Having a word with… Les Monaghan

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Les Monaghan is a photographer based in Doncaster. His interest is in society, with a particular interest in those that are deprived and affected by recent changes in political policy. His current project, Relative Property is an investigation into a few of the more than a million people that are living in destitution in the UK today. His aim is to engage with and truthfully represent  a subject that is continuously misrepresented in mainstream media, in order to make the public aware of the struggles that millions more in poverty are moving closer to facing on a daily basis.

Where did you study photography?

I took photos as a kid and they all had camera shake. At Doncaster Art College studying graphic design I enjoyed the dark room and printing (I was mediocre), the teacher was uninspiring but he did get excited about an essay I wrote on Tim Page – the only interesting book I remember in the library. I didn’t go to Uni till much later, I studied on the fantastic (and now defunct) History of Film, Photography and Graphic Media. Barthes’ Camera Lucida, Benjamin’s Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, Berger’s Ways of Seeing and Tagg’s The Burden of Representation were the core of the course. Two modules were with John Taylor, Uses of Photography I and II, it was awesome, he’d already published A Dream of England and we saw the research for Bodyhorror. John Taylor’s thinking has probably filtered into most of my work. I did a Practice module, we had tasters  and then I chose a couple of years worth of photography. We didn’t get anything like the help that you would expect – it was solely tutorials – but my tutor did note that I had ‘an eye’. I would take 3 to 4 monographs home a week; Paul Graham, Martin Parr, Chauncey Hare, Chris Killip, John Davies, Peter Fraser, William Eggleston, Stephen Shore, Bill Owens, Karen Knorr, John Kippin and Victor Burgin are who stuck in my head.

What inspires you to create your work?

Inspiration is from what I see and what bothers me, I got particularly aggrieved by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s report on destitution published last Spring, and by the reaction it did and didn’t get. That anger sustains me even now, as the Relative Poverty project drags on.

How do you feel about the photography scene in the UK today?

The scene is what it is, the people who would get ahead in any other business or industry get ahead. A friend once said to me, “there are so many great photographers we haven’t heard about”, I think he’s right.

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What format do you like to shoot in and why?

Like most people my age I started in 35mm film, from press days I was always pushing film. I tried some medium format but I’ve been happy with the practical quality of DSLR since 2010, Nikons are pretty good in low light.

What is keeping you busy photographically these days?

Relative Poverty takes most of my time currently but its been a struggle to fund, so I continue to take community based work and I’m grateful that there still is some to be had. Today I spent an hour or so with one of my families shooting as we walked through town. Tomorrow I have some commissioned portraits to make. Wednesday I’ll spend the morning with one family and the afternoon with another.

Images from Relative Poverty and The Desire Project (2015-16).

You can follow Les on his blog here:

http://lesmonaghan.blogspot.co.uk

and follow and support Relative Poverty here:

http://www.relativepoverty.org/

 

Lewis Baltz with works by Carl Andre and Charlotte Posenenske

30th April until 9th July – Stills Gallery, Edinburgh

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Currently at Stills Gallery is a collection of photographs by Lewis Baltz, alongside works by Charlotte Posenenske and Carl Andre. The exhibition gives the viewer the opportunity to view photographic work (in a photographic gallery) alongside other disciplinaries. Sculptural pieces by Posenenske and Andre also occupy the gallery space, adding another dimension to what would otherwise be a wall-centred exhibition.

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The Baltz collection brings together Park City (1979), Candlestick Point (1989) and 10 silver gelatin prints from The Prototype Works (1967-76), a selection of his earlier work. The repetitive arrangement of silver gelatin and chromogenic prints in Candlestick Point is a topographic series made in the Bay Area of San Francisco. Drawing from Andre’s printed poetry nearby, Baltz’s photographs also take on a lyrical form, punctuated by segmented breaks in the display of the framed photographs.

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Andre’s work continues onto the floor of the adjoining room in Aluminium Sum Ten (2003) in the form of 55 units of aluminium arranged as tiles. Visitors are offered the opportunity to walk onto the sculpture, allowing them to have a physical connection to Andre’s work while simultaneously viewing Baltz’s prints. The sculptural element continues with Posenenske’s Vierkantrohre Serie D (1967-2014),  an interchangeable galvanised steel piece that can be reconstructed into different forms to reflect its current location, altering the space it occupies.

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Bathed in Californian and Western sunlight, Baltz’s topographic photographs reveal details of places he has explored over his long photographic career. He has witnessed and recorded an ever-changing American landscape of neglected wasteland and derelict buildings, an account of our ability as human beings to explore, construct, and move on (not unlike Posenenske’s continually reconstructed piece), seemingly unaware of the environment we leave behind.

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Having a word with… Stuart Pilkington

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Stuart Pilkington is an art photographer and curator based in the United Kingdom and a member of Documenting Britain.

Where did you study photography?

I’m one of those people who has learnt photography outside of a formal education.  I was clueless as to what I wanted to be when I was a youngster and so I ended up in stifling office jobs and feeling on a certain road to nowhere. So when I bought a 35mm SLR at the age of 27 I set about slowly teaching myself photography.  I attended a few night classes but my main education has come from reading books about image making, watching YouTube videos by people like Soth and Hido and asking questions of photographers whose work I love.

What inspires you to create your work?

I think it’s important to be on a path to somewhere in life and it doesn’t matter what that path is.  So I now finally, (it took me a long while to get going), do two things, I work on a long term photography project once a week and I try and go out with my digital camera every day to flex my muscles and make images for Instagram. I want to get better and better at photography and the only way to do that is go out regularly and shoot, shoot, shoot. It’s not only about play and enjoyment, it’s also about problem solving, asking yourself ‘why didn’t that work?’ or even the opposite question ‘why was that successful?’. It’s a never ending conveyor belt of learning but it’s not an experience similar to Sisyphus pushing the boulder up a hill it just means that you can keep at it well into your dotage and keep a twinkle in your eye.

How do you feel about the photography scene in the UK today?

I think it’s burgeoning like most other countries in the world.  Apparently there has been an upswing in people doing photography courses in colleges and universities. Through social media I have connections with a few pockets like Falmouth and Brighton but I know there’s stacks out there. And the quality of work by these students is phenomenal. As for emerging and emerged photographers there is a plethora of excellence out there too. Obviously London is where many gravitate to but there’s a wonderful bunch up in Scotland and also Wales. And then there are these wonderful event organisers like Miniclick, Photo Forum and Photographers Dining Club who put on talks and events. Document Scotland, Documenting Britain and A Fine Beginning are great examples of collectives too.  However, I suspect I have only scratched the surface – there’s a whole undercurrent that I’m not aware of.

What format do you like to shoot in and why?

I would love to shoot in large format, however, it’s too prohibitive for me cost wise so I use my medium format 6×6 camera instead. I bought my Wista and Hasselblad after emailing Erika Larsen and Kate Hutchinson and asking them what cameras they used. I just love film, the alchemy of light on film is still a marvel to me, even though I haven’t mastered it yet. I do go out with my digital SLR to do the Instagram work but I think I will always shoot in film with future long term projects. I like the challenge of the square format, it’s a whole new set of problems to solve when considering how to compose etc. Eventually, I would love to understand how photographers like Clare Hewitt and Laura Hynd play with a Vermeer light in their square format portraits. I have a long way to go before I’m a fraction of the way there.

What is keeping you busy photographically these days?

I’m a lot busier these days making my own images but when I’m not doing that I’m curating my group project entitled The Swap. That should end two years after it started in August this year. I’m also busy trying to formulate a book of The Swap and speaking with printers and the like. Other than that I am administering the first Pilkington Prize which is a landscape photography competition this year and I’m setting up a photography agency with sixteen photographers on board. So it’s a combination of snapping the shutter, thinking time, curating and admin.

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Could you tell us about the photos you have shared with us?

I stopped the woman by the yellow door only to discover that she couldn’t speak English but we navigated through that and the image was taken. It was one of those moments where I saw her walking towards the yellow door and I thought “hmmm that green in her dress would go well”. I could have let the moment go but instead I grabbed it and was pleased to see afterwards that the door had a shadow on the floor in the form of a different shade of pavement.

The man with the hoodie by the green door was my attempt to slightly represent the fashions of today. There are a number of hipsters and hoodies in my images. I like the fact that the sunshine gave a different light quality to this one and he looks like he’s rising from the ground.

The four girls by the plinths were in Ellesmere Port. I hadn’t a clue what they were doing when I looked into the ground glass and when I pressed the shutter. It’s only when I got the image back from the lab that I was chuffed with their poses. The people in the images are probably more responsible for a successful image that I am – they often like to play about.

http://www.stuartpilkington.co.uk/

Stuart’s work is currently on show as part of Fèis presents Documenting Britain at Street Level Photoworks in Glasgow, Scotland from 25th April to 23rd May.

http://www.streetlevelphotoworks.org/event/feis_documenting_britain

Having a word with… Melanie Friend

-® Melanie Friend-courtesy Impressions Gallery. Tank rides, Abingdon, Oxon, 3 May 2009 RGB

Melanie Friend is an English photographer with a long professional history in the medium. Melanie initially worked in journalism and has worked on gallery orientated projects since the 1990s. A solo show, The Home Front is currently touring the UK with Impressions Gallery.

Where did you study photography?

I studied for a part-time BA Photography 1984-88 at the Polytechnic of Central London (which became University of Westminster) when I was already freelancing. In 1999-2000 I studied part-time again on the MA Photography run by Anne Williams at the London College of Printing (now LCC, part of University of the Arts London).

What inspires you to create your work?

Anger at injustice has been a strong inspiration over the years. In the 1990s I focused on the violence in Kosovo (when it was effectively a police state); then I moved on to look at immigration detention in the UK. Much of my work has focused on conflict in one way or another. I’m more interested nowadays in focusing on subjects closer to home, and themes have expanded. The ‘creative process’ is unnerving at times, but I like the intensity & fulfillment of letting my ideas develop over a long period of time, while maintaining overall focus and direction. I get inspired by on-the-ground encounters, experiences and observations, backed up by research & reading. I’m open to inspirations from different sources (e.g. a 19th century engraving, a thread from an earlier project, a news story, a film, a poem).

How do you feel about the photography scene in the UK today?

It’s incredibly vibrant but very tough financially for photographers & practitioners/artists these days. It wasn’t easy when I started out in the 1980s but there were fewer photographers trying to earn a living; we got much higher freelance day rates and reproduction fees for the ‘bread-and-butter’ work.  In 1986 I joined the photography agency Format, which was originally a cooperative and a very supportive network of women photographers. (I joined Panos later on, in addition). It’s great seeing new collectives or groups of photographers springing up now – sometimes friends who graduated from the same BA/MA course. I took on hourly paid teaching work in the 1990s and now I am a senior lecturer (part time) at University of Sussex. Right now it’s difficult to publish a book with a photography publisher or get a gallery show owing to the production costs, competition, pinched budgets & public sector austerity cuts affecting galleries/museums. On the positive side, today there are more festivals, grants, portfolio reviews & prizes out there, and opportunities to self-publish and to publish online. It feels like an entrepreneurial & inspiring scene, although much of it is dependent on enthusiastic volunteer labour!

What format do you like to shoot in and why?

I work with medium format film at the moment and I photographed The Home Front, on a Mamiya 7 II rangefinder. I used a Fuji 6cm x 9cm rangefinder for Border Country, the preceding project. After seeing the processed film, I get a small selection of negs scanned. I like the quality & design of the Mamiya particularly, and that in good light outside I can hand-hold it, and dispense with lugging around a tripod. The Mamiya is lighter (& cheaper) than a digital equivalent. Since my mid 30s I’ve had chronic back/neck stuff going on, and so it suits me better. It’s good to have both negatives & high res scans for my archive too.

I like to work with as little equipment as possible and to focus on looking and waiting – for the right light, for what works. I am also a bit addicted to the mystery of not knowing exactly what I’m ‘getting’. I love going to the lab to collect my processed film: feeling that anticipation and uncertainty, being surprised sometimes by the results. Seeing immediately what you’ve got on the playback screen on the back of a digital camera just doesn’t have that edge; but digital cameras have a lot of flexibility and are more economic if you’re shooting large numbers of images. I use a Lumix for research photos & holidays, and my iPhone camera.

-® Melanie Friend, The Home Front, Red Arrows at Clacton, low res

An exhibition, The Home Front was shown at DLI (Durham Light Infantry) Museum & Art Gallery) following a show at Impressions Gallery in Bradford last year. Could you tell me a little about that? 

In autumn 2013 The Home Front exhibition, curated by Pippa Oldfield, opened at Impressions in Bradford as a solo show, and Impressions Gallery are now touring it. This autumn it was shown at DLI Museum & Art Gallery (Durham) and is showing at UH Galleries (Hertfordshire) 14 November 2014 – 31 January 2015.  The Home Front book was published in 2013 by Dewi Lewis Publishing in association with Impressions Gallery. It is an accompanying publication rather than a catalogue of the show, with essay by curator Pippa Oldfield, and foreword by Hilary Roberts of the Imperial War Museum.

Much of my earlier work used still images with sound; but The Home Front comprises still images only. It focuses on air shows and on the normalization of war in our culture. I took the photographs over four air show ‘seasons’ 2009-12. I’ve written about this on my website and am about to write about the work for a journal so I am keeping this brief. Here’s the URL for my website page on The Home Front and the link to the Impressions Gallery page:

http://www.melaniefriend.com/thehomefront/

http://www.impressions-gallery.com/exhibitions/exhibition.php?id=57

My next project, Standing By, is closer to home and focusing on my parents. I have shown it as work-in-progress at two conferences to date. It’s a sound-led installation piece I started way back in 2000, & uses still images taken from several sources: my Lumix, iPhone, 35mm and medium format photos, & scans from family albums. Another project is in the pipeline but is at the ideas stage right now.

www.melaniefriend.com

Images – Top: Tank rides at Abingdon Air and Country Show, Dalton Barracks, Oxfordshire, 3 May 2009. © Melanie Friend/courtesy Impressions Gallery.

Bottom: Hawk T1 military trainers (Red Arrows), Clacton Air Show, Essex, 26 August 2010. © Melanie Friend/courtesy Impressions Gallery.

 

Melanie’s book, The Home Front is available now from Dewi Lewis Publishing:
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Ones to watch: Bethany Amy Crutchfield

 

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London-based photographer Bethany Amy Crutchfield is a recent graduate from Falmouth University. Her bold and minimalist photographic style caught the attention of editors of Source magazine’s photographic review this year and was selected by Lorenzo Fusi, Director of Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool.

The attention to detail (light, arrangement and colour) she employs in her still life work is remarkable. As a result, the vibrancy and variety of her photographs makes the visual experience similar to that of a child in a freshly stocked sweet shop.

Graphic Photography

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bethanyamyphotography.com

All images courtesy and copyright the artist

Mario Popham: Enduring Growth

19th June until 29th July – Cornerhouse, Manchester

Currently gracing the walls at the Cornerhouse café and bar in Manchester is an exhibition of photographs by Mario Popham.

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Born in Japan, Popham has lived in Manchester for the past decade and now considers the city his adopted home. The vision of Manchester he shares is both instantly recognisable – overgrown parking lots, viaducts, vandalised buildings – yet Popham manages to create a vision that is undeniably his own. In one photograph a tree bends dejectedly on the pavement, caught in the sunlight on a desolate street. The city and its relationship with the natural environment is a recurring theme in this series – ivy and weeds sprawl wildly over telegraph poles and neglected lots in what appears to be a constant battle between nature and concrete.

The denizens of Manchester also make a regular appearance in this collection, and are at home with the landscapes on display. Like the saplings in other photographs, we see youths and young adults attempting to find their place in an ever-changing city.

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Hulme Party

The large prints hang comfortably in this well-lit public space. Due to their size it is possible to view them all without having to interrupt anyone’s lunch; however, I recommend viewing them more closely if you get the chance, there is a lot of great work to see here.

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All images courtesy and copyright the artist

 

Industries: Street Level Photoworks

24th May until 22nd June – Street Level Photoworks, Glasgow

Currently showing at Street Level Photoworks is a collective show of photography by Alicia Bruce, Martin Hunter, Charles-Frédérick Ouellet and Normand Rajotte.

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This exhibition features work by artists from Scotland (Bruce & Hunter) and Quebec (Rajotte & Ouellet) whose work exists on the edges between documentary and poetry, and which addresses cultural identity, post-industrialism, and how boundaries of control are reflected in the urban and rural landscape.

Read more about the exhibition here

Images  Top: Charles-Frederick Ouellet, Normand Rajotte. Bottom: Alicia Bruce, Martin Hunter  / courtesy of Street Level Photoworks

 

For those of you that cannot make it, check out their independent websites here:

http://www.aliciabruce.co.uk/

http://www.martinhunter.co.uk/

http://www.normandrajotte.com/

http://www.charlesouellet.com/