All posts filed under: Interviews

Don McCullin talks war and peace

An interview with Don McCullin is never going to be a dull affair – he is a complex man who has told the story of his life many times before. He is unfailingly polite and gentlemanly, but one detects a slightly weary tone as he goes over the familiar ground. He often pre-empts the questions with clinical self-awareness.

The story of McCullin’s rise from the impoverished backstreets of Finsbury Park in north London is one of fortuitous good luck, but it didn’t start out that way. Born in 1935, he was just 14 when his father died, after which he was brought up by his dominant, and sometimes violent, mother. During National Service with Britain’s Royal Air Force, he was posted to Suez, Kenya, Aden and Cyprus, gaining experience as a darkroom assistant. He bought a Rolleicord camera for £30 in Kenya, but pawned it when he returned home to England, and started to become a bit of a tearaway.

Redemption came when his mother redeemed the camera, and MccCullin started to take photographs of a local gang, The Guvners. One of the hoodlums killed a policeman, and McCullin was persuaded to show a group portrait of the gang to  The Observer. It published the photo, and kick-started a burgeoning career as a photographer for the  newspaper.

2018-12-11T10:09:37+00:00

Bastard Countryside by Robin Friend

“I see the bastard countryside everywhere I go,” says Robin Friend, pointing out of the window of his studio in East London, where an ivy plant has climbed up a nearby wall and is wrapping its vines around a rusting CCTV camera. “I ran with this idea of city and countryside splattering into each other, creating this hybrid nature,” explains Friend, who has been producing photographs for his book, unknowingly at first, for 15 years since he started started his BA in Brighton, where he studied under Jem Southam.

“Bastard countryside” is a phrase coined by Victor Hugo in his novel Les Miserables, in which he describes the city of Paris as an “amphibian”, stretching out into the countryside and devouring everything in its path. It is a zone in which the urban and rural mix, the manmade and the natural, clashing and colliding to create a strange form of beauty and ugliness.

2018-11-30T10:20:07+00:00

An Infinite Perimeter round Europe?

Michalis Poulas has lived in Crete for much of his life. It was here that he first learned the technicalities of photography from his father, who opened a film-processing shop on the Greek island in 1988, and here that he built a career as a professional photographer. Shooting mostly on digital, in 2014 he decided to revisit the world of medium format, and with all the languidness that such work entails, it seemed natural that the island should serve as his subject.

The result is Infinite Perimeter, an as- yet-unfinished series which looks at a decade of sociopolitical unrest on the island with a cool objectivity. While all the images were taken in Crete – 90 per cent of them within 10 kilometres of Poulas’s home – this is neither documentary photography, nor a series about Greece specifically. Rather, it’s about the instability permeating the Western world today.

2018-11-26T12:11:40+00:00

Portrait of Humanity: Meet our The Guardian Editors’ Pick People’s Choice Winner, Toby A. Cox

For Toby A. Cox, one of our first Portrait of Humanity People’s Choice Winners, photography and travel are inseparable. Having grown up in the US, she only started taking pictures when she travelled as a student. Since then, she has come to use photography as a way of exploring different cultures. The Guardian editors picked her image, which captures two young children waving through a car window, as one of the best Portrait of Humanity entries so far. The picture, taken in Kyrgyzstan, captures a moment of joy. Cox has made it her mission to confront rising Islamophobia by documenting day-to-day life in Muslim-majority countries, tackling what she sees as an ‘us vs them’ mentality. Her photographs show that regardless of race or religion, we all experience the same emotions – making us far more similar than we might think. Can you tell me about your background as a photographer? How and when did you first get into photography? I took photos when I started travelling, but mostly of landscapes and things, not people. Until …

2018-12-04T10:24:04+00:00

Any Answers: Laia Abril

Originally trained as a journalist, Barcelona-born Laia Abril expanded her storytelling methods after studying at New York’s ICP. She is best-known for the first chapter of her long-term project A History of Misogyny, On Abortion, which recently won the Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation PhotoBook of the Year Award and has been shortlisted for the 2019 Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize  

2018-11-23T11:28:27+00:00

Tom Wood: Women’s Market

Almost every Saturday between 1978 and 1999, Tom Wood travelled from his home in New Brighton by ferry and bus to Great Homer Street market, just outside Liverpool city centre in the North West of England. He would spend the morning there photographing the mothers and daughters, kids dressed in matching blue and lilac tracksuits, teenagers chatting away with their curly hair swept up into side-ponies, and grandmothers haggling for of a string of pearl necklaces or a second-hand coat. In the afternoon he’d travel on to either Everton or Liverpool football ground, then back on the bus and ferry, taking pictures every step of the way.

”God knows how many photographs I took,” he says. “When I first began photographing in Liverpool I was just overwhelmed by the people and the place. It was an exciting place to be, I fed off the energy there.”

2018-12-04T11:35:25+00:00

Vivian Maier, the secret photographer

BJP

She cradles a Rolleicord camera to her breast, her eyes staring into her reflection. Until recently, the woman behind the camera was unknown, living a quiet life as a nanny in Chicago and dying, alone in a nursing home, in 2009 at the age of 83. When Vivian Maier’s cache of 100,000 images were unearthed, her work was compared with the greats of street photography. A film was made, Finding Vivian Maier, which introduced a new generation to her work. But Maier herself was the draw; who, exactly, was the mysterious French nanny? What drove her relentless imagery, and why did she keep it so resolutely hidden?

Maier was a private but eccentric Mary Poppins-like figure, who spoke with a delicate French trill and was never without her medium format camera. She took thousands of photographs from the 1950s to 70s, but squirrelled them away in a room she forbade anyone to enter. She was poor, and in 2007 her possessions were auctioned off to recoup her debts – her archive of photographs among them. John Maloof, an estate agent and president of his local history society, discovered them at an auction and took a punt, hoping to find images for a book he was writing on the Portage Park area of Chicago. He found nothing relevant, and put the whole lot into storage for two years.

2018-12-11T10:34:22+00:00

Prin Rodriguez on creating a new vision of Peru

Growing up in Peru in a large family “with limited resources”, photography didn’t figure large in Prin Rodriguez’s childhood. In fact her family only got its first camera – a pocket digital camera – when she was finishing secondary school, and was initially firmly against it when Rodrigeuz said she wanted to study photography. “They had the conviction that university education was a way of moving up the social ladder, and that photography did not offer any certainty of this,” she tells BJP. “For my family to have a camera was almost a luxury.”

Despite this Rodriguez persisted, and is now building a successful career in image-making. She’s currently taking part in the VII workshop in Poland, one of only 20 photographers to have been invited to join, and the only one from the whole of Latin America. Her work was recently published on the PHmuseum website, and she has co-founded the Pariacaca collective with fellow photographer Monarca Criollo. 

2018-12-11T10:33:46+00:00

Out of the Shadows: The untold story of people with learning disabilities in prison

It is estimated that 7% of the prison population in the UK has a learning disability, compared to around 2.2% of the general population. A study by Prison Reform Trust in 2008 found that people with learning disabilities are seven times more likely to come into contact with the police, five times more likely to be subject to control and restraint, and three times more likely to suffer from anxiety or depression, and spend time in solitary confinement.

These numbers are estimates rather than straight statistics because there is no system in place to screen, identify, and record whether a prisoner has a learning disability. In a research paper from 2005, psychologist John Rack estimated that around 20% of prisoners have some form of “hidden disability” which affects their performance in education and work settings. It’s worryingly disproportionate, and it begs the question – if prisons don’t have systems in place to even identify these people, how can they begin to give them the support they need to survive in a prison environment?

2018-11-28T13:57:40+00:00

BJP Staff