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Monday, 31 May 2010

Who is your White Man?

 


"The white men are bad schoolmasters, they carry false books, and deal in false actions; they smile in the face of the poor Indian to cheat him; they shake them by the hand to gain their confidence, to make them drunk, to deceive them, and ruin our wives. We told them to leave us alone, and keep away from us; they followed on, and beset our paths, and they coiled themselves among us, like the snake. They poisoned us with their touch. We were not safe.We lived in danger. We were becoming like them, hypocrites and liars, adulterous lazy drones, all talkers and no workers...


The white men do not scalp the head; but they do worse - they poison the heart...."


From Howard Zinn's People's History of America. Who is your white man?

Saturday, 29 May 2010

The World Cup: When England lose the only consolation will be the tears of Terry, Lampard and Cole



With the World Cup approaching, this comes from The Guardian

"The great hope behind holding big sporting events in developing countries is that the glare of international publicity will drive the process of reform. But it doesn't work like that, because the incentive structure is all wrong. Corruption tends to become more entrenched, since everyone knows that only two things are certain: first, there will be plenty of money washing around, and second, everything will have to be finished on time, come what may. So rather than reform, the local organisers hold out for short-term injections of funds, often to bail them out of crises of their own making. The Athens Olympics of 2004, which may in the long run have helped to bring the global financial system to its knees, is the role model here. The Greek economy wasn't bankrupted by the cost of hosting the games. But Greece's promises to reform its way of doing business, to meet the criteria of euro membership, had to be put on hold in the desperate rush to get the facilities built on time. An unbreakable deadline, with the world watching, means more backhanders being paid, not fewer, more black-market labour, more dodgy accounting practices, more skimming off the top. Hosting the Olympics made Greece more Greek.

....

In Why England Lose, and Other Curious Football Phenomena Explained, Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski describe why big sports tournaments rarely give the host country the economic boost that the organisers always promise – all those extra tourist dollars and investment benefits simply don't materialise. What these events do achieve is a short-term boost in national happiness – for a few months, people are cheered up by having something to distract them. Is that what South Africa needs? "About a third of all South Africans live on less than $2 per day," Kuper and Szymanski drily note. "These people need houses, electricity, holidays, doctors."

Never mind all that, here in Bath we are all looking to the helter-skelter World Cup ride with tremendous anticipation. The disappointing draw with Algeria, the stunning victory against Slovenia, the high hopes, the path to the final clearing before us before the last 16 defeat against Ghana, the tears of Terry, Lampard and Cole the only thing to savour as Spain, Germany or Italy God help us march on to victory and we wonder at what-might-have-been if every country in the world was as spoilt and self-indulgent as ours. 

.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Fresh and Wild Explorations, Presentations, Portrayal and Creations



Fresh and Wild is the showcase of this year's UK graduates and here are a load of photographers from the Review Santa Fe.

The Fresh and Wild photographers are interested in, inspired by and focussed on.The photographers depict, attest, empower, evoke, evolve from, give a visual voice to, document (or attempt to), create, emote, consider, explore (or aim or attempt to), portray, capture, record, find and present.

We all know what they mean and we all do it ourselves but sometimes it just reads a little too formulaic. It kills the love. And that's a shame because I think the selection this year has more energy than in previous years.

The questions is which ones do you like, and which ones will do well. They're not the same and that's not even taking into consideration the ability to network, handshake, know the right thing to say, be presentable and financially viable. God, that's blown the cover on just a few of my limitations. This is 2010 and photography is for the socially ept and temporarily concerned.


The portraits above are by Steven Barritt,  David Plummer and Maria Kapajeva.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Elaine Duigenan: Pictures of Snail Trails



A long time ago one of my favourite bands was from Burnley. They were called the Not Sensibles and their record labels was Snotty Snail records. Which reminds me of Elaine Duigenan's latest work. Micro Mundi - pictures of snail trails. These were taken from the sides of old and derelict caravans ("damp and neglected is good for snails" says Elaine), the trails interweaving over time, one on top of another, old markings on top of fresh ones, so creating the map like images you see above.

After finding the trails, Duigenan photographed them on 5 x 4, then scanned and cropped them into circular images.

Micro Mundi will show at  Klompching, NY from June 17th to August 6th. 

And for a little bit of musical accompaniment what could be better than Death to Disco by The Not Sensibles. Sorry, Elaine.

Tony Fouhse: Are you looking for a subject?


 

A short question and answer with Tony Fouhse who is making the very interesting User pictures.

Why did you start the User project?

I was looking to shoot a project, meeting strangers, setting them up into little scenarios and photographing the results. I wanted to shoot this at dusk.

I went to a bunch of spots trying to make this work.  Mostly the people I met didn't have the time (or inclination) to participate.  In desperation I went to the corner of Cumberland and Murray Streets in Ottawa, where I know crack addicts were always hanging around. In order to do what I do, it's important that the people I shoot have some time on their hands in order to collaborate with me on the shoot.

I was initially met with a certain amount of suspicion (of course) and nothing really happened.  I was loading my gear back into the car, to try another spot, when an addict named Archie walked by.  He saw the camera and asked me (and this is a quote): "Are you looking for a subject?"

I replied: "Dude, that's exactly what I'm looking for".

He let me take his picture, and after that I shot 2 more setups using different addicts.

If I'd have left a minute earlier, or if Archie had come by a minute later the project would never have happened.

When I saw the results I knew right away that this was what I had been looking for.

A few days later I took prints back to give to the people I'd shot.  Other addicts saw the prints and liked them and my approach.

I've been shooting there for going on 4 years with the support and collaboration of the subjects.


What do you hope to achieve with the project?

I say, and I'm sticking by it.....all I'm trying to do is take interesting photographs.  I'm a photographer, not a social worker.

I'm just trying to take interesting photos.  But I'm also aware of, and have studied, the vibe on the corner and the history of photography.  I try to combine all of those things, along with my own aesthetic predilections, when I'm shooting.

Can photography/your work change the way we see people?


I'm kind of cynical when it comes to this.  But I'm constantly astounded/surprised by the reactions to USER, by what the people who view these images tell me about how their perceptions of addicts have been changed.

What do your subjects think of the pictures you make of them?

 I shoot business leaders, politicians and all kinds of "regular" folks for a living but  I've never met a group of people who bring more to the table during a shoot than the addicts I work with on that corner.  If you stood behind me as I was working there you would see them arranging their expressions and their posture.  You can see them thinking about how they want to portray themselves and their lives.  They are using the opportunity to show the "outside" world aspects of their fact that they think are important to see.

Monday, 24 May 2010

The view from Solsbury Hill, Bath: The 3 Disgraces



We interrupt this blog to bring you some important news from Larkhall, Bath.

First up is the news that  Oldfield School in Bath is to become an academy. An Academy is a school which has a certain degree of independence from government of various kinds. Schools that have been declared outstanding by Ofsted

The only problem for Oldfield School for Girls is the head, Kim Sparling (and I have neighbours who have been both students and teachers at Oldfield School and I don't want to repeat what they say about her because it ain't nice) , announced her decision during a consultation process on school closures in Bath. Instead of taking part in the consultation as other schools did, she abdicated all responsibility, took herself, her pupils and her school out of the democratic process and so removed herself and her school from all accountability. This is not reflected in the current school website but it was in the one that came immediately after the second consultation meeting at St Marks where Ms Sparling stated that Oldfield School no longer needs to take part in the consultation process, the parents don't need to attend the meetings and nobody should contribute anything to the process in any way whatsoever.

The consultation process is flawed to be sure, but one has to be part of it. I have a vested interest in one of the other schools in the consultation process staying open and continuing its policies of diversity and inclusion for all learners in the community. That school is St Marks. I accept that St Marks might have to close and that on exam results alone, Oldfield School appears to be the 'better' school. Even allowing for that vested interest, I can see that the staff and head of St Marks School are taking part in the consultation process, are providing an example to their students of how to be democratic and accountable. They are putting the best interests of their students and the parents of those students first, not using loopholes to get out of a flawed, but necessary process.

So what kind of example is Kim Sparling setting, what kind of person is she to evade the necessary issues? And in evading the issues, isn't she failing her students, her staff and the pupils at her school. Because she may imagine her actions are going to prevent closure of her school, but I have a sneaking suspicion she is actually hastening it.

Sorry, Ms Sparling, but from where I am sitting in sunny Larkhall, and to all the parents I know in the Valley Schools, your actions appear underhand and despicable. This is something I would never do. It is something most people would never do.  I would not do such a thing because I would feel myself to be corrupt in some way, I would know that ultimately I was giving a bad example to my students and their parents and the school. Ultimately I would be embarrassed and ashamed.

If you live in Bath or Bristol, whatever school you want to send your child to now or in the future, take part in the consultation process here.

And read the story here. In this article, the council gives the following advice to all parents, children and members of staff affected by Kim Sparling's proposal:

"Contrary to the original information provided by the school to its parents, this decision by the school governors does not impact on the consultation, which will continue as planned with a final decision on proposals to be agreed by (the council’s) cabinet on July 21.  We advise parents to attend the meetings already planned and advertised.”
 
And read another story here which details some local reactions to Kim Sparling's announcement.

I don't see the loopholes that Kim Sparling is trying to exploit as too much different from those being exploited by Golden Valley Paddocks over the hill in Woolley Valley. Their actions got two pages in the Daily Mail on Saturday and amount to a bending of the rules that defies belief. They are using planning law loopholes to front a farming operation that will suddenly transform into a property development operation causing damage to the valley and beyond.

Read the whole story here

And from the Telegraph.

Sign the petition here. 

And the final act in community vandalism taking place in Bath comes courtesy of  First Bus. Anyone who has ever ridden a First Bus or worked for them will know what a disgrace this company are. In Bath they are cutting services wholesale, severing links between connected communities. At the same time, they have been cutting driver conditions and hiking bus fares to unaffordable rates - how about £2.10 for a one and a half mile bus ride into town. Their actions increase congestion, pollution and drive local shops and services out of business. What kind of person makes these decisions. Have they no shame or pride?

Sign the Save our 6/7 Buses petition here.

If you live in Bath or Bristol, whatever school you want to send your child to now or in the future, take part in the consultation process here.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

An Interview with Scot Sothern

Continuing on the Scot Sothern theme, here are some extracts from an interveiw with Scot Sothern by his son, Austin Wolf-Sothern. You can find the full interview here

A: What inspired you to take photos of prostitutes?
SS:
1. I thought maybe I could get famous in the arty underground, or at least acquire a cult following.
2. I couldn't afford real models.
3. Sex and cheap thrills.
4. I wanted to make art with a fuck-you attitude.
5. I wanted to end world hunger.

A: Do you remember what the very first photo you took of a prostitute was?
SS: I think 1986. I wrote another story about the first time but this is a different first time. I was living with you and your mother at Berkeley student housing in Albany. You were three or four. Your mother was a student and I was unemployed. The marriage was in ruins. In a rage one night after a bloody verbal bout with your mother, I drove to San Pablo Boulevard to pick up a whore. I guess I figured degenerate sex in the car would make me feel better. I had my camera and a roll of film and my flash attachment with me, so after sex, which did make me feel better, I took some pictures. It was a couple of years later, when I was crashing at my friend Matt's in the valley, before I developed the film along with another five or six rolls I'd shot by then. I continued the sessions until 1990.

......

A: What has been the general reaction to the show?
SS: So far everyone likes it. The people I've talked to seem to go gaga for the literary vignettes I wrote which are posted next to the photos. I think the writing helps to humanize the subject matter. I like that there has been such a favorable reaction, but at the same time I was hoping for some outrage. I've had twenty years of rejection from galleries and publishers because the photos and stories were too blatant somehow. Now I don't even get a single protest. That's fucked up. Hopefully over time I'll get more exposure and attract the attention of people who hate people like me and the art I make. In a perfect world I'd open up a heated dialogue or two. I always thought it would be cool to see a burning effigy with my face.

Simple fact is there are no rules



Tony Fouhse, whose project User looks at the crack addicts in Ottawa, commented on the previous post on Scot Sothern. His comment is a middle finger to politeness and constructive criticism, but it hits the spot.


"I've been collaborating with a small society of crack addicts for 3 (going on 4) years. Taking fotos. Believe me, I've heard all the criticisms about exploitation, that I don't belong there, doing what I'm doing.

Simple fact is, there are no rules. Do what you want and let the chips fall. Mr Sothern is doing something. Those attacking this work are probably doing next to nothing, except complaining. If we listened to the nay-sayers and complainers, to those who would have us just represent the world and ourselves the way they see fit, well, where would that leave us?

Any time you frame anything, whether it be with a camera, with words or a paintbrush, you are exploiting. That's a given. Get over it.

If it offends you go look at fotos of sunsets, or flowers, or something"


Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Scot Sothern: A lack of ambiguity


"This woman is already dead so I photograph her ghost. She is one of the many; here in sunny Hollywood, California, murdered by life without the slimmest of a chance. I give her fifteen dollars even though she only asks for ten. The extra five includes my last dollar. That's my donation. I'm down among the lepers and I just gave away my last dollar. I'm a fucking saint. I'm the patron saint of whores"

Following on from the previous post I thought about what is not ambiguous, what is multi-layered but has none of the between-ness that the Host Gallery Blog mentioned. And I thought of Scot Sothern, partly because his pictures are political on several levels, but also because his pictures, which are more of an archive really, do all the things that many acclaimed photographers try to do but in a more concentrated and direct form - one that was incidental to his main activities, which was visiting low-class hookers for whatever reasons.

The pictures are multi-layered but are also voyeuristic in an unnerving way. They do raise questions of ethics and I wonder how people respond to them. Nobody seems to think much of them ( Stan Banos and Doug Rickard are a couple of the exceptions), or at least people are reluctant to show them or comment on them - possibly because they are afraid of getting the "wrong answer" (a consensus can quickly build up amongst independent thinking critics/commentators and bloggers and god help you if you have the wrong answer. I think I might have the wrong answer on this one, but then again at least I have an answer). But I think they are incredible. At the same time, I could fully understand why people don't like the pictures, the way they were made or what and who they represent, not to mention the photographer, his lifestyle and how he made the pictures.

Or am I just mistaken. Are these pictures just exploitative crap? What are they? I'm really fishing for a few comments here, which isn't something I often do. But I feel these pictures and the history and politics from which they emerged (however unfortunate or distasteful) are quite unique. I am probably wrong. So what do you think. Are they

  • Amazing and insightful?
  • Cheap, nasty and exploitative?
  • Nothing special?
  • Loads of this kind of stuff around?

Do feel free to comment at length. I want to know what point I am missing.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Worried about the Boy



The stagnation seems to be coming early here in the West Country this year so it was good to be perked up by the BBC's drama about Boy George, Worried about the Boy.

This was energised television with Boy George, Kirk Brandon, Jon Moss, Steve Strange and Malcolm McClaren gloriously reinvented for the small screen. Boy George was a creative consultant for the programme which made sense when you saw who played him - gorgeous, pouting Douglas Booth, strong-chinned, hard-bellied with tender brown eyes that glowed with human nobility and rose above the empty posturing of Steve Strange, Spandau Ballet and the rest of the Blitz kids.

My favourite line (which has some topical resonance) from the drama was the one where George is contemplating a prison sentence after being arrested for heroin possession (I think):

Boy George: Norman Tebbit wants to put me in a prison and throw away the key.

Jon Moss: Well you shouldn't have fucking voted for him then, should you.

The following BBC programme, Girls and Boys: Sex and British Pop Music, looked at the sexuality of British singers and the use of ambiguity to 'soften' the edges of homosexuality for the parents of the teenage audience the bands were catering to. Seeing Morrissey being kissed on the cheek and neck by a succession of 'gas fitters' from the north of England was a phenomenon to behold. 

My favourite soundbite from this documentary was by Jimmy Somerville of Bronski Beat. He had seen the ambiguity of a succession of pop stars (Boy George and Freddy Mercury ambiguous - come on) and knew it wasn't for him. "Fuck ambiguity," he said and so Bronski Beat became one of the first successful openly gay  bands.

All this talk of ambiguity reminds me of photography and a post by Harry Hardie on the Host Gallery Blog 
which says something very similar to Jimmy Somerville.

"Sometimes I just want to know what I am looking at, surely that’s not too much to ask?"

"...sometimes I wish photographers would just say what they mean."

Harry's gripe is with photographer's statements and the idea of between-ness, how it is overused and how it renders meaningless the pictures which it statements. There is an overuse of between-ness in photography, in reference to liminal spaces, transitionary ages or the blurring of the structured and the real. 

Multiple meanings and interpretations is part of what makes great work. There is no one way of looking at things, there are layers and complexities and depths to images that reach into areas of our conscious and subconscious life. But there is also a clarity in this kind of complexity that comes from a sense of direction and purpose generated by the photographer and his/her vision.


The between-ness Harry writes about corresponds to a lack of commitment, an ambiguity where you don't have multiple meanings and interpretations (it could be this and this and that) but end up with a negative meaning where something ends up being neither this nor that. 


This is what Harry had to say on the blog:


So this got me thinking about how many titles of photo books have the word “between” in them, a quick advanced search on Amazon brings up 3,762! Some of which are:

Between Art and Revolution: Tina Modotti
In Between: Guy Bourdin
China Between by Polly Braden
Between the Eyes
Some Points in Between... Up Till Now: Robert Polidori
Between Sky and Earth
Between Dogs and Wolves: Growing Up with South Africa by Jodi Bieber
IRAQ: The Space Between by Christoph Bangert
Between Past and Future: New Photography and Video from China
Between the Dark and Light by Jay Blakesberg
Between the Two by Todd Hido
Between Sea and Sky by R.S. Thomas and Peter Hope Jones
Between Dreams and Reality: Tracey Moffatt
The Space Between: Michal Rovner
Between Past and Future: New German Photography
Between Worlds: Contemporary Mexican Photography
Water: Worlds Between Heaven and Earth by Art Wolfe
Tibet: The Roof of the World Between Past and Present by Maria Antonia Sironi Diemberger
Between Visible by Tomoko Yoneda
The Space Between: Gordon Matta-Clark
Between Dog and Wolf by Nick Haymes
Between Dark and Dark by Thomas Joshua Cooper
Between Dog and Wolf: Chrystel Lebas
 

Monday, 17 May 2010

More escapism from the cold, depressing reality that is the UK



More escapism from a faraway place of which I know little except that I took some pictures there a long time ago. 

Friday, 14 May 2010

I feel so dirty



Now I know how it feels to be fucked by Nick Clegg. Yuck!

And it's not as if he didn't warn us.
 

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Chengdu 1996


This blog is rambling so it is back to some old pictures of mine, this one from Chengdu in China.

Dropping one's knickers for a bottle of Bollinger






We have a new prime-minister who is a Conservative and a new deputy prime-minister who is Liberal Democrat.  The Liberal Nick Clegg has been well and truly wooed, the sweet talk, the Bollinger, the metaphorical kisses and caresses of David opening Nick up like a rose. He surrendered and became David's. This is no short term relationship. Nick has committed the Liberals to a 5 year temporary marriage, his party being the lesser of the two equals. They will be the courtesan that will serve the Conservative machine. Let's hope the sweet talk, the kisses, caresses and mutual love and respect can stand the test of time. As the weaker partner, as the partner who has been traded, let us hope the Liberals can keep their honour intact, let us hope that the Conservative party does not become bored of its slatternly new companion. It would be sad to see the passion of the affair weaken and thin, to see the sweet words turn to epithets of abuse, the kisses and caresses  turn to slaps and punches, to see the Liberals the butt of Conservative abuse, the romance fading to reveal a battered and bruised party bereft of pride, dignity and principle, a party dishonoured and humiliated in the eyes of the people who once voted for them.

Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera...

The leaflet above shows Don Foster, my local Liberal MP. I voted for him because "I didn't want the tories to get in" and voting Labour or Green was a "wasted vote". Duh! The leaflet mentions "A Clear Choice" between the Liberals and Conservative. It doesn't mention "I'm going to drop my pants as soon as David Cameron throws a bottle of Tory Bolly my way."

The upshot of the election is that the Conservatives got no mandate. They only got 36% of the vote - almost two thirds of voters voted against them. Everybody lost; the Conservatives, Liberals and Labour all lost. The BNP lost as well. And UKIP. Only the Greens won.

But only the Liberals lost two elections in one go - this one and the next because, extrapolating from myself, there are going to be a fair few people who will not be voting for the Liberals in 2015 (or should that be 2011). Sorry Don. Unless you have a cunning plan up your sleeve - and "tempering the excesses" of the Conservative Party is not that cunning plan - you have lost my vote.

That Caroline Lucas looks nice.


Tuesday, 11 May 2010

David Cameron, Tally-Ho-Ho-Ho!



Farewell Gordon Brown. I liked his lack of artifice and his ability to save us from complete financial disaster, especially after the venality of  Tony Blair and the array of shabby, self-interested and delusional Conservative and Labour Prime-ministers that we had over the previous 30 years.

What do I make of David Cameron, our new prime-minister? I'll be generous and go with Obama's verdict - "What a lightweight."

That's Dave in the top picture - second from left on the back row. Bottom right is Boris Johnson, Mayor of London. In the second picture you can find George Osborne, our future Chancellor (for a few months anyway) in the bottom left hand corner. The Bullingdon Club is an Oxford University drinking and dining club.

Happy hunting, Dave. Tally-Ho!

Lijiang 1997

Colin Pantall

Lijiang 1997 -after the earthquake, before the airport.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Tory Boy



I last saw this bloke at Bristol Uni in 1987 (studying History and Classics - couldn't get into Oxford or Cambridge). And he's back - the time-travelling Tory. Nice chap. God help us all!

(picture from today's Independent)

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

General Election Day: A message from this blog - Think






Hitch says think and remember who we got the last time this country voted the Conservatives in!

10 things that are better than voting Conservative: Number 4

 Katherine on our last day in Bristol

4: Listen to Martin Parr.

He'll be speaking at An Evening With Martin Parr

cost is £5 on Tuesday 25th May from 7:30pm (Bar open from 7pm) at

QEH Theatre
Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital
Berkeley Place
Clifton
Bristol
BS8 1JX

The QEH is just a short walk up the hill from Martin's five-bedroomed Georgian mansion overlooking the beautiful expanses of Hotwells Road. Martin will be discussing his plans to return to 35mm black and white photojournalism, his collection of David Cameron bottle-openers and why Japanese photography has had its day.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

10 things that are better than voting Conservative: Number 3




3. Listening to some classic punk.

Perhaps a little bit of Crass for all the old anarchists out there. Shaved Women is an old favourite.

'In all your decadence people die.'

Wonderful. And afterwards relax yourself with a few dabs of Nivea's Calm and Care just to show that progress is not linear.




Monday, 3 May 2010

10 things that are better than voting Conservative: Watching Sholay



Next in the list of 10 things that are better than voting Conservative, and darned more pleasurable than the previous entry is:

2. Watching Sholay

I met Amitabh Bachchan at Bangalore Racecourse once - he's the most famous person I have ever met and a Film Star in the way that Tom Cruise or George Clooney aren't. That might not be a good thing though. Bachchan starred in Sholay, the 1975 movie that set new heights in Indian film-making, was shown for over 5 years in Mumbai, whose characters and lines still influence Indian film today.

Sholay was promiscuously influenced by the Seven Samurai, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, spaghetti westerns, the Aristocats, the Jungle Book and Monty Python. The plot is as convuluted as any Indian film, but at the same time a straightforward fight between good and evil, urban and rural, modern and traditional, secular and religious, man and woman, love and duty, where there's something to keep everybody happy but the forces of conservatism are ultimately left unmoved due to a few convenient deaths and misfortunes along the way.

The making of the film reads like an Indian soap opera. Dharmendra ( who played the thief Veeru) fancied Hema ( who played Basanti, the talkative tonga driver), so paid the lighting boys 100 rupees a time to mess the shot up. If Dharmendra wanted the shot to be good, he'd touch his nose, if he wanted more time with Hema, he pulled his ear and the scene would be flooded with light or the trolley go off the rails..

The armless policeman  was named Thakur by the scriptwriter Salim(who was Muslim) after his father-in-law (who was Hindu) - who didn't talk to Salim for seven years after he married his daughter against his wishes.

And the bad guy? The bad guy was Gabbar Singh (pictured above), so evil and sadistic that he kills small boys for fun. A great villain!