film is already a statement of artistic intent. It could be that people are fed up of everything being sharp and in focus in their lives. There is a certain nostalgia for the time when photography was slower and more meaningful, especially for young people. I think there is an element of expectation, when you have to wait for a film to be processed and printed, that doesn’t exist with digital cameras and that is missing from the digital photographic experience. JM: I think there has always been an interest. Websites such as www.lomography.com and www. alternativephotography.com enable artists to share information and develop a sense of community. CH: Yes, which I also think reflects the gradual return of skilled labour in the fine arts. NG: Yes, definitely. DR: I’m not sure if the interest ever went away, but I do think that as students (especially) work less and less with traditional darkroom techniques, the historical processes offer a relatively low-tech way to experience the pure creative buzz you get from seeing an image all the way through from camera to print. ML: I do think there’s interest and I think it’s important to keep the history of photography alive either by using these techniques for themselves or by combining them with digital techniques. To me it’s all one and you use
whichever process is most appropriate. There’s also something very magical about the darkroom process which I still love. I’ve recently set up a darkroom in a local secondary school, Pendragon, and the kids enjoy seeing their images emerge. They’ve also made their own pinhole cameras. I don’t think they realize quite how much they’re learning that supports their science, maths, art and design technology curricula – they think they’re just having fun! Did your understanding of the relationship between photography and other media change as the projects progressed? CD: I think it has, yes. I have been doing more drawings for instance and I have rediscovered traditional markmaking techniques such as rubbing and things I hadn’t done for a while, stuff that fits in with my photographic practice perfectly. JM: Through working on these images, and also studying for my Masters degree, I have been able to explore a wide range of uses of the photographic image: film, projections, installations and creating work for display in virtual environments such as Second Life. CH: I realised the full extent of “the tyranny of the lens” (David Hockney), and its dominance over other media, and how liberating it is not to use one! NG: I am very open to accepting as a photographic image every image that is created by a process of photography. Although with every intentional intervention or alteration of a photographed image – let’s say reality, let’s say an observation, a thought or an emotion – it is no longer photography, but something on its own, or mixed media. DR: Perhaps a little. I have experimented with combining media to get the results I want.
ML: I’ve never seen photography as a lone, pure discipline. To me it’s always been part of a creative process that may or may not combine with other art forms. To what extent does the final image, as a result of the use of an alternative process, differ from the image you originally set out to create? CD: Er...completely? I mean, I have no idea what the final image will actually look like, to be honest. I use painted paper on expired film, I cross-process, I work with flash bulbs. My exposure metering is approximate, the cameras I use are up to 80 years old and the very nature of my technique relies on randomness. The image I get on the negative is not the one I see in the viewfinder and once it is set in motion, there is very little I can do to influence the image-making process. JM: The creation of the image is a journey, and I often try not to think of the final image when I take photographs, as I enjoy playing with the pictures in different ways to see what happens. Half of the fun of using alternative processes such as lomography or pinhole is that you never know what the final image is going to look like anyway, so there is always a chance of a ‘happy accident’ or an uncreatable effect! CH: It differs very little because my ideas/images are informed by the process used to make them.
NG: One hundred percent. DR: As I’ve said, these processes are quite unpredictable, but I don’t necessarily consider a print a failure if it doesn’t meet my original “mind’s eye” idea. I sometimes just enjoy the accidental directions this unpredictability can lead me in. ML: I guess originally I was simply documenting the
villages and my walks along the coastal path. I’ve done the same walk thousands of times and each time is different and each time I take photos. What I like about these techniques is that each print is unique, just as is my experience of the area. How are you planning to develop your practice for future projects? CD: I am going to carry on experimenting with different papers and media. I think I’ll concentrate on studio work, figure and portrait. What I’d really like to be able to do is transfer this technique onto movie-making. JM: I’m continuing to work with different ways of creating images, and am hope to study to at PhD level. I’m interested in looking at the link between imagination, surrealist photography and digital art. CH: I’d like to move further away from the single viewpoint of three-point perspective and possibly combine different media. NG: Projecting my work towards interventions on public spaces, considering the idea of creating a light wall as the Latin American murals, mixing portraits with landscapes and objects. DR: I’ve begun working more with composite negatives and would also like to try to work on a much bigger scale if I can make the negatives large enough. Also, I would like to travel more to broaden my range of subject matter. ML: I’m not quite sure. I’m spending three months as an artist in residence in North Fife this year in order to consider my practice and develop new work. Ask me again in September!
A HERE AND A THERE Curated by David Kendall Lanis Levy Photographers David Kendall David Killeen Estelle Vincent Francesca Weber-Newth Holly Gilbert Holly McGlynn Lanis Levy Laura Wester Lorenz Widmaier Marjolein Houben Paul Halliday Rachel Jones Rebecca Locke Santiago Escobar Jaramillo Essay by Caroline Knowles Sponsors Openvizor Centre for Urban and Community Research, Goldsmiths, University of London
How we make sense of, and move about in, the city depends on who we are and where we have both come from and ‘arrived’; gender, race, nationality and class inevitably weigh heavily in the equation. Walking through the city allows a particularly unique type of engagement with the urban space and permits one to experience the city at its most personal level. Walking through the city is crucial to creating its space: Their story begins on ground level, with footsteps. They are myriad, but do not compose a series. They cannot be counted because each unit has a qualitative character: a style of tactile apprehension and kinesthetic appropriation. Their swarming mass is an unnumerable collection of singularities. Their intertwined paths give their shape to spaces. They weave places together. In that respect, pedestrian movements form one of these “real systems whose existence in fact makes up the city.” They are not localized; it is rather that they spatialize. (Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, 1988: 97) Roaming offers “rare, accidental” or illegitimate spatial diversions and informal social relations to manifest themselves within a cityscape (de Certeau, 1988: 99). Where pedestrians choose to go offers a glimpse into others’ lives and serves both to define and to summon into being the spaces of the city. Both the pedestrian and the sound of his/her footsteps are defining and ever present in the city. Utilising the city of Berlin as site for exploration, a here and a there is a photographic exhibition, exploring how twelve photographers affiliated with the Centre for Urban and Community Research (CUCR), Goldsmiths, University of London combine their photographic practices with the activity of ‘walking’ in the city.
Essay by Caroline Knowles
Writing and photographing ‘the urban’ demands complicity with the view that cities exist as distinct realms of human settlement, whilst knowing that they do not; that they are platforms from which it is possible to log the comings and goings that accumulate to the dense networks of everyday life we call cities. The city is not what it seems. And if in not being what it seems it were to have a centre, a set of defining features – which it doesn’t – then two ideas above all others articulate the urban: surface and mobility. Think of these ideas as constitutive of an urban that isn’t what it seems. Where does this leave street photography? Street photography tangles most effectively with urbanism when it engages with surface and mobility in practice and as a practice. Urban photography and urban landscape are thus co-constitutive, and in this dynamic, issues of representation are sidelined by crucial questions that can be asked with the lens. What is a city? How are cities produced? What human and architectural fabric do they articulate? And through what grammar of images might photography as a set of practices and engagements produce cities. What is this urban surface? And how might urban photography dialogue with it? Conceptually the urban surface is a plane of engagement where everything that can be known and experienced takes place. There 1 are no hidden ‘realities’ obscured by depth in this conception of surface. Because the urban surface is where everything happens it is here that we might usefully aim the (analytic/photographic) lens of urban investigation. But this is not a smooth surface of urban 2 ‘flow’ contra Sociologies of mobilities . It is a textured 3 surface navigated with embodied skill and knowledge across which we stumble and falter, not flow. This urban surface is textured by and with human activity
and objects of material culture, including architecture. The urban surface is created in the fabric of social life, collective, existential everyday life: texture not text. Urban photography operates both within and apart from this socially textured surface. But it does not readily reveal its constitution, its modes of operation and its social morphology. Fleeting encounters with the camera lens alone will not expose this surface. But in concert with deeper research and engagement with urban theory the lens can deliver better approximations of what we can never really know. Knowledge is always tentative and provisional. Cities are always duplicitous, layered repositories of multiple truths and they share these features with photography. So the issues become how to unravel some of this duplicity. How to see better what is happening; or how to see things that do not easily give themselves up to the lens. Berlin’s surface displays it’s layered past: Its difficult-toreconcile relationship with National Socialism’s regimes of extermination; the Cold War’s wall operating a fault-line between families, political ideologies, economic systems and lifestyles. The past leaves its imprint on a city that 4 ‘remembers forgetfully’ . Bits of the wall serve new more positive purposes and mark new boundaries. Former factories and communal bathhouses provide studio and exhibition space for artists. The architectural fabric of the old and the avant garde agitate each other and the new modern-monumental architecture that stretches along the river providing the administrative-political centre of the new order. Grand spaces built for imagined socialities, host encounters between strangers and the wanderings of citizens, tourists and photographers. But these are superficial observations. Understanding how these spaces are constituted and sustained, their old ghosts and their
new purposes and how small things map onto bigger schemes takes time, detailed investigation and engagement with urban theory. Moving from surface to mobility it is evident that cities are inherently mobile which is to say that they are constituted in human mobility as de Certeau suggests. Cities are always composed in the routes people chart through them. But these are mutual acts of constitution. The city streets make lives and themselves in the clatter of footsteps: journeys that are as existential and idiosyncratic as the photographs that result. Cities are indeed composed in large and small- scale mobilities and this constant movement is the most striking feature of cities. Urban mobility challenges the freeze-frame of the lens that extracts and displays moments in the flow of activities and things that make up urban life. What does this making of cities in mobility entail? Dissembling mobility we can see that it is composed in multiple Journeys involving specific itineraries connecting places across neighborhoods or continents. Scale is important but urban scholars have become transfixed by transnational mobility when in fact short journeys are as significant as long ones. Borrowing from Ingold we can think of a journey as a continuous itinerary, a matrix, of 5 movement; a kind of carrying along a path . Connecting places brings them into a network of coming and going so journeys are the very social practices that connect and constitute space. A place is made in the tangle of journeys crossing it. Journeys carry plans, intention that is not always realized. So journeys are open unfolding possibilities, sometimes moving in new and unpredictable directions: within the structures of bigger journeys. For urban and transnational migrants routine journeys are
framed by longer journeys, another matrix of connection. The planning and execution of journeys is navigation. Navigation is ordinary way-finding: improvised 6 exploratory movement . Navigation produces the arrivals and departures that make everyday and it is inevitably social: it requires knowledge and skill, knowing as we go from place to place. Not that we flow across the surface of the world, but find our way within it. Finding our way takes knowledge and skill. Skill is compressed knowledge about the world and how to 7 live in it . What skill does it take to live a particular life? Here is further convergence between the constitution of urban life and the practices of street photography which also works through mobile engagement with the city. Urban photography navigates routes of urban exploration through cities constituted in the same mobile practices. Like places we can think of people as composed in the sum of their journeys. In this framework we are where we go, how we go, and who we encounter on the way. Journeys and encounters constitute subjectivities â€“ ways of being human in the world and the substance of lives. We live as we go and make up life as we go along. If we think about cities in these terms then urban photographic encounter demands creative engagement and imaginative interpretation of the surfaces on which human activities are played-out. Surfaces contain all that we need to know of social significance but in their (social) texture does not easily offer itself to the eye, the camera or the analytical lens. To know beyond the superficial we need to wait and see. We need to work at it. We need to be prepared to ask searching questions
and linger; watch who goes where and why. Attempted and approximate answers to these questions reveal fragments of social morphology, clues about the ways in which the urban social world is organized and consequently how it works at a bigger scale than the specific practices of photography can reveal.
Caroline Knowles Director, Centre for Urban & Community Research (CUCR) Professor of Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London
Notes 1. See Cosgrove and Daniels (1988) The Iconography of Landscape, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press for a lucid exploration of landscape as symbolic of hidden realities. A similar framing is found in Marxist work like John Berger’s. 2. See Sheller and Urry (2006) ‘The New Mobilities Paradigm’, Environment and Planning A vol.38(2) pp207-226 Notes 3-6 all draw on Tim Ingold’s (2000) excellent text, The Perception of the Environment: essays in livelihood, dwelling and skill, London: Routledge
NOT HERE YET Photographers Milo Newman Mike Whelan Interview with the photographers by Eloise Donnelly Sponsor Openvizor
As our cities and coast lines seem to change at an ever increasing pace, these photographs present us with a record of places on the cusp of dramatic reconfiguration. This exhibition shows us the impact of civilisation both at an urban scale, and on the environment at large. Mike Whelan writes: “The catalyst for my Ad-Site project was the increase in new construction works taking place in London. Walk past one of these building sites and you’ll be greeted with ‘artists impressions’ of modern utopias, which promise an elevated social existence by living, working, or even just visiting one of these locations. There is a radical distinction between utopian vision and the social reality which attends the upheavals of regeneration, however, and this remains out of public view. I wanted to deconstruct these projections of pristine living and suggest towards the unseen on the social infrastructure that ‘gentrification’ entails.” Milo Newman writes: “in the autumn of 2007 I began travelling to the low-lying shores of the British Isles searching for the manifestations of anthropogenic Climate Change - the predicted rise in sea levels, the storm surges that prey upon our coastal defences and the increasingly violent weather systems that pass over them – in order to portray them, and the reasons for them, in a series of photographs. The resulting images in my series ‘Till the Slow Sea Rise’ follow Walker Evans’ principle of lyrical documentary, linking together to form a cohesive narrative. They are direct responses to these landscapes, as well as to vernacular objects found within them, speaking of the wider social and environmental themes involved in how we choose to react to the threat of anthropogenic Climate Change. The majority of the photographs are taken in twilight, at the beginnings and ends of winter days. This strategy enabled me to make use of the vague, grey light that causes a de-lineation of form, melting the corporeal world, thus speaking of loss, as well as of change, allowing the photographs to convey the fragile beauty of our deteriorating world.”
Interview with Milo Newman (MN) Mike Whelan (MW) by Eloise Donnelly
What attracted you to the subject matters? MN: Photographically, I’ve always been interested in the relationship between human beings and their environment. Trying to photograph the effects of anthropogenic Climate Change was just another aspect of this. MW: Initially it was the graphic visuals that excited me, but as the project grew it became more about the subject and the compositions. In what ways did the projects evolve? MN: To begin with, I was taking a lot of pictures gazing out to sea from a vantage point on the shore, but these images weren’t really working. They said nothing new and lacked the feelings of threat and fragility that I was trying to evoke. It was only when I turned my camera to the shoreline itself, focusing closely on both the sea and on the human structures that I found there, and placed them together in a narrative structure, that I began to make pictures that I was happy with. MW: I was going to stop at 4 images, but as I kept getting really good feedback on them sI decided to shoot more. The concept didn’t really evolve but the speed in which I was able to do the post production did. How did you decide on the locations? MN: If you type ‘sea level rise maps’ into the Internet it comes up with a Google Map that allows you to input various degrees of sea level rise into it. I used that to initially find locations, and then progressed to largescale Ordnance Survey maps and spent a lot of time walking around the landscapes looking at things.
MW: They were all shot on various locations across London, I didn’t really have much say in the locations, it was just a case of me spotting one and going back to shoot it. Do you plan to revisit the locations of these photographs to document further changes and alterations in the landscape? MN: Yes. I’ll be revisiting parts of the Norfolk and Suffolk coasts this winter. MW: Not really, its not what the project is about so I’d rather just shoot new ones to keep the project going. Aside from Walker Evans, were you influenced by the work of any other photographers for these projects? MN : I’m a big fan of Dana Lixenberg’s recent book The Last Days of Shishmaref. It’s a poignant and ultimately sad portrait of a community situated just below the Arctic Circle slowly losing ground to the Chukchi Sea. I also recently brought a book by Thomas Joshua Cooper called True. It’s part of a huge body of work photographing the edges of the Atlantic Basin. His photographs of the sea ice in the Arctic are both haunting and elegiac. MW: There’s no mistaking Bryan Adams is an exceptional talent and has influenced many people! I’m not a big fan of his photography but I love ‘Summer of 69’, top tune. To what extent do you think photography can affect public attitudes towards urban development and climate change? MN: Am I allowed to quote Robert Adams? I could only say it worse: “Photography as art does address evil,
but it does so broadly as it works to convince us of life’s value; the darkness that art combats is the ultimate one, the conclusion that life is without worth and finally better off ended.” Did your own attitudes towards the subjects alter as the projects progressed? MN: I don’t think so. It’s only served to consolidate the vague sense of loss that led me to undertake the project in the first place. It’s the clash between the brevity and transience of human things, with the violence and vastness of the change that faces us that I find so terrifying. That and the uncertainty over our future as a species. All other thoughts just fall away into superfluity after that. I do try not to think about it all in an overly pessimistic way, but it’s very hard. MW: It changed in a way that I allowed myself to become more playful with the foreground hoardings’ subject matter. Documentation of the impact of human development on our environments is often unreservedly pessimistic and critical; did any sense of positivity or optimism emerge from your consideration of the subjects? MN: Not really. I have to remind myself that despite the ravages we’ve inflicted on the world it’s still a beautiful place. MW: Humour in photography is very difficult to achieve, as we associate it most often with comedy sketches. I really wanted to try and bring some humour and wit into this subject matter. It’s very subtle in some of the images -- but then it’s often better that way.
Did the subject matter affect your choice of photographic technique? MN: No. MW: Most definitely. I wanted to split the image composition into two main sections with the hoardings taking up a certain percentage of the image, and the background taking up the rest, then carry this layout across all the images in the series for continuity. This is really important to me as most of my landscape work is geometric in its composition What are your plans for future projects? MN: Over the autumn and winter I’m going to begin a body of work in Shetland that looks at winter darkness. I’ll probably take some time while I’m there to continue my Climate Change work, looking particularly at the increasing incidents of violent weather. I’ve read that the sea close to shore there can become so agitated in storms that it throws large slabs of rock quite a distance inland. I’d quite like to go and see the residue of that. MW: It’s all about portraits for a bit now. I’m currently working on an air hostess project, and about to start something else involving people in work uniforms.
THIRD GREENWICH ANNUALE Photographers Neville Austin Dan Bachmann Quentin Ball Astrid Bärndal Nicky Boyd Lesley Brew Stephen Brockerton Corin Ashleigh Brown Anita Chandra Lisa Chillingworth Alicia Clarke Nicholas Cobb Peter Coles Anne Crabbe Melany Darke Brian Daubney Robert Davies Jenny Dawes Nicola Denley Tom Dingley Linda Duffy Orde Eliason Kate Ellis Jan Flavell Susan Folkes Caroline Fraser Anne-Marie Glasheen Yuri Gupta Tony Hale Claire Halsam Laura Harding Chris Hudson Tiffany Jones Martin Jordan Carol Kenna Bardia Khorshidian Dee King
The Greenwich Group of London Independent Photography returns again to Viewfinder Photography Gallery this August to showcase its exuberant collection of photographic talent and enthusiasm. Greenwich has always looked outward and beyond the estuary and so do its photographers. The work created by the group reflects that outreach: the impact of tourism in Macedonia, the subtle shifts of landscape and ecology of a Texan desert, longshore drift in New Zealand, left-luggage in a Spanish airport, an Albanian corner shop, sheep birthing in the Hebrides. The photographers encompass the widest constituency: those from round the corner and those from the edge of the capital; those who have lived in Greenwich all their lives and those just discovering it; folks who live on the hill to those who travel to the meetings from Dorset. The Greenwich Satellite Group is rooted within the local community and many within the group are intimately involved in documenting the extensive evolution and regeneration of the peninsula alongside the perennial historic centre of the Borough. From its gathering of eleven photographers in May 2007 to a membership of over 150, Greenwich LIP Group reflects the diversity of Borough, Capital and Continent. Curator Louise Forrester comments: “This annual exhibition never fails to delight - the open nature of the show means there’s bound to be a photograph to appeal to each and every visitor!” Greenwich Peninsula is, for the second year running, generously sponsoring this exciting exhibition. Lynda Catt, Head of Marketing for Greenwich Peninsula comments: “We are keen to once again support this exhibition and see the creative work of talented photographers shared with the community as they capture a moment in time.” Greenwich Hospital, which is hosting the exhibition, comments: “We are delighted to host the Third Greenwich Annuale at 46 Greenwich Church Street. This will be a fantastic
Marysia Lachowicz Caroline Lamburd Ellie Laycock Frédérique Lecoq John Levett Stefan Lubomirski de Vaux Peter Luck Rashida Mangera Jon May Alex McIlhiney Steve Miller Richard Molyneux Katrin Nodop Catherine O’Shea Tony Othen Alan Phinbow Kamal Prashar Alex Rankin Jennifer Roberts Michael Rodgers Nigel Rumsey Paula Salischiker Surinder Singh Timothy Soar Steven Stewart Krystina Stimakovits Anita Strasser David Thorpe Nigel Tradewell Duncan Unsworth Joanne Wallace Graeme Webb Kate Wentworth Barry White John Whitfield Sabrina Zajharia Text by John Levett Sponsors Greenwich Peninsula
attraction within the town centre that visitors can pop into whilst browsing the shops and market stalls in Greenwich. Greenwich Hospital is always keen to support new talent in a variety of creative fields and we are pleased to support the Viewfinder in exhibiting emerging photographers. We wish the exhibition every success.”
Viewfinder Photography Gallery Linear House, Peyton Place, off Royal Hill, Greenwich, London SE10 8RS www.viewfinder.org.uk