Malick Sidibé at Somerset House: the photographer who captured a youthful, joyous Mali

Malick Sidibé at Somerset House: the photographer who captured a youthful, joyous Mali

I first encountered the work of Malick Sidibé after he had he became the first photographer – and the first African artist – to receive the Golden Lion award for lifetime achievement at the Venice Biennale in 2007. In his photographs, made in and around Mali’s capital, Bamako, in the early years of independence in the 1960s and 70s, I found the perfect visualisation of the country’s music that I had known and loved since discovering it in the 1980s.

So when I was in London recently, I hot footed it to the first exhibition of his work in the UK now on at Somerset House. Bringing together 45 original prints, the show captures the exuberance of newly independent Mali in the 1960s and ’70s; through Sidibé’s lens we glimpse scenes of a youthful, joyous Mali of carefree swimming parties on the banks of the Niger, partying and dancing in the city’s thriving clubs, and studio portraits of proud Malians showing off their latest outfit or prized possession. Sidibé images are an expression of a different era, a happier time in a country whose recent history has been beset by trouble and violence. Continue reading “Malick Sidibé at Somerset House: the photographer who captured a youthful, joyous Mali”

Bloody Sunday 1972: the photograph seared into the memory

Bloody Sunday 1972: the photograph seared into the memory

Some photographs stay with you permanently, haunting your memory long after the pages of the newspaper in which you saw them have crumbled into dust. Images from the American civil rights movement, Kennedy’s assassination, the little girl burned by napalm running down a road in Vietnam, the lone protester in front of the tanks in Tiananmen Square in 1989, the woman screaming as she kneels over the body of a fellow-student shot dead during an anti-war protest at Kent Sate University in 1970…

Each of these images has come to represent more than the fleeting instant they captured: each now stands for the historical moment from which it emerged. And so it is with the iconic image of Edward Daly, the terrified priest waving a bloodied white handkerchief, calmly leading a group of men carry a dying teenager to safety under British paratrooper gunfire, in Derry on 30 January 1972, the day which came to be known as Bloody Sunday, on which 13 unarmed civil rights demonstrators were shot dead.

When I heard of Daly’s death yesterday I didn’t have to look up the image on the web: it was there, imprinted in my mind’s eye.  Continue reading “Bloody Sunday 1972: the photograph seared into the memory”

Out and about with the Hague School

Out and about with the Hague School

I guess we’re all familiar with the way in which the French Impressionists shook up the art world in the 1870s by depicting landscapes and scenes from modern everyday life often painted outdoors using bright, pure colours applied with rapid, often visible brush-strokes.

What I didn’t know – until I found some of their paintings in the Rijkmuseum last month – was that at the same time a group of Dutch painters were similarly intent on representing the changing modern landscape of their country and daily life of its people; artists who, like their French counterparts, were keen to capture the sensation of the moment, and shifting patterns of light on the landscape by working in the open air.

The key difference lay in the Dutch artists’ initial preference for muted colours. Painting under the grey skies of the Netherlands the group became known as the ‘Grey School’, then later as the ‘Hague School’. Continue reading “Out and about with the Hague School”

Marshland: Spain’s True Detectives

<em>Marshland</em>: Spain’s True Detectives

It’s easy to see why the reviews have likened Marshland, the Spanish noir directed by Alberto Rodríguez to the first season of True Detective. The film opens with a title sequence comprising stunning aerial shots of the marshes that provide the story’s setting before plunging down into the terrain and introducing the two detectives sent to this remote area of southern Spain to investigate the disappearance (soon revealed to be the brutal murder) of two teenage sisters. Continue reading Marshland: Spain’s True Detectives”

The Salt of the Earth: Sebastião Salgado’s own way of seeing

<em>The Salt of the Earth</em>: Sebastião Salgado’s own way of seeing

The photography of humanity.
Gabriel García Márquez

There’s a moment two-thirds the way through watching Salt of the Earth, Wim Wenders’ stunning new documentary about the work of Sebastiao Salgado, when you feel crushed by the same existential despair felt by the photographer in 1995 when, after years photographing famine, war and genocide in Africa and Europe, he witnessed atrocious scenes in Rwanda and the Congo that left him shaken to the core, despairing of any hope for humanity. Continue reading The Salt of the Earth: Sebastião Salgado’s own way of seeing”

Tricia Porter’s photographs of Liverpool 8 in the 1970s

Tricia Porter’s photographs of Liverpool 8 in the 1970s

A week or so ago I wrote about L8 Unseen, a photography exhibition at the Museum of Liverpool.  Now I’ve been to see another exhibition of photographs from Liverpool 8, this one at the Bluecoat.  Titled, Tricia Porter: Liverpool Photographs 1972-74, the show presents images virtually unseen for 40 years which provide a vivid picture of everyday life in Liverpool 8 at a time when it was undergoing significant change leading to the break-up of close knit communities. Continue reading “Tricia Porter’s photographs of Liverpool 8 in the 1970s”

Uncommon Ground: learning to read our landscape again

Uncommon Ground: learning to read our landscape again

Recently I was presented with a beautiful gift – a book by Dominick Tyler called Uncommon Ground: A word-lover’s guide to the British landscape. The book is the product of a year that Tyler spent travelling the length and breadth of the British Isles to photograph specific features of the natural world. Continue reading “Uncommon Ground: learning to read our landscape again”