Photo mags

Many years ago I was marginally involved with the South West Independent Photographers Association, SWIPA, who produced for a while, a monthly magazine called Light Reading. Photography in the early 90s was still having an identity crisis (ongoing since the 1830s), striving to be recognised as an art form, especially in relation to funding; it really wanted to be taken seriously and SWIPA was on a commendable mission to reinforce this status.

I came across a copy amongst my archive of photo stuff recently – a copy I’d kept as I’d written an article about a project the Bristol Women’s Photography Group were doing at the time, and I remember being pleased to read the magazine each issue, and to be part of the photographic scene in Bristol (also being a volunteer on Watershed’s long defunct photography advisory board, and even a South West Arts advisor at some point) but in retrospect, and especially in the light of the current publication mentioned below, Light Reading has an air of self-conscious intellectualism about it that belies its title – and it cost £1.50 even in 1994!

So, it’s great to find that paper-based photography mags are alive and well in the face of ‘the death of printing’ (see Guardian article about the exaggeration of this rumour). Not only good to find photographic publications out on the streets, free, but even better to find one that’s born in Bristol, but with an appetite for the International – Vignette. They produce a quarterly A3 size newspaper with a theme in each issue that incorporates a wide range of photographic styles, all nicely complemented by their website. They’re taking it seriously, but they don’t get too serious – good work team!

Photojournalism – retrospectives

Two features on British documentary in one week! One on the BBC news website about an exhibition on the miners strike at the National Coal Mining Museum for England, at Caphouse Colliery near Wakefield, Yorkshire. ‘No Redemption’ is a body of work by Keith Pattison who was commissioned to photograph the miners strike at Easington Colliery in Co Durham for month but stayed until the end of the end of the strike 8 months later documenting events from the miners perspective.

The second feature is a blog post in The Guardian online about Chris Killip’s new exhibition – in Germany. Sean O’Hagan, author of the post argues that Chris Killip is one of Britain’s great photojournalists, comparing him to Tony Ray-Jones, Graham Smith, Chris Steele-Perkins and Brian Griffin and suggesting that Killip should surely be having this major retrospective here in the UK. Continue reading

V&A Photographs

Looking forward to a trip to London to see the new Photographs gallery at the V&A. It’s amazing that this  institution has been collecting photographic images since the mid C19th and has such an impressive array of iconic photographs, many more of which can now be seen in this new space. There’s an article about the conservation of the collection here.

The V&A also have a wonderful collection of Artists’ Books but you do need a reader’s ticket or arrange a group visit through a college or school to view them, but really worthwhile.

Magnum Contact prints

Contact prints were such a feature of work and personal practice, along with all those chinagraph and felt-tip pen markings and scribbles, they were an index of my life; more on this topic at some other point maybe, meanwhile I’ll be pleased to take a look at this book of Magnum photographers’ contact prints, though maybe won’t be buying it at £45!

Eyewitness: Hungarian Photography in the 20th Century

Really absorbing exhibition at Royal Academy – “Brassaï, Robert Capa, André Kertész, László Moholy-Nagy and Martin Munkácsi each left Hungary to make their names in Germany, France and the USA, and are now known for the profound changes they brought about in photojournalism, as well as abstract, fashion and art photography.”

First photography exhibition there for years and full of luminous prints (not so sparkling towards the chronological end of the show though) and intense images in a whole range of genres reflecting the country’s troubled shifts of politics and an identifiable eastern European preoccupation with form and design.

Good review here by Laura Cumming, Observer.

‘Luminous Lint – for connoisseurs of fine photography’

Some real gems on this site, including this revealing online gallery – John Loengard: Celebrating the Negative, my favourite is Cartier Bresson’s  Gare St Lazare.

The revelation for me was that you can see how much of the negative has been cropped at the bottom and left side in the prints of this familiar and iconic image – I was at a photography college (a long, long time ago) where the frame was sacrosanct – you didn’t crop, you put your negative in a holder that was a bit larger than than the neg size and allowed the light passing through the clear rebate to create a dense black frame round your image to prove you had kept it intact; a curious form of celibacy; took me years to reject the concept.

By contrast, but a great companion to the above – less ‘fine photography’ but lots of fun, and food for thought: Red Bubble recreates famous photographs – with lego


It’s taken me years to understand that something that has significant creative appeal for me is ‘the particular’. I’d grappled unhappily with a comparable, but oppositional concept – ‘the transcendent’ on a photographic course years ago (another time) but it was only recently that I began to read more thoroughly about the work of artists I have long admired and saw the unifying qualities they shared. One writer who’s illuminated this route for me is Ian Jeffrey (can’t find sensible link for the man – suggestions welcome) whose succinct insights are delivered in a thoroughly readable, and often wry style, not tethered to impenetrable cultural theories, but fluid observations of artists’ work in the context of their time and place. Continue reading

Dislocating The Woods

Seattle-modelOut of the Wired Woods research project with HP Labs came a further expansion of The Woods project when a few of the images, at reduced scale and in rollable format were taken to a wearable computing conference in Seattle in 2003. Here the relatively new wireless technology developed during the Wired Woods project was demonstrated to useful effect; I didn’t see the installation in Seattle but above is the model I made to show how the layout could be and below is a photo I was sent of what it actually looked like in situ… Continue reading