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.
It’s a prestigious prize, which earns the winner an exhibition at Photo London plus a photobook published by the well-regraded specialist MACK Books. This year it’s gone to Hayahisa Tomiyasu for his book dummy TTP. Shot from the window of his eighth-floor student flat in Leipzig, Germany, TTP shows a park with a ping pong table, shot at various times of day and in various seasons, and showing different protagonists each time. The table is used as a tischtennisplatte (table tennis table, as a sun lounger, as a climbing frame, as a skate obstacle, and as much more, and, states MACK Books “thanks to Tomiyasu’s sustained curiosity, we observe the habits, humour, and idiosyncrasies of human behaviour”.
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.
Interviewing Nigel Shafran is a circuitous, informal affair. Meeting him at his North London home, I immediately recognise Ruth, his partner and the subject of many of his photographs. I also meet his son Lev, who, though somewhat older, is also still easily discernible from his father’s pictures. The interview takes place in the kitchen familiar from Flowers for ____. Every now and then a friend calls round or phones, with plans made to throw a boomerang around in the park that afternoon, or play ping pong in the evening. Lev occasionally interjects from the living room with his take on the interview process, or on “nattering on about photography” as he puts it. “Sorry. Oh my God!” says Shafran, as the phone rings for the second time. “No worries,” I say. “You’re a busy man.” “A busy family man!” he replies. It doesn’t always make for an easy interview, but it feels appropriate for a photographer who focuses on the everyday, the domestic and the personal.
From mass shootings to a family hotel – the shortlist for the 2018 First Book Award is nothing if not eclectic. Set up in 2012 to support emerging talent, the First Book Award is open to previously unpublished photographers who have been nominated by an international panel of experts, and previous winners include Irish photographer Ciarán Óg Arnold, Polish photographer Joanna Piotrowska, and Malagasy photographer Emmanuelle Andrianjafy. The ten shortlisted photographers this year come from all over the world, including Indian photographer Tenzing Dapka, Japanese photographer Hayahisa Tomiyasu, and Australian photographer Lionel Kiernan.
Marking the 800th anniversary of the Charter of the Forest signed by King Henry III, and corresponding with the launch of the 2017 Charter for Trees, Woods and People, the V&A’s new display Into The Woods: Trees in Photography, celebrates the significance of trees in the work of photographers across the world and throughout history.
The exhibition is comprised of works from the V&A’s permanent collection as well as photographs recently transferred from the Royal Photographic Society ahead of their rehousing in the museum’s new Photography Centre in 2018. Curated by Martin Barnes, senior curator of photographs at the V&A, Into The Woods began as an impulse – “I just like trees!” – but gradually revealed itself to be the germ of a great idea.
“It’s got nothing to do with Brexit or Europe!” says curator Greg Hobson. “I think we can’t begin to understand that yet. It’s just being addressed by photographers now. We’re discussing the exhibition A Green and Pleasant Land – British Landscape and the Imagination: 1970s to Now, which he’s curated with Brian Cass, head of exhibitions at Towner Art Gallery, and which recently opened at the Towner. Including over 100 works by 50 artists (52 if you count the people in duos separately), it’s a major survey of the land we live on and how photographers have shown it, including image-makers such as John Blakemore, Thomas Joshua Cooper, Fay Godwin, John Davies, Paul Graham, and Theo Simpson.
Provoke: Between Protest and Performance by Diane Dufour, Matthew Witkovsky and Duncan Forbes has won Best Photography Book in the Kraszna-Krausz Foundation’s 2017 Book Awards. A celebration of the short-lived Japanese magazine, which ran for just three issues from November 1968 – August 1969, the book gathers the ground-breaking black-and-white images published by Provoke and combines with critical theory and interviews to show how influential the publication was.
Designed by David Kohn Architects, the new centre will open in Autumn 2018 and more than double the V&A’s current photography exhibition space. The opening will be accompanied by a museum-wide photography festival, a new digital resource, and a new history of photography course run with the Royal College of Art. The V&A plans to run events and activities in the new centre, and will continue to expand the facility. Phase Two will see the museum add more gallery space, and create a teaching and research facility, a browsing library, and a studio and darkroom which will enable photographers’ residencies. The new centre comes as the V&A transfers the Royal Photographic Society’s collection from the Science Museum Group, which was formerly held in the National Media Museum in Bradford. The transfer adds over 270,000 photographs, 26,000 publications, and 6000 pieces of equipment to the V&A’s holdings – which was already one of the largest and most important in the world, including around 500,000 works collected since the foundation of the museum in 1852. The RPS collection includes …