Tuesday, 16 December 2014

1000 Words Photography Magazine #18

Hot off the heels of our nomination in the ‘Photography Magazine of the Year’ category at the Lucie Awards 2014, we are delighted to announce the launch of 1000 Words issue 18. This is the last release delivered in the current format before we launch our brand new, fully responsive website in early 2015 so stay tuned for more details!

First up, is a series from one of the most interesting new talents to emerge from the UK photography scene in recent years, Peter Watkins. The Unforgetting is a powerful and moving examination of the artist’s German family history; the trauma surrounding the loss of his mother to suicide as a child, as well as the associated notions of time, memory and history, all bound up in the objects, places, photographs, and narrative fictions that form its structure. The work is accompanied by a text from Edwin Coomasaru, one of the curators of Watkins’ highly-acclaimed exhibition at the Regency Town House as part of the Brighton Photo Fringe 2014.

There is also a portfolio dedicated to another rising star, the American photographer Daniel Shea. Renowned writer and founder of Errata Editions Jeffrey Ladd sits down with Shea’s recently released photobook, Blisner IL and finds much to celebrate in its pages. This new edition explores the post-industrial fallout of a once prosperous albeit imaginary Southern Illinois town. It offers a reality woven from an assembly of disconnected locations – all with their own lineage and history – then it lends itself as a surrogate to comment on that larger state of a country where globalisation and demands of economy have long shifted from production.

Elsewhere, we showcase a remarkable set of images from Cameroon’s earliest colour photo studio Photo Jeunesse, now part of the endlessly fascinating collection of The Archive of Modern Conflict. As independent curator and academic Duncan Wooldridge notes, the material represents a record not only of Cameroonian society, tracing tradition and globalisation but in its loose ends – the details of its painted sets, and the playful activities of its sometimes quirky sitters – it tells an alternative story of the photo studio, and its ability to represent not only the formal and dignified version of the sitter, but the very excess that surrounds them. The photographs were premiered back in November during Lagos Photo Festival, Nigeria.

One of Australia’s most celebrated photographers Bill Henson gets his dues in our review of 1985, his latest book designed by The Entente and published by Stanley/Barker. “Henson’s camera has the ability, through movement and then poise, to render the best kind of sombre confusion,” writes Daniel C Blight in his paper. “Henson’s images are subdued not in time, but over skies and through buildings, clouds, naked people, telephone pylons, pyramids and other familiar or extraneous abstractions. They are seemingly underexposed, but we can’t call them badly lit. Somewhere between the ambiguity of eventide and its gloaming opposite, Henson is a wonderer; one whose images intentionally do whatever they can to avoid stasis and perhaps clarity, within the confines of their static medium.”

In a different feature brought to you by the The Photocaptionist Federica Chiocchetti, we take a look at The Spaghetti Tree by Lucy Levene, a documentary study of Bedford’s Italian community, the largest concentration in the UK at more than 14,000 people. Attending events and accepting invitations to people’s homes, she developed attachments and became involved in the families’ intimate narratives. Her often witty photographs call into question mythologies of what it means to be ‘Italian’ and the nostalgic ideal of ‘La Bella Figura’ felt by many as they try to forge an independent identity in their new home, simultaneously revealing the tensions in conventional modes of portraiture; the perfect and imperfect image. 

Finally, we send a dispatch from The Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, United States on the occasion of
Duane Michals’ huge retrospective exhibition, Storyteller: The Photographs of Duane Michals. Aaron Schuman provides a stirring essay, questioning how the artist has influenced contemporary practice in reference to the current fashion for art-and photo-historical referencing, appropriation, and photomontage, as represented by emerging photographers such as Matt Lipps, Brendan Fowler, and Anna Ostoya. His analysis also takes in the lessons to be found in Michals’ work, from the distinct power of photographic sequencing, soul-searching, sincerity, and storytelling as evinced by leading practitioners such as Alec Soth, Paul Graham and others.
Over in our dedicated Books column, Lewis Bush leafs through The Bungalow by Dutch artist Anouk Kruithof, which offers an engaging and individual look at the evolving nature of photography via images from Brad Feurhelm’s esoteric vernacular photography collection; Tom Claxton of Webber Represents opens the lid on Laia Abril’s much celebrated The Epilogue, at once a testimony and posthumous biography of the life of Cammy Robinson, who died at 26 as a result of bulimia; and David Moore discusses the merits of Studio 54 by the great but somewhat under appreciated Tod Papageorge.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Archisle: The Jersey Contemporary Photography Programme 2015

Archisle: The Jersey Contemporary Photography Programme, hosted by the Société Jersiaise (Jersey Society) in the British Channel Island of Jersey promotes contemporary photography through an ongoing programme of exhibitions, education and commissions. The Archisle project connects photographic archives, contemporary practice and experiences of island cultures and geographies through the development of a space for creative discourse between Jersey and international practitioners.      

Archisle is currently inviting applications for the position of Photographer in Residence 2015. This is an exciting post in its third year commencing in April running for six months through to September 2015. The residency provides the following key benefits and opportunities:

- £10,000 award for the commission/production of a body of work and solo exhibition
- Studio space with access to inkjet printing and office/internet resources 
- Living accommodation and stipend  
- Travel costs

A key focus of the Archisle project is to engage the residency programme with Jersey culture and community through audience and participatory involvement. In addition to the production and solo exhibition of new work responding to the cultural context of the island of Jersey, the resident will be contracted to teach photography one day per week (or equivalent) over the six-month duration of the project. This teaching will be delivered in a workshop format to a range of educational and community groups. Applications are therefore encouraged from practitioners possessing the desire, enthusiasm and a proven ability to impart technical skills and develop critical understanding of contemporary photography across a diverse range of participants.

Applicants are requested to submit:

- Examples of recent work (min 10/max 20 images)
- Statement describing current practice
- Statement of objectives for the residency including an outline commission/exhibition proposal 
- A current CV including details of past exhibitions/publications
- An estimate of travel costs to Jersey

For further background on the Archisle Residency see: www.archisle.org.je

Applications may be made by post or email to:

Archisle Photographer in Residence Programme 2015
Société Jersiaise
7 Pier Road
St Helier
Jersey, Channel Islands

Email: archisle@societe-jersiaise.org For email applications total file size must be no larger than 5 MB.
Any enquiries/questions about the residency should be sent to the above email address. 

CLOSING DATE: 15 October 2014

Monday, 28 July 2014

Rebecoming, The Other European Travellers @ Flowers Gallery, London 10 September-10 October

The Other European Travellers

Flowers Gallery, London. 10 September-11 October 2014
Virgílio Ferreira, Henrik Malmström, Tereza Zelenkova and Lucy Levene
Curated by Tim Clark, 1000 Words

Virgílio Ferreira, Being and Becoming, 2013. Injet print on cotton fine art paper, 70 x 47 cm.

1000 Words is delighted to announce a group exhibition featuring the four winners of the inaugural 1000 Words Award at Flowers Gallery, London this September.
Rebecoming brings together newly commissioned works from four artists Virgílio Ferreira, Henrik Malmström, Tereza Zelenkova and Lucy Levene. Focusing on migration patterns between 1950 and 1980 from southern to central and northern Europe, it depicts fragments of the lives, stories and environments of individuals who left their countries of birth to start a new life in new lands, principally due to economic reasons.
The works explore issues related to family, labour, mobility, boundary, cultural heritage and social expectation. They also connect to instances of courage, upheaval, opportunity, unfreedom, self-respect, heroism and the dream of returning ‘home’, not withdrawing exploitation and poverty; the ultimate capitalistic ethic. By offering personal visions of lived experience, Rebecoming examines the contradictory nature of how the stage for temporary migration in many cases became permanent.
An installation by Tereza Zelenkova (b.1985, Czech Republic) comprises black and white photographs from two series’, Girls & Gloves and Stewartby inspired by John Berger’s 1975 seminal text The Seventh Man. Shot in the former London Brick factory in Bedford, England - a company that once recruited more than 7,500 men from villages in southern Italy to fill the least desirable and repetitive jobs during the post-war reconstruction boom - the images make visible bits of detritus strewn across the building’s crumbling interior.
Workers’ gloves and posters of women form Zelenkova’s topology, offering monuments to desperate optimism. Drawing on her signature surrealist impulse, these objects undergo metamorphosis and alongside portraits and images of a housing estate in the adjacent town Stewartby, become imbued with emotional encryptions that speak to isolation, powerlessness, homesickness, sexual frustration and desire. Central to her project lies an exploration of how, or whether, the dream of a suburban life abroad was ever realised.
In The Spaghetti Tree, Lucy Levene (b.1978, UK) also responds to Bedford’s Italian community, the largest concentration in the UK at more than 14,000 people. The artist pulls together strands from her previous work, deftly fusing documentary photography with performance and construction, experimenting with varying levels of control and direction.
Attending events and accepting invitations to people’s homes, she developed attachments and became involved in the families’ intimate narratives. Her often witty photographs call into question mythologies of what it means to be ‘Italian’ and the nostalgic ideal of La Bella Figura felt by many as they try to forge an independent identity in their new home, simultaneously revealing the tensions in conventional modes of portraiture; the perfect and imperfect image.
Virgílio Ferreira (b.1970, Portugal) has created the series Being and Becoming in an attempt to evoke the inner feelings of his Portuguese subjects and open up a space for reflecting on hybrid-identities and polarity of living in-between cultures, languages, landscapes and borders. Using multiple exposures and diptychs, and by loading his imagery with metaphor, Ferreira’s images not only evoke a sense of duality but also lend tangible form to the condition of remembering.
The diffuse traces, obstructions and dappled light that routinely appear in his imagery lock the viewer into moments where elements of the past coalesce with the present to create a notion of continuity between ‘there’ and ‘here’. Ultimately, Ferreira’s images tap into feelings of being uprooted or of seeing oneself through the filter of difference in an adopted country.
Through a short film entitled Life’s Work Henrik Malmström (b.1983, Finland) offers an unpredictable twist on the distance between objectivity and subjectivity by reflecting on the mundane situations of various Portuguese inhabitants from his local neighbourhood in Hamburg, Germany.
Getting as close as possible yet aspiring to a neutral position, Malmström conjures up the vivid presence of cleaners, sex workers, laundrette staff, religious worshippers and commuters. With deadpan humour and an unremitting gaze, the artist seeks to open up ‘the universe next door’ whilst also engaging more broadly in the multitude of individual dreams that form one universal wish - to find happiness in life through comfort and material security.
Collectively the artists in Rebecoming offer insight into the complexities of the migrant experience at a charged and contentious moment in the evolution of modern Europe. It is an ode to those travellers who dared to make the journey, for better or worse.

Rebecoming is part of The Other European Travellers project, a co-production by 1000 Words, Cobertura Photo and Atelier de Visu with the support of EACEA programme of the European Union.

For further information or images contact Alex Peake on 020 7920 7777 or email alex@flowersgallery.com

*Tim Clark will give a free, informal curator's tour discussing the exhibiting artists and themes of the shown Saturday 11 October at 3pm. Please RSVP to jessica@flowersgallery.com to attend.*

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Sean O’Hagan: “If you don’t annoy some people some of the time, you’re not doing your job properly!”

In the first of a new series of interviews with members of the international photography community - writers, curators, collectors, gallerists, picture editors and so on - Federica Chiocchetti of the forthcoming Photocaptionist speaks to The Guardian’s photography critic of 10 years Sean O’Hagan. They discuss conceptions of ‘good’ writing on photography, how he discovers new talent, and which British photographers he feels have been underemphasised by UK photographic institutions.

Federica Chiocchetti: Could you tell us a little bit about your background prior to your post as photography critic at The Guardian?

Sean O’Hagan: I studied English at university and worked as a music writer for several years. Then, I worked for The Guardian as a freelance writer and as a features writer for The Observer on art and culture. I still really love doing interviews. For me, it’s the best way to shed light on someone’s way of thinking creatively.

Photography was always there in the background as a fascination of mine and several interviews I did for The Observer Review section with the likes of Robert Frank, William Eggleston, Stephen Shore, and Anders Petersen prompted me to start writing about it more. That was about 10 years ago, when there seemed to be an absence of writing on photography in the ‘serious’ papers. It was usually left to the art critic or whoever else was available to review a big exhibition or book. It was not taken seriously as an art form – still isn’t, but to a lesser degree – compared to, say, theatre or film or dance. So, I was very much on a mission to help put that right. It just grew from there and I was offered a regular online forum by The Guardian a few years ago, which became On Photography.

FC: What is your conception of ‘good’ writing on photography? Is there anyone in particular that has inspired you? And what advice would you give to an emerging writer on photography?

SH: Writing that is clear and clear-headed even if it is tackling difficult or elusive or obtuse subject matter. I have a certain responsibility because I work for a newspaper with a huge readership. Many of my readers are regulars but many more may come to a column or a feature out of curiosity and with only a passing interest in the subject. I’d like them to come back. I’m not writing for an art magazine where one can assume that the reader has a certain familiarity with the subject or with the history of conceptualism or whatever. I can’t use dense, theoretical language to deconstruct works by Jeff Wall or Gursky, nor would I want to.

My formative inspirations were non-fiction writers like Joan Didion, in particular her first two collections of essays, The White Album and Slouching Towards Bethlehem. I like Truman Capote’s essays as well, much more than his fiction. And Gay Talese’s classic collection, Frank Sinatra Has A Cold, which has just been published as a Penguin Classics. On the more contemporary front, I’d recommend John Jeremiah Sullivan’s collection, Pulphead: Notes from the Other Side of America, which is a very personal take on music, politics and culture. As far as photography writing goes, it always amazes me how many great photographers are also great writers - Diane Arbus, Robert Adams, Danny Lyon. And Eggleston’s short illuminating afterword from The Democratic Forest still resounds. We ALL need to be more at war with the obvious right now!

FC: How do you discover new talent?

SH: Increasingly, it discovers me. Strange, but true. It’s the power of the internet again. People know where to find you!

I try to stay alert to what people I trust are enthusing about. I read photography mags, blogs, websites – at least the more interesting ones. There is an awful lot of new work out there and I have to be ultra-selective just because of space and the requirements of the job so I see all these other outlets as a kind of filter. And, of course, people send me stuff - books, pdfs, ongoing projects. It’s kind of relentless and so is the demand for an instant response. I worry about that a bit as I tend towards the reflective. I think we should all slow down... and breath. Let things settle. The quick response is journalistic, of course, but it is not necessarily critical. And opinions are not enough. That’s where we live right now, though. I wish there was a slow journalism movement. I really do.

FC: Do you read/appreciate photography theory?

SH: It depends. Good writing is good writing, whatever. But, when I read bad theoretical writing – dense theoretical jargonese – the old punk in me agrees with Nan Goldin, who said recently: “Fucking postmodern and gender theory. I mean, who gives a shit? People made all that crap up to get jobs in universities.” I think it kills the work for people who are not from that academic background. That kind of writing is exclusive by its nature. It often makes things less clear.

That said, I am familiar with theoretical writing. I did an English degree at a time when post-structuralism and semiotics were like time bombs exploding in the academy. I still return to Barthes and Foucault from time to time. I love Barthes when he is at his most personal and Camera Lucida is a very personal meditation on photography and memory and mourning.

I worry about the teaching of photography in colleges and the emphasis on theory. You see degree shows and MA shows where students present half-digested theory and really dull photographs. I think the ascendency of the curator is a cause for concern as well. They sometimes seem more important than the artists, which is something Brian Eno predicted when I saw him gave a lecture at the beginning of the nineties. I like this essay by Paul Graham, which touches on some concerns of mine. I don’t think it helps to exclude people – or images – from the ongoing debate about the meaning of photography. Theory can be a way of entering and decoding a work but, too often, it seems to me like an end in itself. It’s still valid to walk out into the world with a camera and simply take photographs, though there is, of course, nothing simple about doing that well. I often detect a kind of implicit disdain for that approach from curators and academics.

FC: What is the harshest criticism that you received in your career as a photography critic for The Guardian?

SH: Where to begin? You have to become thick-skinned pretty quickly if you venture online. There was a post recently suggesting that a ‘proper’ art critic should have reviewed Lorna Simpson’s show at BALTIC - “she deserves to be reviewed in a context and by a reviewer commensurate with her status!” - which I took personally for about five minutes until I realised the next post had demolished the inherent snobbery of that remark pretty succinctly. I received a fair amount of flak as well as support for my views on The Deutsche Börse Photography Prize a few years ago, when I suggested it was biased towards art photography at the expense of other genres, but that comes with the turf. I guess if you don’t annoy some of the people some of the time, you’re not doing your job properly.

FC: Which British photographers do you feel have been underemphasised by UK photographic institutions?

SH: Oh dear, where to begin? Chris Killip had a major retrospective in Essen, not that long ago, but has not had one here. That is mystifying to me. In fact that whole generation of great British documentarists get short shrift from British institutions. I can only put that down to curatorial bias. If not, what else explains it? I think people in the photography community were relieved when Tony Ray-Jones was finally given a show last year (at Media Space.) Likewise Tom Wood at The Photographers’ Gallery. I know Paul Graham had a big show at The Whitechapel a few years back, but why not at the Tate or the Hayward? It just seems odd at this stage of the game.

FC: What trends do you find interesting at present?

SH: Found photography continues to fascinate people in and out of the photography community – Thomas Sauvin’s Beijing Silvermine project looks like the last word but probably isn’t. I get sent a lot of diaristic work, which is probably the biggest trend. Says a lot about where we live. A lot of it seems solipsistic and has none of the heft of, say, Nan Goldin’s work.

I’ll be glad to see the back of (too) big prints, which everyone seemed to be doing for a moment there, whether the work required it or not. And, please, no more Google Street View projects! I think photographers do tend to get apocalyptic about the post-digital deluge – Instagram etc. – and the sheer numbers can be scary, but most people don’t even see that stuff. For me it’s just another moment in the continuum. I read somewhere that, in the sixties, over half of all households in America had a Polaroid or Instamatic camera, but I don’t think Robert Frank and Garry Winogrand were running around in a panic thinking, “It’s all over for us – everyone’s taking photographs!”

What it does to looking or processing images is another thing, though. We’re all living though a huge social experiment that it is hard to gauge the real meaning of. I’m a bit more concerned with what texting, tweeting and the rest is doing to literacy. Kids’  brains are definitely being rewired. Where will it lead? Who knows?

FC: Do you think that prizes and awards are a good thing?

SH: Yes and no. It’s good to be acknowledged, but there are too many prizes now. And they can tend to be a lottery of sorts. I looked at this year’s Deutsche Börse shortlist and thought, What?! Where’s Viviane Sassen, for example? But, that’s the nature of prizes: it’s four people’s opinions usually – and two of them are curators. I tend to take them with a pinch of salt - unless I’m up for one!

FC: Could you tell us a photobook and an exhibition from the past that blew your mind?

SH: The past is a big country. How about the very recent past? The Robert Adams retrospective at Jeu de Paume in Paris recently was just so impressive - a life in a body of work. I spent ages in there. He’s a living master. At the other extreme, someone who is relatively new. I walked into Tereza Zelenkova’s small show, The Absence of Myth, at Legion TV, a small gallery in Hackney last year and was blown away by the work and the way it was laid out - texts and multiple black and white prints in large frames. She’s a young photographer, but there is something very thoughtful as well as day dreamily melancholic about her approach to the gothic and uncanny. She’s fascinated by Georges Bataille and manages to get something of his aura into the words and pictures. She has her own way of seeing things. That’s what I’ m looking out for.

In terms of historical shows, Eggleston’s Ancient and Modern at The Barbican in 1992 was a game-changer for me. It presented a new way of seeing: the ordinary made luminous, the world as we know it, but slightly skewed.

And photo books...Off the top of my head: Love on the Left Bank by Ed van der Elsken was perhaps the first photobook that made me see the potential of photography to create a staged, semi-fictional, but somehow utterly real, visual narrative. It still amazes me that it was first published in 1957. So far ahead of the game. I also remember coming across Ray’s A Laugh by Richard Billingham in a bookshop in the mid-nineties and being really confused and excited by it. It had a similar impact on me as a great punk or hip-hop record would once have had – that feeling that you were encountering something new and so viscerally powerful that you were not quite sure what to do with it.

I had a similar reaction to Lieko Shiga’s Rasen Kaigan. What’s going on in these pages!? Still not sure, but it’s pretty powerful. And, recently, this photobook arrived though my letterbox and it’s pretty damn exciting, too: Shanxi by Zhang Xaio, published by Little Big Man.