Ever just stared at the shelves of a magazine stand at the front covers of the art photography magazines and cast your eyes on the likes of Aesthetica, Black + White, BJP (British Journal of Photography), FOTO8, Inspired Eye, or even LensCulture and wondered if there was a magazine specifically aimed at the genre of ‘Street Photography’? I’m a subscriber of StreetHunters.net and now again our good friend Spyros Papaspyropoulos will do a book review, I’ve done a few myself which you can find here. Recently the guys had a good look at a seemingly new kid on the block; EYESHOT. Comes in the format of a softcover similar to the aforementioned mags. The cover photograph is square lending itself to those who use Instagram to vent their creativity to instantly like it, (see what I did there). The collection of photographers the magazine reads is exceptionally wide-ranging from Dougie Wallace, Jonathan Higbee, to the likes of Vineet Vohra and Gisele Duprez, and many others. The Editor in Chief is Marco Savarese who founded the publication in 2017. It seems not to rival other publications, but because it represents a specific genre, it enhances them, and so too I think other publications seem to make it stand out even more. Inside the covers you are greeted with some very nice blurb about the publication, it’s creator and the stories and photographs contained herein. The pages themselves are printed on Fedrigoni X-PER Premium White paper so quite a bit of weight as you would expect. The photographs vary from white and black backgrounds, which seem to enhance the images. Some are really quite colourful (Vineet Vohra) others just seem quite surreal in a monochromatic style. The content itself has covered recent street photo festivals and on the website, you will find who it specifically partners in the guise of LSPF, ISPF StreetFoto SF. Whilst this does come across as too isolationist and not a wide-ranging representation of other Street Photography Festivals think Miami or Photo Athens for example. The plethora of amazing photographers are definitely what keep me hooked in this publication, the work of all is so very inspiring for this art form. Another interesting aspect to the publication is the limited printed copies available, once they are SOLD OUT! they certainly are. However, all is not lost you can order a digital PDF version which, I’m sure if you are willing to print that out you’ll get by.
For any serious collector of the seminal work of William Eggleston, will know that this is no mere slight brushstroke of his oeuvre. William Eggleston famously said of his approach to photography; “I am at war with the obvious”. This statement seems to amplify the banal, colourful, intrinsically linked subject matter. Whether it be a ceiling, a shopping mall carpark, views from restaurant windows or bottles of soda. These recurrent themes are what draws his followers of this dissenter to his artform.
An Eggleston photograph identifies every day, yet he is at war with the obvious. A twist then that may isolate some critics but, also support and strengthen their respective theory. That yes, the work may seem familiar and boring, but of course, they are right. He is one of many colour photographers; the list seemingly growing. Others have tried to copy his style but failed not having the required tenacity for such a thematic or, indeed a sense of the vernacular language of his photography. Just as the photographic language of Saul Leiter is a very different perspective, it is still an observation of everyday life. I’ve always been a fan of his colour palette, but also, I have been a fan of his early monochromatic work. However, when I view those photographs, I yearn for them to be in colour. Your sense of visual literacy becomes accustomed to a particular style, you learn to appreciate the obvious. Hence my affinity with William Eggleston, he is not an out and out documentarian in the photojournalistic vain, but he is a documentarian who has influenced many a photographer.
Certainly, his style seems to influence a middle-class English photographer in the guise of Martin Parr, who has published work of colourful cakes and indeed a book aptly titled The Non-Conformists, seems to assert the close relationship with the obvious, these photographers both share. If you’re looking for a post-modernist perspective on social documentary, then this book really doesn’t define itself as such. However, if you’re looking for a book that gives you an insightful perspective on post-modern colour photography, and how colour highlights certain eccentricities and characteristics of southern aristocracy then this is, definitely well worth seeking out.
What a complete waste of money, two announcements today have made my ears burn ever so slightly hotter. Firstly, the news of the Democratic Unionist Party coalition with a Conservative Government deal that just wants to prop up Brexit. The confidence and supply agreement weighs in at a hefty £1bn for the DUP, all that for ten votes equals ten MPs equals one hundred million each for a seat in the House of Commons. When you equate that to the NHS that would have been worth seven thousand and twenty-six staff nurses on Band 5 pay scale figures •2016/17 for the next five years. However, they’re other pressing matters such as housing, to house the now homeless Camden residents and the survivors of the tragedy of the Grenfell tower block under the Kensington & Chelsea Tenants Management Organisation and their inadequate fire safety measures, resulting in the deaths of seventy-nine residents. The Camden Council had forcibly evicted many of its residents over the weekend from five tower blocks; the Council citing there were hundreds of fire doors missing after several inspections raised awareness of the unfit cladding being sub-standard just as at the Grenfell Tower block. Across the United Kingdom, their have been reports of similar circumstances, in cities such as Liverpool and Plymouth.
However, those residents have not been evicted from their homes which, do beg the question but doesn’t all lives matter? Surely, such a large sum of money which has been bestowed upon the Democratic Unionist Party could have served a better purpose elsewhere, housing those affected by the poor fire safety measures perhaps would be a start. That £1bn DUP deal has had an adverse effect on Sinn Fein also, Gerry Adams states that ‘Sinn Fein will resolutely oppose any attempt to give preferential treatment to British forces’. The President of Sinn Fein formerly said he told Theresa May she is in breach of the Good Friday Agreement when he met the Prime Minister at No. 10. In an announcement to journalists outside a while later, Mr Adams stated: “We disclosed to her quite directly that she was in breach of the Good Friday Agreement, and we ordered those matters in which she was in default in connection to that understanding.” He likewise affirmed they had additionally talked about the likelihood of an acceptance on Irish solidarity. Deal aside, the hard work that cemented a coherent working relationship between us and Northern Ireland could be under threat just to support a Brexit deal with the European Union. Former PM John Major has stated that he is “wary” about the planned deal with the DUP. He was concerned primarily, that the arranged understanding could damage the Northern Irish peace agreement in which the British government remain as an integral but, impartial role.
Since June 23rd, 2016 it has been a tumultuous year in British politics, firstly on the arrival of a very clear cut decision of the British public to leave the EU, forcing the then Prime Minister David Cameron into resignation, some MPs criticising his decision to do so and for want of a better term a rat leaving a sinking ship. This raised questions on whom should take the helm through the onset of what has become a stormy year, enter a new era of Thatcherism in the guise of Theresa May, the former Home Secretary who on May 17th, 2016 delivered a speech to the Police Federation Conference, an excerpt from that speech follows that focuses on the spending of the Police Federation and its member branches:
“Then there are the Police Federation’s accounts. For the past 2 years, I have called these accounts in for review. What they have revealed is spending that has been both questionable and opaque. Branches spending tens of thousands of pounds on presents for retiring Federation representatives – gifts that ordinary rank and file officers would never expect to receive. Other items – like £10,000 on an annual ‘plain clothing allowance’ in one branch - which defy explanation. The fact that some branches own what appear to be holiday homes, within an overall property portfolio worth £31 million.”
Hmmm, spending seems to be the focus of this rant at the moment, but hey, I am not finished, the best is yet to come. So here it is then, some of you may be Royalist, some of you may not.
Secondly, today I learned of the grand and frankly over the top launch of the ever so costly £3.5bn HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier. Now, I can see why Jeremy Corbyn is a pacifist rather than wanting to support the over costly defence budget for the UK. The second carrier is the Prince of Wales, also being built at the site in Rosyth, the cost together totals over £6bn. The carriers and the Trident program account for a huge sum of the defence budget, which according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, who monitors the trends in world military expenditure, shows the United Kingdom budget is of 2016 $48.3bn, that is 1.9% of GDP. To the ordinary man in the street, or let’s say to those who have been made homeless, as a result of the failings of this government, it is money wasted.
Where are the authorities? Where is Red Cross, where is the list of the residents? It is startling how slow the reaction of those who should know better. It also mirrors the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and how suddenly death has become a racial issue. It has most certainly become a political one. What happened to humanity, the last few days have witnessed double standards and how we react to the plight of differing ethnic groups. The latest reports from the forest fires in Portugal give an estimation of 64 dead, that was an act of mother nature and totally unpredictable and sadly unpreventable. However, here in the richest borough of London in a so-called modern high-rise apartment block, they Kensington & Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) didn’t even have the inclination to heed the warnings as far back as 1984 in an Adam Curtis Documentary, and as recently as November 2016. The report shows how the tower blocks are fundamentally flawed in design; not even a sprinkler system was in place to which, it most certainly could have slowed the advancement of the fire that befell the residents of Grenfell Tower.
What sickens me, is this incident and the other earlier events could have been prevented, had the inspections took place thoroughly and recommendations been adhered, put forward and actioned. Fundamental change has to happen, the investigation into the Grenfell incident has to be a transparent act, which will benefit the residents, their families, the community and future generations who are housed in apartment blocks. A standard which is high should be set for all and not just the upper echelons of society. Fire Safety should not be compromised. The public inquiry has been launched, Scotland Yard has launched their own criminal investigation, and of course, the London Fire Brigade have launched their own respective inquiry, as to the cause of the fire. Whilst many of those who managed to evacuate the premises have speculated that a white-goods appliance was to blame, others have suggested it could have been a grow*, gone wrong. Regardless of the cause, the main protagonist for the fire enveloping the building is no doubt the materials specified for the cladding.
Eye-witness reports have documented as to why the fire spread so quickly on the outside of the block was the cladding, here then lies the blame and initial lead for the inquiry, though LFB has suggested it could be years before we have answers. Seemingly another failing of the authorities, this is, it would seem is Britain’s, ‘Hurricane Katrina’.
* Grow - Homegrown Cannabis Utilising LED Hydroponics
Blackpool, a place I can recall from childhood memories, spending hours either on the beach building sandcastles with my younger brothers or, paddling in the sea, or throwing pennies into the arcade games; Space Invaders, Pac-Man, and the like, very retro, but all the rage, nowadays. If it wasn’t the arcade games, then it would be the water cannon or the crappy off-target plastic shotgun and it’s very low supply of ‘ammo’ for a ‘quid’ ago. Still, it was all so amusing at that young age, as the men in the family, would go for a couple of pints, and the women well, they looked after the kids as usual. Years later, I find myself sat in the car driving my way up to this very Northern seaside resort, think Lancashire accent, but all the dazzle and grit of Vegas. One might think I’m here for a 1UP reunion, to play a final farewell game of Space Invaders…but no, I am here on a mission to follow one of Britain’s most intriguing contemporary photographers of the new millennium. Enter Dougie Wallace, aka ‘Glasweegee’, I first met Dougie at a Photo-Forum at a Calumet Camera shop on Drummond Street, NW1. It was a fantastic talk and I got to meet another photographer famous for his work; ‘The New Gypsies’, Iain McKell. I was taken with these guys and actually those that attended especially Anne Heslop, an established photographer in her own right. So several emails and chats later, I would follow Dougie to Blackpool, he was working on his project, ‘Stags, Hens and Bunnies’, the kind of in your face colour flash photography, for which he later became known for. His style is Bruce Gilden meets Elliot Erwitt meets artistic endeavour, very personable and very matter of fact, he isolates the subjects with the subtle use of flash. However, the scenes that play out and are captured show a dark side to the Britishness that myself and Iain McKell had chatted about post photo-forum talk, these photographs are not like the work of Keith Pattison; covering the miner’s strike August 1984-1985, these show the nature of any would-be bride or husband to be, in a state of flux, to drink off into oblivion the last ‘hurrah’ if you will of freedom, before settling down to married life, as though it were a sentence to be getting hitched. The photographs depict a side to the British, for which the Brits have become notorious, drinking and debauchery, and over indulgence. It’s not just the drinking, it’s the ridiculous outfits they wear, as though it were an honour badge, to be dressed up looking like a failed superhero, ending up face down on the pavement, expelling liquids from every conceivable orifice. However, most of the punters are happy for Dougie to document this last hurrah, as a keepsake for British society to reflect upon at a later date. He moves quite stealthily meandering through the drunken crowds, to isolate a particular perspective on the human condition; this is what I have come to like about his work. If you want it raw, if you want it ‘in your face’, here he is, head on to get some sense of what it’s like to be out on the piss in Blackpool, there are fights, glasses thrown, punches met with weak teeth, and even the odd pissed up ‘stag’, cellophaned to a lamp-post on the parade, for all to see and admire. This is it, Blackpool in all its archaic glory displays a profligate, yet warmly welcomed northern city, which sees humanity and pathos in this popular seaside resort. After following a few parties, it’s time to depart this place, I say my goodbyes and arrange to meet Dougie again sometime soon, he gives me a hint of a project, he wishes to conclude.
Back in London, and am looking forward to viewing the book launch of ‘Stags, Hens and Bunnies’, a long time coming but all the more worth it, Dougie has arranged a number of exhibitions to launch his book, and to promote new material, or rather material he has been working on for a while, one of those nights is arranged at the Printspace in London, with an after party drinks session, in a local Shoreditch bar. Most of the staff from the ‘printspace’ attend too, and I get a sense that Dougie really is moving in artistic circles when I happen to converse with a few painters, who have come to admire his work and of course purchase said copy of ‘Stags, Hens and Bunnies, a Blackpool story’. Yet, I know there is more to come in the form of Shoreditch wildlife, a project he has been photographing of late, and the other project we spoke of and his visits to India, and how legislation is affecting the Padmini taxis, India is known for its high levels of vehicle emission air pollution. Although the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act was passed in 1981 to regulate air pollution and there have been some significant improvements. However, the 2016 Environmental Performance Index ranked India 141 out of 180 countries. This prompted Dougie to document the region formerly known as Bombay, now Mumbai and the phasing out of those Premier Padmini taxis, a majority of them are characterised by the garish interiors, and of course their charismatic drivers, but so too, the observing occupants indulging in the Glaswegian whimsical approach accompanied with a burst of flash from his flashguns. He would frame the subjects in such a way that would be not too dissimilar to the approach of Bruce Gilden; isolating the very subject. Often the images vibrant, colourful, and almost high definition. This is what Dougie was born to do, to be immersed in his perspective of the world and to share that point of view, to show us what the consequences of the rising elitist ‘one percent’, are having on all who live in inner-city London, and it’s economic and political demise through gentrification on the remaining ninety-nine percent. Dougie’s work of late is critically acclaimed, whilst its true that not all who have viewed or read about his work in columns of various broadsheets, magazines, and the social media, it is, without doubt, that his work is getting some serious attention from the right kind of people; Dougie Wallace received an award from the inaugural Magnum Photography Awards alongside LensCulture for his work; Harrodsburg. The images are bright, brash and in your face, they point a finger at the elite and show us how ostentatious they are. They’re colourful granted, but they also show how big a gap there is in the housing market, out goes the housing estates and communities, to be replaced by opulent wood and glass super sheds built on a steel frame, and sold off to those who now see them as gold bar assets, rather than a place to live. Dougie Wallaces’ work reflects what is happening in Britain today, we see how the mass appeal is to those Arabian oil barons who come to London, to escape the torrid heat of the middle eastern summer. We see many Qatari families shopping in Knightsbridge, and buying all the properties up in that Kensington and Chelsea postcode; pricing out what was once considered only for the upper-middle-class purse of the stiff-upper-lip Brits, has now become a currency free for all for the ultra-affluent Arabian Royals. Certainly a far cry from…Stags, Hens, and Bunnies…a Blackpool story, Dougie has created a whole new documentary perspective on the super rich of the world, and there got it, flaunt it playgrounds. Whilst there is a stark exposé of the rich kids at play in Londons SW1 postcode, there is also the influence of Elliot Erwitt in Dougie’s work, his latest venture sees him shoot the most elaborate, toy dogs, which inherently become fashionable to have in one’s Louis Vuitton handbag, but remember they are just colourful as their owners. The photographs depict anything from Labradoodles to Chihuahua and Pomeranian mixes, then we have the bigger gundogs too. They’re all there to see and just as brash as the owners. So what next for Dougie Wallace,
Watch this space…