Monday, September 03, 2007

How We Are

Finally got around to seeing Tate Britain's fantastic How We Are exhibition of photography at the weekend, just before it closed for good. It was really fantastic, thought provoking and beautiful. Of course I managed to home in straight away on one of the few prints in the whole exhibition that included some interesting typography, Anna Atkins' Cyanotype title page from 'British and Foreign Flowering Plants and Ferns', c. 1852.
Anna Atkins, c. 1852
You can see lots more of them here.

Another that caught my eye was by Alfred George Buckham (1880-1986) who used his job as a pilot to take aerial photographs. The only example I can find at the moment is this quite fuzzy black and white image;
Picture 4
whereas in the exhibition the prints of views over London and Edinburgh were fantastically clear and more of a brownish, sepia colour. The London one was really detailed, with a crowd of boats all along the River.

As well as being great early aerial photos (albeit with super-imposed aeroplanes, which made them feel a little bit silly), the caption really amused me (copied from a scribbled version in my sketchbook, but I think that major points are right);
'Alfred George Buckham, 1880-1986, was the 1st head of aerial reconnaissance for the RAF in WW1, and later a captain. After crashing 9 times, he was discharged.'
9 times! Count 'em, 9. Would that by any chance be connected to the remainder of the caption;
'He took aerial photos with a heavy plate camera, and said, "If one's right leg is tied to the seat with a scarf or a piece of rope it is possible to work in perfect security".' Hmm.

Also in attendance were fantasic pieces by
Dorothy Wilding,
Percy Hennell,
Tony Ray Jones,
Norman Parkinson,
Grace Robertson (one of the very few women to work for Picture Post),
Charlie Phillips ("what makes a good photograph is to be honest.",
Nigel Henderson,
John Hinde,
the archive of The Daily Herald (now The Sun) including what I would describe as early pap shots of Diana Dors,
Tom Wood,
Keith Arnatt,
Stephen Dalton,
the inimitable Martin Parr,
Paul Seawright,
Anna Fox,
Susan Lipper and
Penny Klepuszewska.
All of whom I'd recommend looking up. Phew, that's a big list, sorry!

If you missed the exhibition I'd recommend the catalogue, although some of the photos really aren't done justice by a small print on a page, and neither are many of the photographers' projects done justice by a single photograph. I would have liked to have seen more of the published collections for sale in the Tate's shop.

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