65 photographers, most of whom have had some association with the Light & Land company are exhibiting a selection of their images – around 350 in total – at the Mall Galleries this week. The exhibitors range from full-time professionals to keen amateurs so, not surprisingly, the standard of photography varies too.
Most of the images are pictures of a place: photographically competent but lacking depth of meaning. Certainly good enough for a travel brochure, having that instant ‘ooh’ or ‘ah’ appeal but little beyond. They are what I call landscape porn, that is, meant to appeal to the dopamine junky in us all. I frequently wished I had a saturation slider on my glasses so that I could turn down the colour that shouted at me from the image.
Having got that out of my system, there were some images that grabbed my attention for the right reasons; that were of a place but were about something a bit deeper. Individual images that stood out as having a spiritual or temporal dimension were Kasia Novak’s ‘Taksang Monastery’, Norma Brandt’s ‘Salt’ and Pete Nixon’s ‘Swirling Leaves’ (I apologise for the reflections in my images here, there was no angle that would remove them).
‘Taksang Monasery’ by Kasia Nowak
‘Salt’ by Norma Brandt
‘Swirling Leaves’ by Pete Nixon. Cropped by Malcolm Raggett
A few photographers showed a themed body of images. Notable were Patrick Kaye and Kate Somervell for their studies in time, and Davina Clift’s use of blue.
Untitled images by Patrick Kaye
Davina Clift’s studies in blue: ‘Fade to Grey’
Is the exhibition worth seeing? Yes, but there are a lot of images and it would be easy to get visual overload. Be prepared to be selective and, with a critical eye, you should find something that makes your visit worthwhile.
The Korean photographer Boomoon (b.1955) has a selection of images on show at Flowers Gallery, Cork Street, London at the moment (ends 5 April 2014). He is an artist who deals in big ideas: studies in time and/or space. Although these are big, conceptual topics he manages to interpret them within sets, each of which is narrowly defined and therefore manageable for photographer and viewer alike.
Boomoon’s photographs at Flowers Gallery are reproduced at an impressively large size, though I didn’t find this necessary in order to appreciate their artistic intent.
The series that particularly drew me to the gallery was Naksan – a set of images charting the progress of a snowstorm at the coast of north east Korea. It is a cinematic sequence in which the viewer’s imagination can supply the sounds and smells of the sea as well as the freezing temperature and wind-chill; it certainly made me want to reach for a warm coat! The pictures are of a snowstorm but they are about time as the storm’s fury increases, changes direction then abates.
Another discovery was the series of blue ice images, part of Boomoon’s Northscape work, beautifully presented in large acrylic-faced mounts.
This is a very impressive show and has left me wanting to see more of Boomoon’s work. Recommended, even if you aren’t into landscape photography.
Beetles + Huxley Gallery (renamed in 2018 to Huxley-Parlour) are currently showing aerial photographs by Alex Maclean. All of the images show either the presence or influence of man in or on the landscape. When people are present they often just give scale, though several images illustrate the randomness of humans in contrast to the geometry of man’s machine-made environment.
Some of the images in Alex Maclean’s exhibition at Beetles + Huxley Gallery (Huxley-Parlour as of 2018).
I am ambivalent about aerial photographs in general: I enjoy the other-worldly abstract nature of the images, making me see a view of the world in a different and sometimes revealing way. On the other hand the very abstract nature detaches me from the lanscape as I am used to experiencing it, causing me to be less emotionally and intellectually involved with the image. Even though Maclean’s images are excellent examples of the aerial genre, they do not challenge me, involve me or offer significant insights beyond the superficial. If you like aerial photographs I’m sure you will enjoy this show. Otherwise I can’t recommend it.
There is a great show of Harry Callahan’s (1912-1999) work at London’s Tate Modern museum at the moment (until 31 May 2014). It is well worth going to see.
Cattails Against Sky. Harry Callahan, 1948
Callahan’s main role and income-generator was teaching photography. This left him free of commercial pressures and able to explore with the eye of an artist. Nevertheless you cannot take the teacher out of the images: all of his photographs are lessons in how to see photographically, from the surreal (for example, shop mannequins) to the abstract (his shots of plant forms). The examples show us that the world as seen through Callahan’s camera/eye is an endlessly fascinating place.
New York (Mannequin Legs). Harry Callahan, 1955
I overheard one teenager ask her friend “is that a time exposure?”, and the roving security guard was seen admiring the abstract images. So for different people the show functions at different levels, which is one hallmark of a successful exhibition. For me, the abiding memory is of the inquisitiveness that Callahan’s roving eye had, and this was generated internally not by some desire to copy prevailing trends. That’s a good lesson for us all!
Grasses, Wisconsin. Harry Callahan, 1958
There’s an interview with Harry Callahan on YouTube
Posted in Art, black & white, exhibition, galleries, Photography, reviews, surrealism
Tagged Art, Harry Callahan, photographic exhibitions, photography, Tate Modern
Miyako Ishiuchi has been selected as this year’s Hasselblad Foundation Award winner, and well-deserved too! She has a selection of images on display at Tate Modern, London at the moment – here’s my review: https://mraggett.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/miyako-ishiuchi-i-took-photographs-to-be-in-the-darkroom/