Tag Archives: alex schneideman photography

Time and Evolution of Photography – ESSAY FROM BLACK+WHITE PHOTOGRAPHY MAGAZINE EDITION 200

Time and Evolution of Photography
This article first appeared in Black & White Photography Magazine Issue 200, March 2017

The photographs I am showing this month are from a growing body of work on the way we interact with culture. I think these images are pertinent to the article because they show people engaging with artworks and monuments that span time. It is the exchange of energy here that excites me – how can the work of a human hand millennia in the past still speak so clearly to people of today?

Have you ever wondered about strange anomalies of time? I was born 24 years after the end of the second world war and a mere 50 years after the (official) end of the First World War. The distance between the end of World War II and my birth is the equivalent to the time between 1991 and now. To me this seems a conceptually much shorter space of time than the distance between World War II and man landing on the Moon.

If you look at the photographs of Nan Goldin, in particular Misty and Jimmy Paulette in a Taxi, NYC (1991) you will see a picture that features the faces and attitudes of people you might know and see now. The marginal visible details may be a little dated but, essentially, the vernacular of this image speaks of the modern era. You may feel a slight sense of nostalgia but one feels that the picture more or less represents the time we live in.

Now go to Google and type “photographs in 1945”. The top search return is ‘Berlin pictures show the red Army rampaging through German capital’. This is a fascinating juxtaposition of images taken in 1945 set against pictures taken today in exactly the same locations showing starkly contrasting scenes; the one side is war and mayhem , the other shows contemporary, mundane modernity. The contrast between these pictures underlines the juddering temporal contradictions only photography can provide.

Look at any of the photographs from 1945 listed on Google and it feels like looking into another universe. It is not just that the pictures are black and white and grainy – it is as if there was an entirely different attitude at play in the capture of them. For example look at the famous Eisenstaedt shot of the sailor ’embracing’ a nurse. Examine, not the couple, but all that is going on around them. The people at the edge of the frame are dressed in either the military uniform of the era or ‘civvies’ each manifesting the uniformity of style that we associate with the age. There seems, to our 21st century eyes, an ‘unknowingness’ in the relationship between the photograph and the people featured in it. The relationship of this photograph to that which it depicts has a perceptible simplicity – a sense that the condition of ‘the photograph’ was still what it had been since 1826 when the oldest known camera photographic print, Niepcé’s ‘the View from the Window at Le Gras’ was taken. That is to say that each photograph is nothing more or less than the simple record of an event.

The existential conditions of a photograph in the pre-digital age allowed it to be seen as a statement of fact, or, evidence of a truth. This ‘relationship’ with photography, did not seek meaning beyond the borders. Perhaps another way of looking at this is to imagine holding a print in your hands. To a pre-modernist the total value of the image is found within the borders and in the scene or events shown. There is also an acceptance of the truth of the image. By contrast a post-modernist will hold that same print and will wonder at what happened beyond the frame – a necessary response in order to make full, contextual sense of the scene as depicted in the ‘live image area’. This more deconstructive approach might be called the ‘evolution of photographic consciousness’. Susan Sontag, Roland Barthes, John Berger, even Warhol, have all played very important roles as commenters on the photographic image leading to to the more ‘granular’ way in which we now read photographic imagery.

Because lens based photography was introduced to us by wealthy white men in Western Europe the photograph automatically had the weight of truth and reliability about it. Well-off men gave the world a reflection of itself and the world accepted this new mechanical vision as the truth. Where all other representations of life were made by the interpretive human hand and eye here was a device that couldn’t but tell the truth. Since the explosion of digital photography and the ensuing democracy of camera-phones we have unconsciously adjusted our relationship with the photographic image. We do not take for granted that it is immutably honest. Photography is now so much part of us and so it reflects the way we relate to the world. We tacitly understand that the sense of our ability to truthfully understand the world is just as unreliable as that of a photographic image purports to show.

We know that ‘truth’ cannot be taken for granted. This is a great change from our relationship in 1945 with the medium. And this is not because photography has been shown to lie (although it has) but because we don’t need to trust in our own judgement as we used to. We are more comfortable in the knowledge that we cannot know what is empirically true and apply this new understanding, tacitly, to photography.

It is as if the photograph is now a contingent thing existing and serving only as a clue to another less settled truth. To lament the evolution of photographic consciousness is simply irrelevant. Photography and humanity are enjoying a symbiotic development – the one informs the other – indeed the one must live for the other. Photography is adapting to the most fundamental areas of human experience. Photography is now in the neurones and in the interstices of our brains. The photographic image is now our true sixth sense.

When I look at Nan Goldin’s 1991 picture of two tired people in the back of a taxi I’m aware of the different status of the photographic image only 25 years ago. It was the beginning of a transitional phase for photography; from artefact to ‘universal clue’. Twenty five years ago the photograph was a fact – an avatar for a reality otherwise unknowable. Today the photographic image is so intrinsically part of us that it’s implicit truth is as mutable as the reliability of our own subjective view of the world. There is one aspect, however, that time cannot change; as we gaze into the eyes of people staring out at us who are now long dead, the photograph provides an instant connection that brings the past and the future together – a photograph of the past is a photograph of the future, is a photograph of the present.

Next month I will be looking at the pros and cons of being an invisible collector of souls or the work of the unseen documentary photographer and the ethical questions this kind of photography poses.

On Street Photography – ESSAY FROM BLACK+WHITE PHOTOGRAPHY MAGAZINE EDITION 199

On Street Photography
This article first appeared in Black & White Photography Magazine Issue 199, February 2017

We simply must talk about street photography. This subject has been bothering me for a long time. It has taken me a while to figure why but I think am now approaching a conclusion: street photography as concept and genre should cease to exist – from this day forward the concept of street photography ought to be consigned to the footnotes of Wikipedia.

I’ll put this antipathy to a popular form of photography in context; first I should explain what I mean by ‘street photography’. This genre is defined by location – the street – and its haphazard nature. One could argue that the nature of street photography is simple and easy to define because its only concern is the interaction between a photographer and the people and events found in the urban environment. You could also say that street photographs are characterised by chance and the depiction of the interplay between humanity and the built environment. This form of photography is attractive, perhaps in concept, but not always worthy of the attention it receives in practice and I hope I can prove to you why we need to move beyond the empty concept that is street photography.

Now, here’s a bit of a non-sequitur but please follow me… the greatest English engraver of the 19th century was Samuel Palmer (often cited by British documentary photographers as a key influence). His Blake-inspired engravings established all the key objectives of street photography decades before photography. There may even be an argument to make that Samuel Palmer was the father of the documentary movement but that’s for another time. Although his work was decidedly bucolic his focus was ordinary working people in their natural habitat. He would show his very ‘human’ subjects in a dynamically depicted environment. Street photography owes a debt to him because his intricate engravings elevated the mundane – the everyday occurrences that the art (of the time) was not concerned with. Palmer died in 1881 as photography was making the recording of everyday life more accessible.

A mere 16 years after Palmer’s death Eugene Atget would start his ‘Old Paris’ series of street inspired photography which he would pursue for the next 30 years until his death in 1927. Atget wanted to capture all of Paris life before it gave way to the onslaught of modernity. Contemporary artists such as Picasso, Matisse, Derain and Man Ray where all drawn to Atget’s photographs of Paris life because they detected a surrealism in the imagery which reflected their own artistic concerns at that time. Unfortunately for Atget he was not to live long enough to see his work’s success. However, because of the work of this one man and the august crowd it attracted, an entire genre was born; street photography. What endures of Atget’s work is his dedication to document. That his images engaged his viewers and still do to this day is testament to the seriousness of purpose that underlined they’re making. Atget did not consider himself an artist rather a working photographer in the act of documentation. His important depictions of everyday people and life were to inspire generations of great photography.

So let’s name some of the great photographers known for ‘street photography’ who came after Atget. There are too many to list here comprehensively but here are a few; Walker Evans, Berenice Abbot, Cartier Bresson, Gary Winogrand, Harry Gruyeart, Diane Arbus, Alex Webb, Elliot Erwitt and Robert Frank to tag a random few. I pluck these names out of the air and no doubt you too could add many to them. I see no connection in the work of these disciples of Atget to the concept we now understand as street photography. All of these practitioners are serious artists, journalists and social documenters. Their approach is, respectively; particular, questing, intellectual, deep and deeply felt. Their work may contain some of the tropes of what we have come to expect from street photography (such as extraordinary juxtapositions between people and street typography, trompe-l’œil effects and animal/human interactions to name just a few) but these ‘visual gags’ are the by-catch of serious work.

In our age of super-shallow concept-aquisition – where cultural and historical memes are exploited and devoured by a restless, tech obsessed generation (vis Lomography for its commercialisation of the effects of the application of poor optics to film) we extract the visual ‘hooks’ from these great works of documentary and exploit them to the point that they become anti-iconic graphics of which the best that can be said is “cool”. And “cool” is to photography what salt is to slugs.

The current ubiquity of street photography and its acceptance as a valuable artistic exercise speaks so clearly of the ease with which it is partaken and the lack of commitment it requires. After all most of us live in a town or city. We can easily take a couple of hours to shoot the world around us. I have to admit it is an enjoyable way to spend time. Street photography has become a gentle pastime that can be successful by its own standards without delving beneath the surface of things. When street photography goes deeper it stops being street photography and becomes its more noble cousin, ‘documentary photography’.

I have not mentioned the names of any photographers whose work I think epitomise the hollow world of street photography because I only ever wish to write about the things I like. I reserve my ire for the concepts and attitudes I am uncomfortable with. I believe ‘street photography’ is a dead term describing an obsolete practice. In this way it reminds me of Don Quixote running his sword at windmills – a difficult and fruitless occupation.

We each have in us an ability to connect with the side of the world we are presented with in the same way that Palmer and Atget did. As artists and documenters we should attempt to go deeper and dare ourselves to commit to themes, subjects and concepts. We may fail, we may find ourselves inadequate to the task but just trying to delve further into the mire of humanity gives us the only chance of unearthing the odd, unexpected and precious gem. The street is not enough on its own – humanity is the focus and when the street comes first something is lost. As Oscar Wilde said

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

Portraits from the March on Downing Street

On the evening of 30th of January I went to the march on Downing Street to protest Trump’s racist travel ban and Theresa May’s desperation to become his best friend.

Here are some portraits from the evening. The only way to describe the march was gentle and bittersweet. Every part of society was there enjoying being together and scared of the future – bittersweet.

Hope you like them,

Alex

 

Photographica Podcast in Top 100 and I need your help!

Dear All, Photographica Podcast has been selected by Apple for its highly coveted ‘New and Noteworthy’ section and has made it into top 100 of arts podcasts. 

This is a huge  opportunity for the podcast.

Please help me get Photographica firmly established today by visiting the iTunes pages and rating and commenting on the podcast. This needs to be done quickly while the podcast is still featured. 

Follow these easy instructions and it will take you less than a minute to complete! Please ‘rate’ at least and leave a review if possible.

EASY INSTRUCTIONS TO RATE AND REVIEW ON ITUNES – also see or click on graphic below…

  1. Click on any link on this post. It will take you to iTunes.
  2. Click on the ‘View in iTunes’ button.
  3. Click on ‘Ratings and Reviews’ You will see a link to ‘Write a Review’. Please leave your name (if you like) and I will be delighted to add you to the honour roll.

Every rating and comment allow Apple’s algorithms to pick up the activity and place the podcast higher in search results so helping to establish it for the long term.

If you leave a comment please include your name and I will include you in the ‘roll of honour’ in my next recording.

THANKS SO MUCH FOR DOING THIS.

Alex

http://apple.co/1nsj2ih

 

Pgraphica-nandn

New Photographica Conversation – Gavin Maxwell

Gavin Maxwell explores the liminal spaces between belief and faith and fact.

Portrait of Gavin ‘Otter’ Constable Maxwell – photographer and film maker by Alex Schneideman

Alex and Gavin sat down to discuss his work in film and stills photography on Wednesday 10th of February at the AS Printing studios

  • Amongst many interesting strands of conversation these are some that stand out:
  • The wistful understanding of the transience of life…
  • The hunt for truth in the larger body of one’s work.
  • Shooting exclusively on film.
  • The existence of ‘Thin Places’.
  • The way a photograph should be consumed.
  • The strange interplay between seemingly unrelated work.

Gavin Maxwell is a leading film-maker and photographer who has spent over 20 years making natural history, anthropological and environmental programmes for the BBC Natural History Unit and BBC Science.

His Wild China and Japan: Earth’s Enchanted Islands programmes have been viewed by millions of people worldwide. Gavin has also co-written two books for Random House, and lectured at the Royal Geographical Society in the UK and abroad. This year one of his large format film photographs of a human skeleton is a finalist Royal Photographic Society International Print competition.

Gavin’s website is www.gcmaxwell.com

Visit PHOTOGRAPHICA PODCAST WEBSITE

  • Photographica Podcast is brought to you in association with AS PRINTING – fine art printing for photographers, galleries and museums worldwide.

New Photographica Conversation – John Tiberi

STAND STILL AND YOU DISAPPEAR

Malcom Mclaren in the bath, 1978 by John Tiberi,

In this episode Alex Schneideman of www.asprinting.net talks to John Tiberi, a photographer who happened upon the early punk scene in London and then shot it from the inside.

It was the grim, austere mid seventies and John Tiberi was working as an advertising photographer in the Soho studio scene of the day but loved the music he found in the pubs around Ladbroke Grove. When he happened upon Joe Strummer and his band the 101ers John’s life took a new turn and he found himself on the inside of a cultural phenomenom which led to him embedding himself, camera in hand with Joe Strummer, The Clash and The Sex Pistols. It was arguably John Tiberi who create the punk movement when he put the 101ers as headline in a gig with the Sex Pistols as the support act.

John became the Sex Pistols tour manager and was instrumental in some of their most famous recordings – but he was, and continues to be, a photographer. His photographs of a very young John Lydon and Sid Vicious are extraordinary studies of youth on the verge of chaos.

I had such a great chat with John and, as is becoming the norm for Photographcia conversations, the philosophy and the ephemeral are just as interesting as the photography itself.

Remember! Send any feedback to me at alex@asprinting.net or leave comments and rate us on iTunes.

I’m working on a proper website where I’ll be able to show lots more material to add to the, hopefully, immersive quality of the conversations.

Enjoy!

ANNOUNCING PHOTOGRAPHICA

Hi, please listen to my new weekly podcast, Photographica.

Each episode is a way of connecting deeper with photography through conversations with leading photographers, curators and others involved in the world of photography as well as audio essays on subjects like the random beauty of film, digital as a medium of truth as well as observations borne out of twenty years as a photographer and printer.

Recent and upcoming podcasts include:

  • A conversation with Michael Woods, the Bohemian king of Soho portraiture.
  • An audio essay on the beauty of darkness in exposure and print.
  • An audio essay on digital truth.
  • An interview with Babycakes Romero on what it was like to watch his series, Death of Conversation, go megaviral leading to a Ted Talk and numerous TV appearances.

WIN AN EXHIBITION’S WORTH OF FREE PRINTING
To celebrate the launch of Photographica (and to encourage subscribers) I am starting a competition to win an exhibition’s worth of free printing. I will be assembling judges and asking for images to be sent in for consideration.

Details and timeframe are yet to be decided. I will be publishing details in the programme notes of the podcast so you’ll need to subscribe to receive the information!

To find Photographica Podcast Click here, on the picture below, or search for Photographica in iTunes.

If you like it please comment and rate it in iTunes – I’d be most grateful!

Thanks very much, Alex

 

New Column in B+W Magazine

I’m thrilled to let you know that from May I’ll be writing a monthly column for Black + White Photography magazine over the course of six months and perhaps longer. I’ll write a piece on the nature of photography and the photographic world for each edition. The layout will also feature some of my pictures too.

As the first publication date gets nearer I’ll let you know more details.

Alex

WANT MORE is in the Independent today

If you happen on a copy of today’s (Saturday 24th October) Independent you will see a feature on my new book, ‘Want More’ which is accompanied by Harry Eyres’ wonderful essay.

Click on this link to see the online version in today’s Indy

Ironically, I am in Singapore at the moment so I can’t get hold of a copy.

Let me know if you see it.

Alex