City of Ambition – Ferit Kuyas and other shows

Yesterday I had a day of looking at pictures rather than taking them, though I couldn’t resist a few snaps later on – after too many glasses of red wine – as you can see here. Between a couple of meetings I fitted in visits to the Michael Hoppen Gallery in Chelsea and the Photographers’ Gallery near Leicester Square in an afternoon involving far too much sitting in hot buses in slow moving traffic and sweltering in the underground.

There were three shows at Michael Hoppen, but the only one I found of much interest was of work by Miroslav Tichy who I had written briefly about in 2005, around the time he won the ‘New Discovery Award’ at Arles (he first allowed his work to be shown in public in a show in Spain in 2004.) Tichy was obsessed by women, how they looked, stood, their gestures, and carried that obsession beyond normal limits, photographing through windows, the fences of swimming pools and on the streets, taking sometimes a hundred pictures a day with his handmade cameras.  Part of the charm that these pictures do possess is that they are so crudely made, but I think they are really objects that are talking points rather than photographs.  I certainly find the idea of paying 8 or 10,000 euros for one extremely curious. Yesterday was the last day of the show, but if you missed it I don’t think you missed a great deal. You can read the story on the web site (and elsewhere) and that’s what this is all about.

The Photographers’ Gallery has a show that clearly demonstrates how much better fashion photography used to be. I never thought I would walk around a show and decide that the most interesting picture was by Helmut Newton (there is a nice Irvin Penn and a quite a few others of interest.)  But frankly I don’t think any of the more current big names in the show stand up to the earlier competition and printing them big just makes them seem more vacuous.  Fashion in the Mirror continues until 14 Sept 2008.

Outside the gallery
It was cooler on the street outside Photofusion

In several ways my most rewarding gallery visit was to Photofusion in Brixton, where Turkish-born Ferit Kuyas’s City of Ambition was having its private view.  The city in question is Chongqingin, China, whose 32 million inhabitants include the family of the photographer’s wife. The large colour prints made from his 4×5 images are mainly from the outskirts of the city, showing areas of rapid growth through the haze of pollution that appears to cover most of the country (and will possibly lead to the cancellation of the Olympic marathon in Beijing.)

Ferit Kuyas
Ferit Kuyas (centre) at the opening

You can see some excellent images of his work from the project on his web site, along with some other projects worth looking at. ‘Agglosuisse‘ is a collection of colour images of “mediocre suburban spaces” that I really like, while the black and white images in ‘Archetypes‘ show more of his sense of design. You can also read more about him in a feature in the Hasselblad Masters Archive.

Down the pub
Brixton – band in pub

My evening finished at a pub a short walk away, before a rather long wait for the bus to take me to Clapham Junction for the train home.  It’s a pain that the Victoria line closes at 10.00pm – these works seem to be dragging on for ever.

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