The Photolounge was open at the Old Truman Bewery for a few days as part of East London’s Photomonth, so I took a look. The Old Truman Brewery at the north end of Brick Lane about 10 minutes walk from Liverpool Street station. There are lots of retail opportunities but above ground level there is lots of space available for exhibitions. Anyone could enter photographs but it was mainly keen photographers, some fresh from art school, others more established, who had their pictures on display. Some of the 30,000 entries in Photobox’s Around the World in 80 Days competition were also on display:
Photobox 80 Days competition result
It was good to have such an eclectic mix of images. I past by the Art School images fairly quickly: they tell me a lot more about the person behind the camera than what is being pictured, and to be honest I’m too old and I’ve seen too many introspective images to be that interested now. But I do like to see the work of young photographers who have matured enough to be telling me truths about the wider world.
After a look at all of the images, the ones I dwelt on or went back to were by:
I finally made it, on the very last day, to the exhibition and sale of Edward Weston prints at the Chris Beetles Gallery in London. I’ve admired Weston’s work, especially his landscapes and still lifes, for a long time. I used to admire Ansel Adams’ landscapes even more than Weston’s but, whereas I now see AA’s work as a little sentimental, pastoral and clichéd, I have retained my admiration for some, though not all of Weston’s. Like most people, I am familiar with their work from books. Although I have seen some originals by Adams I don’t think I’ve ever seen originals of Weston’s; the prints in this exhibition are from the original EW negatives but printed by his son Cole, which means they are pretty close to EW’s vision and good enough for me!
LESSON 1: books and original prints are different. Printing technology has improved tremendously in the last 20 years and the quality achieved in the best books is superb but there is still something about the quality of the blacks in a fine silver gelatin print that isn’t quite achieved in any book. But that’s getting picky: for me the real difference is in looking, really looking, at a print in isolation that brings out layers of detail and meaning that I don’t see when looking at a book. Perhaps it is the shear number of pictures I am presented with in a book that dilutes the impact, or maybe I’m like a kid in a sweet shop, turning the pages too quickly. Note to self – take longer to look!
LESSON 2: Edward Weston’s photographs can be improved. In his day, EW was an artist pushing the boundaries of his cultural environment and doggedly pursuing his personal vision. He was of the opinion that the camera’s strength was in its ability to record of reality while acknowledging the abstraction of the 2-dimensional black & white print. This reflects my own view and is probably why I still like his photographs, that and the lack of sentimentality. But if I were taking the same landscapes I would probably aim for a more abstract effect. Here’s an example of what I mean: the first image is as EW interpreted Oceano in 1936
but I think that masking the top improves the photo
My own opinion is that removing the horizon strengthens the image and makes it more abstract, which I prefer. But then it’s no longer an Edward Weston photograph.