Conflict, Time, Photography Exhibition

I went to Tate Modern in London this week to see the Conflict, Time, Photography exhibition that started there on Tuesday. For me, it was a powerful experience. The photographs were organised, in a clever and sophisticated way by time after the actual war events. The first few images, such as of the mushroom cloud at Hiroshima taken at the time start the show. Then, as you progress through the exhibition space, the images move across weeks, months and years in separation from the specific event. The final images of the show are from the work of Chloe Dewe Matthews, (whose work I often admire) of the soldiers shot at dawn for desertion during the First World War.

The last image of the show, a beautiful dawn landscape in Vosges by Matthews, is a particularly poignant and unsettling take home message. The thoughts that ran through my mind me ‘what a beautiful place to die’ but also ‘what an awful way to die’.

As I drove home from the exhibition I felt strong feelings of sadness about the things that we have done, currently do, and will continue to do in the future to each other. The exhibition worked for me as it was very emotional, rather than intellectual or graphic in it’s presentation. A lot of the work felt very raw, disturbing and unsettling in it’s emotional intensity.

The work by Asian photographers Araki, Tomatsu and Tsuchida were particularly strong. Hiromi Tsuchida’s work Hiroshima Collection 1982-1995 was very touching. His work consisted of black and white photographs of items, such as a watch or a child’s jacket. There was a short story presented with the image, such as the child’s jacket being found in a tree by the family – but that the child was not seen again. The personal nature the items, the missing person, and the family connections gave a depth to the images and made me reflect on the situations that befell these people, and maybe try to imagine the terror that might they might have experienced (if they had time to think before they were killed).

One over aspect of the exhibition that impressed me, beyond how well it was put together using the structure of time, was the sheer level of creativity that people used to express their views on the experiences of war. For example, one person took a series of images of families and combined them as a ‘family tree’ during the Bosnian-Serb war in the 1990s. Some images only showed teeth or bone fragments, whilst others remained blank. The overall effect was shocking and deeply sad in the level of decimation that was inflicted on family relationships.

Personally, I felt that the images which were removed from the immediate scene of the action, such as Araki’s 2010 photographs of the sky ‘during’ the nine days in August between the first and second nuclear bombs dropped on Japan made me attempt to imagine the sky on the two days of importance, and more importantly what people might have experienced and felt. The works that gave a space to think, reflect and empathise were the strongest for me.

The exhibition runs to March 2015, I would certainly recommend a visit if you are passing by the Tate Modern Gallery in London.

Resting at Tate Modern

Back to Burnbake

Over the weekend I went back to the Burnbake Trust to take some more photographs for the charity. This time, I went to one of the shops in the town and focused on trying to convey a sense of just packed it is with items, and that a lot of what goes on is ‘behind the scenes’ at the back of the shop. The shop front is quite small, but the area behind it is considerably bigger across several floors.Hopefully I will continue to develop a deeper picture of the charity when I visit the shop again.

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Bedwin Street Fisheries

I went for a short walk in town tonight after work to stretch my legs and find a few interesting shots. As I was walking down a back street near to the town centre in Salisbury, I came across a fish and chip shop that had just closed for the night. I thought the way it was set up inside looked great and quite unique. The chap who ran it was still there and he told me about the shop, explaining that it was pretty much the same layout since its early days (it opened in 1927) and that he had been redeveloping it in a way that kept its character. He also told me that the range he cooked on was the oldest in England and that he still used beef dripping to cook the food in.

It was a really nice chance encounter and a very interesting experience to talk to him a little about his business. I really like how people develop their businesses in interesting ways, like he has done. I also like the fact that using a camera gives me a doorway to other people’s worlds, like this one.

Now I just need to go back and try the food!

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Enclave Swanage…

I was down in Swanage again this weekend with my friend. We are jointly shooting the town as part of a longer-term project contrasting the place between summer and winter. It’s really good to work alongside another photographer, particularly as our styles are quite different. It certainly makes for some good learning as we share ideas between one another. I really enjoy it.

I went down in the afternoon and took the available light shots on film until it got too dark. I have no idea what will come out of that part of the work. When it got dark (and after a brief foray into a local pub!) I turned to digital, the ridiculously high ISO capabilities of the Canon make night shooting possible in a way that is not realistic with film for me. I regularly shoot between ISO 5000 and 12800. The shots are noisy, I did start to convert them into black and white, but then I decided to pop them back into colour. Even though they are a bit rough, I do quite like the effect.

The project is still evolving. I am taking an ethnographic approach in that I get certain types of images, then once I have got enough of a certain type it’s time to move on to get another. At some point either the work will start to repeat itself, or I run out steam on the project. I am not sure what the project is about, but that’ll become clearer over time as the whole thing starts to shape up. However, it’s a slow burner so I don’t see that happening any time soon.

Swanage feels separate to other places that I have been to. It feels physically more cut off from other places, but also the town and its touristic feel seems to be from another earlier British era. This quality gives the town its character, but at the moment I am not sure if I have managed to capture that sense of it being a little microcosm on the images. Hopefully, this will change over time.

My favourite shot is of the lone palm tree at night. I just love it!

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Canon, get your act together!

Canon’s professional network has some great documentary photographic work on it, like this recent story about two Afghan men fleeing their home to live in Europe. But, I do wish they would develop this part of their product in a similar way to what Leica have done with their excellent blog. It would raise the visibility of the important work that is being done, particularly in a sensitive, politicised and misunderstood area such as immigration (illustrated above).