Photography Blog

An exhibition of some works of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery. These artists were part of the group known as the Bloomsbury Group who had served as conscientious objectors on Sussex farms during World War One; they stayed on in Sussex to set up the delightful Charleston Farmhouse whilst contributing designs to the Omega workshops in London as well as creating their individual pieces.

Read more: Radical Bloomsbury at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery

Les XX at Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, 2011

Gemeentemuseum Den Haag presented two special exhibitions: paintings of the Belgian Expressionist James Ensor and also photographs, photograms and short films of László Moholy-Nagy, a Hungarian of the Bauhaus school in Germany.

As well as a survey of James Ensor's paintings, drawings and masks, the museum showed a special presentation re-enacting one of the exhibitions of "Les XX" (The Twenty), the group of artists who showed impressionist works not accepted for the mainstream salons of their time. Thus we saw in a single room, a fascinating line of pictures by Monet, van Gogh, and other Impressionists as well as James Ensor.

Read more: James Ensor & László Moholy-Nagy

I spent much of the past weekend scanning with a bulk scanner prints from my albums of A4 prints. That's cleared a lot of shelf space so my living area is less cluttered. It's also made my archive far more retrievable than the paper prints had become: it's easier to search on the computer than to leaf through albums. Reviewing the prints myself as they were loaded in to the scanner's feed tray for semi-automatic processing was also an interesting process of self-(re)assessment.

I'm about half way through the pile of pre-digital prints, and that's just my pictures which I thought worth printing large at the time. What I do with this archive is a completely different question... No answers yet myself but I feel there's a lot of good work there which isn't currently getting aired, constructive suggestions welcome. But entirely concentrating on past work risks being an archivist more than a photographer.

 Arles is the home town of the only national level postgraduate photography course in France: that's at L'Ecole Nationale Supérieure de la Photographie. It turns out to be a historic building in the old town, surrounded by a high stone wall and classic high iron gates with painted bars. A fortress.

The annual FEPN - Festival Européen de la photo de nu - takes place in a number of venues around the town of Arles and there are also some events in nearby towns.

The title is in some ways the most intriguing part of the event, which lasts a week. The 2010 event was sponsored by Ilford photographic papers, giving a clue that many of the images are printed on black and white. To my eye, there wasn't a lot that would merit three stars in a Michelin guide rating, meaning "worth a trip". Definitely one star ("interesting") and maybe two stars "worth a detour"). 

Why disappointing? Like much contemporary art photography there was much symbolism but not much story-telling. That opens the whole discussion on what is art and what photography is about. But there wasn't much clear beauty either though plenty of apparently girlie sensuality and soft focus or soft light. I didn't see any pictures of athletes or "Greek gods". But the images on display were clearly "art" not "porn" because of the sensitivity to the nakedness of the subject; equally they were no more inviting or involving than pornography. 

And yet again there were more striking imagery around on the commonplace advertising billboards than in the art gallery.

The other visitors were also "interesting": just who does visit an exhibition in France of pictures of nude photography. A mixed bunch, as it turned out but not a throng; possibly some academics, some photographers and maybe some enthusiasts of the genre. No-one really stood out from general tourists so maybe they were mainly general tourists who happened to be visiting that show that week. In that case, disappointing, like the exhibits.

So perhaps there's a case try to make some images that I consider more interesting and to submit them for another year...

After travelling half-way around the world to visit Tahiti and the Marquesas, and visiting both museums to Paul Gauguin there but having seen hardly any artefacts attributable to the old vagabond himself, I finally got to see some of his pictures at the exhibition back here in London at the Tate Modern at what used to be Bankside power station, just down the river from my home here.

Read more: Paul Gauguin at the Tate Modern

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