I was on press on Sunday with the new issue of Source which will be with subscribers later this week. I was there to help fine tune the colour as each section came of the presses.
The 'Editing Issue' features Mark Holborn the editor responsible for The Democratic Forest, a role he is reprising in the production of a new expanded edition of that work. David Evans has been looking at the exhibition and publication history of Wolfgang Tillmans. Portfolios of work by Jan McCullough, Imogen Freeland (cover image) and Gemma Marmalade. As well as reviews of recent key photography exhibitions and books. Make sure you get a copy by subscribing to the Digital or Print edition. http://bit.ly/vhvG0N
It's that time of the year when students are starting to gear up for their final degree show exhibitions. We are going through a similar process preparing for Graduate Photography Online 2015. This online platform lets graduating students promote their work to Source's readership. If you are going to graduate from a BA or MA course this is the time to sign up to take part.
What your page will look like
In addition to publishing all the submitted work on our web site, each year, we ask a number of people working in the photography sector to make some introductory selections. These selections appear online and in our two printed supplements ( BA and MA) that go out with the magazine.
Supplement Distributed with Source
This year's selectors come from a mix of professional backgrounds showing and publishing work of all kinds, from art to editorial. For the BA students we have Emma Bowkett, Picture Editor - Financial Times, FT Weekend Magazine, Malcolm Dickson Director and Curator for Street Level Gallery in Glasgow. Lu Bowan Head of Talent/Marketing - Making Pictures.
We have also teamed up with Making Pictures for The Making Pictures Award. The new MP Award offers three months' representation, showcasing and promotion of an emerging artist, offering portfolio, professional and creative development alongside an introduction to the commercial world. All graduate submissions will be considered for this award. You can read about last years winner Marco Kesseler and how the award helped him.
For the MA students we have Fiona Shields Picture Editor - The Guardian, Gordon MacDonald - Co-Director of GOST Books and John Duncan Editor - Source Photographic Review.
We have interviewed each of this year’s selectors about what they do and how they decide what makes and interesting project. You can read this in full here. Here is a flavour of these interviews.
Emma Bowkett, Picture Editor
How do you decide on what makes an interesting photograph or photographic project? Emma Bowkett ‘In the magazine we use both series, with narrative and story telling properties, and groups of individual pictures which are not at all co-dependent, but are linked by theme.’ Gordon MacDonald ‘It just has to make sense, be believable and appeal both visually and conceptually’
As regards the artist's statement, what is important for you to know about the work? Fiona Shields ‘On a very basic level it's hugely important for the photographer to supply a note of what, when and where as it can be difficult to decipher an image without context. Often we may publish a photographer's personal experience of making their work, giving an insight into the challenges of or inspirations behind a project can really add value to the piece.’
What advice would you have for someone interested in working in your area of photography? John Duncan ‘Don't get too fixated on the final exhibition. Who are you going to show the work to afterwards? Start thinking ahead. Make sure you have a smaller set of prints that you can bring to show people. Make some installation images of the final work to show scale and framing. Which open submissions, residencies or other opportunities are you aware of, or looking at?’
To read more from our selectors and to book a place read the guidelines. The DEADLINE is 5th MAY for the BA phase and 25th August for the MA phase.
Entrants to Graduate Photography Online this year will also be able to win the Making Pictures Award. Marco Kesseler won the Award in 2014. We spoke to him to find out how his career has developed since leaving college and the contribution the Award has made to the continuing development of his work.
John Duncan: You graduated with a Degree in Press & Editorial Photography from University College Falmouth. What was the most useful thing you learnt at college?
Marco Kesseler: My approach to photography, the way I wanted to deal with taking images. I am quite a quiet person so I may have let things pass by being shy. I guess you realise that you regret all the occasions that you miss taking photographs, so that was something that I learnt very quickly on the course and something I took away with me afterwards and the importance of being with a very close knit group of peers who I have been able to work with since leaving. We have been able to talk to each other about projects, edits, about contact bases and to get genuine opinions.
John Duncan: What do you wish someone had told you at college?
I was very focused on things I wanted to do which was purely documentary so I didn’t spend time learning, say, studio techniques, and other things that I could apply to photography today.
John Duncan: You won the MP award in 2014, can you tell me how that helped you?
Making Pictures were great in helping me to find a way to translate my style of documentary approach into a more commercial style of photography. They are very good at finding ways to tailor my portfolio, or highlight certain images that cross over between documentary and commercial work. They have continually given me support whenever I needed to speak to someone, or going to show work to different agencies.
John Duncan: What type of commercial work do you do, have you established parameters for this?
Photography where you can apply a documentary approach, or that visual style, to a commercial commission. For example, I was working last summer with Greater London Authority for their campaign for the Summer of high streets where they were regenerating high streets. That gave me the freedom to go to all these different events they were holding but to work in a documentary way.
John Duncan: I wanted to ask you about your work in the Ukraine which won you the award. Where did your interest in the Ukraine come from?
I had been reading quite a lot of foreign news in the lead up to the revolution. The year before I had been doing some work in Belarus that was part of the Magnum Ideas Tap Award. That project was looking at the people who were trying to stand up to the dictatorship but there is seemingly nothing going on. On the surface things were very quiet. The Ukraine was the flip side of this, it was a very visible process. So it led on from the work in Belarus.
John Duncan: Did you have any run in’s with the police?
I wasn’t interested in taking photographs of conflict. We had a few slightly hairy days where you would hear rumours and lots of people would mobilise to front lines and there would be protests and shouting, but it would lead to nothing. For me it was more interesting seeing how people would go about their daily lives and how people would react to the changing situation.
John Duncan: Was that an idea that evolved as you were there?
It wasn’t my approach before I left. That is partly how I work but also, we arrived and had seen all these visually explosive images in the news and so I felt like that had already been covered in a sense. I spent the first day getting to grips, finding the area and shooting on a digital camera. I put that aside by the end of the day and felt that I had done my ‘news’ images. Then it gave me more space to think about the wider situation. I wanted to create images that weren’t just short-term news. I wanted to contribute more to the longevity of the historical situation.
John Duncan: You have worked on the short film ‘Fieldwork’, how important do you think it is to be able to shoot still and moving images?
It is important in terms of getting jobs but also in a visual sense. It is a slightly different way of shooting, it keeps you on your toes. For me I really enjoy it, I find it quite exciting having a different way of shooting. It broadens your reach, for example I am doing other film projects with another filmmaker and it is an interesting way of working.
What advice would you have for students who are about to graduate?
When graduating, you become obsessed or overrun by your final project. It is very easy for that to take over and not look at the wider picture. I think it is really important to have a one year plan, a two year plan, a five year plan and to realise that not everything is going to come to you straight away in the first year after graduating. You have to be optimistic but you have to be realistic and realise that for the majority of people, myself included, you are not going to have people coming straight to you offering you every job under the sun.
John Duncan: What are you working on next?
I am working on a couple of personal projects that are still in early stages. I think we are in a really interesting time for photography. You hear a lot of old timers talking about a crisis for photography, but as someone who has never experienced that before I think it is a really interesting time for photography. People are taking more pictures, people are looking at photography more than ever before and there are a hundred and one more platforms to look at it. So I am motivated to look at different approaches of telling narrative through photography that isn’t necessarily the set formula that we have come to rely on.
See more of Marco's work on his website.
We're coming up to the first deadline for submissions to Graduate Photography Online, (5 May) so we are delighted to announce a new opportunity for graduate photographers that take part this year. Source has teamed up with a leading photographic agency to offer the Making Pictures Award.
The award is open to all students taking part in Source Graduate Photography Online. It offers three months' representation and mentoring: showcasing and promoting an emerging artist, offering portfolio, professional and creative development alongside an introduction to the commercial world.
Making Pictures is an important agency representing a number of photographers and working with many well known brands. The current issue of Source includes a portfolio by Niall O'Brien (image above from images for Simone Rocha collection).
To find out more about the award we spoke to Lu Bowan from Making Pictures.
John Duncan: why does Making Pictures do the MP award?
Lu Bowan: it’s about bridging that gap between graduating and professional photographic practice. Whilst the degree courses are absolutely fantastic, in my experience there is a grey area and many photographers that I meet finish their courses without the essential knowledge of what they can do next – or an awareness of the commercial field, what the options are or how to approach agents and to market themselves. A driven individual can have a successful commercial career which allows them to create photographic works and explore ideas on an ongoing basis without having to rely simply on external funding or grants.
We wanted to create a resource which partners with varying organisations each year, which allowed us to share our collective knowledge and expertise. Through mentoring we hope to support the winners as we would any of our represented artists – this includes starting off with the creation of a portfolio, understanding briefs and how to create treatments, production and the process involved in the creation of commercial work. The end goal is for each individual to leave with strong foundations to kick start a fruitful career. We stay in touch with all of our award winners, the aftercare is there too.
John Duncan: What does commercial representation mean?
To have an agent in many ways isn't dissimilar to the having a gallery but with a different market. We sell photography. When you have commercial representation you enter a partnership with your agent/agency – we want to connect our photographers to the commercial field with industry creatives, share incredible imagery, find creative opportunities to pursue and plant the seeds for our talent to be considered for future projects. We market, we promote, we sell, we negotiate, we produce, we support, we develop, we translate, we edit.
It is a very close relationship between agent and photographer, to be a support isn’t just about getting commercial work and making money. It’s about growing together over the years and trying to get them really interesting projects and collaborations. It is an industry of collaboration. The right representation can help enrich an artist's career, the development from my side is very much about constantly moving forwards and evolving.
John Duncan: What will you be looking for when you go through the graduate work, in terms of trying to find somebody you can work with?
Initially it will be somebody that really jumps out. Somebody that is distinctive. They may be exploring something that I haven’t seen, or in a different way. Storytelling and narrative translate very well in this industry so it is really good to see people present this. Is there an energy to the work? Interaction and portraiture are also very interesting to me, there are many areas in the commercial field in terms of photographic styles – I will have this in the back of my mind – the main thing is to see strong ideas and visual aesthetic and narrative.
Look out for more information in the coming days when we speak to Marco Kesseler, who won the Award last year, about the development of his career since leaving college.
[post updated 18/4/15]
Every year a number of people pick their photography books of the year. In almost every case this means picture books. So here are the selections of photography books of the year by some writers, primarily of books full of words about photography. If anything it shows the diversity of photographic publishing, especially given that no two writers have picked out the same book. Plenty here to interest the inquisitive.
Patrizia di Bello
Mary Warner Marien
Elspeth H. Brown and Thy Phu eds., Feeling Photography
Tanya Sheehan ed., Photography, History, Difference
Paul G. Pickowicz, Kuiyi Shen and Yingjin Zhamg, Liangyou: Kaleidoscopic Modernity and the Shanghai Global Metropolis
Anne Ferran, Shadow Land texts by Susan Best, Anne Ferran and Thierry de Duve.
Any selection of favourite books is mediated by a combination of personal interest and happenstance. My selection also points to the current state of photography studies, with these books collectively representing a global perspective and a diverse range of voices and issues. I have chosen two anthologies of essays. Together they showcase a new generation of scholars, speaking from a variety of disciplines but bound by a common concern for the marginal and the displaced, whether that be the histories of photography in places like Ireland, Iran, Indonesia and Canada; the social stratifications of race, class, sex and gender; or simply the taboo issues of feeling and sentiment. Both are highly recommended. Liangyou offers an exhilarating glimpse into a new continent of photographic practices, focusing on an innovative magazine published in Shanghai from 1926 to 1945 and exploring the various ways it addressed itself to the burgeoning modernity of that city. In so doing it touches on everything from the appeal of patent medicines to the invention of a modern Chinese masculinity. Shadow Land acknowledges and surveys the career of Australia’s finest photographic artist of the past thirty years, examining how Anne Ferran has tenaciously given visual form to the experiences of women that would otherwise be lost to history. It is an exemplary case study of what an artist can contribute to the social life of the present.
Geoffrey Batchen teaches art history at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand.
PATRIZIA DI BELLO
Manuel Vason, Double Exposures - Performance as Photography / Photography as Performance, ed. by David Evans. For how it performs its book-ness, mainly.
Luke Fowler, Two-Frames Films (2006-2012), for how it makes us think about the double-page spread.
Joan Fontcuberta, Pandora's Camera, although not full of glossy pictures, it is a lovely tactile as well as visual object, and the essays are a delight to read. Not too expensive either, a deluxe stocking filler!
Patrizia di Bello is author of The Photobook: From Talbot to Ruscha and Beyond.
For me 2014 was the year of stodgy prose by intelligent but inarticulate academics. I waded through countless tomes that were too long in every sense, from the sentences to the paragraphs and the overall page count. Small but important arguments bloated and diffused in such a way that they could only ever preach to dogged converts. And me: all year I looked for needles of insight in haystacks of waffle. I shan’t name names. If photography academics wish to be read by more than their peers and their Phd students, they need to start crafting their words. With that off my chest, I can tell you about the books that have remained in my mind and on my desk. All explore the depiction of conflict.
Inge Henneman ed., Shooting Range: Photography and the Great War
The scholar and curator Inge Henneman led the team that researched and presented this extraordinary study of the various uses made of photography during the First World War. There is propaganda, soldiers’ ‘selfies’ and memento mori, morale-boosting exhibitions, postcards, images by military photographers, aerial reconnaissance photos and copious examples from the early days of reportage and photojournalism. This project was an enormous undertaking, but the research and choices of material are first rate and full of surprises. I saw the multi-layered exhibition at FoMu in Antwerp. Now I’m reading the accompanying publication. This book will last.
Simon Baker, ed., Conflict, Time, Photography
For me, curator Simon Baker’s show at Tate Modern was brave and inevitably flawed (but all I ever want from a thematic exhibition is that moment when ‘success’ tips thrillingly into failure). The attempt to organize photos of the last century’s major conflicts by the time – from seconds after events to a hundred years after – is clever and suggestive. However, ruins and traces tend to resemble each other. Such is the law of entropy. So I think the conceit works much better as a catalogue. Here the sedately formal elegance of the show is compressed into a thick wad of same-size images. It allows you to see the mad, compulsive circularity in the picturing of war’s aftermaths and memories. It is, as they used to say in the 1920s, a ‘visual argument’. The accompanying essays are a great bonus.
Ernst Friedrich, War Against War (1924)
My 1924 copy of Ernst Friedrich’s book is falling apart, having been looked at by dozens of students over the years. The author was a pacifist anarchist who managed to round up a wide range of images from the First World War that had been suppressed, censored or were never for public consumption. Photos of war crimes, medical images of appalling injuries, documents of civilian deaths and more. It was published with text in four languages and became an anti-war bestseller in the traumatized post-war years. It still resonates in today’s highly policed visual culture. Moreover, Friedrich’s understanding of context and how images can be appropriated and re-functioned strikes me as perfectly contemporary. This re-edition is most welcome.
David Campany is author of The Open Road: Photography & the American Road Trip.
Christopher Wrights 'The Echo of Things: The Lives of Photographs in the Solomon Islands' was officially published in December 2013 but did not hit the bookshelves until February 2014. Wright provides an ethnographic study of the social uses of photography by the peoples of the Roviana Lagoon, identifying the singular photographic image as connected to ancestral pasts, memory and history. Some of the best writing on the social uses of photography has emerged from cultural anthropology and 'The Echo of Things' is another reminder of how little I know about photography outside of Europe and North America.
Elizabeth Edwards and Sigrid Lien's edited volume 'Uncertain Images: Museums and the Work of Photographs' is an important addition to the study of photography's multiple histories. The contributors are academics and museum professionals and the essays provide interesting insights not only into the place of photographs in a broad range of museum settings but also how photographs are mobilised or suppressed in the visualisation of histories that are difficult to incorporate into agreed national narratives. Without singling out any specific contributors there are some wonderful insights into the role of museum photographs in the cultural politics of photography and representation.
John Roberts 'Photography and its Violations' is hot off the press. It arrived in the post in the morning and was so compelling I read it from cover to cover that day. This is not to say it is an easy read. It is very dense in its use of language but cuts through the details of many recent debates about photography and social relations with surgical precision, taking to task many of the field's leading theorists such as John Tagg and Ariella Azoulay. As with Roberts's other writing on photography, some of the most significant theories of the last 40 years are put under much needed dialectical analysis in a discussion of the social ontology of photography and realism. This is an important book and one that will have a lasting impact in debates about photography's emancipatory capacity to break with the stifling pressures of globalization, conflict and social surveillance.
Justin Carville is author of Photography and Ireland.
MARY WARNER MARIEN
Carol Squiers, What is a Photograph?
Kristen Gresh, She Who Tells A Story: Women Photographers from Iran and the Arab World
Lena Johannesson and Gunilla Knape (eds.) Women Photographers—European Experience
What is a Photograph? served as the catalog for the 2014 Museum of Modern Art exhibition of the same name. The texts transplant post-modern ideas into the larger category of conceptualism. But editor/curator Carol Squiers is not seduced by theory. She stresses that images generate ideas, not vice versa. She Who Tells a Story, which accompanies a currently circulating exhibition in the U.S., also insists on the complexity of visual expression and photograph-based documentation. New to me was Women Photographers—European Experience, a hefty 2004 book that accompanied a touring exhibit. It, too, eschews easy deductions and linear thinking. It is an overlooked gem.
Mary Warner Marien is author of Photography: A Cultural History.
Joshua Simon, Neomaterialism
Simon is an Isreali academic/curator who updates the Marxist critique of commodity for the digital era. He gave a fascinating talk at the ICA last week about selfies (I did not think there was anything fascinating left to say about them, but he managed it!). In an age of unfettered capital, it strikes me as burningly important – more than ever – that we maintain a sense of the historical and economic big picture, and Simon does this with flair. This book has a lot of important insights for contemporary photographers as artists and cultural producers.
Sarah Thornton, 33 Artists in 3 Acts
Do you want to be part of an exclusive photo tribe, or do you want to participate in the global art world? Would you like the conceptual tools to properly understand the difference? Sociologist Thornton interviews a range of international art world figures, asking them each the deceptively simple question “What is an artist?” Their answers range from the predictable to the gobsmacking. This book can provide even the hardened art world insider with new insights about what it means to be an artist now.
Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things
A political theorist Bennett provides a wealth of provocative examples of ways we might reconsider the world with inanimate matter at the centre rather than the periphery of our consciousness. If we want to slow the pace of ecological disaster, we should think about how and why things matter. Photographs are images, but they are also, of course, objects, and frequently depict objects. This book will transform the way you think about stuff.
Lucy Soutter is author of Why Art Photography?
Steffen Siegel ed., Neues Licht, Daguerre, Talbot und die Veröffentlichung der Fotografie im Jahr 1839
The book is a fantastic and comprehensive collection of documents coming from the mythical first year of the history of photography. Quite a lot of them haven't been published for more than 150 years. If you want to understand the historical context of photography's eve this book is a wonderful guide. It is going back to the historical roots in order to understand why photography has become what it is right now.
Tobias Zielony, Vele
Vele is a film and a photo-book at the same time. The German photographer Tobias Zielony was working in this notorious suburb of Naples nearly at the same time as Matteo Garrone was directing a film on the Camorra based on Saviano's book Gomorrah. Zielony's film 'Le Vele di Scampia' is made up of 7000 photos and he extracted about 300 for this book. It'a fantastic and fabulous ride until the end of the night in this strange place. I haven't seen such an impressive use of light in photography for a long time. You will admire the fireworks at the end of the book.
László Moholy-Nagy, Sehen in Bewegung
A classical book to be rediscovered! Moholy's last (and really exceptional) book on photography and vision, available for the very first time in German. It's a shame that the English edition is no longer in print. You will find everything you want to know about late modernism and the theory of perception right here.
Bernd Stiegler is professor of twentieth-century German literature and of literature and media at the University of Konstanz.
Today we are announcing the 25 shortlisted photographers for the Source-Cord Prize. The winners will be announced next month when a special issue of Source is published. In September the judges met to talk over the submissions. As they arrived I spoke to them all to ask what they thought of the work they had seen and how easy they thought it would be to reach a consensus.
This is how the judging process worked. There were 926 submissions. The judges each had a month to look over these submissions online, from which they then made a shortlist of 25 that they ranked 1-25. From these a combined shortlist was made. This was the work that would be discussed by the judges in person on the day. I think we were all surprised how little overlap there was between the judges' individual selections which meant that a number of the pieces of work on the table were initially only strongly advocated by one judge.
The judges had print outs of the work and we talked over each portfolio by turn until these had been narrowed down to sets of pictures that at least three judges backed. We then stopped for lunch. I had to leave before the final selections were made but it was interesting to see the way the conversation took place in the morning. All the judges mentioned the diversity of styles and this could be read differently depending on the context. Stefanie picked out some documentary projects saying it was rare to see the approach in Germany while John and Kate agreed it was comparatively common in the UK.
There was some horse trading, 'If we are going to have a poetic project about growing up then it should be THIS one...' but in general having four views of each piece of work meant the strengths and weaknesses of each set of pictures were well examined. In most cases the judges could readily accept one another's point of view even if it didn't necessarily settle the matter for them. By lunchtime at least, they had arrived at a selection that could provide a winner that everyone would agree on.
The artist Joan Fontcuberta has accused the Science Museum of censoring his work to placate the Russian government. This is a story in the new issue of Source, out today.
Joan Fontcuberta is a distinguished artist and winner of the 2013 Hasselblad Award. His solo exhibition at the Media Space, 'Stranger than Fiction' opened at the end of July. Among his works is a series called 'Sputnik' that elaborately fabricates a Russian space mission crewed by someone resembling the artist himself. The Science Museum has a planned exhibition 'Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age' that depends on loans from Russia. Fontcuberta says that sensitivity about this planned exhibition led the Museum to censor his show: ‘I was told that because of delicate loan negotiations with the Russian government… the Media Museum direction decided not to include that project to avoid offending them. End of discussion.’ Fontcuberta was also told that ‘Yuri Gagarin’s daughter – an important officer at Hermitage Museum – disliked deeply my Sputnik series’ (she is in fact Director of the Kremlin Museum).
Asked for a response to the artist’s allegations the Media Space Press Officer Simon Thompson said, ‘I can’t comment on conversations between yourself and the artist… Greg [Greg Hobson the exhibition’s curator] wanted to present a handful of Fontcuberta’s works that are conceptually independent yet thematically complementary and decided to focus on those that dealt with the natural and spiritual worlds. While Sputnik didn't fit this narrative (moreover, a major exhibition on cosmonautics was already planned), it does still appear in Fontcuberta’s exhibition publication’.
This takes place against a backdrop of, on the one hand, increasing tension between the UK and Russian governments including mounting sanctions, and on the other, an ongoing UK-Russia year of culture that has seen a series of high profile exhibitions including a Malevich exhibition at the Tate Gallery and a James Bond exhibition in Moscow among many other events. Fontcuberta remarked that he had tried to negotiate with the Museum saying ‘with the Ukranian crisis, my fictional narrative piece about a lost Soviet cosmonaut was going to be a minor problem in those eventual negotiations’ but to no effect. Sardonically he remarks ‘Sputnik has accumulated quite a few funny anecdotes like this’.
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The third day of Arles for us seemed to be dedicated to books. We started with Erik Kessels' Dutch photography show, a lot of which had originated in books, then we went on to Cosmos, a publishers showcase, then on to Marcus Shaden's presentation about his Photobook Museum project before ending up, where we had started on Monday, back at the Photobook Shop to speak to the Austrian publisher Fotohof.
Our conversations seemed to take in the entire span of book production from the new self publisher Nicolo Degiorgis through to the canonisation of books in a Museum or library (Fotohof have a photobook library with 12,500 titles). Alongside the conviviality we had experienced since we arrived we were also aware of the DIY ethic that many of our interviewees espoused. There was a sense that, notwithstanding its popularity, publishers had to create their own niche in the Festival by collaborating. Perhaps that's why it was one of the liveliest strands of the event.
At the centre of the old part of Arles is a square called Place du Forum which is surrounded by cafes. They are not very nice cafes by French standards and, incongruously, groups of tourists on the trail of Vincent van Gogh occasionally assemble to look at them. But, like roundabouts, they are a sort of crossing point for people visiting the photo festival and at almost any time of night or day you will bump into someone you know there. In this way, while passing through the square we were introduced to Annette Booth who, it turned out, had installed the Chinese photobook exhibition that we had seen that morning. We went and had dinner together and she told us all about it.
We spent the afternoon in the Ateliers looking through the hundreds of books submitted for the 2014 book award. Seeing this number of books in one go can give rise to both positive and negative feelings! It is astonishing just how much is produced every year. The standard of production and the general quality is high. I saw a few books that I like and will now try and find copies of. Yes, there is some repetition but perhaps if you like pictures of mountains or sites-where-something-happened, or any of the other themes that recur, that's a good thing.
Also in the Atelier was the Discovery Awards show selected by Alexis Fabry (France), Bohnchang Koo (Korea), Wim Mélis (Netherlands), Azu Nwagbogu (Nigeria) and Quentin Bajac (the new chief curator at MoMA). If you were looking for clues as to what floats Quentin Bajac's boat then based on the two artists selected here he likes cluttered, academic, archive-y work. Stepping back from the choices of each of the curators I was surprised that the show reproduced the current global narrative that has China as the site of massive engineering projects while the US is about rural poverty and industrial decline, Africa a stage for playful fantasy and Europe home to abstraction and introspection. Maybe that's how it is but it didn't count as a discovery for me.
I have just returned from my first visit to the photography festival in Arles. I was there with Adam O'Meara who has filmed many of the videos Source has made recently. So while we were there we conducted some short interviews with many of the people we met (those who could be coaxed into talking to me on camera) and filmed some of the venues. This wasn't planned, so who we spoke to was decided by chance. We also didn't know what the venues would be like or have an idea what to expect based on previous years' shows. As has been widely reported the Festival is in a transitional moment following the resignation of its Director. The consensus among seasoned visitors seems to be that this Les Rencontres d’Arles doesn't match previous editions. But from my point of view it was still the largest photography event I have attended and well worth the trip.
Happily, it wasn't as hot as I had expected. I did experience the standard frustrations of being in a hotel some distance from the main events, which I have heard described many times before. I assume these are rooms reserved primarily for first-time visitors. I also provided some nourishment for the local insect population which I would try to avoid in future. But these are minor quibbles, Arles was good fun and I hope this film (and the films of the second and third days which I will post up shortly) gives some impression what it is like to go there.