Archive for the ‘Photo History’ Category

Charmes de Londres

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

I have quite a collection of books of photographs of London (as well as probably a few hundred thousand of my own pictures) but one of my favourites is ‘Charmes de Londres‘, credited to Jacques Prevert with photographs by D’Iziz-Bidermanas. Although most of the texts are poems by Prevert, it also has some quotations by others including William Blake and a Picasso drawing.

I didn’t buy this when it first came out in 1952, as I was then only seven and penniless – and it wasn’t in any case for sale, but came across it in an Oxfam shop perhaps 15 years ago, paying £19.50 for a copy in good condition. Perhaps remarkably you can still find copies of the original edition, published ‘hors commerce‘ for members of La Guilde Du Livre in Lausanne and printed by heliogravure (photogravure) on wood pulp free paper, for only a pound or two more. The previous year’s collaboration, published in the same way,  Grand Bal du Printemps, will set you back around 25 times as much.

Part of the reason you can still find copies of that original version (there are also later editions) is that it was a relatively large print run, with 10,300 numbered copies (mine is No. 4871) as well as 30 labelled I to XXX for the organisers of the guild. Although photographers often complain about getting second billing to writers when then works are published, Prevert had a much larger fan base!

The book is a reminder of the fine printing that could be achieved with photogravure, and it matches the mood of Iziz’s images perfectly. A recent post on Spitalfields Life,  Israel Bidermanas’ London, reproduces a fine selection of over 20 images from the book, without Prevert’s poems (which are of course in French) and gives a good impression of the subjects, but shows them in a more modern tonal interpretation, more contrasty and with intense blacks, which perhaps loses something of the gloomy charm of the original publication. This was a post-war London still under a gloomy miasma, though probably the real pea-soupers defeated the photographer few if any images have a clear distance.

The best way to see more of his pictures on-line seems to be to search on Google Images or Pinterest for ‘Izis Bidermanas‘.

Iziz was one of many fine photographers of Paris, and another was Willy Ronis (1910-2009). In 2004, French editor Alain Dhouailly published a limited edition of 130 copies of a set of 12 or his images printed by heliogravure which gives some background on the process. Ronis’s work is fairly widely avaialable and on galleries on the web, for example at Hacklebury Fine Art.

Grossman & the Photo League

Monday, January 16th, 2017

Around 15 years ago, I wrote a series of articles and short notes about what was still then a very much overlooked part of American photographic history, but which is now referred to as ‘New York’s famed Photo League‘. An organisation that was destroyed by McCarthyism as ‘anti-American’ it remained largely outside the pale until this century, and I was pleased to be able write about it and to mention some of the photographers still alive and working who learned and developed their craft there, largely under the critical eye of Sid Grossman (1913-1955). I’ve mentioned it before on this site, including two posts with the same title, The New York Photo League where I quote from my 2001 article, and a longer version here.

You can get some idea of the critical blind-spot by reading the lengthy introductory essay by Gerry Badger to the 1985 Barbican show ‘American Images: Photography 1945-80’ which relegates Grossman and others to what is essentially a footnote to the later work of Robert Frank and the Photo League to an introductory sentence to the work of Aaron Siskind which makes clear that his importance as a photographer was due to breaking away from his early work with the League on Harlem Document.

Although none of Grossman’s work appeared in the Barbican show, that the work of several others involved in the Photo League does probably owes itself – as did much of the show – to the ideas and graft of John Benton-Harris, a native New Yorker who studied with Alexey Brodovitch, and who grew up with the work of the Photo League photographers and their successors and their views of his city.

As his artist page at the Howard Greenberg Gallery states, Grossman, who had founded the Photo League with Sol Libsohn in 1936, “had a tremendous influence on a large number of students who studied with him including Weegee, Lisette Model, Leon Levinstein, Ruth Orkin, Arthur Leipzig, Rebecca Lepkoff and numerous others.”

The main show at the Howard Greenberg Gallery in New York until Feb 11, 2017 is the “first solo exhibition in 30 years to explore the legacy of Sid Grossman” and the exhibition also includes “a small selection of work by some of Sid Grossman’s students including Rebecca Lepkoff, Leon Levinstein, Marvin Newman and Ruth Orkin.” Also showing at the gallery is a “companion exhibition with work by Sy Kattelson, a student and close friend of Sid Grossman.

Last September, Steidl co-published with Howard Greenberg Gallery ‘The Life and Work of Sid Grossman ISBN, 9783958291256′ with a biographical and critical essay by Keith F Davis, the first comprehensive survey of Sid Grossman’s life and work, with over 150 photographs “from his early social documentary work of the late 1930s to the more personal and dynamic street photography of the late 1940s, as well as late experiments with abstraction in both black and white and color.”

England, and Saint George!

Sunday, January 15th, 2017

A few minutes on Wikipedia convinces me that April 23 has more than its share of famous births, deathas and commemorations of which the best known here is of the man the Eastern Orthodox call “Holy Glorious Great-martyr and Victory-bearer and Wonderworker George“, a Palestinian (or Turk) of Greek parentage and a Roman soldier – if he actually existed. Certainly the dragon didn’t, and was not involved in the legend that made him a saint, in which, undoubtedly like some Christians of the era, he was tortured at length before being beheaded for refusing to convert to the Roman gods following an edict by Emperor Diocletian in AD 303 which led to three years of such persecution, though applied with differing severity across the Roman Empire.

April 23 is a day George shares with a number of other saints, with Wikipaedia listing around a dozen for the Eastern Orthodox, including George’s mother, two soldiers converted by witnessing George’s martyrdom and the wife of Diocletian, as well as another 14 pre-schism Western Saints, post-schism Orthodox saints, new martyrs and confessors (though due to our change to the Gregorian calendar they celebrate these April 23 events on our May 6th.) In the West, George shares his feast day with Adalbert of Prague and Gerard of Toul, while both the Evangelical Lutherans and Episcopalians in the USA commemorate the life of Japanese Christian pacifist, reformer and labour activist Toyohiko Kagawa (1888-1960) which seems to me admirable. It’s a shame we’ve never heard of him here.

Shakespeare was probably born on April 23 1564, and certainly died on April 23 1616, giving us another reason to commemorate – and UNESCO chose April 23 as UN English Language Day, (one of six promoting its official working languages,) for that reason. It’s also UNESCO World Book Day, though in the UK we celebrate this on on the first Thursday in March instead, as April 23 is often in the Easter school holidays.

In England, St George’s Day once ranked with Christmas as a major celebration, an occasion for feasting and drinking, but its celebration became less important after the union with Scotland, and had almost disappeared in the last century. One or two people still wore a red rose, and some official buildings flew a flag, though usually the Union Flag rather than the English flag of St George. The day never became a bank holiday, partly because of its closeness to Easter (and the Church of England even moves his feast day when it gets too close to Easter, moving it from April 23 to the Monday following the Second Sunday of Easter.)

Back in the last century, even English sport teams and their supporters would often use the Union Flag rather than the English St George Flag, but it was sport and particularly football that led to a resurgence for the red cross on white, and pubs showing England games at the World Cup on TV that led to its proliferation across the land. It became associated with football supporters, and with the largely right wing hooligans involved in football violence who dominated many ultra-nationalist groups, often styling themselves as patriots, and looking back to a mythical past of an all-white England ruling an empire around the world, or even launching crusades against the infidel foreigners.

A strange alliance between these ‘patriots’ and others who have tried to reclaim the English flag from the bigots has led to an increase in official commemoration of St George’s Day this century, which has involved groups including the BBC, English Heritage and London Mayor Boris Johnson, as well as some churches, and it’s a mixture that has been reflected in my photographs of the day over the years.

In 2016, St George’s Day actually fell on a Saturday, and I expected to see more activity than in other years, but was in the end rather disappointed. The Mayor’s day of events in Trafalgar Square seemed rather lacking in spirit, and all more organised events by ‘patriots’ in the London Area seem to have evaporated, perhaps because of increased militancy by anti-fascist groups. I paid a brief visit to Trafalgar Square, but found little to photograph – perhaps things got better later in the day, but the few pictures I’ve seen by others don’t encourage that thought.

South of the river in Southwark things were a little better with a festival ‘A Quest for Community’ with the aim of ‘Taming the dragon of difference’ involving a St George’s Day procession from the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St George to the Church of England St George the Martyr in Borough High Street. As well as St George, Diocletian and his daughter, a sooth-sayer and of course a dragon, it also included drummers and the Mayor of Southwark, to whom I was pleased to be able to point out a blue plaque and tell her a little about one of the Borough’s more famous son’s, photographer Bert Hardy, who grew up in ‘The Priory’ which was on our route.

She had been unaware that one of Picture Post’s best-known photographers and a pioneer in using 35mm in press photography had come from her patch – and never really left it, though advertising brought him enough money to buy and live in Chartlands Farm, Limpsfield Chart near Oxted. And about how his powerful photography had powered the textbook example of an unsuccessful advertising campaign, ‘You’re never alone with a Strand’ along with an outstanding ‘noir’ TV ad shot by Carol Reed with music by Cliff Adams that would have topped the charts had the BBC not banned it for advertising cigarettes. Even at 3s2d for 20, nobody wanted to be seen as lonely enough to buy them.

The procession ran late, and I didn’t have time to watch more than a few minutes of the play that followed, and missed the free pint that was waiting for me in the City where Leadenhall Market was also celebrating our patron saint. Instead I met with friends at the Old Kings Head in Kings Head Yard just off Borough high St, a welcome survival of a traditional English pub – and where better to meet not just one St George, but two, the second accompanied by his very own dragon.

I forget why we left. Perhaps it was the thought of a good dinner waiting for me at home, but I stopped for a minute or so in the yard outside for a last picture of St George with his dragon holding his own and George’s pint in the alley outside, a rather different and very English version of the legend, and my favourite picture from a long day.

More at:
St George in Southwark Procession
St Georges Day in London

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Past Memories

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

We all have our own view of the past, and particularly of our own part in it. I’ve long believed that I watched England beat Germany back in 1966 in a crowded room in an international hostel just to the south of Paris. It was a protestant centre largely housing refugees, and although many spoke a little English, my fiancée and I were among the very few English people staying there at the time.

She insisted when she heard me say this recently that she watched that final with the children in the home of a short French General (a mate of the tall one) where she went on leaving the hostel – and I left at the same time to start a new job back in outer London. My first day at work was 1st August 1966, 2 days after the final on 30th July.

It’s a story I’ve often mentioned over the years, when, as rather often happens in certain discussions, usually pint in hand that 1966 game comes up, and despite my absolute conviction that I was there at Cimade in Massy-Palisseau, on full consideraton I think Linda just has to be right.

I remember watching two matches in the communal TV room there, and the atmosphere that was not far removed from being on the terraces, except that the fans of both sides were in close proximity. Given that many of those at the hostel were Spanish or Portuguese speakers I think it most likely that the two games I saw were the quarter final with England playing Argentina and the semi against Portugal decided by two Bobby Charlton goals.

It’s a trivial example with little consequence, and probably of now great interest to anyone except Linda and myself. And since most often my story comes out in entirely male company when the talk turns to footy I could probably keep up with my embroidery about the occasion.

Of course what got me thinking (and writing) about this again were the photographic events around D-Day and the systematic and detailed research by A D Coleman and his team (J Ross Baughman, Rob McElroy, Charles Herrick.) Unlike my own case above there is a great deal of evidence about what actually happened – photographic and eye-witness reports – around these much more momentous events, and they have done a remarkable job of putting it together and teasing out the truth.

More recently Coleman’s emphasis has been on the failure of various individuals and bodies in photography with an interest in Capa to acknowledge this research, and to continue to promulgate the now discredited legends which were largely the inventions of two men, Capa himself and photo-editor John Morris.

A few days ago, Morris celebrated his 100th birthday, and the photographic world celebrated with him, largely by publishing those inventions which were the foundations of his later career – at a time when Morris himself has finally come to accept the findings of Coleman and others. As I commented on Facebook a week ago:

lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/12/06/as-he-turns-100-john-morris-recalls-a-century-in-photojournalism/

“After studying new theories of what happened, Mr. Morris now thinks that the negatives were not melted, and that Mr. Capa only exposed 11 frames on one of the four rolls that were shipped. Mr. Capa probably was rattled, Mr. Morris said, during the withering fire he withstood at Omaha beach.”

John Morris corrects a little photographic legend – thanks to A D Coleman & colleagues.’

As my rather heavy-handed example at the top of this post shows, it’s easy for any of us to become convinced by our own inventions, and I think that both Morris and Capa – who after all invented himself – were before long incapable of separating their fictions from the actual happenings. But in the end we have to give way to the evidence where it exists and is presented, although it may be hard to do so. And I am finding it hard, trivial though it is in my case. As I often think to myself, ‘If only I’d kept a diary.’

Coleman continues to excavate the career of John Morris in a series of posts, the third of which, Alternate History: Robert Capa and John Morris (c) appeared today, examining the exaggerations in Morris’s biographical note which was published in the February 1946 issue of Popular Photography, doubtless providing the source for many later journalists and writers.  His second piece looked at Morris’ part in covering up the truth about Capa’s ‘Falling Soldier‘, and the first in this sub-series Alternate History: Robert Capa and John Morris, examines the various published eulogies on Morris’s centenary – of which the Lens piece mentioned above stands out as the only one to bring out some of his inconsistencies. Written by James Estrin it also seems to be the only piece of any originality among them.

Jack London Photographer

Thursday, November 24th, 2016

As often happens, it was a feature on the New York Times Lens blog that set me thinking this morning , this time by Jonathan Blaustei, the ‘The Rarely Seen Photos by Jack London‘. It wasn’t the first time I had seen photographs by London, with a number of earlier article such as Spitalfields Life’s Jack London, Photographer, published a couple of years ago at the time that Tangerine Press and L-13 Light Industrial Workshop republished his classic study of London’s East End, The People of the Abyss including all all 80 original black & white ‘illustrations from photographs‘ of the first 1903 US publication.

Interesting though these are, the poor quality of the original reproduction (which I assume is faithfully reproduced in the republished version) perhaps makes it had to appreciate London’s qualities as a documentary photographer.

Those unfamiliar with London’s life and other works such as ‘The Call of The Wild’ (which I was intrdouced to at school many years ago) will find a good short biography in the Smithsonian Magazine marking the 100th anniversary of his death a few days ago. The feature does mention his photography but almost in passing, a surprising lacuna given the 2010 book Jack London, Photographer by Jeanne Campbell Reesman, Sara S. Hodson and Philip Adam, which used original negatvies from the California State Parks collection (and there is a Jack London State Historic Park) and the albums of original photographs in the Huntington Library Jack London collection (this has 200 images on-line but these don’t really represent his documentary work.)

The book includes images from the East End, where he dressed as a working man and lived with those he photographed and wrote about (an approach which later inspired George Orwell‘s 1933 ‘Down and Out in London and Paris‘ – though Orwell worked only in prose), his work as a war correspondent on the Russo-Japanese war for the Hearst press, the 1906 San Franciso Earthquake, sailing trips to the Hawaiian Islands, the Marquesas, Solomon Islands, and Bora Bora where he documented cultures he saw fated to disappear, and his final photographs of the 1914 Mexican Revolution two years before his death. You can read a review of the book by blogger Ron Slate.

This April The Daily Telegraph published a feature accompanying the release of a new book, ‘The Paths Men Take‘ by Contrasto Books which has 70 photographs from his four major photographic coverages, and more recently The Guardian got in on the act.

Unlike some other famous figures whose snapshots have been published in later years, London was clearly a serious photographer, taking over 12,000 photographs in his relatively brief career. He saw himself as a professional photographer and was taking his pictures to sell alongside his writing. He called his pictures ‘human documents‘ and while they lack the revolutionary and controversial power of his writing they bring to life the people and events that he photographed.  He died on his ranch, aged only 40, having suffered from many serious illnesses on his travels, including scurvy in the Klondike and various tropical infections on his voyages, as well as life-long alcohol addiction on 22nd November 2016.

Dannin on Magnum

Monday, November 21st, 2016

I’m not sure that ‘“The Dannin Papers,” a series of Guest Posts by Robert Dannin, who served as Editorial Director of Magnum Photos from 1985-90′ actually tell us a great deal about photography, revealing as they are about some photographers, but at least for me the first piece, now on part 4 of 6 about his years with Magnum, based around an interview he gave to Russell Miller in 1995 is a highly entertaining series about the inner workings of the world’s best-known photo agency.

It is more than just gossip. More seriously it also shows up Miller’s book as a highly sanitised version of the truth, and I can find little in it that reflects the inside information that Dannin gave him when he was producing his ‘MAGNUM: Fifty Years at the Front Line of History’, as well as giving some insight into the inner workings of what would appear also to have been one of the world’s most dysfunctional organisations. Dannin gets 5 lines in the book, with a note of his resignation and a very pithy quotation of his reasons; Haiti, the first of three disasters which Dannin recounted to Miller in the current post, does not even feature in the book’s index.

Perhaps things have changed a little since then, and though there are still some fine photographers in Magnum, it no longer really deserves or enjoys the reputation it had back in the last century, with other agencies now encouraging much of the best photojournalism and Magnum sometimes appearing a little past its best-before date. When I started in photography it was every young photographer’s dream to become a Magnum member, but I think few harbour that aspiration now.

Killed by Roses

Thursday, October 27th, 2016


Eikoh Hosoe and one of his pictures from Ordeal by Roses

Today’s L’Œil de la Photographie with its article Eikoh Hosoe, Barakei A portrait of Yukio Mishima brought back memories to be of a few days spent in company with him and other photographers back in 2005 in Bielsko-Biala, at their first FotoArtFestival.


Eikoh Hosoe in Bielsko-Biala

It was a great privilege for me to be invited to show some of my urban landscape work from London’s Industrial Heritage along with such distinguished company as Eikoh Hosoe, Ami Vitale, Boris Mikhajlov and Malick Sidibe, as well as many rising stars and a few of those no longer with us, Mario Giacomelli, Inge Morath and Robert Diament, as one of 25 photographers representing 25 countries around the world.


Eikoe Hosoe uses his pink phone camera

I’d travelled light to Poland, and had only taken a small digital pocket camera, a Canon Ixus. It was an excellent camera for the time, but in some of the dimly lit interiors I did find myself wishing I had brought a Nikon. But it was a small and pocketable camera, and I think did remarkably well all things considered. You can see more pictures I took with it on the trip in my FotoArtFestival Diary, along with some of one of my three talks there. As well as presenting my own work, I also gave presentations on the work of two great British photographers, Tony Ray Jones and Raymond Moore, and on the work of some of my London Friends, Paul Baldesare, Jim Barron, Derek Ridgers, Mike Seaborne and Dave Trainer.


Eikoh Hosoe photographs me photographing him

What was remarkable apart from the photography was the atmosphere and camaraderie among the group of photographers there, some of the exhibitors and a few of their friends. Any ice between us had been broken at the press conference, which was enlivened by vitriolic attack on me as a British colonialist by one vodka-fuelled photographer as I got up to speak, enabling me to reply with a robust statement of some of my own political views and working class background, a family history of being screwed by that very same ‘elite’, ending up with us embracing each other – and going to a bar with most of the other photographers. Though I stuck firmly to my own resolve not to drink vodka, the beer was good.


Eikoh Hosoe

Hosoe was certainly the most distinguished of the photographers present, and probably too the oldest, and had a typically Japanese quiet reserve which was rather at odds with his photographic work. Though as some of these pictures show, by the end of the event he was very much one of us.


Eikoh Hosoe shows a picture on his pink phone

The ‘Eye of Photography’ feature accompanies a show of the work Bara-kei, (1961–1962) more often known in English as ‘Ordeal by Roses’, homoerotic images of melodramatic poses by the writer Yukio Mishima, one of Japan’s leading postwar writers, also a poet, playwright and actor as well as a nationalist who founded his own small right-wing student militia, the Tatenokai, taken in Mishima’s own house in TOkoyo. His work set out to break taboos and upset cultural traditions, with an emphasis on sexuality, death and political change, a delusion that led in 1970 to him with just four of his militia to perform a coup attempt to restore the power and divinity of the emperor, thought to have been a dramatic staging for his own ritual suicide with which it ended.


Eikoh Hosoe talks about one of his pictures

The Show ‘Barakei – Killed by Roses’ is at the Galerie Eric Mouchet in the Rue Jacob in Paris from today until December 23, 2016.


and another

You can see and hear him talking about some of his work in a video made for the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

There is a good selection of his work on Artsy – or you can search on Google Images. Although his work is on many gallery sites he does not seem to have his own web site. He has been the director of the Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts since its foundation i 1995. There is a nice piece on him, Eikoh Hosoe – Kamaitachi – From Memory to Dream by Rob Cook in The Gallery of Photographic History

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My First Day with a camera in London

Sunday, May 29th, 2016

I find it hard to think back and imagine the first time I came to London with a camera, and have little memory of the occasion. What I do have is two contact sheets (and the corresponding Tri-X negatives) but the only information outside of the images are the file letters, 3k and 3l, probably assigned at a later date.

In my first few years of learning to be a photographer I tried to keep images from different types of subject in different files, and the ‘3’ seems to have been a general photography file, including sports, portraiture, theatre photography and more, with negatives and filing sheets at some point assigned the letters a-z in what now appears to be a fairly random order.

At the time I took relatively few photographs and didn’t feel the need for much of a system, though file ‘4’ seems to have been reserved for my pictures taken in Europe. Fortunately it wasn’t too long before I saw the error of my ways and began to file my black and white negatives in order of taking (or at least of processing) and, since April 1986, under the year and month of taking. Of course things are much easier with digital where everything comes with EXIF metadata.

Probably anyone with access to a newspaper library would be able to fix the date more precisely, as several of the pictures show the remarkable ‘Golden Hinde II’, a remarkable reconstruction of Sir Francis Drake’s galleon in which he circumnavigated the globe from 1577-1580, moored at Sugar House Quay next to the Tower of London, with crowds waiting to board.

The ship, usually known as the Golden Hind, was launched in Appledore, Devon in April 1973, although its ‘maiden voyage’ was only made from Plymouth in late 1974. At some stage before this it came to London where I photographed it.

Around this time I had just bought an Olympus 35SP to replace one of two Russian cameras I had been using. It seems likely that these images were taken just a few days before this arrived, as the last 9 frames of the second film show this in various images, including one close-up of the viewfinder which shows the rather dull view from our first-floor Bracknell flat from which we moved in August 1974.

From the trees in several of the London images, they were clearly taken in winter, and so the pictures must date from either late 1973 or early 1974.

The pictures will have been made using a Zenith B, a sturdy, tank-like Russian SLR. The ‘B’ model came without the built-in exposure meter of the ‘E’ but was available with the superior 58mm Helios f2 lens (of pre-war German design) and on the page linked – where it is the fifth camera down – I see that the type I used is now “very rare to find”.

I will have been using a handheld Weston Master V exposure meter, which had a large selenium cell, and came with a curious white plastic ‘Invercone‘ to enable incident light readings. Made in Enfield in north London – or rather ‘Middlesex’, these were incredibly reliable, needed no battery and had only one real fault – the wafer-thin glass above the needle, which was easily broken as the meter dangled free from its cord around your neck. After several expensive repairs I cut and glued some rather thicker perspex on top of where the glass should have been.

As well as the ‘standard’ 58mm I also had with me another Russian lens, a telephoto, probably the 135mm Jupiter f4, copied from the Carl Zeiss pre-war Sonnar.

Photography with this equipment was rather slower than with modern cameras, but it was probably more the cost of film that kept the number of exposures made during the day to 49 – and explains why there are no real duplicate images. Two frames are hopelessly over-exposed, probably because I forget the need to manually stop down the lens to the taking aperture after focussing. Two are ruined by slight fogging, a consequence of loading film into cassettes from bulk with a bulk film loader to cut costs. One is sadly out of focus, rushing to get a picture, and a few seem rather ordinary – such as two pictures of St Paul’s Cathedral.

There are also no really great images, though most have some interest, some rather more than when they were made because of the changes since they were taken – little smoke now emerges from Bankside Power Station. But there was one picture which I think became very important to me, of warehouses being demolished on the riverside beyond St Katharine’s Dock, which is really the only one of these I remember taking, and which prompted me to begin to explore London’s disappearing docklands.

See these and the rest at My First Day with a camera in London.

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Provoke

Saturday, May 28th, 2016

PROVOKE: Between Protest and Performance Photography in Japan, 1960–75 is an exhibition  at Fotomuseum Winterthur in Switzerland from today, May 28 until Auguest 28th, 2016 and includes work by works by Nobuyoshi Araki, Eikō Hosoe, Kazuo Kitai, Daidō Moriyama, Takuma Nakahira, Shōmei Tōmatsu and others less well known (and including some anonymous works) associated with the remarkable magazine ‘Provoke‘.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the magazine was that there were only three issues, published in 1968-9 which were then largely ignored, but it has come to be regarded as “one of the most important photographic publications of the 20th century.”

For many photographers in the UK, our first real encounter with post-war Japanese photography came at the ICA in 1979, with the exhibition ‘Japanese Photography: Today and its Origin‘, curated by Lorenzo Merlo of Canon Photo Gallery Amsterdam, brought us face to face with the work of Hosoe, and a few years later, in 1985, the Serpentine Gallery played host to Mark Holborn‘s ‘Black Sun: The Eyes of Four‘ which included Moriyama, Hosoe and Tomatsu. I think both shows appeared without any mention of ‘Provoke’, or at least I can find no reference to it in their catalogues.

For those of us unlikely to get to Switzerland for the show, there is always the book. A hefty 680 pages I’ve yet to bring myself to buy, though at around £40 through the discount sellers it seems a reasonable bargain compared to Steidl’s limited edition ‘The Japanese Box‘ of 2001 with its facsimile publication of Provoke and books by Nobuyoshi Araki, Daido Moriyama and Takuma Nakahira, copies of which are now offered for well over a thousand pounds.

Hidden Faces from Chile

Wednesday, April 13th, 2016

One of the main reasons I began writing a series of articles about World Photography around 15 years ago was the strength and vitality of photography that I had seen coming from Central and Latin America, and I decided that as well as writing about various other countries around the world I would begin to tackle the countries of that continent in alphabetical order. It was a task I never completed, and I think the last country before I was sacked (at least in part because of a determinedly international approach which made it harder for my employers to sell space to US advertisers) was probably Mexico – which actually got several articles.

Other countries were much harder to find out much about, and one of the hardest was Chile, where I was able to find relatively little information then on the web, or in the libraries I had easy access to. It was the web that was vital, as I was writing for the web and needed to link readers to web sites they could visit to see photography.

Probably an important part of the reason for the lack of information was the human rights situation, particularly in the 1970s and 80s which my article mentioned. The show currently at the Maison de l’amérique latine in Paris until the end of April, Faces cachées: Photographie chilienne 1980-2015, is called ‘Hidden Faces’, and none of my research on the web led to any of the photographers represented in it. The article on the site is in French, but Google translate may help if you have problems with that. There is more information about the photographers and more images in the press release.

Lensculture has an illustrated feature on the show Hidden Faces: Chilean Photography, 1980-2015 with 9 pictures and text by Elizabeth Temkin, and also links to a documentary “La Ciudad de los Fotógrafos,” but once I found out how to turn on auto-generated subtitles made a little more sense, though at times they add an element of the surreal and some of the 1hr 20 minutes was lost on me.