Category: OCA Archive: Photographers, Exhibitions, Sources

John Deakin — Impossible Accidents 28.07.16 — Café Royal Books

Café Royal Books: Photobook shop, publisher, UK social documentary photography

Source: John Deakin — Impossible Accidents 28.07.16 £6.00 — Café Royal Books

I picked up a copy (the last one actually), published by the excellent Cafe Royal Books (1) from Foyles on Charing Cross Road last week. Deakin is well known for his street photography and portraits from the 1950’s and 1960’s London art scene, in particular those of Francis Bacon who, it’s thought, commissioned Deakin to take source material for his paintings. The short introduction suggests that the portraits featured, all double exposures, were most likely done at Bacon’s request since ‘the multiple viewpoint resulting from Deakin’s double exposure is virtually impossible to achieve with a Rollieflex camera’ (2).

Deakin is also well known for being part of the Soho art scene himself (he was an aspiring painter and held this in higher regard than photography), and was regarded as unlikeable, unkind, and knowns as an alcoholic (3). His use of a the Rolleiflex camera, which is held at waist level, and Deakin’s short height (so he was typically looking up at his subject) resulted in an awkward relationship with his subjects, so Deakin’s portraits are often unflattering and disturbing.

I went to the Photographers Gallery to see the exhibition ‘John Deakin and the lure of Soho’ (4), which featured Deakin’s portraits of artists (Francis bacon, Lucian Freud, Eduardo Paolozzi), as well as his fashion photography (Deakin also worked for Vogue – but was sacked for porning his camera equipment). A lot of the vintage prints were in poor shape and I think had been rescued after Deakin’s death. The Vogue prints were in much better condition as they had been kept in the their archive. I really liked Deakin’s portraits and his take on the bohemian, seedy, scene of the time, which is way different to the plastic Soho of the present, rapidly being bought up by developers, or edged out by the Crossrail expansion.


3). For example, see

Raphael Albert: Miss Black and Beautiful | Autograph ABP

Free exhibition of Albert’s photographs of black beauty pageants in west London from the 60s-80s. At Autograph ABP in Shoreditch, London

Source: Raphael Albert: Miss Black and Beautiful | Autograph ABP

Exhibition of portraits from the late photographer (1) and promoter of beauty pageants, Raphael Albert, which is running at the Autograph Gallery in Shoreditch until 24 September. The gallery is working through Albert’s archive and trying to identify the models photographed


1. Obituary from the Guardian, 18 December 2009.

Strange and Familiar, The Barbican

Curated by Martin Parr, Strange and Familiar brought together international photographers who have captured and interpreted the identity of Britain. I’m interested in street photography, have spent years trying to get a handle on it, and knew the exhibition would be useful research for the first two assignments as part of the People and Place module. It’s a hugely relevant exhibition for the topics in People and Place, with portraiture by Rineke Dijkstra, Bruce Gilden, and street photography by Gary Winogrand and Bruce Davidson. There is also a great section in the exhibition with lesser known (at least to me) photographers and their takes on London in the 1950s and 60s London (Sergio Larrain, then Frank Habicht and Gian Butturini). Parr is a well known collector and expert on photobooks and these are also exhibited.

I’m just including my notes here from three of the photographers whose work seems to be really relevant to topics covered in the ‘People Aware’ section of the course. I’ll go back to them for write-ups of later sections of the module, for the sake of a clearer line of sight between research and the exercises and assignments.

The three photographs included from Rineke Dijkstra’s represent the The Buzz Club series (1995). Dijkstra’s images are of teenage clubbers, who posed for her. Dijkstra was interested in the ‘uniform’ of the girls (blonde hair, black clothes) but how they were still completely individual. They’re large scale portraits taken with a 4 x 5 field camera and shot against a white background. This set up and her style means that the viewers focus is on the subjects’ pose, gesture and clothing. The exhibition catalogue (1) refers to the technical camera that Dijkstra uses which captures detail, but slowness is required to use it. ‘This slowness creates an awareness in the sitter of their being photographed’. The work was continued, through video of the teenagers dancing and drinking (again, against a white background) which was paired with footage taken in a Netherlands nightclub, and presented as The Buzz Club, Liverpool, UK/Mystery World, Zaandam, NL (1996-1997). Dijkstra returned to Liverpool in 2008 – 2009 to take portraits of young clubbers at the Krazyhouse club.

Bruce Gilden’s portraits are of ‘underdogs’ of the Black Country, and a continuation of his Face series. They are lit starkly with flash and extremely close, framed so only the head is visible. And the choice of subject, people who look raw and/or have gone through some pretty hard times, means that the viewer focuses on the detail of subjects faces, which is often extreme (heavy lines, thick make up, severe thread veins). They’re unsettling, which is probably the point, although they have been labelled cruel and demeaning in the press. Quoted from the exhibition guide ‘What makes Gilden’s work so compelling is that he renders visible the disenfranchised, photographing the faces we are inclined to look away from’. The work followed a series of UK portraits published as A Complete Examination of Middlesex (a project commissioned by the Archive for Modern Conflict). See sources section below for an article in Vice Magazine (Gilden is a long standing contributor) on this series (2), and an interview with Gilden about the Black Country portraits (3).


The last of the photographers, where the work presented involved subjects being truly aware, was Tina Barney. Barney’s portraits, from her wider The Europeans series, are of the wealthy, staged, and take place in formal settings. While Barney was well networked in America, and her subjects were typically friends or family, for the images presented she relied on introductions. The relationship with her subjects for the Europeans was more of a professional artist, with identity (largely I think with tradition and wealth) communicated through props and settings.

1. Pardo and Parr, 2016, Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers, Munich, Prestel.
2. Vice Magazine, May 18 2015.
3., May 12 2016.

For William Eggleston, People Are Like Parking Lots – The New York Times

The portraiture of William Eggleston, whose color photography helped shepherd the medium into the art world, is the exclusive feature of a new exhibit and book.

Source: For William Eggleston, People Are Like Parking Lots – The New York Times

Some notes from the ‘William Eggleston Portraits’ exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. Eggleston is known as a pioneer in the development of colour art photography because of his images of everyday urban American life, his use of the dye transfer process (in his search for the ‘ultimate quality colour print’ – at the time the process was used for high-end commercial work), and due to his solo show at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1976. This show is widely considered to be a key moment in the recognition of colour photography as a contemporary art form.

The exhibition groups together around a hundred of Eggleston’s portraits, many untitled and never exhibited before, from his early black and white work to better known colour photographs.

Source: New York Times

For many of the portraits, including diners, shoppers, people waiting for a bus, the subjects are unaware. For others, including the Nightclub Portraits (1973) subjects seem to be, or clearly were, aware of the camera and were presumably asked to pose.

From the Nightclub Portraits (1973). Source:

The Nightclub Portraits were taken in bars and clubs around Memphis using a large format (5×7) camera and a portable lighting set up. I had come across a smaller selection of these portraits before in the Everything was Moving exhibition a couple of years ago at the Barbican.

A portrait is also featured of Eggleston’s friend, ‘an eccentric dentist’ T.C. Boring. Boring stands naked in a blood red bedroom with graffiti covered walls (‘God’, ‘Mona’, ‘Walker’), bed unmade, cigarette left on the sideboard (close to burning it) and remote control and lamp at the edge of the [tight] frame. The exhibition guide notes suggest this was the same bedroom as the location for Eggleston’s most famous ‘Red Ceiling’ photograph taken in 1973.

The introductory notes to the exhibition refer to Eggleston embracing the snapshot style – but notes that the photographs are not straightforward documentary or sentimental, and as a result the viewer is asked ‘to find something more valuable and elusive in the images’. Much of the commentary on the exhibition also rates to Eggleston’s ‘democratic’ style and ambiguous images (see 1 and 2 in Sources section for reviews).

The exhibition runs until 23 October 2016 at the National Portrait Gallery (see 3 below).

1. The New York Times – Lens Blog.
2. Review in the Guardian
3. National Portriat Gallery

Preston Bus Station Exit Town Centre : Café Royal Books

I recently discovered the excellent series of miniature photo books by Café Royal Books. The editor and publisher is Craig Atkinson, lecturer at the School of Art, Design and Performance at the University of Central Lancashire. I would really recommend checking the series out. Craig publishes his own photography as well as that of others. The theme throughout the books is social change – with issues covering brutalist architecture (Preston Bus Station, The Barbican, Alexander Road Estate), documentary and archive (see for example small town inertia diaries as well as english folklore issues from Homer Sykes)

See the Café Royal Books site at

And Homer Sykes website here

Preston Bus Station Exit Town Centre : Café Royal Books.

Everything Was Moving at the Barbican

I’ve mentioned this exhibition before (which ran at the Barbican through to January 2013). In particular William Eggleston’s 5×7 series in relation to research undertaken for the colour assignment as part of the OCA Art of Photography module. Some brief notes here focusing mainly on another two of the photographers featured, from my logbook.

The exhibition started with a quote from Bruce Davidson “I am not trying to tell a story as such, but to work around a subject intuitively, exploring different vantage points, looking for its emotional truth. If I’m looking for a story at all, it’s in my relationship to a subject’. In the exhibition catalogue, this ‘self discovery’ a theme running throughout the exhibition and for the photographers featured.

The first set of photographs I looked at were by David Goldblatt, a series ‘On the mines’ about brutal conditions for black miners under apartheid in the early 50’s in Johannesburg. Examples: ‘Evening Exodus from the city: Blacks stream to Westgate Station for trains to Soweto; Whites, in their cars, head for the Northern suburbs’; ‘Boss Boy’ (the highest rank possible for black people working in the mines – the face of the subject isn’t in the frame), and this amazing shot of a couple in their home ‘Sarah and George Manyani in their house, Emdeni Extension, Soweto’. See it here

Then a set from of photographs of Boksburg (1979-80) described as a small town, middle class, white community (Goldblatt – “for days on end I stood riveted to street corners and pavements”). Photographs included Amateur boxing at the town hall, Girl in her new tutu on the stoop of her parents’ house (see it here) and Semi final of the Miss Lovely legs competition (below).








The other photographers featured were Ernest Cole, Larry Burrows, Bruce Davidson, William Eggleston, Gracia Iturbide, Boris Mikhailov, Sigmar Polke, Malick Sidibe, Raghubir Singh, Li Zhensheng, and Shomei Tomatsu.

Shomei Tomatsu was one of the leading post war Japanese photographers. He focused on the impact of american occupation in Japan, and for me was the most impressive artist in the exhibition. He died in 2012. Aperture have recently reprinted his seminal photo book Chewing Gum and Chocolate. See below for links to further reading.

Tomatsu, Shomei










Sources and further reading
1. Exhibition review from the Guardian
2. Aperture article on remembering Shomei Tomatsu
3. Chewing Gum and Chocolate on Aperture
4. Sean O’Hagan on Shomei Tomatsu for the Guardian

Bob Mazzer’s moving photographs of London Underground lives

I’m on the case with the next and last TAOP module ‘Narrative and Illustration’. In the interests of keeping track of my research around social documentary photography, I thought I would put up a quick post about Bob Mazzer. I heard about Bob Mazzer through the excellent Spitalfields life blog (1). Through the 1980’s Mazzer worked as a projectionist in a porn cinema in King’s Cross (4). See the excellent article here on Spitalfields Life. He took photographs on his commute. Given the line of work he was in his trips back home were presumably quite late a night. I love these photographs. Each one tells a story in it’s own right. They also serve as a time capsule of the early 80’s – a record of true ‘street’ fashion (think Lonsdale, Fred Perry) of the time before the horrible phrase was invented. Taken together they also work as a really impressive series. If you like the images below (3) (sourced for a Time Out article – reference at end) I would also suggest checking out Gavin Watson, who photographed the skinhead and punk movement in the early 80’s as well as the early rave scene at the end of the 80’s (two books are in print ‘Skins and Punks’ and Raving ’89). (2) What I like about Watson was that he was part of the scenes he was photographing, and as well as a providing a social documentary of the time and scene, his photographs also serve as a sort of memoir of him and his brother, Neville.

If you want an American comparison, have a look at the work of Bill Butterworth who took portraits of the underground scene (think Hookers, Pimps, heavily saturated film images, Walter Hill’s The Warriors) in Times Square, New York, while it was clearly an absolute dump.


































1. See Bob Mazzer on Spitalfields Life here

2. Gavin Watson’s tumblr blog here

3. All photographs sourced from

4. For an excellent documentary on Kings Cross and more specifically Caledonian Road, the location of the Abcat Cinema refered to here, I would recommend The Secret History of our Streets, aired on BBC2. See

Lighting Assignment background – Bill Brandt

Having settled on a choice of subject of a portrait (although some of the series of photographs are details or components of a face rather than portraits as such) for the lighting assignment for TAOP, it’s worth me noting some of the relevant research on photographers that I have been doing.

Bill Brandt (1904-83) was a photographer who sprung to mind when I started reading through the course materials for the lighting chapter, and he is cited in the materials with reference to contrast. While he is well known for his photojournalism, including London and the blitz as well as Industrial depression in the North of England (Newcastle, Halifax, Durham), I have gone back to his portraits – typically dramatically lit and high contrast. These include studies of surrealist artists (Magritte, Salvidor Dali) and he was clearly influenced by (and perhaps even part of) the surrealist movement.

There’s a lovely quote from Brandt in Jay and Waterburton’s book before the opening of the chapter; Courting the Surreal, “Man Ray, the most original photographer of them all, had just invented the new techniques of rayographs and solarisation. I was a pupil in his studio, and learned much from his experiments. There were the surrealist publications, Bifur, Varities, Minotaure and others, the first magazines to choose photographs for their poetic quality; there were the surrealist films such as Bunuel’s notorious Un Chien Andalou and L’Age d’Or, which had a strong effect on photography.” (1)

The world of old photography: Man Ray: Le Baiser (The Kiss), 1930.

While not really portraits, I also read about Brandt’s distorted nudes, which were abstract and extreme, again high contrast with heavy shadows. I’ve lifted the following quote from an article by Richard Cork for the Times (2)

“By the 1950s, Brandt was shooting nudes with uninhibited zeal. The female bodies – friends’ daughters and professional models – became subjected to intense scrutiny. Brandt was closing in on breasts, buttocks, bellies, knees and feet as if he had never seen them before. Not that he aimed at the straightforwardly erotic: he had discovered a small-aperture, wide-angle Kodak camera in a junk shop, and its distorting lens lifted the images to another plane. The camera had previously been used by the New York police department for reportage, but Brandt described how he wanted his lens to behave ‘like a mouse, a fish or a fly.”

Bill Brandt | copypasteculture.

1. Jay and Warburton, 1999, Brandt: The Photography of Bill Brandt, London, Thames & Hudson
2. Richard Cork, The Sunday Times, November 16 2003. Available through the Bill Brandt archive at

Hans-Peter Feldmann and his Voyeur series

I have just bought the sixth in the series of Hans-Peter Feldmann’s Voyeur series. They’re a pretty unsettling experience, made up of a good couple of hundred pages of black and white uncredited images, typically with several on a page. There’s no narrative or captions for the images – just his name on the front of the book (A5 size) and a page with publication date and publishers details on the back. Turning to a random page I found a photograph of a boxing match, a shot of Margaret Thatcher outside Downing Street, a documentary shot of a family being rescued by fire-fighters, a portrait of an innocent looking girl – but she’s holding a machine gun, and then at the bottom a pretty disturbing image of what looks like to be dead bodies from a concentration camp. My guess is that the photographs are drawn from stock-images used for advertising, some used by the press or perhaps educational material (often mundane) and from magazines (some pretty seedy, from porn magazines). What I like about the collections is that they do shock, partly as some of the images are unsettling in their own right, but also as they jar against each other on the page. I also really like the format, and have to admit one of the reasons that I picked up a previous copy (Volume 4 from the excellent Koenig store on Charing Cross Road) was because it fits into your pocket and has the look of a scrapbook or a fanzine (particularly given that the reproduction quality of the images is low and they almost look like they have been cut out or photocopied).













Hans-Peter Feldman is often cited as one of the pioneers of photo-appropriation, using existing images without changing them. I’ve listed a number of more informed articles below.


1. Photographer Hans-Peter Feldmann: Life for sale, the Guardian, 27 November, 2008.
2. Brief review of Voyeur 5 on Lucky Prawn
3. Brief review of Voyeur 4 on 5B4 blog

Miles Aldridge, I Only Want You to Love Me Exhibition, Somerset House

Here with some notes from the recent Miles Aldridge Exhibition, which ran at Somerset House until 29 September. Seemed appropriate to go and see this as part of my studies for the Colour module of the Art of Photography module.

Miles Aldridge (b.1964) studied at Central St, Martins. The exhibition notes describe his varied influences: the films of Hithcock and Fellini; his father, graphic designer Alan Alridge; illustration; Warhol. The images are bold, extremely carefully constructed and controlled – full of glamorous women with deadpan expressions. He is widely published, including in some high end fashion magazines, Paradis and Numero. What struck me most about these images was the deliberate colour relationships. So for example, in a photograph like ‘I only want you to love me #1, 2011’, there’s clashing colours from the dominant yellows (left hand wall, check on floor, model’s clothing, blonde hair) with reds (right hand wall, tray on floor, detail on smashed plates). There are complimentary elements so again the yellows, with magenta (again the check on the floor), and reds against the green (the spilt unnaturally saturated green peas). When I look at images like this I am completely humbled, but also inspired. And I think the OCA course is at least helping me to understand some of the reasons (colour – along with choice of subject, composition, lighting etc etc) why these images work so well.

I only want you to love me #1, 2011, Miles Aldridge












1. Miles Alrdidge’s portfolios and associated articles are available on his website
2. Somerset House exhibition
3. Image above linked from Steven Kasher Gallery, New York!2710