Saturday, 13 September 2008

Perpignan thoughts

Perpignan was such an intense experience, it was so nice to meet so many of the class all in one place. Saw and talked so much photography, been feeling exhausted, so many thoughts spinning in my head...

Some of those thoughts...

I have mixed feelings about the exhibitions and slide shows that were shown. There were predominantly stories from Africa and Asia, shot by western photographers, very few stories from Europe and U.S. I have to admit that I found a lot of the work shown uninspiring. Many of the stories felt the same, shot in different countries but often seemed to take the same approach. I can't help feeling that many photographers see conflicts and suffering as an opportunity to make their name and it is something quite bizarre sitting in a pretty little town in France watching war, misery and disease on a big screen. I felt quite uneasy about the whole thing at times, wondering what the hell I was doing and was grasping for some sort of context.
Having said all that, there were off course exceptions, such as a really amazing set of portraits of Belgian fishermen shot by Stephan Vanfleteren, documenting a dying breed, there were so much character in their faces, truly anthropological. Exhibitions I liked were Paolo Pellegrin's images of the Iraqi diaspora, focusing on Iraqi refuges in Syria and Jordan. Pellegrin has that amazing ability to capture very big issues of our time without forcing a specific viewpoint on the viewer. The Return of the Concubine story by Axelle de Russe really reached me, these women's situation is disturbing and very upsetting. Brent Stirton's image of the evacuation of a dead mountain gorilla in Virunga park creates a reaction in me every time, so it was fascinating to see the full story on display.

Looking at the World Press Photo exhibition that also were on show, I feel that a different state of photography are also represented with different styles, many stories are more portrait based, using medium format or even large format in some cases, often taking on a more anthropological or poetic/reflecting stance. This is inspirational, there is a feeling that the medium is evolving, acknowledging new ways of seeing. I would have like to see some solo exhibitions like this in Perpignan.
A really good thing in Perpignan was the bookshop at Couvent des Minimes. I got really blown away by the Ojodepez magazines I found. I have seen a few issues before of this magazine but never seem to be able to find them in the U.K. So,so, so inspired by the photography in them. Olivia Arthur’s Behind the veil story heads the latest issue which really fascinates me. Brilliant stories in here are Matias Costa’s Cargo about how an abandoned fishing fleet crew from the former Soviet Union is stuck in Gran Canaria – amazing story and the light is so bleak, like nothing I have seen before. And Johann Rousselot’s suicide crop story of cotton farmers in India taking their on lives is just so strong and really brings attention to the disastrous effects big western corporations have on local farmers.
So Perpignan defiantly got me feeling opinionated about the state of photojournalism. Coming back home, one of the first things a picked up to read was an article in PDN titled: 'The State of Art report: Photojournalism Survival' (I can't seem to find it online)it acknowledges the changing face of the media it also drew heavily on an article that Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin wrote in foto8 earlier this year: Unconcerned but not Indifferent. Reading this again made me feel a lot better about what I think.

1 comment:

rhian clugston said...

"you are not alone"
to coin a phrase from the trip...

and you've phrased it a lot better than me.
i am going to try and se if magma will stock that magazine, or the ica, i had a funny email from the publishers... well funny only in the sense that i don't speak spanish and i guessed a bit and used the translator tool on my mac, which made it obscene!