#712. Monday Post (16 April 2018) – Pictures at an exhibition

By Paul Perton | Monday Post

Apr 16

Predictably, it’s raining. And damned chilly, with a cold easterly wind making being outside something only mad dogs and a few Englishmen would do.




Clearly, I’m one of the latter and braved the mist and drizzle; our 8th floor hotel aerie looks out over the Westfield centre in Stratford. Yesterday, I’d shot some nicely toned sunrise shots from the window. Today is completely driech and the miserable, wet unused car park below our window beckoned.




The roof area definitely fulfilled some promise I’d hoped to find. The purple walkways painted on the tarmac are meant to guide the visitor unerringly to the shops. Other signs extol everyone to remember their row – that’s where they’ll hopefully find their car(s) when they return later, laden with essentials and tchotchkes in probably equal amounts. Those images will appear soon.


Curiously, there’s no camera shop in the centre. Just as well really, as Pascal’s last Monday Post has me developing a serious Jones for one of Fuji’s new X-H1s. But that’s for another day too.




Today is DS regular Steve’s fault, if blame is to be apportioned. He asked me a few days ago whether I had plans to see the Andreas Gursky exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, while we were in town. Doubtless, my quizzical look was expected, as he quickly said “The $3 million photograph?” and my ignorance was no more.


The Gursky show is at the Hayward Gallery on the South Bank and brought home to me not that he was a great photographer, but a complete Photoshop wonk. I’m not qulified to estimate anyone’s photographic abilities, but guess that given equal creativity, opportunity and equipment, most of us could have taken the same, or perhaps similar images.


What we couldn’t have done was his emulate extraordinary PS skills, bringing together panoramas from the most ordinary and extraordinary places and scenes, into huge prints that would grace any corporate haven, boardroom or annual report.


And there’s the rub; I’m not sure I would want one of Gursky’s images on my wall – even if I could afford it.




Two days later, following my daughter’s recommendation, another gallery show, this time at the Barbican.
Another kind of life; Photography on the margins is the work of 20 photographers, including Bruce Davidson, Paz Errázuriz, Casa Susanna, Larry Clark, Mary Ellen Mark, Boris Mikhailov, Daido Moriyama and Dayanita Singh. The show guide states that the show explores the “dialogue between art, society and politics”.


It’s more than that. It’s an eyeball-to-eyeball immersion into the deeply uncomfortable waters of personal tragedy, family abuse, hopelessness, sexual deviance, transition, drugs and just about everything in between. Harrowing would be a good word to describe the work – mostly black and white – of these photographers.


If you’re in London in the next few days, both shows are highly recommended.




All images shot in the two galleries – Fuji X-Pro2 with Fuji’s amazing 35mm f1.4



  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Oh dear – you don’t like the weather, but you still go there? At least in Brittany you can tell if it’s summer – the rain’s warmer! 🙂

    I don’t think I could sign a cheque for $3 million for a photo – not even if Ansel Adams took it – because by its very nature, photography lends itself to the creation of an endless number of copies that are every bit as good. It’s an art form which is devoid of any unique-ness. And I don’t think that’s being unkind.

    But hey, if you gave me $3 million, I’d have the best attack of GAS ever!

    What’s so special about the size of Gursky’s prints anyway. Paul? There’s a thunder of hooves, out there, chasing after mre and ever more pixels, till we reach nirvana when some worthy starts producing the sensor that the inventor of sensors says he has now invented, but will never go into production – the one that captures each individual photon. It cannot get any better than that – that’s the Holy Grail (or Graal, if you prefer) – there is nothing beyond that. So making large prints by using the techniques of panoramas is yesterday’s.

    At the risk of being accused of being a troll, I don’t get why “bigger is better” anyway.

    • paulperton says:

      The attraction of the UK? Two (adult) kids.

      Like most parents, we realised early on that if we wanted to see them, expecting them to come “home” to South Africa once or twice a year wasn’t going to work.

      Mountain <--> Mohammed.

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        LOL – my DNA makes it obligatory to poke fun at them – I do have English friends, though, so it’s not all bad. 🙂 The best friendship I’ve ever had is with a guy who landed on my doorstep (figuratively speaking) in 1957, when his father came to Australia from Leicester and his elder brother turned up in my form at college. Very quickly, he (the younger one I mean) and I became close friends, and we still are. I forgive him of course for returning to England after he graduated from university. 🙂

        And I do understand the Mountain Mohammed bit. Kids grow up and move out. And then you spend the next 40 years being nice to them, in case you need them back again when you’re my age.

  • Adam Bonn says:

    Gursky’s work at the haywood is the stitching together of various pictures to make seemingly endless dof images.

    A bit like focus stacking in macro photography but deployed to capture the non-photographic meaning of the word macro, ie everything.

    Printed out at a size that wouldn’t fit into my first apartment (not even as a carpet) the eye can wander and find intricate details.

    For me, some shots worked far better than others, but they did command my attention

    A nice write up Paul. It was actually warmer and drier in the UK than Porto last week… Today however there was a strange yellow orb in the sky, which google seems to think is called the “sun” and heralds the arrival of spring. I’m skeptical.

    • paulperton says:

      Agreed 100%. The only Gursky image I’d want in my home (if I had the wall space) is his photograph of an area of grey carpet. That was a real eye catcher. The rest…

  • Cliff Whittaker says:

    If it’s worth doing it’s worth doing BIG…. used to be my philosophy about photographic prints. There is just something special about holding a BIG print freshly off the printer. The image is so new, the colors are so fresh and the tonal transitions so subtle but so real. Put this on a heavy 300gm fine art paper and the print takes on an intrinsic value far beyond the image. “This is real ART!!” sings your heart, and you can’t wait to show it in the gallery.
    And then you get the bill from the frame shop and gasp. But it was worth it, wasn’t it? Wait until your audience sees it in the gallery. They will be awed.
    And they are. Everyone loves it and compliments it and congratulates you and tells you how much they admire your work.
    But no one puts down the ultimate affirmation of cash to take the image home and live with it. Eventually it ends up on your wall at home for a while and then transitions to the basement to join the dozens of other “masterpieces” that have earned so much praise but no reimbursement of expenses.
    And that’s why I don’t print at all anymore. If I just want to entertain people I can reach more people on my website and on FB for a lot less cost and I’m still getting the joy of creating my work.
    But, I have to admit, I really do miss looking at and holding new prints. Maybe enough to make 10×12-inch prints of 100 or so of my bird pictures just for myself. :))

    • PaulB says:


      I have often used your phrase about bigness myself. Another variation is, “Go Big, or Go Home.” Many times I would make big prints, to simply see what was in the detail.

      Though, when I was a member of the local Camera Club we had a member that was an exceptional printer. His general comment when he saw a big print was, “If you can’t make if good, make it big.” I hate to think of how many times he said that about my prints. In retrospect, most of the time I came to understand why he was right.

      Now, that is a phrase that runs through my mind as well, when I view a print that I can’t quite figure out. Many times size is not the answer. Unfortunately, I have not printed my work in quite a while, since the local College closed the photography program

      • Cliff Whittaker says:

        And if you make it big and it’s still not good then triple matt it and put it in a fancy frame. :)))

    • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

      Printing. I do understand why so many people aren’t doing it any longer. I am, and I’m now starting to put the prints into albums, and I’m being asked “what’s the point? – who’s going to look at them again, once you’re dead?” (It’s OK – us old people live with that prospect 24/7, year round – that’s why we don’t give a damn, why we kick our heels up and raise hell – because we still CAN 🙂 ) Look carefully at those two questions – because they apply every bit as much to stuff stored digitally, and floating around cyberspace.

      So what was MY reason?

      Well, firstly, all this stuff about pixels is totally meaningless if you never print any of your photos. As I’ve previously pointed out, at this moment the largest TV screen commercially available is about 70 inches or more across, and it only has 30MP. Your PC or iMAC or laptop or cellphone has a fraction of that. My printer outguns the lot of them.

      And secondly, printing my photos is the best way I know of checking up on myself, and working out how I can improve my photography. It’s called critiquing my own work. Without it, I’m just a hair nosed amateur, and I might as well go back to my point-and-shoot. (It’s still in the drawer, somewhere).

      It also improves my post processing, and – believe it or not – it has resulted in a marked reduction in the amount of post processing required. I am taking that as a signal that “secondly” is working, and my stuff is getting better.

      As to hanging photos on walls – I have two at present, both bought from a well known local photographer, and I fell in love with both photos when I first spotted a small reproduction of them on the internet. I couldn’t believe my luck when I found he’d set up a stall for our local street fair, right outside my door! I grabbed him, hauled him inside, told him what I wanted & where – he gave me some advice on hanging them, and on size – and within 10 minutes he was back outside again, and I’d ordered & paid for both photos. I love them to bits – and we don’t have a basement to put them in, so they’re staying right where they are. I can see them from my study – the stairs – the kitchen – and of course whenever I come into the house or go out.

      Cliff – printing is a personal choice. I always printed my own B&W shots, during the analogue era. And one of the principal reasons why I junked that gear and switched to digital was precisely that – because for the first time, I could do my own colour printing. As long as I limit the number of A4 or A3 prints, it’s not all that expensive. And it’s a wonderful experience. Besides, I do take photos for other people, and they have so far been ecstatic about the prints I’ve done for them. One victim has them spreading all over the walls, all around her house!

  • Steve says:

    Well, as I was the one who nudged Paul along to Gursky at the Heywood I guess I’d better add my two penn’orth.

    I was intrigued by what a $3m print might look like. I wanted to see how BIG prints might impact me. And I fancied a train journey to London from way out west and a couple of days in The Smoke with an old pal who happens to be a commercial photographer (although only just these days he tells me).

    So was it worth the effort? Damn right. I loved many of Gursky’s prints. I loved how I could look at an abstract from thirty feet away and move forward into the image that became a field of flowers that finally had a single person in. The resolution and detail was staggering. His POV and perspective often left me asking, “how’d he do that?” And in front of one image I commented out loud that, “I’d have deleted that,” to much merriment. I found some incredibly beautiful and others absurd. But what a body of work and yes, many are BIG.

    In front of the $3m “Rhein II” I overheard the discussion and tut tutting about his removal of the power station or factory that was over the river. FFS! Painters start with a blank canvas and add what they want. We start with a load of stuff and sometimes delete or add. If I was an oligarch with $3m in change and empty wall space Rhein II wouldn’t be my first choice, good as I think it is, but there were several others that I would have happily coughed up for. In Gursky’s case BIG is definitely beautiful. In my view.

    As for printing, I am now really into it! Having a custom profile made for my paper of choice has made a huge difference in the predictability stakes. As others have said, it also improves my processing and there is something wonderful about holding an image in my hand, turning it this way and that in the light and really enjoying it! It’s a conceit of course but the pleasures in life seem to be ever decreasing so I’m sticking with this one for as long as I can!

    Now if I can just find a suitable printer I’ve got a couple of images I’d love to see fourteen feet wide….

  • NMc says:

    It is interesting in this set how having a few photos of feet and legs makes me look more at the feet in the photos with whole bodies. I start to read the social interactions between people or the emotional state of people when I can’t see their faces just through feet positions and posture. A little odd or perhaps just me, either way I think it gives this set more depth and humanity. Maybe you are just picking out things we perceive more subliminally because we always concentrate on the face or movement.
    Thanks Noel

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