In Undisclosed: Images of the Contemporary Circus Artists, Nilsson’s nude performers are elegantly portrayed. The book captures not only the sensuality, but also the essence and dynamism of the human form within the performance setting. Images of bodies suspended in the air and caught in beautiful motions create a set of classic imagery. Sojournposse speaks to Nilsson at the book launch held at Diemar/Noble Photography Gallery on 31 August 2011.
Q: Did you set out to create a book from this project?
I had a clear idea about the project. I wanted to make a book, but I focused on the concept first.
Q: How long did it take for you to put this work together?
I started the project in 2006. The most active years were between 2007-2009. I didn’t want to rush it. The project gave me so much growth as a photographer.
Originally I shot some color images alongside the black and white ones, but subsequently I decided to just focus on the black and white as they were stronger and working better with the concept.
Wayne Ford and Laura Noble were involved in the the final edit sequences. Wayne advised me to take the text out from the front cover, which worked really well.
Q: Why did you chose circus performers as subjects?
I have always been fascinated by circus. The circus performers have various skillsets. I discussed with them on how to achieve the shots.
Q: Do you think it is better for a photographer to publish own books?
I designed the book with Wayne. Some publishers I approached wanted to focus more on the sensual aspect, which is not exactly what I was aiming for. By publishing it myself I am able to make the book I want.
The Submerged is set within Mid-Wales in the hilly and coastal areas around Aberystwyth, a town existing at the end of a railway line. The imagery portrays a grittiness evident in the geological and architectural fabric of the place, something often reflected in the dramatic landscapes and human performance within.
Says Sank on her website: “My practice is concerned with the notion of encountering, collecting, and re-telling. I became intrigued by the way both structures and the human form interact with the urban and natural make-up of this environment.”
Sank won the Single Image Winner in the International Photographic Award, a British Journal of Photography competition in 2010.
The Submerged is published by Schilt Publishing, an Amsterdam-based publisher that specialises in high quality photo books. It is distributed by Thames & Hudson.
Private View: Thursday 8 September 2011, 6.30 – 9pm. Exhibition at Hotshoe Gallery, 29 – 31 Saffron Hill, London EC1N 8SW, from 6th -29th September 2011. The Submerged (£29.95) is available in shops in London and online.
We ask five photography experts – HOST Gallery, Tate Modern, Diemar/Noble Photography Gallery, David White and Robert Gumpert – to suggest a special gift for a photography lover for Valentine’s Day and beyond.
A picture is worth a thousand words. So why not consider giving your beloved a special photography gift that doesn’t wilt, looks great forever and also collectible as an art investment.
Depending on quality, collectible photographs can range from thousands of pounds, down to £30. Take note of special talents at photography shows, ask a curator for advice and make an informed purchase at the gallery.
If the choices given are a bit overwhelming for you, just remember that the gift should be something that gives pleasure and of keepsake value. It is as simple as that.
We asked HOST Gallery, Tate Modern Gallery, Diemar/Noble Photography Gallery, David White (director of photography, duckrabbit) and prison photographer Robert Gumpert to recommend a special photograph or photobook as an ideal gift for Valentine’s Day and beyond. There is something for everyone’s taste.
Tender and everlasting
Anna Pfab of HOST Gallery recommends an everlasting image of a ‘Shoe Tree’ by Kate Peters: “I think this HOST Special Edition Print by Kate Peters would make a lovely gift for anyone interested in photography.”
‘Shoe Tree, Middlegate‘ is from the ‘Pieces of a Song’ collection exhibited at HOST. Only 100 prints will be made and sold. Each special edition print comes with a certificate of authenticity signed by HOST.
If you want to convey burning passion, look no further. Curator Michael Diemar of Diemar/Noble Photography Gallery recommends the Lacoste Elyseé nominee work by Geoffrey H. Short. “As it happens, we have the perfect Valentine’s gift. An explosion shaped like a heart.” The work is currently being exhibited at the gallery until 12th March, 2011.
Anna Ridley of the Tate Modern suggests a photobook by Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco: “I think the most recent book which would be fitting for this is our Gabriel Orozco book in the modern artists series. A lot of his work is photographic, not to mention poetic, so could be a nice suggestion for Valentine’s.”
The book’s description: “Where do we look to find art? Could it be human breath on the lid of a piano, its fleeting presence caught in a photograph? The tracks made by a bicycle riding through a puddle of water, round and round in a circle? An orange placed in an apartment window? Or a human skull, transformed by a hallucinatory, checkerboard pattern pencilled directly onto its surface?”
Photographer David White (director of photography, duckrabbit) touches on love bigger than romance – the family. He said: “To be honest, I have never bought, or had bought for me, a photo or photo book for Valentine’s Day. However, I do have an image that epitomises love, in my opinion. I would say that though, as the picture shows my wife’s first view of our son, at 2 minutes old. Without our love for each other Louie would not exist, and he and Jane are the greatest things in my life.”
Sojournposse recommend White’s colourful ‘Fairground Attraction’ work, a tender story of a beautiful, old fashion British fairground.
To purchase a collectible print contact duckrabbit. Also check out The Hinterland photography workshop from 20th-25th May.
All is fair in love and war
Photographer Rubert Gumpert’s suggestions are perfect for the high-brow thinkers. He offers his photography inspirations as alternatives: Don McCullin, Lewis Hine, Phillip Jones-Griffith and August Sander. He said: “I am not much of a fan of what I call the ‘Neutron Bomb School of Photography’ that is so much a part of the scene now (photos of things with no people); but I do like both Alex Soth and Simon Norfolk.”
Robert Gumpert's list. Photos subject to photographers' copyright
His list of books and photographers, in no particular order:
Don McCullin – Is Anyone Taking Any Notice. (RG - Out of print I think).
Paolo Pellegrin – Kosovo 1999-2000: The Flight of Reason, As I Lay Dying.
Gilles Peress – Telex Iran, The Silence.
August Sander – People of the 20th Century.
Chris Killip – In Flagrante.
Phillip Jones-Griffith – Vietnam Inc., Dark Odyssey.
Leonard Freed – Black in White America, Police Work, Worldview.
Shomei Tomatsu – Nagasaki. (RG - Way out of print and expensive, wish I had!)
Ken Schles – Invisible City. (RG - Out of print, expensive and wish I had).
Robert Gumpert will be showing his prison photography work at HOST Gallery from 6th April – 6th of May, 2011.
A rose by a different name
For those who prefer Taschen style of fun-and-frolic, we suggest ‘Rose, c’est Paris‘, a box set monograph and feature-length DVD by French artists Bettina Rheims and Serge Bramly. It is described as: “A multi-layered opus of poetic symbolism, ‘Rose, c’est Paris‘presents a city of surrealist visions, confused identities, obsession, fetish and seething desire.”
By Zarina Holmes. Literary research by Salina Christmas.
The heart of a global warming sceptic would thaw out at the sight of Simon Harsent‘s award-winning portraiture of the diminishing Arctic icebergs. He speaks to Zarina Holmes about the D&AD 2010 winner, “Melt – Portrait of an iceberg”, and the recent WWF ad campaign which combines his photographs with the poems of the renowned poet David Harsent, his father.
D&AD 2010 winner "Melt – Portrait of an iceberg" by photographer Simon Harsent. Art direction by Ohplay.
In 2010, Simon Harsent’s study on the journey of melting icebergs, “Melt – Portrait of an iceberg“, won the D&AD Awards under the Photography/Book Design category. The D&AD prize is awarded to the best in design and advertising in the world. The published print edition was designed by Ohplay agency.
“Melt” is a timely story, a lament on the changing climate we are facing. This work led to the collaboration with his father, poet David Harsent, on a recent WWF campaign on climate change awareness. In his photographs, we see layers of varying degrees of colour intensity: of sea waves, rainforest canopies, and the eroding face of an iceberg, composed in a manner that mirrors Harsent the Elder’s figures of speech:
“…One press of the boot, one cut of the saw,
and who would know or care or count the cost?”
(“Rainforest”, David Harsent 2010)
If the photopoetry series is a musical composition, then it is a counter-melody of the two types of representation: the visual and the verses, a forward and backward play of depth-of-field, spatial dimension, alliteration and iambic pentameter.
Harsent explains to Sojournposse how literature informs the creation of his commercial and artistic photography work.
Q: Melt – the journey of an iceberg, is beautiful and melancholy. Is that your comment on the current climate issue we are facing?
I guess to sum it up, the icebergs is a metaphor for my journey, as the current of the ocean affects icebergs, effectively taking them to their own unknown destination. The people we meet and the roads we take in life take us to our unknown destination. The reason for icebergs is that when I was 11 years’ old I did a painting of an iceberg crashing into the Titanic. This led me into perusing painting and developed a love of the visual arts, that later lead me into becoming a photographer. Which has in turn lead on the path I am on now.
I’m fascinated by what you would call a ‘personal butterfly effect’, in exploring this concept I was drawn back to what essentially was a defining moment for me.
Q: I saw your interview on Youtube for Canon, mentioning poetry as your inspiration. Which poet influenced you, and does literature influences your image making process? (It’s near Burns’ Night and you are British, so I think it’s appropriate to ask your opinion).
The poetry reference I made in the Canon video was to my father (David Harsent) who is a very successful poet in the UK. He has been an incredible inspiration to me in every aspect of my life. I grew up being surrounded by books, and when you have a poet as a father your never really going to have the traditional childhood I guess.
I’m ashamed to say I don’t read as much poetry as I should. But I do find it’s a fantastic way to tune ones thinking when approaching a project. It allows you to create a sensibility and a mood in the same way good music can transform the way you feel.
Literature has obviously been a big part of my life, but as I’m dyslexic to do struggle sometimes. I’m quite a fan of existentialism; Albert Camus work has been hugely influential for me. More often than not I’ll select a book and a piece of music (or playlist) to take with me that helps me with the sensibility of the piece.
I did two trips to shoot the icebergs one to Newfoundland and the other to Greenland. For the Newfoundland trip I re-read Ernest Hemingway’s “Old Man and The Sea”. I liked the idea of someone hanging on to something, despite the fact it could endanger them and always has the possibility of ending up being a futile exercise.
For Greenland, I took a copy of T.S.Elliot’s “Selected Verse” which I read very little of but had it close just in case.
I also look at a lot of art, paintings mostly. Before I went and shot “Melt” I spent a lot of time looking at Rothko paintings.
Q: Is “Melt” your comment on current climate issue we are facing? Would you call that work photojournalism?
I wouldn’t call “Melt’” photojournalism. The premise from where it comes from is more of an expression of a journey. The images are presented in way to take the viewer through that journey. And the colour pallet and composition are intended to create the mood of the journey, so it’s been very thought out. I always think of photojournalism as being about reacting to you surroundings in a much more spontaneous manner. I would like to think of ["Melt"] as a piece of art if anything.
Q: You have won an important design award, the D&AD. How important is it for a photographer to understand design, and collaborate with good designers to present their work?
I love good design! And I love it when photography and typography are used to create something amazing. You don’t see enough of it these days, in my opinion. I loved the work of Neville Brody and David Carson, and how they revolutionized print design in the 90′s. I’ve worked as a commercial photographer since I was 21 and understand the impact that great design can have. So I believe the relationship between designer and photographer is a very special one, and it needs to be one based on trust.
Jon Nah and Ken Tan at Ohplay who designed the book (and the website) just got it straight away. They instantly understood the imagery and designed what I think is a wonderful piece of typography. I love working with the guys. They have done numerous pieces with me over the past five years and they just get where I’m coming from. We work from the same sensibility. The latest a series of quarterly Wallpapers and Screensavers are done just for the sake of it.
Q: Many news photojournalists are reluctant to be associated with advertising. But I find your work (for example, the disappearing gorillas for WWF campaign) tells the story about the issue effectively. How do you bridge the gap between selling a brand and telling a story / delivering a message?
As I mentioned I do a lot of commercial work so I’m not precious about that kind of work. It is essentially functional work, has to work within certain perimeters and is a discipline in it’s self. I enjoy this but it is different from my personal work. But to a degree the two go hand in hand, and I can draw from each other, which expands not only me – but also the pot I draw from.
I don’t have a problem with advertising, when it’s done well. It’s a massive part of our culture now. I’ve been shooting ads for over 20 years and it’s taken me all around the world and given me some amazing experiences. If done right it can be incredible. As a form of communication it is a reflection of the culture and trends of the moment. So eventually some of the work I have shot will end up having a historical value, I hope. For example, the work I shot for the Aids Council of NSW is in the permanent collection at the Queensland Art Gallery in Australia.
The thing I like with advertising is that you are still telling a story. Sometimes not a very interesting one, but the idea gives you a jump point. The trick then is to make it as beautiful as possible without overpowering the idea. I like this challenge and I also like the collaboration it brings, with quite often very talented people.
How the WWF stuff came about was friends at the agency involved had just come up with the idea of the disappearing animals. We were talking about it and I offered to let them use an outtake from the stuff I had shot for “Melt”. When I saw where they wanted to take the rest of the campaign, I offered to go and shoot it, probono. I think we are in a powerful position in advertising and have reaped a lot out of it – so it is nice to, without sounding like a cliché, give something back. For that reason I didn’t have a problem with using my personal work in an ad.
We just recently did a follow up campaign based on the disappearing planet where my photographs were set to the poems by my father – which was incredible, to be able to collaborate with him!
Our favourite video moment: See Simon Harsent’s tips on shooting close-ups using two lenses. Follow his blog at Simonharsent.com/blog.
★ Innovative Interactivity(II):"One of top 70 multimedia company websites to peruse for inspiration/internships/jobsin 2010"
★ Nissan Design Europe: "Sojournposse outlook on society and life is inspiring and energizing with that je-ne-sais-quoi multi-cultural angle that makes it unique. Nissan is proud of having hosted them as part of their East Meets West event." East Meets West event at London Design Festival 2009.
★ Samsung Galaxy: "Maverick". Aesthetics as A Means to Heal event at London Design Festival 2010.
★ Digital Anthropology, UCL: "Today's event was something to be super happy with — a great combination of speakers, nice use of the space, professionally choreographed, and just generally a lot of genuinely interesting topics being discussed." Whatever Is to Become of Book event at London Design Festival 2011.
★ The British Library: "Great seminar on eBooks organised by@sojournposseF8 : I look forward to attending next year's event! #StoryofBooks"
★ Digital anthropologist, UCL: "Fantastic to witness Sojournposse team at work whipping this up from nothing." Whatever Is to Become of Book event at London Design Festival 2011.
★ Not On The Wires:"Inspiration"
★ NUJ Journalist Magazine:"Smaller collective more agile than mainstream company"
★ BBC World Service: "I saw your Uzbek photos and felt very nostalgic. It is great how you spoke about things as they are."
★ Digital anthropologist, UCL: "I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed your workshop yesterday, it was definitely one of the best I've attended." Whatever Is to Become of Book event at London Design Festival 2011.
★ Deshan Tennekoon, photographer: "Its rapid ascent from the hip underground to the hip overground scares the hell out of me."