Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Miru Kim's 'Naked City Spleen'

One of my favourite things about 2011 has been discovering the website TED.com; I could write a whole separate blog extolling the virtues of this website and what I've learnt from it, but rather than wax lyrical I'll just say that if you haven't heard of it, check it out. 

One of the first videos that I watched on TED was a lecture by photographer Miru Kim on what inspired her project 'Naked City Spleen', the thinking as well as the practicalities behind it. I have been meaning to write about it for months as her stunning photography and the guts which she has to take such shots really impressed me...

Raised in South Korea, Kim moved to New York in 1999 and was originally studying medicine when her fascination with the abandoned and desolate areas of the city took root. Kim likens the complicated structure and vast underground system of New York as akin to a living organism, one which she felt compelled to dissect and explore on her own terms. Encouraged through meeting like-minded people known as 'guerilla historians' she went from initally exploring the underground subway system of the city, to discovering other urban ruins such as abandoned factories, hospitals and aqua ducts. Compelled to document these dilapidated structures before their inevitable demolition she began to photograph them... 

             Glenwood Power Plant, Yonkers

Wanting to portray these lonely spaces as inhabited Kim herself models in the pictures, play-acting an imp-like creature who dwells in the ruins. She poses nude in these images in order to avoid any limiting sense of cultural tie or period in time. 

          Freedom Tunnel, New York

The result is a series of achingly beautiful photographs which are not only a valuable documentation of our cities forgotten territories but also an unsettling reminder of how soon man-made structures can fall into disarray... Kim states the project gave her a strong understanding of: "how fragile our sense of security is and how vulnerable people truly are." 

Naked City Spleen reminds me of my favourite quote from Virginia Woolf:

"We are only lightly covered in buttoned cloth; 
and beneath these pavements are shells, bones and silence..."

The project is not limited to the deserted realms of New York, but many other American cities as well as Paris, London and Istanbul. I really admire her tenacity to delve unaccompanied into these desolate places, transforming dilapidated structures into a playground-like realm of her own.

Below are a few more of my favoruite shots...

                             Michigan Central Station, Detroit

                                           Richmond Power Station, Philadelphia

                                      Zeyrek Cistern, Istanbul

    Manhattan Bridge, New York

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Open Doors London: W12

Open Doors London's debut exhibition W12 is going to be in Hammersmith this Saturday 24th Sept. It will be a one day only pop-up show boasting artwork of all kinds from sculpture, to painting, photography and even crochet! W12 is the first of many exhibitions in which the borough hosting the exhibition is the theme of the artwork itself. Take a look at their blog for a sneak peek of the work involved.

I stumbled upon Open Doors through twitter and instantly loved the idea - particularly the fact that all exhibitions will be held in people's homes. The work involved in putting up and taking down an entire exhibition in just one day is staggering, and is a testament to the passion and dedication of Tom and Katy the OpenDoors creators.

The premise of these borough-inspired exhibitions is that they are a way of documenting the lives of people living in a certain area. Street Photography is all about documenting the way in which we live now and fits in well with this concept. I am lucky to have a few of my street shots in the show, my favourite being 'White City' which I took whilst interning in W12 early this year.

If you are in West London this Saturday pop in to Open Doors W12 at 28 Galloway Road, Hammersmith to see what it's all about! Spread the word and follow them on twitter at: @OpenDoorsLondon.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Instant Gratification: 3

I am cheating a little with this one because it's a shot I took a couple of months ago. My aim is to write about my instants as and when they happen. But as I have run out of film and am waiting for Amazon to get its act together...I thought I'd post this one that I took in Cuba this May.

This was taken at the Bay of Pigs by lying on a very beautiful and scorching hot pier. I got down low to capture how warped and jutting the boards were as I liked how they mimicked the waves. The film held it's own and did justice to the amazing colours; Cuba is bursting with these incredible greens and blues.

Theres something so exciting and visceral about watching a shot you've just taken develop in your hands. All the frustration of duds is worth it for ones like this. 

Monday, 15 August 2011

The Fitzrovia Photography Prize

This week is your last chance to see the Fitzrovia Photography Prize exhibition at Diemar/Noble Photography. The premise of the competition was that all images entered had to have been taken within a one mile radius of the gallery. Entry was free and open to people of all levels and walks of photography. This meant that the 53 images which were selected by the curator Laura Noble and her assistant curator Eleanor Kelly for the exhibition are an intriguing and inspiring medley of styles and subject matters. The show is a fascinating glimpse into the different ways in which photographers narrate their perception of London. 

Julian Wakeling, the winner of the competition took a mesmerising photograph which I am continually blown-away by every time that I see it in the flesh. 

                                             © Julian Wakeling

I was excited and honoured to have my photograph Tory Scum included, which is a shot that I took in Trafalgar Square last December, just after the Student Demonstrations. 

For a further sneak-preview of the work involved as well as an insight into how the exhibition was curated, see Laura Noble's latest blog post. The competition which was sponsored by John Lewis of Oxford Street is set to become an annual event, sign up to the galleries mailing list via their website if you would like to be first in line to receive the Open Call next year! 

The exhibition ends this coming Saturday 20th August, the gallery is located on Wells Street (just a 2 minute walk from Oxford Circus tube), it's open from 11am till 6pm Tuesday to Saturday. (Free entry).

Monday, 8 August 2011

Instant Gratification: 2

I took these two shots in Brixton in the midst of last week's heatwave. The lower shot hints at the heat as the sun was so bright it was trying very hard to over-expose the concrete in the background. 

Both photographs capture plants dominating a man-made space: Above, a climbing vine  has conquered a telephone pole and below is a shot of the renegade flowers which have sprung up on the concrete foreground of a dilapidated shop on Brixton Road. These are images of disregard and disrepair, but beauty as well, I think.

Vivian Maier: A Life Uncovered

Photofusion is continuing the run of the incredible Vivian Maier: A Life Uncovered exhibition which opened this summer at the London Street Photography Festival. The exhibition will be in Brixton till 16th September and is well worth a visit. I have already been to see Maier's works twice this Summer and will be going to Photofusion for thirds and probably fourths.

Maier worked as a nanny but led what could be described as a double life as she was also a relentless street photographer; from the 1950s till the 1990s she took over 100,000 photographs worldwide. She had no formal training and in her life time she received no acknowledgment or praise for her vast body of work. But in 2007 when John Maloof bought a box of her anonymous negatives from a Chicago auction house he instantly saw the talent and scope of her work. Maloof took it upon himself to catalogue and archive her work so that it can be enjoyed across the world for years to come.

The most incredible thing about Maier's story is that not even all of her images have been viewed yet. When she passed away she left behind boxes of undeveloped film which presumably she had not had the time or the finances to develop. The Maier exhibition currently at Photofusion, is just a 48 piece slice of her colossal body of work - and it is incredible. Many of the shots on display were taken in Chicago, New York and Canada - looking at them I felt an overwhelming nostalgia for a time and a place which I have never even lived through. Maier's photographs simultaneously expose the vulnerability, the pride and the beauty in her subjects. But don't take my word for it.

Below are a few of my favourite shots by Maier...

Monday, 1 August 2011

Instant Gratification: 1

Van Gogh Vertical Garden

The National Gallery's living painting, located on the west wall of their building facing Trafalgar Square is a tribute to Van Gogh's A Wheatfield, with Cypresses. Formed from  8,000 plants it will be on display until late October. After taking a few standard frames from a distance I got right up close with my Fuji Instax and came away with this surreal shot.