Half a century on, the events of May ‘68 still burn in the memories of its provocateurs. Morphing from a frenzy of student protests into a nation-wide revolt, embroiling seven million people at its height, France was dragged out of its post-war complacency that summer and into seven weeks of turbulent action and police brutality. The fire of the rebellion was first sparked on Valentine’s Day, when students of Nanterre University in the Western suburbs of Paris, held a residents’ strike to promote the right to move freely between male and female dorms. The university hesitated over making any change, so on 22 March, 600 frustrated students gathered to occupy an administration building in protest against the old institution’s ageing values.
Swedish organisation Fotografiska has announced Alexander Montague-Sparey as the chief curator of their new gallery in London. He will oversee the exhibition programme for all seven spaces in the London venue, which will open in Whitechapel later this year. Montague-Sparey is an independent curator who has worked with a variety of private clients including collectors, art fairs and museums. He holds a Masters Degree in Art History from the University of Oxford, and is a photography specialist. “Fotografiska London’s seven exhibition spaces will allow for the display of some of the most cutting-edge and accomplished international photo and video artists,” he told BJP. “The venue in Stockholm has become one of the foremost international spaces dedicated to contemporary photography in the world. I look forward to advancing the discussion in this state of the art space, in London’s most exciting and creative postcode.”
The V&A’s new photography centre will open on 12 October, with newly-acquired photographs by Linda McCartney, a newly-commissioned series by Thomas Ruff, and an inaugural display tracing the history of photography through the Royal Photographic Society (RPS) collection. The new facility will more than double the V&A’s current photography exhibition space, and follows the transfer of over 270,000 photographs, 26,000 publications and 6000 pieces of equipment from the RPS collection formerly held in the National Media Museum in Bradford – a controversial transfer, described at the time as “an appalling act of cultural vandalism” by Simon Cooke, the leader of the Conservative opposition on Bradford council. Tristram Hunt, director of the V&A, said that the transfer had “provided the catalyst for this dramatic reimagining of photography at the V&A” however, and that the new centre will “seamlessly span the entire history of photography….from daguerreotype to digital”. He added that the V&A is particularly well-placed to tell this story given its long engagement with photography – it was one of the first museums to put together a photographic exhibition, partly because its founder, Henry Cole, was a keen amateur photographer.
Peter James was an instrumental figure in British photography, establishing an outstanding collection of photography at the Library of Birmingham over his 26-year career at the institution, and researching and curating exhibitions at the V&A, National Portrait Gallery, Somerset House, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Ikon Galley, the Library of Birmingham, and many more. He was also a modest and affable man, universally known as Pete and as at home over a curry as in a lecture hall delivering an academic paper. As Hilary Roberts, research curator at the Imperial War Museum, put it in a tribute on James’ Facebook page: “Pete has been a wonderful friend and exceptional colleague for more years than I can remember. His contribution to the world of photography cannot be overstated. It was a privilege to work with him and I will miss him more than I can say.”
On 13 February, Çağdaş Erdoğan will stand trial in Istanbul accused of membership and support of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a separatist group classified as a terrorist organisation by the Turkish government. Erdoğan is of Kurdish descent, grew up in the region and, as an adult, embedded with affiliates of the PKK during the complex, multifactional conflict that has crossed the borders of Syria, Iraq and Turkey. But he did so, he claims, purely as a photojournalist intent on documenting an unseen conflict for the world’s media and without any alliance with or allegiance to any organisation. His only allegiance was to photography.
Last month BJP focused in on group work; this month we’re looking at a different kind of collaboration – projects in which photographers engage in a two-way dialogue with their subjects. One of the best – and the best-known – examples is Jim Goldberg, who works with subjects such as teenage runaways and migrants to tell wide-sweeping stories of marginalisation and economic disparity. Using an eclectic mix of photographs, archive materials and video, and both marking up himself and invites his subjects to write on, he creates complex montages guided by his sense of “intimacy, trust and intuition”. Incorporating the perspectives of the communities and subcultures he represents, his work is informed by his own background in a blue-collar family in New Haven.
London-based collectors Claire and James Hyman have donated 125 photographs to the Yale Center for British Art, gifting key works by leading figures in British photographic history – including Bill Brandt, Bert Hardy, Roger Mayne, Tony Ray-Jones, Martin Parr, Chris Killip and Anna Fox – to the 44-year-old institution in New Haven in the US. It’s a move that could be interpreted as a damning indictment of UK institutions’ commitment to collecting British photography – particularly as, the last time BJP caught up with James Hyman (our May 2015 issue), he said building such collections has been “left to private individuals, and it shouldn’t have been”. In the same interview Hyman also singled out Birmingham Library and its curator of photography collections Peter James for praise – yet in the intervening time, both the photography archive and James’ job have fallen victim to funding cuts. But Hyman says the donation should be viewed in a positive light as evidence of the growing interest in British photography abroad – an interest which may spark more commitment in the UK.
Kickstarter has arguably revolutionised photography, allowing image-makers to source crowdfunding for big projects, and therefore help bring trends such as self-publishing to life. It’s now commonplace for photographers to announce they’re making a book and start a Kickstarter campaign to fund printing it, for example – but the platform only launched in 2009, and Arnold van Bruggen and Rob Hornstra were very early adopters when they used it to fund the first book in The Sochi Project (which was published in early 2010). Now Kickstarter has announced a new initiative allowing artists, collectives, and communities to seek funding on a more ongoing, subscription-like basis, rather than for one-off projects. Called Drip, it was soft-launched on 15 November and, so far, is only open to creatives invited by the platform – though of course anyone who wants to fund a project is now welcome. Drip is scheduled to open up to more creatives at the start of 2018.
The September issue brings the otherwise invisible into sharp focus. Invisible World explores forgotten conflicts, intimate retreats, abused landscapes and remote islands to uncover the hidden realities and unknown societies behind ordinary backdrops. “As social beings, we all demand to be seen,” says Hoda Afshar, whose latest series, Behold, takes us to an exclusive male-only bathhouse. Her point resonates with all the photoseries explored in this issue: how do we negotiate our surroundings, how do we see our societies, how do we interpret our world? We need to first see the invisible to answer these ever salient questions.
For over four decades, the documentary photography course has forged a reputation as one of the UK’s leading photography teaching destinations. In fact, the very first photography class can be dated back even further to 1912, when it was introduced by the head of the school of art at Newport Technical Institute. The course, however, was set up in 1973 by Magnum photographer David Hurn as a 12-month Training Opportunities Scheme to ‘re-skill’ miners and steelworkers.