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.”
Those who have had the pleasure of ambling along the corridors of the 17th-century building at the heart of the museum district in Kensington, London, will recall the Victoria and Albert Museum’s high ceilings and impressive galleries, with polished floors and walls adorned with historical oil canvases, all connected by staircases embellished with intricate mosaics.
Climbing one such stairwell in a far corner of the building, you surface to face two tall, fudge-brown doors with shiny handles. The pair of robust glass cabinets framing these doors are currently empty, but will soon be packed with some 300 cameras and image-making devices. To one side, a long wooden table will be laden with models of some of the first cameras – a large format perched on a tripod, a Rolleiflex, a camera obscura and 35mm camera. Visitors will be invited to play around and put themselves in the shoes of the photographers who used these devices, pausing to peek through the lenses and take note of this new way of looking and constructing an image of the world on the other side. It is a sculptural array of the golden age of photography, the grand entrance to the new photography centre, opening its first phase to the public on 12 October.
Taking place between 17 and 20th May at Somerset House, Photo London has become a popular fixture in London’s cultural calendar. For its fourth edition, the fair will exhibit more than 100 of the world’s leading galleries, along with a series of talks and discussions with photographers and curators. British Journal of Photography will be present across this exciting celebratory weekend as Photo London’s media partners! This year brings a number of new aspects to the fair; the Discovery section has been expanded, increasing the presence of emerging galleries and artists, and the programme of satellite events is bigger than ever. Every corner of London is playing host to some of the world’s most vibrant photographers and institutions. Among these satellite events are Hauser & Wirth’s exhibition devoted to August Sander, featuring 40 rare large-scale photographs, which have come directly from The August Sander Family Collection. Plus, Foam Talent returns to London’s Beaconsfield Gallery with an exhibition of forward-thinking photographers under the age of 35, an exhibition which will then travel to Amsterdam, New York …
If the inaugural Photo London seemed a little light on contemporary work, there is plenty in the fourth edition to show that the organisers were determined to do something about it. It is evident in the public programme, and it is there to see on the shop-floor too, with the Discovery section devoted to emerging galleries now given over to 25 dealers. Tristan Lund, formerly of Michael Hoppen Contemporary, now an art consultant and dealer in his own right, returns as curator, charged with injecting some cutting-edge elements into the fair, but remaining mindful of his responsibilities to the young galleries he is enticing in.
“We’ve had five great extinctions,” says Edward Burtynsky. “Now our species is having a similar effect – we are the equivalent of a meteor impact.” He’s currently working on a five-year project on the Anthropocene – the proposed name for our current geological age, an age on which human activity has had a profound and still ultimately unknown impact. A multidisciplinary initiative with long-term collaborators Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencie, Anthropocene includes images showing urbanisation, urbanisation, industrialisation and mining, from oil bunkering and sawmills in Nigeria to the salt mines of the Ural Mountains. Now a preview of this project, plus other new work by the renown Canadian artist including an AR experience, is going on show at Photo London 2018, which takes place from 17-20 May at Somerset House. The public programme, which is supported by LUMA Foundation, will also include an exhibition called Exit from Paradise: Japanese & Chinese Contemporary Photography, presented by Korean curator Jiyoon Lee, and a photography-themed installation by set designer Es Devlin. The International Center of Photography (ICP) and Photo London will …
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.”
Designed by David Kohn Architects, the new centre will open in Autumn 2018 and more than double the V&A’s current photography exhibition space. The opening will be accompanied by a museum-wide photography festival, a new digital resource, and a new history of photography course run with the Royal College of Art. The V&A plans to run events and activities in the new centre, and will continue to expand the facility. Phase Two will see the museum add more gallery space, and create a teaching and research facility, a browsing library, and a studio and darkroom which will enable photographers’ residencies. The new centre comes as the V&A transfers the Royal Photographic Society’s collection from the Science Museum Group, which was formerly held in the National Media Museum in Bradford. The transfer adds over 270,000 photographs, 26,000 publications, and 6000 pieces of equipment to the V&A’s holdings – which was already one of the largest and most important in the world, including around 500,000 works collected since the foundation of the museum in 1852. The RPS collection includes …