The Big Night Out: Photofusion SALON/15 & Hotshoe Award
Blog post by Miranda Gavin
Photofusion’s private view for SALON/15, the annual members photography salon is one of my favourite nights of the year. It’s not just that I have the opportunity to look through members’ work to select a winner for the Hotshoe Photofusion Award, now in its sixth year, but it’s also one of the most inclusive, warm and friendly photography exhibition openings I attend.
This year was no exception with a new Photofusion board in place and seven awards announced on the night. These are the four SELECT/16 bursary winners (see earlier blog post), plus the Hotshoe Photofusion Award winner, and two new awards—the Experimental Award which was chosen by Melanie King, founder of the London Alternative Photography Collective, and was won by Vanessa Short, and the Analogue Award which was chosen by Hannah Brown on behalf of Lomography and was won by Rory O’Driscoll. What is of note, unlike many other awards and photo competition winners, is that each winner is chosen, not by a panel of judges with its inevitable negotiation process, but by one person, resulting in awards that are highly subjective and personal. The fact that no two judges chose the same photographer is testament to this.
The SALON/15 show is representative of the diverse community of Photofusion members who are working across all genres of photography. These range from amateur to professional and emerging to established, photographers, many of whom also use the in-house darkroom and printing facilities to produce their work. Having judged the Hotshoe Photofusion Award since its inception in 2010, I have become familiar with some of the photographers’ work, especially those who enter images for the salon year after year and have been working for a considerable time on a particular body of work. Yet, each year there are surprises as new members submit work and long-term members submit previously unseen work, some of which is still in process.
As far as my judging process is concerned, I usually have about 100 numbered folders to look at onscreen and always ask for the work to be submitted to me anonymously. However, there were also some hard copy submissions – photographic prints and a handmade book – which I looked at on a visit to Photofusion prior to making any decisions. I dislike overly verbose artist statements, preferring clarity of language and clear intent with an alignment of concept and finished work. The artist’s statement, however, is important as it can not only provide a context for the work and reveal the processes and the conceptual framework involved, but it can also be an integral companion to the work such as with a response, prose or poetry text. As to CVs, I never look at them until after I have made my selection, if at all. Where someone studied and with whom, is for me, of less importance.
I prefer to ‘feel’ the photographs and will often wait to see which works still resonate days later and which ones have moved me in some way. I then whittle down my selection to a shortlist of around six to eight folders of work. The fact that some entries only comprise of a couple of images means that they will not be a winner, however, they may point to the start of a strong body of work. For my selection and given that Hotshoe publishes a body of work, I am looking for a cohesive series with at least five photographs.
Winner Anthony Carr
This year, I chose Anthony Carr’s, Big Bar Lake Ranch Revisited, series of photographs of an abandoned guest ranch in British Columbia, Canada that he has visited on numerous occasions over the last five years. The photographs were created over four days using homemade pinhole cameras that he left in the lakeside ranch. Carr submitted six images, and accompanied it with a clear, concise artist’s statement in which he writes: “I deliberately wanted to document the ranch using available light and let the condition of the building dictate how the photographs would eventually look.”
The holes in the roof of the ranch illuminated the interior and “as the sun arced across the sky, this translated into the streaks and lines etched onto the walls, floors, ceilings and furniture within.” What I found appealing was his use of DIY cameras, his experimental approach and the apparent simplicity of the process. In contrast to photographic processes involving a high degree of intervention by the photographer, Carr had surrendered control over the final image. The durational aspect of the process was also of interest and it was a surprise to see the light rendered as abstract shards of light cutting through the frame, at times reminding me aesthetically of paintings created as part of the early 20th century modernist art movement known as Vorticism. My only concern when I saw the photograph in the salon-style show was the way it had been framed and the problem of reflective glass – I would have preferred to see the image without a frame.
My shortlist of photographers features below and is accompanied by a few sentences about the work and short explanation as to why I chose them. This year, as with previous years, I have included a moving image work in my selection as one of them piqued my interest. In no particular order, here is my shortlist.
A close contender was Andrew Meredith’s ambiguous colour landscape series, Introversion, in which scale appears to have collapsed. What we are left with are a series of six images that could equally be of distant planetary landscapes or close-ups of bacteria as seen through a microscope. I have come across a couple of bodies of work using this device, most notably the black and white 2015 series winner of the Renaissance Photography Prize. I will be looking to see how Meredith goes on to develop this series. The image on display was well printed and frameless, allowing me to fully appreciate the detail.
An altogether different body of work is, The Metabolic Landscape, Perception Practice and the Energy Transition, by Gina Glover, which focuses on the planet’s carbon and nitrogen cycles and ecological damage. The series of six images uses a more traditional documentary approach to highlight these concerns and the various landscapes have been interpreted with an eye for composition, colour and the more formal aspects of photography, as well as giving a sense of the ecological concerns.
Once again, Lucia Pizzani’s work continues to intrigue and delight me. I was very glad to see that she has continued to develop the Sagrario Series, both conceptually and technically using the wet-plate collodion process, but this time as part of a larger work, A Garden for Beatrix. Pizzani researched the Victorian writer Beatrix Potter’s documentation of nature and has extended her sculptural series in response. Her delicate and beautiful works are printed onto glass and were exhibited on a shelf in the gallery. Pizzani uses a studio set up to create portraits of women, who are both enclosed and concealed in “women-cocoons” specially made from African textiles, with fungi and other flora.
Dafna Talmour’s, Constructed Landscapes, is an ongoing body of work consisting of two sub-series that I have had the pleasure to see develop over the last couple of years. Talmour submitted two images from her most recent series and presented a wonderful print, without a frame and at a modest size which in no way detracted from being able to appreciate the images bold and unusual aesthetic. Through the act of splicing and slicing colour negatives from different locations, Talmour’s work reveals an abstracted and illusory landscape with segmented voids of darkness.
Robert Hackman’s fascinating cityscapes are populated with figures who appear to move through the space of Albanian cities like the trails created by leaf cutter ants. Hackman submitted two of his multi-layered images, both of which use numerous photographs captured at two-second intervals. Hackman then meticulously builds each image to create cityscapes patterned with highly organised and constructed fictional interactions. I will be watching with interest to see how this body of work develops further.
It is never easy to judge moving image works alongside photography as there are different aspects that need to be considered, and although moving image only makes up a very small part of the submissions (two films this year), I was drawn to Vron Harris’ three short films, Tulip, 2015, and Vase (1 Hour 32 minutes 47 seconds). The body of work recalls Vanitas paintings in terms of the overarching theme relating to the transience of life through showing the daily movement of the sun moving over a vase of fading tulips placed on Harris’ kitchen table. Harris uses a variety of film and post-production techniques, including time lapse and a grid of smaller images, which flick on and off apparently at random, with confidence and sensitivity. I would like to view this work on a large scale in a darkened room so that I can become fully immersed.
To see Vron’s work, click here…
Tips for entering next year
- Submit at least six images.
- I want to see a cohesive series, not just a one off.
- Images that pique my interest and may present another angle on something familiar, not a copy of bodies of work I may have already seen.
- I am interested in technical competence and experimentation.
- I like to see a considered body of work with visual appeal, though this is highly subjective and often depends on the intention and context of the work.
- An artist’s statement that complements the work—one that is free of jargon and uses clear language. A CV is not important.
GET YOUR WORK REVIEWED
Photofusion Members Project Review (bimonthly)
I will be reviewing members projects every two months, see previous submission: #1 Love Rocks by Amanda Jobson
Please submit work between the first and fifteenth of the previous month. For the third review, members need to submit work a month before publication date. SUBMIT by 25 February 2016. This will be published on 25 March 2016.
For submission guidelines, click here…