Sue Steward

Sue Steward is a writer, broadcaster and photography curator covering subjects in Europe, Africa, Middle East and Latin America. Her work began with Photo-Editing for books and newspapers, then on to writing. She has been Photo critic for London’s Evening Standard for a decade and also articles and essays for magazines, newspapers - including Guardian, Telegraph and Financial Times - brochures, photo-books and magazines including BJP (British Journal of Photography), Next Level, Monitor and State 22. Her essays for Photo-books include Prix Pictet’s “Growth”, Scarlett Hooft Graafland’s “Soft Horizons,” and Suzanne Jongmans “Explorations of Texture, Past and Present.” After judging for the National Portrait Gallery’s Taylor Wessing Photography Portrait competition, she wrote the catalogue essay. A founding member of (Sony) World Photography Organization, she is a judge and curator of awards, writer for the annual book and gives talks for Student Focus. For the international festival FORMAT, she is a judge and writer, and recent curation of “The History of Mug-Shots.” Other competitions and portfolio reviews include London, Birmingham, Belfast, Cardiff, Glasgow and Madrid. CIOB Institute covers Architectural Photography. Radio has been central to Sue for many decades, mostly BBC on World Music and Photography. Currently, she presents reviews for Monocle magazine’s Monocle FM. As a Trustee of the international charity PhotoVoice, Sue organized auctions and events and provided texts. Along with talks and lectures for university students in London, Falmouth, Rochester and Derby, the Brighton Tripod mentoring group also sees groups of emerging photographers develop their visual identities. For three visits to Muscat, Oman, Sue introduced young, untrained students into street photography and portraits and later, with Muscat Youth Summit, they edited their works and created their own gallery. The curated photography exhibitions include “Between Two Worlds: A window on Contemporary Photography in Latin America” (Edel Assanti, London); “The New Alchemists: Contemporary Photography Transcending the Print” (London Art Fair); “PINTA: Latin American Art Fair” ( Display Gallery); “Mug Shots through History,” (FORMAT festival, Derby). My involvement in Photography is mobile and eclectic. I’m a traveller, out to explore and discover subjects, themes, new processes, productions and ideas. And historical surprises. Roaming is important for students and newcomers to extend beyond their homelands.

Sue Steward is a writer, broadcaster and photography curator covering subjects in Europe, Africa, Middle East and Latin America. Her work began with Photo-Editing for books and newspapers, then on to writing. She has been Photo critic for London’s Evening Standard for a decade and also articles and essays for magazines, newspapers - including Guardian, Telegraph and Financial Times - brochures, photo-books and magazines including BJP (British Journal of Photography), Next Level, Monitor and State 22. Her essays for Photo-books include Prix Pictet’s “Growth”, Scarlett Hooft Graafland’s “Soft Horizons,” and Suzanne Jongmans “Explorations of Texture, Past and Present.” After judging for the National Portrait Gallery’s Taylor Wessing Photography Portrait competition, she wrote the catalogue essay. A founding member of (Sony) World Photography Organization, she is a judge and curator of awards, writer for the annual book and gives talks for Student Focus. For the international festival FORMAT, she is a judge and writer, and recent curation of “The History of Mug-Shots.” Other competitions and portfolio reviews include London, Birmingham, Belfast, Cardiff, Glasgow and Madrid. CIOB Institute covers Architectural Photography. Radio has been central to Sue for many decades, mostly BBC on World Music and Photography. Currently, she presents reviews for Monocle magazine’s Monocle FM. As a Trustee of the international charity PhotoVoice, Sue organized auctions and events and provided texts. Along with talks and lectures for university students in London, Falmouth, Rochester and Derby, the Brighton Tripod mentoring group also sees groups of emerging photographers develop their visual identities. For three visits to Muscat, Oman, Sue introduced young, untrained students into street photography and portraits and later, with Muscat Youth Summit, they edited their works and created their own gallery. The curated photography exhibitions include “Between Two Worlds: A window on Contemporary Photography in Latin America” (Edel Assanti, London); “The New Alchemists: Contemporary Photography Transcending the Print” (London Art Fair); “PINTA: Latin American Art Fair” ( Display Gallery); “Mug Shots through History,” (FORMAT festival, Derby). My involvement in Photography is mobile and eclectic. I’m a traveller, out to explore and discover subjects, themes, new processes, productions and ideas. And historical surprises. Roaming is important for students and newcomers to extend beyond their homelands.

Keith Arnatt said he’s a Real Artist. And A Real Photographer.

Keith Arnatt said he’s a Real Artist. And A  Real Photographer.

This is my selection of a fascinating, curious and in places beautiful series of photographs from the many in Keith Arnatt’s collection. One of the UK’s leading Conceptual artists (1930 – 2008), I’ve put him into an overview of his intriguingly changeable and even impulsive works covering nearly five decades. Visible shifts, disappearances, changing locations, contexts, methods and processes, all assemble to complete making unpredictable Art works.

From his early years of painting in the 1950s, Arnatt moved into the next decade and landed amongst the birth of Conceptual art. From there, Claes Oldenburg and many others moved outdoors and worked by buildings and in landscapes, all of which lured him into the new Land Art. Oldenburg’s materially sculptural pieces contrasting with Arnatt’s move to photography and the second dimension of prints.Keith Arnatt, The Absence of the Artist, 1968

The Absence of the Artist, 1968. 

          I’m a Real Artist, 1969-72.

  I’m a Real Artist, 1969-72.

A feature from that time shows the fashion for sans serif texts which Arnatt jumped at here in “The Absence of the Artist” (1968) and later, “I am a Real Artist” and later still, “I am a Real Photographer.” These humorous and series of titles suggest and deny his existence. Posing against that wall with the tiny board, he made a statement of pride and perhaps sarcasm.     

Keith Arnatt, Self-Burial with Mirror, 1969Self-Burial with Mirror, 1969.

Here, Keith Arnatt is facing the moment before he was dug deeper into the earth but paused by a friend positioning him in a mirror where we viewers, see his soon invisibility. Mirrors played a major part in that decade and after that burial experience, he distracted and confused other constructions in dug-out boxes. But below is the full story.

Keith Arnatt, Self-Burial, 1969

Self-Burial, 1969

The most famed and familiar work by Keith Arnatt is expressed in this piece. It’s a frightening, beautifully designed art work waiting to be de-materialized. His method for building the subject into it nine-piece grid, “Self-Burial, 1969,” marks the vanishing point. The landscape changed as the soil was dug out and a sculptural mound left. At the sealed ground where Arnatt stood upright, deep under the earth and breathing through a pipe, it almost suggests a game. But today, that raises images of the gruesome ISIS burials of people alive as seen in the film “Timbuktu.”

Claes Oldenberg. “Invisible Sculpture,” Central Park, New York, 1967

Claes Oldenberg. “Invisible Sculpture,” Central Park, New York, 1967

In New York, two grave-diggers emptied a trench then filled it; that was described as ‘Invisible Sculpture,’ while Arnatt developed became more complex and more vulnerable by moving inside the earth.

Keith Arnatt, Mirror-plug, 1968 “Mirror Plugs, 1968”

In this situation, mirrors became a highly passionate hands-on process for Arnatt. Here, we’re watching a patch of grass cut out and chunks of soil dug out and then mirrors line a pit and new processes fill his new conceptual plans. The different approach via Land Art leaves him with obvious pleasure in shaping the constructed boxes – invisible and intangible but seemingly realistic for the third dimensional images on this screen.

Artist's Piss 2 Artist's Piss 1

Artist’s Piss, 1961

This irresistible diptych carries the look of a Rorschach test in this spray of piss. They create a wonderful pair of silhouetted shadows where the straggly octopod’s legs sprawl down the wall and across the pavement next to Arnatt’s back door. They suggest sinister spurts of black blood. During the similar time, Andy Warhol presented his version in ‘Piss Paintings’ but his were on canvases and lack the depth of beauty or substantiality that Arnatt possessed.

Keith Arnatt, Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of his Former Self, 1969

 

Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of his Former Self, 1969-72

This scene in a similar Piss Street, set up by Arnatt to outline his shadow with chalk and filling his shape with semi-transparent black paint. The figure is almost convincingly three dimensional but for the black ghost’s transparency against the wall. A recent connection links to today’s Dutch photographer, Vivien Sassen who builds exquisite play and body shapes using dazzling colours and stunning sunlight in her versions of these silhouettes.  

On “Miss Grace’s Lane,” the ‘Untitled’ images are “Pictures from a Rubbish Tip, 1988-89”       clip_image022[2] clip_image023[2]

On “Miss Grace’s Lane,” the ‘Untitled’ images are “Pictures from a Rubbish Tip, 1988-89”       

This a final phase of Keith Arnatt’s work, photographs taken in country lanes (including Miss Grace’s). There, with his first colour series, he produced some of the richest aided by natural light. The subjects he found abandoned were lying on the ground, amongst bushes and leftovers from slimy spaghetti, mouldy bread, and rotting meat to torn clothing. Ironically, his incredible colours resemble the abstract paintings which loop him back to his early Expressionist years.

Here’s a quote from Keith Arnatt about a couple of his works. He wrote: “An interest in illusion (and delusion), in the sense of creating a false impression runs through much of my work. For example, the “Self Burial” photographs create the illusion that something is happening to me. And, in the later “Keith Arnatt is An Artist,” I consider the illusion –or possible delusion – of “being an artist.” Another connection is with the idea of absurdity.”

All photographs are Copyright of the Keith Arnatt Estate.

 

Blog # 1 – LAURA EL-TANTAWY

The Shadow of the Pyramids: Laura El-Tantawy’s Egyptian Journey.

I met Laura El-Tantawy in Cairo in 2012 but strangely, I was there to write about a Rolex mentoring project with Gilberto Gil, Brazilian superstar and former Minister of Culture, and Gaza’s popular singer, songwriter and musician in Cairo, Dina El-Wedidi. I sat in on their rehearsals in an indie studio watching preparing new songs for the Cairo Jazz Festival, and their work ran curiously in parallel with Laura’s photographs and writing.

Laura El-Tantawy, photographer, writer, artist.

For our meeting, Laura and I headed to the grandiose Zamalek district where we caught a Costa coffee because cafes on the banks of the Nile were closed or abandoned. Emptied tourist boats bobbed while we discussed the current crisis in Egypt and studied her photographs from the Cairo protests in Tahrir [Liberation] Square. That vast space is known to everyone there for January 25th, 2011 where hundreds of thousands of protesters began to shake the country just two months after Tunisia’s birth of the Arab Spring. Tents and flags and masses of people singing and shouting filled the air with joy and hope, but later on, fear. The intention was to eradicate the corrupt, brutal President, Hosni Mubarak and it worked: he was imprisoned in 2013.

On another January night as Laura moved amongst the crowds, the city’s ‘Underground’ bands and singers including Dina, were radiant with her new songs and the traditional ones from elderly women in desert villages. Singing to the crowds, she said, “It had been “The beginning for me.” And similarly, Laura told me of her life’s new identities.

Laura’s background shifted across countries from birth in England to grown teenaged years, then the family moved back to Cairo, then Saudi Arabia, then Cairo. She studied and graduated in the US, and in 2002 began her career in newspaper Photo-Journalism. Hearing about the growing protests in Egypt, she fled home and entered the Square – with her camera. “It was a moment when my past, present and future came together as never before,” she said. “In the Square, I found my dreams and I found myself again; the essence of Egyptian identity and my desire to reconnect with a country I no longer knew, my country of origin.”

  

Victims of attack cluster together on the ground under dark, reddish lighting, one with a bloodied hand, another a bandaged head, and the scene resembles a Caravaggio painting for its colours, lighting and composition.

The beautiful blur of waving flags and the chaotic vision of the distant women, almost suggests double exposure.

   

These tents in Tahrir Square are reminders of the vast numbers being lived in around the entire world today.

Faces of a Revolution; A Room of Faces.

From 2011 to 2005, Laura worked close to the crammed people to capture expressions. In 2012, the Liverpool Photography Festival “Look!” invited her to exhibit her portraits of protesters in Tahrir Square. She lined the room with her small prints which expose their intimacy, emotion, sadness, anger, loss and hope. I asked Laura how she got permission to get such close shots with people in such distress and were they aware of the camera. She explained that most were captured at candid moments and most unaware of the lens. “Usually I try to get through the crowds,” she said, “And always try to speak to the person I photographed, to understand the story behind the emotion I captured.” After that description, she added:  “In their faces, I see my own.”

Safeya Sayed Shedeed

One person stands out amongst the room of nine prints. The woman she talked to, the elderly Safeya Sayed Shedeed, was mother to a young son shot by the police three days after the 25th January. “I want to avenge my son,” she said, crying, “Who will get my son’s rights back?” What is so moving and unforgettable is her frozen, tragic gaze and the tear-drop standing out like a pearl. Laura’s installation of her recorded soundtrack from the Square ricocheted around the room the protesters singing, chanting and shouting. Like the portraits, it brought the room to life.

“IN THE SHADOW OF THE PYRAMIDS.”

This large and hefty self-published book, “In the Shadow of the Pyramids,” carries stories over time and includes Laura’s fantastic photographs from her year-long journey of exploration around Egypt. I asked if the title is literal: she sees it as “a metaphor for my own feelings and for the larger narrative of what was happening…. [it] anchors the title. a place I once called home where everything ends up buried in the shadow of its greatness.” On the cover of the book, family photographs fill a chapter, emerging with obvious pleasure and happiness with sisters sitting on a camel, tiny Laura on a beach – all memories from before today’s chaotic, frightening years.

  

An addition to the book of the Pyramids, Laura moved to publish and write for the newspaper “The People الشعب   stories of contemporary history. She was apparently filled with excitement. At the same time, her mother stencilled and printed on jute beautiful calligraphic designs for tote bags and book covers.  https://instagram.com/p/597z-KmQR4/

  

The People الشعب 

From the newspaper to the jute back, Laura now describes her life’s shifts. She explained “I have work that I am doing very slowly, exploring ‘our’ history and where we go from here, very different from the “In the Shadow of the Pyramids.” But the Visual Diary chapter is packed with a wonderful selection of images chosen from Laura’s collection of photographs. She describes them as ‘the intimacy with subjects which worked out’.     http://lauraeltantawy.com/my-visual-diary 

 

The stencilled jute bag and lid of a box & the blur of flag waving in Tahrir Square

And finally… the most incongruously beautiful and emotional of Laura’s photographs from the Tahrir Square’s protest.