Saturday, 26 January 2013

Still Life: Top Tips #2

When photographing dried catnip as a substitute for 'skunk' in a still life picture always, make sure that the cat is in another room...

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Plant Pots Stolen In Manchester Garden Centre Heist... Only kidding it's the work of Diana Scherer...

I bet you've already seen the series 'Nature Studies' by Diana Scherer on the cover of  the recent copy of HOTSHOE (they dropped the 'International' bit of the title a while back I think they realised it sounded a bit wanky)
If you've not seen them have a look. This work was a long time in the planning. Over six months to catch that 'decisive moment' the moment when the plants are at their peak of flowery loveliness. A six month plus decisive moment that's interesting. Plant still life's that's an artistic tradition that takes a bit of thought to come up with something new. Scherer has taken European still life (she lives in Holland after all) eighteenth & nineteenth century specimen illustration and the art of Japanese Ikebana mixed them together and come up with something which I thought was proper fresh. A bit like the plants in the pictures. see what I did there?

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Still Life: Top Tips #1

When photographing bottles of Blue WKD you will notice that the stuff is not actually as blue as you would think. So pour contents of bottle down the sink (it will clean your pipes) and then refill bottle with blue mouth wash. Bobs yer uncle proper blue Blue WKD..... More top still life tips to follow.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Death of The Chain stores?

Church Street Records Manchester 2009

I'm sorry for the staff, all them aging muso's still waiting for their break (a bit like me and photography) but come on! I can remember when we all hated HMV, VIRGIN and OUR PRICE for closing down all the little independent record shops. Did the telly do a vox pops when the above shop closed ?
 Perhaps with the demise of CURRY'S, BLOCKBUSTER'S and JESSOP'S It's the start of something exciting. Perhaps the business model of the chainstore is in it's death throws ? Perhaps the small independent trader will return and all our fucking high streets will stop looking the same......

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Jet Set.

If like me you love to fly around the world and go to the biggest shows and drink the very fizziest Cava, THIS may be of use. I'll meet you by the Holland's pie stall at Art Basel....

Monday, 14 January 2013

Barry W Hughes

Read about this photo HERE
 To get my year of the 'still life' underway I kick off with THIS series by Barry W Hughes. Barry is a photographer, writer and founding Father of the always excellent SUPERMASSIVEBLACKHOLE web mag. I said I was going to spend the year looking at the most interesting still life photography I can find and I think these piccies are a good place to start.....

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

2013 Is The Year of The still Life. (at least it is for me)

So it just goes to show how full of shit I am and how you should never believe anything you read on a blog. After everything I said in the last post I am intending on spending the next year or so making that most over explored of artistic genre the still life.
It's been a stalwart of photography since the beginning I still think there's some mileage in it and I want to give it a go. I've dabbled before back in 2008 with 25 weapons . Still Life is used to deal with the big issues like mortality. Can it also be used to explore the more mundane like having tea at your Nan's?
I shall be looking at such questions as well as looking at other folk who work with still life over the coming months and posting it here suggestions on who to look at appreciated.
So far I've made two pictures I'm happy with, and above is the little stage thingy I've built to photograph the still life's on.
Mark's Still life Shopping list : Flowers, vases, bits of posh rug, black backgrounds, chalices, skulls, lemons, moths, etc etc.....

Sunday, 6 January 2013

A response to Harvey Benge's Question "Documentary Photography- is It DEAD?

Harvey Benge on Sunday posted the question Is Documentary Photography DEAD? It's a question I've heard before floating around the blogs and in magazines, not as much as I've heard the question Is film DEAD? but still a fair few times. Thing is this is a far more interesting and important question than the film V digi thing, so I thought I'd have a bit of a think about it.

Myself I've always had an odd relationship to the documentary tradition even though I consider myself as a documentary photographer. I was lucky enough to have studied on a great course back in the late 90's called DOCUMENTARY & FINE ART PHOTOGRAPHY, I loved it. It was a small course run at Stockport college for LIVERPOOL JOHN MOORES UNI. Even then on that course we were steering clear of Salgado and giving Richard Billingham big love.  Tim Page was out, Simon Norfolk's more considered and reflective approach to documenting war was in.

 I've used a picture of Ray's a laugh as my example instead of The Ballard of Sexual Dependency as Harvey did. I can at least relate to working class life even if it is so dysfunctional. New York gay clubbing scene may as well be Mars. Richard became a saint on my course and early photographic education. He was authentic. He shot colour badly with crap throw away camera's the camera phones of their day. The photographs he made had a truthfulness that I think has been central to their appeal. They were originally made as records and sketches for paintings. They were not made to sell as a story or book, that came later. The blurriness harsh flash, and sometimes off kilter framing comes from limitations of equipment and technical ability of the photographer not for reasons of current stylistic fashion or saleability. We believed in "Ray's a laugh" as a truthful document and Billingham as a reliable author in part because of his originality and ability as an artist to make sense and order out of this set of chaotic images.

As Harvey says Nan Golding has recently stated regarding The Ballad of Sexual Dependency. "I am terrified that everything I believe about photography, about this work, is over because of the computer and easy manipulation of images it facilitates. This work was always about reality, the hard truth, and there was never any artifice. I have always believed that my photographs capture a moment that is real, without setting anything up...

Now, it is so distressing: no one any longer believes that a photograph is real. Almost every time I give a talk or teach, I ask this question about truth and photography. If all but four or five in an audience of two hundred artistic people don’t believe that photographs are true, then what does that say about the rest of the world? So this eliminates the larger reason for having done this book — not for me, but if nobody believes it as having happened …what is the point? The belief that a photograph can be True has become obsolete."

I think Nan's worrying unduly and doing the viewing public a dis-service. Viewers ain't thick. We are all increasingly image savvy, fuck knows we see enough of them. We believe a set of photographs from the 80's  like "The Ballard of Sexual Dependency" or a set from the early 90's "Ray's a laugh" because they look like authentic and truthful photographs from the period should look, and that's not looking like imitations of things that had gone before. Nan Golding didn't set out to replicate Diane Arbus and Richard Billingham didn't set out to replicate the look of Paul Graham or Martin Parr.
We don't believe photographs anymore not because of computers or manipulation but because of photographers conservatism and desire for commercial and perceived artistic success.

So to answer the original question is Documentary photography DEAD? my answer would be no. Much current work using traditional documentary styles that constantly rehash and repackage should die, in fact it should be taken outside and shot.
 As long as artists use photographs to document the world using original and authentic means and continue to push the definition of what a document can mean and start new and as yet unimagined documentary traditions of their own  we will continue to use forms of photographs to try and make sense and record.

Now that's the most I've wrote here in a long time I'm going to lie down......

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

New Cliches of Photography #31

Making pictures about the cliched object of the sun in amateur photography. Oh the irony!