“It was a different time to now, it’s hard to remember just how scarce images were,” says John Myers. “Now you can get things on screen, in the early 1970s there was only a smattering of images available. When I give a talk, I often start by handing out a sheet of paper with a list of interests and influences in 1972-75. The names run across just half a side of A4. There aren’t that many on it, and it includes people I was interested in on the basis of one or two images.” But for Myers, this scarcity was part of the allure. After studying Fine Art with Richard Hamilton, he got into photography in 1972 “because I had never done it”; initially only familiar with Bill Brandt and Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work, as photography rapidly gained recognition in Britain he soon had access to much more. “I was so excited to come across people, when photography suddenly started emerging from the shadows and books were being published,” he says. Myers started shooting with a Mamiya but, finding it “odd” to be looking down at his waist, moved to a 5×4 plate camera and soon found his stride.
“I believe photographers have got to come to terms with the world we live in, not the world journalists like, which is spectacular and exciting and makes good copy,” says John Myers. “Photographers and sub editors and journalists, all kinds of journalist want a story. They want to sell papers, and what sells is something unusual. ‘Man with three legs marries 86 year old widow’, it makes a terrific headline. They’re not so interested in what’s going on down the road at number 83.”
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.”
“The works selected here have all run up against a more or less bitter-sweet reality, and their authors have liberally arranged, glued, assembled, masked and cut out the components of that reality in order to present it to us as something different, eminently subjective, and decidedly moving,” writes Raphaëlle Stopin, artistic advisor for the 2018 Prix HSBC. She’s writing of the 12 photographers shortlisted for two top prizes, which this year have gone Antoine Bruy (France, 1986) and Petros Efstathiadis (Greece, 1980). The other shortlisted photographers are: Olivia Gay (France, 1973), with the series Envisagées; Karin Crona (Sweden 1968), De la possibilité d’une image; Elsa Leydier (France, 1988), Platanos con platino; Sandra Mehl (France, 1980), Ilona et Maddelena; Shinji Nagabe (Brazil, 1975), Espinha; Michele Palazzi (Italy 1984), Finisterrae; Walker Pickering (USA, 1980), Esprit de corps; Marie Quéau (France, 1985), Odds and ends; Brea Souders (USA, 1978), Film electric; and Vladimir Vasilev (Bulgaria, 1977), T(h)races.
The numbers are just staggering – 2813 applicants showing up for nine nursery teacher positions; 10,000 for 14 policer officer roles; and 1099 for one nursing post. These are the Italian Civil Service exams, and Michele Borzoni photographed them for over a year, capturing their sheer size with a medium format camera and a perspective-correcting lens more usually used for large-scale architectural shots. “I wanted to emphasis this sense of mass, the loss of individuality, the person reduced to number,” he says. “The competitions are sometimes a humiliating path, because often they do not assess the individual capacity, at least not in the early stages of the competition.”
Foto/Industria Biennial returns to Bologna, with 14 exhibitions centring around the idea of identity and illusion in photographs of work, curated by Francois Hébel and including image-makers such as Thomas Ruff, Josef Koudelka, Lee Friedlander, Joan Fontcuberta, Alexander Rodchenko, Mitch Epstein, Yukichi Watabe, John Myers and Michele Borzoni.
“Whenever you see an exhibition here, make sure you look up first,” says François Hébel. We’re in the heart of one of the many Renaissance-era public buildings in Bologna. Frescos line the walls and ceilings, Madonnas and bambinis touching gods through partings in the clouds. The former director of Les Rencontres d’Arles has spent months in these lavish surroundings overseeing his latest venture, the second edition of the Foto/Industria Biennial of Industrial Photography. “The city is very special,” Hébel says. “My job is to try to match the work of the photographers with places such as this, and to provide a great variety of presentation with these incredible venues.” Hébel is artistic director of the biennial and his involvement with it is quite a coup. He has a bulging contacts book and an outstanding knowledge of contemporary photography – earned through his longstanding engagement with it – and has helped attract world- class talent. A huge projection of Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky’s large-format Manufactured Landscapes plays out in a huge, cathedral-like hall. Kathy Ryan, photography director of The New York …