A Personal View : Inaugural Meeting of the OCa Thames Valley Group

A Personal View : Inaugural Meeting of the OCA Thames Valley Group on 23rd February 2013

I’ve done a write-up on this for OCASA, our student association website which will be appearing in due course, so I don’t want to just repeat it here.

In brief, Eddy had the idea for this group towards the end of last year and he gathered members together through the setting up of a new Flickr group http://www.flickr.com/groups/2084851@N24/.  As usually happens, it took a while for everyone to agree on a date but, in between, we did have an informal meet-up at the Cartier-Bresson/Colour Exhibition at Somerset House at the beginning of January. Through this we met Barry who was over from Japan (and is now an honorary member of the group).

Eight OCA students and an OCA tutor, Sharon Boothroyd,  gathered together on a cold, wintery Saturday for the inaugural meeting.  The comfortable venue and sandwich lunch were organised by Eddy who also made an application to OCASA for funding towards some tutor input – something which all of us had agreed was very important.  I was very pleased that Sharon agreed to be involved. I read her blog  and also her posts on WeAreOCA which are always thought-provoking and have changed my mind as well about conceptual photography.

Cameras were at the ready as one of the stipulations of the funding was that there had to be a write-up and photographs. There was also the promise of an ‘official’ group photograph, taken with large format camera by Keith and an experimental video by Siegfried.

The morning was spent looking at work in progress – half an hour each person (very hard to stick to !). I was impressed by the feedback everyone gave – careful and deliberate; critical without ‘criticising’ in that sense of making off-hand, harsh comments which can only put people down rather than encouraging them to develop and extend their thinking.  I know there have been various comments thrown in by ‘old-hands’ on the forums who state that that was how it used to be; it’s a cruel world out there in the profession of photography etc and you just had to get on with. My view is that, just because it was done that way in the past it doesn’t mean it has to be done that way now.

We were fortunate in having students from level 1 to Advanced and so it was very interesting to see and hear how approaches and concepts deepened and evolved with increasing experience, experimentation and study. Prints were spread out on tables; closely examined, and discussed.  There were the technical queries/comments, such as degrees of contrast, borders on prints and types of paper but it was the conscious deliberate inquiry into each image that was important. What was the underlying concept; what choices were made; how and why?  What strategies were used to engage the subject or disarm the pose (in portraits for instance). All of this gently steered by Sharon.

We had a short break for lunch and then composed ourselves for the large format camera portrait by Keith.  I’ve been following his explorations into portraiture closely.  I have to confess that I hate having my photograph taken, especially when I have to stand or sit their for ages whilst the photographer works out all the settings and keeps telling me to turn this or that way. Keith’s enthusiasm for and engagement with portraiture shines through and I was so busy watching how he was setting-up this rather cumbersome camera that I completely forgot about ‘posing’.

The work review finished with Sharon sharing  the work she is developing on her Project,  Edelweiss through a Residency with UCA Farnham. The outcome will be an exhibition at the end of the year, so something to look forward to. We talked about issues around photographing children; the ethics involved and how someone who is both a mother and a photographer handles these boundaries and attempts to keep them clear. Another aspect that came into this was also about coherence and consistency between images – colour balance; tones; size ; orientation and presentation. There was only a short time on this but I’m sure those aspects will be extended as our group develops.

We then had two sessions on ‘Transitions through the Levels” with personal views from John (Level 2) and Keith (Level 3) and ended with a discussion on “Where do we go from here?” All of us want to continue to meet, preferably on a two-monthly basis.   It was a very full and enjoyable day. Thank you Eddy for the inspiration; Sharon for agreeing to join us and OCASA for contributing some funds.

What did I learn?

Projects

There was a lot of other learning but this is something that’s stayed with me over the last few days. Projects can evolve over a number of years. There’s a good discussion going on at the moment on WeAreOCA entitled Put A Frame On It   regarding the importance of contextualising your work and what a difficult task it can be to develop one’s thinking around the meaning of a project. I know it isn’t the case but I can’t get myself out of the habit of thinking that I must have a fully formed idea of what I want to do and why before I even start to take photographs.

Sometimes we take photographs and just don’t know why so it can be important to tease out from our own subconscious what’s going on. I was the only one who didn’t take any ‘work in progress’ with me (I gave myself the penance of doing the write-up of the meeting).  I have been feeling ‘stuck’ for a while (whilst still continuing to take photographs for the projects/exercises) and doing a lot of reading.  I had decided to take some photographs taken in the Peak District a while ago – not the ones I took when I went to the Leeds Students’ residential, but some others which were a response to reading a crime thriller set in the Peak District. I worked on these images over a couple of days but then decided that they didn’t fit what I was trying to achieve. I’d been attempting to illustrate the novel. If I continued with this I would have to go back to the Peak District and it really isn’t feasible for me to keep travelling up and down from South to North.

However, the photographs I took really are linking in with something I’ve been thinking and reading about ever since which is Cultural Geography – how we shape our landscape and the landscape shapes us over time.  When I went back to the Peak district I’d been returning to the landscape which helped to shape me. In fact, my personal projects on the Muslim Burial Ground, Pylons and People Traces on the Common are all linked by that, as are the two churches I wrote about for Assignment 3. This is my real area of interest and so I’ll be doing more work on this, whether or not it fits with People & Place.

28th February 2013

 

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6. Seduced By Art : Exhibition at the National Gallery, December 2012

Seduced By Art : the National Gallery  7th December 2012

OCA Study Visit

This was advertised as the Gallery’s first major exhibition of photography. It’s promise was that we would view Old Master painting through a new lens, with paintings and early and contemporary photographs (almost 90) being presented together according to traditional genres, “highlighting the universality of the themes and influences across all the works, both past and present. So this is an Exhibition that celebrated similarity rather than difference. What was interesting as well was the ‘hierarchy’ of genres in art, as per the list of the French Royal Academy – history pictures and tableaux; portraiture; figure studies; still life and landscape. It was suggested by OCA that we read/look at two internet sites beforehand regarding Jeff Wall’s work The Destroyed Room here  and Tom Hunter’s work  Death of Colotti  here

Brian Sewell’s review in the London Evening Standard 1/11/2012 was not complimentary. “Foolishly, they have given it the title ‘Seduced by Art’, using the term in its loose romantic sense – as might a chick-lit writer – rather than as debauched, corrupted, raped; but in the corruption here at work it is the photographer who is the rapist,”.  His view on the specially commissioned new photographs for the exhibition is  that this surely indicated there must have been “too little evidence to lend importance to the link”.  I could go on but it’s clear that Sewell does not like photography (unless he’s writing with his cynical tongue in cheek) and he even heaps calumny on the catalogue stating that it’s, “the nastiest example of book design every issued buy Yale University Press.

In fact I’d already ordered the catalogue in advance and was quite impressed by it, thinking that I hardly needed to go the Exhibition because it was so well-covered!

In terms of the Exhibition itself the question of curatorial selection also comes into play of course – selecting only photographs that are similar in some way to paintings. The Introduction to the Catalogue states, “Among a multitude of photographers, Seduced by Art focuses on artists who pay attention to historical picture making, whether painted or photographed and this is developed into a comparison between Historicism that validates new art “in the conventional terms of the old” and its antithesis Modernism “whose ethos was a break with precedent and whose motivation was a search for new modes of expression”  (ibid 28)

I recently read an article in Source (Issue 73, 2012) by Eugenie Shinkle, who states that “The basic problem with Seduced by Art is its failure to distinguish imitation from inspiration” (Source, 2012: 58). One example given of this is Wall’s Destroyed Room and I do think a conceptual gap has occurred. There is a qualitative difference between validating new art ‘in the conventional terms of the old’ (which smacks of looking for imitation) and celebrating that leap of vision which recognizes underlying concepts and concerns and then, by creative alchemy, translates that into something entirely different and contemporary.  To me that does constitute both “a break with precedent” and a new expressive mode. There is a synthesis between Historicism and Modernism rather than a distinct separation.  As I walked around the Exhibition I became more and more interested in the way that the photographers were achieving this and so I returned home with a list or photographers to research further.

Before I discuss these I must mention as well the excellent talk given to us beforehand by Aliki Braine who put the Exhibition into context. She is herself a conceptual artist with MA’s in Fine Art and the History of Art and uses photography in her work. See here and here.

History Pictures and Tableaux

Jeff Wall The Destroyed Room (1978)

In addition to following OCA’s suggestion of looking at his work on the MOMA site, I also looked at two YouTube videos – both of which illuminate Jeff Wall’s artistic credentials; the depth of his academic knowledge, extent of research and his creative inspirations and influences.

Wall had a strong grounding in Western art and he did further post-graduate work at The Courtauld Institute from 1979-1973.  There was a gap of several years where he made no art and so The Destroyed Room is one of his earliest conceptual pieces of work. There are transcript extracts from two interviews (1985 and 1993) on the MOMA site where he talks specifically about this photograph. Wall states that he became interested in  Delacroix’s Death of Sardanapalus partly because he was lecturing in romanticism at the time. The  end of the Napoleonic period  heralded the beginning of modern, bourgeois, neurotic private life in that the eroticized ideal of military glory was being turned inward, back towards domestic life.

Monumental paintings wove together themes of war and military glory with the conflicts of private life and Wall describes how he used this as ‘a crystal’ to pass his ideas through ‘the historical prism of another work’ and trying to establish a space for himself by suggesting which historical directions and problems were important to him. The subject matter of The Destroyed Room  is to do with aggression, violence and revenge in domestic life. He links this with the way in which commercial window displays of clothing and furniture were at the time influenced by the punk phenomenon. Interestingly, the photography was presented as an ‘installation, a nearly life-size transparency, in the window frontage of a gallery in Vancouver.

I also watched two You Tube videos from 2011 and 2012  where Wall talks about his later works.

In Contact Vol 2   he  refers to  photography’s claim to represent something natural and show a truth and then cinemagraphic images where more or less truth performances could be recorded like in a good film. He collaborates with performers as painters collaborated with models and he talks of conveying a representation of an event to the viewer. He described how he  created an event –for Dead Troops Talk a dialogue with the dead, a soviet patrol in Afghanistan – that he shot piece by piece and then scanned, digitized and assembled these into an electronic montage. this image was not in the Exhibition but, reading about it, I was reminded of Aliki Braine’s description of the way in which some large scale paintings had been put together, piece by piece, with the same models posing as different characters as in Thomas Couture’s  Romans of the Decadence   and then how this might have inspired Oscar Gustav Rejlander’s The Two Ways of Life  a a composite image made from 30 separate glass plate negatives (H. Kingsley, 2012, p.112).

Returning to Jeff Walls. In the video referred to above he also states,  “Pictures are also about maintaining an invisibility for things. I might make a picture that contains both what it shows and what it excludes”. He illustrates this with reference to his work Restoration  – designed to be made with a panorama camera and taken so that it shows exactly half of the space, “and there’s a part that disappears behind the picture edges ….. there’s a woman looking into the space, into a part of the picture that you can’t see; to make a little accent to that notion that there’s a space outside”. (about 6 min in on the video).

Portraiture

Craigie Horsfield

I was struck by the drama in  Julia Margaret Cameron’s Iago (Study from an Italian) , 1867 and how that same sense of brooding intensity, alluded to by the averted gaze,  has been captured by  Craigie Horsfield’s Hernando Gomez, Calle Serrano, Madrid, Diciembre 2006.  Again, the gaze leads us outside the frame into what is for us, an imagined space. Horsefield introduced the concept of ‘slow time’ , “believes in the portrait’s capacity to transmit a sense of human intgriy, which incorporates consciousness” (H. Kingsley, 2012: 79)

Horsfield is a sound artist and  creator of tapestries as well as a photographer and  there is a PDF  here  that contains a variety of his work, including tapestries. That site also has some more detailed information about him and a video where he explains how he approaches the tapestries  Slightly off the point I know but I wanted to acknowledge the breadth of his work and how he integrates his concepts into his multi dimensional practice. After all ‘slow time’ is a musical term.

This aspect of photography as being a medium to express beliefs rather than an end in itself, takes me to Maud Sulter.

Maud Sulter

I lingered for a long time over Sulter’s portrait of herself as Calliope, the muse of epic poetry.  This is from the series Zabat 1989 that showed nine allegorical portraits of black women artists and Calliope marked the publication of Sulter’s book of poetry also entitled Zabat (the name of a traditional African dance exalting women’s strength.) I was sad to learn that she died too young at the age of 47, in 2008. Her obituary is here.

I was entranced by Calliope – her beautifully sculpted features, neck; shoulders and upper chest  emerging in golden-hues from the dark background. With textures of her dark velvet robe almost inviting one to touch them. Sulter’s  inspiration included C17th portrait painting and a small, cased photograph serves as the emblem of her vocation.  Neither the post card I bought nor the  photograph in the catalogue, although beautiful, have quite that same sense of luminosity and texture as that of the actual photograph. I also noted that whereas the photograph in the catalogue has her facing to the left, the one on the V&A site has her facing to the right!

The next portraits that fascinated me were photographic miniature by Bettina von Zwehl.

Bettina von Zwehl

Irini I and Irini II (2011). Large format images transposed into jewelled miniatures. These tiny portraits (5.8 cm diameter) looked like jewels in their glass case and they form a link between the painted miniatures , daguerrotypes and also the cartes des visites that became possible with the advent of new glass plate negatives and smoothly coated albumen paper.  Bettina von Zwehl made these small portraits whilst artist in residence at the Victoria & Albert Museum and there is more information here  concerning her approach and how her desire to build a bridge between the old and the new was just one of the many influences  in her work. I have also read elsewhere that she used the ambient light from a particular window at the Museum for her subjects.

There is one more image that particularly drew me, in the Figure Studies section.

Figure studies

Richard Learoyd

Richard Learoyd does not appear to have a working website of his own but some information about him can be found here  and here  He uses a specially built camera obscura to direct light onto positive photographic paper which means that every image is unique (except of course it must be scanned or otherwise reproduced to produce the postcard I bought).  There are other images created by him in the Exhibition but it was the Man with Octopus Tattoo II 2011 that drew me; not only in knowledge of how it was created,  but  with its clarity of detail and, of course, the amazing tattoo.

I read somewhere (can’t find a link now) that Learoyd met this man in the street; and they got talking.  The man mentioned his tattoo ; was willing to show it to Learoyd and then to be photographed.  If I’ve got this entirely wrong please put me right anyone. I know of the tradition amongst sailors etc but I am intrigued by people who want to have a large part of their bodies covered by tattoos.  Some of the people I worked with had them and I was always fascinated when they came to show me their latest one – especially if coloured and done by an expert. In that newly raw state they really did look like paintings with the body as a canvas. I’ve often wondered about the need to have them and the type of link with ‘pain’ and was always reminded of Ray Bradbury’s book The Illustrated Man.

Of course there are the artistic links with the Lacoon and the sea serpent (also about pain); the Gorgon and her writhing hair,; octopuses having a long tradition of union with women; the goddess Kali; also the photograph by Umiko Utsu of the woman with her head replaced by a pearly octopus and even The Ancient Mariner.  I wondered what stories this man might tell and whether this interested Learoyd also.

Conclusion

I’ve only noted a proportion of the photographers and images that interested me in this Exhibition.  In the end it wasn’t for me about any implied lowering of photography in a ‘hierarchy’ of Art or it being seen as ‘imitative’.  I didn’t see any photographs that I reacted against really either so it isn’t a case of my going off to work out “Why?”. I just enjoyed the visual spectacle and also my perception of photography as being an Art in itself.

What struck me overall was the amount of work that can go into the making of a photograph; the depth of research;  desire to re-imagine the work of earlier artists and combine new approaches with the old.  Jeff Wall made me think again about ‘space’ and how the relationship between what’s inside and outside the frame can drawn the viewer in. Above all was my sense of these photographers as artists of many talents and influences .

References

Kingsley, H (2012) Seduced by Art:Photography Past and Present, National gallery Company Ltd, London

Shinkle, E (2012) Unremarkable Resemblance in Source, (Issue 73, 2012) The New Wave,  Photoworks North, Belfast

Source, (Issue 73, 2012) The New Wave,  Photoworks North, Belfast

http://www.alikibraine.com/AlikiBraine/Biog.html

http://www.bettinavonzwehl.com/main.html

http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/photographs/jeff-wall-dead-troops-talk-5559203-details.aspx

http://mckeegallery.com/artists/richard-learoyd/

http://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2007/jeffwall/

http://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/collections/works-in-focus/search/commentaire/commentaire_id/romains-de-la-decadence-141.html

http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/seduced-by-art-photography-past-and-present-slide-show

http://www.nationalmediamuseum.org.uk/Collection/Photography/RoyalPhotographicSociety/CollectionItem.aspx?id=2003-5001/3/39373/1

http://www.raybradbury.com/books/illustratedman-hc.html

http://www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk/poetry/poets/maud-sulter

http://www.standard.co.uk/arts/visual-arts/seduced-by-art-photography-past-and-present-national-gallery-wc2–review-8273188.html

http://www.tomhunter.org/unheralded-stories-series/

http://www.troikaeditions.co.uk/artists/aliki-braine

http://www.union-gallery.com/content.php?page_id=2640

http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/p/bettina-von-zwehl/

http://www.vam.ac.uk/users/node/6446

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cg8bB0zs3HQ

OCA Study Weekend at Brighton Photo Biennial November 2012

OCA Study Weekend at Brighton Photo Biennial

3rd and 4th November 2012

I was there on both days and stayed overnight which was good because those of us who did so were able to continue with debates and discussions over an evening meal and/or in the bar of the hotel where a few of us were staying. It  was windy (very) and wet especially on the Sunday.  I definitely felt the power of nature. It’s full of interest there – so many individual shops, cafes and restaurants that always seem more vibrant than the usual national chains. Places we visited were scattered around the centre of Brighton and so there was much rushing backwards and forwards.

It was suggested that we look at the Brighton Photo Biennial website  beforehand.  I also subscribed to Photoworks and have the meaty extended issue that covers the Biennial and that acts as an excellent reference point for me. The Editor’s Note ascribes two sets of meanings to ‘Agents of Change’ – the forces that shape and control space under capitalism and those who aim to resist these forces and contest space. I’ve collected a deal of other reference material as well and so now I will just comment on particular aspects that struck me from the Exhibitions we were able to visit in the time available.

Saturday 3rd

1. Uneven Development

This comprised works of Jason Larkin and Corinne Silva  that focus on ‘walling’ in southern Europe and the Middle East . Larkins’ s Cairo Divided focuses upon the development of gated communities near to desert golf courses and new towns there which have no space for social housing.  Larkin distributed self-produced newspapers, containing his images, together with essays and descriptions, translated into arabic in Cairo real-estate development. In Badlands (2011) juxtaposes images of resort houses and walled mansion with the shanties built by illegal migrants and in Imported Landscapes  she placed images taken in Morocco on billboards in Spain. In this sense Silva and Larkin, “make an effort at opposing the proprietary claims of image-ownership beyond the gallery (where they also show their images)” (T.J. Demos (2011) in p. 6 Photoworks (2012/13).

Several thoughts struck me as I was going round.  There is nothing new in the type of activities being examined even though their nature may have changed. The pyramids were built by slaves and poorer workmen in the desert in Egypt before ‘capitalism’ was invented; poorer people have always travelled to find work etc.  (my immediate ancestors travelled to Sheffield to work in the steel industry in the late C19th and certainly lived in ‘mean streets’ moving fairly often as well.). What is different is in the way that the photographers themselves have taken a political stance and adopted egalitarian approaches towards distribution of images.  The other question I asked myself was, “what do the people, say, in Egypt think? Are there Egyptian photographers who are also making political comments through their photography?  Maybe I’ll find an answer to this question when I visit the Exhibition Light from the Middle East  at the V&A.

Another questions for me was , what is it that takes photographers to other countries. Larkin’s bio on his site states that, “Much of my work focuses on identity and how, whether viewed from an individual or collective group within society, it fluctuates as the environment and social situations constantly shift and evolve”. Information about Silva on her site states, “…Corinne Silva explores the interrelationship between human mobility and the physical environment… By focusing on the formation and reconstruction of geographical and photographic landscape aesthetics, Silva creates a space for the consideration of imagined landscapes”.  There was one particular image in the Exhibition that drew me.

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Plastic mountain II, plastic recycling plant      (c) C. Silva

(With Corinne Silva’s permission)

I was sure I could see dead bodies in there until I saw the title. There was something about the sculpted effect that fascinated me as if it had all been assembled just to remind me how much waste we produce – mountains reaching towards the sky.  I emailed Silva to ask permission to use this image on my blog and she kindly agreed. I looked at more of her work as well and bought the book  Roisin Ban : The Irish Diaspora in Leeds (2006).  thaat tells the story of Irish people in Leeds with images – portrait, landscape, documentary and old photos – written narratives and commentaries.  Corinne Silva was co-ordinator of this project.  So far as I can tell this was her first published project and it was interesting to see how her underlying concepts of displacement and assimilation have developed.

2. Five Thousand Feet is the Best : Omer Fast

Chilling in the way it portrayed how real acts of destruction can become just like a video game.  I knew that already but the film was so well put together with its juxtapositions of acting, fact and documentary that it really brought the point home. I didn’t see it all the way through in situ, because of having to stand for so long, however, a shortened version was put on the WeAreOCA blog a while afterwards (also a video of the Urban Ghosts project – see below) and you can see it here .  I also read the illuminating interview with Omar Fast in the Photoworks edition (p. 60).  A couple of days ago I watched a recent TV ad for the RAF which actually used footage of drones/operators to attract recruits. I also remember doodlebugs and the fear my mother had of them.

I know going way back there have been debates as to whether boys playing with toy guns encourages them to violence in the future. The video certainly shows how drone operators become objectively remote from the consequences of their actions  ( an interesting aspect here has been the comments of Prince Harry recently which have been much discussed in the media). The video also shows impact on mental health from this day-in day-out dissociation.  However, is the dissociation to do with the psychological effect of killing people remotely, or that of spending day-in and day-out in front of a screen and living in a virtual world?

3. The Beautiful Horizon 

The No Olho da Rua (‘In the Eye of the Street’) Project.

I have mixed feelings about this project which was begun in 1995 in Brazil. The Exhibition brochure describes it as a long term collaboration between young people living on the streets of Belo Horizonte (Brazil); two photographers (Julian Germain and Patricia Azvedo) and a graphic designer, Murilo Godoy.

Our relationship with the ‘street kids’ (as they call themselves) was not and never has been educational, nor has it ever been our intention to offer them some kind of social assistance.

Our ‘contract’ with the kids is direct and uncomplicated. We just told them that we believed they could take great pictures and that people be interested in their lives. We had no clear idea of what would happen, simply a conviction that they would grasp this opportunity and make beautiful photographs; that their vision of their own lives might be of importance to us all

Julian Germain’s blog, from October back 2012 contains posts about recent contact and also photographs of the exhibition here.

Approximately 75 children took part in the project over the years, most of them had left home by the time they were 9 to lead nomadic lives. The artists provided them which basic, plastic cameras; tape recorders; notebooks and pencils. The children came to them when rolls were complete and exchanged these for fresh rolls.  I couldn’t find anywhere which explained how this was funded.

Here is an ll minute video where Julian Germain and Patricia Azvedo talk about the project http://youtu.be/IVFpqUdmPLg with Celia Davies, co-curator of the Biennial. Germain explains that they aimed to,  “ ….use the exhibition to initiate an archive and provide a documentary of our relationship with them and their relationship with us” .  He says, “It’s not about who made the pictures to them it’s about whose in the pictures” .

The exhibition was well-organised with original prints in individual, named, boxes; some enlarged on stands. Images were put on posters and into newspapers which the children distributed in the streets. It looks as if most of the children just snapped away taking photographs of anything and everything. A lot of the images reminded me of the kind of images youngsters often post on Facebook in the UK and I think that there too it’s more to do with whose in the picture.  There are other images more telling and poignant though, such as a young child with a gun and  a girl laid-out after death.

Here is an extract from a commentary by Mark Sealy, Director Autograph APB   on Julian Germain’s website

Rather than just being willing students, these kids have actively negotiated the terms in which they have allowed themselves to be seen; they have performed for the camera and pointed the camera. In many ways though, through the production and distribution of these photographs, the kids have become activists for social change. This newspaper therefore allows their experiences to transcend the street and be literally placed in the hands of those who all too readily ignore their very existence.” Mark Sealy, Director Autograph ABP.

I think the idea of such a Project was a brilliant one. It’s its aims that I have a problem with, because there don’t seem to have been any really.  Now, I know that this could well be the ‘rescuer’ in me that wants and has worked for people’s lives to change for the better, but it seems such a waste of an opportunity. There isn’t any evidence of any fundamental change in the lives of these young people (not even one), evidence of them becoming ‘activists’, seeking help towards education etc that might have come about through involvement in the Project.

We did discuss this amongst ourselves and with the tutors at the Exhibition but I don’t recall any clear answers as to what the project really gave the youngsters – ‘control over their environment’ was mentioned but how? Patricia Avedo makes some telling remarks in the video – regarding when to end this lengthy project, “I don’t want to end when everyone has died . …..We cannot move them from where they are”.

As I was going round the Exhibition I had in my mind projects in the UK such as those run by “Storying Sheffield”  that have a whole range of projects involving young people in telling their stories and exploring their City and their lives. Projects that have a purpose that can be clearly evaluated and this is what was missing for me although I do accept that the circumstances are very different.

Sunday 4th

I’ve already referred to the ongoing work review group we had in the morning in an earlier blog post so I won’t repeat that here. I would have liked it to have been for longer but we only had a certain amount of time as an exhibition was to open by photographer Phil Taylor . He came in just as we were finishing off.

4. ‘Dio de los Muertos’ (Day of the Dead)

Taylor was inspired by Cormac  McCarthy’s novel ‘Blood Meridian’ (1985) to spend three months in Tucson, Arizona in 2011. The novel“… traces the fortunes of the Kid, a fourteen year old  who stumbles into a world where Indians are being murdered and the market for their scalps is rising” ,  and the book informed the six locations visited by Taylor.

We stayed on a while for a closer look at the prints which were on the wall and to watch the video.  The video is fascinating – it weaves together some haunting images interspersed with quotations from the book and with a soundtrack created by Taylor himself. (He is also a musician  http://youtu.be/sLjyAV1zgII ).

I wish OCA could have organised  an actual presentation/discussion so that he could have discussed his work with us in more detail. As it was I just had the opportunity for a few quick words with him before we had to rush off somewhere else. He told me he travelled around on his motor bike and all he used was a 35mm film camera and hipstamatic app on his iphone.  The video was made with a Canon Ixus. So far as I can tell it was a coincidence that his exhibition was on at the same time as the Bennial as it was not a part of it. I would like to buy the book he produced, Confluence, Fragments and Urban Ghosts’  but, at the moment, it’s rather too expensive.

5. Drawing the weekend to a close

The weekend was rounded off for me with a ticket to watch ‘Desert Island Pics’  – based on desert Island Discs with  Stephen Bull (Photography Course Leader of the University for the Creative Arts)  interviewing Sean O’Hagan (The Guardian)  about his choice of eight personal favourite photographs. The venue was the Marlborough Theatre (website undergoing maintenance at present) a small, rather grotty theatre on the top floor of a pub  I was surprised at the venue to begin with but, actually, it was perfect in providing an intimate and picturesque space . I won’t go into any detail about the images chosen except to say that they were all very interesting and it was generous of Sean O’Hagan to share personal memories with us.

Summary

I’m pleased I went on the weekend. It was good to spend intensive time with other students and tutors and really focus on photography.  My thoughts on it all might seem somewhat of a hotch-potch but then all the exhibitions were different and I’ve just drawn some threads that appeared colourful to me from the tapestry of the whole that have regard to:-

  • Different ways of presenting work, including the use of multi-media which really appeals to me but I don’t yet feel confident enough in my skill to try this.
  • Egalitarian approaches towards sharing work so that they reach a wider audience – posters, newspapers etc
  • Using images as metaphor for social and political concepts
  • Photography as a amedium for enabling people to record their lives and tell their own stories.
  • Collaborative working – something else that appeals to me
  • Using poetry and novels as creative inspiration for photographic exploration – this has just reminded me of the work I did in Derbyshire when I followed the path of some of the characters in Stephen Booth’s novel The Devil’s Edge a short extract from which is here . I haven’t really talked to anyone else about this or done anything with the photographs I took and this has now been added to my to-do list.

So – there you have it; a whirl of activity, lots of talking, thinking and looking things up – not to mention the books and music I bought as a result of it all – a perfect experience!

8th February 2012

References

Booth, S (2011) The Devil’s Edge, Sphere/Little Brown Book group, London

Deos, T.J. (2011) Spaces of Global Capital: On the Photography of Jason Larkin  and Corinne Silva, Photoworks, Brighton, UK

Photoworks (Oct-April 2012/13) Agents of Change: Photography and the Politics of Space,  Photoworks, Brighton, UK

Silva, C (2006) Roisin Ban : The Irish Diaspora in Leeds , Leeds Irish Health & Homes, Leeds, UK

Taylor, P (2012) Confluence, Fragments and Urban Ghosts,

http://www.autograph-abp.co.uk

http://www.bpb.org.uk/2012/

http://www.corinnesilva.com/

http://hotelvitrine.com/content.html

http://www.jasonlarkin.co.uk/index.php?/projects/cairo-divided/

http://juliangermain.blogspot.co.uk/

http://www.juliangermain.com/projects/no-olho.php

http://www.roisinban.com/index.php

http://www.stephen-booth.com/devilsedgechapter.htm

http://www.storyingsheffield.com/project/sheffield-film-studies-sheffield-studies-film/

http://www.weareoca.com/photography/urban-ghosts/