It’s the summer of 1976 in Weymouth, England, and 19-year-old Iain McKell is working the length of a busy seafront with two cameras strung round his neck. One is for his summer job, which is to sell portraits to sunburnt holidaymakers for £1.50 a print. The other is for a personal project, which now – 43 year later – is on its way to being published as a book, Private Reality: A Diary of a Teenage Boy.
Back then McKell was making photographs of everyone, not just sunburnt holidaymakers, but also friends, family, and the local people of Weymouth. His camera went everywhere, to the arcades, the caravan parks, down the pub, and even to the discos. His friends has no idea what he was doing – and neither did he, to some extent. “We were all partying and having fun, but somehow, I had my eye on the prize,” he says.
McKell is now half way through a month-long campaign on kickstarter to raise funds for the book, and plans to publish it this June in partnership with Dewi Lewis. In May some of the photographs will be shown in an exhibition curated by Val Williams and Karen Shepherdson, Seaside: Photographed at Turner Contemporary in Margate.
Our pick of the key stories from the past week, including a new book on London’s Thamesmead estate, an exhibition of Diane Arbus’ early work, and World Press Photo Foundation’s pick of the emerging photographers from Asia
Born Diane Nemerov in 1923, to a wealthy family in New York, Diane Arbus started out in photography shooting fashion with her husband, Allan Arbus, working for magazines such as Glamour, Vogue, and Harper’s Bazaar. In 1956 she quit commercial photography – apparently announcing “I can’t do it anymore. I’m not going to do it anymore” during a spring shoot for Vogue – and took to the streets, documenting passersby, and studying with Lisette Model. Quickly finding her signature style, her work was shown in the New Documents exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1967, which was curated by John Szarkowski and also included work by Garry Winogrand and Lee Friedlander.
Her portraits proved divisive, and has remained so – some, mostly notably Susan Sontag, judging it coldly voyeuristic, while others feel a sense of empathy. Arbus’ subjects often came from outside of her personal sphere, the circus, for example, or New York’s clubs, and she herself stated that her favourite thing was “to go where I’ve never been”. On the other hand, she could also find a sense of the unsettling in Central Park. In 1971, she took her own life.
History confirms it – the first photobook was made by a woman, with British photographer Anna Atkins publishing Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions in 1843, a year before Henry Fox Talbot’s The Pencil of Nature. Still, many historians, including Allan Porter in his introduction to The Photobook: A History, dismiss Atkins’ work as “photographic prints” rather than photography.
“Unfortunately, this is far too often emblematic of the uphill battle women photobook-makers still encounter when we talk about their history,” says Russet Lederman, co-founder of 10×10 Photobooks. “As we conducted research for the How We See project, we discovered that although women photographers produce relatively equal numbers of photobooks to men, their representation in the higher-profile sectors was, and still is, disappointing.”
1854 was a big year for photography. Kodak founder George Eastman was born, and the first issue of British Journal of Photography was published in Liverpool. Since then, the magazine has undergone several evolutions, rejigging its format from a weekly trade journal to a monthly glossy, and changing its name several times along the way. The magazine’s content has also continued to shift. With roots in scientific journals, British Journal of Photography has now changed course and grown into an art and documentary photography magazine, focused on the cutting edge of editorial and commercial practices. However, looking to the past, its most instantly noticeable transformation is its change in design. Staying alive for 164 years is a formidable achievement, but perhaps the key to our long life is our capacity for change. The redesigns of the magazine have always reflected its changing direction and willingness to adapt to the times, and they have carried us through right up to the present day. Here are some of British Journal of Photography’s most drastic changes. 1864 This centenary …
Photobooks have been booming for the last ten years or so but one prize has been there for the last 49 years – Les Prix du Livre at Arles, which was set up at the same time as the Rencontres d’Arles festival. With its long history and prestigious jury, which is this year overseen by FOAM director Marloes Krijnen, the Prix du Livre are some of the best-respected in photography.
Three Prix are up for grabs in three categories this year – the Historical Book Award, the Author Book Award, and the Photo-text Book Award, each of which come with a €6000 prize to be shared between the photographers and their publishers. The books are on show at Arles until 23 September, and the winners will be announced in the opening week.
The 18-year-old Hamburg Triennial will be directed for the second time by Polish curator Krzysztof Candrowicz, who moved to Hamburg four years ago and set about transforming the it, bringing people and institutions together, and determined to make it more relevant to the viewing public. The 2015 edition was, he says, “The first holistic attempt to create the collaborative framework of the festival. Before, the museums were basically highlighting their own exhibitions, but there was no actual curatorial collective structure.” The determinedly political and environmentally-conscious theme this year was inspired by an amalgamation of many factors, he says, including spending a year “away from structured, mechanised and commercial reality”, travelling around Latin America, Nepal and India. “Breaking Point became, for me, a metaphor for rapid and sometimes unexpected transformation on a personal and global level.”
“It was a different time to now, it’s hard to remember just how scarce images were,” says John Myers. “Now you can get things on screen, in the early 1970s there was only a smattering of images available. When I give a talk, I often start by handing out a sheet of paper with a list of interests and influences in 1972-75. The names run across just half a side of A4. There aren’t that many on it, and it includes people I was interested in on the basis of one or two images.” But for Myers, this scarcity was part of the allure. After studying Fine Art with Richard Hamilton, he got into photography in 1972 “because I had never done it”; initially only familiar with Bill Brandt and Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work, as photography rapidly gained recognition in Britain he soon had access to much more. “I was so excited to come across people, when photography suddenly started emerging from the shadows and books were being published,” he says. Myers started shooting with a Mamiya but, finding it “odd” to be looking down at his waist, moved to a 5×4 plate camera and soon found his stride.
This “photographer’s photographer” is known for his measured understatement and his influential books, such as The Pond (1985) and Berlin in the Time of the Wall (2004). His latest, Looking Up Ben James – A Fable, will soon be published by Steidl, and he’s currently working on his next, The Last Days of Fontainebleau, shot in his hometown, Washington DC
Vanessa Winship’s biggest UK show to date, the first UK retrospective of Dorothea Lange, and a huge group exhibition including work by photographers such as Mary Ellen Mark, Dayanita Singh, Alec Soth, Chris Steele-Perkins, Daido Moriyama, Diane Arbus, Pieter Hugo, Bruce Davidson, and Boris Mikhailov – they’re all coming up this year at London’s Barbican Centre, in a season titled The Art of Change.