gill moore photography

Monthly Archive for September, 2008

National Photographic Portrait Prize @ the Lowry

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The prestigious National Photographic Portrait Prize (2007) is occuping the light and airy mezzanine floor at the Lowry, in Salford, until October 12th 2008. This is a must-see for fans of photography in general and portraiture in particular. We are lucky to have this exhibition touring in the North West as it is usually only viewed at the National Portrait Gallery, London. For 2007 there were 6,900 submissions by 2,700 photographers from around the world.

It provides an opportunity to see a compelling array of images which highlight the sheer depth and power of a single image. The 60 shortlisted photographs have been taken all over the world and feature wildly different subjects, styles, technique and atmosphere; professional and amateur hang side by side. Should you go with a friend don’t be surprised if you end up arguing the merits of your favourite and casting your eyes heavenwards on one or two of those included.

The images are framed and printed in a variety of ways; sizes vary from 10 x 8 to a couple which fill an entire wall. I presume each photographer was allowed a free hand to choose how their work was hung? This helps to make each shot feel individual and hopefully allows the viewer to remember this is not a series but an opportunity to celebrate the art of great portraiture.

I cannot really argue with the First Prize choice a brilliant and powerful study by Jonathan Torgovnik taken in Rwanda. I also had a great deal of time for the Second Prize winner “Lucila, a.m.” (photographers site here).

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A slow-burner which quietly snuck into my brain. I don’t remember much of a connection the first time I viewed it, but I was drawn back to it time and again … close my eyes and I can almost place myself in that same room with the warm sun streaming in through the huge glass backdrop.

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Charlie Crane (who I have blogged about earlier in the year when he was selected for the New Contempories showcase) has made it into the 60, he has such lovely prints and a real sense of style. Colin Pantall‘s “Sofa Portrait #3″ is part of a series which has had a fair amount of praise and publicity already …. subtle and captivating.

If you cannot make it to the Lowry in time you can view all the Winners and those shortlisted on the National Portrait Gallery website. Looking at images on a computer screen is nowhere near the experience gained in a gallery space, but certainly better than nothing! Entry for the 2008 Photographic Portrait Prize Award is now closed and the winner will be announced in November.

Were the “Best of Manchester Awards” any good? … in fact do Awards mean anything?

There seems to be awards being presented everywhere you look nowadays, so many in fact that it is impossible to keep up with everything.

I am all for being judged by your audience, critics and peers but one has to ask the question how impartial is impartial? Nowadays, I have no time for Awards with heavy sponsorship … step forward the Brits which is owned by the BPI (British Phonographic Industry aka the British Record Industry). It claims it’s aim is to be “supporting young people in music and education” aahhmm … surely it is about keeping British Music in the headlines and rewarding those that have mastered playing the game and who sell lots of records. I am not saying all Brit winners are talentless but it is just that, as far as I can see, the BPI are just handing out awards to those already successful.

More meaningful are those Awards which generate word-of-mouth and are trying to give a helping hand to those talented (often innovative) souls who have not yet cracked it. Here you may find artistic types who possess a huge belief, a love for their chosen field crikey some folk who might even be doing it for fun and not money.

The cynical amongst you will shout that all Awards by their very nature are never unbiased, yes, true I agree but I guess I’m just saying that some have their hearts closer to the right place than others and this is often down to the Judges sitting on the panel and whether there is any kind of hidden agenda to the Awards.

A check on the Judges for the 2nd “Best of Manchester Awards” held at Urbis recently were Peter Saville Graphic Designer and all-round Manchester Design Guru, Miranda Sawyer (writer, broadcaster), Luke Bainbridge (Music Journalist, Editor Observer Music Monthly), there was the head of A&R at Universal Music, with nods to respected bods @ Castlefield Gallery (Manchester) and Blueprint Music Studios and Elvis Jesus head honcho covering the fashion angle. So a pretty eclectic, informed and opinionated group. Things are lookin’ good.

300 entries fought to prove their work illustrated the best creative thinking and innovation in Manchester, things were wittled down to a shortlist of nine covering Art, Fashion and Music. There is an exhibition to accompany the Awards on the 4th Floor at Urbis until the 28th of September. From the work on show I had a couple of personal favourites … none of which turned out to be the eventual winner so there we go – what do I know !! Still I’d like the share them with you anyway :-)

I loved the graphics and ethos of the Red Deer Club “a small label with big ideas” and brainchild of nu-folk fan Duncan Sime.

On the 4th of May last year, UHC a socially-conscious Design Studio and Artists Collective who deal in “the finest blend of art, design and action” took to the streets. Helped by volunteers and “As part of a protest campaign against consumerism and climate change, 88 hoardings were covered with cream coloured ‘hoods’ emblazoned with the message, ‘trees breathe ads suck’.” (Manchester Evening News). UHC will always annoy some, but their work often seems to harness talent, invention and maybe a measure of eccentricity. Surely it’s not only me who applauds their aim to “present those traveling to work with a special gift – a few precious moments of peace and beauty in place of the incessant noise of advertising”. Wonderful illustrations too …

Finally I was rooting (pun not intended) for Paul Hartfleet to win in the Art Category with his Pansy Project. “Paul revisits locations where homophobia has been experienced and plants pansies. These self seeding pansies act as a living memorial to this abuse and operate as an antidote to it; some pansies wither whilst others thrive in car park borders and windswept road verges. Each Pansy’s location is named after the abuse received and the project is now worldwide with its very own website www.thepansyproject.com.

I know it appears I am blinkered, as his project heavily features photography and Paul’s current project features benches! but trust me, take a trip over to his own site and blog and see more of his fantastic work and ideas.

The actual winners were :

ART: Naomi Kashiwagi

MUSIC: Richard Cheetham, High Voltage

FASHION: Simon Buckley, Rags to Bitches

One final little footnote, I discovered a fab little Manchester band playing to the crowds at the Awards called Keith, a little bit Doors/Radiohead/Talking Heads all delivered with the customary Manc twang and swagger.

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