I had the pleasure of watching an extraordinary documentary about Vivian Maier recently. She was an amateur photographer who specialised in ‘street’ portraits and scenes, all done whilst working as a nanny in New York.
During her lifetime (1926 – 2009), Vivian did not show her photographs to anyone, nor did she seek the approval of anyone or their critique of her work. For her, it seemed that photography was not – as it normally is – about the sharing, but was a purely personal adventure. Often, particularly latterly, she did not process the films; this led to a comment that for so many of her images, Vivian was the only person ever to have seen them – and then, only in her viewfinder.
Shortly prior to her death, a number of storage lockers containing her images – some prints, but mainly rolls of film and negatives – were sold to pay the cost of the storage; this eventually led to the discovery of her work, with critical acclaim following fast. Now, it seems, her place in the history of photography is assured – not simply because of the story of the discovery of her work, but primarily because of the exceptional quality of her images.
“That rare case of a genuine undiscovered artist, she left behind a huge trove of pictures that rank her with the great American mid-century street photographers. The best pictures bring to life a fantastic swath of history that now needs to be rewritten to include her.” – Michael Mimmelman, New York Times
Last week I visited the Trongate 103 Gallery in Glasgow, which houses Street Level Photoworks. There, I saw a retrospective exhibition of the work of the late David Peat. Shot in monochrome, the images formed two selections; the first, Glasgow depicted in 1968, and focussing on the Gorbals, Maryhill and Tradeston; the second, a body of work captured in different places around the world.
This afternoon, there was a talk by Ray McKenzie, which looked at Peat’s work and offered a commentary on some of the images from the collection.
At the end of the talk, I had the opportunity to meet and talk with David Bruce, former director of the Edinburgh International Film Festival – and the man responsible for bringing Peat’s photography out into the open. David Peat was primarily a film-maker, but one who enjoyed photography and who – to begin with – observed the street urchins and the crumbling decay of Glasgow in the Sixties, creating a body of work comparable to that of Oscar Marzaroli. And that body of work is perhaps more powerful now than it was then, offering social commentary, wry humour, and that ‘decisive moment’ captured in an age past.
David Bruce very kindly agreed to allow me to make this portrait of him, standing beside David Peat’s image entitled ‘Mask, Barcelona’. My thanks to Mr Bruce – both for his kindness today, and for his endeavours regarding the work of David Peat.
You can read more about the exhibition in this article in The Scotsman.
My third annual trip to the Merchant City Festival gave me this portrait of artist Moe Rocksmoore, who paints astonishing pictures in oils, her canvases alive with colour. Based at The Briggait, Moe has a love of skies and has recently begun exploring elements of Venice and Florence, following trips there.
Moe very kindly stopped painting for a few moments in order for me to make this portrait – my thanks to her for that.
There was something about the simplicity and elegance of the shape of this ancient jar, which really appealed to me.
Already in pale colours, I wanted my final image to be in creamy tones, to accentuate the brush strokes on the jar itself.
One of the highlights of this year’s Edinburgh Festival is David Mach’s exhibition ‘Precious Light’, on now at the City Art Centre. Visiting the exhibition at the weekend, I had the pleasure of meeting David Mach, who is a previous nominee for the Turner Prize and a Professor of Sculpture.
‘Precious Light’ celebrates the 400th anniversary of the publishing of the King James Bible. Comprised of photo and collage work over four floors of the art centre, each piece takes it’s inspiration from the Bible – and some of the pieces are very large. Mach has moved his studio into the top floor of the Art Centre, and visitors can watch him creating his final piece of the exhibition, a vast collage piece entitled ‘The Last Supper’. Notable pieces in the collection include the Devil’s Head, made entirely of matches (and a copy of which was set ablaze at the opening of the Festival); but the highlight has to be the enormous crucifixion scene, ‘Golgotha’, which fills the ground floor of the Art Centre and which is quite breathtaking.
Mach’s own website has this to say of the exhibition –
The exhibition, over three years in the making, explores the themes and legacy of the King James Bible in the year of its 400th anniversary. The text is widely regarded as one of the most influential works in the English language. Precious Light, which represents the Turner-nominated artist’s largest solo show to date, is a contemporary imagining of the King James Bible in collage, sculpture and words.