Agyepong discusses her most recent series Wish You Were Here — what drove it, what it signifies, and what it means today
If you don’t get the reference, it’s a curious title for a photobook – Fables of Faubus, the 30-year retrospective by British documentary photographer Paul Reas. But if you’re a jazz fan you’ll know it’s taken from a song by Charles Mingus, written after Arkansas governor Orval Faubus decided to bar the integration of Little Rock Central High School in 1957.
To Mingus, and many others, Faubus stood for a dark force holding back progressive social change. For Reas, the title suggests the metanarrative that runs behind the many stories he’s shot in the UK on heavy industry, consumer culture, the heritage industry, and more – namely, the disenfranchisement of the British working class, “the years of decline of industry and the fall out from that, communities being de-centred and levelled”.
Les Rencontres d’Arles is the most prestigious photo festival in the world – that’s beyond question. But according to a high-profile group of photographers, curators, and writers, there’s still more that it could do. They’ve got together to sign a public letter to festival director Sam Stourdzé, which urges him to include more exhibitions by women in the main programme at Arles, and which was published in the French newspaper Libération on 03 September.
The letter is signed by influential industry figures such as Iwona Blazwick, director of the Whitechapel Gallery; Victor Burgin, Professor Emeritus of History of Consciousness, University of California, Santa Cruz, and Emeritus Millard Chair of Fine Art at Goldsmiths College, University of London; collectors Claire and James Hyman; and Olivier Richon, Professor of Photography, Royal College of Art, London, as well as photographers and artists such as Clare Strand, Sunil Gupta, and Anna Fox.
James Hyman Gallery opened in 1999, aspiring to deal in museum quality fine art of art historical importance, with a particular focus on twentieth century British artists. In 2008, James Hyman began to develop a programme of photography exhibitions, which led to the creation of a new company, James Hyman Photography. The gallery has since hosted many high-profile photography exhibitions, including one devoted to the work of Linda McCartney, co-curated by Paul McCartney and James Hyman. As well as exhibitions, art fairs, scholarships, and selling and loaning works to museums and public collections across the world, James Hyman maintains a core business as an art advisor. He supplies bespoke, expert advice to both first time and experienced collectors of art and photography. In this interview, he gives us an insight into the UK’s current photography market. What excites you the most about exhibiting your artists at Photo London? We have exhibited at Paris Photo and the Aipad Photography show in New York for many years, but it’s very exciting to be part of something so …
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.”
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.
Inspired by personal identity, the natural world, and the fear of dying, the three young artists in this year’s Jerwood/Photoworks Awards exhibition are presenting very different work. Picked out as winners in January 2017, all three have received a year of mentoring on their work from industry specialists such as photographer Mitch Epstein, publisher Michael Mack, and gallerist Maureen Paley. They each also received a bursary of £5000 and access to a production fund of another £5000, to make new work which goes on show in London’s Jerwood Space from 17 January-11 March then tours to Bradford and Belfast.