In our latest issue, Reframing History, we speak with Patrick Waterhouse about his project collaborating…
Those who have had the pleasure of ambling along the corridors of the 17th-century building at the heart of the museum district in Kensington, London, will recall the Victoria and Albert Museum’s high ceilings and impressive galleries, with polished floors and walls adorned with historical oil canvases, all connected by staircases embellished with intricate mosaics.
Climbing one such stairwell in a far corner of the building, you surface to face two tall, fudge-brown doors with shiny handles. The pair of robust glass cabinets framing these doors are currently empty, but will soon be packed with some 300 cameras and image-making devices. To one side, a long wooden table will be laden with models of some of the first cameras – a large format perched on a tripod, a Rolleiflex, a camera obscura and 35mm camera. Visitors will be invited to play around and put themselves in the shoes of the photographers who used these devices, pausing to peek through the lenses and take note of this new way of looking and constructing an image of the world on the other side. It is a sculptural array of the golden age of photography, the grand entrance to the new photography centre, opening its first phase to the public on 12 October.
He’s best-known for his work with British and Italian Vogue, but Tim Walker is also a successful solo artist, opening his third solo show at London’s V&A on 07 September (his first two were also in London, at the Design Museum in 2008, and at Somerset House in 2012). The exhibition will feature a “brand new body of work inspired by the V&A’s collection,” stated V&A director Tristram Hunt as he announced the show yesterday, adding: “He will work his magic and come up with a series of photos.”
Starting his career by working in the Condé Nast picture library, where he worked on the Cecil Beaton archive for a year before university, Walker went on to assist Richard Avedon and shot his first story for Vogue at the age of 25. Famous for his use of elaborate sets, Walker is collaborating with celebrated British art director Shona Heath on his V&A show, which will include photographs, films, sets and installations around the museum.
Chrystel Lebas has won the Kraszna-Krausz Foundation Photography Book Award, beating off the two other shortlisted photographers – Stephen Gill and Dayanita Singh. Lebas won the prize for Field Studies: Walking through Landscapes and Archives, which she published with Dutch outfit FW: Books. Field Studies is framed by the work of 20th century botanist Sir Edward James Salisbury, particularly his glass plate negatives from the 1920s, retracing his steps and making new images in the same Scottish landscapes. Gill was shortlisted for Night Procession, which he self-published through his imprint Nobody Books; Singh was shortlisted for her multi-book project Museum Bhavan, which was published by Steidl.
It’s a prestigious prize, which earns the winner an exhibition at Photo London plus a photobook published by the well-regraded specialist MACK Books. This year it’s gone to Hayahisa Tomiyasu for his book dummy TTP. Shot from the window of his eighth-floor student flat in Leipzig, Germany, TTP shows a park with a ping pong table, shot at various times of day and in various seasons, and showing different protagonists each time. The table is used as a tischtennisplatte (table tennis table, as a sun lounger, as a climbing frame, as a skate obstacle, and as much more, and, states MACK Books “thanks to Tomiyasu’s sustained curiosity, we observe the habits, humour, and idiosyncrasies of human behaviour”.
The V&A’s new photography centre will open on 12 October, with newly-acquired photographs by Linda McCartney, a newly-commissioned series by Thomas Ruff, and an inaugural display tracing the history of photography through the Royal Photographic Society (RPS) collection. The new facility will more than double the V&A’s current photography exhibition space, and follows the transfer of over 270,000 photographs, 26,000 publications and 6000 pieces of equipment from the RPS collection formerly held in the National Media Museum in Bradford – a controversial transfer, described at the time as “an appalling act of cultural vandalism” by Simon Cooke, the leader of the Conservative opposition on Bradford council. Tristram Hunt, director of the V&A, said that the transfer had “provided the catalyst for this dramatic reimagining of photography at the V&A” however, and that the new centre will “seamlessly span the entire history of photography….from daguerreotype to digital”. He added that the V&A is particularly well-placed to tell this story given its long engagement with photography – it was one of the first museums to put together a photographic exhibition, partly because its founder, Henry Cole, was a keen amateur photographer.
Nigel Shafran first came to fame in 1990 with a series of images published by i-D; showing teenage shoppers in a down-at-heel precinct in Ilford, it was the antithesis of a high-end fashion shoot. His first venture into publishing, Ruthbook, had a similarly pared-down approach; showing his girlfriend shot mostly at home, in her dressing gown, say, or blowing her nose, alongside details such as crumbs on a kitchen work surface, a pot on the stove, or a hair stuck on a bar of soap. Shafran hand-wrote the title, in pencil, on all 600 copies. Now he’s found a new twist on this everyday approach, putting his work books on show. Dating from 1984 right up to 2018 they’re a creative insight into his working process and life, and a typically understated collection – though it’s the inaugural exhibition at Sion and Moore, the gallery run by Claire de Rouen’s Lucy Moore in the space that used to house Wolfgang Tillmans’ studio.
Interviewing Nigel Shafran is a circuitous, informal affair. Meeting him at his North London home, I immediately recognise Ruth, his partner and the subject of many of his photographs. I also meet his son Lev, who, though somewhat older, is also still easily discernible from his father’s pictures. The interview takes place in the kitchen familiar from Flowers for ____. Every now and then a friend calls round or phones, with plans made to throw a boomerang around in the park that afternoon, or play ping pong in the evening. Lev occasionally interjects from the living room with his take on the interview process, or on “nattering on about photography” as he puts it. “Sorry. Oh my God!” says Shafran, as the phone rings for the second time. “No worries,” I say. “You’re a busy man.” “A busy family man!” he replies. It doesn’t always make for an easy interview, but it feels appropriate for a photographer who focuses on the everyday, the domestic and the personal.
From mass shootings to a family hotel – the shortlist for the 2018 First Book Award is nothing if not eclectic. Set up in 2012 to support emerging talent, the First Book Award is open to previously unpublished photographers who have been nominated by an international panel of experts, and previous winners include Irish photographer Ciarán Óg Arnold, Polish photographer Joanna Piotrowska, and Malagasy photographer Emmanuelle Andrianjafy. The ten shortlisted photographers this year come from all over the world, including Indian photographer Tenzing Dapka, Japanese photographer Hayahisa Tomiyasu, and Australian photographer Lionel Kiernan.
Peter James was an instrumental figure in British photography, establishing an outstanding collection of photography at the Library of Birmingham over his 26-year career at the institution, and researching and curating exhibitions at the V&A, National Portrait Gallery, Somerset House, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Ikon Galley, the Library of Birmingham, and many more. He was also a modest and affable man, universally known as Pete and as at home over a curry as in a lecture hall delivering an academic paper. As Hilary Roberts, research curator at the Imperial War Museum, put it in a tribute on James’ Facebook page: “Pete has been a wonderful friend and exceptional colleague for more years than I can remember. His contribution to the world of photography cannot be overstated. It was a privilege to work with him and I will miss him more than I can say.”