Saturday, 22 October 2011

Hereford Photography Festival

Time & Motion Studies: New documentary photography beyond the decisive moment

Curated by Simon Bainbridge
Saturday 22nd October – Saturday 26th November
Tuesday to Friday 10am – 5pm; Saturday 10am – 4pm
Hereford Museum & Art Gallery, Broad Street, Hereford, HR4 9AU
Time & Motion Studies presents the works of five photographers, each the result of deliberate and sustained observation. But more than that, each employs a carefully thought-out strategy for their study, a methodology by which to transcribe and communicate ideas about the world, tackling subjects that aren’t always obviously photogenic. For the photographers in the exhibition, the ideas they are trying to communicate take prescience over aesthetic concerns, although these remain important, both in terms of engaging viewers and in contributing to the development of a wider photographic language.
The festival gives me an opportunity to show these works, five excellent examples of the diversity of contemporary documentary practice, and all of which have appeared inBritish Journal of Photograph, some in the recent past, which I hope the photography crowd will enjoy seeing in the flesh, some of it exhibited for the first time anywhere. But the festival attracts a wider public than just the photography crowd, particularly at the Hereford Museum & Art Gallery, and for these visitors I hope to give a flavour of what photography can be and what it can say, beyond the traditional idea of the artist photographer as someone wandering the earth communing with nature. And by showing five very different approaches, I hope to expose the photographers behind the images, to get viewers thinking about how they position themselves – both physically, embedding themselves into situations, and in terms of negotiating themselves into spaces – to make their pictures.
In the case of Donald Weber, that’s a very uncomfortable space. Having befriended a Ukrainian policeman whose career was on the rise, he spent years negotiating access to the interrogation room the officer spent much of his time, gaining confessions from mostly petty criminals. Waiting for the moment of confession, the results are a terrifying insight into the justice system, but also, a defining point of departure for the subjects – a cathartic experience sometimes – after which life may never be the same again.
Robbie Cooper exemplifies the increasing convergence between still and moving images, using the first digital camera that truly delivers both, in high resolution. Technology is also at the heart of his subject matter, which is concerned with how our identities are becoming wrapped up in new virtual territories – in this case, capturing animated faces close up through as his subjects engage with computer games and other screen-based worlds. Manuel Vasquez also touches on technology, particularly surveillance culture, in his montages that splice together different moments in time. Captured in largely anonymous public places, they capture the anxiety as well as a sense of spectacle within the spotlight of this constant observation.
George Georgiou is also working with sequential imagery. He is interested in the continued influence Russia plays on its former Soviet neighbours, and how this is manifested in the daily lives of ordinary people, capturing them in sequences shot from the same vantage point. His installation at this year’s festival is his most ambitious realisation of this approach, and is the first time he has presented a work on such a scale. His partner and travelling companion Vanessa Winship takes an altogether different approach. Where as Georgiou remains largely hidden to his subjects, she places her camera in such a way as to invite her subjects to present themselves. She seeks a direct connection, and somehow manages to capture the complexity of this dialogue in the directness and vulnerability of their gazes. Putting them together in the same show, I aim to demonstrate that a photograph is not so much the result of what’s in front of the camera, rather than the motives, instincts and ideas of the person behind it.
Time & Motion Studies also refers to this year’s festival theme of motion, a concept I struggled with at first (after all, photography is all about distilling moments into single frames), until I thought about this idea of the photographer waiting, quiet and still, capturing what before his or her camera. It also got me thinking about one of the most enduring concepts in photography, now nearly 60 years old – “The Decisive Moment”, as termed by Henri Cartier-Bresson. In it’s most simple form, the idea was that every image of a “stolen moment” had it’s own decisive moment, a split-second capture in which “simultaneously and instantaneously the recognition of a fact and the rigorous organisation of visually perceived forms [expressed and signified] that fact”.
It’s not a very fashionable concept anymore (especially when you think about the Becher School photographers who have dominated in the past 25 years, with their monumental images, largely of scenes that denote no single important moment of time). But a sense of the right moment pervades in photography nonetheless, along with photography’s pictorial visual language. Cooper has to decide where to pull the stills from his motion, Weber looks for a moment of confession, and even Georgiou, who presents multiple takes on a time and place, edits from hundreds more moments.
The Decisive Moment was a product of a particular time, when newspapers and magazines were the primary outlet for photographers’ work, a medium through which they could speak to hundreds of thousands of readers. And up until relatively recently that remained the case for anyone with documentary concerns; photographers making their names on smaller titles before hopefully working their way up to bigger commissions on bigger and more prestigious publications.
But there are no big commissions these days, and few photographers can earn a proper living making interesting work for newspapers and magazines anymore. There simply isn’t the budget; a situation that would seem to point to more straightened times, were it for the fact that they are still prepared to pay huge sums for images of celebrity. You can blame it on dumbing down, or the deep conservatism of publishers, or the internet, which has helped drive down the price of professional photography to unsustainable levels through the digital distribution of cheap images.
For photographers the end of print is a reality, at least regards to newspapers and magazines. (On the festival’s opening weekend, Self Publish Be Happy will present a flourishing counter-trend, showcasing the work of independent book publishers who still find vital express in printed matter.) But these publications never really gave them real freedoms to express their points of view, and in their absence, photographers are searching for news ways to communicate with audiences, free from the editorial confines of newspaper dictat.
Although they operate in uncertain times, these five photographers present us with clear and articulate takes on the world. And if such different voices and approaches can sit side-by-side so easily, isn’t that a sign that photography is maturing, rather than a medium in peril?
Simon Bainbridge

Vanessa Winship: Georgia, 2009-10

Donald Weber Interrogations: Big Zone, Small Zone

Manuel Vasquez: Traces

Robbie Cooper Immersion

George Georgiou The Shadow of The Bear, 2009-10

George Georgiou The Shadow of The Bear, 2009-10: installation detail

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

New Blog site for the next year

I will not be posting very often on this blog site over the next year as I will be going a new blog with Vanessa on our travels through the USA.
We are going to attempt to keep a daily stream of posts of our encounters, through text, photos and video.

A brief intro to the blog below and the link

Vanessa Winship & George Georgiou
         An Exploration of the USA by car, by plane, by train, by bus by foot ....

The title for the blog came from an email conversion I had with a friend as we were preparing for this extended  project into the USA.

ME: So I try to prepare for this big trip to the States, it seems like a strange thing to be doing now...
I have a huge wall map to make it feel more physical ..but I don't have a free wall to put it on so I must grapple with it on my desk, I'm partly trying not to spoil it, but at the same time I want to spread it out on the floor and tread on it and get it over with...

C: I understand, it is a weird feeling for you to prepare your travel, a big movement when everything already moves around.
I like so much the way you talk about your huge wall map. Do you know this expression "The map is not the territory" ?

The father of general semantics, Alford Korzybski stated, "A map is not the territory it represents, but if correct, it has a similar structure to the territory, which accounts for its usefulness". What this means is that our perception of reality is not reality itself but our own version of it, or our "map".

No two people can have exactly the same map.
So here we are, 2 photographers, 1 car, same journey, 2 visions. 

Saturday, 17 September 2011

AFAR assignment

Last March I was assigned by AFAR, a San Francisco travel magazine to go to Jerusalem to do a story on Jerusalem stone. The assignment was a mix of portraits of architects, architectural landscapes and travel.
I did a small interview for the website A Photo editor, reproduced below or here.

A Photo Editor
The Daily Edit – Monday 8.8.11

Design Director: Jane Palacek.
Art Director: Steven Powell
Director of Photography: Tara Guertin
Photographer: George Georgiou

Note: Content for The Daily Edit is found on the newsstands. Submissions are not accepted.

Heidi: Are you shooting a lot of travel now?

George: I don’t often shoot travel assignments, the last time I was in Jerusalem was during the beginning of
 the 2nd intifada, when the City was very tense with a lot of clashes. So it was great to see the city relaxed, 
with all the tourist returning and Arabs and Jews moving in each others areas without fear.

I know this was shot during Purim, how much of a gathering collected to listen and watch?
Where the streets bustling and were people responsive to you taking photos?

I had arrived in Jerusalem around 5 in the morning and was staying in East Jerusalem, the Arabic side.
 I got up around noon and decide to walk around the City to get a feel of the place, I had no idea it was Purim until 
I started to notice a few people dressed up. I headed towards the city center in West Jerusalem, which was full of people
 dressed up and generally partying and having fun. Shooting was easy, as is usually the case when people are celebrating.

Where were you to take this opening image?

I knew fairly early on that an image of the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock would be perfect as both
 are unmistakably symbols of Jerusalem and illustrated the main theme of the feature, Jerusalem stone through the ages.
 I walk around trying to get onto as many rooftops as possible to find the right angle and light, in the end I took this image
 from a spot that is accessible and popular with tourists. The photograph was taken at the beginning of the Sabbath on the Friday evening, just as the sun is starting to set and the floodlights are switched on. During the Sabbath, photography is not permitted by the western wall, so it was a perfect time to step back and make a landscape. I managed to get to this vantage point just before the tourists, by the time I left there were rows of people waiting to get to a glimpse of this view.


Saturday, 10 September 2011

David Goldblatt

A truly inspirational photographer who has consistently made great work throughout his life, that in his own words is "lovingly critical"

Conversations with Goldblatt from Leonie Marinovich on Vimeo.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

MoMA's Annual Photography Series Highlights Six Emerging Contemporary Artists

George Georgiou (British, born 1961). Mersin, 2007. Pigmented inkjet print, 27 3/4 x 40 15/16" (70.5 x 104 cm) Courtesy of the artist © 2011 George Georgiou.

I am delighted to have been chosen to exhibit at this years New Photography 2011 show at MoMA.

NEW YORK, NY.- The Museum of Modern Art announces the 26th annual New Photography exhibition, running September 27, 2011, through January 16, 2012, in The Robert and Joyce Menschel Gallery. This year, the exhibition expands to feature six artists—Zhang Dali, Moyra Davey, George Georgiou, Deana Lawson, Doug Rickard, and Viviane Sassen. These artists, hailing from Canada, China, England, Holland, and the United States, exemplify the diversity and international scope of contemporary photographic work. New Photography 2011 is organized by Dan Leers, The Beaumont and Nancy Newhall Curatorial Fellow, Department of Photography, The Museum of Modern Art.

"Whether using an appropriative practice like Zhang Dali, analog forms of communication like Moyra Davey, the documentary approach of George Georgiou, conventions of portraiture like Deana Lawson, web-based images like Doug Rickard, or Viviane Sassen's self-reflective analysis, each of the artists in New Photography 2011 has his or her own individual means of addressing issues relevant to the world today," says Mr. Leers.

 ©Zhang Dali



Zhang Dali (Chinese, b. 1963) began his project, A Second History, in 2003 and continues it into the present. For this work, Dali analyzes photographs that were manipulated for use as propaganda under Mao Tse Tung’s Communist regime. Acting as an archivist, he juxtaposes original source materials from Chinese archives and periodicals with the altered images used to spur the Communist revolution. Seen side by side, the images reveal the meticulousness of Maoist censors who retouched, colored, and drastically changed the photographs, often adding or removing entire figures from the frame.

© Doug Rickard
In his most recent series A New American Picture, Doug Rickard (American, b. 1968) explores the ground-level geography of urban areas across the country using Google Street View, taking photographs of the Street View images on his home computer that he finds the most captivating. He focuses on geographic areas where unemployment, crime, drug use, and lack of educational opportunities are prevalent. The resulting photographs document the blurred faces of people and crumbling cities as captured by the Google lens, and explore issues of poverty, raceequity, and personal privacy.

©Viviane Sassen

Viviane Sassen (Dutch, b. 1972) was born in Amsterdam, but spent formative childhood years living in Kenya, which has influenced her work as a photographer. Upon her family’s return to the Netherlands, Sassen felt like a foreigner in her homeland, but knew that she had been an outsider in Africa as well. Her latest series, Parasomnia, animates these feelings, and was made in intentionally unidentified African countries with anonymous, faceless subjects. Sassen’s surreal pictures provide a glimpse into her psyche, and invite viewers to follow her journey through the mysterious remnants of her dreams and memories.

©Moyra Davey

Moyra Davey (Canadian, b. 1958) often uses the postal service as part of her artistic practice. She creates photographs with analog materials that are increasingly rare in today’s digital era, and then folds those photographs into an envelope shape to be mailed to friends. Davey later recoups the photographs and exhibits them in pinned-up grids, complete with the stamps and addresses obtained en route. For New Photography 2011, Davey has created a new mailer piece: The Coffee Shop, The Library. Photographing at The Museum of Modern Art and incorporating images of New York Public Library branches and iconic coffee shop images by Bruce Davidson and Saul Leiter, Davey meditates on creativity and the places in which it occurs.

©Deana Lawson

Deana Lawson (American, b. 1979) explores issues of intimacy, sexuality, and community in her portraits of people made in their homes and personal environments. Lawson refers to her subjects, nearly all of whom are strangers, as “her family.” Although she is not related to them by blood, her connection to them is palpable. Her large-scale portraits featured in New Photography 2011 are both intimate and confrontational; museum visitors are invited into Lawson’s world, but strictly as spectators.

George Georgiou (British, b. 1961) has photographed extensively in Eastern Europe and Turkey over the course of a decade, having lived and worked in Istanbul for the past five years. Georgiou’s series Fault Lines looks at modern-day Turkey as it negotiates its traditions and landscape amid the oncoming wave of development and Westernization and the notion of East/West. Following recent elections and the country’s ongoing talks of joining the European Union, Turkey now finds itself at a political and social crossroads. Georgiou follows the path this former imperial empire is forging in its search for a 21st-century identity.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Installation photos of Invisible exhibition on bus shelters

The bus shelters run from Mornington Cresent, through Camden Town to Chalk Farm station in London.
There was also a 6 screen installation in the Collective gallery, showing alongside  work by Mimi Molica.
The screens were pretty much a try out, to see how they worked together. The photos changed to quickly, and I now have a much better idea of how I will present this work in the future.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Invisible London exhibition in London

I will be showing Invisible London in a joint show with Mimi Mollica called Seen/Unseen, as part of the London Street Photography festival.
I will also be showing 8 photographs from the project on bus shelters running from Mornington Crescent station to Chalk Farm station. If you are in London on the 7th July you are invited to the opening.

Here is the blurb from the press release:

This joint show by award-winning photographers Mimi Mollica and George Georgiou, takes a look at Londoner's journeys and public and private lives from two very different perspectives. Both artists use the London bus as a vehicle to penetrate the private spheres people create for themselves while navigating public spaces. In each case the subjects are unaware of the image makers so their thoughts and interactions are undisturbed at the moment of making the picture. It is only in later viewing that the audience has a glimpse of their private world.
Mimi Mollica's brand new work Bus Stories focuses on a hidden view of London’s bus passengers and questions the ethics of public surveillance. His photographs have a dark, almost eerie quality although they are strikingly familiar.
George Georgiou's ongoing project Invisible:London surveys the diverse topography and migration in London through the windows of buses. The work explore the increasing diversity of a major Western metropolis as the movement and migration of people continues to change both the urban landscape and the community within it.

There are still a couple of places left for the 5 day shooting workshop I am teaching in London to coincide with the London Street photography festival: Details here.