It’s not often I venture down south to the warmer climes of London – but when I do I always enjoy it! My reason yesterday was to visit Vision 09, a British Journal of Photography organised event. It’s generally meant for students and professionals in photography to come and enjoy a range of presentations and talks by other photographers – and this year, both Martin Parr and Eugene Richards were speaking.
Now, I sometimes struggle with some of the more diverse areas of photography but Martin Parr’s work needed no introduction. His images have become iconic in a number of ways and he is certainly at the forefront of documentary style photography. He was speaking about his previous works and his latest work, Luxury.
It was interesting to hear him speak about his work, and also his approach to documentry photography. One member of the audience asked what he did about Model Release forms (used in photography to clarify what and how the images will be used and having the model’s permission – although this generally isn’t needed) when photographing the public. He response was surprising refreshing, in that 99% of the time he doesn’t bother. France was the only place where he had two assistants to gain the approval of the people he photographed due to French Law. In the UK, if he is in a public place, he doesn’t care. He doesn’t have that feeling of guilt when taking photographs in public, something all photographers should learn – it’s not against the law to photograph in a public place!
Following Martin’s talk, I had a look at the trade stands that were in attendance at the event, and picked up some useful information from various print companies and book manufacturers which will be useful for my wedding and portrait work – and then decided to ditch the rest of the event and go and visit some galleries which had exhibitions on that I wanted to see. The first was the Getty Images Gallery who had an exhibtion of photographs of famous jazz musicians such as George Melly and Louis Armstrong. Have a look at their website as the prints blew me away. Beautifully taken black and white images which captured the true essence of the musicians and their styles. Fantastic portrait photography presented beautifully – what more can you hope for. I’d certainly recommend popping into the exhibition if you get the chance.
It was then a short walk to The Photographers Gallery. Split over three floors, the gallery is a fantastic space for photographers to display large bodies of work – and in the case of Jim Goldberg’s latest work “Open See” was the perfect setting. Open See details the people who flee war torn, and socially and economically poor countries to try and make a new life in Europe. He had also taken poloroids of people who had made it into Europe and let the people write or draw on their portrait. It was certainly a thought provoking work and interesting to see how the people Jim was documenting thought of themselves – some of them having being forced into prostitution or forced labour on their arrival in their destination. Jim used a variety of different formats and mediums to document this, and overall as a exhibition, was thoroughly interesting.
A short hop on the tube and I hit the National Portrait Gallery. Now everytime I visit London I try to visit the NPG. Not only are most of the exhibitions free, they have a fabulous collection of portraits from the Regency period right the way through to contemporary works. This time though I was interested in seeing the finalists of the Taylor Wessing Portrait competition 09. I’d seen the images in the BJP and in The Guardian, but wanted to see them at their proper sizes. For me, this exhibition provoked some interesting thoughts on the cross-over of fashion photography into portrait photography – Ali Lomas, who won the Godfrey Argent Award was the best example of this. Ali’s work entitled “Laura” stems from a series of images which are meant to portray some kind of personal distress or tramua. You can see the work on Ali’s website here. I like the series as a body of work, and I certainly thought that Ali had achieved what she was trying to portray… but I’m not convinced that the images are portraits. Yes, they contain people, but the people are a part of the set. They themselves are not the obvious subject of the photograph as in my opinion the set, the lighting and the model all pull together to produce an image that tells a story – or part of a story. Fantastic fashion images, but to me – not portraiture as I perceive it.
After the NPG, it was back to Euston for my train back to Birmingham. Overall, a good day which was thought-provoking and certainly interesting – and given me some interesting ideas to take forward.