The Physical Fabric of Cities


Photos by Matteo Favero


The London Photography Diary is pleased to present our first exhibition, The Physical Fabric of Cities, at Carmel by the Green. This exhibition originated as an Open Call with the theme ‘Regeneration’. Organized by former London Photography Editor Maria Depaula-Vazquez.

Carmel by the Green
287a Cambridge Heath Road
London E2 0EL

Opening reception: 4 August, 6pm – 9pm
drinks provided by Peroni

Exhibition dates: 4 Aug – 4 Oct

Opening times: Monday to Friday 8am to 5pm
Thursday 8am to 6pm
Saturday 10:30am to 3:30pm

The Physical Fabric of Cities

For hundreds of years, capital and power have flowed through London, shaping its streets, structures, and societies. The fortune and character of different areas have ebbed and waned, depending on the politics and policies of the day, and the cultural life of the people who call the city home. Urban regeneration, for some, is about breathing new life into an area which has long been neglected or forgotten about by the wealthy and powerful. But for those already living in these areas, who face being swept out of their neighbourhood by these ‘winds of change’, regeneration means something entirely different. In biological terms, regeneration refers to the formation of new plant or animal tissue – the reparation and binding, rather than dispersion, of life.



Lewis Bush

Lewis Bush is a photographer, writer, lecturer, and curator based in London. His work explores the role that photography plays in the uneven distribution of power in our world, whether that be political, economic, or military, and explores the possibility of using photography as a means to challenge those who hold power.

The ‘metropole’ was a term once used to describe London in its relationship with the British Empire, a relationship hierarchical and unequal, with power radiating out from the metropolitan centre, and the resources of the dominions radiating back in return. A composite of numerous nighttime walks through the city, Metropole records the effect of this capital influx on London by documenting its numerous new corporate high rises and luxury residential blocks as they are constructed and occupied.

Victoria Jouvert, I wont come back, 2015

Victoria Jouvert

Victoria’s first project for her BA Photography course at London College of Communications documented a group of council buildings due to be demolished to make way for new high priced luxury flats.  “I found in my extensive searching of the buildings the sprawling of a child’s pencil upon the wall of a closet where there was written “I won’t come back and I mean it,” which became the title of the work that was presented in a series of nine images accompanied by a poem that explores my personal motives for leaving home at 18 and the forceful removal of the mystery tenants from their homes.”

“I documented the things the previous owners left behind. The objects of these homes completely captured me; I became obsessed with them and what they told me about their previous occupiers. The line between the people who once lived there and myself became blurred as I delved deeper and deeper into the fragments of the lives I gathered from forgotten items. I developed a deep feeling of understanding for the previous occupiers forced out of their homes leaving the remains of their past lives behind like the remnants of a tragic evacuation. Through this personal portrayal of the objects left behind I explored themes of melancholia, memory, and the political tensions behind the regeneration of London.”

Accompanying poem

Tim Palman, Wellard, 2016

Tim Palman

Tim is an emerging photographic artist born and based in Perth, Western Australia. He is currently completing an undergraduate degree in Photography. His work takes a documentary format, culminating in large-scale projects that explore and expose the human condition through the study of physical and social landscapes.

Tim’s method of photographing is one that is borrowed from the tradition of the great American documentary photographers such as Walker Evans or Robert Adams, in which he assumes the role of the flaneur – the photographs merely acting as evidence of one’s movement throughout the landscape. The use of an old, slow, large format camera brings limits to the compositional of his photographs, which as a result function as the “collection” of places, objects and people, void of any true decisive moment.

“These three images are a part of a larger body I am currently working on, entitled Wellard. The series is a documentary interrogation of the new development area suburb of Wellard amongst the urban sprawl of the City of Perth, Western Australia. The body of work in largely autobiographical, acting as a personal response to my process of moving into the area and my disenchantment with the concept of the ‘private estate’. One of the most prominent themes of the work is the relationship of myself to my mother, who I still live with and who’s dream it was to move to Wellard. As a result, there is a discourse in the work between the idea of the maternal, with regards to growth and comfort, and the idea of The Sublime which manifests itself in the wildness of the natural landscape. The topic of regeneration is one which is entwined is this work, as the process of developing an area is one which could be seen as the regeneration of the area as a societal space. This process, however, is one which requires the killing of nature which is replaced by suburban homogeny, a place of suppression.”

Willie Robb, SPIKES #24, 2013

Willie Robb

Willie Robb is a photographer, video producer and artist who was born and raised near Perth in Scotland and is now based in Lewes, East Sussex. He graduated from Brighton University in 2008 with a BA(Hons) in Photography and continues to create self-initiated projects using a blend of autobiographical and documentary practice.

“In 2014 #spikegate hit the headlines. The tag was initiated by an introduction of two inch, metal pavement spikes, a radical form of ‘defensive’ or ‘disciplinary’ architecture, at the entrance of flats in Southwark, London. The spikes were eventually removed. I found myself counting homeless individuals in Brighton one year earlier, a city that is also witnessing an unquestionable rise in street sleepers. Constantly looking down led me to notice plants creeping through cracks in the pavement. It felt like a symbolic resistance. Coltsfoot, Buddleia, Dandelion and Nettle interrupted the perfect surface, a reminder that the status quo is never rock solid. Things can change.”

Kaveh Golestan

Kaveh Golestan: Prostitute (1975-1977) at Photo London

by Coleen MacPherson

After a visit to Tehran in January, witnessing Kaveh Golestan’s work at Photo London this May was incredibly resonating. The prolific photojournalist’s exhibition, aptly named “Prostitute” (1975-1977), embodied an excruciating silence of the Tehran women. Hidden deep in the red light district, we learn that the forgotten women work tirelessly at Shahr-e No, deep in the basement of a dimly lit Somerset House. Their fragile yet strong faces confront our own illusions of late twentieth-century life.

Golestan’s “Prostitute” allows us to intrude into the real – the rooms these women live and work in, their environment, and consequently the myriad of contradictions that exist in modern life. Essential in providing context, the exhibit shares a timeline alongside the photographs and newspaper articles to help us delved deeper into these women’s pasts.

A wall was erected around the district in 1953 after the coup d’état, and as a result created the ghetto known as Citadel Shahr-e No.  Shortly before the cultural revolution of 1979, Golestan captured the everyday life of these women; powerful images show some lounging on their beds, others staring softly at the camera while another leans against the wall of a darkened room.  These natural, unassuming yet striking photos went on to form a photo essay of the Citadel by Golestan, exhibited at the University of Tehran briefly before it was shut down.

It was only a short while after these photos were taken that a mob set fire to the district and left several dead.  Many of these women were arrested and executed by the Islamic State in an act of cleansing.  After the fire destroyed the district, a lake was then erected, which features in a handful of the photographs. This lake evokes an emotional response from the viewer, who can see it as a living symbol of how, even now, religious theocracy exists. Therefore, Golestan’s work serves as a reminder of a sensitive issue and offers an earnest look at a forgotten world. Alongside the bravery of the Tehran women, Golestan’s own bravery rings through in his message to us – sharing the truth is invaluable.

Coleen MacPherson

coleen-macpherson-headhostColeen MacPherson 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 has recently founded Open Heart Surgery Theatre:  a group of international theatre-makers, creating work in London at Camden People’s Theatre, Mimetic Festival; in Paris at Plateau 31 and will soon be presenting ‘This is Why We Live’in Toronto at The Theatre Centre.  She is constantly inspired by photography and the power of the image.

Victoria Jouvert

I ran away from the crooked frames on the wall,      

Broken and cracked,

With a vow to leave and never return,

But the old clock on the wall still ticked in my ear,

The constant reminder of a past that would not be left behind.

I abandoned the books of my youth in a big box and left 500 nations

In my damp cellar to decay.

I gave away my clothes,

Leaving a pile of empty hangers that poked and prodded

While jam jars full of discarded bottle caps

And other childish wonders watched in fear from their shelves.


I emptied my drawers of all their useful items,

But somehow the useful and the useless mixed

In fleeting nostalgic moments.

The clock still ticked and the frames still hung,

Crooked and cracked and I thought I could leave it all behind,

But the empty drawers were still full and the outdated curtain fell,

Exposing me: the silly victim, the tragic, and the traumatized

Embodiment of the child who runs away,

Leaving behind the reflective fragments

Of the person they once were.

BOOK REVIEW: No Circus, Randi Malkin Steinberger



One of my favorite things to do as a passenger in a car is to lean my head out of the window and gaze out at the houses as I pass them by, dreaming about the worlds and lives which must exist within each. Surely there are stargazers in that house with the porch; a lonely child inside the house with the chipped paint. Every house seems to possess its own cosmos; its own palette for a life which I, as a passing stranger, am free to imagine. Having lived my entire life in the relatively cool climate of the greater New York area, I can’t recall ever having ever passed by a house wrapped up in a brightly-striped tarp for fumigation, as happens more frequently in warm climates which allow termites to swarm. Luckily, Randi Malkin Steinberger’s forthcoming photobook, No Circus, turns its gaze on the tented curiosities she found while driving around Los Angeles, and provides not only an excellent roadside survey, but a chance for the viewer to step out of the car, wander around, and begin their own imaginings.

In many ways, No Circus, comprised of nearly 70 photographs houses undergoing fumigation, seems almost too easy of a photographic project. The circus comparison is obvious, and there’s an easy absurdity to the tents, which is as unmissable a spectacle as a showgirl riding an elephant down the middle of Main Street. The bright carnival pinstripes beg to be photographed, and the tents’ alluring contrast to the familiar suburban settings and L.A. landscaping which they have been pitched against is a quality I would argue most photographers would gravitate toward. The houses, cartoonized into bizarre geometric forms, seem almost too opportunistically bloated and out of proportion to the dull normalcy of the rest of the neighborhood to pass by. I imagine that for the residents of L.A., the appearance and disappearance of the tents on quiet suburban streets must especially carry with it the same exotic mystery of a travelling circus; the tents materializing overnight and then vanishing again without warning, as though called away by some invisible director, his sights already set on the next town. Of course, lingering in the background and adding in interest to the strange disjuncture of normalcy is also the knowledge that these tents belong to a league of structures which have been abandoned and temporarily pulled from their daily roles to be pumped full of poison and are – as Malkin Steinberger’s title reminds us – no circus.

But the true mark of a successful photographer is not the ability to see what everyone else can see, but to pursue that thought past the individual house in question and down to the end of the street, and to the next, until the streetlights come on and living-room windows glow purple from the glow of the TV. With every turn of the page, Malkin Steinberger’s obsessive tent studies feel like the repetition of the same word over and over again until it loses all of its context and seems to stew solely in its own nonsensical existence. Although not all of her images are remarkable individually, the power of No Circus lies in the obsessive pursuit of a single idea; in finding and multiplying the strange until it populates the entire world.

Montana-Ave-Randi Malkin Steinberger- No CirucsPerhaps because I am a writer myself, what I found to be the most communicative element of No Circus, however, was D.J. Waldie’s beautiful and poetic introductory essay, which snaps the images together thematically and then expands them into a thousand directions. Oscillating between tender personal narrative and an informative overview of fumigation and its many associated dangers, Waldie’s essay sets a dark and contemplative tone over the entire project, occasionally pulling on heartstrings and letting them resonate all the way back to childhood. After a discussion of sulfuryl floride and chloropicrin, the poison gases used to break down termite’s bodies, a short blank stretch of a paragraph break leads us to his own boyhood. He’s playing hide-and-go-seek with his brother, and finding himself standing alone in his bedroom. “Because I’m small, the room seems large. And I’m afraid. My knees actually begin to knock out of fear. I’m afraid of what isn’t in the room. I fear my own absence.”

A house is more than its structure, he explains, and has a life beyond those who live there – its essence is composed of the anxieties inside; all of its absurdities, and associations. “Houses haunt themselves,” he writes. “While we’re away, the chair improvises a sitter, the door frame a passing figure, and the bed a sleeper…. As the key is set in the door lock by new owners for the first time, as the door knob is turned, as the door sweeps inward, the house constructs a whole life.”

With Waldie’s words in mind, I returned to the photographs. There, hiding behind the easy punchline I first found in No Circus, I uncovered a subtler, more haunted infestation of an idea. Coupled with Waldie’s concerned sense of “home” and disturbed overview of the invasive danger of fumigation, I felt a real sense of anxiety began to permeate a few of Malkin Steinberger’s images, which come in a little too close to the ugly reality of the tubing and stitching of the tents to allow them to maintain any cheerful world. Although many of her photographs seem to delight in the bright and the absurd, others seem to examine the houses with the same scientific caution one might bring to examining brightly-colored poisonous dart frog. A few photographs are taken from behind shrubbery, or through the links of a fence. A photograph labelled Montana Ave. is dark and blurred, having been taken at night from the other side of the road. We focus on a white car parked in front, as though watching out for who might be nearby. Malkin Steinberger peeps through rips and flaps, and stops here and there to examine the red warning signs reading “Caution! Peligro!” and reminding us of all of the dangers which threaten these poisoned houses: suffocation, gas explosions, burglary. Such houses have not turned into our childhood dreams, but into our adult nightmares. Like weeping clowns, these images unsettle in their contradictions.

But standing alone, Malkin Steinberger offers a weak thesis. Her images display less of the direct statements or moments of introspection found in Waldie’s writing than a general magnetism to contrasts – the contrast of the shape of the tent to the shape of shrubbery in front of it; the bright colors of tarp to the natural colors of nearby flowers; the apparent excitement of the tent to the opposing monochrome of the rest of the street. Perhaps a tighter edit of images might have offered a less diluted narrative, but where Waldie leads, Malkin Steinberger only wanders.

Bienveneda-Ave-Randi Malkin Steinberger- No Cirucs

Still, there’s something delightful about No Circus which doesn’t suffer from the lack of heavy intent found in Waldie’s essay. Isn’t that the point of dreaming, anyway? Not to offer a plot or a moral, but to notice the elements which make up a world and wonder how else they might appear. Whereas Waldie worries, Malkin Steinberger imagines. Her images, which linger as long by flowers as they do by caution tape, seem to dream life into these abandoned structures, engaging with sights that catch her attention, rather than illustrate a point.  “To be something more a windbreak or a covering from rain or a frail barrier, a home must have dreams inside. A house undreamed in is already neglected,” Waldie writes, and Malkin Steinberger answers with a blue tarp cutting across with sky; with a ring of silver tent clips left in the dust like a performer’s forgotten crown, or a memento from a dream.

At once material and imagined, fantastic and ordinary, Malkin Steinberger’s No Circus opens the door to a world which is absurd in its anxiety, delightful in its dissolution, and, perhaps, already just next door.

No Circus will be published by Damiani Books on September 27, 2016.

– Sasha Patkin

Sasha Patkin is a writer, photographer, and contributing editor to The New York Diaries. More of her writing and work can be found at

Dorothy Bohm Review

Two Exhibitions and a Conversation with Britain’s Renowned Photographer Dorothy Bohm

By Coleen MacPherson

Dorothy Bohm’s career in photography spans an incredible 75 years, having captured the ordinary lives of people in Europe, the Americas and the Far East.  Having helped find the Photographer’s Gallery in London in 1971 and acting as Associate Director for fifteen years, her ability to observe the world around her has made her one of Britain’s greatest photographers.  Born in Königsberg, East Prussia (now Kaliningrad) to a Jewish Lithuanian family, at the age of 15 she escaped the Nazi occupation and fled to England where she has lived ever since.  The story goes that when she boarded the train in June 1939, she leaned out of the window to say goodbye to her father; he took the Leica camera from around his neck and gave it to her hoping it would be something she might find useful.

I had the privilege of meeting the woman herself in her Hampstead home last week, where we spoke about her work, her life and the current exhibits of her photography in London.  At 92 years of age Dorothy is soft-spoken with a slight accent, a sweet sensibility, and an incredible desire to give back to the city and country that took her in so many years ago.

After arriving in England and attending a grammar school in Dichling, she learned English quickly and was later persuaded by her father’s cousin to take up photography at Manchester University. She began her career in portraiture in Manchester after graduating, but it was not until she fell in love with Paris in 1947 that she took her camera outside for the first time. This was the beginning of a long career in capturing the world around her while travelling with her husband, Louis Bohm.

Dorothy Bohm’s  “Sixties London” at the Jewish Museum and “Unseen London, Paris and New York 1930s-60s” at the Ben Uri Gallery and Museum help us reimagine the past and play against our visual expectations of the cities we think we know so well.

Forty of Dorothy’s black and white vintage photographs of London are on display at The Jewish Museum’s exhibit, “Sixties London.”  All the photographs were developed by Dorothy herself and capture a record of what she saw.  This work is a striking contrast to the clichéd images of the ‘swinging sixties,’ as it lures us to peer into pockets and corners of London, highlighting ordinary people in unlikely places. For Dorothy there is a desire to see beyond the surface of places and depict a living London where people pursued their daily occupations, walking, talking, eating, and wearing the fashion of the time.  By taking these photographs we have a historical record of London, capturing the city in the moment of cultural and social change emerging from the Second World War.   She tells me, “I’m not interested in what has been photographed a lot … I’m interested in people, not the rich.”  There are images in parks, streets and alleyways; market stalls at Chapel Market, Knightsbridge and Paddington, workers in Notting Hill and children playing on tombstones in Kensington.  There is a powerful image of a woman holding a doll in Islington’s Chapel Street Market, where a tragic feeling has been caught.  Dorothy speaks of taking this particular photograph: “[The woman was] completely absorbed and didn’t notice me as she stood their transfixed.”  There are images that are quintessentially London: two dogs on leads stop on a typical London street with Georgian homes, schoolboys at the Tower of London, a child reluctantly walking his two younger brothers through Primrose Hill.

Dorothy also points out, “a sense of humour is essential” as we speak about the witty image of a larger elderly woman walking to a vegetable stand and right above her is an advertisement for Persil of a child pulling on her pants – a double image is clearly visible.

For the last 20 years Dorothy has been working in London.  “I owe it to this wonderful town and this country” she tells me and begins to describe what London was like during the Blitz.  Buses continued running, maneuvering around the rubble  with Dorothy standing as witness. She tells me she preferred to be outdoors even though she was warned to go into the air-raid shelter and described, “how wonderful [people] were, how good they were, there was no panic.”  This desire to capture London for Dorothy is very strong as this lifelong project continues today.

The Ben Uri Gallery and Museum is also currently displaying her work, but this time it’s Paris.  There are three photographers on display here presenting their artistic responses to three great world cities across three crucial decades.  The photographers:  Wolfgang Suschitzky, Dorothy Bohm, and Neil Libbert all arrived at their respective destinations, finding cities that were strange and new to them and responding through photography without prejudice or expectation.  As modern viewers, London, Paris and New York are cities that have a ready-made expectation visually, for these three photographers these cities were exciting, new and unfamiliar – the photographs displayed at Ben Uri are strikingly fresh and revelatory. Dorothy speaks of Paris as a place where she was inspired to go outdoors though it was not a glamorous city at that time, but one that saw the effects of war.  An important photograph that she took was of a group of Parisians looking at a newsstand; it captures a moment in history so succinctly.

As a photographer and an outsider, one can see what others cannot, and it is this idea that the Ben Uri Gallery has captured beautifully through these three incredible photographers. Dorothy comments on this idea:  “It’s a great advantage having moved around a lot.  I still feel that there are things I can explore, which if you were absolutely a part of it from the very beginning, not having travelled you wouldn’t notice, you wouldn’t think it was anything special.”  This is exactly the ability Dorothy has, observing and seeing what is around her with fresh eyes.

Dorothy Bohm’s photography captures the vulnerability of everyday people and each image is imbued with feeling.  Having been forced to leave her home, her background and losing so much of her past and history, there is a deep desire to ‘stop things from disappearing’ and to ‘make transience less painful, to look for beauty in the most unlikely places’.  She shares her home with me and we peruse through images of London, Portugal, Egypt and Israel; of her and her husband in Switzerland, polaroids which possess a delicate dance of light and of objects in her house that she uses for still life images. For Dorothy, photography is a way of communicating what lies beneath the surface of things, to be able to see what is beautiful in everyone and everything.

In a moment in our interview Dorothy begins to speak about her husband.  Louis Bohm also escaped the Nazis and came to England from Poland.  They met when she was 16 and he was 20 in Manchester and were married soon after. “Everything that was good in my life is due to Louis,” he was a man that helped her become the great photographer she is today. She tells me, “In the 40s men expected their wives to be at home and cook and so on, do you know what he told me?  ‘It’s a waste of your time to be in the kitchen’ he said.” Even her daughter, Yvonne, would come home and wonder why her mother was not in the kitchen like other mothers but in the darkroom.  It is clear that Dorothy is a woman of great ambition and passion and her husband saw and nurtured this immense desire within her.   Years after they were married Louis told her that his mother and 16 year old sister were both killed in the Warsaw Ghetto. “I reminded him of his 16 year old sister,” she says.  Although Louis only lived to witness one major exhibition at the London Photography Gallery, Dorothy holds a deep desire to continue capturing images to leave a legacy for Louis whose support allowed her to develop her art.

As we finish our visit and walk down the spiral staircase to the landing I ask Dorothy if photography has changed her view of humanity, if the images have helped in any way.    “There is so much brutality and ugliness in the world, so to counteract it – Martin Parr shows the other side.  Because of my life, because of what happened, I try to find things which are somehow, good.”

coleen-macpherson-headhostColeen MacPherson 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 has recently founded Open Heart Surgery Theatre:  a group of international theatre-makers, creating work in London at Camden People’s Theatre, Mimetic Festival; in Paris at Plateau 31 and will soon be presenting ‘This is Why We Live’ in Toronto at The Theatre Centre.  She is constantly inspired by photography and the power of the image.


BOOK REVIEW: The Ongoing Moment, by Geoff Dyer

ongoingmomentvintage1To quote the famous dictum: writing about music is like dancing about architecture. With that said, I would gladly watch someone dance about architecture, if the opportunity ever came along. While I have yet to read Geoff Dyer’s book But Beautiful: A Book About Jazz (1991), in which he writes about music (or dances about architecture – I honestly haven’t read it), his writings about photography in The Ongoing Moment (2005) are often as innovate and freshly conceived as I imagine a foxtrot about Brutalism might be.

No one ever argued that dancing and architecture are opposed, after all, and Dyer is quick to make clear that writing about photography is not an irrelevant or unproductive venture. Painting a backdrop connection between writing and photography, Dyer cites Walker Evan’s musing that writers like James Joyce and Henry James were “unconscious photographers,” ceaselessly describing and categorizing the infinite variety of the world in haphazard order. But while the concerns of photography are as encompassing as the human condition, Dyer – who is not a photographer, and claims not even to own a camera – does admit that there’s a distinction between the “idea of photography” (he borrows the term from Stieglitz), and photography in practice. Even his title, The Ongoing Moment, is a reinterpretation of photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson’s phrase, “the decisive moment.” While photography attempts to pin down the ephemeral to speak to the essence of a moment, Dyer’s writing loosens these same silent images from the wall and shuffles them into new conversations, reading over them histories and biographies which expand their meanings and sweep them into a current of ever-evolving contemplation. Dyer’s writing rambles, returns, and reconsiders; offering no thesis or history, but a winding narrative of associations.

At times, Dyer’s writing feels like an (albeit delightful) run-on sentence. He drifts between themes grand and specific such as blindness, hands, nudes, hats, benches, beds, and stairs with hardly more than a breath in between. The Ongoing Moment is truly ongoing in the most literal sense of the term, and with no strict divisions or natural breaking points occurring in the text, I was forced ever onward in my reading – tumbling unwittingly into the next section before I had even realized I’d arrived. In such a flurry of thought, the distinctions between images seem at once obvious and negligible. (For example, here is the quote which serves to bridge the transition between the themes of “blindness” and “hands,” paraphrased from a private eye: “The things you notice in broad daylight – colours, hair, clothes – can all be changed quickly and easily. But the things you are obliged to concentrate on at night… never change. They are as permanent and personal as the lines of your hand.”) I often found myself having to flip back several pages to discover how I had gotten to what I was reading, or flip forward in the text to see when I might be afforded a change to pause and reflect upon what was being presented. Needless to say, I rarely found either direction completely satisfying.

But Dyer’s stylistic choices and transgressions are justified by their accordance with the larger, philosophical musings he is attempting to make about the nature of understanding the world. Dyer often ruminates about taxonomies and attempts to order the world, an impulse which he feels is inherent to both photography and writing, but he is also fascinated by the arbitrary divisions of many lists, and particularly about photography’s intrinsic tendency to bleed through many traditional categorizations. Further freeing him from of owning responsibly for his informal arguments or owing the reader any sort of comprehensive account of the history of photography, Dyer is also quick to adopt the role of humble dilatant. “The person doing the learning is the person writing the book as much as the person reading it,” he writes in his introduction, adding that that his focus throughout is partial – both in the sense that it leaves out many important photographers, and that it is driven primarily by his own personal interests.

Instead of stiff academic writing, The Ongoing Moment presents dreamlike, capricious connections between seemingly unrelated works that would likely have remained overlooked by those with both feet stuck in the traditional mires of art history. The result is liberating, and reaches past individual photographs toward an enchanted philosophy of sight. In one memorable passage, Dyer takes us on a nearly fairytale-like journey as we walk first with Walker Evans and then Lee Friedlander as they photograph individual numbers and letters on signs and advertisements, attempting to isolate, itemize, and decontextualize the symbols into what Dyer describes as a “a vast anagram of the city,” emerging into a “bacteriological rather than the literary sense of the world.” The description is beautiful, narrative, and imaginative, and could just as easily be applied to Dyer’s own artistic pursuits. The richness of language one might expect from an accomplished writer combines in The Ongoing Moment with a meditative dissolution of the established of literature and art, and the result is a new, living order which sprouts from overlooked corners and lays out its own network of roots.

There is no definitive conclusion to Dyer’s book, just as there is no closure to any of his arguments, which instead reoccur and transform throughout like the theme of a fugue. Reaching the ending paragraphs, I was left with the impression that the book might be as successfully read backwards, or outwards from the middle, or even in an infinite loop without repeating the same experience. Dyer’s conversations continually build and collapse upon one another, and the end result therefore is at once exhilarating or exhausting, fine-turned or flawed – but always essentially, decisively ongoing.

– Sasha Patkin

Painting with Light: Art and Photography from the Pre-Raphaelites to the Modern Age



What is the impetus or background for this major project, connecting painting and photography over 75 years? Examining this relationship is a large undertaking, even in Britain alone.

The exhibition was overdue and the interdisciplinary brief of my post at Tate Britain was a wonderful opportunity to explore the impact of a new way of making pictures on the other arts after 1839. Of course painters and photographers were curious about each other’s work. In the early years they shared training, models and the opportunities and demands of wide new audiences and markets. More importantly they shared the search for a modern art, and a modern beauty, that suited their changing times.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Proserpine, 1874, oil paint on canvas, 1251 x 610 mm

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Proserpine, 1874, oil paint on canvas, 1251 x 610 mm

Zaida Ben-Yusuf, The Odor of Pomegranates, 1899, published 1901, photogravure on paper, 194 x 108 mm

Zaida Ben-Yusuf, The Odor of Pomegranates, 1899, published 1901, photogravure on paper, 194 x 108 mm


Does this exhibition utilise a dialogue on the technical innovations of photographic histories to ultimately highlight the great photographers who advanced and shaped the medium – often neglected as contemporaries?

Any show featuring historic photography is a special chance to see sensitive works of art which can only be exhibited occasionally. My co-curator Hope Kingsley and I determined to display some of the photographic studies Robert Adamson and David Octavius Hill made for his multi-figure Disruption Portrait for the first time outside Scotland. The studies became world famous as some of the most beautiful and earliest examples of photography but the picture that began the partnership, and contains small images of Hill, Adamson and their studio assistant Jesse Mann, is not normally on public view.

It was important to represent the swift technical transformations over the period. They produced such different effects, from the seconds slowly accumulated in the shadows of a salted paper print, in the opening room, to the shorter instants caught in later albumen prints and the etching-like beauty of platinum prints and photogravures. Photogravures were reproduced in books and journals and circulated all over the world. One such is Zaida Ben Yusuf’s The Odor of Pomegranates, internationally famous during its day, a kind of ‘before’ to the ‘after’ of Rossetti’s Proserpine. We decided to end with the jewel- like autochromes, the first colour photography invented in the first decade of the twentieth century which looked at painting as one inspiration.

John Singer Sargent, Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose, 1885-186, oil paint on canvas, 1740 x 1537 mm

John Singer Sargent, Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose, 1885-186, oil paint on canvas, 1740 x 1537 mm

John Simon Warburg, Peggy in the Garden, 1909 printed 2016, Photograph, facsimile on lightbox from autochrome, 108 x 82 mm

John Simon Warburg, Peggy in the Garden, 1909 printed 2016, Photograph, facsimile on lightbox from autochrome, 108 x 82 mm


Why is it important to show works by John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, JAM Whistler, John Singer Sargent and others alongside photographs by pivotal early photographers now? Or why has this not been shown before?

Research has been dispersed in different fields but when the work which scholars have been doing is brought together the influences and networks are clear from Hill and Adamson’s 1840s Edinburgh to the fine de siècle circle of Oscar Wilde. It was especially important to make the most of the chance to hang the photographs and paintings together.
In the first part of the show we see the search for realism and relevance to modern life that transformed mid-nineteenth century arts and literature; John Ruskin and many Pre-Raphaelite artists engaged with photography. For example, Roger Fenton trained as a painter and associated with the circle and John Brett incorporated photography into his extreme Pre-Raphaelite way of looking. Writers, painters and photographers saw a new poetry in detail: the patterns of shadows, a story told by a shabby shoe, eons written in a seam of rock.
From the 1860s, the Arts and Crafts movement encouraged a convergence of the arts. In particular, ‘Aesthetic’ artists turned towards feeling and imagination and explored more enchanting and enigmatic styles. The room devoted to poets, painters and photographers of the Holland Park set brings together for the first time Rossetti’s Beata Beatrix and Julia Margaret Cameron’s Follow, I Follow. JAM Whistler was an inspiration to Pictorialist photographers and we have included views of the Thames and of Venice. At the moment when it became technically possible for photographers to make really natural images they went in a different direction, transforming nature with subjective effects such as selective focus, glare and silhouette.

James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Nocturne: Blue and Gold – Old Battersea Bridge, 1872-5, oil paint on canvas, 683 mm x 512 mm

James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Nocturne: Blue and Gold – Old Battersea Bridge, 1872-5, oil paint on canvas, 683 mm x 512 mm

Alvin Langdon Coburn, The Bridge Over Regent’s Canal at Camden Lock, 1900-1909, photogravure, 216 x 170 mm

Alvin Langdon Coburn, The Bridge Over Regent’s Canal at Camden Lock, 1900-1909, photogravure, 216 x 170 mm

As the exhibition has been open for a few months, what has been the response and public engagement?

Extraordinary, social media has been so enthusiastic. The exhibition has established the rewards of hanging paintings and photographs in conversation and seeing each through the eyes of the other, more than best frenemies.

Painting with Light: Art and Photography from the Pre-Raphaelites to the Modern Age is curated by Dr Carol Jacobi, Curator of British Art 1850-1915 at Tate Britain, and Dr Hope Kingsley, Curator, Education and Collections, Wilson Centre for Photography, with Tim Batchelor, Assistant Curator at Tate Britain. The exhibition is accompanied by a concise book, Painting with Light: Art and Photography from the Pre-Raphaelites to the Modern Age.


Photo Romania Festival 2016


There is a buzz and a joviality in the air at the 6th edition of Photo Romania Festival. I arrive at Sapientia University half way through the five day programme, warmly welcomed by festival organiser Sebastian Vaida and ready for a day of talks and discussions. I watch as friends and colleagues fill the building, their welcoming embraces and friendly chatter reminiscent of a family reunion, and one by one I am introduced to this amiable bunch. For many this is a fixed event on their social calendar. The desire to support each other and extend the reach of photography is uniformly shared, with many attendees part of PHEN (The Photo European Network) and hailing from all over the EU. The infectious passion and comradery is one of the defining characteristics of the festival, helping bring everything together with a sense of purpose.

Despite a pleasingly casual vibe (we’re on “Romanian Time” I’m told – meaning everything starts 15 minutes later than advertised) the festival comprises a packed schedule of events that take place across the beautiful, laid-back city of Cluj-Napoca. Among a number of guests Colin Ford is in attendance to give a talk on Hungarian Photography, as well as Keith Moss who is here to deliver a street photography workshop. Numerous in-depth presentations are lined up, detailing a compelling array of artistic projects, and practical sessions have been organised covering specialist topics such as wedding, fashion, landscape, and concert photography.

Sebastian calmly shepherds his guests and speakers into the auditorium as a day of talks begins. The variety of work presented is aesthetically experimental and intellectually incisive, often approaching difficult subjects in considered, thoughtful ways. Particularly fascinating is Gema Polanco Asensi’s discussion of her work Como Dios Manda (“As is Proper”) and her photographic investigation into how women are controlled for the benefit of male hegemony, through what Michel Foucault termed bio-power (the subjugation of bodies by modern nation states through a range of diverse practices).  While bio-power is evident in a number of contexts, Asensi’s focus is “upper middle-class Spanish women”, using her own family as a case study and combining archive photos with her own work.

Como Dios Manda (As is Proper) 2016 © Gema Asensi

While she iterates that this method of female subjugation is seen the world over, it is noteworthy that her mother and grandparents grew up in the shadow of Franco’s Spain, where women were expected to submit to the traditional values of motherhood and family or risk being ostracised by their communities. Subsequently, internalising the values of this ruling power they pass on these ideals of femininity and subservience to their female offspring, confirming the effectiveness of a ‘silent’ kind of government where woman’s role as nurturer is just “common sense”.

Her pictures have a critical, sociological objectivity; many of them are cropped or blurred to obscure individual faces, drawing attention to their behaviours instead. These are often subtle gestures such as holding, touching or petting, acts codified as care but implying a form of physical and psychological control. The archive photos of her mother and grandmother are juxtaposed with Asensi’s recent work in which she becomes part of this recycling of hegemonic values. Through the comparison of old and new we see the same gestures recur, with the often de-personalised bodies playing the same roles: wife, carer and mother. One particular image, a mother’s hand on a young woman’s head as she brushes her hair, hints at the veiled nature of control. The subject of the picture is subdued, groomed; being moulded perhaps into an object of attraction for a future suitor.

Johan Österholm’s series Peculiar Notions at Dusk conflated the cosmic and the ordinary with an Isaac Newton inspired investigation into the fall of that fateful apple. Covering the cross sections of fruit in a photo-sensitive emulsion he then exposes it to starlight to create “a cosmos within the apple”, resulting in some stunning images. Taking a more socio-political turn, Juraj Starovecký’s The Curtain explores our ongoing enforcement of arbitrary and unnatural barriers. Reanimating the “Iron Curtain” era for a generation born after the Cold War, he illustrates the extreme obstacles encountered by those either wanting to enter or leave Soviet-Russia between 1945 and 1991. In a more personal, nostalgic vein he also investigates childhood and memory; in Familiar Story cutting out the faces of his family photos to disrupt one of the central purposes of photography – to document and record our lives – while allowing other people to project themselves into similar situations from their past.

Jonas Forchini Mangrovines

Mangrovines, 2016 © Jonas Forchini

I’m taken by the suggestive nature of Jonas Forchini’s Mangrovines (currently exhibiting at PhotoEspaña along with Asensi’s Como Dios Manda). Illuminating the difficult situation of many Senegalese, who in the past have made a living from artisanal fishing in their home country, he describes how their livelihood has been threatened by the over-exploitation of their waters by European fishing boats. The stark minimalism of a number of his images (ropes transcending black space or a blanket looped through a single rope as though through a noose) evokes the tenuous existence of these men. “The sea becomes asphalt” when they are forced to emigrate, here to the urban milieu of Madrid, where they make a living through the illegal activity of street-selling.

Forchini is sympathetic to their dilemma and interested in how they adapt to their new environment. He draws out the parallels between their old native trade and their new prohibited one. The fishing net which contained their catch before becomes the blanket with their cache of illegally sold goods. The rope conflates the fear of being caught by the police with that of the fishing line. As well as this, the symbolism of the stretched rope, continuing beyond the frame and often knotted, suggests to me the interconnected global web we are all a part of; our actions always having consequences, on communities or the environment, whether we are aware of them or not.

Breaking for lunch, we coalesce in the courtyard just outside the university, amiably chatting as we spoon plates of food into our mouths. Sitting with the very personable Henriette, a representative from Nordic Light Festival and a member of PHEN, we express an impatience to explore this beguiling city. As soon as we are told there are numerous exhibits in the Casino building in Central Park, not more than fifteen minutes away, Henriette’s blue eyes disappear behind dark shades and we are off into the sunny streets, heading towards the warm heart of the city.

The park is awash with activity. Medieval street theatre greats us, though my Romanian doesn’t stretch much further than “Excuse me” and “Can you speak English?”, so to me it is just men with plastic shields mouthing off on horseback. There is also a stunning lake in the park on which kids peddle huge car-shaped boats (best idea ever!). We are stoic though and, refusing to be distracted for long, enter the Casino building.

Casino building, Central Park

The majority of the spare, rather empty hall is given over to the works of the renowned Romanian photographer and journalist Iosif Berman, whose black and white pictures adorn the orange walls. Living from 1892 to 1941, he was a socially committed photographer fascinated by rural Romanian life and its customs. His expressive images attest to this. He shows the material lack of these areas, as well as the simple joys of the inhabitants and their warm and generous spirit. On icy landscapes men are pictured labouring, axes caught mid-swing. Children sit covered head to toe in the snow, their mouths open in joyful cries, while in a cemetery a large group kneels by the graveside as though performing a ritual. Given the absence of captions, one infers that this work was produced as part of his partnership with the sociologist Dimitrie Gusti, part of their contribution to the then emerging genre of ethnological photography.

In the same building Cătălin Munteanu’s After 25 Years: The Closed Gates of the Industry in Ploiești (2014) explores the steady decline of the aforementioned city, just north of Bucharest. Once a place of great civic pride for its industrial might – it was home to the world’s first oil refinery – the fall of communism in 1989 arguably led to its collapse, resulting in the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs, along with the closing of vocational facilities that provided training for employees. As capitalism took over, a once self-sustaining economy began to rely on imported goods, and its landscape became littered with abandoned buildings and shopping malls.

The images displayed present a lost world through the bleached bodies of disused factory buildings.  A power station sits idle behind rusting green gates and crumbling walls. Only a station attendant stands in front of Ploiești West’s neglected and peeling facade. Nature is seen reasserting her supremacy where time has been called on human endeavour, creeping over walls and burying railway track. Apart from a few resigned individuals, the photos are desolate and uninhabited, full only of broken glass and corroded metal. “This”, Munteanu says, “is the progress of 25 years of wrongly understanding capitalism and democracy.”

Cătălin Munteanu After 25 Years (2014)

After 25 Years, 2014 © Cătălin Munteanu

On the way back to the university I indulge in a delicious sweet-cheese pastry from a local bakery, and when I return, tanned and full of sugar, I’m somewhat sleepier than before. A talk on the use of fairy-tale elements in fashion photography presents some imaginatively designed shots, and surreal scenes of fair-maidens parade before my drooping eyelids.  I can’t be sure I’m not dozing when the phrase “You used the unicorn…I didn’t do that” reaches my ears. As evening slowly descends and the day’s events draw to a close I head back out into the warm air, passing by Avram Iancu Square with its cathedral and towering statue before leisurely walking to Samsara, where the Photo Romania crew in celebratory mood eat and drink late into the evening.

The next day I head for Casa Romania: the headquarters of the festival’s operations and informal chill out zone. Ascending the hill in the 24 degree heat I pass some fantastically dilapidated houses, held back behind tall iron gates like something from a horror movie (we are in Transylvania after all!), before finally spotting the exultant words “PHOTO ROMANIA” along a fence. Here a large number of the photographers’ works are displayed, as well as being the place where PHEN are holding their day-long discussion. Irina, providing support and coordination for the festivals day-to-day activities, sits cheerful and diligent behind a laptop at a table strewn with flyers, and I potter about taking in the weird and wonderful décor and a lot of fine photography.

Arresting monochrome pictures from Javier Corso’s Fish Shot are stretched out across two rooms, part of a documentary project investigating the interwoven issues of loneliness, isolation and alcoholism in Finnish society. There is a stark beauty in the sprawling shots of barren landscapes, the emptiness evoking a sense of unease. Geographical isolation is shown to be part of the problem, while social atomisation is evident in the fact the majority of these photos show men journeying alone.  This is potentially the flip-side of Finland’s successful welfare state and its plentiful housing, reducing the necessity for co-habitation and additional networks of support.

Javier Corso Fish Shot

Fishshot, 2015 © Javier Corso

The spectre of oppressive emotion is implicit in a number of images, and the motif of the axe recurs, symbolic in Finnish culture for “the violence”. In one shot it is expressionistically lit, like a still from The Shining. In another a man sits in a sauna, one hand with a beer and the other to his downcast face, the feint reflection of a woman behind him, suggesting a narrative of gender-based violence and male shame (heavy drinking is present in more than 50% of suicides and homicides in Finland). Powerfully expressing the cyclical nature of the problem is a photo of a man submerged in water, only his hand visible as it breaks the surface; showing both the suffocating emotion and subsequent immersion in alcohol to cope with it. “The pictures try to evoke a daily situation for many people in Finland”, Corso explains. “The social pressure to drink, trying to forget the loneliness.”

Well-known for his iconic images of festival revellers and swaggering rock bands such as AC/DC and Guns ‘N Roses, Miluță Flueraș presented a slightly more subdued collection of images with Taking my Time to Pay an Homage. A tribute to “the living moments before the disaster” that occurred at Colectiv nightclub in Bucharest on October 30th 2015, the series memorialises those killed in the deadly blaze. A big supporter of the band Goodbye to Gravity, Flueraș was there to cover their free concert when the venues’ polyurethane ceiling caught fire, a result of the bands pyrotechnics. 64 people were killed, including band members Mihai Alexandru, Bogdan Enache, Vlad Țelea and Alex Pascu.

Taking My Time To Pay An Homage, 2015 © Miluță Flueraș

Given the knowledge we have of the subsequent events, it is difficult not to read these pictures in a foreboding and melancholy way (especially one of the lead singer flanked by lit sparklers and a flame-illustrated band banner). Flueraș’s intention though is not to present a sombre view of what occurred but the opposite: to commemorate “a great band [who were] very underrated” and to convey the joy and excitement at the venue, with shots of the crowd “bursting with happiness.”

He has a keen eye for drawing out the empathic connection between an audience and performing artists. A monochrome shot of the crowd taken from across the stage captures the band’s guitarist looking out into the sea of people, mostly obscured in shadow except one boy’s face, metaphorically and literally lit up, smiling beatifically. Other shots, streaming with bright lights and colour, show the bands immersion in the music as they jump up and down, storming the stage with eyes full of passion. Watching them perform their rousing song “The Day we Die” on YouTube, I’m reminded that rock music is all about defiance and rebellion, and a rallying cry against the most pedantic jobsworth of them all, death.

Taking a break, a few of us sit in the sun eating lunch and sipping coffee, including the laid-back and engaging Simone from Newcastle Photography Festival, something of Photo Romania groupie and Cluj fanatic. A few people bid adieu, Gema and Jonas among them as they return to Spain for the next instalment of their photographic saga at PhotoEspaña. I return indoors, intending to peruse halls lined with the work of native Romanian photographers, but it is hard to be industrious when everyone is so outgoing. This is just one of the things that makes the festival such a joy: a genuine sociability that extends beyond mere networking.

I head off downtown, determined to visit at least one more exhibition before my time here comes to an end. It requires all my navigational and Romanian language skills to locate the café where the group show Layers is being held. Naturally, lacking said skills, I yo-yo up and down Strada Universităţii numerous times. I am also distracted by the huge crowd that has amassed in Unirii Square, and briefly join them in being captivated by an operatic onstage performance. Finally, and with lots of help, I find the elusive Insomnia Café. All that is now required for me to do is convince the manager that she does indeed have an exhibition there to show me.

Eventually I’m taken to a very sparse, functional room (i.e. it has walls). But though the space is underwhelming, the photography is thoughtful and eye-catching. Most of the images are not much bigger than postcards, the majority shot in black and white and presenting what I assume to be the anonymous, underdeveloped side of Cluj. From my brief time here, the city certainly seems to have a dilapidated charm equivalent to Berlin; impressive architectural and grand historic monuments vying with a plethora of stoic but cracked facades.

Layers show, group exhibition

Layers show, group exhibition

As the show’s slightly cryptic mission statement attests, it is an exercise in “beautifying a city in which oldness, poverty and poor environmental taste is pretentiously displayed, like inadequate makeup.” The images are visually compelling and abstract, the majority aestheticizing architectural ugliness, shifting our perspective away from the social to the purely visual (the shots also suggests a clandestine gaze occupying these neglected urban ruins). The empty shells of buildings are shot with a pleasing symmetry and depth; stairwells crisscross and shadows contribute their own geometry, creating multi-layered images. Unusual vantage points are presented, with photographs opening up into Escher-like dimensions. We are encouraged to see differently by focusing on the combination of shapes, patterns and complimentary angles, rather than the neglected and decaying structures that form the ostensible subject of the frame.

It is with a touch of reluctance and a smile on my face that I leave Photo Romania Festival and the easy-going vibes of Cluj-Napoca. The people and my experiences there have been a real pleasure, and while also promoting Romanian photography the festival showed itself to be a truly cooperative, international affair. Before I head back to the UK though the remainder of us dine together at Casa Tiff. Radu, aware that I am a stranger to the enticements of Palincă (a highly alcoholic Hungarian fruit brandy), kindly places a shot of the spirit in front of me. I knock it back without question and it’s like a small atomic bomb going off in my oesophagus. I’m somewhat disconcerted by the anxious faces looking back at me, but against expectations I stand up and walk in a straight line out of the restaurant, retaining consciousness all the way back to the hotel.

– Daniel Pateman

Special thanks to Sebastian Vaida for his hospitality and for making my attendance possible.

65913_926032882744_691854252_n (1)Daniel studied Humanities and Media at Birkbeck University and continues to indulge his abiding interest in the arts. He has enjoyed writing since a young age and currently produces articles for a number of online publications.  He keeps a blog called The End of Fiction, consisting of his poetry, prose and other creative work, and is currently looking to forge a new career in the creative industries.


REVIEW: Diana Matar @ Purdy Hicks Gallery


In a quest for historic truth, Diana Matar has been documenting Libya and Egypt’s urban landscape. Her recent solo show at Purdy Hicks Gallery, Evidence, Disappearance, Witness and Still Far Away, follows the invisible figure of a disappeared man, whose mysterious fate is emblematic of Libya’s dark past.

In 1990, the artist’s father-in-law Jaballah, a Libyan political dissident, was kidnapped by the Egyptian secret service while in exile in Cairo. Matar journeyed to Libya and Egypt looking for traces. In the resulting work, his shadow appears throughout; we may never see his face, but his presence is palpable and bears the heavy burden of secrecy.

How can we photograph that which cannot be seen? The one who cannot be found? As the disappeared man’s life is brought to life in these images, so too is the country’s political and social story. Images of ghostly streets, Brassaï-like inscriptions on the city walls, leave us thirsty for clues. Here, the camera is both an instrument of investigation and a therapeutic aid; and the photographic medium’s presupposed veracity and capacity to render the truth, its most challenging quality. If it was instinct that guided the making of this work–so dependent on the artist’s family’s situation at the time–it includes an important reflection on the medium’s very nature: within a factual document, reality can only resonate. 

Tracing the ephemeral footsteps of anonymous victims, Matar records deserted buildings and streets where opponents of the Libyan regime were sequestrated. Sites that are now the silent and singular witnesses of voiceless events. The disturbing beauty of such documentation carries the very anxiety that it sprung from: the fear of seeing our forebodings confirmed. While the images are a constant reminder of what has presumably–or certainly–happened, we are not shown anything morbid; the accompanying texts provide these details. Through her sombre, quiet imagery, the artist collates evidence of the past and tells the moving tale of disappearance and political manipulation–the painful and constant wait, the inconsolable minds that know nothing.

The surreal night shots and quiet tableaux of the city allow for a variation of interpretation, a possible rebirth for the country and its damaged inhabitants. It is simply, perhaps, the embodiment of the impenetrable quality of passing of time and its eternal elements, unaffected by the horrors of history.

In her book Evidence Matar tells us about the fear that she and ‘H’ (Matar’s husband, Libyan writer Hisham Matar) lived in. Placed under surveillance by the regime, they received threats for their open criticism of the dictatorship. Today, they cannot return to Libya. The significance of her photographs has exposed dangerous views.

Jaballa is still missing. We know nothing.

-Céline Bodin


Diana Matar @ Purdy Hicks Gallery. Showing until 6 June 2016.

Image captions:

Diana Matar, Disappearance series, 2008.

Diana Matar, Evidence series, 2012

Diana Matar, Still Far Away series, 2012

Diana Matar, Witness series, 2012

BODIN_CV Céline Bodin is a French photographer. She graduated from a photography BA at Gobelins, L’école de l’image in Paris, and in 2013 she moved to London to complete a Photography MA at the London College of Communication. As well as regularly writing about photography, Céline works closely with London universities and galleries. Her photography practice revolves around the themes of identity and gender in the frame of Western culture, as well as landscape photography and the philosophy of the Sublime.

Review for Robbie Phoenix

Robbie Phoenix was hired as a sales and marketing professional on People Per Hour for a one day job to create a sponsorship plan for the London Photography Diary. Through this website, he did a decent job, completed the job in a reasonable amount of time, and seemed to put thought and effort into the work. So, I hired him for another job, another full day of work, this time to sell advertising on the sites. Instead of conducting this job through People Per Hour, Robbie asked  if we could do the job outside of the site, so that he wouldn’t incur the fee that People Per Hour charges. He asked me to pay him upfront, via paypal.  Normally I would not pay for a job before it was completed, nor would I hire someone outside of People Per Hour, because there is no recourse for the buyer. Part of the reason people do good work  through PPH is because the buyer posts a review of their work. Just like with Airbnb, etc. a bad review can affect future work. Though I hesitated to hire Robbie again under these conditions, he did seem trustworthy so I agreed. It seems that Robbie thought that because he was paid in advance and there was no review, that he could do a poor job (or no job at all) and have no repercussions. He, however, is wrong, as this review will prove. The quality of the jobs, from paid at the end plus a review vs. prepaid with no review, has been like night and day. With payment in hand, Robbie simply did not care about the second job he did.


What transpired after paying Robbie for this day of work is that he took 1.5 months to complete 7 hours of work, he failed to prove that the work was actually done, and rather tellingly, didn’t sell one single ad on the site.  I was as patient as one can be and ended up having to chase Robbie over, and over, and over again, to find out why he hadn’t started the job. His response was that he had work that was better paid that he had to concentrate on first. After chasing him for nearly a month he finally said he would start the work but that he was charging me 1.5 hours for all the time that he spent going back and forth on email.. I was being charged, for chasing him to start the job that he was so late on starting..?!


Part of the job was for Robbie to figure out how much we should sell advertising for. He touted himself as an expert and he should have been able to come up with this number. But he was unable to, after repeatedly asking him to come up with a number, based on his experience and knowledge in advertising… I mentioned there are different possible rates we could charge, like 60 pounds a month, and suggested a few more, but just as arbitrary numbers.. I am not the expert and this is why I hired him. He said that we should go with 60 pounds a month. Simply because I threw that number out there, he gave no reason as to why this is so.  There was no rhyme or reason to this choice, he simply didn’t care about making an educated decision, but rather just get the job over with. At this point he said he wouldn’t be available for future work on our site (not that I offered it) because it wasn’t paid well enough. He wanted an expert’s fee but he was not able to provide an expert’s level of service.


I also asked Robbie to show proof that he had made these sales calls and emails. Via skype records, emails. He never showed any of this. In the end, he didn’t sell one single ad on the site, and given that he refused to show proof that the work had been completed, I can only believe that he never did the work.

In addition to his poor work ethic, Robbie had quite an attitude on this 2nd job. The first job he was polite and prompt..this second one he couldn’t be bothered and actually said that working on this job was ‘an ordeal’. An ordeal to be paid a very good day rate, and paid before the job had even begun. It should be noted that I paid him a very good day rate of 120 GBP for one day.

This turned out to be one of the most disappointing experiences I have had with someone that I hired. I feel like I can’t trust anyone now and will absolutely conduct work through People Per Hour, so that I have some recourse from duplicitous contractors.

New York Diary


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