The Shed is very much a community and, for many of us, that’s a really important aspect of the whole thing.
I love the summer and winter shows in Lyme Regis, for example and discovering new talent there, such as artist and ceramicist Odile Moreno, whose work is all over my house and my friends’ houses too, now that I’ve got into the dangerous new habit of commissioning. Ceramics Anonymous, here I come!
And so, in the spirit of community, I shall finish my much-appreciated ‘Artist of the Week’ slot by highlighting the work of four other Shedders, whose work is particularly catching my eye right now.
I have one of Lois’s images in my living room and I can’t think of a greater compliment than to want to live with someone’s work day in and day out!
Her subject matter is often similar to that of many of us living and working on the Jurassic coast – the sun, sea and beach, coastal buildings or found objects. But whilst many seek simply to capture nature at its best, Lois’s own eye meets the world head-on. She seems able to clear away all the visual clutter and the noise and really hone in, with great simplicity and compositional skill, on a single element or colour.
‘Roller Coaster’ encapsulates this ability perfectly:
A new-ish arrival to The Shed (I think), who has only posted a small number of images – but they’re all absolutely great: strong silhouettes, vibrant colour and original composition. This image is my favourite because it’s so cinematic – ‘Misty Forest‘.
I’m not usually particularly drawn to travel photography, but Beatriz’s images of India and Morocco are just delightful. She obviously has a major love affair with colour and her shots also have a very sophisticated, photo-journalist’s sense of composition and human drama. There’s a really fresh sense of fun and humour at play here too – ‘Door and bicycle in Varanasi‘.
Paul’s work for me is the work of an artist using photography as a preferred medium. There’s a strong pull towards the abstract, a brilliant sense of colour and a love of things that aren’t quite right or are perhaps about to unravel.
Of the four photographers I’ve chosen here, I definitely see an overlap of the kind of subject matter or mood I’m attracted to myself in Paul’s photography.
I could easily live with several of his shots – Pink Star Seaweed, for example, or Caravan in Lichen or the wonderful Cocteau Tadpoles – but especially this beauty, ‘Toxic‘.
I’ve never really done much black and white photography – just a few experiments here and there and a couple of one-day portrait courses with the wonderful Ron Frampton over at Dillington House.
I’m a fan of it for sure – most of my photography books are of black and white photographers – but personally I’m usually much more attracted to very bright and intense natural colour.
Trying out black and white a little more in recent times, I would have thought I’d like creating very high-contrast images, to continue that same aesthetic, but in fact the opposite is true. It seems to be very subtle light that works best in black and white, such as these two images, both taken in the crypt of an Italian church this summer in Umbria:
Simple shapes work well in black and white too, as if simplifying the colour calls for everything to get simpler, as with these images of Carsten Höller’s spiralling slide from his summer exhibition at the Hayward Gallery in London or these barley-sugar spiral columns outside the Citta di Castello cathedral in Italy:
Strong silhouettes also make for great subject matter. These two images show the Oxo Tower (an image that was chosen for an exhibition by the London Photo Gallery this summer) alongside one of Barbara Hepworth’s sculptures from her studio-and-garden museum in St Ives:
Images revealing detail and texture, always a favourite subject matter, seem to work in black and white better than in colour when the colour simply isn’t that interesting – or else where it detracts from what’s more interesting, as in these final images of an old wooden door in Umbria and the pattern made by rippling water over a Cornish beach:
All these images are available to buy from my full black and white collection on the Shed Gallery.
Being a photography fan is one of the greatest ways to keep learning and evolving, so I go and see as many exhibitions and buy as many volumes of photography as my purse can afford and my bookshelves can cope with.
I wrote a piece for The Shed back in 2012 on the ten photographers whose work I consider the most inspirational and, looking at it again now, I’d pretty much keep to that list, though perhaps with a few additions I’ve been keener on in recent years – Diane Arbus, Todd Hido, Josef Koudelka, Gordon Parks, Harry Gruyaert…
Contemporary photography can be a fairly overwhelming prospect and it’s impossible to know all that’s going on; there’s just so much more of it for a start! – but I did think I knew all the major players of the 20th century pretty well, especially from the golden age of the 1920s and 30s, when so many important photographic subjects were first defined and ring-fenced. But, as it turns out, there are still surprises to be found.
At the end of the summer I was looking through the postcard display at Tate St Ives, when I came across some intriguing black and white images with a real 1920s, Man Ray feel. The subject was a strange, other-worldly, androgynous being and the photographer someone called Claude Cahun. Intrigued, I did a bit of further digging when I got home and ended up buying a book called ‘Don’t Kiss Me; the art of Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore.’
It turns out that both photographer and subject were the same person and not a man at all, but a woman using a male pseudonym. What a story followed! Lucy Schwob and Suzanne Malherbe (who created their art under the names of Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore) were step-sisters and lovers, who joined the Paris Surrealists in the 20s before moving to Jersey, where they lived and worked together on their extraordinary photographs and drawings, which play brilliantly with gender and identity (long before Cindy Sherman et al).
When the Nazis invaded, the two artists created resistance propaganda aimed at German troops, in spite of Cahun’s Jewish origins and the dangers that brought, eventually being found out, arrested and sentenced to death. They survived simply because the war ended in time, but their work very nearly didn’t.
Their archive only really came to light when it was bought by a private collector from an auction house in Jersey in the 1970s, before coming into the hands of the Jersey Museum in the 1990s. A very familiar-sounding story for anyone who’s followed the recent Vivian Maier phenomenon.
It’s amazing to think how often lesser lights in art are so nearly extinguished and there are certainly lessons here for museum curators in taking photography seriously and being aware at regional as well as at national level of bodies of work building up in the here and now. US museums have led the way in photography curation and the UK is beginning to catch up, but discoveries such as Claude Cahun show there’s plenty still to be done.