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  • Writer's pictureJo Sutherst

Sustainable Prospects – Unseen, Amsterdam – Unseen Living Room Talk Unseen and Undiscov

During my visit to Unseen, I attended a talk by Susan Bright and Simindokht Dehghani. Bright is a British writer and photography curator.  Dehghani is the owner and director of Ag Galerie, Tehran.

Bright spoke about the work of five emerging photographers, whilst Dehghani spoke about influential photographers in Iranian photography.

Bright explained that she selects works based on whether or not it excites and thrills her.  She expressed her like for photographers that sit outside the traditional genres and types. The work she presented in this talk was by the following photographers:-

  1. Anne Eder, UK – tintype ‘Moss Monster’ images.  She creates worlds for the monsters she makes and then installs them in a forest.  Eder then documents their decay.

  2. Caroline McQuarrie, New Zealand – she uses hand skills such as embroidery and knitting.  She uses these skills subversively in her practie.  The threads peirce the images.  McQuarrie also uses doilies which contain images she has taken from her family album, to produce a collection of the images (or possibly to indicate an entrapmen of the images and memories). Her practice also includes embroidery onto cyanotypes to produce image that have an Instagram feel and quality to them. This work particularly interested me as it showed different ways of using threads within images, and inspires me to further push my work along this path.

  3. Keirnan Monaghan and Theo Vamvounakis, New York – commercial photographers whose work ‘Feast for the Eyes: The Story of Food in Photography’ was recently curated and published in a book by Bright.

  4. Jesse Chun, New York – project work concerned with national identity. The work is in 3 parts.  The first contains scanned passports which are then reduced to just the bird and landscape images on the pages. She used a high-DPI photo scanner to capture the watermarks on passports and turn them into large-scale images.  The second are the forms that need to be completed for immigration.  She deconstructs the documents removing elements of text from the forms and turning them into poetry.  Part three sees her completely delete all the text from the documents. She then abstract the boxes and lines that remain, before printing them on blueprint papaer to mimic architectural designs.

  5. Annede Gelas, Holland – Gelas has produced a book about the violent death of her husband on holiday in the sea.  Bright explains that the book made her cry.  She says it is not possible to flick through the book; it reads like a novel and demands time from the viewer to appreciate it fully. I am keen to track down this book and experience what Bright experienced.

Dehghani spoke eloquently about the war and violent images that have shaped the face of Iranian photography.  Covering images that depict public hanging, execution of serial murderers and beheaded bodies, the talk offered a fascinating insight into an area of photography that I hadn’t really given much thought to previously.

After each had spoken, a discussion forum was opened.  Both Bright and Dehghani expressed a preference for portfolios to be emailed to them by photographers looking for  representation.  A physical portfolio requires more time and effort to view. They both also explained that they look at Instagram for potential photographers. But whatever the method of getting your portfolio in front of a curator, the key factor (which was expressed very clearly by Bright) is that the work must speak to the viewer.  Work that evokes an emotion or reaction is more likely to be picked up by a curaotr or agency.  Sound advice for the future. I found the talk incredibly informative and engaging.

The venue for the talks was stunning and the images below give some indication of the beautiful light and shadows that added to the atmosphere of the discussions.

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