The founding editor of Splash and Grab magazine and photo director at PORT Magazine picks out his top five of the year – including Suzie Howell’s Inside the Spider show
Sleeping by the Mississippi has been ranked with the great representations of the United States, including Walker Evans’ pictures of the depression, Robert Frank’s harsh vision of the 1950s and, more recently, the colour work of Joel Sternfeld. As Alec Soth’s seminal work goes on show in London and is given a handsome reprint by MACK, we revisit an interview with him from back in 2004 – when the series first came out.
“There are two important things about this show,” says Clément Chéroux, senior curator of photography at SFMOMA. “First, the quantity of work – more than 300 photographs, quite a large selection, because we were able to get support from most of the big institutions – MOMA, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Gallery of Canada, the Musée du Quai Branly and so on, and private collections from around the world. Second, is the fact that it is arranged thematically rather than chronologically. Usually when you look at important retrospectives they are chronological, but we organised by theme because we wanted to organise it around Evans’ passion for the vernacular. He was fascinated with vernacular culture.”
Elliot Erwitt was just 22 years old when he was commissioned to shoot Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania by the legendary Roy Stryker in 1950. Stryker had won fame and lasting respect for his work with the Farm Security Administration in the 1930s, commissioning photographers such as Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans to shoot America’s rural heartland at the height of the Depression; by 1950 he was working with a new organisation, the Pittsburgh Photographic Library, charged with shooting the formerly industrial, notoriously polluted city as it transformed into a modern metropolis. Stryker had met Erwitt when the youngster was still studying in New York, and had commissioned him to work on a Standard Oil project alongside photographers such as Berenice Abbott, Gordon Parks and Russell Lee. The young image-maker must have impressed him because, when invited to document Pittsburgh by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, Stryker commissioned Erwitt and – unusually for him – gave him free reign to shoot what he liked. Erwitt shot on the project for a year, until he was drafted into …
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
By the end of the 19th century, the camera and the car had helped pave the way for a new, more modern perspective – images by freezing time, from multiple perspectives, and automobiles by speeding things up. Now the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain in Paris is devoting a huge exhibition to the two, showing how they have altered our lives and our visions of them – and how they continue to evolve. As curators Xavier Barral and Philippe Séclier comment: “Over the last few years we have witnessed an industrial, societal and environmental turning point in automobile history. On the other hand, photography has never been shared so much.” With the automobile and the camera, they explain, everyone can be in action in space and in time – cars providing almost everyone, everywhere, with autonomy and movement, and the photography allowing them to record their presence in history. “It was time to unify these two popular techniques, which have transformed the social bond into an artistic journey,” say the curators. “And this is the first time that a photographic exhibition of this magnitude has been organised on this theme.” …
American photographer William Christenberry, best known for his evocative depictions of the Old South, has died, aged 80, following complications from a years-long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.