Friday 2 November 2012

Brighton Photo Biennial & Photo Fringe Uni Trip

Though it's been 5 weeks since I started my second year on my BA Photography course at Southampton Solent University, it's taken a little while settling in, especially living in a new house (rather than uni block of flat halls of residence) and getting back into education after a long & lovely summer break. So it was nice little treat to go to Brighton for the day for the Photo Biennial & Photo Fringe to inspire us and ignite our minds with creativity on 17th Oct. Having never been to Brighton I was unexpectedly surprised by how much I loved the city and preferred it to Southampton in an instant; the quirky little vintage markets, cafes and independent and unique stores made it come to life. I felt like I went to the Camden of Brighton and loved it!

I really enjoyed the Biennial which is a photo festival spanning over a month (6 Oct - 4 Nov 2012) of various free exhibitions, events and interventions throughout the city which takes place every 2 years making it a unique exclusive event in the photography calender. The Photo Fringe runs alongside the Biennial and is devised for local artists to get involved and exhibit in the community in places such as independent stores, small galleries, cafes, pubs around Brighton. This year saw the Biennial being curated and produced by Photoworks, a major visual arts agency for photography in the UK. See the Photo Biennial and Photo Fringe site for more details.

We hopped onto the coach and left uni 9.30am to arrive at the University of Brighton Gallery which featured Jason Larkin and Corinne Silva's 'Uneven Development' that focuses on the human and environmental impact of urbanization, Edmund Clark's 'Control Order House' that examines space, control and criminilisation and Omar Fast's video installation 'Five Thousand Feet is the Best'. (See gallery images below)

Jason Larkin and Corinne Silva's 'Uneven Development'

 Edmund Clark's 'Control Order House'

Galleries I visited:
Orange - Biennale
Black - Fringe
Purple- not part of Biennale or Fringe

University of Brighton Gallery
Moksha cafe
Redwood Coffee House
Mange Tout*
Gallery 40*
DPM Images
PS Brighton*
Taylor St. Baristas
The Hope*
ink_d Gallery*
Jubilee Library*
Jubilee Square*

One of the bigger galleries part of the Fringe festival was the Phoenix ( where many artists were exhibiting. The major showcase at the gallery was 'On the Surface of Images' by Jinkyun Ahn (06 Oct-18 Nov) where this is Ahn's first major solo exhibition. His work explores the relationship between Ahn's parents and his family's relationship with death and the afterlife. I like how the exhibition isn't a conventional photography show, he uses modern art mediums such as digital projection and mirrors to enhance the viewer experience and his concept.

'On the Surface of Images' by Jinkyun Ahn

Some more pics from inside the Phoenix gallery:

After the Phoenix we went to this lovely little exhibition in a cute second hand furniture store, Bellerophon 'Modern Miniatures' by Helen McDonald (06 Oct - 18 Nov). I love how she has framed her panoramic images of landscapes, it reminds me of a high end postcard. It amazing what you can do with a camera phone and to have it exhibiting in a leading photographic festival.

Helen McDonald's 'Modern Miniatures'

One of the exhibitions that I wanted to see was Nazare Soares 'Too Many Words for an Eternal Silence' at a lovely chic cafe restaurant Mange Tout (24 Sep - 03 Nov). I loved her double exposures / overlay images and use of figures and colours. I would have liked to have viewed them more closely and discuss with my friends however the cafe was rather busy which took away the focus of the beautiful images which is a shame.

Nazare Soares 'Too Many Words for an Eternal Silence'

After this we also viewed 'So the Wind Won't Blow it all Away' by Maeve Berry, Sam Taylor, David Wilkinson, Gavin Bambrick, Tim Burrough, Joanna Burejza (University of Westminster graduates) at Gallery 40 (6-21 Oct). It was interesting to see a photograph that I recognized at the gallery as one was published in University of  Westminster's graduate degree show booklet which I had picked up from the open day 2 years ago when choosing universities. It made me realize how images can stick in your head even after such a long time and how pictures can trigger memory. This was the photo I recognized by Joanna Burejza.

Joanna Burejza

After that we had a wander around the lovely hippy, alternative, vintage streets in Brighton. Some street art around Brighton:

We had a break from all the galleries and whilst exploring the many independent shops decided to find as many vintage cameras as I could find. I really wanted to purchase one, they're so pretty!

The next gallery we went to was the Lighthouse exhibiting Trevor Paglen's 'Geographies of Seeing' (6 Oct - 4 Nov). He uses photography to explore the secret activities of the U.S military and intelligence agencies. He documents astral movements that don't officially exist. I really like the more abstract pieces in the showcase especially the astronomical images featuring the vast night sky.

Trevor Paglen's 'Geographies of Seeing'

After that we visited Taylor St. Baristas, a lovely little chic cafe house that offer great tea and then headed to The Hope pub down the street to see 'Best Before' by James Kendall. It's about the photographer's 90 year old grandmother-in-law who doesn't believe in best before dates, having lived through WWII. All the products shown here, he believes, were intended to be eaten (6 Oct- 18 Nov). The candid aesthetic reminded me of Andy Warhol's Campbell's Soup Cans.

'Best Before' by James Kendall

We made a quick visit to the Jubilee Library to see Photobook show where there was a diverse range of over 50 hand crafted and self-published books that were selected from open submission. The books reflect on this year's Biennial theme - photography and the politics of space. Outside the library in Jubilee Square were photos from the Argus archives, 'Whose Streets?'. The presentation was interesting and industrial looking and made the photographs 3 dimensional that interacted with the space and viewer.

'Whose Streets?' - Photos from the Argus Archive

Overall I really enjoyed my visit to Brighton and the vibrant culture it offers as a city and a growing art space for many creative outlets. It's hard to pinpoint my favourite exhibition as I found the diversity between what was shown interesting and intriguing. I would certainly visit Brighton again and look forward to the next Brighton Biennial and Photo Fringe.

Also on the day I collected tonnes of flyers, leaflets, booklets, postcards, art newspapers... a good day's work I think! :)

Postcards I bought in Brighton

Have you been to visit Brighton's Biennial and Photo Fringe recently? Let me know what you thought and your highlights of the festival.

Useful Links:

Saturday 25 August 2012

Fashion: Kiera Knightly by Mert & Marcus

As an avid lover of fashion and the art behind it, I love how style leapfrogs back in time yet adds a twist of modernity to keep it fresh. This series of photographs by renowned fashion photography duo Mert & Marcus shows a splash of vibrant colour, 80s geometrics and glamour and face full of fierce of English rose, Keira Knightly. Photographed for Interview Magazine April 2012, styled by Karl Templer

I find the above image particularly striking especially how Keira isn't afraid of staring down the eye of the lens as if looking straight at the viewer face-to-face; she's unapologetic of her confidence and her handsome looks. The bias of monochrome images to coloured images gives the impression of going back in time. Her strong cheekbones enhances the geometrics and sharp tailoring of the composition and clothing. I like how Mert & Marcus have captured her in different moods and poses keeping it far from the usual plain cover shoot of a magazine. The sex appeal reminisces that of Helmut Newton's women and his photographic style too.

Wednesday 16 May 2012

Exhibition Review: Hisaji Hara at Michael Hoppen Gallery

Contemporary photography is going back to its artistic roots reminiscing paintings as its source of inspiration. Many notable photographers such as Tom Hunter and Peter Lindbergh’s ‘Portrait of a Lady’ editorial of Julianne Moore in Harper’s Bazaar [1] have used historical art references to build their photographic ideas; so it is refreshing to see emerging Japanese photographer, Hisiji Hara convert paint to pixels [2]. Hara bases his exhibiting series at the Michael Hoppen Gallery on Polish-French 20th century artist Balthus stating he wanted to explore ‘authenticity’ which he believed his paintings possessed [3]. Although Hara uses the painter’s original compositions, his interpretation are culturally and visually laudable in their own right [4]. This is the first time that Hara’s work has been exhibited in Europe [5] where Western contemporary art is slowly embracing photography of the East and it is encouraging to see portraiture capturing a timelessness to a wider audience which he recreates from his meticulous approach. Though it is interesting and beneficial knowing the background to the image, what the viewer reads and feels is all in the foreground. First notions are that his work is sexually suggestive, atmospherically staged and the viewer later realize it’s a beautifully dark portrayal of childhood innocence and mature eroticism and the transition between the two. Exploring themes such as this has created mixed interpretations of his work leaving a lasting impression on the viewer; one cannot figure out the entirety of his work in one glance, it takes absorbing the whole room first to get a feel for his portraits which is most enjoyable for the voyeur.

 [FIG. 1] © Hisaji Hara, ‘A Study of ‘The Room’’, 2009
Veysey, Iris; ‘In Review: Hisaji Hara at the Michael Hoppen Gallery’ on ‘Vignette Magazine’; Available at:

Reviews of this work have stated Hara puts the viewer in a voyeuristic role with compositions such as ‘A Study of ‘The Room’’ [Fig. 1, above] where we are looking through an ajar door as if we were the photographer. Though this isn’t present in the original [Fig. 2, below], Hara embodies the expression of Balthus’ paintings rather than copy every minute detail; Hara puts his own twist. While the viewer may feel prurient and slightly naughty looking at young girls in short skirted school uniforms the atmosphere in the purposely aged photographs is soft and ethereal challenging the notions associated with voyeurism. The contrast between the two is most compelling yet at times unsettling as we are charmed by the instant beauty but contradicted by society’s view of representations of young girls. Hara states that ‘If you can see the mixture of innocence and eroticism in my series and be unsettled by it, that is because you are seeing our unavoidable antinomy. And that is very beautiful and important for me.’ [6] He also mentions that ‘eroticism’ roots to our physical existence and that ‘innocence’ reflects our spiritual existence and how they both represent two opposing sides of our actuality. He believes Balthus had challenged this and forced the viewer to ‘listen’ to their spiritual side and not necessarily be overwhelmed by our physical self. Modern thought (our physical existence) associates short skirts with sexual desire and thus transforms the girl into an object. As Laura Mulvey puts it; ‘pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female’ (Mulvey 1992, 27). [7] This can clearly be seen in [Fig. 1] and ‘A study of ‘Because Cathy taught him what she learnt’’ where there is a man leaning above the girl who is kneeling on the floor. Balthus said that he painted little girls because "women, even my own daughter, belong to the present world, to fashion" [8] thus creating a timelessness that children possess [9].

[FIG.2] Balthus; ‘The Room’, 1953
‘The Room’ on ‘Wikipaintings’; Available at:

Admittedly it was Guy Bourdin’s exhibition at Michael Hoppen Contemporary that was the main attraction however wandering downstairs to find a small room displaying Hara’s 20’s styled portraits juxtaposed the feeling from Bourdin on the top floor. Hara’s girls possessed a soft innocence where the viewer feels enchanted to gaze longer; a contradictory character to Bourdin’s women who were powerfully sexual and demanded your attention in a loud manner. After viewing Bourdin’s colourful work first, made Hara’s black-and-white portraits become more captivating and somehow delicate especially his depiction of young females. Perhaps the Gallery purposefully chose two dissimilar styles to exhibit at the same time that both shared a theme of underlying sexuality to impact the viewer further more.

Another prominent piece that makes ‘A Photographic Portrayal of the Paintings of Balthus’ so beautiful is Hara’s painstaking approach to recreate the original compositions using a medium format film involving elaborate set up and technicalities. The disquieting serenity is due to Hara’s scrupulous staged tableaux which is becoming a prominent art form in modern photography. Today’s society is engrossed in digital post-production manipulation [10] thus rendering old-fashioned film a dying medium however Hara prefers the labour intensive approach using multiple exposures and a smoke machine that enhances the misty atmosphere and sense of depth. He does so by using a matte box and cardboard screens altering the perspective. With a foggy set up the exposure time would vary from 1 – 10 seconds reminiscing the long periods an artist would need to paint his subject. Again Hara embodies not only the composition of Balthus’ paintings but encompasses a painters approach too. Also the traditional means and soft focus prompt similarities to the Pictorial era [11] enriching his photographs with historical likeness that is refreshing for 21st Century photography.

Michael Hoppen Gallery has been applauded for bringing contemporary photographers from across the globe to the Western market and has created a platform for emerging artists. [12] Though the exhibition was considerably small leaving us wanting to see more of Hara’s work it was pleasant surprise to acknowledge world-class talent and forth fronting Japanese photography in the West. Though Hara uses Western influence for the basis of his photographs, it is his native cultural impression that is fascinating such as the use of Japanese actors including a self-portrait in ‘A Study of The King of Cats’ personalizing his work. In 1974 John Szarkowski, co-curator of an exhibit of Japanese photography at New York’s MoMA, wrote “What comes new of an artist today will, if interesting, be the common property of the whole world next year”. [13] Perhaps Hisaji Hara’s ‘A Photographic Portrayal of the Paintings of Balthus’ will be the advancer for Japanese contemporary photography.

Inside the exhibition (photographs by myself)


1. Published in Harper’s Bazaar, May 2008
Galperina, Marina; ‘Julianne Moore as Famous Works of Art’ on ‘Flavorwire’; Available at: [Online resource, accessed 15/05/12]
2. In the exhibition the Michael Hoppen Gallery uses digital archival prints to see to potential art collectors rather than the originals themselves. ‘Hisaji Hara’ on ‘Michael Hoppen Gallery Past Exhibitions’; Available at:,past,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,michael_hoppen_contemporary.html [Online resource, accessed 14/05/12]
3. 'Question: ‘ : The Michael Hoppen Gallery in London is now exhibiting a series of your portraits modeled upon painting by Balthus. Why did you feel the urge to recreate / revisit his paintings?’ Author unknown; ‘Hisaji Hara, ou l'inévitable antinomie de l'être’ on ‘’; Available at: [online resource, accessed 15/05/12]
4. Bohr, Marco; ‘Hisiji Hara’ on ‘Photomonitor’; Available at: [Online resource, accessed 14/05/12]
5. Unknown author; Exhibition statement present at the Michael Hoppen Gallery
6. Question: ' : Your work contains an unsettling and at the same time most natural mix of innocence and eroticism - some might even say that your pictures contain lots of Lolitas. Why is this theme important to you?' Author unknown; ‘Hisaji Hara, ou l'inévitable antinomie de l'être’ on ‘’; Available at: [online resource, accessed 15/05/12]
7. Chandler, Daniel; ‘Notes on “The Gaze”’; Available at:; [Online resource, accessed 16/05/12]
8. O’Hagan, Sean; ‘Hisaji Hara – review’ on ‘The Guardian’; Available at: [Online resource; accessed 14/05/12]
9. 'Question: : Do you agree with Balthus' when he says that girls convey timelessness better than women ?' Author unknown; ‘Hisaji Hara, ou l'inévitable antinomie de l'être’ on ‘’; Available at: [online resource, accessed 15/05/12]
10. O’Hagan, Sean; ‘Hisaji Hara – review’ on ‘The Guardian’; Available at: [Online resource; accessed 14/05/12]
11. Bohr, Marco; ‘Hisiji Hara’ on ‘Photomonitor’; Available at: [Online resource, accessed 14/05/12]
12. Michael Hoppen Gallery – ‘History’; Available at:,history,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,michael_hoppen_gallery.html [Online resource, accessed 16/05/12]
13. Tucker, Anne Wilkes; ‘The History of Japanese Photography’ (Museum of Fine Arts, Houston); published; Yale University Press [Hardcover](4 Feb 2003)

Beauty: Lara Stone by Josh Olins

Whilst going through my daily feed of current fashion photography I was mesmerized by this beautiful portrait of top model Lara Stone (above). Though many consider her not conventionally beautiful by the gap in her teeth and porcelain skin she has managed to take the fashion world by storm; her ability to transform herself into anything. I believe Josh Olin has captured natural beauty in the photo alone and all the details such as the adorned embellishments amount to an enchanted fantasy. Her direct gaze is what I find most fascinating especially the expression in her eyes. This photograph is powerful yet soft at the same time and I believe images that possess a balance between the two are the most compelling.

Lara Stone is photographed by Josh Olins and styed by Gillian Wilkins for Vogue Nederland May 2012

More photos from the shoot:

Beauty: 'Black is Beautiful' by Eve Arnold

Above image photographed by myself from at The Sunday Times Magazine 50th Anniversary exhibition at Paintworks, Bristol (Mar 23 – Apr 3 2012)

‘This image by Eve Arnold of an unnamed model was used as a cover picture in 1969. It was seen as ground-breaking at the time, even though the Civil Rights Movement in the US had already made great strides towards racial equality. Other photographs, taken mainly in Harlem, and a report by Eve Arnold addressed the slogan “black is beautiful”, which was in widespread use at the time. It was coined by the black poet and social activist Langston Hughes.’ - accompanying caption to image at the exhibition.

I believe Arnold’s image truly captures black beauty and that beauty isn’t restricted to one race. Publishing such a controversial image (at that time) in a national newspaper was a great platform to showcase ‘other’ types of beauty and challenged racial segregation and beauty. Who are we to say one race is superior and more beautiful than the other?

Useful Links:
The Sunday Times 50th Anniversary Exhibition

Beauty: 'Real Beauty' by Jodi Bieber


Bieber’s body of work has been very inspiring and brave to challenge the concept of beauty. There has been much speculation to what beauty truly is yet there is no true answer. Everyone has their own view yet the media feeds the ‘fair-skinned, slim and sleek’ look as the typical beauty so we are forced to sallow this perception. Bieber goes against this and wants to show the real life people, not airbrushed but as beauty comes in the majority of the population; she focuses on shooting in her native country: South Africa. It is interesting to see how she addresses various themes such as race and body image in such a conservative nation. Shooting her subjects half-naked shows confident women in their entirety, not hiding their true body and shape. I am particularly drawn to the above photograph as I rarely seen a South Asian woman in just a bra and underwear, let alone being middle aged. This is due to cultural norms that don’t condone showing naked flesh as it conjures negative perceptions on the woman. I like how the woman in this image stands up for Bieber’s ‘Real Beauty’ project and that she looks proud of whom she is. The fact that Bieber shoots the portraits in the sitter’s home gives the viewer a sense of who the person is and makes the project even more personal. The little details such as the blue hanger and flower bed sheet shows how this image is constructed up to point, but the environment seems untouched. Usually I prefer portraits with a shallow depth of field and the background blurred, however in this case the background is as much in the foreground as the sitter is. Though the sitter is conscious of the photographer, in this series the subjects all seem rather relaxed and Bieber’s approach certainly eases any anxiety the women in the photographs had.

As my current project looks at the concept of beauty and the relationship with the media, especially the fashion industry I am enthralled to have come across Beiber’s ‘Real Beauty’ project as her themes confronts the ‘ideal’ beauty and raises questions on what it is. I like how Bieber finds it within and in her interviews she states her findings that ‘most women believe that there is no real perfect body shape, and that beauty is more about being healthy and feeling comfortable in one’s own skin’; this corroborates with my survey I posted on Facebook on what my friends thought beauty in people was. See my survey responses here.

Read an article on Jodi Bieber's work discussing 'Real Beauty' on Visura Magazine.

Useful Links:
British Journal of Photography - 'Sister Show' by Diane Smith

Exhibition Review: London - Paolo Roversi and Guy Bourdin (25/02/12)

On 25 Feb 2012 I visited London and dragged my boyfriend to two galleries that were showcasing fashion portraiture; Paolo Roversi at the Wapping Project Bankside in Southwark and Guy Bourdin at the Michael Hoppen Gallery near South Kensington. Though both photographers sharing the interest of fashion their approaches are very dissimilar and was interesting to see two different exhibitions in one day.

Guinevere Van Seenus by Paolo Reversi
Image Source:

Paolo Roversi is renowned for his soft focus, shallow depth of field, ‘rustic’ portraits that have been described as timeless. The models in his images do not look like stereotypical models and are dressed down. I like how he shows their natural beauty and captures ‘rawness’ unlike any photographer I’ve seen. In the above image she is partially nude yet the viewer does not first think this but we are drawn to her alluring expression. This photograph is difficult to date when it was taken as the characteristics do not show anything of this time, hence the ‘timelessness’ to his photographs. Her expression is ethereal yet focused directly at the viewer creating an almost haunting look reminiscing that of the Pictorial era in the late 19th and early 20th century. My two favourite photographs in this exhibition was a black-and-white portrait of Natalia Vodianova and an exquisite large colour print of Guinevere Van Seenus. My boyfriend, (he’s no art expert!) managed to feel these were the most expensive prints on sale, and rightly so: I think these were Reversi’s strongest exhibiting pieces (see below).

Guinevere Van Seenus by Paolo Reversi
Image Source:

I enjoyed this exhibition as it was displayed in a clean and clear manner; the prints weren’t too big or small and were spread out evenly through a vast white space. The visitor didn’t feel enclosed or too open. Even my boyfriend who isn’t interested in art much, let alone fashion photography was quite impressed with the work. 

Later in the day I rushed to the Michael Hoppen Gallery just in time before it closed. The exhibition wasn’t what I expected it to be: it was much smaller and cramped and the prints were hung in distracting places such against a bookshelf full of colourful books. Bourdin is renowned as a master of colour so was a shame to drown out his prints with even more colour and clutter in the exhibition. I hadn’t really researched much of Bourdin’s work before visiting except the knowledge of his erotic photographs. After going to the exhibition I wasn’t too keen on his work as it was too much ‘in your face’ and didn’t allow the viewer to digest the photograph as there was a lot going on. This was a surprise to me as I had read many comparisons between Helmut Newton and Bourdin and I am completely enticed by Newton’s work even naming him as one of my favourite photographers. However Bourdin did stimulate discussion and one must applaud his technical ability using vivid colour which was new at that time. One that I found particularly interesting was ‘Campaign for Charles Jourdan, Spring 1979’ (below) due to the clashing of bold yellow and red and the unusual posture of the female model. Bourdin is commendable on taking fashion photography to new depths and wasn’t afraid of pushing the boundaries of a fashion image thus challenging the expected stood-straight face-on pose to the camera. Though I am not prudent and fully embrace female sexuality represented in fashion photography I did find some of his work quite crude however there were a few pieces that were composed wonderfully with flair.

Campaign for Charles Jourdan, Spring 1979 by Guy Bourdin
Image source:

Though the two photographers are regarding amongst the elite in the fashion world, they have very differing styles and approaches. Overall I preferred the Paolo Reversi exhibition at the Wapping Project Bankside than I did for Guy Bourdin at the Michael Hoppen Gallery. One of the reasons for this was the layout and space at the Reversi exhibition; I was able to absorb his images, feel the model’s expressions and the photographer’s mood. Whilst visiting these exhibitions I was engrossed in my ‘Beauty’ project so couldn’t help but notice the subject matter; both photographers featured nude models and all were Caucasian. Where are the ethnic models? I enjoyed how this day questioned how beauty can be presented in contrasting ways and the power a renowned photographer can have on influencing the new generation on what a beautiful image and model is.

Exhibition photographs I took at the gallery:

Paolo Reversi @ The Wapping Project Bankside

Guy Bourdin @ The Michael Hoppen Gallery


Useful Links:
Paolo Reversi interview PDF article (British Journal of Photography) -
Michael Hoppen Gallery -

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