Robert Frank’s The Americans greatly influenced the course of 20th and 21st-century photography. His contemporaries, and those who followed, reflect on the enduring significance of his work
When the Portrait Gallery was established in London in the mid-19th century, its role was envisioned “to consist of those persons who are most honourably commemorated in British history”. Opening in an era when photography was still a new and untried technology, the National Portrait Gallery (as it later became known) was intended to be the national repository of the images, chiefly paintings and drawings, of those men and, much later, women who represented what was best among the British hierarchy of achievements, skills and aptitudes. Its function was to hold up a mirror to Britain that reflected its qualities back to those who came to observe them, as object lessons about how to aspire to, or more simply respect, the qualities and moral standing of the great and the good.
This conception of the NPG may still be widespread in the public mind, as even Martin Parr thought his work would be an ill-fit for a contemporary exhibition along these lines. “I never thought of myself as a portrait photographer,” he says, “and when I first met Phillip Prodger [NPG’s former head of photographs], I told him I had only a few celebrity portraits. I just put a lightbox together and sent them to him, though I was quite surprised at what I had.” Prodger, however, had other ideas, seeing in Parr the work of a social observer who could also offer a portrait of a nation at a key point in its history. So it is that the NPG put together Only Human, on show from 07 March to 27 May, bringing together some of Parr’s most famous photographs alongside a number of works never exhibited before.
An architect for more than 40 years, Badger took up photography while studying in the mid 1960s, going on to exhibit at major institutions in Britain and the US. But he is best known as a writer, critic and bibliophile, contributing dozens of essays on the medium, and editing key texts such as The Photobook: A History
British photographer Iain McKell is publishing a book of photographs from 1976, which he shot on the side while working as a seafront photographer in Weymouth, south-west England
This month, we present a small selection of work that will be shown at Format festival, which returns to the Quad Arts Centre in Derby, England for its ninth edition this March. Under the theme Forever/Now, our edit of notable projects emphasises the festival’s slant towards ‘crooked’ documentary practices, where a lack of subject or search for the unknown is filled by fiction and interpretation.
BJP-online Loves the new Russian photography on FotoDepartament’s Attention Hub, the RPS’ list of 100 photographic heroines, Claudio Majorana’s Head of the Lion, John Myers’ Looking at the Overlooked, Feast for the Eyes – The Story of Food in Photography on show at FOAM, Jamie Hawkesworth’s a blue painted fence, and La Vertigine by Federico Clavarino
Would you want Martin Parr to take your portrait? You might say its a brave soul who goes in front of his penetrating lens, but it’s part of a portfolio of benefits the Martin Parr Foundation is launching in its Membership Scheme.
Parr set up the Bristol-based Foundation in 2014 to house his archive, but in October 2017 it opened to the public in a purpose-built space, offering free access to much more – a rolling programme of exhibitions, a large photobook library, and a growing collection of prints. Parr’s used the opportunity to hone in on British and Irish photographers, as well as work taken in the British Isles by others, and put the focus on their documentary work – an area which he believes is still underrated.
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”.
Dr Yasufumi Nakamori has been appointed new senior curator, International Art (Photography) based at Tate Modern, heading up the development of Tate’s collection of photography and programme of photography exhibitions and displays. He’s taking up the post in October, filling the gap left by Simon Baker back in January (when he became director of the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris).
For the last two years, Nakamori headed up the photography and new media department at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, staging exhibitions with image-makers such as Omer Fast, and making key acquisitions “which transformed and diversified the museum’s photography collection”. From 2008-2016 he was curator of photography at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, where he created exhibitions such as Katsura: Picturing Modernism in Japanese Architecture, Photographs by Ishimoto Yasuhiro (which won the 2011 Alfred H. Barr Jr. Award for Smaller Museums), and For a New World to Come: Experiments in Japanese Art and Photography, 1968-1979.
I once found a John Hinde postcard of Woburn Zoo tucked into a second-hand book; if you’ve grown up in the UK you too may have come across these iconic images in the wild – or in Martin Parr’s 2011 compilation Our True Intent is all for Your Delight: The John Hinde Butlin’s Photographs.
Now Hinde aficionados can find another compilation of John Hinde work, titled John Hinde Collection. Born in Somerset in 1916, Hinde was a capable photographer in his own right but hit the big time in the 1950s and 60s with his company, John Hinde Ltd, which specialised in creating brightly-coloured, ever-optimistic postcards. Established in 1956 and sold in 1972, John Hinde Ltd created postcards of Britain, Ireland, and many European and African countries, created by a stable of photographers such as Elmar Ludwig and Edmund Nagele as well as by Hinde himself.