Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Fund FINDS 2 by Harry Watts

It seems this is the season for funding requests so I'm picking and choosing which ones I feature so that you know which ones to spend your hard earned pennies on. The next project (because you've already donated to Erika Larsen's right?) is FINDS 2 by Harry Watts.

Based in Brighton Watts is a photographer who's worked with The Telegraph, Salvatore Ferragamo and the BBC. He's also studio assistant to the venerable Martin Parr and recently picked up the job of managing the studio of Ewen Spencer who shot the rise of The White Stripes in Three's a Crowd.

If that wasn't enough strings to his bow he's also looking for funds for the second in his FINDS series, before I divert you to the page where you can find out what you can get for your money have a read below of what he had to say when I spoke to him about the project.

How did FINDS first come about?
FINDS first came about from an exercise started by myself after leaving University. This exercise was in keeping my photographic eye in, I bought a cheap digital camera and took it everywhere, photographing everything and anything I could do. These images would just fill up memory cards and my laptop and wouldn't go anywhere.

This changed when I started working at Photoworks - Ben Burbridge and Gordon MacDonald asked to see what I was working on. I went home that evening and put an edit together of these images, after presenting them the edit they enncouraged me to work on these found sculptures. The process then led to seeking an output for the work. Not wanting to show the images in a gallery, the street became the best option.

The FINDS work is just an extension of what I see everyday I go out on the streets.

What made you want to print a paper, and then leave it for people to find?
The reason for printing a paper was from the want to distribute the images as a collection or exhibition. If the images were printed on cards, which was an early idea, and then left on the street they would loose there value as an object. But there is a wonderful quality that a printed newspaper gives. Also it was cheap and I could print loads!

How do you see your photographs?
I see my photographs as my look on the world, yes I am a photographer and I use photography to make my art. I really do seem them as street photography but I really don't like to put myself in any section I will leave that for others to do. The FINDS work is just an extension of what I see everyday I go out on the streets.

What's next?
So if the funding is successful there'll be 5000 copies printed for the Photo Fringe. There's also going to be an opening launch at the Aubin and Wills Store in Brighton on the 12th October.

I will then be placing the papers in 100 locations around Brighton. Places in both Brighton and London can ask to stock the newspapers but I hope to make it as easy as I can for people to find a FINDS newspaper. But just keep your eyes on the streets and I'm sure you'll see one in Brighton in October.

After the Festival I'll be taking the papers to London and hope to place them in another 100 locations.

Photo Fringe runs at various locations around Brighton from October 6 to Novermber 18 and if you want to see Harry Watts' FINDS 2 there get over to his funding page NOW because it closes on Monday (September 3).

Watch the video below with Harry Watts talking about FINDS 2

Friday, August 17, 2012

Fund Erika Larsen's book about the Sámi reindeer herders

Last September I ran an interview I did with Washington DC-based photographer Erika Larsen who'd spent the last few years living with the Sámi, an indigenous tribe living within the Arctic circle in the northern parts of Scandinavia and Russia. I absolutely loved her photographs and thought that they had an amazing sense of calm, optimism and of course, anything with a bit of snow in gets me straight away.

Since September, she's cropped up in a few places and has been featured in the National Geographic magazine and on their website. Now, she wants to make her work into a book and she's using to do it. Head over there through this link to sponsor her and get your copy but first have a read of what I had to say about her work when I spoke to her last year. You can also watch the video at the bottom with Larsen talking about the experience.

Reindeer herders by tradition, the Sámi live a semi-nomadic life as they follow their animals across the Arctic wasteland. Living and working among two families and learning the Sámi language, Larsen immersed herself in the lifestyle for over four years. "I learned with the Sámi that all we have to learn exists in daily life activity," Larsen says. "I mean the daily chores and ways function as people, cultures, and family exists in the ordinary daily life. Nothing more nothing less."

Before Sámi, Larsen had been working The Hunt and Young Blood two bodies of photographs on North American hunting culture (Young Blood won a 2007 World Press Photo Award). Larsen continues: "I wanted to take that experience further and begin to live with an original nomadic hunter-gather society that was functioning and had their own economic sustainability in today's modern world. I also wanted to gain a better understanding of the primal drive of the modern hunter. I needed to get away from everything I understood and start again, with fresh eyes and fresh perspective. Begin like a child. I think the Arctic did that for me."

A version of this article originally ran on in September 2011

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Will the role of a professional journalist ever go away?

Everyone likes to think that they're a photographer now but when you find yourself in a situation in which you can indeed become a 'citizen journalist' how do we know that these people will have the nerve, or know how to actually document the situation in an unbiased and factually way? Of course there will always be the minutes, or even hours where professional journalists and photographers cannot get close and it will fall down to the everyday people in the situation to document the happenings and send out the first photographs and reports.

But a recent article in the Guardian about photographers who have been put in a position where they had to choose between getting 'the shot' or intervening to help - many of which choosing the former - and a response by James Johnson of (Notes on) Politics, Theory & Photography prompted me to think about how the photographs we see might change and how we may always need professional 'conflict photographers' and that they will probably never go away.

James Johnson asked, "Do we want them for their compassion? Or, do we want them for the ability to stomach events that we'd otherwise be able to blithely ignore?"

I would say we need to know about these things, these photographers have the ability to switch that part of the brain that would normally make someone wince, or become overwhelmed and make sure that they get the shot that makes the event sink in for those who are not able to witness it themselves. Would a citizen bystander be able to do the same thing? Can we ask them to? When the 7/7 bombings happened, the images we saw taken by the commuters on the trains were of the light at the end of the tunnels, they were images that led to a hope at the end, they'd already gotten over and didn't see the need to document what they had seen in the carriages. Why did they need to? They had seen it themselves, in person, they had probably helped some people up, got them out onto the tracks and off to safety. Would a professional photographer, used to conflict situations have done the same thing? Would they have switched into 'work' mode and started documenting the situation as an onlooker, even though minutes before they were just the same as every person on the carriage, bar one - just going about their own business?

I go back to Johnson's question "Do we want them for their compassion? Or, do we want them for the ability to stomach events that we'd otherwise be able to blithely ignore?" You wouldn't randomly find yourself in the middle of a known conflict zone unless you had some reason to be there as part of your profession, automatically making prepared for the situation and ready to see it from an outsiders point of view. These events are far displaced from many people, so they need to be sought out, documented and you need the professionals who have the stomach to do it. Events that everyday citizens may find themselves in are unexpected, they happen right on your doorstep, they are unavoidable and reported upon greatly because they are rarities. It's when things happen more frequently and everyday citizens can go about their business, planning to avoid them, or glazing over them that the role of the professional journalist comes into play. And for that reason they will never go away.

Image courtesy AP
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