Archive for February 2011
There’s an exhibition of photos by August Sander at the Dean Gallery at the moment. Sander’s once said:
“Nothing is more abhorrent to me than sugary-sweet photography, full of pretense, poses and gimmickry. For this reason, I have allowed myself to tell the truth about our times and people in a sincere manner.”
I totally see where he’s coming from on the ‘sugary-sweet photography’ and given that he said this during the first half of the last century, I can’t imagine what he would think of photography nowadays. But it’s still quite a statement; to declare yourself a truth teller. I’m not sure whether it’s at all achieveable either, unless you were to append the words ‘as I see it’ to the end. Surely, ‘truth’ is just perspective driven by conviction.
What I found interesting about the exhibition though was that there was something very egalitarian about the way a lot of the portraits are posed and presented. With a 21st Century eye, I couldn’t immediately tell the class or profession of a lot of the subjects and relied on the labels ‘Gentleman Farmer’, ‘Philosopher’, ‘Writer’ or my particular favourite ‘The Woman of Progressive Intellect’ (was there only one??) for explanation.
So here’s my 21st Century equivalent. ‘Drunk Man’. I’m open to debate here, and I’m thinking of going along to the Still’s Democratic Camera Club on Thursday which will discuss this very subject, but without the title, could you tell that this picture was taken recently? Even with the title, is this truthful and sincere? I’m saying he was drunk but bottles of White Stripe cider and tenants lager cans aside, I never breathalyzed the guy so can’t say for sure. Even if he was, is it a fair summary to label him such. I wonder if Sander’s ‘The Cretin’ might feel equally short changed.
With the Filmhouse exhibition now sadly over, it’s time to think about what’s next. One upcoming project is the epic horse ride through the Scottish highlands with John Nelson and team in May, which I will hopefully be documenting in photographs. The photo in this post was taken while out feeding the sheep on the Nelson family farm near Crossmichael, Castle Douglas on Christmas Day.
John discovered an interesting story in the family archives about a grey mare stolen from an ancestor’s farm which was then tracked through a large chunk of west coast Scotland and eventually recovered by way of a missing half horseshoe and the distinctive tracks this left. The thief in question was the last man hanged in Scotland for horse stealing and in May, John will recreate this epic ride with a team of elegant heavy horses, including a stunning Clydesdale, beginning at the foot of Loch Lomond, travelling up through Glencoe and finally ending in Inverary, and the jail in which the thief was finally imprisoned.
My inspiration for this project will be the incredible photographer, Ragnar Axelsson, who documented the dramatic relationship between man and landscape in his photos from the wilds of Iceland and Greenland. The stark black and white images are extraordinarily powerful; the landscape, hostile and awe-inspiring, the life, arduous and heroic. This will be my top tier of inspiration and aspiration for this project.
This photo was taken from a moving taxi as we headed back into the heart of old town Marrakesh. I like the slightly abstract, painterly quality to this picture very much.
This is what evenings in the Djemma El Fna are all about. At sundown, the stalls are all wheeled into the square, the cooks fire up the grills, the calamari, the prawns, the tagines, the skewers of marinated meat, the Merguez sausages are all laid out, the long tressle tables are covered in wipe clean plastic. It’s time to feast al fresco!
The lone man in red, in the midst of the maelstrom that is the Djemma El Fna. To his left is a woman painting henna patterns on a someone’s hands, to his right is a man selling teeth!
In old town Essaouira there is no motorised traffic. Large metal barrows are the main way to transport goods around the place, or this sort of long wooden trolley. This photo was taken from the same roof terrace as Three Women Walking.
In the Dyer’s Souk, newly dyed, vibrantly coloured fabric hangs out to dry.