Friday, 2 October 2015


September's theme at the Democratic Camera Club was on Territory.
I tackled this from two angles in my introduction. The first was territory as a photographic theme and the second was the medium of photography as a contested territory in itself.

The photographers I showed for first part were Fay Godwin, Luisa Lambri, Robert Adams and Jo Spence. 
Fay Godwin
Fay Godwin Tethered Caravan, Easha-Ness, Shetland, 1987
Themes of private land ownership are playfully and wryly portrayed in Godwin's images of the British landscape. She beautifully chronicles our attempts to control and repackage nature, as well as highlighting environmental issues. A book to look out for: Landmarks 
Luisa Lambri Untitled (Darwin D. Martin House, #02),2007
Luisa Lambri Untitled (Darwin D. Martin House, #02),2007
Luisa Lambri,  b. 1965, addresses the territory of modernist architecture, traditionally a male preserve. She creates intimate, subtle and mysterious images of details of famous buildings by Le Corbusier or Frank Lloyd Wright. The repetitive quality of her series refuse clarity, unlike the buildings themselves which remain static, material and defined. Her work was exhibited in the recent Constructing Worlds Exhibition at the Barbican in London. The catalogue is available at the Edinburgh Art and Design Library. Or check out her website here. 

Robert Adams From What we Bought: The New World
Robert Adams From What we Bought: The New World highlight
Robert Adams documents the territory of expanding suburbs in America and its effects on nature. His photos appear beguilingly sober, but the 'empty' natural spaces, fragile human presence  and signs of encroaching exploitation convey an emotive tension.  Of this series he said 'The pictures record what we purchased, what we paid, and what we could not buy. They document a separation from ourselves, and in turn, from the natural world that we professed to love.' To see more of his work click here.

There are artists who explore the body as territory and the politics of space in their artwork: Jo Spence, Sophy Rickett's pissing women series and Lili Reynaud Dewar, to name just a few.
Jo Spence and Terry Dennett: The Picture of Health?, 1982-1986

For the second part of the talk I focussed on the territory of photography as a medium in itself.
The BA (Hons) Degree in Fine Art Photography at Glasgow School of Art, which I attended in 1990  was the first of its kind in the UK. Photography seemed to have an inferiority complex about being accepted as art, i.e. on a par with painting and sculpture. It became important to define photography as art, rather than photography for commercial or private use.
John Baldessari, Frames and Ribbons 1988
Meanwhile painters were incorporating photography into their work, like the artist John Baldaserri.

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Gerhard Richter
Whilst Fine Art Photographers were working to make photography more exclusive and collectable, painter Gerhard Richter was using photography as a way to deal with the increasing mass of photographic images in the world, which he describes as a "Bilderflut". He has been collecting photographs, cuttings and sketches since the 1960s in a work called Atlas.
Today 250 million photos are uploaded to Facebook every day, a veritable tsunami of images. The distinctions between amateur and professional photography become harder to maintain, if they should be maintained at all.
Freedom from the Known
Wolfgang Tillmans, Anthony , 2005
Some of the most interesting photographic work being made today questions the role of photography. These photographic artists question the value of photography, addressing the 'Bilderflut', by using appropriated images from the Internet, using new technologies to usurp the idea of the"maker", and revisit analogue approaches using different materials to create negatives and see the photographic paper itself as a sculptural form. In fact these were the themes of a recent exhibition in Berlin called Photo Poetics which will be at the Guggenheim Museum in November.
Lisa Oppenheim The sun is always setting somewhere else, 2006
Lisa Oppenheim The sun is always setting somewhere else, 2006

Here is a link to a short video about Lisa Oppenheim, explaining her use of appropriates images, and her use of new and historical techniques.
Claudia Angelmaier, Betty, 2008.
Claudia Angelmaier, Betty, 2008.
(And in a reversal of the idea of "Bilderflut", this image by Claudia Angelmaier references Gerhard Richter)
Crying, 2005
Anne Collier, Crying, 2005

Thanks for everyone for coming to this month's meeting at the Democratic Photo Club, the interesting discussions and photography responses to the theme.

This post first appeared on the website of the democratic camera club. 

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