Author Archive

Coleen MacPherson introduces Guy Bourdin


Images courtesy of Guy Bourdin / Somerset House

Guy Bourdin: Image Maker sheds new light on the infamous French fashion photographer Guy Bourdin. The protégé of Man Ray, Bourdin was deeply inspired by surrealism. He transformed photography in the 1970s and gained significant notoriety for his work with fashion magazine Vogue.

This exhibition invites the viewer to appreciate the artist’s process: to see original film footage, sketches, unpublished photographs and polaroids; the hidden Bourdin is revealed while the viewer is taken on a trip through his filmic, sexy, wild and powerfully suggestive images.

The exhibition begins in Britain, tracing the famous trip Bourdin took with his family across the country in a black Cadillac with a pair of mannequin legs and a suitcase full of shoes. Here he places the mannequin legs against the backdrops of Britain: train station, bus stops, fields, poolsides, crossing a cobblestone street, awaiting a black cab. These photographs in particular ignite the imagination, teetering off balance, suggesting movement. Bourdin invites the viewer to conjure a narrative around the image – and so, we are all the image-makers and photographers in his world.

Several rooms reveal unpublished photographs, alongside famous Vogue spreads and a film is projected on a Super 8 camera giving the viewer some insight into his process

Bourdin always searched for a location upon which to place his models, enhancing his worlds through various techniques to create filmic worlds that are imbued with narrative; models are hidden, only legs or lips or hands revealed.

 

Screen shot 2015-03-16 at 22.19.35Coleen is a Canadian writer and theatre director with a thirst to explore the world. She trained at École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq in Paris, where she mentored with French playwright, Michel Azama. She is currently developing a new play through the Arcola Theatre Writers’ Programme.

Sony World Photography Awards Exhibition

From families hit by Ebola, to abandoned Italian nightclubs, including Bolivian women wrestlers and American teenagers on their prom night: the 2015 Sony World Photography Awards exhibition features some of the finest photographs of the year in the most diverse categories.

For their eighth year running, the awards – the world’s largest photography competition – received no less than 173,444 entries from 171 countries. The panel of judges, from the World Photography Organisation, had to select images from a diverse range of subject-matter which included current affairs, sport, still-life, architecture and arts. The selected images in each category are exhibited in different formats: prints, but also tablets or TV screens for the mobile phone competition.

Shocking images of Ukraine crisis sit beside quirky portraits of elderly women having their hair cut. In addition to the different competitions, the Outstanding Contribution to Photography exhibition celebrates the iconic images of everyday life made by the legendary Magnum Photographer Elliott Erwitt.

2015 Sony World Photography Awards Exhibition, Somerset House, until 10 May

MARINAMarina is a freelance journalist and culture writer based in London and an analogue photography enthusiast. She holds a Journalism degree from City University.

Portraiture and Projection by Céline Bodin

Appearances are bearers of meaning. Our first impressions of a person are concealed within our own imaging process. The tendency to classify into types is almost instinctive; it is a common path towards identification. Portrait photography is its ambiguous medium. Scraping the surface, it destabilises our sense of reality. Because of its supposed guaranty of exact replication of the living reality, it has been established to ‘re-present’ and reveal.

In the 19th century it was considered the best means to classify and identify into types with the use of phrenology and physiognomy, as can be seen in Francis Galton’s composites which merged multiple individuals into one generic image. Photography offers time for the contemplation of subtle details; unlike painting, it isn’t the summary of its subject.

However, along its journey towards contemporary portraiture the notion of representation has become problematic: what is readable only on the surface? To what extent are we learning about the individual portrayed in the instant of an image? Does a portrait truly allow space for genuine presence?

Photography is objective only in its functional aspect but it is somehow weakened in its ability to unite self and subject. Imagery offers fantasy, it can comfort and reassure. Susan Sontag, in her study On Photography (1973), insists on a photograph to be only a ‘narrowly selective transparency’. It is only a part of reality.

The question of projection is key. Posing is an obstacle to the ‘air’ that allows us to recognise the person, as Roland Barthes stated in Camera Lucida (1980). In Portraiture: Facing the Subject, (1997), Joanna Woodall introduces the notion of ‘portraiture’s mimetic mask’, as we are bound to look for the flaw in the surface which will guide us to the true presence. Therefore, the portrait opens itself to interrogation and suggestion more than it delivers a sense of truth or character.

The works of contemporary photographers Rineke Dijkstra, Bettina Von Zwehl, or Marjaana Kella revisit the conventions of portraiture as a genre. Dijkstra’s work is strong in narrative, her subjects enter the camera’s frame to tell a story subtly shaped by the specificity of a moment or action. In the case of Von Zwehl portraiture is treated as a laboratory, as she carries out experiments on her subjects, confronting them with their own vulnerability while the camera witnesses their reaction.

When 19th century French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot documented hysteria, he proved that the likelihood of the patient performing was increased by the presence of the medical staff. The notion of performance, as an observed state, raises the question of authenticity in the self as it engages with attitude. To disrupt their subjects’ effort at self-representation Von Zwehl, and Dijkstra consider the residual traces of extreme forms of exertion or specific contextual affect, as a bullfighter leaves the arena (Villa Franca di Xira, Portugal, May 8, 1994), a woman just gave birth, or vulnerable subjects lie on the floor holding their breath (Untitled III, No 2, 1999). In Hypnosis (1997-2001), Marjaana Kella scrutinises the suspended moment of her hypnotised subjects (Niclas, Hypnosis, 2001).

Such works invite the viewer to investigate the layers of visibility a subject offers, as the ones represented here face the challenged projection of themselves, necessarily defying the notion of self-consciousness in the moment of being photographed.

The viewer’s examination should therefore remain aware of the body’s performative quality.

Images mediate a cultural coding. Acknowledging this dimension, Cindy Sherman’s work reveals how conventionalised appearances are acted out. (Untitled Film Stills, #12, 1978). Through genre performance she portrays gender as the ‘regulatory model’ Judith Butler defines in Gender Trouble (1990). In Sherman’s self-portraits, gender follows an imitative structure influenced by customs and ideals constantly revaluating the ‘corporealisation’ that imaging should set apart from identification.

Portrait photography can be considered the space for interpretation, its definition relying both on the artist’s intention and its relationship to the viewer’s judgment.

Looking at Thomas Ruff series of passport-like photos our longing to identify is frustrated. The person’s character remains a mystery. The quality of those deadpan portraits remains in the subtle signs of interaction, the way the subjects address the camera.

We can therefore witness multiple layers of projection within a portrait: The photographer interprets the sitter’s self-interpretation, and the sitter in return interprets the photographer and viewer’s expectation. Finally, the viewer interprets the overall impersonation.

In the end, the camera doesn’t classify, we do. As spectators we long to read through the subtlety of a face, the grace of gesture, the drama of expression. Portraits fascinate us because of what they could say. Our relationship with portraiture is therefore a subjective and sentimental one. It is easy to understand that more than it renders personality, photography reveals our intimate projections on the surface. We conjure a dialogue, and the desire to relate might in itself be the only possible truth portraiture could deliver.

 

BODIN_CV

Céline Bodin is a French photographer. After studying literature and architecture, she graduated from a photography BA at Gobelins, L’école de l’image in Paris. In 2013 she completed a Photography MA at the London College of Communication. As well as regularly writing about photography, her personal practice explores themes of identity, gender, and the metaphysical frustration of the medium in representation.

Interview with Gemma Padley

Photography journalist Gemma Padley will be taking over our Instagram feed during the run of Photo London. LPD took the opportunity to chat with Gemma about her impressive career to date and her thoughts on the photography scene in London.

Sarah Allen: How did you get involved in this field?
Gemma Padley: I started out as lots of people in this industry do by interning at as many editorial/media places as I could. One of these was at BJP, shortly after I moved to London in 2007. I was doing a post-grad diploma in Journalism at the time and leant so much from working on a busy arts magazine alongside studying. Before this I studied English at university and had developed an interest in photography, but knew early on that I was more interested in writing about photographs and telling other photographers’ stories than trying to be a photographer myself. I still enjoy taking pictures for me, from time to time, and feel it’s important to have a good understanding of the workings of photography so I can relate to photographers. Although I would never claim to know what it’s like to be a photographer and to make a living this way. I imagine it’s probably as challenging as making a living through writing though! I guess we all do it for the love of it, which is as good a reason as any I suppose.

What are the most interesting trends you’ve noticed recently in photography?
Hmmmmm, I won’t be breaking new ground by saying this, but there’s certainly a trend (which has been going on for a while now), of people working across mediums – looking at where photography meets sculpture/collage/painting etc. There’s a lot of interesting quite conceptual-based still life around too, and within photojournalism people are tending to pursue longer-term, slower, sometimes more personal projects. This could be attributed to changes within the editorial market, as budgets decrease and commissions become harder to win, photographers are taking matters into their own hands. I don’t want to infer that there are no longer opportunities within editorial photography, but things are undoubtedly more difficult, and I think it’s great that photographers are reacting to this in a positive way and finding other ways to make the kind of work they want to.

What recent exhibitions / fairs have you found really exciting or engaging?
I loved the Christopher Williams retrospective, which is currently at the Whitechapel Gallery, but it’s not an easy show. There’s little to guide the visitor in terms of panel texts, labels, etc, It’s one of those exhibitions that if you go with an open mind, wanting to think, wanting to work hard to find meaning or understand what’s going on, then you’ll be rewarded.

If you could buy the work of one photographer who would it be?
Great question! I have so many favourites it’s hard to say… I’m a sucker for beautiful, enigmatic portraits by photographic masters like Paolo Roversi and Emmet Gowin, and I also love Jack Davison’s approach to portraiture, so anything by those photographers. I’m also a huge fan of Rinko Kawauchi. I love her attention to detail and the simplicity of her work, so again anything by her would get my vote!

What excites and annoys you most about London’s photography scene?
London is such a melting pot of talent, and I love how international it is, but it can be cliquey and stifling at times, and also very competitive, so sometimes I need to take a break from it, and do something completely different – then I can come back feeling refreshed and ready to go again

If you weren’t a photography journalist what would you be and why?
I couldn’t imagine doing anything else, as trite as that sounds!

Interview with Gemma Padley

Photography journalist Gemma Padley will be taking over our Instagram feed during the run of Photo London. LPD took the opportunity to chat with Gemma about her impressive career to date and her thoughts on the photography scene in London.

Sarah Allen: How did you get involved in this field?
Gemma Padley: I started out as lots of people in this industry do by interning at as many editorial/media places as I could. One of these was at BJP, shortly after I moved to London in 2007. I was doing a post-grad diploma in Journalism at the time and leant so much from working on a busy arts magazine alongside studying. Before this I studied English at university and had developed an interest in photography, but knew early on that I was more interested in writing about photographs and telling other photographers’ stories than trying to be a photographer myself. I still enjoy taking pictures for me, from time to time, and feel it’s important to have a good understanding of the workings of photography so I can relate to photographers. Although I would never claim to know what it’s like to be a photographer and to make a living this way. I imagine it’s probably as challenging as making a living through writing though! I guess we all do it for the love of it, which is as good a reason as any I suppose.

What are the most interesting trends you’ve noticed recently in photography?
Hmmmmm, I won’t be breaking new ground by saying this, but there’s certainly a trend (which has been going on for a while now), of people working across mediums – looking at where photography meets sculpture/collage/painting etc. There’s a lot of interesting quite conceptual-based still life around too, and within photojournalism people are tending to pursue longer-term, slower, sometimes more personal projects. This could be attributed to changes within the editorial market, as budgets decrease and commissions become harder to win, photographers are taking matters into their own hands. I don’t want to infer that there are no longer opportunities within editorial photography, but things are undoubtedly more difficult, and I think it’s great that photographers are reacting to this in a positive way and finding other ways to make the kind of work they want to.

What recent exhibitions / fairs have you found really exciting or engaging?
I loved the Christopher Williams retrospective, which is currently at the Whitechapel Gallery, but it’s not an easy show. There’s little to guide the visitor in terms of panel texts, labels, etc, It’s one of those exhibitions that if you go with an open mind, wanting to think, wanting to work hard to find meaning or understand what’s going on, then you’ll be rewarded.

If you could buy the work of one photographer who would it be?
Great question! I have so many favourites it’s hard to say… I’m a sucker for beautiful, enigmatic portraits by photographic masters like Paolo Roversi and Emmet Gowin, and I also love Jack Davison’s approach to portraiture, so anything by those photographers. I’m also a huge fan of Rinko Kawauchi. I love her attention to detail and the simplicity of her work, so again anything by her would get my vote!

What excites and annoys you most about London’s photography scene?
London is such a melting pot of talent, and I love how international it is, but it can be cliquey and stifling at times, and also very competitive, so sometimes I need to take a break from it, and do something completely different – then I can come back feeling refreshed and ready to go again

If you weren’t a photography journalist what would you be and why?
I couldn’t imagine doing anything else, as trite as that sounds!

Sony World Photography Awards Exhibition @ Somerset House

From families hit by Ebola, to abandoned Italian nightclubs, including Bolivian women wrestlers and American teenagers on their prom night: the 2015 Sony World Photography Awards exhibition features some of the finest photographs of the year in the most diverse categories.

For their eighth year running, the awards – the world’s largest photography competition – received no less than 173,444 entries from 171 countries. The panel of judges, from the World Photography Organisation, had to select images from a diverse range of subject-matter which included current affairs, sport, still-life, architecture and arts. The selected images in each category are exhibited in different formats: prints, but also tablets or TV screens for the mobile phone competition.

Shocking images of Ukraine crisis sit beside quirky portraits of elderly women having their hair cut. In addition to the different competitions, the Outstanding Contribution to Photography exhibition celebrates the iconic images of everyday life made by the legendary Magnum Photographer Elliott Erwitt.

2015 Sony World Photography Awards Exhibition, Somerset House, until 10 May

MARINAMarina is a freelance journalist and culture writer based in London and an analogue photography enthusiast. She holds a Journalism degree from City University.​

Review: Nick Waplington/ Alexander McQueen: Working Process @ Tate Britain


Images courtesy of Nick Waplington / Tate Britain

In ‘Working Process’ photographer Nick Waplington gives a rare look behind the scenes of Alexander McQueen’s last collection.

Selected from the previously published book project ‘Working Process’, Waplington’s photographs capture the creative journey of McQueen’s final Autumn/Winter collection ‘Horn of Plenty’ in 2009, one of the most celebrated fashion collections in recent history.

The major exhibition at Tate Britain reveals McQueen’s working practice through a selection of hundred large-scale prints completed by Waplington and McQueen three months before the designer’s suicide.

For over six months Waplington followed McQueen and his team from the designer’s studio in Clerkenwell to the final catwalk show in Paris, documenting every step of the creation of ‘The Horn of Plenty! (Everything But the Kitchen Sink)’, taking on recycling as a guiding theme.

McQueen conceived ‘The Horn of Plenty’ collection as an iconoclastic retrospective of his career in fashion, reusing silhouettes and fabrics from his earlier collections and creating a catwalk set out of broken mirrors.

‘Working Process’ reveals a raw and unpolished side of the fashion world. Waplington juxtaposes candid images of McQueen’s creative process with close-up shots of landfill sites and recycling plants, featuring beer bottles, plastic bags and piles of newspapers.

The exhibition, as the photobook, resulting from this unique artistic collaboration creates a powerful commentary on destruction and creative renewal – themes at the heart of the ‘Horn of Plenty’ collection.

Nick Waplington/ Alexander McQueen: Working Process at Tate Britain until 17 May 2015


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Miriam is the Deputy Editor of LPD.

Portraiture and Projection by Céline Bodin

Appearances are bearers of meaning. Our first impressions of a person are concealed within our own imaging process. The tendency to classify into types is almost instinctive; it is a common path towards identification. Portrait photography is its ambiguous medium. Scraping the surface, it destabilises our sense of reality. Because of its supposed guaranty of exact replication of the living reality, it has been established to ‘re-present’ and reveal.

In the 19th century it was considered the best means to classify and identify into types with the use of phrenology and physiognomy, as can be seen in Francis Galton’s composites which merged multiple individuals into one generic image. Photography offers time for the contemplation of subtle details; unlike painting, it isn’t the summary of its subject.

However, along its journey towards contemporary portraiture the notion of representation has become problematic: what is readable only on the surface? To what extent are we learning about the individual portrayed in the instant of an image? Does a portrait truly allow space for genuine presence?

Photography is objective only in its functional aspect but it is somehow weakened in its ability to unite self and subject. Imagery offers fantasy, it can comfort and reassure. Susan Sontag, in her study On Photography (1973), insists on a photograph to be only a ‘narrowly selective transparency’. It is only a part of reality.

The question of projection is key. Posing is an obstacle to the ‘air’ that allows us to recognise the person, as Roland Barthes stated in Camera Lucida (1980). In Portraiture: Facing the Subject, (1997), Joanna Woodall introduces the notion of ‘portraiture’s mimetic mask’, as we are bound to look for the flaw in the surface which will guide us to the true presence. Therefore, the portrait opens itself to interrogation and suggestion more than it delivers a sense of truth or character.

The works of contemporary photographers Rineke Dijkstra, Bettina Von Zwehl, or Marjaana Kella revisit the conventions of portraiture as a genre. Dijkstra’s work is strong in narrative, her subjects enter the camera’s frame to tell a story subtly shaped by the specificity of a moment or action. In the case of Von Zwehl portraiture is treated as a laboratory, as she carries out experiments on her subjects, confronting them with their own vulnerability while the camera witnesses their reaction.

When 19th century French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot documented hysteria, he proved that the likelihood of the patient performing was increased by the presence of the medical staff. The notion of performance, as an observed state, raises the question of authenticity in the self as it engages with attitude. To disrupt their subjects’ effort at self-representation Von Zwehl, and Dijkstra consider the residual traces of extreme forms of exertion or specific contextual affect, as a bullfighter leaves the arena (Villa Franca di Xira, Portugal, May 8, 1994), a woman just gave birth, or vulnerable subjects lie on the floor holding their breath (Untitled III, No 2, 1999). In Hypnosis (1997-2001), Marjaana Kella scrutinises the suspended moment of her hypnotised subjects (Niclas, Hypnosis, 2001).

Such works invite the viewer to investigate the layers of visibility a subject offers, as the ones represented here face the challenged projection of themselves, necessarily defying the notion of self-consciousness in the moment of being photographed.

The viewer’s examination should therefore remain aware of the body’s performative quality.

Images mediate a cultural coding. Acknowledging this dimension, Cindy Sherman’s work reveals how conventionalised appearances are acted out. (Untitled Film Stills, #12, 1978). Through genre performance she portrays gender as the ‘regulatory model’ Judith Butler defines in Gender Trouble (1990). In Sherman’s self-portraits, gender follows an imitative structure influenced by customs and ideals constantly revaluating the ‘corporealisation’ that imaging should set apart from identification.

Portrait photography can be considered the space for interpretation, its definition relying both on the artist’s intention and its relationship to the viewer’s judgment.

Looking at Thomas Ruff series of passport-like photos our longing to identify is frustrated. The person’s character remains a mystery. The quality of those deadpan portraits remains in the subtle signs of interaction, the way the subjects address the camera.

We can therefore witness multiple layers of projection within a portrait: The photographer interprets the sitter’s self-interpretation, and the sitter in return interprets the photographer and viewer’s expectation. Finally, the viewer interprets the overall impersonation.

In the end, the camera doesn’t classify, we do. As spectators we long to read through the subtlety of a face, the grace of gesture, the drama of expression. Portraits fascinate us because of what they could say. Our relationship with portraiture is therefore a subjective and sentimental one. It is easy to understand that more than it renders personality, photography reveals our intimate projections on the surface. We conjure a dialogue, and the desire to relate might in itself be the only possible truth portraiture could deliver.

 

BODIN_CV

Céline Bodin is a French photographer. After studying literature and architecture, she graduated from a photography BA at Gobelins, L’école de l’image in Paris. In 2013 she completed a Photography MA at the London College of Communication. As well as regularly writing about photography, her personal practice explores themes of identity, gender, and the metaphysical frustration of the medium in representation.

Coleen MacPherson introduces Guy Bourdin: Image Maker @ Somerset House

Guy Bourdin: Image Maker sheds new light on the infamous French fashion photographer Guy Bourdin. The protégé of Man Ray, Bourdin was deeply inspired by surrealism. He transformed photography in the 1970s and gained significant notoriety for his work with fashion magazine Vogue.

This exhibition invites the viewer to appreciate the artist’s process: to see original film footage, sketches, unpublished photographs and polaroids; the hidden Bourdin is revealed while the viewer is taken on a trip through his filmic, sexy, wild and powerfully suggestive images.

The exhibition begins in Britain, tracing the famous trip Bourdin took with his family across the country in a black Cadillac with a pair of mannequin legs and a suitcase full of shoes. Here he places the mannequin legs against the backdrops of Britain: train station, bus stops, fields, poolsides, crossing a cobblestone street, awaiting a black cab. These photographs in particular ignite the imagination, teetering off balance, suggesting movement. Bourdin invites the viewer to conjure a narrative around the image – and so, we are all the image-makers and photographers in his world.

Several rooms reveal unpublished photographs, alongside famous Vogue spreads and a film is projected on a Super 8 camera giving the viewer some insight into his process

Bourdin always searched for a location upon which to place his models, enhancing his worlds through various techniques to create filmic worlds that are imbued with narrative; models are hidden, only legs or lips or hands revealed.

Screen shot 2015-03-16 at 22.19.35Coleen is a Canadian writer and theatre director with a thirst to explore the world. She trained at École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq in Paris, where she mentored with French playwright, Michel Azama. She is currently developing a new play through the Arcola Theatre Writers’ Programme. 

Marina Vitaglione introduces David Batchelor: Monochrome Archive @ The Whitechapel Gallery


Images courtesy of David Batchelor

“Monochrome is abstract art’s exemplary form, and you only find it in cities. You can’t find it in nature.”

It’s following this discovery that British artist David Batchelor set himself a challenge: taking a picture of every white square or rectangle he came across on his walks through various cities.

The result is no less than 500 images, taken from 1997 to 2012 around the globe, from London to Hong Kong via Berlin or Rome, all collected in this exhibition. The central white square is the only constant in this set of pictures, like a common denominator that the photographer’s eye keeps seeking everywhere he wanders.

The images keep interchanging on a multi-screen installation, while all the miniature prints are displayed on a lit table, with notes on when and where they were taken. The countless photographs appear to be a diary of Batchelor’s travels through the years, always looking for the abstract in the urban space.

At first, the white monochromes seem to give the exhibition cohesion and stability, but one soon realises that they are in fact ephemeral. As Batchelor himself points out, a white square is never going to stay white for long in a city: it will most likely get covered by ads, posters or writings. For this reason, the 500 pictures are unique: an abstract photography show not to be missed.

Whitechapel Gallery, 22 Dec 2014 – 3 May 2015

Marina Vitaglione 

MARINAMarina is a freelance journalist and culture writer based in London and an analogue photography enthusiast. She holds a Journalism degree from City University.​