In the second of our interviews with BJP IPA 2019’s judges, we meet Sarah Allen. As assistant curator at Tate Modern, Allen has worked on a number of major shows, the most recent being Shape of Light, the first blockbuster exhibition to explore the relationship between photography and abstract art. Before moving to Tate Modern, Allen worked at a string of leading galleries, including The Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin, The Guggenheim Museum in New York, and The Photographers’ Gallery, London. Among the high-profile photographers she’s worked with is Mark Ruwedel, who recently made it on to the Deutsche Borse Photography Prize 2019 shortlist with his show The Artist and Society, curated by Allen. We spoke to her about how to get noticed by curators, and what she’s looking forward to seeing in BJP IPA 2019. What are the most exciting things happening in photography at the moment? And what trends do you think we’ll see in 2019? I think there is some extremely important work being made at the moment on the subject of …
When William Henry Fox Talbot pioneered the salted paper and calotype processes in 1841, he soon turned his new inventions to food, capturing two baskets overflowing with fruit. Creating an image designed to mimic the paintings of the time, and to contrast the colours and textures of the pineapple and peaches, he also made an image rife with welcoming symbolism - the pineapple a sign of hospitality, the peach a sign of fecundity.
“Fox Talbot’s photograph was copying the traditions of painting and its attendant symbolism,” says photography curator and writer Susan Bright. “But it was also concerned with the role of photography, and elevating its status to that of art. In this respect it resonates nicely with artists such as Daniel Gordon, whose work also deals with the medium of photography. But his constructed pineapple has nothing to do with symbolism, or striving to be understood as art. It is art. He is questioning the role of visual perception, what is real and what is not.
“The way food is photographed says a tremendous amount about significant aspects of our culture," Bright continues. "It is often about fantasy, be that national, sexual or historical. Photographs of food are the carrier for so many things – desire, consumption, taste, immigration and feminism, for example. It has been a major part of the development of fine art, editorial, fashion, marketing and product photography throughout the 20th and 21st century.”
John Myers is back with new book called Looking at the Overlooked - a good title for a photographer who specialises in images of the unremarkable, and who himself nearly fell from photographic history. Working in Britain's post-industrial Midlands from 1973-1981, Myers created an archive of the unspectacular that attracted attention at the time but then lay undisturbed for 30 years until a chance meeting with a curator. A solo show at Birmingham's Ikon Gallery followed in 2011, kick-starting a comprehensive reappraisal at his work that's resulted in more solo shows and several publications.
Looking at the Overlooked is published by RBB Photobooks, which also published a collection of Myer's portraits earlier this year. But where The Portraits focused in on pictures of people, Looking at the Overlooked is a glorious compendium of "the claustrophobia of the suburban landscape in the 1970s". Focusing in on substations, shops, houses, televisions, and so-called "landscapes without incident" - or as Myers puts it, "boring photographs" - the images are all recorded with a deadpan aesthetic that's won Myers comparisons to the celebrated New Topographics movement in the US.
As a medical student specialising in youth and cognitive neuroscience, Claudio Majorana is not a typical documentary photographer. Having grown up with a mother in fine arts and a father in medicine, his attraction to the symbiosis between art and science was initiated at a young age, and his interest in photography – an artistic medium rooted in scientific process – came to him naturally. “Throughout my childhood, I spent tiSme painting in my mother’s atelier, or helping my father develop X-rays in his radiology darkroom. That’s where my interest in images began,” he reflects.
When Majorana was accepted into medical school at 19, he also began photographing voraciously. In the summer of 2011, he encountered a group of kids in the suburbs of Catania, his hometown in Sicily, and began documenting moments in their daily life, rooted in skateboarding culture and the general struggles and raucous habits that colour adolescent life. The result is his series, Head of the Lion.