On documentary photography and some current exhibitions

There’s certainly some good photography around in the UK just now. Especially if you can get a little bit off the beaten track. I had the pleasure last week to go to the opening of ‘Landscapes of Murder’ by Antonio Olmos at Rich Mix in London: a poignant and powerful reminder of the problem of violence in London. The work is presented as a series of landscapes of everyday places and street scenes: ordinary, familiar and unremarkable locations that serve only to heighten the tragedy that has happened in each. Reminiscent, of course, of Joel Sternfeld’s work ‘On this site: landscapes in memoriam’, Olmos photographed the site of every one of the 210 murders that took place in London from 1st January 2011 to 31st December 2012. One telling difference between the two series is that as a news and documentary photographer Olmos visited each site very shortly after the murder took place: after the media had left, but whilst emotions were still raw. Here we have lone bunches of withering flowers, torn remnants of ‘Police: do not cross’ tape, groups of once tough looking teenagers drawn together in their grief all amidst shoppers and motorists going about their daily lives. Life goes on in these landscapes, but there is always a disturbing reminder that life has been lost here too.

It is the very ordinariness of each photograph that makes them all the more shocking: a powerful and fitting expression of the senselessness of murder on the streets of London.

Friends of Negus McClean gather near the spot where he was murdered on Sunday Night. McLean was stabbed to death by a gang of youths on Westminster Road in Edmonton, North London. McLean is the 4th teenager to be stabbed to death in London in 2011.

At Rich Mix, London until 30th May: http://www.richmix.org.uk/whats-on/event/the-landscape-of-murder/

Book available here.

On a connected theme as part of the Look/15 photography festival in Liverpool is American photographer Richard Ross’s heartbreaking series ‘Juvenile in Justice’: a compassionate and powerful portrayal of a justice system that has gone very, very wrong. Ross has photographed teenagers and young people (as young as ten!) held in detention centres in 31 US states. In each photograph the face of the youngster is blurred, obscured or photographed from behind, magnifying the sense of isolation and fear they must feel. Accompanying texts in the young persons own words are desperate.

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Both extraordinary and important bodies of work – documentary photography at it’s very best.

I fear sometimes that photographers can get too obsessed with the ‘idea’ or ‘concept’ of what they are doing or otherwise overplay the process – photography about photography. There seems to be a lot of naval gazing going on these days.

If, as photographers, we want to document and communicate, then surely we want our work to reach and connect with as wide an audience as possible. If we require that the viewer has a degree in visual anthropology or is extraordinarily well informed about the latest movements in contemporary art then we may be doing our subjects a great disservice. This is not to say that documentary, art and conceptualization can’t all work together and there are some fantastic examples of new and innovative approaches to what is essentially documentary photography where the results are challenging, engaging and very rewarding. I’m thinking here of Max Pinckers’ work ‘Will They Sing like Raindrops or Leave me Thirsty’, a small selection of which is at St Georges Hall in Liverpool as part of Look/15. The work is a mesmerising mix of Bollywood theatricality and keenly observed documentary interwoven with old torn newspaper cuttings - all telling the story of the ‘Love Commandos’, a small group of men in New Delhi whose mission is ‘to help India’s lovebirds who want to marry for love’, often against the wishes of family and the tradition of arranged marriage. A fine piece of work and well worth looking out.

Another compelling work that uses differing approaches is the intensely personal series ‘When I was six’ by Phil Toledano which was shown recently at the Format Festival in Derby and is available as a book from Dewi Lewis. The title refers to the death of Toledano’s sister aged nine when the photographer himself was six. Many years later after his parents died, Toledano discovered a box of his sisters possessions that his parents had neatly packed away after her death. The work takes the form of a series of still lives of items from the box and imagined ‘landscapes’ of outer space that occupied the young boys mind in the years after her death. Beautiful!

So, there it is: a very small selection of some great work that's out there just now. There are myriad ways of making powerful documentary work, but please, please, please, make it both accessible and compelling.

I'll finish with some words from Michael Craig-Martin, the great cheerleader for conceptual art and the Young British Artists. In his new book 'On being an Artist' he writes:

"I dislike jargon intensely and cannot stand people who think that complex ideas need to be expressed in a way that is obscure or rarefied. I believe the opposite is the case."

Here, here.

Heathrow Airport Campaign for Saatchi Masius, London

New work for Heathrow Airport, all shot on cold and blustery late winter days in UK! Brrrr. Commissioned by Saatchi Masius London

Many thanks to all the participants who braved the cold, the mud, the wind and the rain: Louis Barnett (Chocolatier), Martin Corr (Sound Moves), Paul Brown (MHI, Bristol), Anna Goodband (Liverpool School of English), Chris Baker-Brian (BBOXX), plus of course my super assistants Wayne Pilgrim, Peter Scarratt, Anderson Lamb.

Art Directors: Ian Otway/Tom Kennedy

Copywriters: Richard Carman/Laura Fullerton

Production: Sharon Daly/Luke Jackson

Post Production: Michel Groot/Craig Easton

Liverpool-School-of-English-ad2 louis-barnett-chocolate-ad_dps sound-moves-ad_02 BBOXX_ad_dps mail-handling-advert_dps_02

For behind the scenes videos by Barney Edwards/Kalectiv please visit:

http://your.heathrow.com/soundmovesuk/

http://your.heathrow.com/bboxx/

http://your.heathrow.com/lse/

http://your.heathrow.com/louisbarnett/

http://your.heathrow.com/mailhandlinginternational/

 

Game of Thrones

Been shooting some landscape work around Game of Thrones locations in Northern Ireland. Mostly using PhaseOne kit, but fortunately for this one I was using an old Nikon D3X - they take some battering those cameras!!! Ballintoy Harbour, Co. Antrim....

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and half a second later....
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more to follow....

Mazda Cars shoot, Fogo Island, Newfoundland

It's been a busy few months at the end of 2014, beginning of 2015. First up a lovely car shoot for Mazda in Canada. Essentially designed as a 'road-trip' shoot with a Mazda 3 Sport. The location was Fogo Island off the Newfoundland coast, traditionally a close knit fishing community that was suffering after the long and ongoing moratorium on the Northern Cod Fishery on the Grand Banks in the north Atlantic. The community had been struggling for years with the impact of the collapse of the fishing and recently native Fogo Islander Zita Cobb who had left and made her fortune on the mainland returned with an extraordinary project to breath life back into the island: The Fogo Island Inn is a spectacular modernist luxury hotel and the symbol of Fogo's reinvention of itself as a hub of cutting edge art and design. All in all a fascinating story and fabulous backdrop for a car shoot.

Here's some pictures.....

Fogo_12Fogo_01 Fogo_09Fogo_02 Fogo_07Fogo_03 Fogo_10Fogo_04 Fogo_06Fogo_05Fogo_11

One from the archive....Polaroid Type 55

Just came across this in the studio from an old polaroid Type 55 neg. (fantastic film and much missed) Shot on a Sinar 'Norma' 5x4 believe it not - really a studio camera but I used to take it on the road sometimes..... Scouse wit with roadsigns.....

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starlings agatherin'

It's that time of year again when the starlings gather around the UK in enormous flocks called 'murmurations' - whilst it is still an incredible sight the RSPB tells us not to be fooled by the big flocks:"Despite the incredible size of the flocks, these numbers are just a fraction of what they used to be. Huge starling flocks used to gather over Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Belfast, but you have a much better chance of seeing the birds in rural areas." "The starling population has crashed by over 70% in recent years, meaning they are now on the critical list of UK birds most at risk." "The decline is believed to be due to the loss of permanent pasture, increased use of farm chemicals and a shortage of food and nesting sites in many parts of the UK."

Here's a small show....

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The Independent on Sunday New Review and the modern world

Just a quick update on my Scottish Referendum project - the Independent on Sunday New Review in the UK ran a lovely spread this last weekend..... Also, finally joined the modern world! Please join me on facebook and twitter for news, updates and photography discussion

The Independent Review-1

The Independent Review-2

The Independent Review-3

 

 

In the far, far north and west

More from my ongoing Scotland work, this time in the far north and west highlands and islands. The Summer Isles from Achiltibuie...

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Drying the peat for winter fuel, Isle of South Uist...easton_south_uist_01An older image - 'Storm approaching Sandwood Bay'... easton_sandwood_01 One of my favourite landscapes in the world - the mountains of Assynt in the North West Highlands...easton_nw_highlands_04 easton_nw_highlands_03 easton_nw_highlands_02 easton_nw_highlands_01 The wonderful ceramicist Lotte Glob in Durness, her sculpture croft is a gem in this far flung outpost....easton_lotte_glob_durnessThe Knoydart peninsula.... easton_knoydart_01 The Paps of Jura, seen from the Isle of Colonsay....easton_isle_of_jura_01The Isle of Barra.... easton_isle_of_barra_01

The Scottish Referendum Project

On September 18th 2014, the people of Scotland will decide whether they want to break away from the UK and become an independent nation. The Union of England and Scotland has been in effect since 1707 when the two separate countries joined together to form Great Britain. This will be the first time the people of Scotland will vote on full independence from the UK. It is also the first time that 16 and 17 year olds will be given a right to vote in a UK election. Being Scottish, but living in England I don't get to vote on what is potentially the break up of the UK.  Of course, I can see both sides of the argument and so in an effort to understand more, I've been spending some time in Scotland shooting a series of large format photographs of young people born on 18th September 1998. They will celebrate their 16th birthday on the day of the referendum and so will be the youngest people to cast their ballot. It could be argued that being the youngest they also have the most at stake in the future of their country. They are old enough to vote on the breakup of the UK, but too young to consent to having their photograph taken, to young to drive a car, to drink alcohol or to get married. My aim is to give each of these young people a direct voice in the debate without the barrier of a journalists questions or interpretation. Each portrait is accompanied by a hand written text explaining whether the person is voting ‘YES’ or ‘NO’ and their reasons why. I was deeply impressed with all of the young people I spoke to and found them well informed and engaged in the debate, although more than one said to me that they felt it was too much of a responsibility for them to take on when they didn't have, and felt they couldn't know, all the facts and implications of full independence for Scotland. Thanks to all for taking part - democracy and political debate is alive and well in the next generation.

Here's the first few....

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easton_140517_5478_lauren_westwater

easton_140517_5544_robert_walker_x2

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International Color Awards

Good News this morning from The International Color Awards in Los Angeles.... Winner 'Honor of Distinction' in the Portraits category for my image of 'Charley' from the series 'Rockabilly Nights' plus 'Honorable Mentions' for three further photographs in the Americana and Sports categories.

I'll have to watch myself with all the u's missing from 'color' and 'honor' - might turn into an American!

International Color Awards Press Release CE

 

shouldn't forget two other nominations ('portraits' and 'people') for the Scooter Club...

International Color Awards 2014_CE_nominations

 

 

Life's a Beach

Been working on some large format exhibition prints of new work around the British Coast. Here's a little taster.....

Broughty Ferry near Dundee, The Isle of Man and  St Ives, Cornwall (from the cafe at the Tate)

For Sale

A few images from my little series 'For Sale' published in the Independent on Sunday Review yesterday. Shops and online shopping is soooo last year! I reckon you could just about get everything you need by the side of the road - even one or two things you didn't know you needed. Tank anyone?