Monday, 29 October 2018

PHOTO NORTH FESTIVAL UK

JUST TWO WEEKS UNTIL OLYMPUS-SPONSORED PHOTO NORTH BRINGS IT’S UNIQUELY ACCESSIBLE VIBE TO HARROGATE 



It’s less than two weeks to go until the first full scale, Olympus-sponsored photography festival opens its doors at Harrogate International Centre, bringing together hands-on professional workshops, unseen imagery and thought-provoking content with a live music social, all weekend long.

Organisers today announced the final line up on a show that is expected to bring 1,000s of people through its doors on the weekend of November 9th - 11th, with full price adult tickets just £22 for a full day.

Sharon Price, Festival Director, said “We’ve put our heart and soul into curating unique takes on three clear themes of music, war and marginalisation to make internationally-renowned photographic art fun, exciting and accessible to all, as well as highlighting topical issues. We’re hoping people take the time to come and experience some brand new, unpretentious creative projects. It’s not formal, intimidating or academic, just the best stuff in the one place.”

MUSIC 

The glamour of Sony award-winning photographer Tom Oldham's Last of the Crooners, gets its first ever gallery airing at Photo North.

©Tom Oldham

The music themed line-up includes 12 year old break-through acoustic artist, Poppy Eaglesham, currently featured on the BBC’s ‘Got What It Takes’, playing alongside Keeper of Bees and local classical pianist Karen Singleton.

 From the My First Vinyl series by ©Dean Belcher

Co-founder of the Global Underground movement Dean Belcher’s ‘My First Vinyl’, includes his vintage record player serenading sitters attending his 20 - 45min portrait sessions with the first ever vinyl record they bought (or bring something else along that means something to you - that first gig t-shirt).

WAR

Hilary Roberts Imperial War Museum archivist and Anne McNeill of Bradford’s Impressions Gallery consulted on artists dedicated to commemorating the centenary of the First World War through the front-line women photographers of the era’s unseen before pictures. Tom Stoddart’s haunting and poignant reportage ‘Shadows of War’, a video remembering the armistice sits alongside dedicated humanitarian and conflict photo journalist, Paula Bronstein’s World Press Photography Award-winning work on the daily effects of war on Afghan civilians.  



AUSTERITY

Giving the under-represented in society a voice, Sleaford Mods, the film Maxine Peake said ‘if you’re angry about the bullying ruling bastards and you give even half a toss about…” has earned a two-hour screening each day. Undiscovered documentary photographer John Bolloten’s  controversy raising ‘Nothing to See Here’, documenting two years of homelessness and addiction in Bradford, complements iconic Northerner Tish Murtha’s remarkable images on austerity and the young, which are presented posthumously and rather poignantly, by her daughter Ella.  

©Tish Murtha archive

A percentage of print sales throughout the exhibition highlighting marginalisation, social realism and austerity will be donated to homeless charity Simon On The Streets

©John Bolloten

Reuters global photo-journalist will be on hand for free portfolio reviews alongside Impressions Gallery and Lens Think Yorkshire.

A full programme of events can be seen at photonorthfestival.co.uk
 
Harrogate Convention Centre

For all media enquiries, please contact the festival office;
Zoe Garner   
PR Manager
zoe@photonorthfestival.co.uk               
07791 253407

For comment, please contact Peter Dench;
peter@photonorthfestival.co.uk
07711 058090

Exhibition stands are now available, contact Sharon Price for all enquiries;
sharon@photonorthfestival.co.uk
07791 253407






Wednesday, 17 October 2018

In Conversation With Brian Griffin

Millwall Football Club’s infamous fans race on to pitch at The Den, towards the AFC Bournemouth fans among whom I’m stood. One fan slides on his belly across the goal line into the back of the net, hundreds of others posture and gesticulate threateningly; a thin, fluorescent police line holds them at bay. I’d never been to South Bermondsey, the home of Millwall FC, until this week and today was my second visit in seven days. On my earlier visit, my inaugural trip took me deep into Millwall territory to meet a 40-year fixture of the photographic industry.

On the day of a London tube strike, I double the estimated time it would take me to get to Rotherhithe; the time it takes is actually quicker than it would be on a non-strike day. The spring sunshine is blazing as I board the 381 bus towards my final destination; geese flying in formation in the 20ºC heat point the way. Arriving early, I sit on the South Bank of the Thames and gaze northwards; planes rise and fall towards City Airport, a sea rescue helicopter choppers past, Thames ferries chug their passengers west and discarded plastic bottles, forks and yoghurt pots bob about in the wash from a speeding river police boat.


Heaving back the heavy door I present myself to the two ladies at the residential reception and request today’s company. “He’s a doctor,” suggests lady left; “No, a professor.” suggests lady right. While I wait, they mention they are Millwall FC fans; I ask them where away fans could get a drink near the ground for Saturday’s match. They advise not to drink anywhere near the ground, or to wear team colours, or to look anyone directly in the eye. I begin to hope AFC Bournemouth lose on Saturday to secure Millwall’s survival in the Championship, the second tier of English football. As we continue to pass pleasantries, the Derby University honorary professor, Birmingham University honorary doctor and all round film-maker and photographer Brian Griffin appears.

When Griffin moved to Rotherhithe, knackered wire fencing wrapped around weed-scattered scrubland and thick barbed wire fenced in gnarling Doberman breed dogs here. As we walk briskly towards the Piccalilli Caff at Surrey Docks Farm, past private roads protected by thick iron gates, a succession of fragrant cotton-clad nannies push by and well turned out joggers jostle the blossom from trees.

Griffin couldn’t speak ‘proper’ English until he was around 12 years old, relaying his childhood needs in the dialect of the Black Country, the colloquial name given to the traditional coal-mining region of the Midlands just outside of Birmingham. The dialect is still noticeable as he puts in an order for fishcakes with poached eggs, hollandaise sauce and a Limonata fizzy lemon drink which he decants into a glass, flipping in a straw. Despite the dialect disadvantage, Griffin managed to pass the 11 plus exam and secure a place at grammar school, where he rose to captain the school chess team, an early example of mastering a skill in black and white.

Photo Courtesy of ©Gareth Tibbles

As I sip my Tea Pig mint tea and try not to speckle Griffin with my pulled pork ragu tagliatelle, he explains that in 1969 he turned his back on a promising career as a Nuclear Power Station Pipework Engineering Estimator (on the cooling water section) to study photography at Manchester Polytechnic (MP). It was here he met Martin Parr (MP), his good friend and best man at his first wedding. Griffin suggests that from his time at MP, MP and himself were the only two that really made it as photographers, two-and-a-half if you include Daniel Meadows, but he went in to teaching, so that doesn’t really count, does it?

After graduating, Griffin moved to London (where he has lived for as long as my life) working as a photographer and director of television commercials, music videos and short films. Accolades include the Centenary Medal from the Royal Photographic Society in recognition of a lifetime achievement in photography; the Guardian proclaimed him ‘Photographer of the Decade” in 1989. There have been many books and exhibitions; he is patron of Derby city’s FORMAT Festival and received the Freedom of the City of Arles, France, in 1987. The success has been sustained and it’s not surprising: Griffin’s imagery is constantly in metamorphosis. He’s applied a surrealist approach to portraits of George Melly and Siouxsie and the Banshees and cast the influence of film noir over his self portraits. He has photographed still lives of pig’s feet and black pudding, and photographed portraits of workers lying with their tools as one might witness a knight laid to rest with their sword in a cathedral crypt. He has photographed album covers for pop bands and the stars of Star Wars; he even went to war, covering the conflict in Beirut for a Canadian colour magazine. His work has been exhibited in Tokyo, Paris, London and Reykjavík. Griffin’s photographs swell collections at the Victoria and Albert Museum, British Council, National Portrait Gallery and Arts Council of Great Britain.


Griffin would have given it all up for a career as a motorcycle speedway rider; the sport involving four riders competing over four anti-clockwise laps of an oval circuit has been a constant skid mark in his life since the age of 11, when his parents took him to his first meeting at the home of the Heathens in Cradley Heath Speedway. A young Griffin had discovered new heroes to line up alongside the Lone Ranger and Davy Crockett. Cycling 60 miles along the Lea Valley at ten miles an hour is as close as Griffin now gets to fulfilling his childhood dream of becoming a speedway rider. During lunch, as pert mothers idly breastfeed their babies while sipping percolated coffee and pigs squeal their Orwellian demands towards the banks of Barclays, HSBC and Citibank brooding on the Canary Wharf skyline, Griffin imparts some finer points of the sport. Kings Lynn, UK, has the best quality shale track in Europe; Great Britain, Poland, Sweden and Denmark have the best teams in Europe.

Consistently during lunch, Griffin’s mobile phone bings and bleeps, buzzes and pings but there’s one distinctive recurring ring, from his partner Brynja Sverrisdottir, a former fashion model who posed for the lenses of Richard Avedon and Irving Penn. Confusingly, they’re not married but were blessed in church by the local vicar, a vicar who has since died of alcoholism. Brynja is having difficulty heating the water for a bath; Griffin calmly explains to her that the hot water is timed to come on in the morning when most people are preparing for work and again in the evening when most people are returning home from work. This must be bamboozling for the Icelander (now a successful jewellery designer), heralding from a country so abundant in naturally hot water that it geysers it skywards for fun.

As Griffin completes his lunch, I ask if he knows the significance of the large map of Algeria hanging on the wall where we’re sat. “Probably to do with the owners.” The owners are a young couple called Craig and Scarlett. We move on from the Piccalilli Caff and dock ourselves at the nearby Ship York pub where Griffin explains once spending two years scripting a film called Bluetown. From what I can gather, Bluetown centres on a fictional USAF thought-manipulation centre located on the not-so-far-away Isle of Sheppey; or the script could have been about and influenced by, how Buffalo Bill transported his Wild West Show so efficiently on tour to London in 1887. The truth is, I’m already on my second pint of cider and distracted by how freakishly clean the pub is, arguably the cleanest pub in which I’ve ever imbibed. Perfectly fanned pink napkins are reflected in violently polished tabletops; the copper pipework of the urinals is so spectacular, I linger long after I’ve finished, much to the discomfort of the man peeing next to me. The hand dryer has accompanying ear muffs for the sensitive of hearing and the landlord, Russel, is fondly referred to as Dussel, on account of the dust-free environment. Griffin remarks that the pub is a Millwall football fan stronghold, which can be no coincidence: the world’s cleanest pub for, arguably, the world’s dirtiest fans. Griffin concludes his film pitch and expresses regret at turning down an offer of around a million pounds to produce it.



Born in 1948, this Black Country boy from Stocking Street in Lye (once the bucket capital of the world), would not have become a photographer had Sandy Black not broken his heart, a heartbreak which mobilised him away from the predestined future of factory life that claimed so many of his peers. However, growing up in a world of iron and steel where the pounding beats from in-your-face factories provided the rhythm to each day, has inevitably left its mark. Griffin’s photographs are crafted with the skill and creativity those born in the Black Country would recognise, including his father who lived and breathed in so much industrial pollutant it eventually killed him. Griffin’s photographic legacy is awesome, as awe-inspiring as it must have been for locals to observe the 16-tonne anchor destined for the ill-fated Titanic being hauled by 20 shire horses across the streets of Netherton, just north of Lye.

On the bus back to Rotherhithe railway station, I take a seat downstairs at the back; a seven-year-old boy with a Millwall FC badge on his schoolbag sits opposite and starts to stare. His carer informs me that I’m sat in his favourite seat; I sit firm with a smirk and watch as he wipes away a sniffle with the arm of his blue Peter Hills school sweatshirt. Dench 1: Millwall 0.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

In Conversation With Anastasia Taylor-Lind

“Should I squirt before I wipe?” It’s a fair question. I’m in a white panel van racing across northern France to the Photoreporter festival in St Brieuc, northwest France. The journey was estimated at seven to eight hours; the journey would eventually take fifteen and a half. The driver hasn’t used the Garmin sat nav before, or any kind of sat nav before. The driver hasn’t driven for a while, or owned a car for five years. The driver is VII agency photographer, Anastasia Taylor Lind (ATL).

We meet at 6.45am as the mist lifts over Brixton where fishmongers slap their cod stock over ice on Atlantic Road and overhead trains thrust tired commuters towards their shirt-and-tie-required jobs. The van (yet to be named but ATL is sure it’s a women) was purchased for £5,000, with extra costs such as insurance taking the total to nearer £7,000. It will transport her the 8,000 or so miles she expects to drive across eastern Europe for the first part of her new project, Negative Zero, about fertility rates and population decline in Europe. Before she heads east, we continue west; fifteen and a half hours west.


ATL talks about photography a lot but knows it’s now time for her to take some more photographs, she needs to take them. Her last significant project, Siberian Super Models, was a few years ago; a self-initiated reportage (part funded by the Telegraph and GEO magazine) still ended up costing ATL around €8,000 as she was obliged to travel first class along with the international model scouts scouring the route of the Trans Siberian railway for the next face worth 35728000 Rubles. Siberian Super Models was published worldwide and received critical success achieving first prize in the Feature Picture Story Freelance/Agency category at the Pictures of the Year International awards and a finalist in Arts and Culture category at the Sony WPO awards. The reportage adheres to ATL’s interest in documenting the lives of women who live isolated from male society; an interest that has seen ATL document Women of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) Guerrillas and Women of the Cossack Resurgence, a reportage where she got to frequently indulge in her love of horse riding. 

©Anastasia Taylor-Lind

I first witnessed ATL giving a presentation about the Cossack women for the Royal Photographic Society in 2010 and immediately assumed this horse-appreciating, double-barrelled delight was posh; it was a chippy assumption I often make about someone who is a success. ATL isn’t posh, in fact she only had one name for the first 18 years of her life, her unconventional family of travelling stock eschewed convention and gave their newborn girl just one name, a surname, Anastasia; she can be forgiven for making up time by now having three names.

En route to the Eurotunnel crossing at Folkestone, we pull in for some stomach fuel. Jade, who has four stars on her badge, is our designated McServer. The bacon is missing from my muffin and a coke is served instead of a coffee; that’s four-star service for you. We grumble past Jade, head back towards the van and observe a Romanian family boiling pans of water on the roof of their current hatchback home. It looks quite luxurious in comparison to ATL’s own upbringing, which was delivered without electricity, running water and mostly spent with her parents clip-clopping by horse and cart across southwest England looking for odd-job opportunities.

Driving onto the brightly painted train that will take us under the Channel, we’re reminded too late not to leave our pets at home alone. ATL manoeuvres the van into position and we jump out of the front and into the back, resisting the temptation to close the curtains and rock the van from side to side to provoke the stoic middle-aged, middle-class couple sat in the vehicle behind peering at maps over half-moon spectacles.

The back of the 2006 Peugeot van has one coat hanger and an electric blanket-smothered bed; there are enough baby wipes and photographic film to service ATL until Christmas. There’s Heinz tomato ketchup and Heinz baked beans; Earl Grey tea and dry cartons of noodles; a fluffy rug and six books including Painted Bird (Kosinki, Jerzy); HHHH (Laurent Binet); one on fertility decline and, I’m delighted to report, a copy of the collected Dench Diaries (Peter Dench). As we ejaculate from the tunnel to the tunes of Johnny Cash, ATL fidgets her Lee jeans into a comfy position, raises her neat, dark, slightly wonky eyebrows, fixes her Swedish-inspired blue eyes on the road and her Negative Zero European adventure begins, sort of; the sat nav initially blinks the location of Croydon Ikea before adjusting to a foreign field.


Munching a sour Starburst sweet, ATL explains her experience of hostile environment training and ways to extract yourself from the van if we plummet from the bridge we are driving across; I diligently write this down and am now afraid of bridges. Joining us in the van on our Commonwealth Expeditionary Force across France is VII agency snapper, Donald Weber. His exhibition War Sand, about the D-Day landing beaches, is being exhibited at the Photoreporter festival; between his frequent naps, we’re entertained by Don’s D-Day trivia. Arriving at the Photoreporter festival, ATL parks the van and points the bonnet eastwards in preparation of her odyssey. “Should I squirt before I wipe?” The vans windscreen jet wash is so feeble it doesn’t matter but I suggest, that yes, she should.

Back in the cosy confines of my London flat, I watch ATL plot her Negative Zero route online and follow with enthusiasm the posts of her editing contact sheets in London and Bangkok. Square-format film photography defines ATL’s practice, from depressing the shutter to editing the contact sheets with a coffee in the kitchen. It’s an approach she refused to deviate from when money was tight and when National Geographic magazine expressed an interest in her work but not in the square format for their preferred, double page spreads. Eventually, Nat Geo came around to the square and commissioned ATL to shoot a two month long, 200 rolls of film feature along the Yangtze river in China. 


On 21 November 2013: the cabinet of the then Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych abandons an agreement on closer trade ties with the European Union, instead seeking closer co-operation with Russia. Small protests escalate dramatically into 2014. Ukraine has the lowest life expectancy for men in Europe and is a crucial destination for ATL and her Negative Zero project. She arrives in Kiev, a city in chaos, and struggles to find a way to photograph among so many other photographers. She eventually decides on a unique approach: to assemble a pop-up street portrait studio with a black backdrop to photograph the photographers covering the conflict, then the rebel fighters, who the photographers increasingly come to resemble through their dress. After witnessing the bloodiest day of violence on the 20 February 2014, ATL begins to photograph the female mourners who arrive in their thousands, portraits that are more affecting than any from the frontline. Zhanna and Oksana carry red roses; Olia, Galina and Lolita red carnations; Katerina holds white tulips; Hanna cradles red tulips and Valentina holds a box of bread. The women’s eyes are defiantly moist, picked out by a golden reflector bouncing light into the darkness, the tears are matched by ATL’s own.


ATL is constantly in transit and travels so she can do what she enjoys most about travel, coming home. Arriving home from Ukraine, she was offered the opportunity to publish her portraits made in Kiev as a book; five months later, Maidan - Portraits From The Black Square is published by GOST. I’m first in the queue at the Frontline Club in west London to purchase a signed copy. ATL’s sun-streaked hair is tied up loosely in a bun. I request the thicker of her signature pens, a signature that is surprisingly neat for someone home schooled until nine years old. If ATL hadn’t found a book by Don McCullin while studying for her A Levels, I may not have this book in my hands. Over wine, we remember our trip across northern France and I ask about the van. ATL has had to sell it to fund the Maidan book project. Fixers, translators, film, food, accommodation have all taken their toll and driven her bank account down to a derisory negative zero.