The interest in a survey of photography in India since 1857 is that it is initially a distillation of British photography which then takes on its own life after national independence.
The Science Museum in South Kensington isn’t where I would expect to find a photography exhibition but this is part of their season “Illuminating India”. We get a chronological survey starting with documentary images of destruction of the Lucknow uprising (1857); these albumen prints, used as source for engravings for journals and magazines, led to a fashion for “Mutiny tourism”.
Thirty-eight photographers exhibiting in Hackney Wick, some their first public exhibition, some well-known names showing their private work, some their commercial work. Many intriguing, thoughtful images from voices that aren’t seen/heard widely enough. If the art world is to discover another Mapplethorpe to celebrate then maybe it will be one of these photographers or another from the 4000-strong Gay Photographers Network.
A major retrospective of the photography of Robert Mapplethorpe drawn from the Getty collection. The curators are proposing Mapplethorpe as an artist: his photographs are presented in an art gallery. By featuring his commercial portraiture as much as his more well-known (notorious) leather subculture photography, the curators are rebalancing his oeuvre and particular reputation as well as advancing the general cause of the photographer as artist. This exhibition was originally mounted in New York, then Los Angeles, followed by Montreal.
This is light touch curating, it would have been useful to have commentary remarking on the various visual references Mapplethorpe employs, from David Bowie to Andy Warhol. Equally the way in which Mapplethorpe’s work has influenced and inspired a generation, from Grace Jones’ cover for “Portfolio” through to the adoption of leather fetish imagery by mainstream fashion image makers.
Vincent van Gogh’s story is, on the face of it, straightforward: young man leaves rural Dutch religious family home to become an artist in Paris, moves to Arles in Provence, falls in to bad ways but creates exceptional art; is rescued by his brother but commits suicide. Van Gogh’s story is unusual because he produced such memorable work in the short productive period between finding himself and loosing himself through “madness”. I always enjoy visiting the town of Arles, but recognise for myself that the heady allure of its old stonework and streets, strong light and position at the head of the Camargue are best visited rather than made home.
Difficult to get enthusiastic about the physical exterior of the NEC, the national exhibition centre conveniently located in the centre of the UK and so accessible by rail and car without too much difficulty. Nor really much to enthuse over at The Photography Show 2017 inside Hall 5. Some talks about techniques, motivational speakers and many gadgets and hardware. There are stands of the makers of prints and then the exhibitions of finished prints which have been laboured over by fellow photographers. It seems a pity that so little attention is given to them but images have become cheap, not just in cost to produce.
Was it worth the day trip outside the M25? Yes I flashed my card a couple of times in response to some juicy discounts but it's the chats with people that have been the value in my trip, chats with suppliers, face to face meetings with a couple of friends and serendipitous browsing which has maybe stimulated some ideas to move my photography forwards.