Challenging Representational Conventions

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Dec 182014

Here’s a fascinating article from i-D Magazine about photographer Matt Lambert’s work. According to i-D “Matt Lambert is a filmmaker and photographer whose purpose is to oppose the conventions surrounding present representations of individuals in the media.”

LPPG Network Visits – Bradford & Leeds

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Aug 262013

wpid-wpid-BSMmSxhIIAEzDPu-300x225-2013-08-26-08-071-2013-08-26-08-07.jpgNetwork visits for the Leicester Peoples Photographic Gallery took Ian Davies and me to Bradford and Leeds last week. Our first stop was Impressions Gallery, in Centenary Square. Impressions Gallery is located in Bradford’s newest open space, Centenary Square, with a large water-feature and pool. On the day we visited, and despite it not being particularly warm, there were many families and children enjoying paddling in the pool and dodging through the fountains. While we had a look around the gallery, it was unfortunate that we’d not been able to make contact with a member of the team from the gallery who could chat with us. The exhibition space is excellent though, with large white walls and a high ceiling creating a versatile venue. Presently showing was Forever Young, a touring exhibition which is billed as “a retrospective of James Barnor’s street and studio photographs, spanning Ghana and London from the late 1940s to early 1970s.”

wpid-wpid-BSMpNHNIgAASvwJ-300x225-2013-08-26-08-071-2013-08-26-08-07.jpgNext we headed over to the National Media Museum, for a look around the exhibitions and galleries depicting the history of photography, television, gaming and now the internet. It’s always a pleasure to visit the National Media Museum, as there is always a good atmosphere, with a focus on activities for children. They usually end –up reading the news or the weather. The Kodak Gallery on the lower ground floor lays out the history of photography, but it’s interesting that the latest camera in the collection is a Nikon F2. Obviously the gallery doesn’t extend into the digital realm, and there’s not a smart-phone to be found. Is analogue photography is truly becoming a museum display then?

wpid-wpid-BSOGsQRIgAAXFti-225x300-2013-08-26-08-071-2013-08-26-08-07.jpgOur overnight stay in Leeds was at the University of Leeds Halls of Residence, which is a modern building that has very good accommodation and was only ten minutes’ walk from the city centre. We had a lovely meal in the evening, at Veritas, just opposite the Leeds General Infirmary. Ian particularly enjoyed the Sticky Toffee Pudding.

wpid-wpid-BSRtQawIEAAg7wi-300x225-2013-08-26-08-071-2013-08-26-08-07.jpgOur visit to the White Cloth Gallery was especially good, as there is a clear sense of inclusivity and an eagerness to engage visitors with a positive experience. The gallery is something of a mix between a gallery and a bar/café. This enhanced the informality of the visiting experience as it was less likely to be a hushed and academic experience, as had been the case with some of the galleries we had visited over the previous weeks. We spent time chatting with Kirstin Black, the galleries marketing director, who explained that White cloth doesn’t receive any bloc-funding, but instead relies on the support of a benefactor and by running the café and bar, as well as putting on events and hiring the gallery space to the public. It was good to hear about the ethos of inclusivity that White Cloth pursues, so it will be worth keeping in contact and sharing some of the networking skills that Ian has developed with the White Cloth team.

Once again it was well worth the effort of travelling to visit these galleries and finding out more about the approach that each gallery takes to servicing its audience. There are so many variations of approach that it’s possible to pick and choose good practice from each of the galleries and to incorporate that into the development of Leicester Peoples Photographic Gallery.

LPPG Amplification Visits – Cardiff

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Aug 152013

This week Ian Davies and I have travelled to Cardiff to find out about the photographic community of South Wales, as part of our continuing amplification visits for Leicester Peoples Photographic Gallery [funded by the Joseph Rouwntree Foundation’s Amplified, Resilient Communities Project at De Montfort University]. We wanted to specifically find out about Ffotogallery and Third Floor Gallery, two prominent proponents and champions of photography and photographic practice.

The first leg of our visit took us to Penarth, and the Turner House Gallery, where Ffotogallery hosts it’s main exhibitions. The gallery was purpose built as a display gallery by the wealthy philanthropist James Pyke Thompson in 1888. The gallery has a sense of calm and quite that means it is a good space for contemplation, though on an education day the gallery can be busy and active.

DSCF0593We headed back to Cardiff to the Chapter Arts Centre so that we could experience the Ffotogallery training rooms, and chat about education practice of Ffotogallery and how important hands-on experience is and the resurgence in interest in analogue photography. Walking into the teaching rooms we were greeted with the smell of photo chemicals, and I was instantly transported back to my days in the darkroom at Southport College and my photography course. It was great to see two active darkrooms, and to hear the enthusiasm of Emma Daman Thomas as she explained how the darkrooms operate and what courses are like. Lisa Edgar, head of education at Ffotogallery talked us through the development of the gallery and it’s ethos, and the challenges that established galleries face given the present funding climate.

A quick taxi back into the centre of Cardiff, and we made contact with Maciej Dakowicz who is one of the people driving and championing Third Floor Gallery. Third Floor is an independent gallery space run by a highly-committed and determined team of photographers, who are focussed on keeping their independence from the ‘bloc-funding’ model so that they can develop and maintain their independent voice.

The gallery is aptly titled as it’s at the top of a steep flight of stairs. The present exhibition is “Pictures From The Real World” by David Moore, which revisits photographs taken in the 1980s of people living in Derby. In the centre of the gallery was a TV with a speech of Margaret Thatcher running. I asked what the reaction has been, which according to Małgorzata Kopczyńska, it’s been somewhat mixed. Younger people viewed the video as interesting, whereas older people had a negative response and reaction. A marker of age and time passing.

fotor_WP_20130814_022-1024x767We then met-up with other members of the Third Floor team in the City Arms, which is a stones-throw away from the Millennium Stadium, and has been accorded the honour of being the best pub in Cardiff – which I wouldn’t disagree with. We met with Joni Karanka and Claire Kern who introduced Ian and myself to the delights of the South Wales micro-brewing. A few pints later, and some good contacts made, we stubbled into a taxi to get to the university halls of residence we were staying in (and rather further out of town than I had expected).

The following morning we headed to Cardiff Bay to have a look at the Welsh Assembly home, which was a very nice place to do some planning and some reflection on our visit to Cardiff and the galleries we have seen so far. Next week we are in Bradford and Leeds, followed by a trip to London. We certainly will have plenty of information and interviews to use for the podcast we are going to make. I’m not going to share the opinions and ideas we’ve noted just yet, but it’s been fascinating and invigorating to say the least.

Leicester People’s Photographic Gallery – Royal Photographic Society Exhibition Launch

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Jul 152013

The Royal Photographic Society Exhibition came to Leicester’s People’s Photographic Gallery on Tuesday 9th July. Rob Watson caught up with some of the visitors and supporters of the gallery and asked what they thought of the exhibition.

Digital Photography Course Exhibition at Leicester People’s Photographic Gallery

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Jun 092013

This week saw another exhibition launch at the Leicester People’s Photographic Gallery, based in the old lending library on Belvoir Street. I spoke with students who are showing their work, and Glen Tillyard who runs the course about the exhibition and what it means to show work at the Leicester People’s Photographic Gallery.





New Exhibition – Leicester People’s Photographic Gallery

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May 132013

Tonight I spent time at Leicester People’s Photographic Gallery and spoke with Scott Choucino and Hitz Raos who are launching their new exhibitions at the gallery this week. I spoke with them about mounting their exhibition and what their hopes are when people come to view it.wpid-wpid-DSCF0312-200x300-2013-05-13-22-35-2013-05-13-22-351.jpg

Art, Photography and the Location of Meaning – Or How I Whizzed Around a Couple of Exhibitions

 Out & About, Review  Comments Off on Art, Photography and the Location of Meaning – Or How I Whizzed Around a Couple of Exhibitions
Jan 062013

Tate Britain – Blockbuster Gallery

I crammed in four exhibitions yesterday. Each good in their own way, but with some clear highlights. I started in the morning at Tate Britain, and the second-to-last day of the Turner Prize. Opening 10am there was a huge cue for the box-office as the Pre-Raphaelite blockbuster exhibition was on. I love the spaces in Tate Britain, particularly the Sackler Octogon. They manage to be intimate and relaxing while also showing a wide range of contrasting work in an accessible while reverential setting.

Elizabeth Price’s video installation The Woolworths Choir of 1979 was a worthy winner of the Turner Prize 2012, with it’s careful and dedicated examination of the events surrounding the Woolworths store fire in the heart of Manchester in 1979. Price uses a montage of images and sounds to re-examine the media coverage of the event, and in the process questions the ‘elasticity’ of the digital image. I’m quite pleased that Alastair Smart writing in The Telegraph was only able to make a link between with the “rhyming connection between “choir” and “fire” alluded to in the title,” and that he “failed to find any meaningful link between the two halves.” To confound an art critic in a national newspaper is surely high praise indeed.

If the digital image is fashionable for it’s malleability and animated performativness, then what is to be said about the contrasting analogue photographic image and what it has been capable of for the last two hundred years? Inelasticity? Graham Gussin’s piece in the Tate’s Art Now rooms was a fascinating contrast, and a challenge for digital installation enthusiasts. A similar installation set-up to Price, but rather than video, Gussin uses an out-of-focus film projection showing fog permitting and shifting around various empty room spaces. I actually found this absorbing to watch, and with the clicking and whirring of the projector, this had a suitable, if low-key, sonic accompaniment.

A quick Tube ride and I was at the V&A to look at the permanent photographic exhibition. I wish that the V&A could make more of this permanent display, because the standard of the selected images and the contextual thread that run’s through the display is modest and precise. The prints are handsomely mounted and given a brief yet focussed description of what ties them together. This is an exhibition with a clear sense of connection, development and continuity. The romance of work by Robert Frank and John Deakin, and their street-based images of Parisian life, contrasts superbly with the nonchalance of Curtis Mofat’s modernistic expressionism of American life.


Retrospective Russian Underground?

Next stop was the Satchi Gallery, which is without doubt one of the best exhibition spaces in London. It’s an immediate experience with open galleries that have plenty of light and space for visitors to circulate. The main exhibition was Breaking the Ice: Moscow Art 1960-80s, which gave-in to my expectations and stereotypes of Russian life. The Soviet era hardships, the present day privations, and the post-modernist contortions and re-workings of mass-communication iconography. Boris Mikhailov’s photographs are particularly challenging and grim. Depicting the “social disintegration ensuing from the break-up of the Soviet Union – both in terms of social structures and the resulting human condition”. Mikhailov “documents the social oppression, the devastating poverty, the harshness and helplessness of everyday life for the homeless.” One can only feel compelled to ask what forces drive people to sink to such a low ebb, but then what forces drive a photographer to document their experience?


Hong Kong Eye

Standing out against this gloom was the far more playful was Hong Kong Eye 2012. This was playful, light, energetic and clever. The tricks employed where simple and honest, and there was a distinct lack of bombast in the arrangement of the spaces and the pieces that where collected. With the Russian work the questioning of the mediated representations was heavy-handed. With the Hong Kong collection, the remediations where playful and engaging. The difference between a grunt and a wink.

Rapidly moving on, my next stop was The National Gallery and the Seduced by Art exhibition. This exhibition was said to explore “early photography from the mid-19th century and the most exciting contemporary photographs, alongside historical painting”, and in doing so it’s aim was to take a “provocative look at how photographers use fine art traditions, including Old Master painting, to explore and justify the possibilities of their art.” In the end this was an underwhelming experience as the idea of ‘seduction’ was clearly misplaced. There was no sense of the transgressive potential of photography in this exhibition. Instead, it was an extended Art History 101 lecture/slide presentation that was destined to be informative but never sensual. Perhaps it was the cramped space of the exhibition rooms. The audio guide was a good innovation.

Overall, this was a busy day and one can only absorb so much information in such a short time. Locating meaning is not always easily done, especially when work is displayed in environments that are so heavily controlled as these. London is a city that thrives on iconography and appearances, are we not all performers in our own photo-exhibition now?