November 27, 2015

Friday Round Up - 27 November, 2015

On Friday Round Up Rock Against Racism, Berenice Abbott and Angkor Photo Festival. This week’s post comes from my sick bed. Not only did I come home from Europe with a host of photography books. I also picked up a rotten respiratory infection so am writing from the comfort of my bed at some ridiculous hour of the morning as sleep eludes me. Am trusting my brain is still functioning!

Next week begins December's annual Book Reviews in the lead to Christmas. Books make great gifts,  and I'm excited to feature a number of wonderful titles. But to this week's post…enjoy.

Exhibition: London
Syd Shelton - Rock Against Racism

Rock Against Racism Supporters

One of the exhibitions I caught in London was Syd Shelton's Rock Against Racism. Fantastic black and white images that show Shelton's street photography roots and capture the electrified movement that saw punk rock and reggae bands come together to fight racism and celebrate diversity in the late seventies. The message here is no different to today. Intolerance has no place in our societies.

Rock Against Racism was formed in 1976 by a group of writers, musicians and artists to counter the then rising support for the National Front. Shelton was one of the early members and became the movement's de facto photographer. The movement put on concerts and also participated in protests. The most renown being 1977's Battle of Lewisham where 125 National Front marchers staged an 'anti-mugging' march only to come up against around 10,000 Rock Against Racism supporters.

“At the time, if you were young, black, and male in particular, then you were really caricatured as a mugger," says Shelton. "It was a little bit like the nonsensical thing that sees all Muslim people as Jihadists. It’s the same sort of caricature and it was really horrific.”

Bagga, vocalist with Matumbi

Anti-racist Skinheads, Hoxton, London 1978

Rock Against Racism Concert 1978

Mick Jones and Paul Simonon, The Clash

Rock Against Racism Concert 1978

By 1978 tens of thousands participated in Rock Against Racism marches and bands such as The Clash and Tom Robinson Band were headlining Rock Against Racism concerts as the new wave of punk rock took hold.

The movement lasted for about five years and Shelton says he believes they were successful in changing attitudes. "That's what we wanted to do. We felt as though we could change things and I think we did".

Rock Against Racism is also a book and you can buy it here.

Until 5 December
Rivington Place

Berenice Abbott

Berenice Abbott Self-Portrait

Another exhibition I saw in London at Beetles+Huxley in Mayfair, which finished this week, was a collection of works by Berenice Abbott (1898-1991). I really loved this show too.

Abbott was a pioneer and her journey is an inspiration - photographer, businesswoman, inventor of photographic equipment, teacher and artist - are just a few of the labels she earned. Her story is one of determination and open-mindedness. A free spirit with a brilliant mind. At the age of 19 she dropped out of journalism school at Ohio State University, as she didn't agree with the politics of academia, and moved to New York with nothing more than what she could carry. There she worked odd jobs and lived with friends in Greenwich Village. Surrounded by artists she began to explore her creative side.

In the early 1920s her love of sculpture drew her to Paris where she was introduced to photography as Man Ray's darkroom assistant. The pair had met earlier in New York. She needed a job and he wanted someone who wasn't a photographer. It was an ideal arrangement.

Abbott is quoted as saying "Man Ray did not teach me photographic techniques. One day he did, however, suggest that I ought to take some (photographs) myself; he showed me how the camera worked and I soon began taking some on my lunch break. I would ask friends to come by and I’d take pictures of them. The first I took came out well, which surprised me. I had no idea of becoming a photographer, but the pictures kept coming out and most of them were good. Some were very good and I decided perhaps I could charge something for my work".

At work

Portrait Eugene Atget

Portrait Jean Cocteau

Portrait Jessie Cateicher

Portrait Unknown

By 1926 Abbott was exhibiting and had a thriving photographic studio of her own. She didn't look back and never worked for anyone again. She spent almost a decade in Paris where she cemented her reputation as a leading portrait photographer. One of her most personal portraits was of French photographer Eugene Atget whose work Abbott greatly admired. She is credited with championing the work of Atget whose archive Abbott secured after his death.

Three years later Abbott moved back to New York, but it was the beginning of the Great Depression and work was hard to procure even for someone with her reputation. She multi-tasked shooting portraits, editorial work, teaching and applying for grants (sound familiar?). 

Her long career is defined by her portraits and her decade-long documentation of New York City, as well as road trips and the work she did in the field of science in the forties in a bid to bring the wonders of science to the masses. Below are two of my favourite Berenice Abbott science photographs.

Last week in London I had the opportunity to see some of these works on show at Beetles + Huxley Gallery in the final days of the exhibition. I also bought the catalogue, an elegant production that allows me to revisit the images at my leisure. The catalogues produced by many of the galleries in Europe are just exquisite and I could easily fill my bookshelves (if I had any empty shelves to fill that is!). At least the catalogues are small enough to bring home in an already laden suitcase.

Festival: Cambodia
Angkor Photo Festival and Workshops

Next Friday the 11th Edition of Angkor Photo opens in Siem Reap, Cambodia with an extensive line up of exhibitions, projections and workshops. To find out more visit the site here, but for a taste… 

Vlad Sokhin - Kiribati

James Whitlow Delano - Scorched Earth: China’s Wounded Environment 

Gabi Ben Avraham 

Palani Mohan - Hunting with Eagles 

Sergine Laloux - At the Heart of Tibetan Buddhism 

5-12 December
Siem Reap, Cambodia


  1. Hello, I would like to know who made the first picture, if you know the author, it is for an academic work, and I need to know so as not to copy the image


  2. Hello, I would like to know who made the first picture, if you know the author, it is for an academic work, and I need to know so as not to copy the image