Saturday, 30 July 2011

Some advice on collecting & why I do it.

When I was asked to talk about starting your own collection at The Glasgow Art Fair ? year/20??? I was delighted. The audience was very enthusiastic & I was embarrassed to find a short video online after the event. It contains some key points about about collecting & of course is only a snapshot of the whole lecture, but I hope would encourage you to think about collecting, because after all without new collectors photographers coming up through the ranks today will have no one to sell to.

So why do I do it?

Well in order to order my reasons I figured a list was the best way to go, though I stress that this list is in no particular order:

Because I LOVE photography & want to be part of nurturing its future in the art world.

I get absolute joy from my collection & sharing it with others.

I don't just want to leave the buying to a bunch of very rich men, the rest of the worlds markets rely on a bunch of very rich men & look where thats got us.

The photography market needs more buyers with taste in order to introduce new emerging artists to the art world. The best way to do this is to support them by purchasing & promoting them; not just by looking at their work. Compliments do not help them make more work or push their careers to the next level.

You must practice what you preach.

Every work becomes a friend, revealing new things to you as the days, weeks, months & years go by a great work shows its true depth.

I have helped some make their mark & made some amazing friends along the way.

You can start small & build work your way up. A masterpiece of photography is still a fraction of the price of a master painting.

The people I have met through collecting have become firm friends, we advise each other, share stories & keep a dialogue going about the photography world, which keeps us all on our toes, learning & educating ourselves. (Stops my brain getting soft)

The thrill of exciting as any explorer can expierience I'm sure & less mozzie bites!

Just when you think its all been done (as the old saying goes) something amazing comes along.

So what are you waiting for?

Don't take my word for it, get collecting!

Picture credits: (2 favourite works in my collection)

©Jeffrey Milstein
American Airlines McDonnel Douglas MD-82
34 x 34" - edition of 10

Alfred Stieglitz (U.S., 1864–1946)
Snapshot in the New York Central Yards [Camera Work 20, 1907]. 1902
7 1/2 x 6 1/8 in. image size

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Rencontres Arles 2011 / Part 1

So Arles, where do I begin?

The shows I guess.

I saw most of the shows later as I was reviewing on the first day, so it was a sporadic trail around the exhibitions in no particular order (the best way to be surprised I find). There were less shows this year than last year, with the Ateliers showing fewer displays. The town was still full of shows though in wonderful old spaces, churches, hotels, empty shops & the like.

Before going to Arles I had a conversation with a friend about why the festival is represented by an illustration & not a photograph, as it is a photography festival after all. I think that the illustration has become a good brand which sets it apart from other festival logos as an instantly recognisable style. Also, it is difficult to find one photograph to represent an entire festival, so why not go with an illustration?

To my surprise there was an exhibit displaying the history of the illustrations by André François. It was wonderful to see the tiny drawings & ink drawings before they were neatened up, really displaying the hand of the artist. Very few people seemed interested in the show, but I suppose without photographs it was overlooked by most, shame I found it really interesting & beautifully curated.

Now onto photography:

Wang Qingsong's 42 foot long 'The History of Monuments' looks amazing in the space it is in. The dilapidated walls of the empty church compliment the theme beautifully. The print had suffered in the heat & was puckered quite badly at one end, but despite this it works. There is a great video showing the extraordinary task he undertook to photograph the numerous models, covered in clay & placing themselves into the recesses carefully cut out of the backdrop. The resulting photograph is full of details. The mammoth scale of the work lent itself to accentuate the monumental theme, yet in muted brown tones that belie the aesthetic temperament of the east - whose appreciation for the patina of wear & tear is greatly valued above the Western pallet for all that sparkles & shines. His use of understated tones gives a slow considered rendering reflecting time not value which amplifies the power of the work.

Then there is the 'Discovery Award 2011' which I was asked to vote for my preferred nominee as a 'guest' (reviewer) & I was thrilled when my choice won! The work is hard to see in my photo but I urge you to look closely at the project as it was also a massive undertaking & the results speak for themselves. The series, 'Ponte City', the photographer, Mikhael Subotzky collaborated with Patrick Waterhouse taking photographs of every door, window & television in the huge apartment block (54 storey) that towers over Johannesburg. This building houses many & has a notorious reputation after many suicides, crack & prostitution rings & an open core which houses 4 storeys of rubbish. Built for the upwardly mobile aspiring middle classes its history is a tragedy of errors with bankruptcy & promised refurbishment. Since 2008 Subotzky & Waterhouse have been recording this extraordinary place. The lightboxes make for extended viewing & the link shows the project in full, well worth the look.

Then there is the Mexican contingent at the festival. By far the 3 shows worth seeing are Graciela Iturbide, which are a great example of fine printing, exquisite concepts & traditional attention to detail which move & inspire in equal measure & the Enrique Metinides work which if you have never seen are fascinating. There is a wonderful photo of his emergency vehicle toy collection, showing his fascination beyond the lens of things disastrous! His first newspaper cover was taken when he was only 11 years old. I still found that when I saw one image of a woman - (as it turned a famous Mexican author if my memory serves me right) crushed by a car lies against a railing with her made up face, eyes open looking upwards horrifyingly beautiful & strange - still instantly made the hairs on my arms stand up on end. Very powerful stuff, but not for the squeamish. He's not nicknamed 'the Mexican Weegee' for nothing.

Then lastly the wonderful project, shown in Arles as a slideshow set to music, I was deeply moved by Dulce Pinzon's work, 'Superheroes' which depict Mexican immigrants as superheroes. The term was used more & more post 911 & in the media frenzy Pinzon felt that the unsung heroes who labour daily should be acknowledged. Although at first glance these could appear comical, they soon become inspiring testaments to the individuals he photographed. Each is titled by the subjects name, their job & salary per week or per month. Here is a short section of the text he uses on his site:

"The Mexican immigrant worker in New York is a perfect example of the hero who has gone unnoticed. It is common for a Mexican worker in New York to work extraordinary hours in extreme conditions for very low wages which are saved at great cost and sacrifice and sent to families and communities in Mexico who rely on them to survive."

Lastly by way of sidestepping, 'The Mexican Suitcase' exhibition is a large show dedicated to the suitcase found housing Robert Capa's lost negatives. I won't say more on this as it deserves a blog all by itself, but needless to say I also saw the film about it in the Amphitheatre during the festival & was dying to see it after watching the story unfold, albeit a big long. Lots of info, lots to see & well worth the shlep in the hot sun to get to the museum to see it.

Then finally, the most surprising exhibition for me, which as I entered seemed a bit chaotic & almost turned me off instantly, but soon drew me in & kept my attention was the installation by Augustin Rebetez. His amazing stop-motion animations were wonderful & his photography as I said in the comments book are, 'William Christenberry meets Boris Mikhailov' ( I meant the mythic meets real life, hope he wasn't offended in any way) have a look & see what I mean.

Well enough for now, here are the picture credits:

©André François (installation view) by me
©Wang Qingsong & an installation of The History of Monuments
©Mikhael Subotzky Ponte City
© Graciela Iturbide Mujer Ángel, Sonora Desert, Mexico (1979)
©Enrque Metinides Untitled Metinides' toys
©Dulce Pinzón José Rosendo de Jesús from the State of Guerrero works as a union organizer in New York He sends 700 a month
©Augustin Rebetez

Monday, 25 July 2011

The Fitzrovia Photography Prize & more...

Dear readers, my humble apologies for my tardy blogging. I am now on home ground & ready to blog my socks off!

So where have I been? Oslo as you know (still in shock about the horrible events there of late) then Arles for Rencontres Arles 2011, opened our show last Wednesday to rave reviews on twitter online, in blogs & in print. With 53 photographers on display upstairs there is so much to look at I am loving coming into the gallery each day to notice something new each day The 3 winners on are our website, so you can have a glimpse at the incredibly high standard of work submitted. We had so many to choose from & it was a mammoth job to judge. If the quality is this high next year we may think about expanding it to both floors to include more great photography. The proud supporters of the show John Lewis Oxford Street were thrilled upon seeing the prize become a reality. The work on display has been printed by one of my favourite printers, Genesis Imaging.

At present we have several of of our artists on display downstairs & a new photographer showing one work which I urge you to see, Jon Wyatt whose image is included depicts one of the worlds most incredible sites of natural beauty Huangshan. The 'Yellow Mountain' is in fact a range of mountains & a UNESCO World Heritage Site is actually privately owned by 'Huangshan Tourism & Development Company Ltd' which is listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange. Wyatt explores this site & the dynamics of ethical ownership, preservation & visual wonder in his extraordinary images in glorious black & white. They appear like Chinese ink drawings in their delicacy & subtlety. (We have the entire series in stock available to view)

I met Jon Wyatt in Arles, when we met for a portfolio review & was instantly impressed with his commitment, technical skill & passion for photography. The work is conceptually fascinating, exploring our continued disconnection from the physical landscape with masterful results. Come & see for yourself.

There were several amazing bodies of work shown to me over the course of my week in Arles & I hope to talk about them in this blog soon.

Finally, with excitement the stop-motion video of the beginning of the hang last week shows the first 9 hours of the current show being curated & hung. My Assistant Curator Eleanor Kelly, photographer Colin Coutts, Gallery Assistant Olivia Spooner & Bertil Nilsson (who kindly did the video for us) all appear in the film. Oh, & of course yours truly. The result is a rare insight into the hanging process in a commercial gallery. We were hanging till 11pm last Monday, 9pm Tuesday & completed on Wednesday, so quite a punishing schedule. However, when the crowds flooded in & the reaction to the show was so positive it was all worth it. Many of the works are for sale, starting at around £100 + VAT, so what a great way to start collecting & supporting artists! The thrill of buying your first work, knowing that there is every chance of meeting the photographer who took it & the possibility that your purchase could be the one that changes your photographic experience forever. I will talk a bit more about this in further blogs. Collecting is entirely personal to me & although I have made very sound investments, each & every image I have bought I fell in love with on sight.

Anyway, before I get emotional I will leave you for now, more very soon, I promise...

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Oslo Part 1

Well it's been a long time since my last blog, apologies for that, Oslo was hectic and the week before even moreso with a huge response to our next show with entrants from al over the world for The Fitzrovia Photography Prize. The judging is complete and entrants will find out this weekend if they have been successful with their entry.

The show will open on the 21st July - 20th August.

So Oslo, what a great few days I had there. The exhibition was a triumph! The works were beautifully curated and displayed in the stunning location of Blomqvist Auction house. PUGis a wonderful organisation, bringing photography to Norway which is often starved of a large structure backing the genre unlike Paris, London & New York which have long-established traditions exhibiting the medium.

The speakers were great and the audience very enthusiastic. I was part of the panel in the evening and the debate got very heated, with a call to power (to set up more shows, events, projects, status of Norwegian photography by 'doing it themselves, not relying on others to make it happen') from myself which resulted in a burst of applause which was wonderful and embarrassing in equal measure.

I have put some pics together from the trip here. If you have any interest in seeing the exhibition, feel free to make your way to Oslo, the city is easy to get to from the airport and everyone is friendly and speaks english it seems!

As you can see from this sneaky peek, it is well worth the visit.

If you are tweeting Arles or The Fitzrovia Photography Prize please don't forget to #Fitzphoto

Picture Credits:
Sally Mann - 'At twelve' series beneath a beautiful chandelier
Martin Denker finds something interesting above
I talk about hand-printing
A hammock I did not get to doze in, as was my want...
Andre Serrano (the view I had whilst eating dinner)
Joel Peter Witkin room
Roger Ballen room
1st room, Vic Muniz and his chocolate wonders
Close-up of amazing sofa, read the stitches...
Martin Denker's elaborate photographic works on canvas.