Jean Jullien’s illustrations are instantly recognisable, well observed and often very funny. His simple black line drawings remark on this modern life, whether it is to poke fun at his and our relationship with the digital world, our relationships with each other or in the case of his ‘Peace For Paris’ illustration, serve to remind us, in the simplest of ways, of our humanity and togetherness.
In 2011 a group of Magnum photographers set out from Austin, Texas in an RV and took to the open roads headed for California. Together, in a photographic experiment to share ideas, experiences and imagery, they photographed the American landscapes and people, capturing a nuanced portrait of America, while challenging the notion of photography as a solitary pursuit.
Out of this first journey, Postcards From America was born. This great Magnum photographic road trip has seen eighteen photographers contribute over the last five years, and is one of the largest and most inclusive projects Magnum have ever produced. Throughout the project the photographers worked in small groups, and in doing so celebrated the past that Magnum was built on, from its simple beginnings as a small group of friends photographing subjects that interested them.
They also fully embraced Magnum’s future, posting the images in real time on their Postcards Tumblr site, making the work immediate and accessible. An acknowledgment of the world this historic photo agency now lives in. Collectively theses images demonstrate the energy still behind Magnum, seventy years on.
They Made This spoke to Magnum photographer Mark Power recently about the Postcards From America series. We chatted about his approach to the Postcards trips, playing with the supposed truth of the documentary image, embracing new ways of working, capturing the state of the US economy, his new found love of panoramas, the spirit of the Postcard series and how he is not yet finished photographing America.
There’s a tendency now for documentary photographers to speculatively make work, pay for it themselves, and hope to get something back in some form or other when finished. But this isn’t a very good business model. ‘Postcards’ is one way of addressing this.
The first trip consisted of five photographers, a group of friends and colleagues from Magnum who shared common interests. They drove an RV through the south west of America before reaching Oakland, California, where they produced a pop-up show of work made along the way and sold prints (cheaply) made (cheaply) by a local chemist. This helped, at least partially, to fund the trip. It was very energised and immediate, and not at all precious, which is part of the idea. Also, that first group were keen to see if social media could be used to build momentum behind the project.
Photography is usually a solitary activity but on Postcards we are all encouraged to share our ideas and experiences while working together towards a common goal. Occasionally we’d experiment by literally working together. Actually, that’s the key word; the whole thing is an experiment.
By the time Postcards is over, which will be very soon, about eighteen photographers from Magnum would have been involved, making it (I believe) the largest and most inclusive project the co-operative has ever produced. Some members have had a greater role than others but the range of photographers who’ve been involved is notable. I believe this is important for Magnum too.
In 2017 Magnum will celebrate its 70th birthday. With such a rich history, and an archive of photographs of major world events that is second-to-none, it’s perhaps even more important that we’re seen to be embracing new working methods and moving forward, rather than simply sitting on our laurels and living in the past. Because, make no mistake, Magnum is alive and kicking. We want to remain relevant for a young audience, and the (almost) 2 million followers Magnum has across Facebook, twitter and Instagram is, I think, testament to this. The last thing we want to be is elitist.
We’re lucky because there’ll be an exhibition and a book at the end of the Postcards journey, but there’ll also be community events happening outside the gallery. This is important to us because we don’t want to only appeal to a cultural elite. The work needs to reach as many of the people in our pictures as possible, which has been the spirit of the project right the way through.
The camera is quite laborious and difficult to use, so I don’t take many pictures. Much of the editing is done in front of the subject rather than later, on a screen. It’s really very similar to using, and being spare with, film.
Our third trip, the first I was directly involved with, was to Florida. At the end of that we produced a magazine we called ‘Swapshop’, which sold very well. A further chapter was the result of a commission from the Milwaukee Art Museum for a group to photograph Wisconsin. The curator, Lisa Sutcliffe, completely understood the spirit of Postcards and gave us complete freedom to do whatever we wanted. Before we’d even arrived they’d committed to purchase a number of prints from us and to create a proper museum show within eight weeks of the project ending. It was one of the most popular and critically acclaimed exhibitions the Museum have ever had; the energy of the whole experience was clear for all to see on the gallery walls.
There’ve been other increasingly innovative schemes to fund our expenses ever since.
Some critics have asked where, for instance, are the pictures of the Ferguson riots. But that’s really not what the project is about; there are plenty of other photographers covering those kind of stories, after all. We are individually looking at aspects of America largely overlooked by the media, but these collectively fit together like a jigsaw puzzle to create a much bigger picture. Therefore I would say that the events in Ferguson are, indirectly, in our pictures. You can see racial and social tension bubbling away under the surface of a lot of the work the photographers have made. You don’t need to have a picture of a man running through the streets with an incendiary device in order to talk about current racial tensions in America.
It’s been wonderful to be part of a group of friends, who all have respect for each other, collectively working towards a common goal. So much of what I normally do is made by myself, which can often feel rather lonely, so it’s been a really positive experience for me.
Many of us involved in Postcards have begun American projects we’d like to pursue beyond the Pier 24 show, including myself. Right now I’m investigating ways to finance going back to America and continuing with much the same ideas.
Postcards from America, published by Aperture, is out in Autumn 2016. The final exhibition will open in early 2017 at Pier 24 in San Francisco, California.
Sometimes things can be too perfect. They can be pushed to a point where they are devoid of any real character, energy or charm. It's all about finding that sweet spot, striking the balance between the craft and precision whilst still allowing personality to shine through. Nicolai Sclater (The Ornamental Conifer to you and me) has this in abundance.
I'd been a fan of his work longer than I'd realised that I'd been a fan of his work. Somehow by using the traditional technique of sign writing his work crept up on me very slowly from behind and then, when I was least expecting it, slapped me in the face with a wet paintbrush and nicked my phone, wallet and keys.
If you don't know his work, the Ornamental Conifer is an artist using a traditional technique to communicate his irreverent word play. His impressive output can be seen painted over walls, motorcycles, cars, leather jackets, surfboards and crockery. Beautiful typography, wit and a colour palette that makes my colour blind brain freak out... what's not to like.
After being a secret mega fan I was lucky enough to work with him when I was heading up the design team at Liberty. I jumped at the opportunity to commission him for a project; we had impossibly tight deadline and an even tighter budget and he still nailed it. Even with the added challenge of painting onto wellington boots.
I am recommending the Ornamental Conifer not for the fact that he has long hair, tattoos and rides around on his motorbike in the sunshine but for his passion for word play and language, the craft of his work, the precision, his belief in his ability and his commitment to a good punch line.
Here at They Made This we are massive cycling fans. In fact it was a brilliant blog called Cycle Love that inspired They Made This into being. Created by super talented James Greig, the first time I saw Cycle Love I was torn between loving every inch of it and wishing I had created the blog myself. It was a complicated set of emotions. I spent more time looking at photos of bikes on that site than I care to admit and it was with a heavy heart that I read James was stopping the cycling blog last year.
It did however inspired me to start a blog of my own about the other things in life I love as much as cycling, namely photography and illustration. So it came as no surprise to me that as soon I decided to open a print shop on this site, the life long Tour De France fan and brilliant image maker Mark Leary was one of the first photographers I approached.
Mark’s photographs of the infamous Col Du Tourmalet, the most notoriously difficult stage of the Tour De France, are nothing short of stunning. And I absolutely could not start this print shop without them. Luckily for me Mark agreed to join our family of artists and so it is with the greatest pleasure I write this post and showcase his images here.
The Col Du Tourmalet is legendary amongst cycling enthusiasts, nearly 7,000 feet above sea level, the French believe that Tourmalet translates into bad trip or bad detour and with some of the most severe and steepest climbs in road cycling I can see why. But Mark’s exceptionally beautiful landscape images, shot in 2012, manage to transcend the difficulty of the tour itself, and leave us looking at the harsh region in a whole new beautiful light. Shot with a traditional 5 x 4 large format camera, Mark climbed for two hours with his camera, weighing around ten kilos, to the peak of the Tourmalet. And thank goodness he did.
As with all of Mark Leary’s work, the colour, composition, quality of light and atmosphere are simply beautiful. The Col Du Tourmalet images will feature in our shop alongside these prints below from Mark’s Ferry Journey, Salt & Wax series as well as his Sea Gull print. All of the prints are limited edition, signed C-Type prints and are available to buy from our shop now.
Without a shadow of a doubt one of the best things about my job is having the opportunity to meet new photographers and illustrators every day. It is, and always has been, a real privilege to chat to people about their work. I never really know what to expect when I walk over to reception to meet these artists, I never really know what kind of person will be waiting for me. And over the last ten years I have met quite an eclectic mix of personalities that have entertained and enhanced my day in some way.
But no one in recent times has brightened up my day quite like Shaniqwa Jarvis. Even her name makes me happy. As she walked into the coffee bar with her purple dress and sunny disposition I could feel the atmosphere in agency lighten. Without saying so much as a word she managed to tell us all to relax and chill a little. By the time we sat down I really wanted her to be my new best friend.
Shaniqwa, a native New Yorker, has lived in London, LA, New York and is now currently based in Jersey city. With an amazing studio space in Mana Contemporary, apparently Jersey City is turning into a huge artist community (you heard it here first !). After initially planning to become a Montessori teacher, a mishap with an application form sent her instead in the direction of a stylist internship at Paper Magazine. While assisting on fashion shoots for Paper, Jarvis reignited a love of photography that she had discovered in junior high school. She started studying photography again and the rest is history.
Shaniqwa moved to London in December 2007, took up photography full time and ‘spent a lot of time cycling around in the rain while crying because London was so dark ! ’. She also created her first brilliant series ‘This Charming Man’ which documented street cast young men photographed in their own homes, exploring the ways in which these young men live and how they express themselves.
This Charming Man exhibited in London and Tokyo and suddenly everyone wanted to work with Jarvis. Alongside a ton of editorial work, especially in music, Jarvis has now shot for Sony, Adidas, Nike, Converse, GoodHood, Asos, Reebok, Stussy and seems to be the queen of Supreme, collaborating regularly with the brand.
Her most recent project is a very cool series about people and their cars in Los Angeles. Comprising of three short stories featuring Victor Saldana, Howard Nourmand and The Gibbs Family the three films and series of photographs explores the aesthetics of classic mid-century automobiles and their owners in sunny LA.
Jarvis describes this project as an ‘Ode to Los Angeles’, with Nowness adding that she captures ‘that dizzying bright light, wanderlust, and overly excessive car use that you only get in LA’. It is seriously great. Watch the film. And just listen to that music. Because that music by the way, is what it sounds like when Shaniqwa Jarvis is in the room.
This week's portfolio session is with the still life photographer Thomas Albdorf. Taken on by Webber Represents photographic agency last month, I first came across his work on It’s Nice That, when Thomas was one of their 'Students Of The Month' back in 2011. Previously a graphic designer, Thomas starting studying conceptual art in Vienna and in his third year started using photography as his main medium. His course was so conceptual however that he actually considers himself a self taught photographer with a background in art.
Thomas’s work is confident and exciting and Webber have curated his portfolio perfectly. I had a chat with Thomas about his work last week and I discovered a smart, funny and very considered photographer with a huge love of all things sculptural.
Citing people like Marcel Duchamp and Fischli & Weiss as inspirations, the first project we discuss is ‘Woodwork’. Shot in 2010 he considers this project his starting point with photography. Growing up in the mountains, Thomas has always been fascinated with woodlands and wanted to created images that reflected the beauty of nature. He did however want to introduce another element, something sculptural to break the tradition of how we perceive nature.
Experimenting with transparent foils that he then painted, everything in this series is staged in front of the camera, with none of the digital interventions he would later introduce into his work. Woodwork is the first project that introduces the main theme of photography and sculpture, a thread throughout all of Thomas’s subsequent work.
Thomas’s second project ‘Actualities’ moves his work from his childhood surroundings to his urban environments in Vienna. Often working with the things he found in his flat or on the street, he created lots of simple ‘interventions’ creating sculptures that only exist for a short period but are frozen in time as part of an image.
His ‘Former Writer’ series is a reference to his teenage years spent as a graffiti writer. He brings this back into his photographic work using tape and wire, tape so often being used by graffiti writers to tag their names on the wall.
My favourite projects however are ‘A Song of Nature’ and ‘Beholding Mountains’, his most recent projects. Having spent the last few years working with sculpture in both urban and non urban environments, A Song of Nature marks a transition into the use of altered images, bringing post production techniques into his work. Using found images of Alpine landscapes shot in the 70’s, Thomas reappropriates these images and introduces new elements, with some shot in camera and others created in post. Occasionally it is difficult to tell where analogue ends and digital production begins but in a way Thomas quite likes the uncertainty and hopes the viewer will accept the image as it is.
He has also created some personal installations experimenting with the concepts of commercial product photography. Sourcing random objects, he constructs images with objects that have no relationship with each other. There is no logic to them but the way he shoots the objects is appealing and seductive, much like the main aims of commercial product advertising.
Thomas is currently working on his first book, Beholding Mountains, with Lodret Vandret, which will be released this year at the New York Art Book Fair. He is also heading to Unseen this year with Webber and presenting his new book at Paris Photo. Exciting times for a very exciting photographer.
I’ve known Marcus Oakley for over ten years – he studied with my friend Marcus Walters from New Future Graphic – but I first got to know him properly when I commissioned him for Good For Nothing magazine. He did a drawing of office workers for an article on smoking at work. He really did his research for that actually, looking into what people wear to the office before drawing it !
Over the years I would bump into him at show openings and see his work around and really admired him. There is something about his style, it's not fake naivety, that is just how he draws, there's a wonderful quality to his line and colour choices.
He gave me a portrait he painted of me when we were in the lake district together two years ago. Nic Burrows from Nous Vous organised this residency called Natives. Myself, Marcus, Nic & Will from Nous Vous, and George Mellor (Sister Arrow) went up to the Lake District together to hang out and create work. The work we produced was then made into a journal.
It was interesting to see Marcus working there. He produced these amazing watercolours which he said he had never done before. I think I presumed he sat in his studio listening to The Beach Boys on repeat – he is completely obsessed with them – and drinking tea. He draws the Beach Boys a lot! And female body builders, they occasionally pop up in his work. So I have always imagined him in his room drinking tea and listening to the beach boys and drawing these things over and over again. But then to see him actually drawing in situ in the Lake District, creating these amazing landscapes from life was brilliant, he is the real deal, he really is. We called him The Master.
He is very focused on what he does, he has a very specific way of approaching things, he often draws the same things over and over again, you’ll see the same motifs in his work quite a lot, like owls, or plants, or the Beach Boys or abstract blocks. I have got a piece of his work which says ‘The nearest far away place’ which is apparently a Beach Boys lyric. It’s great. He is really into line and the quality of line.
We performed at Heavy Pencil together at Pick Me Up last year in the Comms Bureau room. He did a live performance called the 'Sound of Drawing' which can still be heard on the Comms Bureau mixcloud page. We also got to draw together on the same day, live drawing whilst William Edmonds performed.
Speaking of Will Edmonds he has a project called Colossal Space which is tiny little glass box which is about an inch and a half square that is the actual exhibition space. He asks different people to create an art piece installation with it and Marcus was one of them. We went on a bike ride from London Bridge to Greenwich and he made a sculpture to put the box on and placed it on the meridian line, he is clearly very interested in lines! So he will now be in loads of tourist photos of the meridian line. Him and his line shrine!
The best place to see his work is on his blog. His website has tiny images for some reason and has been the same for years! There is a lot of lovely pure abstract work on his blog which he has been doing for a long time and his Instagram account is a really good place to see his work too now that he is finally on there, a lot of people were really quite excited when he finally joined, and he has nearly 10,000 followers already and he has only been on there for a short while!
He also teaches quite a bit. He used to teach Illustration in Bournemouth. When he moved to Edinburgh last year he suggested me to take over from him, which I did for the past year.
I'm recommending him because sometimes it's good to be reminded of people who have been working away for years and that are easy to take for granted. I can see his influence in so many people’s work. And now people like Nous Vous and Matthew the Horse for example, who have been influenced by him, are influencing other people’s work. It’s nice to be old enough to see the whole process grow and see these people become friends. Marcus is one of those people where there is no gap between his work and his life. As I said before, he is the real deal!
This week’s portfolio session features the lovely photographer Thom Atkinson. Albam Clothing in Upper Street are currently playing host to his Hoppers and Pickers exhibition so we decided to hand over to Thom to take us through this beautiful exhibition. Shot in Kent last year and celebrating the traditions and craft of the english harvest, below Thom explains the story behind the images.
Bullen Farm, on Bullen Lane, in the Low Weald of Kent, has harvested hops and apples for four generations. The farmer, Mr Wheeler, is in his nineties now, but he still oversees his sons Chris and Nigel during harvest time. The harvest begins in late August and ends some time in mid October. It used to last much longer but the orchards and hop gardens are smaller than they once were. There are very few such farms left.
Before the last war, when hop picking was done by hand, many thousands of Londoners would arrive in Kent to work the harvest. Whole families would travel out to the hop farms and orchards for a working holiday. Gypsies, tramps and other itinerants would travel between farms looking for work too. A mile away, toward the next village, is the hop farm George Orwell wrote about in his first book. At Bullen Farm, only Charlie, a long time hopper in his mid seventies, can remember.
As time went by, Kent’s hop farms and orchards declined. The Londoners stopped coming, but the work was still taken by gypsies and other travellers. Then in the ‘90s, a group of New Age travellers found work on the farm. It seemed that no-one else would let them stay, but Chris took them in and eventually they settled there. Their caravans have been abandoned around and about the place but Lee still lives in his. Spen, Sue and Matt now run the farm all year round, in charge of planting and nurturing the bines and trees.
In August the hoppers and pickers arrive. Some, like Charlie and Bob, are English, but most are young Czechs with plans to earn money for their university fees. As in the past, the farmer provides them with simple accommodation and pays them piece-work wages. A good picker can earn £80 a day. For some it is their first time at the farm, but others have been here before. The work is hard but the atmosphere is one of happiness. I was made to feel welcome in their home.
As the harvest ends, the air of the Low Weald smells sweetly of apples, rotting on the ground. Mr Wheeler says the hops and apples don’t pay much any more. When the creaky old hop frames fall down he won’t replace them. But the farm seems to keep going - the old tractors and the hop picking machine have been running since the 1950s. The Czech workers joke that it is like a museum.
Thom Atkinson is represented by Black Dog Represents. An exhibition of Hoppers and Pickers is currently showing at Albam Clothing Store in Upper Street.