Photo London-Somerset House May 19th-22nd
Alec Soth(b.1969) in conversation with Kate Bush.
Having seen ‘Gathered leaves’ at the Science Museum in November, I was happy to discover that Alec Soth was one of the interviews taking place on the day I had tickets for Photo London.
Soth is self-effacing and speaks of not being hugely ambitious, but just ‘doing his thing’ and being lucky enough to obtain funding for his projects. In an interview by Mick Brown for The Daily Telegraph he is cited as ‘One of Americas greatest photographers’-Sept 26th 2015.
The series ‘Broken Manual’ was created over a four year period (2006-2010) He traveled America seeking out subjects that lived ‘off-grid’ types of existence either by choice or circumstance, monks, recluses, men on the run. Soth talks about his own ‘dark space’ during this time fueled by frustration with the medium and ‘super saturation’ of photography in general. Soth finds himself asking ‘What’s the point?’ and developed a desire to run away from it all.
This is a really interesting project in which the subject matter and ideas have come about as a result of Soths own chapter of his life.
Massimo Vitali(b.1944) in conversation with Tobia Bezzola.
Bezzola asks whether Vitali sees himself as an Italian photographer? To which Vitali replies ‘Yes’. He goes onto explain that he is very laid back about making images and ‘if it works it works, if it dosen’t then not a problem’. Vitali became interested in human behaviour after a political shift in his country and this helped to form the basis of his beach panoramas. His hyper-real pictures of how humans act in groups, particularly at the beach gave him an insight as to how people act in similar ways wherever they are from. Massimo creates his beach pictures, high on scaffolding so he can look down and include the landscape but keeping detail and being technically perfect is important. He uses a large format camera and has no interaction with his subjects, preferring to keep ‘detached and distant’ from them. Massimo also talks about liking to photograph during bright hours at midday, hating the shadows and wanting to create a brightness to depict how it really is in the bright hours of mid-day on a beach. Colours are hyper-real. I also think that mid-day on a hot beach is when there is likely to be more activity in the water or a movement towards the sea.
In production the images are produced lighter and some of the final pictures are composed of 3 different images, although he usually and patiently waits for ‘balance’ in the viewfinder. ‘Sometimes they (pictures) want to be taken’
When answering a question about the rest of the Photo London exhibition, Massimo feels the images that he sees need to be explained more, this creates more thought within the viewer. I have to agree with him.
Richard Misrach (b.1949)
Initially I was hoping that Richard would speak a little about his ‘On The Beach’ series. Like Vitali, Richard has depicted beach images to reflect human interaction and isolation. I have researched both these series from each photographer as I have started my own series using a similar high viewpoint of the coast.
In ‘Border Cantos’ Misrach has spent time on making images of the border walls between Mexico and the US. Although tongue-in-cheek in some images (the wall often has gaps and is incomplete allowing people to wander freely between the two countries) Richards project is highly political and serious. Misrach speaks confidently and immediately engages with the packed auditorium and says how much he loves aesthetics and politics and that photography is a wonderful language in which to deliver message and meaning to a wide audience.
The project came about as he saw the wall as a ‘symbol of boundary’ in a world that is becoming more globalised with a blurring of the nations. Richard did not so much want to photograph people at the borders as he felt this was well documented and in this series he wanted it to be more meditative, but collected many artefacts from the ground that people on their journey had left behind or not needed such as a shoe or a football, tyres and brushes used to erase tracks and footprints. Random objects were given to his composer friend Guillermo Galindo who believes that objects have souls and who has created hand crafted sculptures and musical instruments from them giving another visual and audio dimension to the project.
Misrach touches briefly on swapping his 10×8 bellows camera in 2007 for a digital version allowing him to ‘expand and embrace different horizons’ and also the revisiting of the border on many occasions but the talk is mainly on how the project came about.