Archive for the ‘Conference’ Category

Photocinema Conference

Monday, May 4th, 2009

The Photocinema Conference took place at Quad, Derby on March 6th as part of FORMAT 09 Festival. It took the form of a one-day symposium around the theme of the still and moving image.

The conference was sold out well before the day not least because of the varied line-up of speakers, which intelligently combined talks by practitioners with those of theorists/academics.

David Campany took the floor first and introduced the audience to a series of photocinema encounters. This included the use of a colour transparency in the opening scenes of the film Don’t Look Now, (based on the Du Maurier novel) which begins to seep blood as Donald Sutherland views it on a lightbox. The sight prompts a premonition of tragedy in Sutherland, that of the drowning of his daughter, itself a premonition of the macabre events which follow.

Don’t Look Now

Don’t Look Now

Don’t Look Now

Another powerful reference was to the shot for Victor Sjostrom’s 1927 film The Wind. Used as a production still, this stunning image was in fact a staged reconstruction but has exactly the energy and movement appropriate to the subject of the film.

The Wind

This interplay of stillness and movement, where sometimes one medium succeeds in doing that which the other is renowned for, was the underlying thread through all the presentations that followed.

On the theme of the elements still, Martin Parr showed a wonderfully candid short on a stormy evening in one of England’s tired but chirpy coastal holiday resorts. While Victor Burgin showed the last 7 minute sequence from Antonioni’s L’Eclisse. Shot on the corner of a quiet street as the sun sets, this astonishing series of scenes in which little more happens than time passing, is a film-makers homage to stillness.

There were too many highlights for me to cover them all. Neil Campbell presented a fascinating paper on the work of Robert Frank and Wim Wenders, one a photographer whose work functioned more like a film (in “long sentences” said Kerouac), the other a film-maker whose films can be read as a series of stills. Donovan Wylie gave a frank account of his crisis with photography and his frustrations with film-making, both informing work which is in my opinion more engaging for the struggle. Eric Baudelaire talked of the influence of Tarkovsky’s Stalker in his work Imagined States (2005). Finally Rachel Moore presented Hollis Frampton’s 1971 film nostalgia. An important film in an art historical sense no doubt, but one which really should not be scheduled for the end of a long day’s listening.

All in all though this was an exciting day, both informative and inspiring, with photography shedding light on cinema and vice versa, neither loosing their magic through association. I could have done with a little more female magic in the line-up of speakers but that would be my only criticism. This is an area of intrigue for me and I had a great day watching and listening to the various pieces of an ongoing puzzle.

EJ. Major

EJ Major is an artist based in London. Her solo exhibition ‘Try to Do Things We All Can Understand’ was premeried at Street Level in April 2008, and coincided with Glasgow International. The work of the same name was also included in the FORMAT 09 festival exhibition at Quad, Derby.

Photography in Scotland: Then, Now and Beyond Our Time

Monday, May 4th, 2009

The Scottish Society for the History of Photography

National Galleries, Edinburgh 28th March 2009

SSHoP Conference

The conference celebrated the 25th anniversary of The Scottish Society for the History of Photography. The first meeting in 1983 was held in order to raise awareness of photography’s potential as an art form. This fuelled the original members’ decision to start a BA Honors course dedicated to Fine Art Photography at The Glasgow School of Art. From then on, the Scottish impact on photography became worldwide and a vibrant photographic culture was finally realised.Various themes ran through the day’s discussion such as photography’s ability to lie, or perhaps more accurately the photographer’s desire to lie. Also discussed were the effects of the progression of technology in photography and the uncertain future of this medium.Certain questions arose both from audience members and speakers such as ‘What sort of photography will there be in the next 25 years?’ Considering the relatively short lifespan of the medium and its dramatic technological progression in the last 30 years, only hazardous guesses were made. Nothing is certain with the future of photography but I find this prospect rather exciting.

SSHop talk 1

It was made clear from the artist talks by Calum Colvin and more specifically the New Generation photographers that not all has been lost to digital photography. In fact 3 of the four artists referred to the delights of the flourishing second-hand market of film cameras. I remain positive that whilst technologies in photography will continue to develop at lightning speed, both young and older photographers will strive to keep mechanical photography alive. A perfect example of this is New Generation photographer, Lucy Levene, who when asked about the future of photography mentioned that she has recently set up her own commercial darkroom.One topic arose that interested me was in the future of photography as a career. With the number of graduating photographers in the UK each year being significantly larger than the number of jobs in the photographic industry in the whole of Europe, one lady asked if this can possibly be sustained. What will happen to all these photographers?

SSHop talk 2

Dr Sara Stevenson, a leading member of the SSHoP since 1983, spoke of the common pursuit of collecting photographs simply due to an aesthetic appreciation. This human adoration of photographs is what I believe has caused a dramatic increase in those studying photography but will engender the development of subcultures and new ‘isms’ within photographic art…also provide us with the next generation of photography.  The question was asked with uncertainty and worry rather than excitement for the future of the great medium and its followers. Three snapshots into the lives and portfolios of three New Generation photographers was more than enough to convince me that the future is not necessarily bleak.Each artist delivered a short presentation on their most recent work and personal practice. All three varied in subject matter and style though themes that were conveyed through their photographs overlapped considerably, such as disability, faith, immigration, and globalisation. There seemed to me to be an ultimate focus on contemporary culture and observations of Scottish society.

SSHop talk 3

I found the three artist talks tremendously inspiring and reassuring. I believe that if there are fine art photographers, they will continue to produce work whether they are getting paid to do so or not. It is a genuine love of photographs and the communication through them that inspires each of us to continue making art this way. The conference was held on 28 March 2009 at the Hawthornden Lecture Theatre, National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh. Speakers were David Bruce, Dr. Sara Stevenson, Dr. Alison Morrison-Low, and David Brittain.Artist Talks from Calum Colvin, Andy Wiener, Claire Wheeldon, Michael Mersinis and Lucy Levene.

Victoria Baker

Victoria Baker is a photographer based in Glasgow. She was included in the ‘Futureproof’ exhibition at Street Level in late 2008, an exhibition showcasing some recent talent from photography courses at Scottish art schools.

Photographs courtesy of Roger Farnham.

Donovan Wylie at PhotoCinema

Monday, May 4th, 2009

To me a festival like FORMAT and the recent PHOTOCINEMA conference in particular is a hub for all these supremely creative people to get together and feed off each other’s talents. It feels like home. It doesn’t matter how well I know a photographer’s work – to me there is nothing like hearing them talk about the “behind the scenes”. This is when one has an opportunity to appreciate their personality and truly connect with the artist’s world.

I found Magnum photographer Donovan Wylie’s presentation most inspiring as he struck me as a deeply sincere person who seems to say only the things he strongly believes in. He is a brave, decisive and reliable narrator who takes great responsibility in expressing his view without prejudice.

His ease and honesty in telling the story behind his BAFTA winning film “The Train” were very refreshing. He clearly left his safety zone – photography, and began an adventure with a highly collaborative craft of moving image. He experimented, inventing his own way of telling a story.  (It brought to mind the Bell chapter in Tarkovsky’s  “Andrei Rublev” with a boy who mobilised a crowd of people claiming he knew the secret of bell casting. After the extremely laborious task was complete and the bell rang perfectly we find out that the boy didn’t know a thing about it and relied primarily on faith and his natural skill…)

In “The Train” Donovan geographically and emotionally explores modern Russia which intrigued me – as a Ukrainian photographer living in the UK I am yet to photograph Britain in spite of my huge curiosity for its inner life. I always considered interpreting such a different culture a dangerous territory: how do you deal with something so unfamiliar without trivialising it? Looking at the “Western” work on the former Soviet Union I often find it exciting but feel that it’s all about surface and it tells me nothing through its obsession with detail and recycling of exhausted characters.  A lot of it seems to be revolving around the exotic, which is certainly very seductive and can become a license for patronising. Donovan Wylie however brilliantly succeeded in seeing through the exotic glamour that so often sticks to the subject. I don’t know whether he managed to find his deeper meaning at the end of the journey through Russia, but to me he clearly found a real ambivalence which resonates way beyond state borders.

Alina Kisina

Alina is a self-taught Ukranian photographer who trained as a linguist. Her solo show ‘Zerkalo : Mirror’ was shown at the Scotland-Russia Institute in Edinburgh in December 2008 to January 2009.