"Nonstop imagery is our surround, but when it comes to remembering, the photograph has the deeper bite....
In an era of information overload, the photograph..is like a quotation, or a maxim or proverb."
(Susan Sontag: Regarding the Pain of Others 2003)

24 March, 2008

Philip Jones Griffiths (1936-2008)

The Vietnam War was a crucial watershed for photo-journalism. Among the distinctive breed of courageous photographers who brought the scale of the war's atrocities and devastation to the public consciousness was Welsh-born Philip Jones Griffiths, who has died of cancer at the age of 72. His 1971 book Vietnam Inc. set a high bar for the myriad volumes which would follow. Jones Griffiths became a regular contributor to the Observer, McCalls, the Sunday Times and New York Times magazines. He was a key member of Magnum where he served as president from 1980 to 1985. Martin Wollacott. veteran foreign correspondent of the Guardian, contributes a perceptive insight to the obituary attached.

23 March, 2008

Is this the first still television image you really remember?

Listening to the lugubrious & wryly hilarious Stuart Maconie on (shock horror/apologies...) BBC Radio 2 yesterday afternoon, I was vividly reminded of the shots of the US Space Shuttle Challenger exploding (imploding?) not long after lift-off more than 20 years ago. These images have stayed with me to this day. It was probably the first time I - then a rookie foreign correspondent - had watched a disaster of this magnitude unfold in real time.
Yet somehow - it is the still image which remains. Discuss......

20 March, 2008

18 March, 2008

Addendum to Images of Iraq

Reuters - where I personally spent (perhaps quite not enough) of my formative years - have now caught up excellently with the programme -
Many thanks to the indefatigable Jemima Kiss for alerting us all to www.reuters.com/iraq

Broomfield's Battle for Haditha & Images of Iraq

Last night, watched the TV premiere of Nick Broomfield's Battle for Haditha, a dramatisation of the events surrounding a still unexplained revenge massacre of 24 Iraqi civilians in 2005. Thought-provoking, if flawed in places, it remains a valuable addition to the growing body of work now slowly emerging, which attempts to put the invasion of Iraq and its woeful aftermath into some kind of context. Images from Iraq (such as the notorious torture shots from Abu Ghraib prison - which I considered using for this post but found myself unable to do so) have formed a powerful part of the case both for and against the War itself. With passing time & enhanced perspective other artists, film makers & photographers will hopefully be able to emulate Broomfield's laudable attempts to make sense of the 21st century's defining conflict.

17 March, 2008

George Rodger & Bergen Belsen 1945

George Rodger

Babel@Bedlam examines iconic images in the best photo-journalistic tradition. What is it precisely that singles one particular image out from a single contact sheet or reel? Are we even able to analyse what it is that constitues the power or singularity of any individual image? Who are the photographers responsible for this extraordinary body of work?
Thanks to the excellent Frontline Club Blog, I was alerted to a wonderful piece by his widow, Jinx, about one of the first heroes of photo-journalism George Rodger (1908-1995). A founder member of Magnum, British-born George Rodger's images from Belsen materially helped to clarify post-war attitudes towards the extent and significance of Holocaust atrocities. Read, digest, reflect and give thanks for his courageous and unflinching vision...

14 March, 2008

New York PS

At the Guggenheim...

Cai Guo-Quiang fills the snail shell with perhaps the most extraordinary installation ever.
Anyone visiting NYC between now & May 28th should definitely take a detour to 5th & E 89th...

An excellent review of the show and perceptive comments by Time's Richard Lacayo who blogs on art and architecture


13 March, 2008

New York New York

The Museum of Modern Art in New York has an extraordinarily diverse collection of masterpieces in every medium. On a recent visit, I headed straight for the photography in the Edward Steichen Galleries on the 3rd Floor; these show a rotating exhibit of MoMA gems from pioneers, such as Muybridge and Stieglitz, to the usual suspects such as Diane Arbus & Jeff Wall. I was very taken with several trademark street portraits by Harry Callahan (1912-1999), the first photographer to represent the U.S.A. at the Venice Biennale in 1977. Check out - http://www.moma.org/exhibitions/collection_galleries/photography.html

Edward Steichen himself (1879-1973) is the subject of a major, if partial, retrospective at the superb Kunsthaus in Zurich http://www.kunsthaus.ch/. Curated by William Ewing and Todd Brandow & entitled 'In High Fashion', the exhibit remains on show until the end of March & will subsequently travel to Madrid and Wolfsburg in Germany before reaching New York's ICP in January 2009 www.icp.org/.

A pivotal figure in the 20th century reappraisal of fashion photography, Steichen had already made his name as a painter and art photographer on both sides of the Atlantic when, in 1923, he became chief photographer for Condé Nast's influential Vogue & Vanity Fair magazines. His influence, both as a curator at MoMA and as the de facto creator of the prototype of the "super model" cannot be underestimated. My own highlights of the Zurich show included early portraits of British icons such as Winston Churchill & Noel Coward.

04 March, 2008

Yes - but is it Art? Is it even a Press Photo?

This is the image which won the latest annual Swiss Press Photo Prize. It is currently on show with 1800 other photographs, all of which were considered for the award at the Forum der Schweizer Geschichte in Schwyz (until 17 May 08). As many of you will recognize, it is the work of American artist Spencer Tunick (b.1967) who seems to have no difficulty in persuading hundreds of art lovers to strip naked for his installation-cum-performance-cum-living sculpture pieces. This image takes on an additional layer of significance when the viewer realises that the series was commissioned by Greenpeace. The stated aim of the artist and his patrons was to draw attention to the vulnerability of the melting glacier. I wasn't able to catch the entire exhibition on a recent short trip to Switzerland but I would be keen to examine the calibre of the other works which were in competition with Tunick's work for the Swiss Press Photo accolade.