Fresh faced

5 April, 2009

Fresh faced

Just in case you haven’t seen it or heard of it, this is a show worth trying to get your work into.

When you enter, just make sure you have thought about what and why you are submitting the work, ensure it has some visual coherence and show it to a trusted friend before entering.

It is always worth getting an independent opinion. In my experience photographers are often too close to their work to be able to assess it with the degree of detachment needed when entering competitions or portfolio reviews.

Good luck

It is not always the case that I agree with the judges of competitions but the recent announcement that Paul Graham has won this year’s Deutsche Borsche prize is very welcome news.

Lawnmower, Pittsburgh, 2004 © Paul Graham

Lawnmower, Pittsburgh, 2004 © Paul Graham

Paul Graham winner of the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2009

From the book a shimmer of possibility, 2007 © Paul Graham/ Courtesy Anthony Reynolds Gallery, London

See here for more details from the Photographers’ Gallery.

The Cost of Competitions

17 March, 2009

I recently got through details for entering this year’s New York Photo Festival awards and it led me to ask whether such events are worthwhile in terms of the effort that is needed to enter and the cost of the fees charged. Such awards can be extremely helpful to photographers seeking to enhance their profile and in some cases their bank balance; but for those who don’t win, and of course there is only ever one winner, are they a bit of a lottery that increasingly costs significant amounts of money.

Starting at $30 per print and rising to $80 for a series of 2 – 15 images, per category, entering the New York Photo Festival can quickly become expensive. NYPH are not alone in charging for entries and while there are some important exceptions such as the World Press awards, BJP awards and the Sony awards, most competitions charge for entries, often arguing that the fees cover the cost of administering the competition. Over a year entries can add up to hundreds of pounds with no guarantee that your work will be seen by the final round judges.

Here is a quick survey of some of the competitions available to photographers which is by no means exhaustive. The BJP in the UK and PDN in the USA are very good sources of more competitions.

And this extremely useful blog.

Competitions in the UK:

Sony World Photography Awards

Launched last year, the Sony Awards are free and have a prize of $25,000 for the winner of Sony World Photography Awards Photographer of The Year which was won last year by Vanessa Winship for her series – Sweet Nothings: Rural Schoolgirls from the Borderlands of Eastern Anatolia Turkey.

AOP Open

The AOP has a number of competitions for their full and provisional members, but they also have an annual event – the AOP Open, which is open to everyone. Winners take part in an exhibition with their work published in an accompanying catalogue.

Cost is £12 per image submitted

National Portrait Gallery Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize

Charging £16 per print entered with a limit of 6 images, this can be fairly expensive as in addition to the entry fee entrants also have to stump up the cost of getting their photograph printed, which can cost up to £200 depending on the size. The winner does however win £12,000 and is exhibited in one of the UK’s leading galleries, the National Portrait Gallery.

In the USA

IPA (International Photography Awards) Competition

With the lure of winning the title International Photographer of the Year and a cash prize of $10,000 this is one of the top photography awards. There are a large number of categories to choose from including fine art, advertising and editorial.

Costs are:

Single Image: $35.00

Series (2 t0 5 images): $60.00

Each Additional Category: $25.00

In France

The Prix de la Photographie in Paris has a number of aims which include discovering new talent and bringing the global photographic community to the attention of the artistic community of Paris. The winning images are exhibited in Paris and also published in the Px3 Annual Book and there is a 3000 euro prize for the Best in Show.

$30 for each photograph entered

$50 for each series (2-5 images with a unifying theme) or book

To enter the same photograph or series again into an additional category costs an extra $25 per category.

Non-professional and Student Photographers:

$20 per photograph entered

$40 for each series (2-5 images with a unifying theme)

To enter same photograph or series again into an additional category costs an extra $15 per category.

If you get a chance go online and watch Guardian art critic Adrian Searle’s review of the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize currently on show at the Photographer’s Gallery.

Searle is always eloquent in his reviews and what I admire most is that he doesn’t pull his punches. In this respect he immediately questions the legitimacy of an archive being included within a photography show. Searle is speaking about Emily Jacir’s work Material for a Film. His criticism is not that the work isn’t interesting and indeed there is a lot to recommend it, but Searle rightly questions whether or not it should be classified as photography and whether it should be short-listed for one of the art world’s most prestigious photography prizes. Jacir tells the story of the assassination of Palestinian intellectual Wael Zuwaiter by Israeli agents in Rome in 1972. She uses photographs, objects, texts and interviews to piece the story together, re-presenting found images and texts written at the time. There is no doubt that this is a moving and for Jacir a deeply political tale that needs to told. Zuwaiter was assassinated for what Israeli agents believed was a key role in the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Summer Olympics 1972.

Installation shot of Emily Jacir’s Material for a film

Installation shot of Emily Jacir’s Material for a film

But this is an archival story rather than visual narrative. It is the collection of the whole, somewhat like a magazine pasted to the wall, that brings the story alive and this representation, whilst it uses photography to record the objects in order to display the story, does not have any visual language within itself.

The other three artists are more straightforward in their use of photography in their art. Taryn Simon in her work An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar offers us a view of an unseen America. On the surface the imagery is familiar. It has the feel of an advertising campaign. High-end production values and the large format brings an almost relentless detail to her pictures. It is her choice of subject that makes this work more interesting and here I part company with Searle who says he finds it rather dull. The photograph of a woman in a surgery about to or having just undergone an operation to repair her broken hymen is both shocking and beautiful. The composition, lighting and concise presentation of the content drag the viewer in closer, making us wonder what precisely is going on in this clean and clinical environment. We want to look but are made to feel uncomfortable as this is obviously such a private and personal scene. It is this tension that Simon invokes in her work that is its strength.

Taryn Simon

from Taryn Simon's An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar

Paul Graham has been nominated for his publication A Shimmer of Possibility. Large format scenes of America have become almost ubiquitous since we all rediscovered Stephen Shore and Joel Sternfeld. But Graham brings a different sensibility to his work. This isn’t road movie material. Rather his work is less about him and more about what he sees and what he sees as a common humanity. He has been described as poetic, quiet without hubris. All of which is true, but for me it is the humanity he brings to his work and fills his subjects with. You can see his work on his website. But it is this picture below that I think in itself is worthy of the prize.

Lawnmower, Pittsburgh, 2004 © Paul Graham

Lawnmower, Pittsburgh, 2004 © Paul Graham

The fourth artist is Tod Papageorge who has been short listed for his exhibition Passing Through Eden – Photographs of Central Park and Searle is in no doubt that this is the work that should win the 2009 prize..

Central Park, New York, 1991 © Tod Papageorge

Central Park, New York, 1991 © Tod Papageorge

Papageorge is a veteran, producing work that is easy to recognise as photography. There I agree that it should be applauded for its skill. Having been brought up on a diet of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Don McCullin and Diane Arbus, it is clear that Papageorge should be acclaimed and that his work fits within the canon of documentary photography. Shot between 1962 and 1996, Papageorge steadfastly observed people enjoying their decisive moment in the park. There is humour and as with Paul Graham there is a humanity shown in Papageorge’s subjects.

I think it is worthy of the prize, but I think Graham should get it.

Deutsche Börse Photography prize is at the Photographer’s Gallery from 20 February to 12 April 2009.

As the Internet increasingly delivers our every cultural need, I am more and more turning to the web for photographic magazines. I still get the printed word and image via the BJP, PDN, foto8, Next Level and Portfolio, but there are some very engaging sites in cyberspace that showcase interesting and diverse work.

Here are three of my current favourites:

Purpose is a French site that takes themes and presents us with a curated show. The current issue is on childhood and is rich in its inclusion of fairy stories, superheroes, family snaps and old archive black and white images from the Musee Carnavalet.

As you turn the page you can choose to hear music picked to accompany each work, making this a very multimedia site.

Here are some photographs from the Childhood Issue:

Doug Dubois:

My sister’s bedroom, Ithaca, NY, 2004 by Doug Dubois

My sister’s bedroom, Ithaca, NY, 2004 by Doug Dubois

Samantha Contis:

Bathroom 2005 by Samantha Contis

Bathroom, 2005 by Samantha Contis

Wolfram Hahn:

Untitled, 2006 by Wolfram Hahn

Untitled, 2006 by Wolfram Hahn

Amy Stein:

Watering Hole, by Amy Stein

Watering Hole, by Amy Stein

Joakim Eskildsen:

Seraphin and the Rainbow, 2008 by Joakim Eskildsen

Seraphin and the Rainbow, 2008 by Joakim Eskildsen

Thekla Ehling:

From Sommerherz, by Thekla Ehling

From Sommerherz, by Thekla Ehling

Dulce Pinzon:

Bernabe Mendez, from the real story of Superheroes, by Dulce Pinzon

Bernabe Mendez, from The Real Story of the Superheroes, by Dulce Pinzon

Musee Carnaualet:

Anonymous circa 1900

Anonymous circa 1900

Seesaw magazine is an inspirational site edited by Aaron Schuman. Schuman is a lecturer at the University of Brighton and also a freelance writer. I am impressed by the fact that he finds time to make this site so interesting alongside his other occupations. Schuman has a keen eye and great contacts; it is worth delving into his archive to find interviews with many of the superstars of the photography world such as Alex Soth, Roger Ballen and Tod Papageorge.

The current issue has a fabulous set of drawings found by Suzanne Mooney that illustrate how to take porn stills.

Take a peek into the back issues and there is a wealth of great photography from both established and emerging photographers. Some that I liked include:

Claire Richardson:

Sylvan, 2002-6 by Claire Richardson

Sylvan, 2002-6 by Claire Richardson

Iveta Vaivode:

Terminus, Riga, 2007-8 by Iveta Vaivode

Terminus Riga, 2007-8 by Iveta Vaivode

Reiner Riedler:

Artificial Holidays, 2004-8 by Reiner Riedler

Artificial Holidays, 2004-8 by Reiner Riedler

Jason Oddy:

Seat of Power, 2000-4 by Jason Oddy

Seat of Power, 2000-4 by Jason Oddy

Jan von Holleben:

Adventures in Neverland, by Jan von Holleben

Adventures in Neverland, by Jan von Holleben

Esther Teichmann:

Viscosity, 2003-4 by Esther Teichmann

Viscosity, 2003-4 by Esther Teichmann

A new magazine on the scene, now into their third issue, is 1000 Words. It launched last year and is the brainchild of Tim Clark. Clark is not new to the photography world and as a freelance writer he has contributed to a number of high profile publications including Next Level. With an impressive array of photographers and good solid writing this is a site worth bookmarking.

Here are some highlights from the three issues so far:

Richard Learoyd:

From The Ghost in the Machine by Richard Learoyd

From The Ghost in the Machine by Richard Learoyd

Indre Serpytyte:

From State of Silence by Indre Serpytyte

From State of Silence by Indre Serpytyte

Li Wei:

Li Wei falls to earth, 2002

Li Wei falls to earth, 2002

Mathieu Bernard Reynard:

From TV by Mathieu Bernard Reynard

From TV by Mathieu Bernard Reynard

Thomas Demand:

Kitchen, 2004 by Thomas Demand

Kitchen, 2004 by Thomas Demand

So after months of debate and sleepless nights we have finally settled on the name of our new business and it is Troika Editions. We had been slightly concerned that we were just keeping to the same old same old, but in fact it is more like wearing that favourite black dress to a party which makes you feel confident and comfortable.

So it is thrilling to have made the decision on the name and we have celebrated this by launching our holding page. Equally as thrilling is the momentum our venture is gaining with the artists, some of whom you can see on the site and we will be updating as more photographers join us.

So watch this space!

The New Photojournalism

5 January, 2009

I went to see the Robert Capa and Gerda Taro exhibition at the Barbican over the New Year holidays and can thoroughly recommend a visit. It finishes on the 25th January.

Republican militiawoman training on the beach, outside Barcelona, August 1936

Republican militiawoman training on the beach, outside Barcelona, August 1936 by Gerda Taro

Also showing is a collection of four contemporary photographers, Omer Fast, Geert van Kesteren, An-My Le and Paul Chan, grouped together under the title “On the Subject of War”.

The collection of Capa’s work “This is War!” encompasses the Spanish Civil War with the iconic image of the Falling Soldier, China during the Japanese invasion in 1938, the D Day landings and American troops in Leipzig at the end of the war. It is by no means a comprehensive collection of Capa’s work but attempts to show us a photojournalist at work during conflict. Much heralded are the unseen images from the Spanish Civil war recently discovered in a suitcase. I am generally suspicious of the value of unseen work and to a large extend remain so here as I don’t think the found images add a great deal to Capa’s legacy as a war photographer.

D-Day landing by Robert Capa

D-Day landing by Robert Capa

Alongside Capa’s work is a retrospective of his lover and collaborator, Gerda Taro. Taro’s work is a foil to Capa’s edgy snapped pictures. Shooting on square format Rollei her work is more considered. Where Capa’s images work brilliantly on the page, showing us the action through their cumulative presence, Taro’s photography is more pictorial and attempts to portray the story within each frame, seeking context and pathos.

In glass cabinets we are also shown Capa’s and Taro’s images as they appeared on the printed pages of international magazines of the time and it is here that their photography makes sense. Their form of photojournalism was intended for the pages of Life magazine, Picture Post and similar publications. It is in the collective presentation of sequenced images and page layout that we gain a sense of the action and consequences of war on humanity. Viewing the photographs on the white walls of the Barbican compromise the urgency of the work. Displayed as art it becomes rarefied and isolated, a pretension to art that belies its original meaning.

One of the most intriguing set of pictures in the show, wasn’t the infamous Falling Soldier, although I did spend a lot of time trying to work out whether it was a staged performance or not, rather it was a set of pictures taken by Taro that were openly faked and captioned as a reconstruction of a battle scene for Taro and Capa to photograph.

One of Gerda Taro's images from the re-staged battle

One of Gerda Taro's images from the re-staged battle

Presumably the photojournalists had missed the great heroic scene and felt it necessary for posterity to record it. What this almost nonchalant reconstruction demonstrates is that there has always been a tension within photojournalism about conveying a truth. Right back to Roger Fenton’s canon balls in the Crimea, photojournalism has been about the primacy of the message. For Taro and Capa and indeed the western media as it was then constituted, sympathies lay with the Republicans and it was their responsibility to show the courage and heroism of the International Brigade. There was no attempt by Taro or Capa to work alongside Franco’s troops to provide a more even handed approach to the story of the Spanish Civil War.

Valley of the Shadow of Death, 1855 by Roger Fenton

Valley of the Shadow of Death, 1855 by Roger Fenton

In the introductory text to the exhibitions the curators have asked the familiar questions about partisanship and a journalist’s own political boundaries and whether or not the 21st century photographer is more or less a practitioner of journalism of attachment. They have left this question hanging and are asking the viewer to provide the answers.

My answer is to suggest that the question is the wrong one. Photojournalism or indeed all journalism has always been about a process of attachment to an idea, a cause. In choosing to shoot one image over another, covering one story rather than another, printing/broadcasting one story over another, is always to some degree a reflection of the media’s political boundaries.

As this exhibition shows photojournalists have always been partisan. What is more interesting is how the viewer’s attitude has changed. Photojournalists have not stopped taking photographs. Rather it is we that have stopped buying the magazines that printed photo essays, choosing instead to be shown the world through television.

How we perceive images and their inherent truth has also changed. As a society we have grown increasingly sceptical about truthfulness of journalism, blaming the media for all our crises.

Instead we are looking elsewhere to gain an understanding of the world and it is through culture that meaning is sort. We increasingly turn to the artist, playwright, or author to lend an insight into the complexities of our world and how we might exist in it. Photographer Simon Norfolk recently stated that he used the aesthetic to seduce people into paying attention to his politics. Norfolk has recognised that his audience visit the art gallery, so he creates images that sit well on the wall rather than on the printed page. Our perception has become that the artist has a greater truth to offer than the photojournalist.

Capa is quoted as saying “If you call yourself an artist you won’t get anything published. Call yourself a photojournalist and then you can do whatever you want.” Capa saw the term as a means to an end, it was through photojournalism that he could get his ideas published. For today’s image makers this imperative has changed as the viewers have turned their backs on journalism. Capa’s quote should be reversed. Now calling yourself an artist gives you a freedom to do what ever you want.