The question mark is very important, says Susan Bright of the title of her latest curatorial venture, Déjà Vu?. As guest curator at the 22nd edition of the Photo España photofestival, which opened on 05 June in Madrid and runs to 01 September, Bright has put together five exhibitions along the theme of identity – or rather, how contemporary photography has drawn on or borrowed from the past. How are artists returning to what’s gone before, and what does the past really tell us about how they are working with photography today? These are among the questions Bright explores through the work of six international artists: Elina Brotherus, Clare Strand, Délio Jasse, Patrick Pound, Laura Letinsky and Sharon Core. “I worked on Elina’s show, Playground, in Finland, and Photo España was already taking that show, so when I was invited to be guest curator, everything had to work around that,” explains the British curator, who is based in Paris. “It could have gone in the direction of performance, or in all sorts of ways, but …
When William Henry Fox Talbot pioneered the salted paper and calotype processes in 1841, he soon turned his new inventions to food, capturing two baskets overflowing with fruit. Creating an image designed to mimic the paintings of the time, and to contrast the colours and textures of the pineapple and peaches, he also made an image rife with welcoming symbolism – the pineapple a sign of hospitality, the peach a sign of fecundity.
“Fox Talbot’s photograph was copying the traditions of painting and its attendant symbolism,” says photography curator and writer Susan Bright. “But it was also concerned with the role of photography, and elevating its status to that of art. In this respect it resonates nicely with artists such as Daniel Gordon, whose work also deals with the medium of photography. But his constructed pineapple has nothing to do with symbolism, or striving to be understood as art. It is art. He is questioning the role of visual perception, what is real and what is not.
“The way food is photographed says a tremendous amount about significant aspects of our culture,” Bright continues. “It is often about fantasy, be that national, sexual or historical. Photographs of food are the carrier for so many things – desire, consumption, taste, immigration and feminism, for example. It has been a major part of the development of fine art, editorial, fashion, marketing and product photography throughout the 20th and 21st century.”
Back in 2008, Facebook was just four years old, Twitter was just two years old, and the iphone had just been released. Instagram had not yet been invented. A decade is a long time in internet years, and yet one online photography magazine launched into this unpromising landscape has survived and thrived – 1000 Words. Set up and still run by editor-in-chief, Tim Clark, it includes long-form essays, interviews, and reviews, and has included contributors such as David Campany, Susan Bright, Gerry Badger, Charlotte Cotton, Wolfgang Tillmans, Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, Vanessa Winship and Lieko Shiga. Now, to celebrate its 10th anniversary, Clark is publishing a special print edition, 1000 Words 10 Years, designed by respected photography and art specialist Sarah Boris and featuring newly-commissioned content. The annual will be 200 pages long, and will feature 10 portfolios from influential artists such as Jose Pedro Cortes, Laia Abril, Edmund Clark, and Esther Teichmann, as well as a series of photo-centric city guides, profiles on curators and collectors, opinion pieces on the art of photobook publishing, and reflections on a decade’s changes in photography. It will also include a selection of memorable and talked-about articles from the 1000 Words back catalogue.
“It is a very progressive, very independent festival. It’s not part of the city’s art establishment. It’s dynamic, because the organisers are working way out on a limb,” says Susan Bright, ‘godmother’ of the Circulation(s) festival of young European photography, which takes place in Paris from 17 March-06 May
“It is peculiar how forests have such an affect on us,” observes Jersey-born photographer Alexander Mourant of his latest project Aomori, which was shot in Japan’s ancestral forests. “As temporal dimensions crumble, objectivity leaves us. We are found in a still, oneiric state, contemplating our own accumulation of experience.” His series is going on show in London as part of the Free Range FR Awards
BJP is proud to present the Book Dummy Award, a new competition run in partnership with La Fábrica and Photo London.
The award offers one winner the chance to have his or her book published, in a print run of at least 1000 copies, and have it showcased through La Fabrica’s sales catalogue, presented an exhibited at festivals and fairs such as Photo London 2018 and PHotoESPAÑA 2018, and submitted to the most important photography competitions around the world.
The director of the Musee des beaux-arts, le Locle shares what made this year for her – and what she’s looking forward to