London, April


I visited London again last weekend. On Saturday I travelled back to Hampstead to re-visit Lawn Road, the Isokon Building and gallery. I took my contact sheets and started the process of selecting images from them on the train, the difficult task of narrowing the images down to about a dozen from the 9 rolls of 36 I shot at the beginning of March. My plan this time was not to shoot more film but to walk around Hampstead in areas key to the Isokon story. This included finding other Modernist buildings from the same era, such as Maxwell Fry's Sun House and the addresses of artists related who visited or had links with the Isokon such as Lee Miller and Henry Moore. I took a Polaroid camera as I find these instant images very helpful for project planning, especially on location, much more so than digital images, I think it's something to do with having to be very selective about what you shoot and having a collection of pictures you can hold in your hand, they somehow carry more weight. As I walked around I thought about the stories I have read and heard about the Isokon, about the people who's footsteps I was tracing and how I could use their stories to inform my project and the final work, where I feel text will also be key.

Earlier that day I visited the Photographers' Gallery. The Deutsche Börse Photography Prize exhibtion is currently on show there. I found some fantastic work, interestingly, predominantly analogue. One of my favourite artists - Sophie Calle - is a nominee, I found the work exhibited concerning grief very moving. Her use of text and image is always inspiring and it has made me wonder about the possibilities of weaving fact and fiction through the text I use in my own work about the Isokon. This was also an idea triggered by the watching the play 'City of Glass' based on the novel by Paul Auster (who has collaborated with Sophie Calle in the past), at HOME last month.

On Sunday we were very lucky to stumble upon a talk at Sotheby's. Terry O'Neill was being interviewed as part of the 'Made In Britain' pre-auction exhibition. He talked about using a 35mm camera, how it allowed more freedom and spontaneity for his portait work than a larger format. He also talked of his preference for Black and White and using film - especially as it's not edited on the spot, it takes time to process and as a result images that may have been disgarded initially or seemed like mistakes can turn out to be the best shots, something I have always felt about my own analogue work. I asked him if there has ever been a time when he didn't have a camera/film and wishes he did, he said no, he never carries a camera when he's not working, as a photographer he sees himself as a 'gun for hire'. He was also asked what he's looking for when taking someone's portrait, his answer was simple, 'them'. His portrait of Bardot was staring at him nonchalantly through her windswept hair throughout the interview, he says it was the last shot on the roll, the wind had just caught her hair, it's a beautiful photograph.

 Terry O'Neill at Sotheby's (photo E Lyons)

Terry O'Neill at Sotheby's (photo E Lyons)

I've still to make a decision on my final edit but I found the research I did over the weekend very useful, I feel ready to start printing at the end of this week.

In other news...I've secured a place on a local project called The Bathroom Darkroom Project which takes place in Chorlton over Easter, it has been created by photographer Rachael Burns, I'll post more information about this soon.