At the 2016 Photography Show I managed to attend An Interview with David Bailey on the main stage. Although this was the main stage at the event, it was only separated from other areas by curtains, and as result it was very difficult to hear the interview with the noise from the stage next door, particularly as I was at the back. this was more than a pity as the David Bailey interview was a paid-for event, whereas the other stage was giving free lectures. Even worse, the noise was a disturbance to Bailey himself, which he regularly commented on during the event.
Bailey himself was in an ebullient mood, and kept the audience well amused with his anecdotes and often foul language throughout the interview. He told us how he loved shooting models like Kate Moss and Jean Shrimpton, saying that they made his job easy, as they were relaxed and able to instantly create the pose he required for the shot. He commented on taking photographs of celebrities, how some were easy, whilst others, particularly Van Morrison, were extremely difficult.
He told us of his visits to the cannibals of Papua New Guinea and more recently his visit to the Nuba Hills of Sudan. The fact that he was warmly welcomed by the people despite the dangers of rebel fighters in the area, but that how he had thought that he might not make it back due to the terrible terrain that he had to cross to get there.
He talked about his early days in East London, how he had known and photographed the Kray twins, and the poor life that he had spent with his parents as a child.
Throughout the interview his pictures were shown on screens either side of the stage, although there didn’t seem to be any particular sequence to them which was rather a pity, making his commentary jump around in terms of time and subject.
The few specific items which struck me from the interview were his comment that his interest was in creating images and that the camera was just a tool, much like a paintbrush. We were also shown one of his earliest shots, taken in the 1950’s when he was doing national service. He had been lent a camera and was learning to use it, so set up a self portrait using the delay timer on the shutter. The perfect framing of this early shot, showing him in bed with a copy of a Picasso painting above his head where other soldiers had pin-ups, made the point that a talent like his is innate and not simply learned.
I took the opportunity last week to visit the exhibition by finals student John Walker at the Coconut Loft in Lowestoft.
John specialises in portraits and street photography and his finals submission was called 100 strangers. The exhibition showed several of his images which had been published in The Big Issue, along with the relevant pages cut from the magazine.
I found it particularly interesting to see the output of a successful OCA student, as it gave me some idea of the quality of images required for the course. John’s portraits, mainly in monochrome are striking and quite hard. This is what obviously appealed to The Big Issue. The photograph on the right is a portrait of one of the Big Issue sellers in Norwich.
I must admit that I do find street photography quite difficult, and I think this is a result of caution on my part. However I did find a couple of his images that quite reflected my own, so perhaps I’m not too bad.
Other’s of John’s photographs in the exhibition included some of urban decay, whilst others were taken on the Suffolk coast showing abandoned boats.
Two things in particular struck me about the exhibition. The first was that some of the photographs showed compression loss – so called banding. This seems rather a pity and is one thing that would prevent me purchasing one of his images as exhibited. The other thing was that many of his excellent photographs had been poorly cropped when published in the magazine.
Overall it was an interesting visit, and not too far from home.
This exhibition was on at the Tate Britain the same time as the Salt and Silver exhibition. I visited this with my fiancée who is a textile artist.
The exhibition consisted of images by Nick Waplington of Alexander McQueen creating his 2009 Autumn/Winter collection Horn of Plenty, ready to display in Paris in March 2009. This was particularly important as this was his last Paris show before he committed suicide in February 2010.
I recently visited Tate Britain to see two photographic exhibitions, Salt and Silver, and Alexander McQueen – Working Process.
The first exhibition Salt and Silver, displayed early photography in the 20 years after Fox Talbot’s invention of the Calotype process in 1839.
The exhibition was split into four rooms, the first called Paper Photography was dedicated to the original process of creating images using silver salts painted onto paper. Continue reading Salt and Silver→
This exhibition at Tate Britain consists of two series of photographs by Karen Knorr.
Both consist of black and white photographs framed in black with text underneath.
The photographs in the series Belgravia were taken in her home area of Belgravia in London in the early 1980s and one of the first images, the one used to promote the exhibition, is of her mother and grandmother in their maisonette in Lowndes Square.
Whilst working in London, I took the opportunity to visit the Royal Photographic Society’s “Drawn by Light” exhibition at the Science Museum in Kensington.
The exhibition shows a large selection of photographs from the earliest days of photography right though to the work of current practitioners.
The exhibition itself was held in the media space on the second floor which is a complex of three open rooms. Unfortunately the lighting was quite low which didn’t show some of the images at their best, but I can understand that as some of the prints were the result of ancient processes and likely to fade in strong light.
I was particularly interested in some of the very early photographs and the techniques used. The exhibition included three of Niepce’s original photos which were produced on metal plates using his ‘heliograph’ process. In practice they don’t look like photographs as we understand them, but look more like printing plates. The process made use of a type of bitumen which was hardened by light. The bitumen which had not been hardened was then washed away, and the image remained. It required exposures of eight hours or more, so was only suitable for static subjects. The exhibition also housed photographs created by other early methods such as Daguerreotypes and Fox Talbot’s Callotype process. It’s interesting that these early pioneers did not see themselves as being in competition as one of the exhibits was a Daguerreotype of Fox Talbot himself and I understand that he returned the compliment.
One of the things that struck me in particular was how.many of the older photographs were created imagery, produced from several negatives. A good example is the famous image of the Lady of Shallott by Henry Peach Robinson.
The girl in the boat was actually photographed in the studio, while the background was taken on a rainy day in the Kent countryside. I think this shows how in the early days photography was thought of as a new artistic technique, rather than simply a means of recording reality. This probably has a lot to do with the initial complexity of the medium, with the need to create your own photo sensitive plates as well as chemical processing and printing, all of which took time and effort.
One of the photographs which most fascinates me is Phillipe Halsman’s photograph of Salvador Dali: “Dali Atomicus”.
Taken in 1948, it shows Dali and his easel floating off the floor, whilst cats and a stream of water fly across in front of him. I assume that it was taken with assistants on either side throwing the water and animals whilst Dali himself jumped up as the shot was taken. It would have been very interesting to see exactly how it was done. As a photograph it is certainly successful in recreating the surrealism of Dali’s paintings.
A much newer photograph which was created artistically is “Turkish Bath” by Calum Colvin.
Although simply a photograph of a bedroom, it is enhanced by the painting of the subject to create a cartoon of two people in the bed. The fact that the painting covers other objects in the room, such as the hot water bottle on the bed, makes it two images in one, one of the bedroom itself and the other of the cartoon, without being exclusively either. This is Calum Colvin’s particular artistic style. He paints images in places which can only be seen properly from the point of view of the camera.
I like the use of lighting in this shot. As well as the main lighting on the bed, the table lamp pointing at the wall and the hanging lamp both contribute.
Coming to more conventional photography we have the famous picture of an Afghan Girl by Steve McCurry.
I can personally remember this being on the cover of National Geographic in 1985. The photograph was taken the previous year at a refugee camp in Pakistan where the girl and her family were fleeing the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. (Newman 2002) The most obvious thing about this photograph is her eyes. They show her fear and really do penetrate the viewer.
The other photograph which surprised me was the one used on the poster for the exhibition. It looks like a contemporary photo, but in fact it is one of a series taken in 1913.
“Christina” taken by Lieutenant Colonel Mervyn O’Gorman, is a lovely example of an autochrome, one of the earliest means of taking a colour photograph. An amazing photograph for one taken over 100 years ago.
Cathy Newman. 2002. A Life Revealed. National Geographic.
(not attributed) 2014. Drawn by Light. Royal Photographic Society.