Lucy Davies

Lucy Davies schreibt für „The Telegraph“ über Fotografie und die bildendenden Künste im Allgemeinen und publiziert regelmäßig in Zeitschriften wie “World of Interiors”, “The British Journal of Photography”, “1000 Words Photography”, “The Royal Photographic Society” und “The V&A”. Sie ist Jurymitglied für verschiedene Kunstpreise und hat Beiträge über Fotografie für die National Portrait Gallery (London) und für Sarina Finkelsteins The New 49ers (Kehrer Verlag) verfasst. 2009 entwickelte und lancierte Lucy Davies “Telephoto”– eine Online-Platform für Kunst und dokumentarische Fotografie für “The Telegraph”. Gegenwärtig arbeitet sie an ihrem nächsten Buch.

Lucy Davies writes about photography and other visual arts for The Telegraph and is a regular contributor to World of Interiors, The British Journal of Photography, 1000 Words Photography magazine, The Royal Photographic Society magazine and The V&A magazine. On the judging board for a number of prizes and awards, she has written essays on photography for the National Portrait Gallery, London and for Sarina Finkelstein's The New 49ers, (Kehrer Verlag). In 2009 she devised and launched 'Telephoto', an online platform for art and documentary photography for the Telegraph. She is currently at work on another book.

Andy Warhol in China

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For my last post on the Fotoblog, I’d like to show you a new book. Warhol in China is a collection of the photographs the Pop supremo took on a trip to Beijing and Hong Kong in 1982. The society he encountered was the very opposite of America, whose mass-consumerism had fuelled his artistic output since his first exhibition at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles twenty years previously . In fact China displayed almost no commercial influences at all. The country had only recently been open to the outside world following Chairman Mao’s death in 1976 and the emergence of its art scene had been cautious and incremental.

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Warhol was invited there as a guest of Alfred Siu, a young industrialist whose portrait he painted that same year. Siu was opening a nightclub in Hong Kong, and had commissioned Warhol for portraits of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. Also on the trip were photographer Christopher Makos, Fred Hughes, Warhol’s flamboyant Texan manager, Hughes’ girlfriend, the English aristocrat Natasha Grenfell and documentary maker Lee Caplin. The group flit in and out of Warhold’s photographs, usually as bystanders, although Siu himself is often centre stage.

Whilst Warhol was at the height of his fame in his home country, the 54-year-old artist was virtually unknown in the People’s Republic of China. Nevertheless the Far Eastern country’s isolation really appealed to him. His photographs are a cross between the kind of visual note-taking we would expect from an established artist, and a more-awe-infused snapshot view of a way of living that was so different from his own. They’re a real treat, offering valuable insight into the way he saw. You can see him watching carefully, making links, searching out the fault lines of a culture that espoused simplicity and conformity.

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Only a tiny fraction of Warhol’s prodigious SLR output has ever been published or exhibited. He only really began using this Minox compact in the last decade of his life, and so the photographs are one of the few aspects of his practice offering new discoveries and insights.

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The book also includes some of Warhol’s diary entries from the time, as well as a few examples of his influence on Chinese artists, and an introduction by Ai Weiwei.

Warhol in China is published by Hatje Cantz at £35/39.80 euros/$60

 

Happy Accidents & other weird and wonderful tales

Nedre Slottsgate in Oslo, Norway, in 1882, source: National Archives of Norway

Today I want to draw your attention to the Public Domain Review, which is probably the discovery of the year for me.  It’s a not-for-profit project dedicated to showcasing the most interesting and unusual out-of-copyright works available online. Their reach is amazing – films, audio, sketchbooks, maps, manuscripts, artworks and, most relevant to us here, photography.  In this section you’ll find collections of lantern slides, corset x-rays, the housework postures I blogged about last week, men in wigs and the results of Dr Julius Neubronner’s miniature pigeon camera. There are dozens more.

Each entry comes with a short introduction from a scholar or an artist, and every image is linked back to its original collection. There’s also a guide to finding interesting public domain works for yourself. They have a tumblr, pinterest and twitter feed too, if that’s the way you like to discover things.

So just a couple of examples, both of which are instances where the final, and I think beautiful result was not planned by the photographer at all, more a by-product, a serendipitous windfall. Firstly, a collection of double exposures. They come from all over the place, and are in the main unintended, but there are one or two from practitioners of the dastardly art of fake spirit photography too, which perhaps deserves a post of its own.

Family outside house, unknown place and date, Found photograph, source: Flickr

Family outside house, unknown place and date, Found photograph, source: Flickr

Jan Matulka seated in his studio, ca. 1920. Source: Smithsonian

Jan Matulka seated in his studio, ca. 1920. Source: Smithsonian

A girl with flowers, a family appearing behind, ca. 1905 (possibly intentional, made as a ‘spirit’ photograph). Source: Library of Congress

A girl with flowers, a family appearing behind, ca. 1905 (possibly intentional, made as a ‘spirit’ photograph). Source: Library of Congress

Double exposure involving drawings on a blackboard, Cape Breton Island, Canada, 1936. Source: Flickr

Double exposure involving drawings on a blackboard, Cape Breton Island, Canada, 1936. Source: Flickr

Second is a collection of decayed daguerreotypes. The fixing process being notoriously unstable, these early images had terrible problems with permanence. The plates were extremely sensitive to scratches, dust, stray hairs and so on, and as the glass deteriorated, bubbles of solvent would explode onto the surface of the picture. Contemporary artists like Sally Mann have come to revere this unique and unpredictable aspect of the procedure, but in its early days, results like these would have been bound for the trash can. Interesting how times change.  All of the images below are from the studio of Matthew Brady, part of a gift of to the Library of Congress from the Army War College in 1920.

Portrait of an unidentified man about 40 years of age and a somewhat younger woman, both in Oriental costume, between them is a hookah, the stem of which both are holding [between 1850 and 1860]

Portrait of an unidentified man about 40 years of age and a somewhat younger woman, both in Oriental costume, between them is a hookah, the stem of which both are holding [between 1850 and 1860]

Portrait of unidentified woman [between 1844 and 1860]

Portrait of unidentified woman [between 1844 and 1860]

Portrait of unidentified man [between 1844 and 1860]

Portrait of unidentified man [between 1844 and 1860]

Portrait of the U.S. President James Buchanan [between 1844 and 1860]

Portrait of the U.S. President James Buchanan [between 1844 and 1860]

Happy foraging…

www.publicdomanreview.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obsolete Studios

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Obsolete Studios is a laboratory of sorts, a space where photography can be exhibited, practiced, discussed and considered, particularly in terms of past, current and future technologies. It was founded a year ago by photographer Rob Ball, who is also lecturer in Photography at Canterbury Christ Church University.

Their work is primarily visible online, both via a blog, which acts as a sketchbook or repository for ideas, and via a deliberately rudimentary website. ‘We treat the website as a continuation of our creative thinking’ says Ball, ‘and are entirely free with it. We try to show the work but it’s also about experimentation and goofing around. The current plan is to keep it 15 years out of date.’

Their mission is to ‘make new things out of old things (and sometimes vice-versa)….we look at what is now considered redundant to generate new creative responses and ideas.’  Rather than straightforward vernacular or snapshot photography, they like to work with photographs that have been made for a purpose other than memory-making. Examples include photographs used as shooting target papers:

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and portraits taken for visas:

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A favourite of mine is this collection of portraits of ‘Gentlemen of Significance’:

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As well as creating/curating historical and contemporary archives, Obsolete stage exhibitions and produce publications. They also put on site-specific, audience participation events that are designed to ‘generate ideas around user experience, materiality and technology.’ One recent event had participants producing tintypes.

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They’re working on one for London next summer, details of which will be released via their website shortly.

I spoke to Rob to get more of an idea of the thinking behind Obsolete.

Why did you start the Obsolete Studios project? I was awarded a creative grant by my university to put on a practice-based event and wanted it to be more than just a demonstration. We were keen for participants to be able engage with a process alongside images on a wall – It is important for us that there is a dialogue created between the picture making process (and subsequent images created) and the historical work they are surrounded with.

How many others are involved? We work with a handful of like-mined friends, filmmakers, artists, institutions. We are particularly interested in fostering relationships that allow us to experiment and work in new and exciting ways. Recently we’ve been working on a future project at the new Dreamland Amusement Park in Margate.

Are they involved on a permanent basis or do people dip in and out? We have a couple of regular collaborators, but nobody stays for long.

What kinds of things are you looking for in the images you showcase? We have a number of rules we follow; firstly, we try to collect (discarded) collections rather than individual images. We are interested in how these collections came about, and why they’ve been kept and discarded together. When working with such a diverse range of work we like to present the work in themes; technology, process, glamour, materiality, indexicality for example. Sometimes these themes are decided by the work we acquire and sometimes we have a them in mind and look to build it from the ground up. We mainly collect negatives, not prints – this allows us a little room to reinterpret and re-present the work.

Where do you look for your material? All over: flea markets, jumble sales, donations. Our first collection of negatives came with a second hand enlarger bought form Gumtree. As we develop themes for new work I have also been targeting specific genres.

Has what you do with Obsolete changed the way you photograph yourself? Not really, Obsolete is very different to my other work so I can freely switch depending my inclination. More recently Obsolete has taken up more of my time.

What kinds of things happen at your events? Our recent events have been part exhibition and part portrait studio. The portraits have been made using the tintype process which requires long exposures (up to 10 seconds), lots of lights and offers the sitter the chance to see the image develop in front of them. We have a darkroom on site, occasionally we use our yurt. Benjamin Rowley made a film of our last event.

What do you hope participants will get out of your events? A level of engagement with the formal picture making process, the slowing down of photography and an opportunity to see the photograph as well as the thing photographed.

What are you working on at the moment? A book of glamour images which uses quotes from a mid-century guide for photographers, including If you can make girls look glamorous, your business problems will take care of themselves and What man has a soul so dead that he doesn’t like to please pretty girls?. Very early stages but think it will be pretty interesting.

OS_GLAM

www.obsoletestudios.com