Those who have had the pleasure of ambling along the corridors of the 17th-century building at the heart of the museum district in Kensington, London, will recall the Victoria and Albert Museum’s high ceilings and impressive galleries, with polished floors and walls adorned with historical oil canvases, all connected by staircases embellished with intricate mosaics.
Climbing one such stairwell in a far corner of the building, you surface to face two tall, fudge-brown doors with shiny handles. The pair of robust glass cabinets framing these doors are currently empty, but will soon be packed with some 300 cameras and image-making devices. To one side, a long wooden table will be laden with models of some of the first cameras – a large format perched on a tripod, a Rolleiflex, a camera obscura and 35mm camera. Visitors will be invited to play around and put themselves in the shoes of the photographers who used these devices, pausing to peek through the lenses and take note of this new way of looking and constructing an image of the world on the other side. It is a sculptural array of the golden age of photography, the grand entrance to the new photography centre, opening its first phase to the public on 12 October.
Never heard of Sory Sanlé? If so you’re not alone – in fact he was aged 74 and living in obscurity when French record producer and writer Florent Mazzoleni came across him while researching popular West African music. Fascinated by his album covers, Mazzoleni arranged to meet him at his studio – only to find him burning his negatives. “‘He said people didn’t care about the old stuff,’ Mazzoleni told the New York Times’ Lens blog earlier this year. ‘I spent all night looking at his photos and negatives with a flashlight. He has tens of thousands of photos from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. He gave me a box of negatives that I could print. That’s how our relationship began’.” From this inauspicious start Sanlé’s legacy is now seriously being reappraised. In 2013 he was given a solo show at the Institut Français du Burkina Faso in Ouagadougou and Bobo Dioulasso, and four of his shots are currently on show at the Fondation Cartier in Paris in the Autophoto exhibition, alongside work by icons such as …
Tate Modern’s show Shape of Light: 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art includes over 300 works by more than 100 artists, making it the first show of this scale to trace abstract art and photography’s parallel development. On show from 2 May to 15 October, the exhibition spans from early experiments of the 1900s to digital innovations of the present day, examining how photographers through the years have responded to the emerging field of abstract art. It places pioneering work such as Alvin Langdon Coburn’s Vortographs (1917) and Imogen Cunningham’s Triangles (1928) alongside iconic paintings and sculptures by the likes of George Braque and Jackson Pollock.
Vanessa Winship’s biggest UK show to date, the first UK retrospective of Dorothea Lange, and a huge group exhibition including work by photographers such as Mary Ellen Mark, Dayanita Singh, Alec Soth, Chris Steele-Perkins, Daido Moriyama, Diane Arbus, Pieter Hugo, Bruce Davidson, and Boris Mikhailov – they’re all coming up this year at London’s Barbican Centre, in a season titled The Art of Change.
The opening image in his latest book, Sacrifice Your Body, typifies Roe Ethridgeʼs approach. At first sight, itʼs just an ordinary product shot of a Chanel No 5 bottle and its packaging, but closer inspection reveals chipped paint, stray drops of perfume and an intruding wasp. Rippling the surface of a glossy ad with droll other-world elements, itʼs the kind of image thatʼs made him a star in contemporary art, fashion and advertising. Like Juergen Teller, he shoots both commercial and editorial (for the likes of Kenzo, Self Service, Acne Paper and W) alongside his own artwork, and has been shortlisted for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize (in 2011, alongside Elad Lassry, who heʼs often cited with as evidence of a new trend for dry conceptualism). The Deutsche Börse organisers described his work as follows: “Blurring the boundaries of the commercial with the editorial, and the mundane with the highbrow, Ethridge’s conceptual approach to photography is a playful attack on the traditions and conventions of the medium itself.”
If you type “Paul Outerbridge” into a Google image search it doesn’t take long before work by other photographers turns up – images by contemporaries, such as Edward Weston, but also by successive generations of photographers who’ve been inspired by his work. The feminist Jo Ann Callis explicitly referenced Outerbridge’s nudes in her 1970s work, for example; in contemporary photography, the new wave of still life photography championed by image-makers such as Bobby Doherty and Grant Cornett references his work, especially his lurid use of colour. Outerbridge’s striking photography comes in and out of fashion, as it did in his own lifetime, but, nearly 100 years on, somehow still retains a contemporary edge.
David Campany’s celebrated exhibition, A Handful of Dust, traces the 20th century history of photography through this seemingly humble substance; as the show finally comes to London, we revisit the article on it he wrote for BJP back in 2015