'It's not about photography, it's about life'
The latest OCA study trip was to the National Media Museum to listen to Greg Hobson, the museum’s photography curator in conversation with JH Engstrom, one of two photographers behind the Museum’s current exhibition From Back Home. The event had been previously billed as featuring both photographers, but Anders Petersen was unwell and had been advised not to travel. Initially disappointed to hear this news 24 hours before the event, I came to appreciate the extra time given to Engstrom. It is clear for both photographers their work is a search, an autobiographical enquiry and something they are driven to do. The resulting body of work in From Back Home is not so much a study of Sweden’s Varmland but an exploration of the photographers’ relationship with the place where they grew up. Mark Lomas filmed the talk so I will not try to summarise it – we will post the video as soon as we had time to edit it, but as the exhibition closes this weekend I would urge those students who can to visit.
We than saw a slideshow of Engstrom’s latest work ‘Wells’ which he explained was his first narrative work dealing with the relationship which led to the birth of his twins – I found the linear, but non-chronological, stream of images spellbinding, even though some of the individual images would hardly attract attention. It brought it home to me that the term ‘digital photography’ is so often associated with the production of images, when in fact it the distinction between digital and non-digital distribution of photography which is now of far greater significance.
Following a film on Anders Petersen, which at least answered the question ‘what does he put on his walls?’ (Answer, a large print by Daido Moriyama) was followed by a question and answer session and then the OCA group took to the cafe where we tried to piece together our reactions. Amano, whose photo of Engstrom is above, was less convinced of the merits of From Back Home than perhaps I was (you can read his reaction here) and I hope the other students present will soon be sharing their views.