Director and photographer Bertil Nilsson talks to Miriam Otterbeck

Images courtesy of Bertil Nilsson

After premiering his latest short film ‘Bromance’ on NOWNESS, a video channel showcasing contemporary culture through film, Miriam Otterbeck meets the Swedish artist Bertil Nilsson to discuss modern male relationships and how he employs varied mediums to explore movement and the human form.

M.O.: Always connected, the young male acrobats in Bromance seem to be very close to each other. Is the film analysing the line between their romance and friendship?

B.N.: No, the film is not about defining ‘bromance’. I am trying to show, through physical movement, the depth and complexity of modern relationships between men.

Guys don’t normally express friendship by holding hands. However, there’s an interesting parallel in hand-to-hand acrobatics, where holding hands is an essential part of the movement and also embodies the very act of trusting and relying on one another.

M.O.: Many know you as photographer, but this latest project Bromance is a short film. How did you get into filmmaking?

B.N.: Originally, when I came to London in 2004, I wanted to work in film production. Then, almost by chance, I ended up getting more involved in photography through photographing circus performers. I have always been interested in filmmaking and working with physical movement.

I started experimenting with moving images making small experimental films and now I have gotten to a point where I feel ready to explore more traditional methods of filmmaking, exploring how dance and circus can be used and understood in that context.

M.O.: How do your films relate to your photography? Are there any intersections?

B.N.: Of course there’s the visual aspect of exploring the moving body that connects them. But film as a medium is more directly oriented around narrative.

I think it’s really fascinating to explore how the themes of my work can be used or explored in the context of film in contrast with the more conceptual nature of my photography. Specifically for me, I think there’s a really fascinating tension in stills when you capture movement, how you represent or present the energy of feeling of movement in a single image. In moving images, it’s straightforward to capture and represent a moving body.

M.O.: Do certain projects work better as stills and others better as moving images?

B.N.: The themes and subjects are similar across my work, but I don’t find myself wondering whether a certain idea would work better in a particular medium because I think the medium is already an important part of how I think about the original idea.

With stills I tend to work in long or medium term project, a single image or session, is part of a longer and larger body of work that evolves slowly over time. With the short films I’m currently making, there’s a more intense process of production resulting in a single piece of work.

M.O.: Some of your work has been made using laser projections or has been printed on mirrors. How do you try to integrate new technologies into your projects?

Having a background in technology, I’m very keen to explore more ideas around using technology. I’m always interested in experimenting and trying new things and today I think many artists are using technology in incredibly interesting ways.

Bromance premiered exclusively on NOWNESS as part of the Modern Love: Romance in the 12st Century series and is now available to watch on Bertil Nilsson’s website.

You can find more of his photography and films here –



mo_lpdMiriam Otterbeck is the Deputy Editor of LPD.


Eva Stenram @ Siobhan Davies Studios reviewed by Helena Haimes

Images courtesy of Eva Stenram

To take in all of Swedish artist Eva Stenram’s works installed at Siobhan Davies Dance Studios, you have to take a pretty comprehensive tour of the seminal dance company’s extraordinary building. Its design fuses original elements of the original Victorian school — with its chipped tiles and bare brick — with the recently added elements of polished concrete, glass walls and taut cables.

The architecture is so immediately attention-grabbing that any practitioner who attempted to outshine it would fall horribly flat. Luckily, Stenram’s pieces — which are hung in corridors, balcony areas and even, yes, a disabled toilet compliment their surroundings without trying to compete with them. Acting as playful, absurd, and occasionally sinister commentaries on movement and the human form, they rise to the challenge of engaging with a potentially difficult, unconventional set-up.

This is the first time that Parts (2013 – ongoing) has been shown in the UK, and the exhibition showcases six pieces from the series. The artist has taken photographs of pin-up models from the 1960s, digitally erased everything but their legs, and printed the results onto fibre-based paper.

Stockinged and stilletoed, the single limbs are left leaning on a modernist sofa; loitering awkwardly on an enormous bed; or lying on a shag pile carpet in a Hitchcockian, wood-panelled room.

These images have more than an echo of the surrealist photographer Hans Bellmer, though they are marginally more humorous and certainly less perverse. Any eroticism that the originals 60s pin-ups may have contained is entirely diffused by the silly helplessness of a lone, racy leg still trying and failing to be seductive.

In Sternam’s world, a body part out of context becomes highly charged or just plain comical. In Arrangement (after Irving Klaw) (2015), installed outside one of the first floor rehearsal studios, three photographs are reframed by a passe-partout. You have to really peer in – peeping tom style – to see a flexed hand, beautifully-turned shin, or another one of those silly legs, this time clad in a clunky court shoe.

It feels like the artist is exposing the deep un-sexiness that can result from trying too hard to be sexy. In this way he highlights the fine line between looking sexually appealing and just, well, a bit pathetic.

Hold (2015) takes us on a destabilising tour of a single image using a series of slides shown on an archaic projector. In slow-mo, the work deliberately maps the process of looking at a pin-up photograph and so can be read as a meditation on the voyeuristic nature of looking. Score for A Sequence of Poses (2015) – a series of smaller photographs featuring more isolated, female limbs – makes a much heavier reference to choreographed movement. Described as ‘photographic scores’, they border on the filmic and the choice of an office-style, grey pinboard lends them a sense of a work in progress.

The pieces that operate most successfully here (works like the Parts series) utilise contemporary technologies to ask questions of historical material – just like the building that contains them.

Images courtesy of Siobhan Davis Dance.

Hel2015-02-03 17.55.32ena Haimes is a freelance arts and culture writer based in London. She studied at Goldsmiths College and the University of the West of England, and contributes to a range of publications as well as writing a visual arts blog.


Suffragettes: Deeds not Words @ NPG reviewed by Kiritia Barker

Images courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery

If we believe the old adage ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity’ then feminism has been receiving some great publicity this past few weeks. There was The Sun’s carefully choreographed media stunt which saw the withdrawal and swift reinstatement of ‘Page Three Girls’. Then, following their wins at the Australian Open, tennis players Eugenie Bouchard and Venus Williams were asked to show off their outfits by twirling. Tory peer Karen Brady went on record to say that the word ‘feminist’ is ‘too radical and negative’ for young women to identify with. And finally, The Church of England consecrated its first female bishop, Reverend Libby Lane.

The roots of the British feminist movement are explored in The National Portrait Gallery’s recent display Suffragettes: Deeds not Words. The term ‘suffragette’ was first coined by The Daily Mail to describe a more radical element of the women’s suffrage movement. Suffragettes embraced demonstrations to catalyse social reform often chaining themselves to railings, damaging public buildings and committing arson.

The display features 13 mounted photographs and printed material. Amongst the most striking works in the display is a photograph of a portrait by John Sargent which was slashed by a suffragette. The act of vandalism resulted in many UK museums imposing restrictions on admittance to their galleries. For example, The British Museum enforced a policy of only admitting women if they were accompanied by a man who was willing to take responsibility for the woman’s actions. David Lindsay, 27th Earl of Crawford, 10th Earl of Balcarress Conservative MP and long serving trustee of the NPG was compelled to write to the director of the gallery. His letter is part of the display and makes for an interesting read.

Internal police documents and surveillance photographs are also featured in the display. Presented in a grid-like formation, the photographs call to mind what one would imagine was the authority’s fantasy line-up of suffragettes. The photograph of actress Kitty Marion stands apart from the others due to the fact it is in fact her acting headshot.

Opponents to the movement argued that the radical actions of the Suffragettes proved them to be unsound decision makers, and therefore inappropriate to vote. In other documents on display, the actions of the Suffragettes are described in emotive language with passages referring to ‘aggressive tactics’, ‘serious vandalism’ and ‘shocking damage’.

The display paints a picture of a time when civil disobedience was an effective device to bring the core issues of the time into the public domain. What the suffragettes would think of how feminist issues make the public domain today, who knows, but as David Lindsay commented on the attack of the NPG portrait it ‘shows how much we really are at the mercy of women who are determined…’


KirKiritiaitia is a visual storyteller at heart and a marketing consultant by trade. She holds a BA from the University of Tasmania and studied Marketing, Advertising & PR at Queens University Belfast.
Check out her Facebook and Twitter


Curator of Photo50 Sheyi Bankale sits down with Hemera @ London Art Fair 2015

Hemera Collective meets Sheyi Bankale, curator of Photo50 at London Art Fair 2015 to talk about the exhibition ‘Against Nature’, his editorial and curatorial practice, and the current place of photography within contemporary art.

Kay Watson:
 Could you introduce us to the concept of the exhibition and why you chose it?

Sheyi Bankale: The exhibition Against Nature is a concept that I took from the book by Joris-Karl Huysmans of the same title. The relationship between objects and desire are themes which run throughout the book and I wanted to explore how they might be transcribed into an exhibition format. The book was published in the 1800s, around the same time as the invention of photography. It made a decisive break from traditional forms – away from realism and towards symbolism. So in a sense you had this literary world and this photographic world simultaneously breaking new boundaries. I found this parallel extremely interesting. It was equally an extremely prolific time in photography – there were so many different physical forms and processes within the medium. These concerns run throughout the show. Specifically, I wanted to consider photography as an object and try to identify how we view photography today, especially considering the massive shifts the medium has experienced.
The shift from the early 19th century to the 20th century saw the birth of the first 35mm camera, the 1960s saw the advent of colour photography, and one of the latest shift is, of course, the digital age. This digital shift is something that I wanted to address because we often look at images in a digital rather than physical form.


Nikolai Ishchuk, Leak X and Leak IX, 2014.

Jaime Marie Davis: So, how do we now view images and how can we change that through the exhibition?
What I thought it was really interesting to consider the digital plane and how photography is currently used within the medium. Many of the artists on show have adopted anachronistic approaches such as the photogram. They have tried to understand how different methods, processes and applications have shifted away from digital aspects. One example is Nikolai Ishchuk whose work is devoid of any functionality. He looks at the processes and material itself using some of the metals within aspects of photography to form solid sculptural objects.

J.M.D: As the largest photography exhibition ever staged in Finland Alice In Wonderland was one of the noteworthy projects of your curatorial career. The exhibition has some thematic links to Against Nature if we consider the notion of ‘constructing worlds’ or the relationship between the ‘real and unreal.’ Is this a continued line of inquiry in your curatorial practice?

S.B: My practice looks at metaphysical objects and ideologies within this world and considers how one might transcend an object and transcend the meaning of that object. So, you could say Against Nature is a sequel, in a sense, to Alice In Wonderland. But I look at photography as contemporary art and photography as a material-based medium that can shift and change and can have parallel existences. It can exist as a 2D print form but it can also exist as a material base in itself.

Alice and Wonderland was interesting because we were looking at artists globally who were trying to create a different vision of their work, as opposed to just the representation of a photograph. They were playing with surfaces and rendering ideas to create physical objects that were photographically based. Julio Galeote’s work is heavily indebted to a sense of ‘wonderland’. He looks at objects with a very different perspective, a dream state where an object is stripped of all its meaning and then re-represented, and documented as a photograph. Therefore, the photograph becomes the meaning of that new object. When you approach his work it looks like a regular photographic body of work, but when you start to understand his methodologies and ideologies, then all those different layers start to reveal themselves as an object versus a photograph.


Julio Galeote, Excess n.1, 2012.


J.M.D: One thing that interests me is the way you work between editorial and curatorial roles, which have similar methodologies for constructing narratives. But they also deal with images differently as they move from static and viral to physical. How has your editorial role influenced your curatorial decisions, specifically in relation to the audience’s relationship to images as a physical encounter?

S.B: I think there is a parallel relationship between editorial practice and curatorial practice. They both work hand in hand and I don’t think one takes precedence. In a sense, the editorial is still a curatorial role within my practice – it’s working with words and images. I use the actual plane of the paper as a white cube and I have a very close relationship with the printer that I use because, for me, the publication is equally an exhibition space.

I find that the way editorial and curatorial differ, is in how the audience navigates through the space and digests the work. It’s a different feeling than the publication, which is a reception to the work versus an exhibition where it is transmitted. In the publication there is a mental digestion and, depending on who the audience is, they can extend that.

K.W: Thinking about the context of Photo50 within the London Art Fair – and Next Level, which looks at photography within the context of contemporary art – what do you consider to be the current position of the photographic image within contemporary art?

S.B: Photography is multifaceted. There are so many ways of thinking about it. Within the arts, there is a body of practitioners who conduct their practice as photographers. I think that is the issue as their practice can shift into different realms of photography such as editorial or commissioned work and there are so many different practices that take place within the medium of photography.

The question of whether photography fits within contemporary art is a divisive one. However I see photography as an art form. For me, it’s a medium that has a great fluidity within contemporary art. Especially now when we consider its form in the digital age, take for example the 3D representations of Jonny Briggs’. The beautiful aspect about photography is that it is always evolving; there is always a new application or process that is being applied to shape how we perceive photography today.


Jonny Briggs, Super Natural.

K.W: I also find this continually changing status of the photograph interesting, where a photograph used for one purpose, is then picked up to be used for multiple purposes between media. For example a post card is a photograph of a ‘view’, but is also something that is shared freely amongst people.

S.B: What’s really interesting, and who picks up on this is Darren Harvey Reagan. He looks at the subject or object that exists in the world, which is identified, then the photographic representation of that object and how that’s transmitted and, like you said, whether it’s tactile and exists for one viewer or shared amongst an audience, and finally photograph object itself or materiality of the photograph and its layers where the artists applies paints or different materials. )

J.M.D: Thinking about the literal meaning of the exhibition title, Against Nature brings to mind what I would say is a growing concern with what artists and other curators such as TJ Demos have claimed holds ‘essentialist thinking as much as gesturing towards a fantasy world apart from human activity’ and that we have entered a post-natural condition. Is this consideration of a ‘post natural’ condition also a double meaning or underlying concern given the included works by Julio Galeote such as his ‘Excess’ series?

S.B: Julio Galeote has a double entendre feel to his works and he definately touches deals with these issues. It’s also something that the book by JK Huysman alludes to, because one of the central characters isolates himself from human contact and creates a fantasy world within the home. The whole idea is that he is looking at how to shift meanings of objects and subjects within their plane. That is a challenge for a lot of artists and curators: to look at the fundamentals of nature, to return to areas outside of human existence and to have conversations along those lines. It’s a very small part of the exhibition but Julio’s work epitomises that. He hits on an important issue, one which, as you say, is of increasing importance in visual art discourses.

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Embracing Subjectivity in Jo Metson Scott’s The Grey Line by Sunil Shah

Images courtesy of Jo Metson Scott

Two years ago, Allan Sekula proposed that all ‘new documentary’ had a tendency towards ‘subjectivism’ and ‘authorial self-revelation’1. Jo Metson Scott’s five year The Grey Line is a good example of what Sekula meant by this seemingly contradictory statement. Contradictory, because documentary photography (or film for that matter), has typically been aligned with a detachment of the photographer from an area of study; the myth of objectivity and the delusion that one’s presence as witness does not influence the photographic results.

Sekula’s criticism of documentary photography is not new to the world of contemporary photography. Documentary photography is now readily accepted as art. Jo Metson Scott’s socio-politically motivated project is very much positioned within an art context. Her inquiry into armed forces personnel who have gone AWOL is explored subjectively with a distinctly personalised perspective. Metson Scott both recognises and subverts journalistic convention and codes of the ‘journalistic turn’ to create an yet very personal project.

The ‘journalistic turn’ can be defined as an approach which exposes research and constructs the work using text/image formats. Taryn Simon’s A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters and Jim Goldberg’s Open See are recent examples. These works are rooted in a desire to understand as opposed to simply capture the subject. They seek to expose complex narratives despite the medium’s inherent reductive characteristics.

Clearly visible in both works, are captions and short textual extracts which contextualise the material in a manner similar to the way magazine and newspaper articles append photographs to text. As daily consumers of media our eyes are well adjusted such juxtapositions of text and image. The authority and ethics that come from news media sources conform to our expectations of how the ‘truth’ is told. Yet Metson Scott precludes this by exposing her sketchbooks, which through their honesty and direct relationship to her research add an extra layer of authenticity to the work.

We don’t appear to be looking at highly mediated, edited or polished work; instead, we are taken through Metson Scott’s own diaristic entries and processes. An example of how self-reflexivity might add authenticity to documentary practice.

Does empathy drive documentary photography or indeed our desire to look at Metson Scott’s work? Perhaps it does so through this humanitarian connection with the unfortunate experiences of those who have been overlooked by society and ostracised unfairly. This work shows how war photography has shifted its direction towards home, where survival for these ex-soldiers takes on a different form. This work brings the effects of war to our doorsteps.

Metson Scott’s subjectivity is projected onto us. It shines a light on the subject without victimisation and sensationalist mediation. Documentary in this way – by embracing subjectivity – renews its validity in the face of its own potential collapse through changing attitudes to authority and systems of power.

We can’t be sure of what it feels like to be one of these former soldiers who chose not to participate; photographs alone can’t possibly do that. But we can be sure of Metson Scott’s work, through sensitive and careful study, allows us into her subjective. In the end, we want to know and feel for the people she has given a voice to.

1.Sekula, Allan, ‘Eleven Premises on Documentary and a Question in Mutations, Perspectives on Photography, Paris Photo/Steidl, 2011, p. 265.

photo (8)Sunil Shah is an artist and curator based in Oxford, UK. He is interested in the politics of photographic representation and conceptual post-documentary practices with relation to history, memory and identity. He has undertaken several curatorial projects including Making Home at the Royal Geographic Society, London for the HLF funded Exiles Project and acted as co-curator for Brighton Photo Fringe Open ’13. He holds degrees from Coventry University and the University of Westminster.


Masses of Labourers: A View on Edward Burtynsky by Fangfei Chen

Images courtesy of Edward Burtynsky

I always wondered why international photographers are drawn to the depiction of Chinese factories. Are they shocked by their scale? Do they wish to portray factory workers as robots? Or is it something else?

When I first saw this photograph by Edward Burtynsky I was attracted by its colour, the way it was framed and its interesting perspective. Bright yellow unites the image on a whole, from the uniforms, to the factory flags, and finally the factory itself.

The people are presented as part of mechanism. They are integrated, or perhaps, are forced to integrate. The bright yellow of the workers’ uniforms advances into the distance creating an illusion that the image is endless.

Growing up in China, Marxism was taught from a young age. However, until very recently, I had never read Marx’s original works. In schools Marxism is reduced down to small quotes on textbooks. Rather than reading the original text, we were asked to recite particular passages. Had I read Marx’s original texts I might have understood what this photograph was edging towards. Now, when looking at this photograph, a line from The Communist Manifesto (1872)

“Masses of labourers, crowed into the factory, are organised like soldiers. As privates of the industrial army they are placed under the command of a perfect hierarchy of officers and sergeants. Not only are they slaves of the bourgeois class, and of the bourgeois State; they are daily and hourly enslaved by the machine by the overlooker, and, and above all, by the individual bourgeois manufacturer himself.”

In many ways this quote could form the caption to Burtynsky’s photograph. Or maybe Burtynsky had this quote in his mind when he released the shutter? For me, the photograph visually encapsulates the exploitation of workers. And in the end, there’s a strange irony in the fact this image was taken in a country that instills Marxism in its children.

Fangfei is a Ph.D candidate of History at the University of Essex, with a primary focus on the research of photographic materials. She is from China and has an MA in Arts Market Appraisal from Kingston University, and an MA from the University of St. Andrews in the History of Photography. She has worked as Assistant Manager in the Beijing Huachen Photography Department, as well as working for several photographic archives such as in the University of St. Andrews. Her interviews and reviews have been published by Art Gallery, Art Guide and The World of Photography, among other publications. Her interests include the history of Chinese photography, the photographic market, management,  festivals and installation.

Re-picturing the self: Francesca Woodman’s self-portraiture by Francesca Marcaccio

Images courtesy of Francesca Woodman

Francesca Woodman’s self-portraiture is deliberately enigmatic. If she aspires to be enigmatic, she also employs enigma to challenge the traditions of self-portraiture. Her self-portraits are duplicitous; the clarity of the photograph appears to present an intelligible subject and yet Woodman continually facilitates the subject’s withdrawal from our gaze.

In her self-portraits the artist often pioneered new forms of relational aesthetics aimed towards formal intervention as opposed to a biographical display that might be intended to assert one’s identity. In Self Portrait at Thirteen (Colorado,1972), the artist’s long dark hair obscures her face hindering the camera’s inherent descriptive and informative qualities.Untitled,Providence 1977


In Untitled (Providence, Rhode Island,1975), the artist disappears into herself. Three nude women, one of whom is Woodman, hold photographs of the artist’s face over their own. A fourth print, which differs from the other three, is pinned on the wall beside them.One of the models Sloan Rankin notes that Woodman made a sketch of the idea before executing it photographically. “It is a picture about physical measurement, and Woodman writes, under the sketch, a picture about being my model.”1 Disappearing behind a self-portrait, Francesca Woodman conceals her identity. The image’s focus on surface representation obliterates the spectator’s capacity to identify the subject it represents.


Untitled,New York,1979If the quintessential self-portrait announces this is who I am, the New York series (1979) announces rather I am another, similar to Arthur Rimbaud’s radical announcement of modern identity in the mid nineteenth century. His famous poem ‘Je est un autre’
(I is someone else) has been employed to describe many forms of subversive visions of mutable identity.

In one of the New York images, Untitled (1979) she holds a fishbone against her spine. Here she is not fantasising about being another through a performance of identity, as is the case for Rimbaud; instead her body is read as an autonomous entity but at the same time as part of her surroundings.

Rather than engaging with the well-established medium of portraiture in a conventional manner, Woodman is keenly aware that by altering the medium’s modes one can reveal the most profound truths about the subject.




Image credits: Untitled (Providence, Rhode Island,1975), Untitled (New York 1979).

Francesca Marcaccio (b.1981) is a writer, artist, and curator specialised in photography. She is based in London, UK. Her research focuses on photographic archives and documentary photography and their relationship with issues of memory and history within contemporary art practice.She holds degrees in Art History, Iconographic Research and Photography.Recently she completed the RCA/Curating Conversations Programme.She writes for DUST Magazine and MyTemplArt.



Constructing Worlds @ The Barbican reviewed by Cristina Calvo

The photographic medium is in a unique position to study, analyse and admire architecture and since its inception architecture has been an important subject for the photographer. Constructing Worlds investigates this symbiotic relationship between photography and modern architecture and for anyone interested in either field, it’s a must-see.

Curated by Alona Pardo and Elias Redstone, the exhibition comprises the work of 18 prominent artists working from the 1930s up until the present day. The show commences with the work of Berenice Abbott who documented the rapid growth of Manhattan and its surrounding areas from 1935 to 1939. The striking juxtaposition of modern skyscrapers and classical buildings is shown off to great effect.

Around the same time Abbott shot these images, Walker Evans was embarking on his documentation of the Great American Depression for the Farm Security Administration. Evans’ work tells of the poverty-stricken families and individuals affected by the crisis and how the Depression manifested in the landscape of the times.

After the WWII, architecture began to draw inspiration from modern structures, furniture and lifestyle. The work of Julius Shulman clearly captured this trend in the works he published in Arts and Architecture magazine during the 50s and 60s. It is also worth mentioning the exhaustive documentation of Le Courbusier’s architectural project Chandigarh, India, by Lucien Hervé during the same period.

By the end of the 60s and throughout the 70s, photographers such as Ed Ruscha, Stephen Shore, Thomas Struth and the Bechers turned their cameras to the suburban, the industrial and the everyday. Perhaps influenced by the work of Walker Evans and Eugène Atget, these photographers focused on the banal as a means of representing cultural, economic and social values.

Form, light and shadow took on an elevated importance in the years that would follow for photographers such as Luigi Ghirri, Hélène Binet, Hiroshi Sugimoto and Luisa Lambri.

The photographs of Andreas Gursky, Simon Norfolk, Guy Tillim, Bas Princen, Nadav Kander and Iwan Baan frequently portrayed ruined buildings, sublime images of industrial transformation and digitally manipulated spaces. In this focus, they elucidate the social, political and economic consequences of globalisation.

Large photographic prints dominate the show and invite the viewer to both indulge in minute detail as well as to step back and take in the entire image. If the show can be criticised on one point, it is that the space given for Kanders work is insufficient in size to show his work to its best advantage. Yet overall, this is a beautifully curated, first-class exhibition and well worth a visit.

The exhibition runs until 11 January 2015

Cristina Calvo (b. 1982) is a visual artist based in London. She holds a degree from University of Westminster where she is teaching a short course in photography. Part of Cristina’s photographic practice is related to the analysis of the urban environment through the architecture and social behaviour. Her work In Out and Around was select for PHE13 in Madrid. In her more recent work Cristina explores trauma, identity and disease.

Black Chronicles II @ Autograph ABP reviewed by Magali Avezou

images courtesy of Autograph ABP

Black Chronicles II is the first exhibition to be launched in conjunction with The Missing Chapter, a research project which seeks to explore the photographic narratives of migration and cultural diversity in relation to Britain’s colonial past. Presented by Autograph ABP – a foundation devoted to researching black narratives – the show displays more than 200 photographs exploring black identity in Victorian Britain.

The walls of the ground floor are painted black and display 55 images by the London Stereoscopic Company. These images are part of the Hulton Archive, a division of Getty Images. 30 portraits depict the Africa choir that toured Britain between 1891-93. On the second floor, over 100 cartes-de-visites picture visiting performers, dignitaries, servicemen, missionaries, and students. All the photographs were taken in England before 1938.

Among the images displayed are painterly black and white portraits showing very confident sitters. These images stand in stark contrast to the propaganda representations of black subjects which were prevalent before the 2nd world-war. The exhibition Bon Baiser des Colonies, showed at Les Rencontres d’Arles last summer – showed a very different representation of black people under colonial rule shot by French photographs at the beginning of the XIXth century in North-Africa and make for a striking contrast.

The portraits displayed in this exhibition are dignifying. The subjects are well dressed, some wearing suits and hats and others wearing luxurious African dress. They adopt confident postures, elegant gestures and self- contained gazes. These portraits were taken at a time in which studio portraiture was the preserve of a privileged minority. As argued by the curators Renée Mussai and Mark Sealy, this fact raises questions regarding the ideological conditions in which these images were produced and what messages they intend to communicate.

As stated in the press release, Black Chronicles II “redresses persistent ‘absence’ within the historical record.” Through displaying these images, the curators point to an alternative history of black identity and raising questions about the place of the subjects in the colonial order and in British society. The show and programme, is the beginning of an exciting task of research for historians to interpret this impressive material.

Image credit: London Stereoscopic Company studios, 1891. Courtesy of © Hulton Archive/Getty Images

securedownload 2Magali is a London-based arts professional specialising in photography. She holds degrees in History and History of Arts (DEA, Grenoble II France), Art Management (DESS, Paris X France) and Photography (MA, London College of Communication, UK). She is has worked for  for art magazines The Eyes and FIFA Annuel and held positions at Troika Editions, Payne||Shurvell and Koenig books. She is interested in philosophical and anthropological notions of displacement and exoticism and its representation in contemporary photography. 

A letter from the editor

Photography’s roots in the United Kingdom stretch back to early experimentations with the medium. Although it was a Frenchman, Nicéphore Niépce who was the first to capture an image on film, it was an Englishman, William Henry Fox Talbot who invented the calotype, a process which was a major forerunner to 19th century developments in the medium.

Fast forward a few centuries and the UK continues to be a fertile ground for developments in the medium. Admittedly, museums in the UK were sluggish in accepting photography as an art form, especially when compared with their American counterparts. However, in the last decade photography has won its hard-fought battle for institutional recognition in the UK. Tate Modern, for example, appointed its first ever Curator of Photography and International Art in 2009.

If we step outside the gallery space we see a similar trend in academia. In the past photography was little more than a footnote in most Art History courses in the UK. Yet today many Art History degrees offer photographic history modules and four universities in the UK now offer MA degrees specifically in The History of Photography.

Right, point made, photography is hotter than ever and LPD realises the craze isn’t confined to London. Yet, we felt it was important to narrow our focus to ensure that no stone is left unturned in bringing our readers the most up-to-date information.

In doing so we will be featuring all manner of photography exhibitions and events. This will include blockbuster shows but we also want to dig a little deeper to unearth the hidden gems. Many institutions for example draw on their permanent collections to create small displays. We also hope to keep our finger on the pulse of the latest work amongst emerging and graduate photographers.

We also want LPD to be a place where you can actually see what’s buzzing on the photography scene. Through a focus on image-sharing we envision LPD as both a textual and visual source of information. We hope to see LPD burgeon into a participatory hub where everyone can share their experiences of London’s photography scene.

Suffice to say, we’ve come a long way from Fox Talbot’s experimentations with the medium and as such LPD will be keeping tuned to photography’s expanding field. So if you have an event coming up that you feel fits the bill, send it our way!

That’s all for now.

Sarah Allen, Editor LPD

New York Diary


Bringing you all the information from New York’s photography scene