Brian Griffin: The Water People

One of the things that I admire about Brian Griffin’s work is that he takes what could be dull, commercial projects and turns them into something personal and exciting. In his early years it was his portraits of businessmen.

If you have the misfortune to read any of the business press or by mistake open the business section of your newspaper rather than send it directly to recycling, you can unfortunately find too many tedious suits, often supplied by company PR who generally have as much imagination as the typical woodlouse.That you will also sometimes come across some more interesting photography probably owes a great deal to the example of his work, inspiring other photographers.

A commission by Reykjavik Energy in Iceland could have been boring. Brian has turned it into a mythical narrative, based very loosely on Jules Verne’s ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth‘, in which he undertakes a dangerous journey to discover the city of the water people, who he then photographs. Two of the more interesting images in the show for me are of structures which I assume belong to Reykjavik Energy which suggest a different science fiction, clearly the alien landing craft.

The portraits of the water people are I think taken through sheets of glass with water or other more viscous clear liquid on them to give distortion effects. Years ago I had a box of sheets of various patterned glass samples some of which could also produce similar – but generally more regular – effects when used close to the lens.

It was a nice opening at [ space ], where it is on show together with water medallions by Brynja and in the next-door gallery Roof Unit Foundations, all running until 15 December 2007. I’m pleased to report that the opening was liberally supplied not with water but with Pilsner Urquell, one of the great bottled beers. Such a change from the brew at London’s best known photography space.

Brian also has another show in London at the moment – Teamphoto, which I’ve written about previously – at the (German) Gymnasium at St Pancras until Novermber 19, celebrating the great achievement of adding 20 minutes to my travel time to Paris. I’ll try out the new service in a few weeks on my way home from Paris Photo.

Water Portraits

Last week I spent some time with another photographer of ‘water people’, Alex ten Napel, whose work I’ll write about shortly. His approach to water portraits is more direct, getting his subjects (or helping them) to duck under water just before he photographs them, standing in the swimming pool.

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