BJP #7835: Nude Animal Cigar

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The May issue of British Journal of Photography, on sale now, is dedicated to photographers who don’t quite ‘fit in’.

Our main feature is Michael Grieve’s interview with Nick Waplington, the iconic British photographer, as he exhibits his photography alongside Alexander McQueen at Tate Britain.

For Waplington, the sense of being an outsider runs throughout his work, as does the idea of family. Originally from middle-class Surrey, he made his name with a series of photographs focusing on life on the Nottingham housing estate (where his grandfather had been born and still lived), capturing in lurid colour the ‘pre-Ikea’ interior worlds of two unemployed families 10 years into the Thatcher regime.

The resulting photobook, Living Room, brought Waplington to international attention in 1991. And although it was talked about in the same breath as some of his older contemporaries loosely affiliated with the new wave of British documentary at the time, Waplington reflects on his approach differently.

“I was inspired by the colour work of Paul Graham, Martin Parr and Tom Woods; I liked their aesthetic, though not necessarily what they photographed,” he tells Grieve, who met him in east London. “I found their approach to be too anthropological. I’m a middle-class boy from Surrey who wanted to show the warmth of a working-class family, and make work with less distance, and a sense of humour, that showed the best in people.”

Today, he regards the success that Living Room gave him as ‘a bit of a dead weight around my neck, the problem of being a young starter I suppose’. Naturally, he is aware of the significance of the book, which is due to be republished next year, a quarter century on. But like any artist, he is more interested in the work he is doing now. He tells Grieve that while he was in the same orbit as the ‘Young British Artists’ in the 1990s, he might have had the opportunity to sign with Jay Joplin, founder of White Cube gallery. That would have set him on yet another trajectory but, he says, “I just wanted to do my own thing, in my own way.”

Waplington’s work sits alongside a profile of another long term target, Dutch photographer Paul Kooiker, the title of whose latest photobook, Nude Animal Cigar, tells you all you need to know about his approach to conventional photographic wisdom.

And where else to place a young photographer, Lina Hashim, whose subjects of enquiry include elicit sexual encounters in car parks and the iconography of suicide bombers, viewed from the prism of her own identity as an Iraq-born immigrant growing up in Denmark?

To this theme, we added a couple of photography projects that have impressed us recently; Evgenia Arbugaeva’s series on a Russian meteorologist living a solitary existence in the isolated Arctic, and Fabrice Fouillet’s collection of photographs of supersize statues found across Europe and Asia.

The work here has no discernible relation to each other, bar the pleasure they bring as coherent, beautifully shot stories that give yet another perspective on this crazy planet we live on.

If anything emerges from all this, it’s the contrast to last month’s edition of British Journal of Photography, titled Driven To Abstraction, surveying a new generation pushing the medium to its physical and conceptual limits; and it’s this current obsession with the photograph as surface that marks the difference with the artists featured this month, who use photography to create a window on the world.

This issue is available from the BJP shop.

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