posted by Troika Editions on 27 November 2013
posted by Bridget on 22 November 2013
Taking photographs of people in the street is an increasingly vexatious occupation. In France, the privacy laws make it almost impossible without the permission of the passers-by. In the UK, threats of terrorism see photographers regularly pounced upon by the community police force, ignorant of our right to photograph in public places.
So why is it surprising, in a world suspicious of a photographer's intent, for the inhabitants of Marrakech to protest when a bevy of Magnum photographers land in their city to capture their daily lives. Perhaps our surprise is derived from the legacy of our imperialist history, where it was excepted that white explorers could set off to the exotic lands of the east to see how other civilizations existed.
Or perhaps we fail to understand that in an era when photography is so ubiquitous the idea of intrusiveness and privacy has become ever more prevalent.
For Susan Meiselas, one of the five Magnum photographers commissioned by the new Moroccan Photography Museum to document daily life in Marrakech, her struggle to find "a small window" into this other world, led her into a direct conflict between Islam and gender politics. Her solution to facing opposition on the streets was to set up a pop-up studio and invite women to have their portraits taken and the resulting photographs offer us a small glimpse of how comfortable or not they felt under the direct gaze of the lens.
But more than that Meiselas also managed to tackle the complexity of women's position with the Islamic world, by not only encouraging women to be photographed but by allowing them to choose whether or not to take part. It is this question of choice that lies at the heart of her challenge and perhaps it is a sense of disenfranchisement from an ability to choose that is felt more broadly that makes us, as a society, hostile and suspicious of photography practised on the street.
posted by Bridget on 20 November 2013
There is a common theme to the work of Erin O'Keefe, an interest in the way the photographic process flattens the surface of an image, pulling the elements within the frame into a coherent plane.
She uses this process to look at abstract ideas often presented as ambiguous still lives, and On Paper #6is exactly this. A painted piece of paper, folded and then photographed.
For the series, O'Keefe turned the paper around, shifting the light source to create different recorded aspects of the same object, and describes the results as radically different from each other.
I visited her website to see if this was the case, but I was a little disappointed to find that the repeat undermined the original idea reducing the series to a bit of a gimmick. It was almost as though once you have seen one piece of painted paper do you really need to see it again, albeit slightly altered.
I am slightly uncomfortable with my criticism here, as in principle O'Keefe's work should press all our buttons at Troika Editions. It demonstrates an interested in abstraction; the photographic process; making things to be transformed into something new; photographic expressionism. But there is something just a bit too knowing, perfect, almost glitzy about O'Keefe's work and while I can see it would be popular and attractive to viewers, it somehow lacks an element of surprise; that all important flaw that transforms the crafted into art.