Missing Post / by Graham Dew


One of my New Year’s resolutions was to write a post at least once a week and preferably twice, on the premise that little and often is better than big and infrequent, especially if big does not mean better. Obviously I have failed in the quest, as it is more than a month since the last post. I could have written so much, but life has been too busy in the past few weeks to give me much time to record it. And I’ve been so tired during the recent heatwave. Normally I write my posts on the train on my way to and from work, but I’ve been too exhausted most days and have spent most journeys in a dozy stupor.

I could have written about the Arena exhibition at the Menier Gallery. The exhibition looked rather good and drew some favourable reviews online. But I do wonder about whole exercise of group exhibitions without a unifying theme. 

Another potential post was the RA summer show, which was the focus of a rather manic day in London. Diversity, as one might expect, was the name of the game for this exhibition, which had something for everyone, but a large amount of nothing for most. The photography section was rather mixed. As with a lot of modern photography, size trumps quality and there was a lot of mundane photography printed large that had passed the selection for the show.

I could have written about Broomberg and Chanarin winning the Deutsche Borse Photography prize, which is now an award about what you do with photos (preferably someone else’s) rather an award about the photographs you make yourself. In their winning book, War Primer 2, they stick contemporary library photos over the originals in Bertolt Brecht’s original War Primer. Hmmm... Is this to show how little has changed in the past 60 years? That we learn nothing from war? Please don't tell me that they are being ironic...

In the past month Panasonic released an updated version of their 20mm/f1.7 lens, with which I do 90% of my photography. With no changes to either the optics or the AF, they missed an opportunity to improve the close focussing of this lens, so I’m not tempted to upgrade. On the other hand the new GX7 camera does look rather nice and would be my choice if I was buying a new camera. But that day is a long way off.

I nearly wrote about the two films in the summer series of BBC’s Imagine programme. One was about the reclusive and only just found Vivian Maier. This was a nice biography and review of her work, but rather strange in that John Maloof, the guy who owns 90% of her archive and the key person in the story of her discovery, did not participate in the film. He is making one of his own, which is out later. Still, it seemed churlish not contribute and spread the word further about her rather wonderful work. The other Imagine programme was McCullin, a film about war photographer Don McCullin. I have only managed to watch half of this documentary; I could not stomach his blood lust. I’ve met and listened to other war photographers, and they all sit somewhere on the spectrum of wanting to bear witness of atrocities to an unknowing world, to that of adrenaline-fuelled junkies who will do anything to get the picture. Half are the latter, who use the witness argument as an excuse.

I have a few new books in my library that have taken my attention too. I’ve really enjoyed Robert MacFarlane’s mediation on landscape and paths The Old Ways. I also got Abelardo Morrell’s The Universe Next Door, a catalogue from a recent American exhibition, which shows a good cross section of his photography. I have seen him described as a photographer’s photographer and this is very apt; it is refreshing to see intelligent, attractive and clever photography rather than the weak and dull conceptual photography that seems to be everywhere today. 

So there have been things to write about, it’s just that I’ve not had the energy or motivation to do it recently. My batteries need recharging, so I’m going to stick myself in the garage on a long trickle charge and not post again until the middle of September. Have a good summer break!