Posts Tagged ‘Martin Parr

07
Mar
14

Exhibition: ‘Only in England: Photographs by Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr’ at Media Space at Science Museum, London

Exhibition dates: 21st September 2013 – 16th March 2014

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“Be more aware of composition

Don’t take boring pictures

Get in closer

Watch camera shake

Don’t shoot too much”

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Tony Ray-Jones from his diaries

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Growing up in the 1960s we used to get taken to Butlins holiday camps (Billy Butlin founded the company, a chain of large holiday camps in the United Kingdom, to provide affordable holidays for ordinary British families). It was a great treat to be away from the farm, to be by the sea, even if the beach was made of stones. Looking back on it now you realise how seedy it was, how working class… but as a kid it was oh, so much fun!

Tony Ray-Jones photographed these environments (mainly the British at play by the sea) and their opposites – afternoon tea taken at Glyndebourne opera festival for example (Glyndebourne, 1967, below) - drawing on the tradition of great British social documentary photography by artists such as Bill Brandt. TRJ even pays homage to Brandt in one of his photographs, Dickens Festival, Broadstairs, c.1967 (below) which echoes Brandt’s famous photograph Parlourmaid and Under-parlourmaid Ready to Serve Dinner, 1933 by changing “point of view” from up close, personal, oppressive and interior to distance, isolation, leisure/work and exterior.

Through his photographs Ray-Jones adds his own style and humour, using “a new conception of photography as a means of expression, over and above its accepted role as a recorder.” He does it all as an intimate expression of his own personality, his maverick, outsider, non-conformist self. I feel – and that is the key word with his art – that he had a real empathy with his subject matter. There is a twinkle in his eye that becomes embedded in his photographs. There is an honesty, integrity and respect for the people he is photographing, coupled with a wicked sense of humour and the most amazing photographic eye. What an eye he had!

To be able to sum up a scene in a split second, to previsualise (think), intuitively compose, frame and shoot in that twinkle of an eye, and to balance the images as he does is truly the most incredible gift, the quintessential British “decisive moment”. Look at the structural analysis of Location unknown, possibly Worthing (1967-68, below) that I have presented in a slide show. This will give you a good idea of the visual complexity of Ray-Jones’ images… and yet he makes the sum of all components seem grounded (in this case by the man’s feet) and effortless. Devon Caranicas has observed that TRJ possessed a quick wit and adeptness for reducing a complex narrative into a single frame, the photographed subjects transformed into social actors of supreme stereotypes. The first part is insightful, but social actors of supreme stereotypes? I think not, because these people are not acting, this is their life, their humanity, their time out from the hum-drum of everyday working class life. They do not pose for TRJ, it’s just how they are. Look at the musicality of the first five images in the posting – how the line rises and falls, moves towards you and away from you. Only a great artist can do that, instinctively.

I cannot express to you enough the utmost admiration I have for this man’s art. In my opinion he is one of greatest British photographers that has ever lived (Julia Margaret Cameron, William Henry Fox Talbot, Roger Fenton, Francis Bedford, Frederick H. Evans, Cecil Beaton, Peter Henry Emerson and Herbert Ponting would be but a few others that spring to mind). He photographed British customs and values at a time of change and pictured a real affection for the lives of ordinary working class people. Being one of the them, he will always hold a special place in my heart.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Many thankx to Media Space at Science Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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“Although the entirety of the images from Only in England were shot throughout the politically and socially turbulent late 60′s and early 70′s both artists shy away from depicting the culture clashes that so often visually defined this period. Instead, they each opted to turn their lens onto the quintessential country side, and in doing so, pay homage to a traditional type of English life that was becoming a sort of sub-culture in itself – a way of living that was not yet touched by the encroaching globalisation, or “americanisation,” of the UK.”

September 26th, 2013 by ART WEDNESDAY

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“Ray-Jones printed his black and white pictures small, in a dark register of tonally very dense prints. The National Media Museum has lots of these, and perhaps to devote the cavernous new space only to such small pictures would have been a mistake. Even backed up with a mass of supporting material, including the fascinating pages from Ray-Jones’ diaries, the prints would struggle to fill the space. So only the first section is devoted to about 50 beautiful little Ray-Jones vintage prints. Two whole sections have been added to the exhibition to flesh it out…

[Parr] has unfortunately chosen to print them [Ray-Jones prints] in a way quite alien to anything Ray-Jones ever made: they are printed in Parr’s own way, as larger, paler, more diffuse things in mid-tones that Ray-Jones would never have countenanced. They are printed, inevitably, by digital process…

Sadly, these Ray-Jones by Parr prints add up to an appropriation of the former by the latter: they are Martin Parr pictures taken from Tony-Ray Jones negatives, and it would have been better not to have shown them so. They are fine images, but they should have been seen in some other way: on digital screens, perhaps, or as modern post-cards. Anything to make quite explicit the clear break with Ray-Jones’ own prints. That the images they contain are very fine is not in doubt. But I take leave to question whether they “present a new way of thinking through creative use of the collections”. They are well labelled and for specialists there will be no difficulty in knowing that they are not by Ray-Jones. But for the public I am not so sure. Suddenly two-thirds of the show are in this larger, modern, digitally printed form, either by Parr himself or by Ray-Jones-through-Parr. It looks as if that is the dominant group…”

Extract from Francis Hodgson. “Two Exhibitions of Tony Ray-Jones – Two Ways of Giving Context to Photographs,” on the Photomonitor website, September 2013

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Tony Ray-Jones. 'Beachy Head Tripper Boat, 1967' 1967

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Tony Ray-Jones
Beachy Head Tripper Boat, 1967
1967
© National Media Museum

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Tony Ray-Jones. 'Beauty contestants, Southport, Merseyside, 1967' 1967

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Tony Ray-Jones
Beauty contestants, Southport, Merseyside, 1967 
1967
© National Media Museum

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Tony Ray-Jones. 'Brighton Beach, West Sussex, 1966' 1966

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Tony Ray-Jones
Brighton Beach, West Sussex, 1966
1966
© National Media Museum

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Tony Ray-Jones. 'Eastbourne Carnival, 1967' 1967

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Tony Ray-Jones
Eastbourne Carnival, 1967
1967
© National Media Museum

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Tony Ray-Jones. 'Blackpool, 1968' 1968

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Tony Ray-Jones
Blackpool, 1968
1968
© National Media Museum

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Tony Ray-Jones. 'Location unknown, possibly Worthing' 1967-68

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Tony Ray-Jones
Location unknown, possibly Worthing
1967-68
© National Media Museum

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Tony Ray-Jones Location unknown, possibly Worthing (1967-68) picture analysis by Dr Marcus Bunyan

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“Fascinated by the eccentricities of English social customs, Tony Ray-Jones spent the latter half of the 1960s travelling across England, photographing what he saw as a disappearing way of life. Humorous yet melancholy, these works had a profound influence on photographer Martin Parr, who has now made a new selection including over 50 previously unseen works from the National Media Museum’s Ray-Jones archive. Shown alongside The Non-Conformists, Parr’s rarely seen work from the 1970s, this selection forms a major new exhibition which demonstrates the close relationships between the work of these two important photographers.

The first ever major London exhibition of work by British Photographer, Tony Ray-Jones (1941-1972) will open at Media Space on 21 September 2013. The exhibition will feature over 100 works drawn from the Tony Ray-Jones archive at the National Media Museum alongside 50 rarely seen early black and white photographs, The Non-Conformists, by Martin Parr (1952).

Between 1966 and 1969 Tony Ray-Jones created a body of photographic work documenting English customs and identity. Humorous yet melancholy, these photographs were a departure from anything else being produced at the time. They quickly attracted the attention of the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), London where they were exhibited in 1969. Tragically, in 1972, Ray-Jones died from Leukaemia aged just 30. However, his short but prolific career had a lasting influence on the development of British photography from the 1970s through to the present.

In 1970, Martin Parr, a photography student at Manchester Polytechnic, had been introduced to Ray-Jones. Inspired by him, Parr produced The Non-Conformists, shot in black and white in Hebden Bridge and the surrounding Calder Valley. This project started within two years of Ray-Jones death and demonstrates his legacy and influence.

The exhibition will draw from the Tony Ray-Jones archive, held by the National Media Museum.  Around 50 vintage prints will be on display alongside an equal number of photographs which have never previously been printed. Martin Parr has been invited to select these new works from the 2700 contact sheets and negatives in the archive. Shown alongside these are Parr’s early black and white work, unfamiliar to many, which has only ever previously been exhibited in Hebden Bridge itself and at Camerawork Gallery, London in 1981.

Tony Ray-Jones was born in Somerset in 1941. He studied graphic design at the London School of Printing before leaving the UK in 1961 to study on a scholarship at Yale University in Connecticut, US. He followed this with a year long stay in New York during which he attended classes by the influential art director Alexey Brodovitch, and became friends with photographers Joel Meyerowitz and Garry Winogrand. In 1966 he returned to find a Britain still divided by class and tradition. A Day Off – An English Journal, a collection of photographs he took between 1967-1970 was published posthumously in 1974 and in 2004 the National Media Museum held a major exhibition, A Gentle Madness: The Photographs of Tony Ray-Jones.

Martin Parr was born in Epsom, Surry in 1952. He graduated from Manchester Polytechnic in 1974 and moved to Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire, where he established the ‘Albert Street Workshop’, a hub for artistic activity in the town. Fascinated by the variety of non-conformist chapels and the communities he encountered in the town he produced The Non-Conformists. In 1984 Parr began to work in colour and his breakthrough publication The Last Resort was published in 1986. A Magnum photographer, Parr is now an internationally renowned photographer, filmmaker, collector and curator, best-known for his highly saturated colour photographs critiquing modern life.

Only in England: Photographs by Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr will run at Media Space, Science Museum from 21 September 2013 – 16 March 2014. The exhibition will then be on display at the National Media Museum from 22 March – 29 June 2014. The exhibition is curated by Greg Hobson, curator of Photographs at the National Media Museum, and Martin Parr has been invited to select works from the Tony Ray-Jones archives.

Greg Hobson, curator of Photographs at the National Media Museum says, “The combination of Martin Parr and Tony Ray-Jones’ work will allow the viewer to trace an important trajectory through the history of British photography, and present new ways of thinking about photographic histories through creative use of our collections.” Martin Parr says, “Tony Ray-Jones’ pictures were about England. They had that contrast, that seedy eccentricity, but they showed it in a very subtle way. They have an ambiguity, a visual anarchy. They showed me what was possible.”

The Tony Ray-Jones archive comprises of approximately 700 photographic prints, 1700 negative sheets, 2700 contact sheets, 600 boxes of Ektachrome/Kodachrome transparencies. It also includes ephemera such as notebooks, diary pages, and a maquette of England by the Sea made by Tony Ray-Jones.

Media Space is a collaboration between the Science Museum (London) and the National Media Museum (Bradford). Media Space will showcase the National Photography Collection of the National Media Museum through a series of exhibitions. Alongside this, photographers, artists and the creative industries will respond to the wider collections of the Science Museum Group to explore visual media, technology and science.”

Press release from the Science Museum website

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Tony Ray-Jones. 'Bacup coconut dancers, 1968' 1968

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Tony Ray-Jones
Bacup coconut dancers, 1968
1968
© National Media Museum

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Tony Ray-Jones (1941-1972) 'Bournemouth, 1969' 1969

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Tony Ray-Jones (1941-1972)
Bournemouth, 1969
1969
Vintage Gelatin Silver Print
16 x 25 cms (6 x 10 inches)
© National Media Museum

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Tony Ray-Jones. 'Location unknown, possible Morcambe, 1967-68' 1967-68

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Tony Ray-Jones
Location unknown, possible Morcambe, 1967-68
1967-68
© National Media Museum

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Tony Ray-Jones (1941-1972) 'Mablethorpe, 1967' 1967

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Tony Ray-Jones (1941-1972)
Mablethorpe, 1967
1967
Vintage Gelatin Silver Print
14 x 21 cms (6 x 8 inches)
© National Media Museum

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Tony Ray-Jones. 'Ramsgate, 1967' 1967

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Tony Ray-Jones
Ramsgate, 1967
1967
© National Media Museum

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Martin Parr. 'Mankinholes Methodist Chapel, Todmorden' 1975

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Martin Parr
Mankinholes Methodist Chapel, Todmorden
1975
© Martin Parr/ Magnum

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Tony Ray-Jones. 'Cruft's Dog Show, London, 1966' 1966

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Tony Ray-Jones
Cruft’s Dog Show, London, 1966
1966
© National Media Museum

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Tony Ray-Jones. 'Dickens Festival, Broadstairs, c.1967' c.1967

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Tony Ray-Jones
Dickens Festival, Broadstairs, c. 1967
c. 1967
© National Media Museum

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Tony Ray-Jones. 'Dickens Festival, Broadstairs, c.1967' c.1967

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Tony Ray-Jones
Dickens Festival, Broadstairs, c.1967
c.1967
© National Media Museum

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Tony Ray-Jones. 'Wormwood Scrubs Fair, London, 1967' 1967

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Tony Ray-Jones
Wormwood Scrubs Fair, London, 1967
1967
© National Media Museum

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Tony Ray-Jones. 'Untitled' 1960s

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Tony Ray-Jones
Untitled
1960s
© National Media Museum

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Tony Ray-Jones. 'Trooping the Colour, London, 1967' 1967

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Tony Ray-Jones
Trooping the Colour, London, 1967
1967
© National Media Museum

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Tony Ray-Jones. 'Untitled' 1960s

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Tony Ray-Jones
Untitled
1960s
© National Media Museum

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Tony Ray-Jones. 'Glyndebourne, 1967' 1967

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Tony Ray-Jones
Glyndebourne, 1967
1967
© National Media Museum

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Tony Ray-Jones. 'Elderly woman eating pie seated in a pier shelter next to a stuffed bear, 1969' 1969

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Tony Ray-Jones
Elderly woman eating pie seated in a pier shelter next to a stuffed bear, 1969
1969
© National Media Museum

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Tony Ray-Jones. 'Blackpool, 1968' 1968

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Tony Ray-Jones
Blackpool, 1968
1968
Vintage Gelatin Silver Print
21 x 14.5 cms (8.25 x 5.70 ins)

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Martin Parr. 'Tom Greenwood cleaning' 1976

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Martin Parr
Tom Greenwood cleaning
1976
© Martin Parr/ Magnum

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Media Space at Science Museum
Exhibition Road, South Kensington,
London SW7 2DD

Opening hours:
Open seven days a week, 10.00 – 18.00

Media Space at Science Museum website

Only in England Media Space web page

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02
Jan
13

Melbourne’s magnificent eleven 2012

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Here’s my pick of the eleven best artists/exhibitions which featured on the Art Blart blog in 2012. Enjoy!

Marcus

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1/ Review: The work of Robyn Hosking, AT_SALON at Anita Traverso Gallery, Richmond

6th March – 24th March 2012

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Robyn Hosking
The Wing Walker
2011
Mixed media

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Robyn Hosking
The Wing Walker (detail)
2011
Mixed media

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… My favourite has to be The Wing Walker (2011) as an irate Julia Gillard tries to get rid of Kevin Rudd once and for all, even poking him with a stick to push him off the edge of the biplane. Balanced on a slowly revolving turntable with the world at its centre, this political merry-go round is panacea for the soul for people sick of politicians. This is brilliant political satire. The planes are all ends up and even when Julia thinks she has got rid of Kevin there he is, hanging on for dear life from the undercarriage of one of the planes…

Reminding me of the fantasy creatures of Tom Moore, these whimsical manifestations deal with serious, life changing and challenging issues with purpose, feeling and a wicked sense of humour. I really enjoyed this art (and joy is the correct word) because it takes real world issues, melds fantasy and pointed observation and reflects it back, as the artist observes, in a funfair’s distorted mirror. Magic!

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2/ Review: Martin Parr: In Focus at Niagara Galleries, Richmond, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 6th March – 31st March 2012

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This is a fine exhibition of the work of celebrated English photographer Martin Parr at Niagara Galleries, Richmond, albeit with one proviso. The mainly large colour prints are handsomely displayed in plain white frames within the gallery space and are taken from his well known series: Last Resort, Luxury, New British and British Food. Parr’s work is at its best when he concentrates on the volume of space within the image plane and the details that emerge from such a concentrated visualisation – whether it be the tension points within the image, assemblage of colour, incongruity of dress, messiness of childhood or philistine nature of luxury.

And so it goes. The dirt under the fingernails of the child eating a doughnut, the lurid colours of the popsicle and jacket of the kid with dribble on his face, all fantastic… They are joyous paeans to the quirky, incongruous worlds in which we live and circulate. They evidence life itself in all its orthogonal absurdity.

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Martin Parr
England. New Brighton.
From the series Last Resort
1983 – 1985
Pigment print
Edition of 5
102 x 127 cm
Image courtesy of the artist and Niagara Galleries, Melbourne

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Martin Parr
England. New Brighton.
From the series Last Resort
1983 – 1985
Pigment print
Edition of 5
102 x 127 cm
Image courtesy of the artist and Niagara Galleries, Melbourne

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3/ Review: Tourist #5: Disappearing Project 1 – 41 by Nicola Loder at Helen Gory Galerie, Prahran, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 14th March – 7th April 2012

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I have always loved the work of Nicola Loder ever since I saw her solo exhibition Child 1-175: A Nostalgia for the Present at Stop 22 Gallery in St Kilda in 1996. This exhibition is no exception. Loder is the consummate professional, her work is as imaginative and intriguing as ever and there has been a consistent thematic development of ideas within her work over a long period of time. These ideas relate to the nature of seeing and being seen, the mapping of identity and the process of its (dis)appearance…

Loder’s exquisitely sensuous description of disappearance allows us to see the phenomenal word afresh. I look forward with a sense of anticipation to the next voyage of discovery the artist will take me on.

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Tourist #5: Disappearing Project 1 – 41 by Nicola Loder, installation photograph at Helen Gorie Galerie

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Nicola Loder
Tourist #5: Disappearing Project 1-41 (no 11)
2012
Polyester thread, muslin
86 x 69cm

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4/ Review: Jane Brown / Australian Gothic at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 25th April – 12th May 2012

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Jane Brown
Big Trout, New South Wales
2010
Museo silver rag print
59 x 46 cm

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Jane Brown
Adelong, New South Wales
2011
Fibre based, silver gelatin print
16.5 x 20.5 cm

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This is a good exhibition of small, darkly hewn, traditionally printed silver gelatin photographs, beautifully hung in the small gallery at Edmund Pearce and lit in the requisite, ambient manner. There are some outstanding photographs in the exhibition. The strongest works are the surrealist tinged, film noir-ish mise-en-scènes, the ones that emphasise the metaphorical darkness of the elements gathered upon the stage. Photographs such as Big TroutThe Female Factory, Adelong, New South Wales and Captain’s Flat Hotel, New South Wales really invoke a feeling of unhomely (or unheimlich), where nature is out of kilter. These images unsettle our idea of Oztraliana, our perceived sense of Self and our place in the world. They disrupt normal transmission; they transmutate the seen environment, transforming appearance, nature and form.

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5/ Review: Jacqui Stockdale: The Quiet Wild at Helen Gory Galerie, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 18th April – 19th May 2012

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Jacqui Stockdale
Rama-Jaara the Royal Shepherdess
2012
Type C Print
100 x 78cm

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Jacqui Stockdale
Lagunta Man, Leeawuleena
2012
Type C Print
100 x 78cm

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These are incredibly humorous, magical and symbolic photographs. A thought came into my mind when I was in the gallery surrounded by the work: for me they represented a vision of the Major Arcana of the Tarot (for example Jaguar Hombre could be seen as an inverted version of the Hanged Man with his foot in a figure four, the Hanged Man symbolising the need to just be in the world, yielding his mind and body to the Universal flow). The Major Arcana deal with the human condition, each card representing the joys and sorrows every man and woman can experience in a lifetime. In a way Stockdale offers us her own set of subversive Major Arcana, images that transgress the boundaries of the colonial vernacular, offering the viewer a chance to explore the heart of the quiet wild.

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6/ Review: Littoral by Kristian Laemmle-Ruff at Colour Factory Gallery, Fitzroy

Exhibition dates: 4th May – 26th May 2012

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It was such a joy then to walk around the corner from the CCP to the Colour Factory Gallery and view the exhibition Littoral by emerging artist Kristian Laemmle-Ruff. This is one of the best, if not the best, “photography” exhibition I have seen so far this year. As soon as you walk into the simple, elegant gallery you are surrounded by fourteen large scale horizontal photographs that are suffused with colour variations bouncing across the gallery – here a blue, there a green, now a lush orange palette. The effect is much like Monet’s waterlilies at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris; seated in the middle of the four curved paintings you are surrounded by large daubs of paint of various hues that have an elemental effect – resonances of earth, air, water, fire – on the viewer. The same affection of colour and space can be found in Laemmle-Ruff’s photographs.

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Kristian Laemmle-Ruff
Olympic Stadium
2012
Type C print
100cm x 67cm

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Kristian Laemmle-Ruff
Truck in Safi
2010
Type C print
100cm x 67cm

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7/ Review: Lost & Found: Family Photos Swept away by the 3.11 East Japan Tsunami at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP), Fitzroy, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 1st June – 15th July 2012

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What we are left with in these images are vestiges of presence, remnants or traces of people that have passed on. In a kind of divine intervention, these photographs ask the viewer questions about the one fact that we cannot avoid in our lives, our own mortality, and what remains after we pass on. We can never know these people and places, just as we can never know the place and time of our death – when our “time” is up – but these photographs awaken in us a subconscious remembering: that we may be found (in life), then lost (through death), then found again in the gaze of the viewer looking at the photographs in the future present. We are (dis)continuous beings.

There is no one single reading of these photographs for “there are only competing narratives and interpretations of a world that cannot be wholly, accurately described.” These indescribable photographs impinge on our consciousness calling on us to remember even as the speed of contemporary life asks us to forget. This ethical act of looking, of mourning and remembering, of paying homage to presence acknowledges that we choose not to let pass into the dark night of the soul these traces of our forebears, for each emanation is deeply embedded within individual and cultural memory.

These photographs are a contemporary form of Western ‘dreaming’ in which we feel a link to the collective human experience. In this reification, we bear witness to the (re)assemblance of life, the abstract made (subconsciously) concrete, as material thing. These images of absent presence certainly reached out and touched my soul. Vividly, I choose to remember rather than to forget.

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8/ Review: Berlinde De Bruyckere: We are all Flesh at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 2nd June – 29th July 2012

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The main work We Are All Flesh (2012) reminded me of a version of the game The Hanged Man (you know, the one where you have to guess the letters of a word and if you don’t get the letter, the scaffold and the hanged man are drawn). The larger of the two hanging pieces featured two horse skins of different colours intertwined like a ying yang paux de deux. Psychologically the energy was very heavy. The use of straps to suspend the horses was inspired. Memories of Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp and The Godfather rose to the surface. My favourite piece was 019 (2007). Elegant in its simplicity this beautiful display case from a museum was dismantled and shipped over to Australia in parts and then reassembled here. The figurative pieces of wood, made of wax, seemed like bodies drained of blood displayed as specimens. The blankets underneath added an element of comfort. The whole piece was restrained and beautifully balanced. Joseph Beuys would have been very proud.

The “visceral gothic” contained in the exhibition was very evident. I liked the artist’s trembling and shuddering. Her narratives aroused a frisson, a moment of intense danger and excitement, the sudden terror of the risen animal

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Berlinde De Bruyckere
We Are All Flesh
2012
Treated horse skin, epoxy, iron armature
280 x 160 x 100 cm
Courtesy the artist, Hauser & Wirth and Galleria Continua

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Berlinde De Bruyckere
019
2007
Wax, epoxy, metal, glass, wood, blankets
293.5 x 517 x 77.5 cm
Private Collection, Paris

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9/ Review: Light Works at NGV International, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 23rd March – 16th September 2012

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This is an intimate and stimulating photographic exhibition at the NGV International featuring the work of artists Mike and Doug Starn, David Stephenson, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Bill Henson, Adam Fuss, Simone Douglas, Park Hong-Chun, Eugenia Raskopoulos, Sam Shmith, Christoph Dahlhausen and Patrick Bailly-Maitre-Grand. It is fantastic to see an exhibition of solely contemporary photographs at the National Gallery of Victoria taken from their collection (with nary a vintage silver gelatin photograph in sight!), one which examines the orchestration of light from which all photography emanates – used by different photographers in the creation, and there is the key word, of their work. Collectively, the works seem to ooze a mysterious inner light, a facing towards the transcendent divine – both comforting, astonishing and terrifying in part measure.

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Hiroshi Sugimoto
Japanese 1948-, worked in United States 1972-
Winnetka Drive-In, Paramount
1993
Gelatin silver photograph
42.3 x 54.1 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by the Bowness Family Fund for Contemporary Photography, 2009
© Hiroshi Sugimoto, courtesy The Pace Gallery, New York

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Mike Starn
American 1961-
Doug Starn
American 1961-
Sol Invictus
1992
Orthographic film, silicon, pipe clamps, steel and adhesive tape
175.0 x 200.0 x 35.0 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by the National Gallery Women’s Association, 1994
© Doug Starn, Mike Starn/ARS, New York. Licensed by VISCOPY, Sydney

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10/ Review: Gregory Crewdson: In A Lonely Place at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP), Fitzroy, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 28th September – 11th November 2012

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In his visual mosaics Crewdson engages our relationship with time and space to challenge the trace of experience. His tableaux act as a kind of threshold or hinge of experience – between interior and exterior, viewer and photograph. His photographs are a form of monism in which two forces (interior / exterior) try to absorb each other but ultimately lead to a state of equilibrium. It is through this “play” that the context of the photographs and their relationship to each other and the viewer are “framed.” This device emphasises the aesthetic as much as information and encourages the viewer to think about the relationship between the body, the world of which it is part and the dream-reason of time. This intertextual (n)framing (n meaning unspecified number in mathematics) encourages the viewer to explore the inbetween spaces in the non-narrative / meta-narrative,”and by leaps (intuitive leaps, poetic leaps, leaps of faith)” encourage escapism in the imagination of the viewer. It is up to us as viewers to seek the multiple, disparate significances of what is concealed in each photograph as “felt knowledge” (Walter Benjamin), recalling to mind the sensory data placed before our eyes, something that can be experienced but cannot be explained by man: “the single moment of the present amidst the transience of life and searching for some kind of eternal truth.”

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Installation photograph of the series Beneath the Roses from the exhibition Gregory Crewdson: In a Lonely Place at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP), Melbourne

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© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

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11/ Exhibition: Janina Green: Ikea at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 28th November 28 – 15th December 2012

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Installation photograph of 'Ikea' by Janina Green at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne

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Installation photograph of Ikea by Janina Green at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne

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Janina Green. 'Orange vase' 1990 reprinted 2012

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Janina Green
Orange vase
1990 reprinted 2012
Silver gelatin print on fibre based paper, handtinted with orange photo dye
85 x 70 cm

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Fable = invent (an incident, person, or story)

Simulacrum = pretends to be a faithful copy, but it is a copy with no original

Performativity = power of discourse, politicization of abjection, ritual of being

Body / identity / desire = imperfection, fluidity, domesticity, transgression, transcendence

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Intimate, conceptually robust and aesthetically sensitive.
The association of the images was emotionally overwhelming.
An absolute gem. One of the highlights of the year.

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23
Mar
12

Review: ‘Martin Parr: In Focus’ at Niagara Galleries, Richmond, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 6th March – 31st March 2012

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This is a fine exhibition of the work of celebrated English photographer Martin Parr at Niagara Galleries, Richmond, albeit with one proviso. The mainly large colour prints are handsomely displayed in plain white frames within the gallery space and are taken from his well known series: Last Resort, Luxury, New British and British Food. Parr’s work is at its best when he concentrates on the volume of space within the image plane and the details that emerge from such a concentrated visualisation – whether it be the tension points within the image, assemblage of colour, incongruity of dress, messiness of childhood or philistine nature of luxury.

The best photographs have a wonderful frisson about them, a genuine love of and resonance with the things he is imaging. This frisson can be seen in all of the photographs in this posting but most notably in :

  • The incursion of the surreal red colour to left in England. New Brighton (top, below) and Parr’s masterful use of vertical and horizontal lines within the image. Note the verticality: of the child’s toy, the two children themselves, the pillars of the pavilion and the lighthouse holding the whole image together at right. If this lighthouse were not there the eye would fall out of the image. As it is it is contained, forcing the viewer to look closely at the absurdity of the melting ice cream and the splashes that have fallen on the ground.
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  • The complexity of the photograph England. New Brighton (second from top, below) where the eye does not know what to rest upon, constantly jumping from object to object. Do you look at the women on the ground, the shoes to right, the piece of fabric to left, the screaming baby, the sunlit pink umbrella, the women in blue bikini up the ramp, the long elongated shadowed wall with peek-a-boo heads leading to the outlined figures at the vanishing point of image – the top of the ramp. The understanding of light (with the use of flash) and the construction of the image is superlative. Wow!
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  • The incongruity evidenced in the photograph England, Ascot. 2003: the over tight pink sateen dress with unfortunate stain (which the eye is irrevocably drawn to), applique bow linked through to hideous flower embossed handbag which then contrasts with the seated women behind in hat and purple floral dress. In the large print in the gallery the background is more out of focus than in the small reproduction here, allowing the viewer’s eye an avenue of escape via the grass and deck chair beyond.
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  • The delicious, choreographed mise-en-scène of Australia, The Melbourne Cup. 2008 – the suits, ties and glasses, the teezed hair, the alcohol – where none of the participants is looking at the camera, where only the ladies hand clutches at the back of the man’s shoulder. They look down, they look left, they look right, they look away, they never engage with each other or the viewer. The critical space in this assemblage is the distance between the man and the woman’s noses, that vitally small space of separation that is a synonym for the interactions occurring in the rest of the image. The blindness of Lux’ry, its crassness, its stain.

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And so it goes. The dirt under the fingernails of the child eating a doughnut, the lurid colours of the popsicle and jacket of the kid with dribble on his face, all fantastic. There are moments of stasis, for example in the contemplative photograph Australia. South Hedland. Blackrock Tourist Park. 2011 (below) taken from Parr’s new series Australia, where Parr has photographed Australian life in three Western Australian port cities, Fremantle, Broome and Port Hedland. See the video at the bottom of the posting and listen to Parr talk about his work.

This is all fine and dandy, dressed up in polka dots and a lurid bow tie, but when the photographs become too reductive, as in the large photograph in the exhibition England. Dorset. West Bay. 1997 (see first column, fourth down) there is really not enough to hang your hat on. This feeling of over simplification, as though the photographer has said to himself “here’s something I have seen that you haven’t recognised, and I think it is important for you to recognise it” – the perceived essentialness of the object – can become a bit strained. I know that these type of images are part of the series about British or Scottish food or about objects from a specific place but do they really have this grand an importance in the scheme of things? This feeling is reinforced in the exhibition, and this is my proviso to show, when the images such as Scotland. Glasgow. Fairy cakes. 1999England. Blackpool. 1995 (bread and butter on a plate on red check cloth) are presented at A4 size surrounded by heavy white frames. These photographs have to be large to have any chance of working at all and at the small size they fall flat.

The size of a photograph raises interesting questions about the display of contemporary photography. The giant light boxes of Jeff Wall, the huge group portraits of Thomas Struth, the huge portraits of Thomas Ruff, the huge environments of Candida Hofer and the huge panoramas of Andreas Gursky (to name but a few) are all points in case. Would they work at a smaller size? No. They rely on scale and detail, visual impact for their effect: the same with Martin Parr. What is really ‘In Focus’ is the visualisation of the artist, his ability to envisage the final print at this large size. The A4 prints in this exhibition simply do not work at that size, for these photographs.

Think of Ansel Adams’ famous Monolith, The Face of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, Calif., (circa 1926). Originally printed as a contact 8″ x 10″ from the negative, Adams gradually increased the size of this image till it became a huge print as tall as a man in his later life. The image works at multiple sizes, it spoke to him (and the viewer) at all these sizes: the small contact is intense and gem-like, the larger imitating the monolithic structure of the Face itself. I feel that some large contemporary photographs are quite vacuous at this large size, that there is no reason for them to be at this size. In other words it is not appropriate for the image. Conversely it would seem that artists previsualise for this size in the end print, which is fine, but that the print cannot exist, cannot breathe in the world at a smaller size. Is this a problem? Does this matter? I believe it does, especially when a photograph is displayed at a size that simply doesn’t work. I was always taught to print a photograph at an appropriate size for the image, whatever size(s) that may be (and there can be multiples), as long as it has resonance for that particular image.

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Francesca Woodman installation photograph at The Guggenheim Museum, New York. Note the small, vintage prints on the far wall.

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As evidenced in this exhibition, if the photograph cannot “work” at the size that it is to be exhibited then it should not be displayed at all – it is a diminution not just of the artists vision but of the resonance of the photograph, in this case going from large to small. In an upcoming posting about the retrospective of the work of American photographer Fransceca Woodman, there is an installation photograph of the exhibition at The Guggenheim, New York (see above). Her vintage prints (seen in the background) – small, intense visions – have been printed at a huge scale (with her permission) and they simply do not work at this floor to ceiling height. They have lost all of their intimacy, which is one of the strengths of her photography. Again, I believe it is a diminution of the artists vision and the integrity of the photograph, this time from small to large. Artists are not always right. The same can be said of the retrospective of Cartier-Bresson that I saw at the National Galleries of Scotland in Edinburgh in 2005. One room out of four had very small, intense vintage prints in brown hues and the other three galleries had large 20″ x 24″ grainy prints with strong contrast that really ruined any response I had to the work as evidenced by the vintage prints. They were almost reproductions, a simulacra of the real thing. I had a feeling that they weren’t even by the artist himself. The same could be said here.

To conclude I would say this is a fine exhibition of large photographs by Martin Parr that would have been even more focused without the small A4 prints. They are joyous paeans to the quirky, incongruous worlds in which we live and circulate. They evidence life itself in all its orthogonal absurdity. I love ‘em!

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Many thankx to the artist and Niagara Galleries for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Martin Parr
England. New Brighton.
From the series Last Resort
1983 – 1985
Pigment print
Edition of 5
102 x 127 cm
Image courtesy of the artist and Niagara Galleries, Melbourne

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Martin Parr
England. New Brighton.
From the series Last Resort
1983 – 1985
Pigment print
Edition of 5
102 x 127 cm
Image courtesy of the artist and Niagara Galleries, Melbourne

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Martin Parr
Australia. South Hedland. Blackrock Tourist Park. 2011.
From the series Australia
2011
Pigment print
Edition of 5
101.6 x 152.4 cm
Image courtesy of the artist and Niagara Galleries, Melbourne

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Martin Parr
England, Ascot. 2003.
From the series Luxury
1995 – 2009
Traditional C-type print
Edition of 5
101.6 x 152.4 cm
Image courtesy of the artist and Niagara Galleries, Melbourne

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Martin Parr
Australia, The Melbourne Cup. 2008.
From the series Luxury
1995 – 2009
Pigment print
Edition of 5
101.6 x 152.4 cm
Image courtesy of the artist and Niagara Galleries, Melbourne

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Martin Parr
England. Ramsgate. 1996.
From the series New British
1994 – 1996
Traditional C-type print
Edition of 5
105.5 x 157.5 cm
Image courtesy of the artist and Niagara Galleries, Melbourne

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Martin Parr
England. Bristol. Car boot sale. 1995.
From the series British Food
1994 – 1995
Traditional C-type print
Edition of 33
18 x 25.5 cm
Image courtesy of the artist and Niagara Galleries, Melbourne

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No Worries: Martin Parr – FotoFreo 2012

Magnum photographer Martin Parr was asked by FotoFreo Festival Director Bob Hewitt to photograph three Western Australian port cities, Fremantle, Broome and Port Hedland. Photographer David Dare Parker was assigned to document the project, the work titled No Worries.

© David Dare Parker

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Niagara Galleries
245 Punt Road
Richmond, Melbourne
Victoria, 3121
Australia
T: +61 3 9429 3666

Opening hours:
Tues – Sat 11am – 6pm

Niagara Galleries website

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12
Feb
12

Exhibition: ‘Daniel Meadows: Early Photographic Works’ at the National Media Museum, Bradford

Exhibition dates: 30th September 2011 – 19th February 2012

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Many thankx to the National Media Museum, Bradford for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All pictures are copyright © Daniel Meadows except for the June Street, Salford which is copyright © Daniel Meadows and Martin Parr.

Daniel Meadows: Edited Photographs from the 70s and 80s authored by Val Williams

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Daniel Meadows
25th wedding anniversary party. Farnborough Park, Kent. August 1985
from Suburbia, 1984-1987

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Daniel Meadows and Martin Parr
Untitled
from June Street, Salford, February-April 1973
© Daniel Meadows and Martin Parr

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Daniel Meadows
Brighton, Sussex. May 1974
from the Free Photographic Omnibus, 1973-1974

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Daniel Meadows
Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria
Left: identified as James O’Connor. Right: David Balderstone
November 1974
from the Free Photographic Omnibus, 1973-1974

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Daniel Meadows
The Free Photographic Omnibus
1974
from the Free Photographic Omnibus, 1973-1974

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Daniel Meadows
Untitled
from Butlin’s Filey, Yorkshire, July-August 1972

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“The National Media Museum presents the first retrospective of the career of Daniel Meadows – photographer, documentarian, digital storyteller and unofficial co-founder of a uniquely British photography movement. Daniel Meadows was one of a group of photographers who spearheaded the independent photography movement in the early 1970s, breaking with tradition and infusing the medium with new energies and ways of seeing. His practice is complex, passionate and sometimes deeply autobiographical.

Between 1971 and 1987, he produced an astonishing record of urban society in Britain, working in a uniquely collaborative way through his interviews with – and writing about – his subjects. Meadows is a documentarist and an exceptional storyteller. He reveals historic and culturally significant aspects of people’s lives, dating from the 1970s to the present day. This exhibition displays photographic works alongside oral testimonies by some of the people featured in the photographs and Digital Stories.

Meadows’ practice developed at Manchester Polythechnic, where he trained alongside fellow photographers Martin Parr, Brian Griffin, Charlie Meecham and Peter Fraser. Together they spearheaded a new documentary movement intent on establishing an independent method for making and disseminating photographs, outside the existing conventions of commercial practitioners and photojournalists. Meadows’ resulting work displays complexity and passion, and confers a personal and sometimes deeply autobiographical imprint. During his career he has produced an astonishing record of urban British society, working in a uniquely collaborative way, through photography, digital stories and recorded interviews, to capture extraordinary aspects of everyday life.

His career began in 1972, when he opened a photographic studio in a former barber’s shop in the Moss Side area of Manchester. The Shop on Greame Street features residents from the district who posed for a portrait which they then received free of charge. None has been previously exhibited, and a selection will be on public display for the first time from October.

Two further early projects are also included in the exhibition, both undertaken in partnership with Martin Parr. June Street, 1973, is an intimate portrayal of working class households in an area of Salford, which have since been demolished. Butlin’s by the Sea, 1972, presents a fascinating record of the holiday camp in Filey, North Yorkshire, just after the heyday of this style of British resort.

In 1973, Meadows, aged 21, also bought a 25-year-old Leyland PD1 double-decker bus for £360.20. He removed the seats to make space for a darkroom and living quarters and named it the Free Photographic Omnibus. He spent 14 months taking his Greame Street studio philosophy of free portraits on tour around England. Original photographs from the journey appear in the retrospective, along with a selection from a follow-up project in which Meadows sought out his Photobus subjects more than 20 years later to re-photograph them for National Portraits: Now and Then, 1995 – 2000.

Other notable works displayed include Decline in the Cotton Industry, 1975 – 1978, Welfare State International, 1976 – 1983, and Nattering in Paradise, 1984 – 1987. The gallery will also screen a selection of Meadows’ Digital Storytelling films. Condensing personal stories into two-minute features of approximately 250 heartfelt words and 12 images, he created “multimedia sonnets from the people”, leading American commentator J.D Lasica to call him “one of the icons of the Digital Storytelling movement.”

This exhibition and the accompanying publication is the product of research by Professor Val Williams as part of an ongoing study into British photography of 1970s and 1980s at the University of the Arts London. It is preceded by the research project, The New British Photography, 1968-1981, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Together Val Williams and Daniel Meadows have brought to light the photographer’s incredible archive of prints and negatives, along with ephemera and audio recordings. They have unearthed unpublished and sometimes forgotten treasures which add to a remarkable document – a dramatic, moving and empathetic evocation of a recognisable, yet increasingly alien era.”

Press release from the National Media Museum website

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Daniel Meadows
Foster mother and children
1972
from the free photographic studio on Greame Street, Moss Side, Manchester, February-April 1972

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Daniel Meadows
Portrait of Angela Loretta Lindsey, aged 8, with her brother Mark Emanuel Lindsey
1972
from the free photographic studio on Greame Street, Moss Side, Manchester, February-April 1972

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Daniel Meadows
Hell’s Angels
1972
from the free photographic studio on Greame Street, Moss Side, Manchester, February-April 1972

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Daniel Meadows
Untitled
1972
from the free photographic studio on Greame Street, Moss Side, Manchester, February-April 1972

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National Media Museum
Bradford,
West Yorkshire,
BD1 1NQ

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Sunday 10.00 – 18.00

National Media Museum website

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22
Jan
11

Exhibition: ‘Portraits and Power: People, Politics and Structures’ at Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina – Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence

Exhibition dates: 1st October 2010 – 23rd January 2011

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Many thankx to the Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Martin Parr
‘France. Paris. Haute Couture’
2007
from the series ‘Luxury’
Pigment print
© Martin Parr / Magnum Photos

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Tina Barney
‘The Ancestor’
2001
C-print
Courtesy the artist and Janet Borden Inc., New York

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Tina Barney
‘The Brocade Walls’
2004
C-print
Courtesy the artist and Janet Borden Inc., New York

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Tina Barney installation view

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The characters Tina Barney portrays are the representatives of a social class that normally exercises careful control over the circulation of pictures of its members, whether in the form of family photographs or official portraits, which are often published on the pages of glossy magazines. She is one of the first photographers to have made artistic use of this kind of representation. Hers is not merely the gaze of an onlooker, but that of a trusted person, who has personal relationships with her subjects. What she is interested in is not so much the idea of displaying the wealth of these families, but that of analysing social and family dynamics – such as the ambivalent relationship between children and parents. Her work is conceived as a means to improve self-understanding.
The people portrayed all come from families educated in the awareness of their own social role: discipline, self-control and rigour are features to be observed in all the subjects photographed, and they share the same high level of composure. For the series entitled The Europeans, which was produced over a period of about eight years, the author was introduced by one circle of friends to another, and thus given the opportunity to portray Italian nobles, Austrian bankers and landowners, proud representatives of the wealthy Spanish bourgeoisie, and English gentlemen in their sophisticated dwellings. Neither the formal way of dressing nor the furnishings can be traced back to any particular fashion: Tina Barney seeks to produce timeless pictures that at first sight will appear closer to traditional painting than to contemporary photography. Tina Barney creates her portraits through a careful observation of people in their everyday lives; to capture transient moments she asks her subjects to repeat something in front of the camera in such a way as to fix them. Her work tool is a fixed, large-size camera; an extended time exposure and high resolution enable her to render the details of each setting in detail. The figures portrayed have a rigid and formal countenance, which makes them appear markedly detached from one another, even though it is often brothers and sisters or parents and children who are photographed together: “this is the best that we can do. This inability to show physical affection is in our heritage”.
Tina Barney’s photographs give a sense of the fleetingness of their relationships behind the mask of self-controlled bearing. The artist thus unveils the game of social roles and attitudes conducted by her subjects, a veritable Theater of Manners (to quote the title of one of her most famous series) which demands enough sensitivity on the viewers’ part for them to focus on those details in the pictures that render hidden and non-immediately obvious features visible.

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Tina Barney
‘The Granddaughter’
2004
C-print
Courtesy the artist and Janet Borden Inc., New York

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Jim Dow
‘Library Metropolitan Club, New York’
1999 / 2010
Chromogenic color print
Courtesy the artist, Janet Borden, Inc., New York

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By taking shots that are as objective as possible and completely devoid of any human presence, Dow gives a concentrated and authentic view of the architecture, furnishings and frameworks of these backdrops of life. “My interest in photography centres on its capacity for exact description. I use photography to try to record the manifestations of human ingenuity and spirit still remaining in our country’s everyday landscape.” For one of his most recent series, Dow has been able to make his way into some of the most exclusive private circles of New York City. He selected circles that are still active and have a long and significant history behind, such as the renowned Metropolitan Club, which was founded in 1891 by John Pierpont Morgan, and once listed James Roosevelt and William K. Vanderbilt among its most illustrious members. Most of these circles require strict adherence to rules consolidated by tradition. Only those introduced to the club by one of its members can join it, a practice that contributes to keep it a kind of network; a specific commission will then consider whether the candidate is fit for acceptance. Though there are over twenty circles of this kind in New York, outsiders will rarely notice their presence. While they no longer exercise the kind of political influence they used to as seats of power and decisionmaking bodies, these clubs are now undergoing a new renaissance. An increasing number of politicians and businessmen are choosing to meet in their secluded rooms, which public opinion often perceives as places of intrigue and the setting for secret appointments of various kinds. With his descriptive and comparative photographs, Dow is giving a face to these exclusive meeting places, inviting viewers to join him in admiring the timeless opulence of their rooms. Architecture is the “primary and most powerful form of mass-communication”; at the same time, it is a mirror for power and its strategies, for the consolidation of authority and its effects on those who exercise it. “Architecture is power. The powerful build precisely because they are powerful. Yet architecture is also an expression of the capability and resoluteness – as well as resolve – of the powerful. Politicians intentionally exploit architecture to seduce, impress, and intimidate.” (Deyan Sudjic, The Edifice Complex: How the Rich and Powerful Shape the World, 2006).

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Clegg & Guttmann (Michael Clegg and Martin Guttmann)
‘Grand Master’
1985
Cibachrome
Courtesy Galerie Christian Nagel, Cologne, Berlin, Antwerp

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“The CCCS – Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina – Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence, will be staging an exhibition entitled Portraits and Power: People, Politics and Structures, from 1 October 2010 to 23 January 2011, which will run concurrently with the retrospective devoted to Bronzino, the undisputed master of the Mannerist portrait, on Palazzo Strozzi’s piano nobile.

The exhibition, based on an original project by the CCCS in consultation with Peter Funnell (curator and director of research programmes at the National Portrait Gallery in London), Walter Guadagnini (chairman of the “UniCredit & Art” project’s scientific committee) and Roberta Valtorta (director of the Cinisello Balsamo Museum of Contemporary Photography) and coordinated by Franziska Nori (director of the CCCS), will show the work of international artists and collectives such as Tina Barney, Christoph Brech, Bureau d’études, Fabio Cifariello Ciardi, Clegg & Guttmann, Nick Danziger, Rineke Dijkstra, Jim Dow, Francesco Jodice, Annie Leibovitz, Helmut Newton, Trevor Paglen, Martin Parr, Wang Qingsong, Daniela Rossell, Jules Spinatsch, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and The Yes Men – who have all proved capable of developing a critical analysis of the portrayal and depiction of political, economic and social power in the media.

The exhibition explores its theme from two main standpoints: it analyses power as an expression of the charisma of those individuals who have become icons or symbols of their age; and it probes the power of institutions and social models that either represent themselves or are represented in a critical light.

The role played by images has grown to such an extent that it has led to the predominant emergence of their value not only in terms of portrayal but also of the successful establishment of power. The works of art on display bear witness not only to the self-referential strategies of power, but also to the different approaches artists adopt in deconstructing or chipping away at the images that represent social, economic and political power in a way that can not only bolster a leadership but that can also undermine its authority.

The National Portrait Gallery in London will be contributing works by three famous international photographers that explore the image of political authority. The series devoted to Queen Elizabeth II by Annie Leibovitz evinces a celebrated contemporary artist’s dialogue with the great tradition of official portraiture, and the cycle entitled Blair at War by Nick Danziger gives an extraordinary vision of Tony Blair’s daily life in the days immediately preceding the outbreak of the war in Iraq. The portrait of Margaret Thatcher by Helmut Newton keeps alive the iconic role of one of the most influential politicians of recent decades despite the fact that her authority had waned.

Clegg & Guttmann show the photographs of three managing directors of the Deutsche Bank. These images, while based on the official portraiture genre, provide the opportunity for a conceptual reflection on the theme of the public presentation of individuals who are at the same time both subject and patron of the work. Christoph Brech portrays a modern patron of the arts in a video that dwells on a detail of the hull of his yacht, Sea Force One, a floating museum filmed from a distance in Venetian waters.

The role of the image not only as representation but also as a tool for the construction or exploration of power is analysed by artists such as Hiroshi Sugimoto, whose Portraits bring to life wax effigies of historical or contemporary political figures through the evocative power of photography, and Rineke Dijkstra whose series of images of a soldier with the French Foreign Legion prompts a reflection on what remains of the individual when he becomes the representative of a military authority. Francesco Jodice, in his video entitled Dubai Citytellers, analyses the development and the social impact of one of the new centres of global economic power.

In the photo triptych Past, Present and Future, Wang Qingsong portrays himself as a bystander, bearing witness to fighters in poses mimicking celebrative and monumental Socialist sculptures, reflecting upon the contradictory nature of the actual power of masses in contemporary China.

Tina Barney records the life and domestic environment of the beau monde, combining the spontaneous feel of a private snapshot with a sophisticated aesthetic approach strongly echoing the world of art and traditional photography. The provocative photo series Ricas y Famosas by Daniela Rossell portrays the taste and excesses of the new super wealthy social oligarchy in Mexico, while Martin Parr’s series entitled Luxury, which is devoted to fashion shows, horse-racing and art fairs in the world’s major capitals, probes the lifestyle of the upper class in a globalized Western world. The pictures of Jim Dow portray the luxurious rooms of the great private social clubs of New York City’s elite, fashionable places that are inaccessible to the general public.

A different critical approach to the theme of power is offered by the French collective Bureau d’études with its project involving mapping the links between political and economic power. The CIA’s secret missions and operations, on the other hand, provide the focus for the work of Trevor Paglen who reconstructs top secret movements and connections. Jules Spinatsch presents a new work taken from his Temporary Discomfort video-photographic series, denouncing the controversial transformation of a place such as the island of La Maddalena in Sardinia into the venue for the G8 summit that never took place. Also on view is the antagonistic activism of The Yes Men, a collective who will be presenting their spectacular media initiative that rocked the image and power of the multinational corporation responsible for the Bhopal environmental catastrophe in India.

Finally, the composer Fabio Cifariello Ciardi uses famous politicians’ public speeches as his raw material for the creation of electroacoustic music that will underline their rhetorical techniques of persuasion.

The exhibition catalogue, published in Italian and English, contains a series of essays by authors from different countries, backgrounds and disciplines, offering the visitor a chance to explore in greater depth the themes addressed by the exhibition.”

Press release from the Strozzina website

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Rineke Dijkstra
‘Olivier’
Quartier Vienot,
Marseille, France, July 21, 2000
On loan from The Bank of America Merrill Lynch Collection

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Rineke Dijkstra
‘Olivier’
Quartier Monclar,
Djibouti, July 13, 2003
On loan from The Bank of America Merrill Lynch Collection

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A crucial feature of Dijkstra’s photography is her desire to show the true personality of her subjects, as opposed to any simulated one. Up against the contemporary mystifying quality of the Internet and digital manipulation, her images illustrate in a very convincing way how photography is still capable of transcending the surface of subjects to grasp their deeper and constantly evolving identities. Her series feature, for instance, young bullfighters immediately after a bullfight, young mothers with babies born only a few minutes before, and portraits of boys and girls from various parts of the world at the beach. Her work method, whereby subjects are given very few directions and are usually portrayed frontally, leads to the creation of bare and detached pictures in which people display an inevitably fragile and vulnerable air. The Olivier Silva project, which the artist has developed over the course of more than three years, centres on the figure of a young man who in July 2000 voluntarily enrolled in the French Foreign Legion. Dijkstra portrays crucial moments of his intense training in France and Africa – from the day of his enrolment, in Aubagne, near Marseille, to the missions he was sent to fulfil in various parts of the world (Gabon, Ivory Coast and Gibuti) in 2003. The photographs clearly illustrate the metamorphoses the young man underwent over the course of the years: the innocent looking boy becomes an energetic and professional elite soldier enlisted in one of the world’s toughest and most controversial army corps. The centrepiece of the work is the artist’s interest in Olivier as an individual whose personality evolves in the course of his training, as is clearly revealed by his attitude and the look in his eyes, as well as by the very way in which his facial features change. The training imparted in military units of this kind is aimed at annulling the recruit’s personality in order to then recreate it according to new parameters: the youngster draws closer and closer to the prototype of the soldier as we progress from one photograph to the next. Just as all new recruits of the Foreign Legion are assigned a new name and identity, after three years Olivier no longer looks (even physically) like the same person as before. Like an accelerated film sequence, this series shows the dissolution of the original identity of a man subjected to the conditions dictated by an apparatus of power. Every soldier is at the service of the country he fights for and becomes one of its official public representations, embodying its military power. The same power he now wields is that which in a few years has conditioned him – or even produced him, one may say. Through her aesthetically minimalist photographs, Rineke Dijkstra illustrates the paradox of opposition between individual values and those of the community, between identity and conformity.

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Jim Dow
‘Dining Room, Morgan Library, New York’
1999 / 2010
Chromogenic color print
Courtesy the artist, Janet Borden, Inc., New York

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Martin Parr
‘England. Epsom. The Derby’
2004
from the series ‘Luxury’
Pigment print
© Martin Parr / Magnum Photos

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Martin Parr
‘Russia. Moscow. Fashion Week’
2004
from the series ‘Luxury’
Pigment print
© Martin Parr / Magnum Photos

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Unlike most of his colleagues, Parr has little interest in the great themes of photographic reporting, such as the documenting of war and poverty. Working around the world, he finds his motifs in everyday life. At the beginning of his career, he focused in particular on the observation of people from lower middle class backgrounds engaged in different activities, in the context of themes such as consumption, communication and leisure. He has left it ambiguous as to whether these pictures of his are charged with critical overtones or intended to serve as a mere means of social documentation. Through this approach to his work, Parr has developed a highly distinctive and almost unmistakable style marked by dazzling colours obtained by the use of flash on top of natural light. Parr takes his camera near people and their social milieus, creating images that appear grotesque or exaggerated at first. Their motifs, which often coincide with moments of everyday life, are shot from unusual perspectives.
The feeling these pictures convey is that of being spontaneous photos, similar to snapshots. Only under closer scrutiny you understand they have been skillfully construed and arranged. While always highly charged and taking widespread social stereotypes as their starting point, Parr’s images are never banal. The perspective they convey stands out for the way in which it takes viewers by surprise and for the ironic detachment with which the photographer turns to his subjects.
According to Parr, his photographs never fail to elicit extreme emotions because they always show some truths: “We are so used to digesting pictures that are pure propaganda, that people are surprised when someone like me shows them images that are closely tied to reality. I, at least, don’t lie”. The photographer’s gaze takes the viewer into his confidence, leading him through the pictures to discover the absurdity of what we deem normal. Gathered in large series regularly published in volumes, these shots transcend the irony of individual images to concentrate on the analysis of a given social milieu.
The Luxury series portrays personages from the international jet set, photographed in different settings around the world – from the Miami Art Fair to horse races in Durban, from polo tournaments in Dubai to the Beijing Auto Show. With these images, Parr has intentionally moved away from his previous subjects to focus on the life of the upper classes: for, as he himself has noted, the main problem the world is facing is not poverty but wealth – excessive development and prosperity. These photographs offer the perspective of an external, noninvolved observer, whose gaze is drawn towards minor details that usually find no place in the common representations of these events.
The centrepieces of these photos are the superficial clichés that the people participating in the events adopt as tokens of their upper-class identity. The pictures fix moments in which this enactment reveals itself to be so fragile or so exaggerated that the people involved become extras in a comedy – one that the photographer’s eye has fallen upon, finding interest not in individuals as such, but in their belonging to a given social system with all its rules and values.

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Nick Danziger
‘Helicopter Flight from RAF Lyneham to Battersea, 3 April 2003′

Bromide print
Courtesy National Portrait Gallery, London
© Nick Danziger

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Centre for Contemporary Culture Strozzina
Palazzo Strozzi, Piazza Strozzi, Firenze

Opening hours:
Tuesday-Sunday 10.00 am – 8.00 pm
Special free Thursday 6.00 – 11.00 pm
Monday closed (open on 1/11, 6/12, 27/12)

Strozinna website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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