A few weeks ago I went to the Photographers’ Gallery for a lecture by the Dutch photographer Hans Aarsman. I’d never heard of Aarsman before, but the description piqued my interest, particularly the line "if, and how, artistic ambitions, aesthetics and useful photography can coincide". I’m so glad I went! Aarsman described his journey through photography, and I found strong echoes with my own feelings and development as a photographer.
Flickr have, without warning, deleted the account of Gail Orenstein, one of the few genuinely interesting and unique individuals I have had the pleasure to bump into on there (oh yeah, and also the only person to have written me a Flickr testimony).
For those unfamiliar with Gail, she is a working photojournalist, who has covered conflicts around the world, but more recently has turned her attention to the sex industry in London. Her photos, usually of London sex workers, are invariably accompanied by headlines, plucked from global newspapers or websites, which at first seem to bear no relation to the image. However, the photos of semi-naked women draw the crowds in, and the headlines get them talking (usually) about current affairs. Gail’s photos are, with the exception of Shhexycorin, probably the hottest talking points on Flickr. Her 3,451 photos have had over 1 million visitors served, and she herself had 150 testimonials. 40 of her pictures had over 1,000 comments.
So last night, I got this email from Gail:
:: Flickr has taken me down
Flickr took me down in the middle of the night without warning and without ability to retreave my work.
Please alert others I have already restarted my site at:
We are going to rebuild very quickly.
Please spread the word and let other know
Please join this group on my coming back to life
Please check out Gail’s photos, join the group, and cast disapproving glances in the general direction of Flickr, for their daring to try to silence one of the heros of the Internet in such an underhand way.
It’s not often that I stumble upon a Flickr user’s stream who’s photos really grab me, and it’s even less often that I “favourite” one, let alone several, of another user’s photos, but Penoni‘s set ProcissÃ£o de Todos os Santos 2006 is absolutely incredible! The combination of flash-light with Southern hemisphere twilight, and frozen stiltwalkers with blurred, zoomed and panned backgrounds, produces magical realism at its most lyrical and strange.
Bee Flowers’ new exhibition Liberation – Women and Abu Ghraib is simultaneously beautiful, shocking, funny, wonderful, terrifying, thought-provoking and incredibly insightful, everything that good art should be.
Tonight I taught my first photography workshop in Wath-on-Dearne. I had been dreading it – was on the verge of panic attacks last night – but actually it went very smoothly, the kids were wonderful (there were only 4 of them – I had been prepared for 2 or 3 times that number) and everyone had a good time. It’s been a massive confidence boost to me, managing to get this under my belt.
We started the session with a quick slide-show of about a dozen of my photos, then I showed them in about 30 pictures from the National Portrait Gallery Photographic Portrait Prize over the last four years. I got them to to talk in detail about each picture – what it told them about the person pictured, and how different things like the background, clothing, possessions, pose, framing, angle, lighting etc. could all affect our understanding of the person shown, and could add up to a story about that person.
Then I got them to split into two groups of two, and take photos of one another, thinking about some of those different elements and how they could be used. I just let them use the cameras on fully automatic settings, with flash (although a couple of them worked out how to turn the flash off).
Then I mixed up the groups, and gave each group two halogen desk lamps to play with, switched off the main lights and got them to play with lighting.
Finally, we downloaded the photos and looked at them.
I’m really looking forward to next week now! And on Sunday, I’m giving another workshop to a local Muslim girls’ group.
Several more photography commissions rolling in – I’ve got a conference to do on Friday, and it looks like I’ll have another party to do next week. Suddenly, all systems are go!
Four months ago, I had a strange confrontation late one Friday night. I was walking home (rather drunk) at 1am, photographing anything that looked interesting. I was almost home, and took a photo of a corner house just down the street from mine, because it had an interesting looking white box on the side wall. When I got around the front of the house, I noticed a student couple were sitting on the front wall. The guy asked me “why are you taking pictures of this house?”
“Because I want to. It’s what I do.”
“But it’s *her* house. Why are you taking pictures of it.”
“Because it’s what I do. Why are you sitting on that wall?”
“That’s different, it’s *her* wall. It’s *her* house. Why are you taking pictures of it?”
“Because it’s what I do. Why are you sitting on that wall?”
This continued a few times, then I walked off, as the conversation was obviously going nowhere and I wanted to get home. When I did, I printed out the photo, scribbled the words “and why not?” inside the
white box, and posted it through her front door (as you do).
I thought no more of it. Until tonight.
Gill has started working in a pub nearby. One of the students who drinks there was burgled recently, and tonight several of them were swapping local horror stories.
Somebody starts up… “one night we were sitting outside our house and somebody started photographing it. We asked him why and he wouldn’t give a proper explanation. That night, he posted a photograph of our house through the door, we were really scared so we phoned the police and gave them a description of him. The police said that the description matched somebody they were looking for…”
Gill said “that’s not a dangerous criminal, that’s my husband”.
Last night was the opening of my photo exhibition at the Washington. There was a fairly good turn out, almost all other photographers.
First of all Lloyd arrived all the way from Leeds. We had a really good chat about the photography workshops I’m running next month, Lloyd had heaps of useful advice and I feel far more confident about how I’m going to approach the workshops now.
Next Christiane turned up fresh from a talk at the Site Gallery by Jerwood winner Daniel Gustav Cramer.Â Jacqui and Steve turned up, as did Paula (polly.jane) from the Sheffield Flickr group . Geraldine arrived with her family, only to find out that kids aren’t allowed in the Washington, so she sent them home and came in herself. And I finally got to have a proper chat with Moses/0742 (who I have photographed before, but only managed to talk to in brief drunken fits) and his friend Steve Withington, AKA Carlos Barcode. Steve and Christiane seemed to get into some sort of very heated debate over whether one needs formal art training to be an art photographer, or something like that (I didn’t catch very much of it), which I would like to have got involved in but I was busy talking to half-a-dozen other people. Moses told me all about the making of his Fargate video, and a bit about his past – working with the Human League, burning a million quid with the KLF…
Nort and Mark T turned up, and around about that time, things started getting a little fuzzy and I only have pictoral memories to remind me of the rest of the evening.
Well, this year took a while to get started but now, all of a sudden, it’s all kicking off. I already mentioned the Washington exhibition and Open Up event that I’m going to be involved in. In the last 24 hours, a couple more possibilities have come it.
Firstly, I got an email from fellow Sheffield photographer Andy Brown. He is organising a show “6*6” – six Sheffield photographers each showing six photos, and with each photographer choosing a different subject matter or genre. Andy will be showing documentary photos, and also involved so far are Chris Saunders (music portraits), Denzil Watson (travel) and Stevlor (nudes). Andy emailed me along with 7 other local photographers to see if any of us were interested in making up the final two places. It remains to be seen whether I’ll make the cut, but this is something I’d really like to be involved in.
Just as I was getting over all this excitement, another email comes in, this time from Maramalade Magazine. A couple of months ago, they announced that they would be putting together an issue entirely composed of submissions via their Myspace page. This made quite a hit with the mainstream media looking for the latest Web2.0 bandwagon, and I sent in a few photos although I imagined they would get lost among a tidal wave of submissions. But no, I have been “selected through to the next stage of the myspace issue” – which is obviously no guarantee of being in the issue, but at least it means I managed to cut it through all the dross and now will at least get a fair crack at it. 45Mb (!) of high-res photos now winging its way to them via email (!)
My biggest problem now is finding a way to finance my burgeoning printing costs (I just had to spend £50 on my latest set of 12x8s) and framing (I don’t even want to contemplate that – I need to frame at least 10, preferably 15-20 photos to get a good base for exhibiting, and I’ve been quoted between £10 and £30 per frame & matte).