Olli Thomson

Category: Photographers

The Myth of Capa

Here is a fascinating article calling into question the accepted narrative concerning Robert Capa’s images from the D-Day landings. It seems that even some of those who have been pushing this narrative for decades are now accepting that at least some elements of it are dubious, including John Morris, Capa’s photo editor at Life magazine. It would be interesting to read a response to the arguments made by Coleman from others who still maintain the truth of the story.

Debunking the Myths of Robert Capa on D-Day

Emotion, Voice, Life

Not one but two great photography articles this morning. In The Observer there is an interview with Don McCullin and Giles Duley. A retrospective of McCullin’s career opens at Tate Britain tomorrow (5 February), which I’ll be visiting next month, and he has been doing a few interviews in advance of that. This is the most interesting of them, partly because McCullin started his professional career at the Observer; mostly because the interview is a three way conversation between the interviewer and the two photographers. Duley is a triple amputee having stepped on an IED in Afghanistan yet despite his horrific injuries he was able to return to his photographic career, documenting the long term consequences of war.

It’s about the emotional – we’re not just photographers, we gather emotionally. A camera doesn’t mean a toss to me. I just put it in front of me and transfer the image through that piece of glass and that film. But I’m using my emotion more than I’m using that piece of equipment. Don McCullin

If I hadn’t been able to take a photograph again then I would rather have died in Afghanistan. Photography, it’s me. It’s my voice. Simple as that. Giles Duley

Ragnar Axelsson – Fjallaland

Visiting photography galleries is always high on the list of must do activities for every trip. In Reykjavik I spent a morning at the Museum of Photography, which is one of the five sites making up the Reykjavik City Museum. The Museum houses a collection of over 6 million images dating back to 1860 and is continually expanding its holdings. The collection includes both amateur and professional work and, commercial and personal photographs.

The exhibition spaces are relatively small but the works on display when I was there were excellent – definitely a case of quality over quantity. There are also a number of monitors giving access to the museum’s digitised photo collection of 35,000 images. These can also be accessed directly online.

The museum also has a publicly accessible library of photography books and photographic records and I took the opportunity to browse through some of the works after viewing the exhibitions. It was while browsing that I came across a number of books by Ragnar Axelsson. I was vaguely aware of Axelsson, but not sufficiently aware to make the connection when I decided to visit Iceland, so he was still something of a new discovery.

David Goldblatt

Renowned South African photographer David Goldblatt died on Monday, 25 June. The following video is a recording of a presentation Goldblatt did a couple of years ago highlighting twenty key images from his lengthy career. There are also two short videos from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in which Goldblatt discusses one of his best known projects, In Boksburg, and his most recent project, Ex Offenders at the Scene of Crime.

Martin Parr

In 2014 Phaidon published an updated edition of their Martin Parr retrospective called, imaginatively enough, Martin Parr. In numbers: 464 pages, more than 600 photographs, and a list price of £60 / $100.

I’ve always liked Parr’s work so when a new copy showed up on AbeBooks for less than $40 last year, I snapped it up. The book covers Parr’s photographic work from his earliest days up to 2011 and has broad selections from many of his projects and publication. The images are accompanied by an extensive text from Val Williams, detailing Parr’s career and discussing his work.

Of Things Not Seen

The exhibition Of Things Not Seen tells the story of a year in the life of Kit Gunasekera, a Church of England priest who ministers in the district of Clapham in London. The images, shot in black and white by photographer Jim Grover, are honest, sensitive and moving. The title of the series is taken from the book of Hebrews in the Bible.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get to visit the exhibition, but there is a website associated with the project with a selection of images and more information. I did manage to get hold of the exhibition catalogue through the website, though I’m not sure if it is still available.

René Burri – Photographs

I’ve always liked the photographs of René Burri who died last year. Burri came from Switzerland and was a longtime member of the Magnum Agency. He documentary work and his portraits appeared in many of the great news magazines. I finally ordered the major retrospective of his work, simply titled Photographs, recently and I plan to pick up Impossible Reminiscences, a collection of his work in colour.

John Bulmer

I recently came across another great photographer, John Bulmer. His work is new to me, but appeared from the late 50’s to the early 70’s in British newspapers and magazines like the Daily Express and, in particular, The Sunday Times. The Sunday Times introduced the Colour Section, forerunner of the Sunday Times Magazine, in 1962. Bulmer, willing to make the move from black and white to colour, was a regular contributor until a change of editorial policy in the early 1970’s led him to turn his back on still photography in favour of film making. His documentary films were shown on the BBC, National Geographic and Discovery Channel among others.

While many of Bulmer’s assignments were overseas the photographs that I came across first and that are the most striking are those taken around the towns and cities of northern England, mostly in the 1960’s. These are often dismal neighbourhoods inhabited by poor people yet the images, whether in black or white or colour, are beautiful. Here are a few samples from his website.

Jutta Benzenberg

The problem with moving every few years is that all our books have to be packed away. By the time we see them again months later we’re faced with the challenge of organising them on a new set of bookshelves in a new place. While working through the shelves in our current apartment I came across a book that I had never really noticed before. The book was a parting gift from friends in Albania. I suppose it went into a box almost immediately for shipping and then disappeared onto the shelves in our next place.

The book in question is by a German photographer, Jutta Benzenberg, who first came to Albania in 1991, in the aftermath of the fall of the communist regime. Benzenberg was married to Albanian writer, translator and activist Ardian Klosi who had moved to Germany after the end of communism. Images from that period were published in her first book, Albanisches Überleben (Albanian Survival) in 1993 with text by Klosi.


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