Author Archives: Francis Hodgson
The Cult of the Camera: Noel Pemberton Billing and the Compass
I have less of the fetishist enthusiasm in photography than many. I own no dun-coloured waistcoat with thirty pockets, for example, and I find that I cannot concentrate through (let alone contribute to) even the first bars of any conversation about anti-aliasing filters. I’ve never been a photographer; I am disbarred from the whole freemasonry of gear.
Yet that fetishism exists. Here’s a little gadget which I’d like to hold in my hands. I’d like it on my mantel. I might even put it in my pocket and rub it surreptitiously, like a worry stone or a rosary … Continue reading
To Recognize What We Were
There are lots of accounts in photography of intimately close relationships. Of course there are, since you could say simply that photography has become the ‘natural’ medium of affection. Every family album is affection congealed in physical form. Every photograph framed in silver then perched on a mantelpiece or a piano was an attempt to hold on to affection – even if only dutiful affection. Usually these worked in the absence of the person photographed; occasionally as some more ideal version of that person than the flawed daily one of wearied familiarity. Continue reading
Almost Forgotten by the Dwellers in Cities
The estuaries of rivers appeal strongly to an adventurous imagination.
Joseph Conrad, the Mirror of the Sea
You wouldn’t think it, but the Thames is a secret river. Continue reading
Tropes in Mind
Every so often, I publish a piece here that was published originally elsewhere. This is a case in point, republished to coincide with the opening of David Campany’s exhibition A Handful of Dust at the Whitechapel Gallery in London ( June 2017). It was originally published on Various Small Fires and is republished here with the permission of the editor of that site, Thierry Bal.
It’s called Tropes in Mind in echo of Trouble in Mind, the old blues song, best sung by Big Bill Broonzy, in accordance with a thought I have that tropes stay in one’s mind like music, there even when not actually playing. Continue reading
The Devil is in the Detail
It is often quite casually stated that the art market is the last unregulated financial market. The implication is of skullduggery and villainous malpractice, with the suggestion of lamb-like collectors fleeced by unscrupulous wielders of huge shears. There are indeed egregious practices all around the art markets, some of which are complex in relation to ethics, industry practice, or the law. These include such arcana as dealers refusing to sell particular works to individual clients who have the money and want to buy — on the grounds that they don’t represent a ‘good enough home’ for the art. There could be a wide discussion aimed at reform of the whole range of these in the interests of clarity and fairness, but with care taken to preserve the flexibility and fleetness of foot which is one of the strengths of the market.
Here, immediately after PhotoLondon 2017 and in advance of any such broader discussion, are two simple practices which could and should be written out of the lexicon of trading practices in art. Continue reading
Curators on Skates
It’s not often, in the cash-starved world of UK photographic institutions, that there is major good news to celebrate. But yesterday the V&A announced ambitious and yet wholly realistic plans to expand its photographic activities in a range of impressive ways. Continue reading
Wolfgang Tillmans is a very lucky man. I happened to revisit his show at the Tate on the day Sotheby’s announced a record price for one of his photographs at the grand Evening Sale of the night before. Continue reading
Any Surface You Like: Unseen Fair, 2016
It’s a rare thing – for those of us in the business of extrapolating tendencies from the amorphous bulk of any creative activity – to see an unmistakable trend. I’m sure the fashion writer who says “Roman legionary sandals will be in this year” worries that no such sandal will be seen again. For once, at the Unseen Photo Fair in Amsterdam, there was no mistake. It’s not quite a rule, because there are still plenty of exceptions, but it’s all-but a rule: You want to be taken seriously as an artist using photography? Any surface you like so long as it’s not flat. Continue reading
Padlock the Pump Handle : Clarence A. Bach and the Habits of Photojournalism
I was doing a little research (of the familiar Google-drifting kind) on something else when I came across a remarkable man of whom no British reader of these lines will ever have heard. So allow me to introduce you to Clarence A. Bach, founder and principal teacher of what seems to have been the first vocational course in photography in any American high school, the idiosyncratic — and wildly successful — course at John C. Fremont High School, Los Angeles. Continue reading