5 Photography Projects from Arles Photography Festival
Good day to you all,
I hope you are all doing well and having an awesome day. This photo is of my son taken on a visit to the Redwoods in California. The big event in my life this week is that he’s turning 12, so we’ve been looking at photos of him through the ages. I think this is a pretty cool shot in its own right, so thought I’d add it to my newsletter – obviously not because I am insanely proud father, ha! (But actually how cute is he?!? Super cute right?)
So now let’s jump into some juicy photo-goodness!
“Taking pictures is like tiptoeing into the kitchen late at night and stealing Oreo cookies.” Diane Arbus
I love the whole world of photography – not just taking photos but reading about photography, checking out kit, talking to other photographers and seeing their work. I love that it’s like an endless creative world that I get to jump into whenever I want something new and interesting in my life.
I’m really excited that next month I’ll be spending 3 weeks in Arles, home to the world famous photography festival. I get to really immerse myself in the festival before running my 5-day Arles photo workshop at the end of my trip.
The photography at the festival is pretty diverse, drawing from established and emerging photographers. I love that it’s shown in all these cool different buildings – old churches, big industrial spaces.
It’s a great opportunity for me to find new photographers and new work, to shake up my thinking and draw inspiration from different ways of seeing the world.
So today I thought it would be super cool to highlight some of the photo projects and photographers showing in the festival. I’m going to talk about their ideas and give you links to their work. I think this will be a nice little trip of photo-creativity-fun for you today!
Let’s get started.
I have read a lot about Meyerowitz’s philosophy on photography, and I love his ideas.
“We think of photography as pictures. And it is. But I think of photography as ideas. And do the pictures sustain your ideas or are they just good pictures? I want to have an experience in the world that is a deepening experience, that makes me feel alive and awake and conscious.” Joel Meyerowitz
I am now excited to explore more of his photos, particularly as he was an early proponent of colour photography in the 1960’s. I’ve always preferred shooting colour to black and white, but when I started out colour was still considered the lesser form. I loved photographers who championed colour!
This is a great 5 minute video where Meyerowitz explains how he works on defining what to put in the frame.
Meyerowitz considers himself a street photographer, but he also incorporates urban landscapes significantly into his photos.
When he first started out, he said he was intimidated when trying to figure out what to photograph:
“I was overwhelmed. The streets, the intense flow of people, the light changing, the camera that I couldn’t quite get to work quickly enough. It just paralysed me. I had to learn to identify what it was exactly I was responding to, and if my response was any good. The only way to do that is to take pictures, print them, look hard at them and discuss them with other people.”
Simple but brilliant advice.
Michael Wolf: Life in Cities
“The back alleys of the city are my canvas. Look behind any building and you’ll find something strange.”
– Michael Wolf, from a piece in The Guardian about why he loves to shoot Hong Kong
I am looking forward to this partly because I also love to photograph cities – but in a totally different way to Wolf. I love seeing different approaches to similar subjects. It feeds you ideas in a big way – because really photography is an exploration of what you see, versus what others see.
How is your vision unique, what are you noticing in your environment and subjects that others might not. What’s significant and interesting to you?
Patterns in Hong Kong – I love patterns!
To me some of his work feels like a collection of intimate moments that contrast with the vastness and anonymity of the cities. It’s intriguing to see the humanness around us, even when so much of city life promotes a very un-human way of behaving.
I also have a curiosity about his work as he lives in Hong Kong – and has photographed the city extensively – and Hong Kong is my new city that I am working on. (I’ll also be running a photography workshop in October. Very exciting for me.)
As an aside I have been reading about the history of Hong Kong, and was amazed to read about Kowloon Walled City, that until 1991 was the most densely populated area on earth. It was a tiny Chinese-run area in the middle of British-run Hong Kong – and became essentially a lawless state because the Chinese had no way of connecting to the tiny area.
Here is a very interesting photo project of old Kowloon, which I particularly loved as it told a story about something I was so unfamiliar with in a very engaging way. I really felt like I was there with the photographer, observing and exploring. Also see the photographers website for more stories about old Kowloon.
Urban Impulses: Latin American Photography, 1960-2016
My preference is to see the work of one photographer, rather than an exhibition of themed collections. I want to discover the stories and style of an individual photographer. I am, though, intrigued by this exhibition as I know little about Latin American photographers.
It’s a part of the world I am pretty unfamiliar with, drawing my ideas of Latin America mostly from popular culture. I’m looking forward to getting to know more about the countries direct from its storytellers – photographers, writers, artists.
The exhibition is drawn from the vast collection of Leticia and Stanislas Poniatowski, whose collection was also used for this recent exhibition, which was amazing.
Featured in the show is Mexican photographer Carlos Somonte – and I love what he said about photography:
“It’s all about light, therefore shadows.”
Which is so right because playing with the absence of light is as significant as light itself.
This little video about Somonte is in Spanish, but it’s a nice intro to his photos, even if you don’t speak the language:
Collection of Surrealist photography
“Surrealism: a 20th-century avant-garde movement in art and literature which sought to release the creative potential of the unconscious mind, for example by the irrational juxtaposition of images.”
I’m not sure that, for me, Surrealism feels like I am engaging with my sub-conscious mind, but I love the feeling of fun that you can see in a lot of surrealist artwork. And we can all use a bit of levity, right?
“The man who cannot visualize a horse galloping on a tomato is an idiot.” André Breton
Fair point, right?
I also like this probing of reality. We now know that reality is subjective (science says so). If I am only seeing a mere few hundred of the millions of pieces of visual data that my brain is processing, then what few hundred pieces of visual data are you seeing?
“I have forced myself to contradict myself in order to avoid conforming to my own taste.” Marcel Duchamp
So maybe for me this exhibition isn’t about the epic quality of the photos, but I like this feeling of ideas, some fun, and seeing something totally different – who knows what that will spark and where that will lead for me!
Loved this little video:
Jacob Aue Sobol
I was fascinated to read about Jacob Aue Sobol, who is only exhibiting at Arles this week, so won’t be on when I am there.
I like his work; it’s very moody, intense and intimate, grainy black and whites. He captures some pretty unique life moments and emotions.
His approach is intriguing – he only shoots for 2 months a year:
“When I’m out photographing I go into a space where I try to block out everything else. That’s why I only take pictures for two months a year, always in the winter. That comes from Sabine – when winter comes, I start to feel that I want to travel and meet people, to find this contrast between the cold, harsh, dark environment and the warmth of the people. It’s been part of my pictures all the way though. When I get back to Denmark and start editing, it is completely different.”
From a Q & A with Sobol
Isn’t that cool? He’s a professional photographer, but he chooses to shoot only at times when he is super-inspired by the world around him, shoots what he loves, and does other things for the rest of the year. We can all approach our creativity in whatever way it feels right to us!
Full Arles festival details here.
If you are also interested in seeing some of this great photography, plus getting a serious photo learning upgrade – why not join me for my Arles workshop. I have a couple of spots still available – details here: photo retreat/workshop in Arles, running 21st-25th August.
As well as doing lots of shooting and in depth-teaching, we’ll be visiting many of the exhibitions in the area.
That’s all from me for now. I have a busy fun few days planned of family events (my sons birthday!), the ongoing work of clearing my house and hosting my live call for Online Light Monkeys tonight.
So that’s it, all the photography that’s fit to print! Happy photographing, and speak soon.
Anthony and the awesome writing talent of Di