We’d like to thank everyone who entered Portrait Salon 2015 and hope you can join us at 6.30 pm on Thursday 19th November at The Embassy Tea Gallery in London. Please find all the details of our exhibitions and events below – come and celebrate the rejected!
Jonathan Knowles’ portrait (below) was selected for Portrait Salon 2014 and is part of his series ‘Bagsie’. ‘The introduction of the word ‘selfie’ into the Oxford English Dictionary marked a huge change for the world of portrait photography, brought about by the flood of self-portraiture across social media channels. But is this how we really see ourselves? Does this truly reveal a part of ourselves to the viewer? Looking to explore the current notions of the self-portrait, #Bagsie is a creative collaboration between Creative Advice Network, Soapbox & Sons and photographer Jonathan Knowles. The project sought out the talents and personal interpretations of 10 artists, asking each to draw/paint/create a self-portrait on a paper bag that reflected the personality within.’
‘Oh what’s inside you can’t hide…I spent several days having moments with the bag on my head. At first it would make me feel nervous and uncomfortable, but whilst I sat in a busy restaurant I realised I was actually calm and relaxed in the safe warm paper casing and actually it was the others around me who really felt uncomfortable. They couldn’t tell what I was thinking, if I was smiling or serious… They came to fear what was happening inside the bag… The unknown…To quote Frank “Would it help if I said my facial expressions out loud?”’ (hyper island.com).
Matt C Stokes
‘My #Bagsie self portrait is made up of lots of items I’ve kept and never really done anything with. I hoard items, y’see, and battle with throwing things away, stashing random toys and everyday items under the bed, around the desk, in cupboards, corners and bags. Any surface is a storage area. To steal a word off my hero Philip K Dick, it is the kipple that grows around me – and this is me trying to deal with it. This is me curating some of these items, reluctantly parting with them, setting them free… but alas it is done.’ (mattcstokes.com).
‘My contribution to the #Bagsie project is a simple experiment in lettering and image. I’m a lettering artist and my focus is on the hand-made, the authentic lettering that holds all of the kinks and wobbles of something created by human hands on paper in paint. The statement ‘None too perfect, but charming and honest’ is a phrase recently penned as part of a self-promotion project but has rapidly become the mission statement of my professional practice.’ (olifrape.co.uk)
‘Something that interests me is showing force or fury from unexpected or mundane sources, a kind of inner voice. For example, my logo is a tiny rabbit who is growling; he’s fragile, but cheeky. To illustrate this yell from the meek, I made a paper sparrow’s head for my bag. Sparrows are a nice representation of this idea, they’re small, delicate, common, but can be rowdy or brave. Maybe the anonymity of a bag gives added courage to let inner feelings out as the bird’s head has burst through the front. The other important factor? I thought it would look funny!’ (helloemma.co.uk).
‘This project has caught me at a moment when, in middle age, I am starting a new life. I don’t yet know where I am going, or who is coming with me. As so many old roles fall away, I am remembering the person I was before I had to become a grown up. I still worry at times, but I now laugh more, sing more, love more and judge less. I observe more and I talk less. I give more and I need less. I reflect more and I care less.’ (emilypeacock.com).
Jonathan Knowles is one of the leading photographers of his generation. Specialising in graphic still life, liquid and beauty, Jonathan’s unique photographic style has earned him award-winning advertising commissions worldwide. In the past ten years, Jonathan has consistently featured in the ‘200 Best Advertising Photographers in the World’ books. He is one of the top 10 all time award winners in the Graphis Annuals. Notable commissions include campaigns for many globally recognised brands, such as Coca-Cola, Guinness, and Smirnoff. He is also the creator of the famous O2 bubbles. He shot the Black Sabbath 13 Album cover, as well as directing and filming the footage that is currently played on stage during performances. Black Sabbath loved the imagery and invited Jonathan to the album launch in New York, where he received a friendly strangle of gratitude from Ozzy.
Angus Fraser’s portrait (below) was selected for Portrait Salon 2014 and is part of his series Santa Muerte, a study of a Mexican cult popular with marginalised communities. Angus Fraser is the winner of the 2014 Bar Tur Photobook Award and his debut book Santa Muerte launches tonight at 6.30pm The Photographers Gallery Bookshop in London. Angus will also be discussing his book with Hannah Watson, Director at Trolley Books.
‘The origins of Santa Muerte – a religion/cult that has been denounced as satanic by the Mexican Catholic Church – can be dated back hundreds of years. It was developed through a syncretism between indigenous Mesoamerican and Spanish Catholic beliefs and practices. Only in the last decade however has it become more predominant in Mexican society, where many commentators have noted its rise with the killing and violence associated with the war between rival drug cartels and the Mexican Government.’
‘For the past three years I have visited Mexico several times and have researched, interviewed and documented the devotees, as well as recorded the shrines and altars they visit. I have made contact with many individuals who have built and manage the shrines, and who by default are now considered to be guardians and spiritual leaders of the faith.’
‘They have given me access and permission to photograph not only in their places of worship but also in their private homes and in prisons, where Santa Muerte has a very strong following amongst the Mexican penitentiary system.’
‘I admit that along the way I encountered individuals who lived up to the Santa Muerte stereotype that the US and European media have created. But on the whole the hospitality, kindness and warmth I was shown contradicts all the negative perceptions I had read, seen and heard. I want to tell their side of the story and in part my own.’
More details of tonight’s book launch at The Photographers Gallery Bookshop can be found here.
James O Jenkins
The Photographic Guide to the Pubs of East London.
Jan Klos’s portrait of the people who work at The Nelson’s Head pub in Shoreditch, London (below) was selected for Portrait Salon 2014 and comes from his series ‘The Photographic Guide to the Pubs of East London’. The work will be exhibited during Photomonth London at Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club from 7th to 14th October.
‘East London is home to some of the oldest and best pubs in the world. Some are historic, steeped in tradition, while others put on popular gay nights or serve locally made beers. There are lots of them, and at the heart of what makes them worth visiting is their staff – the bar men and women who pull pints, keep locals entertained and often become like the closest of families.’
Pub on the Park, London Fields
Wilton’s Music Hall, Shadwell
‘Inspired by the 18th century conversation piece and the traditional family portrait, photographer Jan Klos presents The Photographic Guide to the Pubs of East London, a new series of striking group portraits that introduce viewers to the colourful and dedicated teams behind some of East London’s much-loved drinking dens.’
Star of Bethnal Green, Bethnal Green
‘Since 2008 one in five pubs in the UK have shut down in the face of a struggling economy, rising alcohol taxes and smoke-free policies. The Times labeled them an ‘Endangered British Species’ and East London has seen its share of public houses shut their doors for good. Some of them, including The Nelson’s Head and Joiner’s Arms feature in this exhibition. The Photographic Guide to the Pubs of East London serves to celebrate and raise a glass to East London’s public houses and the people in them, but it is also a timely record of what the area has lost in recent years.’
George and Dragon, Shoreditch
The Royal Oak, Shoreditch
The opening night of Jan Klos’s exhibition at 6.30pm on 7th October will feature short video interviews with landlords on the importance of pub culture, the role pubs play in local communities and what the future might hold for them. Visit www.workersplaytime.net for more details.
Jan Klos is a Polish-born photographer. Specialising in portraiture and documentary, his work has featured in publications worldwide including Telegraph Magazine, Newsweek, Wallpaper*, Metropolitan and N Magazine. His work has been exhibited in solo and group shows at venues across the UK, including MAC Birmingham, Quad Derby, Lighthouse Wolverhampton, cueB Gallery London, Four Corners London, FUSE Bradford, Oriel Colwyn, Wales and Napier University in Edinburgh. He lives in London.
James O Jenkins
James Robertson’s portrait (below) was selected for Portrait Salon 2012 and is from a series of images documenting a group of young Afghans skiing on the slopes above their village in Bamyan. This in turn is part of a larger project documenting the many facets of skiing in Afghanistan, and with the help of the VSCO Artist Initiative has expanded to include documenting two Afghan ski guides who visited Switzerland for training with the hope of competing in the next Winter Olympics.
‘This series of images was taken over only a couple of hours: we were skiing down to the lower slopes about to finish for the day when from many different directions guys with wooden skis on their shoulders started walking up towards us.’
‘Bamyan doesn’t have a history of skiing, however to help the area’s economic recovery there has been a push to reinvigorate the tourism industry and this has included introducing skiing as a form of winter tourism. The local kids have seen westerners skiing and simply bought materials from the bazaar to make their own. There are also programs to introduce as many locals to skiing on modern equipment as well as teaching avalanche safety and training local ski guides.’
‘When I came across an article online about skiing in Afghanistan I had no idea it was possible, and it immediately challenged my preconceptions of it as a country. The idea that not only was it possible to travel there, but it was also possible to ski was completely juxtaposed to everything I had seen in the media up to that point. I want these images to have a similar effect with the images so unexpected they force the viewer to reconsider more than just whether it is possible to ski in Afghanistan.’
James Robertson is a professional photographer based in Edinburgh. Since being awarded The Guardian Student Photographer of the Year in 2008 for his images of the UK boxing talent, James has continued to produce work across a range of sporting disciplines from road cycling to rowing. As well as commerical and product work for a number of publications such as Rouleaur and Privateer he also spends time on his own documentary projects; including a look at off-piste skiing in the Hindu Kush mountains of Afghanistan and a recent series following the members of the one of the UK’s only dedicated ski patrols up in the Nevis Range.
James O Jenkins
We’re very pleased to be featured in this week’s Professional Photo Magazine which is out today. We spoke to Terry Hope about why Portrait Salon was set up and about some of the plans we have for Portrait Salon 2015.
The magazine has also kindly offered a downloadable voucher for this issue (No.110) which is usually only available to featured photographers. All you need to do is print it out and take it to WHSmiths. Many thanks to Terry Hope and Roger Payne.
“Then the nations that are left round about you shall know that I the LORD rebuild the ruined places, and replant that which was desolate: I the LORD have spoken it, and I will do it”.
Nick Ballon’s portrait (below) was selected for Portrait Salon 2013 and is from his series Ezekiel 36:36*, a documentation of Lloyd Aéreo Boliviano (LAB) which is one of the world’s oldest surviving airlines. ‘Founded in 1925, it took its name from Lloyd’s of London for its image of safety and security. The airline later earned its place in Bolivian history by playing an important role in the Chaco War of 1932, when its aircraft carried the wounded to safety and transported supplies to soldiers on the front line.’
‘In 1994, LAB was privatised and sold off to a failing Brazilian airline. The company has suffered at the hands of successive administrations ever since, becoming gradually dismantled over the years. In 2007, the Bolivian government ordered it to shut down on charges of unpaid taxes and social benefit contributions, leaving over 2000 of its workers out of jobs.’
‘While all commercial flight operations have been suspended, the airline miraculously survived to the present day. LAB has become a workers’ cooperative which provides a range of aviation services, as well as operating an aircraft on behalf of another local airline. 196 employees continue to work for the struggling company, yet their salaries have been halved, and have even gone unpaid for two whole years following LAB’s collapse. Most of those who remain have continued to work for the company out of loyalty and faith. Their morale is occasionally boosted by small victories, such as their recent crowning as champions in the airport football tournament.’
‘Once an icon of modernity and progress, there’s something decidedly anachronistic about walking through their headquarters. Stray dogs rest in the security booth at the front entrance. Workers, too, can be found taking midday naps in the engine room. Metallic stairs, which in the past were used for boarding modern aircraft, now lead up to nowhere. A Boeing 767 flight simulator worth $2.5MM has been sitting unopened in a gigantic crate for the past six years.’
‘Successive self-proclaimed saviours have appeared at their doorstep offering multimillion-dollar investments and ingenious rescue packages, yet the workforce has grown disillusioned at their promises, which have invariably failed to materialise. Headed by an unlikely CEO, the current administration believes it has a master plan to bring the Bolivian phoenix back from its ashes, and take off once again in the following weeks.’
* The title refers to the name of the only aircraft LAB currently have in operation, on hire to another domestic airline (crew included). It captures the quasi-religious faith the remaining employees have in the airline, which to most outsiders would appear to be a lost cause.
“Then the nations that are left round about you shall know that I the LORD rebuild the ruined places, and replant that which was desolate: I the LORD have spoken it, and I will do it.” (from King James 2000 Bible).
Words by Amaru Villanueva Rance ([email protected]).
Nick Ballon is a documentary and portrait photographer based in the UK, whose Anglo-Bolivian heritage is an important source of subject matter and inspiration in his work, exploring socio-historical ideas of identity and place, the concept of ‘foreignness’ and belonging.
He graduated with a BA (hons) from Berkshire School of art and design in 2001, and since then has worked editorially for a number of respected international publications, including the Sunday Times Magazine, The Guardian Magazine, the Financial Times, the New York Times, El Pais and Der Spiegel.
His work has been exhibited internationally including at Rencontres d’Arles, Beijing Triennial, Guernsey Photography Festival, KK Outlet, Wellcome Trust, and NCM/Foyle Foundation. He has been shortlisted for the Taylor Wessing Portrait Photography Prize four times, and received an honourable mention for the Photographic Museum of Humanity grant.
In 2013 he self-published his first book Ezekiel 36:36 which looked at the curious and precarious existence of Bolivia’s national airline, which received much critical acclaim and was one of TIME’s best photo-books of 2013. His second book ‘The Bitter Sea’ will look at land-locked Bolivia’s painful longing to reclaim back its sea lost in a war to Chile over 129 years ago, and will be published by Trolley Books.
Nick Ballon’s book Ezekiel 36:36 is available to buy here.
James O Jenkins
Lydia Goldblatt’s portrait (below) was selected for Portrait Salon in 2011 and is from her series Still Here, an intimate body of work about her parents. ‘Goldblatt’s series, Still Here (2010-2013), takes as its point of departure the family home, focusing on the transitional experience of the artist’s parents as they age. The work stems from a desire to address the inevitable changes wrought by her elderly father’s approaching death. Her image making combines close observations of the human form with still lives, portraits and abstract works resonant of planets and origins.’
‘Marked with tenderness, the work is far removed from the haste and public face of contemporary family self-representation. It offers instead a concentrated meditation on mortality, time, love and loss, in which corporeal scrutiny courts metaphysical wonder. Still Here explores the indefinable thresholds that mark out individual existence, and the subtle process of erasure that returns us to the state from which we emerge.’
‘While the work is about the artist’s family, it is equally a means to contemplate the nature of life and the invisible bonds of love. It engages with the shifting nature of time, and the potential of photographs to open up the realm of experience via their poetic as well as indexical reality. In making work about a personal experience of mortality, Goldblatt explores the cyclical scope of existence that sees nature’s fingers unpick our fragile yet insistent efforts to build, construct and create.’
‘Photographing, for me, is a means of giving expression to both the internal and external processes that shape our experience of life. My work considers transitional human states and is tied to concepts of identity and belonging. These images are from a series about my parents, focussing on my elderly father’s mortality, and stemming from a desire to address the inevitable changes wrought by his approaching death.’
‘I am witnessing human fragility, the physical and psychological boundaries of a human essence. I am interested in the indefinable thresholds that mark out our individual existence, and in the subtle process of erasure that returns us to the state from which we emerge. While the work is about my family, it is also a means to contemplate the nature of life and the invisible bonds of love. It engages with the constantly shifting nature of time, and the potential of photographs to open up the realm of experience via their poetic as well as indexical reality. In making work about a personal experience of mortality, I am exploring the cyclical scope of existence that sees nature’s fingers unpick our fragile yet insistent efforts to build, construct and create.’
Lydia Goldblatt trained at the London College of Communications, receiving a Masters Degree in Photography with Distinction in 2006. She lives and works in London. Her work has been exhibited and published internationally, with group and solo shows in the UK, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Greece, China and Malaysia.
Her series, Still Here, is the subject of a solo exhibition at the Felix Nussbaum Museum in Germany from November 2012 – January 2013. She has also exhibited recently at Galerie Huit during the Rencontres d’Arles International Photography Festival, the Hereford Photography Festival, the Daylight Photography Awards, Prix de la Photographie and International Photography Awards.
Interviews and features of her work have been published in Photomonitor, Hotshoe, British Journal of Photography, PLUK, the Guardian, Sunday Times, Telegraph, and Wallpaper*, among others.
In 2010 she was nominated for the Sovereign European Art Prize, and in 2011 was awarded the Fundacion Botin Residency Award with Paul Graham. This year she is the recipient of the Magenta Flash Forward Award and International Jewish Artist of the Year award. Anne Braybon, curator of photographs at the National Portrait Gallery, recently nominated her for the Vic Odden Award, recognising significant achievement by a young British photographer.
James O Jenkins
Adrian Nettleship’s portrait (below) was selected for the first Portrait Salon in 2011 and he tells us more about the series it belongs to called ‘Drowning’.
‘I started work on this series, titled ‘Drowning’, towards the end of 2010. It was around the time that the Bush administration had been experimenting with different interrogation techniques and recasting the common definition of torture in order to accommodate them. I’d produced a small piece of work for an activist magazine on the subject, but I was concerned that my approach was too literal and I wanted to try something that touched upon the theme without being limited to it. I’d seen Emma Critchley speak about her series ‘The Fear of Falling’, a beautiful set of underwater portraits, although it’s not immediately apparent how they were shot. I’d been inspired by the idea she’d spoken about, simply of exploring how people react when placed out of their element, how the appearance of the face changes underwater and I was keen to experiment with this myself.’
‘I’m a strong believer in the idea that in order to create something that satisfactorily expresses a certain idea, it’s important to take action, even if the initial attempts result in failure. Too many of my own ideas have been set aside because I’ve passed through the stages of initial excitement through to questioning the foundations of the idea without ever trying anything out. I think it was Annie Leibovitz who I first encountered talking about the idea of going back, again and again to the same subject, to refine her approach, all the time gaining familiarity. It’s a very different approach to the constraints of commercial work where getting results first time are essential. Through the process, something often emerges which can be carried forward, and so the two motivations above formed a basis for experimentation.’
‘I borrowed a small fish tank and asked for volunteers, and it quickly became apparent that the total internal reflection that arises from shooting a subject in the denser medium of water allows for a great deal of control if the lights are placed in the less dense medium of air. The sidewall of the tank became a large soft light source and anything not in the water received very little light at all. It also became quickly apparent that I would need seriously to consider a risk assessment. Water, electricity, glass and people all in one place carry considerable possibility for problems. We went through a good many revisions of the instructions we gave our subjects to get the desired result – variations on asking people to hold their breath repeatedly, taking in only the air they needed. I had quickly abandoned the somewhat reckless idea of jumping on an unwitting subject while their head was submerged, in an attempt to capture their resulting panic. There are limits.’
‘The final step once we were satisfied in principle was to build a fish tank large enough to give space around the subject for the shot, ordering panes of glass cut to size, fixed together with silicon sealant. I was very fortunate to be able to call upon a wood turner friend with considerable carpentry skill who built an over engineered stand to hold the tank, with a window in the bottom to shoot through. As a tank of water gets larger, the weight grows exponentially, which proved to be a limiting factor on how big we could build. We eventually settled on an estimated weight of 150kg for the water alone.’
Adrian Nettleship is a photographer based in East London. He has been working professionally in stills and video since 2005 and clients include The Wire Magazine, RWD Magazine, Tate and Lyle, and Christian Aid.
James O Jenkins