Make Life Worth Living

Memories of childhood came flooding back as I strolled round this excellent exhibition at the Science Museum Media Space.   The above photograph was taken in Leeds, where I grew up in a similar street.   It must have been taken on a Monday because the washing is hanging out to dry.   Such were the rituals of people in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Exhibited for the first time after the 40 year restriction to protect the identity of the subjects, the passing of time serves to distance us from the underlying subject of poverty.   Have we really made significant advances in our housing?   Are neighbourhoods any more safe, secure, or cohesive?

The power of these images is to raise such questions in the mind of the viewer.


Can we see Africa in a different light?

Photographs of life in Africa typically show poverty, conflict and disease.  Some emerging photographers are trying to change the perceptions of Africa that such pictures convey.

One such photographer is self-taught Joe Lukhovi who says: ‘Photography is my way to let the identity of closed communities emerge. It’s plainly wrong to only show the negative sides of a country and skip the positive ones. We have been the victims of twisted foreign reporting that only serve the wrong purposes. As an African it feels like my task to show people the true image.’

Another is Anthony Bila who says: ‘That’s why I take it to the streets in South Africa to show my country on a day-to-day basis. I want to step off the one-dimensional view that is being fed to us by international mass media. Africa is anything but lost; instead it’s a place full of possibilities and beauty. We Africans can tell our own story in our own way.’

Source: From ‘Township Diaries’ (Photo: Anthony Bila)

The Afronauts at The Photographers Gallery London

Cristina De Middel, The Afronauts, 2012

The Afronauts is short listed for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2013: one of four artists currently at the Photographers Gallery and my favourite.   Cristina De Middel combines fact and fiction in this set of images that provokes thought beyond the image.

“…I really wanted toplay with fact and fiction…I am in a way trying to force the viewer to spend more time on the images and more time in understanding the story. I’m trying to break this direct consumption of the image as a document…”       Christina De Middel
She uses a mix of photographs, documents and text to create a story that provokes thought about the sustainability of space exploration in a world where poverty is widespread.   The story is set in Zambia but all the photographs are taken elsewhere.

Landscapes, landscapes, landscapes from three viewpoints

The search for the perfect landscape with your camera is an ever popular passtime if the current exhibitions in London are any indication.   Three large exhibitions major on this popular genre.   Viewing them all in one weekend is a visual challenge but is made digestable because they are far from “same, same”.

First is the Ansel Adams (1902-1984) collection “Photography from the Mountains to the Sea“.

©The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

His work is presented in a clear way that explains his move from traditional pictoralism through to more expressive work.   The sheer technical achievement is awesome.    This is very clearly evident in the three murals that are each over three metres high.   The quality is outstanding.   My favourite is the one shown above of the clearing storm in Yosemite.   This was taken using a 10×8 camera at f16, 1/5 of a second using 64 ASA film and printed using high contrast paper.

The photographs represent a lifetime’s work and show the development of photographic skill from the age of 13.

Second, Sebastião Salgado (Genesis) is a set of photographs taken in a relatively short (6 year) period with a specific set of intentions.   The photographer wishes us to reflect on our own lifestyles and the impact they have on the planet.   They are all black and white and mainly high contrast but that is the end to the similarities to the work of Ansel Adams.

There is an undeniable passion that is instantly communicated by his work.   These are not just asthetically pleasing images they are also emotionally charged images that remind us what diversity the earth holds.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Third, an eclectic collection “Landmark: The Fields of Photography” shows a series of images that prompts us to reflect on the purpose of an image.   Some are documentary, some activist, some experimental.   One set of images I did not expect to find were two by John Stezaker that I had previously thought of as portraits.   Favourite image has to be the one below because of the visual impact of seeing a river in an unatural colour and realising the impact of pollution.

Edward Burtynsky. ‘Nickel Tailings no.34’