Last Thursday’s theme was on Territory. I tackled this from two angles in my introductory talk. The first was territory as a photographic theme and practice. Photographers I showed were Fay Godwin , Luisa Lambri and Robert Adams.
Themes of private land ownership are playfully and wryly portrayed in Godwin‘s images of the British landscape. She beautifully chronicles our attempts to control and repackage nature and ancient sites, as well as highlighting environmental issues. A book to look out for: Landmarks
Luisa Lambri, b. 1969, addresses the territory of modernist architecture, traditionally a male preserve. She creates intimate, subtle and mysterious images of details of famous buildings by Le Corbusier or Frank Lloyd Wright. The repetitive quality of her series refuse clarity, unlike the buildings themselves which remain static, material and defined. Her work was exhibited in the recent Constructing Worlds Exhibition at the Barbican in London. The catalogue is available at the Edinburgh Public Fine Art Library. Or check out her website here.
Robert Adams documents the territory of expanding suburbs in America and its effects on nature. His photos appear beguilingly sober, but the ’empty’ natural spaces, fragile human presence and signs of encroaching exploitation convey an emotive tension. Of this series he said ‘The pictures record what we purchased, what we paid, and what we could not buy. They document a separation from ourselves, and in turn, from the natural world that we professed to love.’ To see more of his work click here.
For the second part of the talk I focussed on the territory of photography as a medium in itself.
The BA (Hons) Degree in Fine Art Photography at Glasgow School of Art, which I attended in 1990 was the first of its kind in the UK. Photography seemed to have an inferiority complex about being accepted as art, i.e. on a par with painting and sculpture. It became important to define photography as art, rather than photography for commercial or private use.
Meanwhile painters were incorporating photography into their work, like the artist John Baldesarri.
Whilst Fine Art Photographers were working to make photography more exclusive and collectable, painter Gerhard Richter was using photography as a way to deal with the increasing mass of photographic images in the world, which he describes as a “Bilderflut”. He has been collecting photographs, cuttings and sketches since the 1960s in a work called Atlas.
Today 250 million photos are uploaded to Facebook every day, a veritable tsunami of images. The distinctions between amateur and professional photography become harder to maintain, if they should be maintained at all.
The most interesting photographic work being made today questions the role of photography. These photographic artists question the value of photography, addressing the ‘Bilderflut’, by using appropriated images from the Internet, using new technologies to usurp the idea of the”maker”, and revisit analogue approaches using different materials to create negatives and see the photographic paper itself as a sculptural form. In fact these were the themes of a recent exhibition in Berlin called Photo Poetics which will be at the Guggenheim Museum in November.
Here is a link to a short video about Lisa Oppenheim, explaining her use of appropriated images, and her use of new and historical techniques.
(And in another take on the idea of “Bilderflut”, this image by Claudia Angelmaier references Gerhard Richter). It is the reverse of a postcard of his famous painting “Betty”. The photo is 130 x 100 cm.
Thanks for everyone for coming to this month’s meeting at the Democratic Camera Club, and for the interesting discussions and high quality photography shown on the night. I look forward to seeing everyones work up on our website. Thanks also to Helen for allowing me to step into her shoes as she couldn’t make it. I enjoyed researching and presenting the theme.