PHOTOGRAPHY! – The work of the British Institute of Professional Photography
16th January – 5th March, at the Bucks County Museum, Church St, Aylesbury HP20 2QP
I do love a great exhibition, and this is a great exhibition.
The BIPP is is an internationally recognised qualifying organisation with over 100 years of experience in supporting and networking photographers.
As it states on the BIPP site, “There is a general agreement that professional photography emerged in 1842, just three years after William Fox Talbot demonstrated his ‘photogenic drawings’ to the Royal Institution and the Royal Society. The evidence is in an advertisement suggesting that photographic portraits would make useful Christmas presents, studios were besieged and photography emerged as a profession.
On 28 March 1901, at a meeting at a hotel in Fleet Street, one hundred photographers assembled and unanimously formed ‘The Professional Photographers’ Association’. Branches were formed in Birmingham, Edinburgh, Hull and Liverpool and in 1907 the membership stood at 757. Evolving through the years and after three name changes, we have become The British Institute of Professional Photography.”
Yes, I’ve questioned the term ‘professional photographer’ many times, but it seems to me that the BIPP encapsulates the essential qualities of a truly professional body. If you’re out there claiming to be a professional, the question has to be asked, are you a member of a professional association?
For many years, the BIPP was based a stones’ throw away from the Bucks County Museum so this exhibition is long overdue.
The exhibition is made up of around a hundred and forty images, with photographers exhibiting different numbers of images. Some of the work is clearly commercial, some personal projects, but the over-arching theme is that of quality – these are really good.
It would be, however, be wrong to imply that they are all of the same standard. Some are merely really good – others simply stunning, and a few really intriguing.
I really enjoyed the children’s portraits of Lisa Visser (http://lisavisserfineart.co.uk/about-lisa ). While bright and modern, they have a timeless element to them, but for me they illustrate the type of photograph that I simply can’t get with my crop-sensor or M4/3 cameras: so my admiration for them is somewhat tinged with frustration over the limitation of the equipment I choose to use. Contrasting nicely with Visser’s work is Chris Harpers fitness images. Continuing what appears to be a homoerotic odyssey, Harper’s work has evolved to the point where it appears the lovechild of Edward Weston and Robert Mapplethorpe.
Who doesn’t like a good animal portrait? The monochrome shots created by Paul Coghill are some of the best I’ve seen and Simon John’s, a modern nostalgia does what is says on the tin – applied to a very individual approach to wedding photography.
Show standouts? For me there are two photographers who really engaged with my imagination.
The first is Bryn Griffiths shots of Chernobyl (http://www.hasselblad.com/inspiration/storytellers/bryn-griffiths/) . Any images of that blighted city have iconic status, but Griffiths images have a particular power, focussing on the personal details and the sense of entropic decay that we associate with the tragic accident there. For me, this is alone would make a visit to the exhibition a must.
However, we have seen images of Chernobyl before. Much more thought provoking, for me, were the images of Kinga Kocimska. Superficially they look like well executed product shots, but in reality are much more. The project, Dementia is a personal project about the way perceptional illusions and fragmentary memories can be overwhelmingly confusing to patients. (http://kingakocimska.com/?bw_gallery=dementia)
As a teacher of photography this exhibition demonstrates many virtues that I feel have been lost in the pursuit of ‘art’ in photography. These photographs are the product of diligent hard work, expert knowledge and the eye for the winning image. These are the attributes of the professional, the craftsman, the perfectionist.
I’ll be back to visit this again – I hope to see you there!