‘I am a dedicated people watcher who loves to see art and art watchers watching.
Museums provide irresistible visuals feasts of science, history, art on canvas, in sculpture, in buildings that are themselves art.
Blending with displays, spectators provide the human scale, thinking, judging, having fun, feeding sensibilities.
It makes fine hunting for a furtive photographer on the prowl.’
– Elliott Erwitt, Museum Watching, 1999
We’re completely on a roll with people watching art this week.
How do you take your art?
Do you make notes?
Do you have to take pictures of everything you like?
Or do you just photograph everything you want to note down, because who actually writes these days?
We’ve recently discovered the work of Alécio de Andrade and we’re moved by how natural his images are. A Brazilian poet/photographer, Andrade’s work especially his series The Louvre and its Visitors (with most of the images taken in the 1990’s) have made us more in awe of the fly on the wall photographers who watch us as we watch the world,
and in this particular case, as we muse over some of the world’s greatest masterpieces.
We’re also slightly nostalgic about the complete absence of mobile phones and cameras in his images…..oh the good old days, some would say.
Here’s a special selection of the ones that stuck with us, among those that capture the different sides to femininity. The exhibition is worth a visit especially for the context it offers each photograph. Without this, an image could be many things to most.
The portrait is of Maria and Corinne, part of a series inspired by the work of John Singer Sargent. The twins’ mother is a friend of the photographer. Panas says: ‘When she told me she had twins, I was excited to take a portrait of them. It was curious how little they looked like one another, but still very compelling.’
The portrait is of three sisters at a swimming pool in the photographer’s native Bratislava. Červeňová was working on a series that recalled the atmosphere and mood of her memories of growing up in Slovakia. On returning to the swimming pool she would visit as a child, she was struck by the chance encounter with the girls standing by the locker she had habitually used in her youth; with their mother’s permission she made this portrait.
The portrait is of Sarah, a model working with Almås on a fashion image with visual references to the Holy Mother. Almås says: ‘It came at a time when my photographic curiosity changed from just observing to truly connecting with my subject.’
The portrait is of identical twins Esther and Ruth. The photographer saw the women at a socialgathering and contacted them to ask if they would allow her to take their portrait. They posed together at Esther’s house and were surprised to be asked to wear bathrobes and lie on the bed. Deiss says: ‘I wanted to depict their relationship in all its honesty, tenderness and strength’.
The portrait of Irish jump jockey Katie Walsh was commissioned by Channel 4 to promote TV coverage of the 2013 Grand National. Murphy photographed several jockeys in their mudspattered silks on a race day at Kempton Park. Walsh was the only woman included. She is the Grand National’s highest placed female jockey, achieving third place on Seabass in 2012.
The portrait is of identical twins Nellie and Elza and is from a series that explores physical resemblance. Knizova says she was fascinated by ‘the twins’ similarities, differences, and their mutual close attachment.’ The young women have recently moved to London, hoping to further their media careers after being seen in the television series New Zealand’s Next Top Model.
The portrait is of Katie and Jojo, two of the photographer’s friends from university. They are posed with Stewart’s Maine Coon cat, Tex. Stewart originally intended to make a moving image piece, but found a photographic portrait communicated the idea more clearly.
The portrait is of Carla, a friend of the photographer who is a Principal Ballerina for the Pacific Northwest Ballet Company. Fraser says: ‘I wanted a raw, natural setting. The portrait was made in the early morning by the coast, west of Seattle, when the mist was still hanging in the air.’
This portrait of Sofia is part of a series that the photographer has dedicated to his late wife, Vivíana, and all women affected by breast cancer. Díaz says of this portrait: ‘Sofía looks us in the eye and tells us who she is and how she lives today: accepting her new reality, valuing a different kind of beauty, more authentic and more profound.’
The portrait is of Visser’s newly born daughter, his girlfriend and her mother. He says of the portrait: ‘My daughter was born at 3am. The photograph was taken towards the end of the morning when everyone involved was exhausted and had fallen asleep.’
We’ve been away the past few weeks – holidaying, spending time with family, and doing all those warm fuzzy things you do when the end of the year draws close and it’s time to ponder, resolve and breathe.
And we’re back.
More in love
This year will be the big one; the one where dreams get ticked off the list and built to last.
Where the life we live is the life we want.
And in the spirit of inspired and inspiring, we’re sharing So Sonia today. Here’s to a year of bigger leaps and kindnesses.
Al Vandenberg has this great series called ‘On a Good Day’ that captures Londoners doing what they do best – projecting a street-style that’s gritty and urban, yet possessing a warmth that is quintessentially British.
Vandenberg captured these images on what he called a ‘good’ day – a day both he and his subjects felt their happiest best. Though this comes across in most of his images, what would a series of street photographs be without a few token scowls.
‘With a father interested in local history, art and architecture, as a child, I was always encouraged to look around me and observe all the interesting sights and sounds of the places we were visiting. My everyday space was Brixton of the 1980s – an area full of character; the grand architecture of a Victorian Suburb contrasted against the new build housing estates, the hustle bustle of the busy market and the communities of West Indians, squatters, and the Irish, all adding something to the recipe that created the neighbourhood.
During this time, murals started to appear, often visible to me on my regular route to school or visits to Brixton market. There were two that I really liked. One is a portrait of local people at the local adventure playground. To little me, then about 10 or 11, I was so impressed by the fact the artist had created portraits that actually looked like the individuals. And I felt privileged to know people who someone thought were important enough to be painted on the public wall. This feeling of ownership to the piece was delightful and now when I see it, it triggers so many memories of playing at the adventure playground.
The other mural which I noticed was Brixton’s Nuclear Dawn – a painting of a skeletal man dropping bombs on London whilst the Government hides in a bunker under Parliament. As a little child, the political message of the piece was lost on me, however there was a very real threat of the bomb being dropped on us while we slept; my siblings and I constantly talked to my mum about this. And the mural was (and is) a constant reminder of that fear.
But asides from the moments of nostalgia with these paintings, they also taught me things about art, showing me strong compositions, use of colour and good technical skills. I’m sure too many of my own art works featured skeletons or a figure striding across an urban landscape such was the subliminal impact of this mural. Today I run the London Mural Preservation Society in the hope that we can collect and save the stories of these pieces and repair some of these murals so they can inspire future generations.’
The London Mural Preservation Society run walking tours of London’s murals in spring and summer. Keep an eye out on the website for future announcements.
Ruth’s sister Hannah Lee Miller has also made an animation featuring the Nuclear Dawn mural, which echos what Ruth says about murals becoming a part your everyday if you grew up in London in the 80s.
Thanks Ruth, for sharing your inspiration behind the London Mural Preservation Society with us.
Every now and then we come across photographers who can craft a symphony out of quotidian monotony. And Paul Russell is one of them.
A freelance street and documentary photographer based in Dorset, his work focuses on how human behaviour is affected by the environment that it’s surrounded by. And like a patient birdwatcher, albeit watching a different kind of bird, Russell manages to capture images we would be more likely to spot if we felt less rushed, less busy, and less self-important.
Here are some of our favourite Paul Russell images. His work leaves us with the sense that photography is much more than a skill… it is a mindset, a way of living.
Today we discovered this inspiring project by Mario Cacciottolo called Someone Once Told Me that in one photograph a day, encapsulates the power of words and their ability to impact our lives.
What started out as a way to explore the city of London and get to know its populous better, Cacciottolo has been posting a picture a day since 2007 with individuals holding up statements that someone once said to them. And from the happy to the amusing, the poignant to the sad, these images show that the one big statement that defines you or has changed your life, often comes when you least expect it.
Here are some of our favourites. You can click on each of them to access a short blurb and in some cases additional video content.
We love Cacciottolo’s passion and his commitment to this project over the years. And you can be part of it too. Just send in an image via Your SOTM and if they are any good, he’ll feature them on the site. Foreign language contributions are also welcome.
A few months ago the world re-discovered the work of photographer Bob Mazzer and his wonderful images of London’s tubes. And everyone’s been talking about them since.
A quintessential Londoner, Mazzer was born in Aldgate, lived in Manor House for a while and worked as a projectionist in a porn cinema at Kings Cross. And most of his images are from his journey to work and back, often late at night, which allowed him to capture the city at its colourful best.
We’ve seen a lot (and we mean a lot) of images of London tube scenes but Mazzer makes us look at the underground afresh, like we’re seeing it for the first time. Here are some of our favourites from the images he took in the 70’s and 80’s.
Mazzer also has some more recent images of the tube, and though London seems to have lost some of its edge, there’s no dearth of inspiration when you’re trawling the underground for some good clicks.
Mapplethorpe’s images were produced not from a desire to shock or titillate, but from a search for the unexpected, for things he had never seen before. And his skills as a photographer, and his immaculate understanding of form, light and shadow, ensured that every composition of his produced a beautiful, sensual image; whether he was photographing a naked body or a flower in a vase.
In the main essay in this book by Herbert Muschamp, he says, ‘Mapplethorpe expects his flowers to be more than pretty. His lilies must toil, spin and impersonate Baudelaire. His orchids, roses and even his daisies must know how to put on mysterious aspects. They are Method flowers. He counts on them to project intrigue, hints of danger, and other noir effects. Ambiguity is essential; their shadows will contradict what the blossoms appear to be saying. They insinuate as well as ravish. A few are practicing to use their stems like whips.’
Whips or otherwise, these flowers are formidable like prized prima donnas. We can’t help but be swayed by the poetry of the light and dark in these images, which gives us yet another reason to be inspired by Mapplethorpe.