Photobook Review: 'Coalville Photographed' reviewed by Lucy Bentham

We're constantly thrilled and excited that Photograd has the ability to bring together creatives and form unique collaborations. Graduate and working photographer Chris Mear created Coalville Photographed last year and recently approached independent curator and photographer Lucy Bentham to review the publication.

Here are the results.


Coalville Photographed by Graham Ellis: A series of short films and photographs by Christopher Mear

Self published edition of 25

At first glance, the cover of this book gives little detail as to what might be found within the pages. A series of eight QR codes are neatly arranged above the title suggesting, perhaps, that this book contains a cold, technological study of something, well, cold and technology based. The reality is quite different. 

In fact, the book contains fifty images made by both the author and the photographer he has collaborated with to construct this narrative. Mear has followed a fellow photographer making photographs in his local area in order to become closer to the place and this has resulted in a deeper understanding of both the place and methodology. Initially, this method of documenting place becomes twice removed from the subject as Mear puts himself of the position of the documenter documenting the documenter. I am drawn to this notion in the way that if only we could document ourselves as we undertake a project, our methodologies would be in the spotlight, and what becomes of our chosen subjects?

It is clear, throughout the book, that Mear is continually questioning Ellis about his methods and position as a photographer and vice versa:

‘How much do you want to be an ‘excellent’ photographer? Is it something you want to do or is it something you’re going to do? But what’s the difference?’

Ellis asks this of Mear and Mear asks a number of questions pertaining to photography as an art with a series of interspersed quotations from famed photographers throughout. 

We pursue Mear following Ellis during the series of moving images (found on YouTube via the QR codes) and, if you can see around the few technical issues – like the increasingly maddening flatlining sound from the van, or the obstruction of road noise drowning Ellis’ voice – then these monochrome records deepen our connection with Ellis. In contrast to the sense gauged from the book, the moving image additionally distances Mear from his associations with the place, presenting mostly as the cameraperson with a few indications that he remains as the camera occasionally wanders off to the side to look at something he is interested in, not Ellis. Because of this apparent distinction, I question whether the book and the moving image are unified from the perspective of the viewer. The moving image existing without the book makes Mear invisible and puts him in the sole position of the cameraperson – yet his presence is palpably felt within the pages of the book. 

 
 

This book, and the project it contains, is achingly familiar as a documentary project of place. But it goes much further in positing a breadth of questions regarding the role of the photographer and the relationships held between practising photographers. Especially considering those making projects about the ‘same’ place or subject, it has to be noted that this book also defines the distinctions between how crucial the position of the photographer is, how our subjectivities are central to what we see, and the varieties of experience we bring to each enquiry or investigation.  

N.B. As ever, this is a subjective review of a piece of work I am considering through my lens as a photographer and curator as well as reader/viewer. 

Photograd turns 1!

Photograd made it to a year old this week and celebrated with an exhibition at the University of Suffolk. The show has been home to work by some of the featured photographers on the platform in the last year, but sadly it has to be taken down this week. Many of the prints are being donated to the universities final year photography group who are currently fundraising for their two final shows. We really hope the donated images can help them on their way.

See the featured graduates who have helped us celebrate alongside some installation shots of the exhibition here.

We know that some of you were able to visit Ipswich and see the exhibition for yourselves. We've created an online version of the catalogue for those who couldn't make a visit. You can find it here.

Introducing Photograd Instagram Features

Here at Photograd we are continuously working on new Features but occasionally new, exciting projects can get in the way. We don't want this result in a collection of half hearted Features when there isn't enough time to really discuss that photographers work. That's not the aim! Features are comprehensive and very personal, so the process of creating new ones is saved for times when things aren't too hectic.

So, to compromise, we're starting something new. Something that current photography students can also get involved with. Photograd Instagram Features will show just one image from a graduate or student with a short description about the work. This idea is open to graduates old and new, current students and even those already featured on the platform. Any completed images can be sent to us for consideration but please bear in mind that not all submitted images will be posted.

To be considered for a Photograd Instagram Feature please email us the following, along with any questions you may have, to photogradsub@gmail.com:

  • Name, university, and graduation year
  • Instagram handle
  • No more than 3 images from your chosen series
  • A very short description of yourself and/or the series
  • A few relevant hashtags

Photograd's First Birthday Exhibition at the University of Suffolk

To celebrate our upcoming first birthday we're exhibiting work from some of the graduates featured on the platform in its first year. 40 graduates bring you a wide variety of work at the University of Suffolk's Arts Café until mid April.

 
Installation image of some of the work at the Arts Café (From left to right: Liam Collins, Christina Stohn, Victoria Chetley, Marie-Louise Garratt, Jocelyn Allen, Leticia Batty, Matt MacPake, Alastair Bartlett)

Installation image of some of the work at the Arts Café

(From left to right: Liam Collins, Christina Stohn, Victoria Chetley, Marie-Louise Garratt, Jocelyn Allen, Leticia Batty, Matt MacPake, Alastair Bartlett)

 

We're really pleased to announce that the hard work planning our first exhibition is over... but now we're creating new Spotlight's and uploading new Features to the platform! The work doesn't stop here but a huge thank you does go to everybody who contributed to the show and provided tremendous support to the planning of it all!

 
Installation image of some of the work at the Arts Café (From left to right: Andrea Allan, Declan Connolly, Charlotte and Georgia Bennett, Andreea Teleaga)

Installation image of some of the work at the Arts Café

(From left to right: Andrea Allan, Declan Connolly, Charlotte and Georgia Bennett, Andreea Teleaga)

 

Many of you have already asked for directions to the exhibition and so we figured this is the best place to share them. You'll need to head to the main Waterfront Building at the university to obtain a visitor pass to access the space, you'll then need to walk across the road to the Arts Café where you'll hopefully spot Photograd posters in the window.

 

Silas Dominey - Superstition Winner

University: Brighton University, MA Photography

Websitewww.silasdominey.com

Artist Statement:

On the grounds of Bolton Priory there is a place called The Strid where the full breadth of the River Wharf is turned sideways through an unmapped tangle of underwater caverns.

While beautiful, it has a macabre history. At the narrowest point the river appears just wide enough to cross at a leap. Many who have tried slip and fall to their deaths. Years of erosion have channelled out an underwater tomb below. The bodies of the drowned rarely surface.

These photos are about this place and the unique qualities that make it so dangerous and alluring.

Untitled, 2016. The Striding Place.

Untitled, 2016. The Striding Place.

The Striding Place: The initial brief for the series came from our Experimental Practice module. I grew up near the river Wharfe so the Strid was just something I’d always known about, but I didn’t realise the amount of history surrounding it until I started looking into it. The title is taken from a short horror story by Gertrude Atherton.

While making the work I was looking at British landscape photography like The River Winter by Jem Southam, but I think I was also influenced by more impressionistic stuff like Rinko Kawauchi. I shot the series on a few different cameras, some 120 film, some digital, and the studio work was done on a digital Hasselblad.

 
Untitled, 2016. The Striding Place.

Untitled, 2016. The Striding Place.

 

University experience and MA at Brighton University: I did my BA at Leeds College of Art, which was a great experience. I was a little older than most when I started, so I think I was able to appreciate what a good environment it was to be in. After that I worked as an in-house photographer for a creative agency in Leeds, which was wonderful training for the technical side of things and the process of making images on a daily basis. I chose to study an MA because I felt like I’d let the critical thinking part of my brain lapse a bit. Brighton just seemed like a good place to be with the amount of photo related activity that goes on here, and the tutors and technical staff have been fantastic.

 
Untitled, 2016. The Striding Place.

Untitled, 2016. The Striding Place.

 

Your work in general: I don’t think I could pin down my work very precisely at the moment. As an in-house photographer at an agency you’re often required to be a bit of a chameleon and adopt different styles for each job. The Striding Place was very experimental, and completely out of character for me, so right now I’m just trying to find a direction for my final project. 

Untitled, 2016. The Striding Place.

Untitled, 2016. The Striding Place.

Superstition submission: I’d seen the Superstition competition on Twitter a few times before I realised I had a fitting body of work pretty much ready to go. It’s been a nice surprise, and quite hectic dealing with interview questions, etc. Winning something like this really forces you to have something to say about your work, I think often photography students have more trouble talking about their work than anything. I’m really happy to have won some prints from Spectrum, which will be a huge help with putting my final show together. My only advice for entering competitions is to be a bit savvy about the terms and conditions. Make sure you know what you’re getting in to, as there are a lot of disreputable rights-grabbing photo contests out there.

Photograd Experience: Arron Hansford - MA Photography at MMU

We recently chatted to Arron Hansford, a current MA Photography student at Manchester Metropolitan University, about his education experience, current body of work, and future plans. Continue reading to see what Arron has to say.


Introduction: I am Arron Hansford. I am an artist currently living and working in Manchester. I am studying towards my MA in Photography at Manchester Metropolitan University. I mainly work with photography but my work has included moving image, sound and poetry, it tends to be routed within the confessional art movement, taking inspiration from artists such as Tracy Emin, and Louise Bourgeois, and has explored subjects such as mental health, relationships and self discovery, I like to leave entrances in my work and allow my audience to find their own way into the art, my work has been described as cryptic and emotionally driven, and relies very much on the spontaneity of feeling.

 
Test series from current work Father Please, 2017

Test series from current work Father Please, 2017

 

Experience: I completed my BA studies in Photography back in 2012 at Manchester Metropolitan University. I like to be honest with people regarding my experience during my BA, and I can openly admit that I did not take full advantage of my time there. I did come out with a fairly good grade but I feel I was not ready at the time to study for my BA. My understanding and approach to my art at the time was not mature, and this does show from the work I produced during my time there. MMU (Manchester Metropolitan University) is fantastic for nurturing creativity, but as with many things in life you get out of it what you put in.

I started my MA in September 2016. Following my BA I had bounced from one unsatisfying job to another, but I was still pursuing my passion for art on the side. Over the years following my BA my understanding and appreciation for art had began to mature, along with my practice, and in 2016 I felt ready again to pursue my art full time, feeling comfortable with MMU from my BA days I decided to re enrol.

Upon starting my MA I immediately loved the freedom that came with the course; being able to set your own brief from initial research to the planning of the final exhibition has allowed me to work on my own terms and completely in my own style. Alongside this I have massively enjoyed being back and working with like minded people; we meet every Wednesday to discuss our progress together and I’ve found the consistent advice and feedback from my peers to be crucial in my development as an artist. My MA has been very self driven as you have to manage your own time and encourage yourself to work which helps build professional thinking.

 
From the series Father Please

From the series Father Please

 

Our current timetable is quite intense. We have 1 year (2 years part time) to work on a single project which will be our final major piece. Placed throughout this year are 2 extra modules; a professional platform module (which allows you to chose an outside work placement) and an optional unit (optional units from health and wellbeing to archival work, encouraging collaboration with other artists).

Work and outcome: My current piece for my MA is entitled Father Please and is an exploration of my difficult relationship with my father, I knew that I wanted to undertake this project before applying for my MA so I used the concept as the written proposal for my course application. Since starting on the course the work has evolved so much, and in a positive way is almost unrecognisable from my original concept, and I have been encouraged regularly to try new approaches and ideas by my tutor that I otherwise wouldn’t have considered. The subject matter for my series as with a lot of my work, is highly personal, and my tutors and peers have treated the project with respect and understanding.

Alongside my series of photographic images for Father Please is a selection of sound bites. These sounds are from the breaking down of the image using a programme called audacity. When the image has been broken down the raw data becomes audible. Experimenting with sound is something that I had only slight experience with, but I have been collaborating with the sound department at MMU and they have been more than happy to help and to share their knowledge.

 
From the series Father Please

From the series Father Please

 

The work so far has lead to deeper theoretical thinking in regards to how we construct photographic images, and how we ‘place’ messages within them. I am currently conducting research into steganography and the parallels it draws photography and art in general. Upon completing my MA in September 2017 I wish to pursue a PHD, but may possibly go through the route of an MFA, the idea of which is being encouraged by my peers and tutors.

Artist Statement: Father Please is a photographic and audio exploration of a struggling relationship between a father and a son. My relationship with my father has always been a difficult one; we struggle to connect on an emotional level, so much so that at some points in our lives we have appeared almost like strangers. Throughout my life my father has had a habit of giving me items that he no longer needs or wants, and I have seen this as an attempt to build bridges and an attempt to communicate on his part, however over the years I have found the whole process to be stifling and it has seemed to build bigger barriers and further break down any communication.

 
From the series Father Please

From the series Father Please

 

The images for Father Please are performances, staged using the transitional objects passed down to me, the objects are juxtaposed in such a way as to obscure the son and to halt any attempt at communication, and in effect are gagging him. Objects are something that I have used extensively within my work both in the past and currently; I feel that everyday objects carry a certain power when it comes to explaining situations and lives.

The use of sound comes from the need for me to give a voice to the character within the images, and to use that voice to try and reach out to his father and be heard for the first time, it relies on the intonation of the sounds to carry a message of desperation and need.

Future: Father Please will be exhibited at Manchester Metropolitan University in September 2017. I will continue to work on the series up until then and also continue my research into steganography and the communicatory power of photography and art. I will then begin to apply for a PHD position within the university for which MMU currently has funding. After this I would like to begin lecturing in photography and art.

Overall I am so glad that I took time out between my MA and BA, it gave me time to develop personally as an artist, I think sometime it's very easy to become controlled by an academic environment. It's good to know who you are as an artist and where you want to go before settling into such a serious commitment.

Photobook Review: 'Hide That Can' Reviewed by Chris Mear

We're really pleased to say that the last photobook review on the blog has inspired a brand new one! Earlier this month, University of Plymouth graduate Lucy Bentham reviewed Tracing a Line Along a Breath Exhaled by Carly Seller, and this time around Staffordshire University graduate Chris Mear has written his own review of an influential photobook.


Photographer & Title: Hide That Can by Deirdre O’Callaghan. Published by Trolley Books (2002).

Genre: Documentary photography  

Rating: 5/5

A lone, bearded, ginger man, chewing on the hair of his moustache. Avoiding eye contact by pulling his green, stained and faded hat over his eyes. A thick brown stain on the inside of the collar of his jacket. The blood red of the inside cover, followed by a dedication to Joe McGarry. Is this the stranger that greeted my so warm yet shy on the front cover? I don’t know. Another turn of a page confronts you with a handwritten sign; “We admitted we were powerless against alcohol and our lives had become unmanageable.” Four photographs of Arlington House, London. Men passing, entering, exiting and lingering outside, lead into a “rant” from the U2 frontman, Bono. He concludes with one of only two mentions of the photographs that follow; “These photographs have a dignity and humour that make them a true record of lives lived… Photography so often pitches the instant against the eternal, and so many beautiful faces are really not… these photographs are true, and the truth is always beautiful and disturbing.”

 
Hide That Can front cover

Hide That Can front cover

 

Men dominate the pages. Some of them seem confident. Playing with me. Joking. Laughing. Others are quiet, looking on from the background. Peering over a shoulder. The combination of image and text allows me to hear their voices. I replace the photographer. I’m there. Intimate moments shared with men with bruises and stitches on their face. Stitches echoed by those that bind the book, sometimes running right through the battered faces of these kind and brutally quick witted men.

Men taking regular toilet breaks behind trees as they embark on a day trip to the seaside. Echoes of childhood by the sea, with Mojo sitting on a horse and cart amusement ride clutching a bottle of super strong lager. A glance down from the end of the pier reveals the violent tide raging towards a child lost in the excitement of chasing away the seagulls, before a moving series of portraits of men in their bedrooms, as they delve into their past and their relationship with alcohol.

Hide That Can photobook

Hide That Can photobook

The book ends with a series of pictures of the residents on a trip back to Ireland, where many of the men who reside at Arlington House migrated from during the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, in search of work. “Some people in life, if they lose out they throw in the towel. You never throw in the towel ‘cause tomorrow is another day.” John explains as we stand at the edge of a beach and look out to sea, watching a lone man float away.

Hide That Can photobook

Hide That Can photobook

Empathy, compassion, humour and a generous ear. Hide That Can, for me, effortlessly applies the best qualities of both human nature and photography. The photographer is invisible. The medium of photography irrelevant. For me, it offers an outstretched hand, an invitation, to anybody who needs or wants to accept it. Photographer or not, it’s work like this that recognises our common humanity and vulnerability. It not only educates me, but it makes me feel less alone. The ultimate, rather extraordinary, accomplishment for a book, in my opinion.

'Better Perspectives': An Interview With Genea Bailey & Daisy Ware-Jarrett

Last month we introduced you to Better Perspectives; a collaboration between travel firm Expedia and eight up-and-coming London photographers. We've interviewed a couple of those involved to find out more about their work and favourite London landmarks. First up we spoke to Ben Shmulevitch, an Edinburgh College of Art graduate who enjoys exploring London's diversity of character.

This time around we've asked Genea and Daisy from #PHOTOGRAPHY Magazine some questions about Better Perspectives and their chosen London landmark.


Through Space and Time on the Millennium Bridge

Through Space and Time on the Millennium Bridge

What and where did you study? We met at Coventry University whilst studying Photography. Our course was small and we had inspiring tutors so it was a perfect melting pot for creativity and collaborations.

What do you enjoy most about London, and what does the capital mean to you? The best thing about London is how diverse it is, you’re constantly surrounded by people with different world views, religions and interests. It’s also a very creative place, you can walk down one street and see so many different artists, painters, singers, performing artists and photographers.

What have you learnt from being part of Better Perspectives? Have you enjoyed the project? The project was fun to work on, it had quite a fast turn-around time so we ended up shooting, editing and captioning our work within 48 hours which was intense but ended up being a great learning exercise. A lot of the time we can overthink and second guess our creative choices, something we're sure a lot of other creatives can relate to, but with this project we didn’t have the time to do that so we just ran with what ideas we had in the moment and it worked out for the best. 

Shooting the Millennium Bridge was a little different for us, we’ve both walked past it countless times, but never really stopped to examine it. Doing this project has reminded us that little things we see and take for granted every day can be so much more interesting if you take the time to stop and really examine them, and photography is the perfect reason to do that.

Divided sky, Millennium Bridge

Divided sky, Millennium Bridge

Why did you choose to photograph the Millennium Bridge as an iconic landmark? We chose the Millennium Bridge initially because we both agreed it’s often underrated. We were both young when it originally opened and remember the hype that surrounded it, so it also reminds us of being care-free 8-year-old girls who spent our time watching Powerpuff Girls and signing about girl power. (Although saying that, we still do those things now too!)

How have you approached your subject and captured it in your own way? We tried to spend as much time as possible at the bridge on the day of the shoot, by doing that we started to notice the structure underneath it – an area that’s never really explored. There was one moment that was quite surreal, we were on the river bank under the bridge, about 10 foot below the city, the sun was setting and the bridge was just catching the light in a really beautiful way, then out of nowhere a group of canoers paddled in front of us and under the bridge where they became silhouetted. For a moment it didn’t feel like we were in the city, it felt quiet and peaceful. We got a sharp reminder that we were in London when some rubbish came floating into shot and we had to use sticks to move it a long, it was either a plastic bag or a shoe, can’t quite remember.

Symmetrical Construction, Millennium Bridge

Symmetrical Construction, Millennium Bridge

What, in your opinion, does the future hold for young creatives in London? Now more than ever it’s important for young creatives in London to listen to other people’s voices. Go to see exhibitions and meet creatives from different countries, with a different gender, sexuality or religion to you – challenge your own world view, burst your own bubble and learn from it. Embrace London’s diversity.

Can you tell us about your work? What themes do you explore and what does a typical series look like for you?

Daisy: My work tends to be very insular, usually I’ll lock myself away and binge-watch Netflix whilst I do a load of research on what I’m shooting, I’m an over-preparer and usually this is my favourite part of the whole project. I’m drawn to series’ that challenge what we accept as normal – they make me sit back and think how I see the world, it’s not something I’ve been able to bring through in my own work yet but that’s a hard thing to do and something I’ll always try to work on. 

Genea: I'm still learning and shooting a variety of styles. Sometimes I'll be completely obsessed with a certain narrative, delving deeper into a lifestyle choice or unlikely hobby to photograph. My degree show piece was a documentary series exploring the hidden world of British Beauty Pageants. At the moment I'm working at fashion week and I've fallen in love with the designers aesthetics so that's becoming my biggest inspiration. This year I hope to shoot a lot more creative portraits and fashion work.

Lone pedestrian, Millennium Bridge

Lone pedestrian, Millennium Bridge

Do you use social media to share your work? What are your thoughts on doing so? We both tend to use social media to share our work a lot, it's how we were selected for this project too. The magazine we run (#PHOTOGRAPHY) is built on social media and creating communities to share work with – it’s such a valuable tool for photographers.

Do you think Brexit and the future of the UK will affect your work? 100% yes. As two young creatives living in the UK we both felt very affected by Brexit, we think a lot of our generation (but not all of them) feel proud of Britain’s diversity, it’s part of our national identity and that’s been taken away. If there’s one good thing that will come from Brexit though, it is the work it will inspire, people care about what’s happening and that will come through in their work. The last issue of #PHOTOGRAPHY Magazine was focussed on European creativity and unity – most of which was created as a direct response to Brexit so we’re already seeing that happen.