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.
How can art express movement in the human figure? And how does it convey emotion and strain through depictions of the body? A summer exhibition at Tate Liverpool will try to answer those questions by pairing work by influential 20th century American photographer, Francesca Woodman with drawings by Austrian expressionist Egon Schiele. Life in Motion: Egon Schiele/Francesca Woodman, which opens on 24th May, will investigate how Woodman’s photographs depict both physical movement and what she referred to as “the body’s inner force”. It will also highlight the relationship between the two artists’ work, and how Woodman’s images of the body from the late 1970s illuminate Schiele’s drawings – which were made more than fifty years before.
In 1969 the Finnish-born photographer Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen ditched her filmmaking course, moving to Newcastle with a group of idealistic young ex-students to found the Amber collective, and embarking on a series of long-term projects, including her seminal work on Byker, which was inscribed in the Unesco UK Memory of the World Register. Nearly 50 years on, she continues to live and work in the north-east as a member of Amber
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.”
When he joined Tate Modern in 2009 he was Tate’s very first photography curator – but now Simon Baker is on the move, succeeding Jean-Luc Monterosso as the director of the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris. Monterosso, who founded the MEP back in 1996, will leave the institution on 31 March. The news comes just weeks after Shoair Mavlian, assistant curator at Tate Modern, announced she was leaving the institution to become Photoworks’ new director. In October 2017 Kate Bush joined Tate Britain as its adjunct curator of photography, however, responsible for “researching and building the collection of British photography and curating exhibitions and displays”. In September 2017, Tate announced that it had acquired Martin Parr’s 12,000-strong photobook collection, making it one of the leading institutional collectors in this field.
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.
Just three months after blacklisting the photographer Terry Richardson amid allegations of sexual misconduct with models, Condé Nast has dropped two more high-profile contributors after similar claims – Mario Testino and Bruce Weber. Anna Wintour, artistic director of Condé Nast and editor in chief of Vogue, has published a personal statement on 13 January in which she writes that: “Even as we stand with victims of abuse and misconduct, we must also hold a mirror up to ourselves—and ask if we are doing our utmost to protect those we work with so that unacceptable conduct never happens on our watch. Sometimes that means addressing the fact that such behavior can occur close to home. Today, allegations have been made against Bruce Weber and Mario Testino, stories that have been hard to hear and heartbreaking to confront. Both are personal friends of mine who have made extraordinary contributions to Vogue and many other titles at Condé Nast over the years, and both have issued objections or denials to what has emerged. I believe strongly in the value of remorse and forgiveness, but I take the allegations very seriously, and we at Condé Nast have decided to put our working relationship with both photographers on hold for the foreseeable future.”
“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.
Tate was famously slow to institutionalise photography, staging its first photography show (Cruel + Tender: The real in the 20th century photography) in 2003, and appointing its first photography curator, Simon Baker, in 2009. Now, hot on the heels of its acquisition of Martin Parr’s 12,000-strong photobook collection, its now made another major commitment to photography, appointing Kate Bush in the new post of Adjunct Curator of Photography. Bush, who was previously Head of Photography at the Science Museum Group, and prior to that Head of Art Galleries at the Barbican Centre in London, starts at Tate Britain in October.
Martin Parr has found a permanent home for the foundation he set up in 2014, giving visitors access to his archive and to his formidable collection. “I’ve been very lucky,” he told BJP’s Gemma Padley. “I have secured a very good living from doing this, and so the foundation is a great way to feed some of that back into the system.”