Contextual Research

Sugar Paper Theories - Inspiring photography from the Wallpaper* picture desk | Wallpaper*

Jack Latham is the second recipient of the Photographers’ Gallery’s Bar Tur Photobook Award. The award sees the Welsh photographer given the opportunity to work with an independent publisher to create his first book.

Sugar Paper Theories is the result. Published in collaboration between the Gallery and Here Press, the book explores the 1974 Guðmundur and Geirfinnur Case.

Source: Inspiring photography from the Wallpaper* picture desk | Wallpaper*

Araki and The Velvet Underground

Sunday Morning, the Musée Guimet opens and it’s in to the Araki exhibition. Bonus, it’s free because I’m an art student (I had my NUS card with me). The exhibition starts with what I can only believe is a small selection of his photo books, he’s prolific when it comes to producing them, his Wikipedia entry claims there were over 350 by 2005, there’s been more since then!

After that, large scale photographs of flowers. Large scale sensual photographs of flowers, some starting to decompose. Beautiful, strangely unsettling. This was followed by frames from his first book, and its sequel. “I-novels” were what he became known for (that and nudity and bondage), Sentimental Journey recounts Araki’s wedding and early life with Yoko, Winter Journey told of her death. Araki photographed - it’s what he does - pleasure and pain. Black and white images from their early life seem to show a young woman tired of being constantly photographed, rarely smiling, perhaps this is just a reserved Japanese thing though? As she neared death, there is more apparent joy and laughter, or at least smiles. Maybe this is also a spiritual Japanese thing - I’ve no idea if she was this way inclined though. There is also the emergence of the cat, and the dinosaurs. They keep on showing up in his work, in the weirdest ways. Something that really struck home with the Winter Journey was the inclusion of the date stamp on the images, burned on the negatives by the camera’s data back. Is this a serious “art” thing? Should he not have elected to turn the information off? I know it would have frustrated me back in those days. But no, this accentuates the diaristic impact of the images. It’s a clear reminder of when events happened, of chronology in a time when he may not have been thinking in such ways. It’s an important part of this document. It has to be there.

The next room was all ropes and women, bound by Araki himself I believe. These are again large scale images, shown this way to elevate them from pornography a cynic might argue. Whilst it might be expected to be shocked by these images, I didn’t find them to be such. Perhaps that’s the result of coming straight from the raw emotion that could be experienced from the prior images. I tend to think it’s because there were quirks about them. A woman tied and bound, elevated from the floor with a completely deadpan expression, with a plastic dinosaur on the floor below. It’s surreal, not shocking.

After this, seemingly hundreds of smaller images (although some of the numbers are an optical illusion from using mirrors). They’re random. A stream from the obsessive compulsive mind of a manic photographer. Yes, it would be easy to be shocked again, there are more nudes, sexual images, some might say pornography. But next to that is a cat. A photograph of Nan Goldin (it looked like her anyway...). Another dinosaur. A city street. A beer. Another nude. Strange juxtapositions. Everything falls subject to his camera.

Another room and you’re confronted by a wall of transparencies. This was, for my mind, a masterpiece for the purpose of surreptitious looking. The transparencies are, by their very nature, small. Behind them was not a blank wall, or better a light box, but the end of the exhibition with people and other background information. The images were not easy to see, so you move in closer. You get right next to the images and look at them intently, and then you realise what it is you are so close to - a cat, next to a nude, next to... the same random juxtapositions of subject matter. Knowing that the nudes are there, and they’re not “classy” or “artistic” nudes, you have a pang of guilt - am I a dirty old man like Araki? It was brilliant!

Another wall featured a selection of images of sky. Every day since his wife died, he has photographed the sky. Such a compulsive display of passion, I was quite moved by his dedication. And following this, his own series for his mausoleum, He knows he is approaching death (and with growing blindness), but he knows he will be a photographer in the afterlife too. I wanted to come back the day after too, but it was a bank holiday and everywhere was closed...

The Velvet Underground exhibition at the Philharmonie de Paris, a very different proposition, but equally enjoyable. Linked in to other exhibitions over the weekend - Ginsberg talked about drugs, Nan Goldin had photographs there. There were a couple of standouts there, the overwhelming stream of video and sound that confront you at the entrance and lying on the floor, watching video projected on the ceiling whilst listening to tracks from the “banana” album (The Velvet Underground and Nico)... Lots of other photos, info and music too...

Greatly influential in certain circles, and very enjoyable - and it will form a part of my next project.


Tate Britain project uses AI to pair contemporary photos with paintings | Art and design | The Guardian

IK prize-winning system matches images from the 24/7 news cycle with centuries-old artworks and presents them online.

Seated against a deep red backdrop, gazing intently at hand-held mirrors, two eunuchs in sparkling saris inspect their appearance before Raksha Bandhan celebrations in the red light district of Mumbai.

The photograph from the Reuters news agency is an arresting contemporary scene, but a new Tate Britain project is aiming to inspire deeper reflections with images from its own collection of paintings.

Eunuchs apply makeup before Raksha Bandhan festival celebrations in Mumbai. Photograph: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

Detail from Sir Peter Lely’s Two Ladies of the Lake Family (1660), paired with the Mumbai scene by the Recognition software. Photograph: Tate

Source: Tate Britain project uses AI to pair contemporary photos with paintings | Art and design | The Guardian

Paris, August 2016

As already mentioned, a weekend in Paris has spawned a new project (still need to curate and coalesce...), but it was also an opportunity to see a few different exhibitions.

Centre Pompidou was first, primarily for the exhibition on the Beat Generation, but also for a couple of others and a general wander through the permanent display too. Now, a problem that I have with many French exhibitions is their approach. I believe they assume you already know quite a bit about the subject before going in, rather than just going there to see what you know, or to fill a few gaps with experience. They don’t feed you information so that you can learn and understand. This was certainly the case with Beat Generation. Maybe if I could truly take the time, read, translate and digest everything, then perhaps yes, I would have walked away knowing. Perhaps even understanding. I knew a little, I recognised the long script from On the Road without having to read the label, I was pretty stoked to see some Robert Frank images from The Americans and was happy to discover Bernard Plossu... I still left feeling disappointed though.

untitled (147 of 434)-552

When I say disappointed, that is in terms of true knowledge gained. Bernard Plossu’s work is something I don’t believe I’d seen before, and it’s lovely! Apparently, he’s on show in Arles this year too, which means there has been in uplift in interest... Is it purely coincident that these things happen like they do? Plossu in Arles, in Paris. Beat Generation featuring Ginsberg, who also cropped up at the Velvet Underground exhibition a few days later, which featured an image or two by Nan Goldin. There was a photograph of Nan with Araki at his exhibition... Anyway, I digress.

Plossu, early colour film. Very grainy, Very nice. I nearly bought his book from the exhibition shop (always exit through the gift shop...), but figured it might be better to buy the English version for the essays... It’s now on my list of things to do - should’ve bought it there (but still not got my book case made properly - long story). Some of his work reminded me of Hido, I say it that way around as I’d seen Hido’s work first. Clearly the influences run the other way...

Robert Frank. Hmmm... I was thrilled to see this work on display, but also slightly bemused by it. Speaking to Dewald and Stephanie, their opinions were very positive. Mine however, I felt somewhat constrained by my experience looking through the book (a recent reprint I might add). For me, the images lacked the “road trip” vibe I can get from the book. I know, I know, there weren’t that many on display (a dozen or so?), but they were cherry picked. They didn’t have the stream of consciousness outpouring... something I would have thought should’ve been curated into such an exhibition, not out of it. They were also much larger, and this didn’t feel right to me. Size isn’t everything, or rather it is. It just doesn’t need to be big. Intimacy of experience is maybe more important to me. No, I shouldn’t have said “maybe”...

Also in Pompidou was Louis Stettner. Some really nice pics, but the blurb was maybe a bit pretentious in places. “I am interested in the quality of the air, of the snow, of the rain...” or “ I always felt I had to see and digest what was in front of me. The subject wasn’t the issue... It had to be real.” Ha, no. I’m probably just reading with a cynic’s eye, in the 21st century. The truth is though that these images are from a bygone age, and we’re still recycling the same old lines, same old clichés, perhaps now with even more of a dose of twaddle from a French PoMo philosopher thrown in. Maybe I’ve just grown disillusioned recently?

What else? Oh yeah, a Picasso here, a Koons there... Perhaps it all became a bit blasé? Seriously though, they have a good collection!

Another day, another gallery or two... The Maison Europeenne de la Photographie (MEP) was showing some stuff from Brazil - a shameless Olympics tie in? I like some of Vik Muniz’ work. There were quite a few on show, some really made me smile, theres less so (as might be expected). Not so keen on the Medusa in spag bog, preferred the Van Gogh stuff... There was also some Marcel Gautherot, Celso Brandao and Joaquim Paiva. Some of the s felt like it was travel photography by the book - a modernists approach. Again, of its time, same old clichés. In terms of quality, sure, they were beautiful objects. I do tire of this sort of thing very quickly though.


Off to Jeu de Paume... Guan Xiao had an intriguing three screen work Weather Forecast. This had me glued for the duration, and if I’d have been on my own would have watched it again (nothing to do with being sat down in a cooler place, I can assure you). Sensory overload of a type also experienced later at the Velvet Underground exhibition...

Guan Xiao - Weather Forecast (preview) from antennaspace on Vimeo.

In some ways, this is like the Internet. Advertising. Home video. News archives... 80s music. Trance. (Art of Noise??) Rock. Jazz (?) Do I also remember some classical music? I can’t remember now. I can’t remember many of the images either, apart from a snake being drawn with a brush... I remember the overload though, the strange compunction to watch. The difficulty in doing so in a way that lets you interpret what you’re seeing... Let it wash over, be forgotten. At least in the terms of specifics. I want to see this again.

Not so the other installation she had, How to disappear could be taken as a bit of a... not so much a cliché. Perhaps a cop out? Not sure. Words scroll along the wall (French and English) describing how the artist was going to make herself disappear. It all goes black. And then “there, I did it.” Hmmm.

Also in the JdP was Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joriege. A number of works, the first of which left me confused. Something to do with hoax e-mails and sculpture. I think I understood where the lines drawn on the walls were coming from, but not really. I thought the stuff they did about the Middle East was far more interesting though. The Lebanese Rocket Society... I very much liked the presentation here, numerous copies of a full length photo of a rocket, folded in such a way that the pieces come together to form a photo of a rocket. Sounds daft, but it makes sense when you see it. Photographs of people faded in the sun, details being drawn back into them, photographs of undeveloped film canisters with descriptions of what’s on them (I liked this one - a sort of Schrodinger’s cat thing - you can believe that there’s something on there, but the only way to prove it is to develop the film. If you do that you will prove the fact but destroy the myth, the fabricated version of the images that I’ve constructed in my mind... Love it on so many levels). Postcards from Beirut...

Josef Sudek was in there too. Very dark images, some taken during the war in the curfew - he developed a very pictorialist style of vision. Dated, yes, but some of the images were so dreamy and provocative. Not something I would want to spend a lot of time with, but well worth seeing.

Shifting Boundaries at the Foundation Calouste Gulbenkian... my least favourite of the exhibitions, worth seeing though if only to ask questions about some the framing choices. No, that’s unfair. There was more to it than that, but it was the end of a long and hot day (being a Lancashire lad, 25C is hot, and it was much hotter than that in Paris), I had blisters forming on my little toe that still haven’t healed and I needed a sit down and have a drink... Oh, and they were closing soon.

Sunday morning was Araki. I’m a HUGE fan of Japanese photography, and whilst Araki isn’t my stand out favourite, this was a highlight in terms of the weekend’s exhibitions. I’ll write something about this and the ~Velvet Underground exhibition in the coming days...

Unforgettable Portraits from an American Road Trip in the 1980s - Feature Shoot

In the 1980s, Massachusetts photographer Sage Sohier hit the road. She was 20-something years old, recently graduated from Harvard University, and enamored with the street. She approached strangers, toting around a clunky medium-format camera with a flash in search of serendipity.

Source: Unforgettable Portraits from an American Road Trip in the 1980s - Feature Shoot

Modern Myths and New Pastoral Paradigms

If photography is indexically tied to the present moment, the past presents something of a challenge.

Smith D (ed) 2016. Modern Myths. BJP #7849, p3

This quote from BJP is really something I will need to be thinking about as I move on with Le Loup... and it also formed part of the thread running through the OCA symposium New Pastoral Paradigms. Held at Bank Street Arts on the 23 July, the symposium featured 5 speakers, Jesse Alexander, John Umney, Christina Stohn, Michal Iwanowski and Hanna-Katrina Jedrosz. Jesse was my Landscape tutor back during the BA (he called my roundabout series “eccentric” see below), and he also wrote the recent book Perspectives on Place: Theory & Practice in Landscape Photography.

Pont de Vertou

This roundabout has precisely nothing to do with the symposium though.

Jesse kicked off the symposium with talk on two of his projects, Elementary Husbandry and The Nymph and the Shepherd. Here he wanted to present book rooted in rich ideas, open pieces of work not tied down to some pre-ordained narrative. What follows is the product of my own abbreviated note taking - more of a platform to research further than anything meaningful:

Whitchurch/dundry tractor in front of houses. Bristol at edge of green belt - edgelands luminal spaces
26 Different Endings by Mark Power
Oil by Ed Burtynsky
David Friedrich, Wanderer above the sea of fog, 1818 - romantic image of people in landscape
Potential to be critical space, not just pleasure - space to think and discuss
Relationship between urban and rural homes
Claude Lorrain, Landscape with Apollo guarding the herds of Admetus - mythological story
Pastoral Landscape, 1648 - generic landscape scene - golden light, fluffy clouds, structures and forms. Must have animals!!!! Near bottom of frame. Lovely!?!? Arcadian leanings...

Filling frame with figures - dignity in frame, not really seen before. Millet, John Ravilious, Albrecht Tubke - Dalliendorf. Realism in representations of the countryside
John Darwell, Dark Days
Andy Sewell, Something like a nest
(Luminal space between domestic and relations with agriculture)

Elementary husbandry
Work in vein of those above, finding realism in the landscape. Means to explore/ be nosy/ curious and to articulate relationship with space.
Wanted to go a little beyond that...

Keeping the countryside “the way it should be” is strong for many amateur photographers... No sign of present day life. By shooting signs of man made, becomes clear that things change quickly. - not as frenzied as street , but surprising
Incongruity of things that can be seen (plane in a field)
Birds - flight is recurring theme
Dead birds,,,

Upside down bin between neighbours. Little odd details...
Using the land as a critical statement

Layers to the pastoral

Nicholas poussin, et in Arcadia ego
Ambiguity in the age

Peter Kennard, Haywain with cruise missiles
Produced in time of countryside unrest. - missile bases and the Cold War...
Jo Spence & Terry Dennett. Remodelling Photo History
Fay Godwin, Our Forbidden Land
Ingrid Pollard, Pastoral Interlude - dislocation, Wordsworth

John Davies, Remembrance Sunday, Liverpool 13 Nov 2011 has a giant poster for Call of duty in the background!
Withnail &I _ classic pastoral themes - escape to the country

Simon Roberts Devil’s Dyke is a classic pastoral composition. Amorous themes. - shepherd with the shepherdess sort of thing, modern take...

The nymph and the shepherd draws from:
Christopher Marlowe - the passionate shepherd to his love
Sir Walter Raleigh- The nymph’s reply to her love

Taking a photo every week sending to gallery and being installed.
Not imagery to invoke romance. Diaristic.

John Umney came next. A fellow student from back when I did the BA with OCA.

Here, with I look for him he is using narratives with images to explore things from history...
Personal work (very!) - relationship with deceased father. Memory.
Set in the land.
Photography is a conversation with memory. Narrating the past, to construct new memories
Barthes - holding a photograph of a 5 year old girl, on a bridge. Essence of his mother... A construction of his own devices

Project is about a fight with father...
Can't remember it, nobody from family)can in real terms, but all could envisage it - it’s become a part of family folklore.

Landscapes in a place called Purgatory... Set up to take people away during the plague, it’s been unsettled since WW1.
Didn't want the burden of being called a landscape photographer. Didn't use tripod.
Photos of objects to start discourse
Mother never become involved narrative - she’s never even seen the work.
A reflection on the malleability of memory...

Christina Stohn spoke quietly, and with her German accent it caused me problems, hence extreme brevity...
Paradise Lost
The rumours are true

Baden Baden, Black Forest
Cultural identity


Xpansive and empty (sehnsucht)
Displacement from home/countryside
Lines- very “Gursky”

Storm damage
Death and renewal

Book - altered landscape (look for this)

Paradise lost
Visit to home town over time,
Idealised images of Black Forest
Countering traditions with contemporary view - broader narrative

Belgrade waterfront.
Displacement, gentrification

Uses books - outcome shapes the project.

Difficulty photographing own space until Been away...

Michal Iwanowski
Landscape as a place of sanctuary
I'm not a landscape photographer! (another to state this!)
Minus the mother
Personal defines the global
Study of death and grieving
Disappearing to nature

Colin Gray - worked with parents for years... Life and death
Cathartic, but will it work?
Personal. Bizarre concept - set in the landscape

Clear of People
Story of people taking journey in 1945
Poles walking from Russia - escaped...
Interested in what happened - war bad for every one

Small history, not the big story. Perspectives
(Kickstarted - I backed this, waiting with baited breath...)
Burden of national identity

Hanna-Katrina Jędrosz

I feel every stone of the road
Grandmother fought in the war during uprising. (Polish)
Travelled Germany/Poland visiting sites relevant to grandmother.


Has Instagram changed photography forever? CCP's birthday brings the present into focus

Has Instagram changed photography forever? CCP’s birthday brings the present into focus

For three decades, CCP has been at the cutting-edge of art photography. Ray Edgar looks at what that means in the age of Instagram.

On Naomi Cass' first day on the job at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, the answering machine was clogged with abuse. "There were nearly death threats from documentary photographers who were just so angry," she remembers.

Graphic designer turned artist Mimmo Cozzolino had won the prestigious biennial Leica CCP documentary award for a series of blurry family photos. Traditionalists weren't happy. The sponsors wanted to pull out.

Source: Has Instagram changed photography forever? CCP’s birthday brings the present into focus

The digital age reshapes our notion of photography. Not everyone is happy ... | Art and design | The Guardian

Instagram, selfies, citizen reportage – technology has produced a new kind of work that is finding its way into galleries

“Photography is demonstrably the most contemporary of art forms; it is the most vital, effective and universal means of communication of facts and ideas between peoples and nations.” So said Cornell Capa, the founder of the International Centre of Photography, which opened in New York in 1974 with a remit to preserve the archives and exhibit the work of what he called “concerned photographers” everywhere.

Source: The digital age reshapes our notion of photography. Not everyone is happy ... | Art and design | The Guardian

Made in Memphis: William Eggleston's surreal visions of the American south | Art and design | The Guardian

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 18.24.37On 25 May 1976, an exhibition opened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York that blew apart American photography. Curated by long-term director John Szarkowski, it contained around 75 prints by an artist in his mid-30s based in Memphis, Tennessee, self-taught and barely known outside the in-crowd. His name was William Eggleston.

Source: Made in Memphis: William Eggleston's surreal visions of the American south | Art and design | The Guardian

Photography is dead, long live the image ! - The Eye of Photography

The festival Rencontres d’Arles is sumptuous and surprising; moreover, it is entering a new stage in its history: the end of an era, the demise of those methodical pieces of paper called prints and the end of academic celebration of photography. “There are hardly any real photographers exhibited any more,” proclaimed yesterday a legendary Parisian figure. Well, yes, photography has exploded, it has become communication, it has replaced words and transformed into image. This transmutation is due as much to Sam Stourdzé’s festival program, which breaks all the conventional codes, as to the profound and drastic change effected by Maja Hoffmann and her Luma Foundation—but we will say more about this on Monday

Source: Photography is dead, long live the image ! - The Eye of Photography

Alec Soth : Gathered Leaves @ NMM


A few weeks ago I went to see Alec Soth's Gathered Leaves at the National Media Museum in Bradford. I'm fairly familiar with Soth's work, I have a few of his books, including a set of smaller scale publications that also goes by the name Gathered Leaves. In that respect, I don't actually believe there was anything "new" there for me, anything that I'd not seen. That doesn't mean to say it was an empty experience though. Despite what I think about books being my favoured form of consumption for photography, there can still be something incredibly satisfying seeing the same images printed larger and this was the case here. It's not always the case and I didn't gel with Struth's incredibly large prints at The Whitechapel Gallery a few years ago, for example. Here though, they impressed.

The exhibition itself was split into bodies of work in different rooms. First was Sleeping by Mississippi, with the prints measuring a large but relatively modest 40x50cm. The frames were in white, the prints in colour, with turquoise being prevalent. A curatorial choice for the gallery walls as I didn't really recall the book striking me in the same way and a further check confirms this. Yes, there are a number of “colder” images in terms of the colours, but not quite so striking as it appeared in the gallery. It changed my reaction to the images.

The second room, now it's Niagara. Larger prints (from 81x102cm to 112x152cm) in pale wooden frames. A very different feel, with a shallower depth of field than Mississippi. The varied size of the prints mean that the photographs interact with each other differently than before. The first room was regimented, regular and perhaps more familiar. Now there is an otherness. More dreamlike, perhaps even haunting in its melancholy. There are elements of this in the book, but again, the tighter curatorial selections has emphasised this.

Broken Manual is again a series of larger prints, this time in grey frames. There are also some smaller prints too, even some in black and white. The change somehow suits the subject matter, makes it a little more abstract, out of the ordinary. This is perhaps the area of Soth’s work I’m least familiar with, I could do worse than get to grips with it...

Finally, it’s Songbook. Black and white prints in the style of a small town newspaper reporter, but printed much larger than your tabloid at 99x132cm (and similar larger sizes) with dark grey frames. Songbook is Soth’s latest collection, the images have been stripped of any newspaper captions, so there’s a sense of something missing. There’s a lot to consider here, with the style of the images counterpointing the reason they were taken.

Alec Soth, Bill, Sandusky, Ohio




“The road is one of the main elements planned by men in contemporary age capable of producing landscape.” John Brinckerhoff Jackson

The road is not only an integral and indivisible part of the territory but it can also create new forms, new spaces, new landscapes. Among the elements of this new relationship between the parts and the whole thing we can find: cars, gas stations, motels, hotels, billboards, signs, houses, fences, gates, malls, junctions, detours, flowerbeds, curbs, connections…Lived spaces and unstable areas that interchange themselves with those of static and geometric maps. The aesthetics of speed as a metaphor to reach the joy, the journey of discovery, the frantic oblivion of the ordinary world. A fast car, the desire of freedom inside, dark and steaming long streets spreading out, looking at the infinite. An alternate lingering prefiguring uncertain migrations.

An Endless Road as an Endless Summer…

Source: LANDSCAPE STORIES: LS_24 editorial

Head out on the highway: celebrating the great American road trip | Art and design | The Guardian

The desire to discover the US by car is embedded in the American psyche – as a book, now turned into an exhibition, of photographs makes clear

“For me, the original idea came from a love of the road trip as a rite of passage in America,” says Denise Wolff, senior editor at photography publishers Aperture. “The idea that if you have a car, you have freedom to escape, to discover, to find yourself, to lose yourself. It’s a powerful call, one that is part of the American identity and culture.” Working with British author and curator David Campany, Wolff has edited a book called The Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip, published 18 months ago and which has now been turned into an exhibition in Detroit.

Source: Head out on the highway: celebrating the great American road trip | Art and design | The Guardian

Joel Meyerowitz Finds Beauty in the Ordinary - The New York Times

The color photographer has turned his eye toward the mundane objects that inspired the Italian painter Giorgio Morandi.

Source: Joel Meyerowitz Finds Beauty in the Ordinary - The New York Times

This is the 1.17 to nirvana: how a Yorkshire commute became a work of art | Music | The Guardian

A short while after leaving Hessle station, my daughter hands me a drawing. She’s been sketching the vast 2,200-metre-long Humber bridge, which we’ve just this minute passed under. What, I ask, are those tiny figures? The people who’ve jumped, she explains.

Source: This is the 1.17 to nirvana: how a Yorkshire commute became a work of art | Music | The Guardian