BJP #7838: Sound & Vision

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The latest issue of the oldest photography magazine in the world, available to buy now, has been put together to coincide with the opening of the contemporary music photography show We Want More at The Photographer’s Gallery, curated by BJP Deputy Editor Diane Smyth, from the 17 July to 20 September 2015.

It includes features on Sven Marquardt, a long-term bouncer from underground Berlin, capturing decades of nefarious activity in a global capital of live music.

We speak to Sanna Charles about her book God Listens to Slayer, the culmination of ten years spent photographing the metal band’s most dedicated cult fans.

And we feature Michele Sibiloni, who realises a new vision of Ugandan society by embedding himself in the vibrant cultural nightlife of Kampala, the nation’s capital.

Here, Diane Smyth, editor of this month’s BJP, introduces the issue:

“Photography, like literature, has many genres. And as with literature, some of those genres have more stature than others. Where literary fiction has more cachet than detective novels, documentary has higher status than music photography – which is all too often dismissed as generic PR. But just as pulp fiction can throw up geniuses such as Raymond Chandler or James Ellroy, and just as writers such as Truman Capote and Paul Auster can sometimes turn their hand to classic formats, music photography can throw up brilliant work – and that’s why we’ve devoted our August issue to it.

“We’ve included Sanna Charles’s decade-long project on Slayer fans, and profiled photographer and bouncer at Berghain nightclub Sven Marquardt. I’ve written about We Want More, the exhibition of music photography I’ve curated for The Photographers’ Gallery, which includes work by Ryan McGinley, Jason Evans, Roger Ballen, and Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin. We’re featuring interviews with the creative directors of The Wire, XL Recordings and Noisey, and a head-to-head with Antoine de Beaupré, one of the curators behind Les Rencontres d’Arles’ forthcoming exhibition of record covers, which includes work by William Klein, Joel Meyerowitz and William Eggleston. “The full range of photography is represented,” says de Beaupré. “You can really get a sense of the history of photography in the second half of the 20th century.”

“As de Beaupré’s words suggest, music photography can include all kinds of work by all kinds of photographers, and it includes gems by some very well-respected names. It’s the imagery nearly everyone has in their home, and the photographs they know even if they never open a photobook or go to an art gallery; it’s the format that’s blazing a trail online, effortlessly assimilating first pop videos and now gifs, and reconfiguring them into something that’s interesting. Perhaps, paradoxically, that’s why it’s been overlooked – part of the fabric of our lives, it’s been hiding in plain sight. We think a reappraisal is long overdue and, as the exhibitions at The Photographers’ Gallery and Arles show, we’re not the only ones. And it’s not just the photography that’s got traction – artists such as Christian Marclay, who have an unashamed appetite for popular music, are now accepted in the institutions, while musicians such as Bjork are getting solo shows.

“To a cynic, these shows might smack of populism, of getting visitors in at the expense of intellectual rigour. I beg to differ. By collapsing the boundaries between high and low culture, and welcoming in commissioned work, these institutions are getting with the programme. To me they’ll soon start to look fusty, or plain snobby, if they don’t. But music photographers and musicians have been doing just fine without the institutions and are pushing the digital boundaries to boot. Maybe the bigger question is what they get out of being involved, and what they gain from magazines like us trailing behind in their wake.”

Buy the August issue from the BJP now.