Street photography is so hot right now so what better way to celebrate it than with a summer festival.
The inaugral London Street Photography Festival invited Culture Compass to their exclusive launch night to join a whistle-stop tour of some of the many exhibitions being held across the capital.
I joined the tour at King Cross’s German Gymnasium to see the first UK exhibition of American street photographer Vivian Maier. Most professional photographers must dream of such a grand scale exhibition in their name – comprising of 48 framed prints. Maier, who worked as a nanny, died shortly before her labours of love were ‘discovered’ which makes her work all the more fascinating.
The results of Maier’s secret hobby present a remarkable study of life in New York and Chicago from the early 1950 up until the 1990s.
As I walk around the exhibition, it’s the colour photographs in the collection that really stand out and not because of the blindingly obvious! These photos have a surprising edge to them that serve as proof of the forward thinking creative brain behind them. In the 1970s when these pictures were taken, there was much resistance to the use of colour from what was a rather snooty art world, who dismissed this new development as ‘vulgar.’
There are other photographs here that I do find disturbing, though. On one wall the images suggest that the subject in each is unhappy to be the object of the camera’s gaze. In the most offending photograph, one man is crumpled up in a foetal position shielding his face. His shabby and disheveled appearance heighten my feelings of uncomfortable voyeur.
If Maier had been alive and able to curate her own show would she would have included these shots? Sadly we’ll never know but the ethics of taking photographs of people who do not want to be photographed is part of a wider discussion, which the festival has acknowledged. “Why does street photography make us paranoid?” is a debate that takes place later this month.
Also on view at the German Gymnasium is the work of The International Street Photography Award finalists and winner. The best of London street photography of course takes pride of place at the festival. A special mention goes to East London based photographer Dougie Wallace who brilliantly captures East End nightlife in his exhibition ‘ When I grow rich’ say the Bells of Shoreditch showing at the CAMP arts space.
With a exciting variety of events, talks and exhibitions to choose from, the London Street Photography Festival is a welcome addition to our cultural calendar.
Image Credit : The French, © Nick Turpin
London Street Photography Festival 1st -31st July at various venues . For a full list of events visit londonstreetphotographyfestival.org
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