Tuesday, 21 December 2010

My pick of exhibitions 2010

2010 has been a great year for photography shows. Some of them I have reviewed on here, but many of the great ones I have seen I haven't mentioned, most probably cos something else got in the way.

A highlight for me was the Camille Silvy exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. A studio portrait photographer in London in the mid nineteenth century, Silvy was renowned for taking exquisite portraits of the aristocracy for cartes de visites etc. The beautiful thing about the exhibition, though, was his early work of French landscapes, with detail as to how he printed them. Often using 3 negatives combined (each exposed for different areas of the scene) his printing techniques were key; a reminder of the craft of photography, which has disappeared in this digital age. The exhibition was full of information and rich in social history; Silvy was a prolific photographer and businessman, and I can't believe I had never heard of him. Sadly, he suffered from a bipolar disorder (which he believed was brought on by the darkroom chemicals) and the last thirty years of his life he spent in hospitals and convalesent homes.

Another inspiring show, also at the National Portrait Gallery, was Iriving Penn Portraits. A well known portraitist, what I found fascinating was his incredibly simple approach to studio work. In contrast to the fashion of studio photography at that time, which was all dramatic sets and backdrops, Penn would photograph his sitters in his empty studio, just how it was; complete with cigarette butts and litter on the floor. In one series, he places his sitter as if wedged in an acute corner, providing opportunities of performance and self-expression from the sitter. Due to the receding line of the walls, the eye is drawn to the subject; any gesture is exaggerated, and small gesture emphasised. A simple trick, to such great effect.

Duchess of Windsor, © Irving Penn

There have been other great shows... Sophie Calle at the Whitechapel Gallery, Neeta Madahar at Purdy Hicks, Stephen Gill at Brighton Biennale. One of my new year's resolutions is to write up all the shows I see, be it good or bad... if only for my sake of recording what I have seen!

Monday, 13 December 2010

Superhero Grandma

I have just come across this work, and I just had to share it...

These are photographs taken by Sacha Goldberger, of his 91 year old Hungarian grandmother. Noticing that she seemed lonely and a little depressed, he proposed that he take photographs of her in outrageous costumes and poses as a way of cheering her up. And so evolved the character of Super Mamika (Mamika means grandmother in Hungarian).

The photographs are technically brilliant, and succeed in creating a narrative around this humorous superhero. And apparently Grandma got so in character she just couldn't stop being photographed! It's so nice to see some fun photography...

Based in France, Sacha recently had an exhibition at Wanted Paris. His website can be seen here.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Little furry objects make me smile

Gosh it's been a long time since I last posted... November was a quiet month, and I put my mind to more personal matters (such as getting my bathroom re-done, which has the knock on effect that I can't continue shooting my current project because the room I use as a studio now looks more like an architectural rescue place. The whole project is now on hold til the New Year).

But I did have the honour of being a judge at the LCC MA Photography final exhibition. This is with my Photofusion hat on - each year Photofusion offers a prize to a graduate from the LCC MA course. I went to judge it this year with Director and fellow photographer Gina Glover; I must admit that work in MA shows tends to get a little repetitive, but there was one piece of work which was unlike any I had seen before.

Perhaps Finally Alone is a series of photographs of unidentifiable furry objects on plinths, set against wildly patterned backdrops. There is a playful exploration of textures, colours, and an uncertainty of what we are looking at. In some images, the furry object is very definately an animal; one can detect a tail, or some ears. In others, we realise we are looking at a human head of hair, or the plinth is a woman's shoulders. This play on what we are looking at challenges the viewer, and asks all sorts of questions about the nature of a photograph. It is a quirky, humourous series which made me smile... the photographer is Elisa Noguera, and the whole series can be seen on her website.
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