Nick Hackworth © Jeremy Hutchinson. Background: London Art Fair.
Photo50, part of the London Art Fair, is an exhibition of fifty contemporary and historical photographs. Curated this year by Nick Hackworth, ‘A Cyclical Poem’ focuses on British photojournalists and documentary photographers.
Could you explain the title, “Cyclical Poem”?
The show is about the relationship between photography, time and memory. The title itself is from the following quote: ‘History is a cyclic poem written by time upon the memories of man’ from A Defence of Poetry by Shelley.
How did you select which artists to integrate in Photo50?
We were looking for photographers that made work that had a highly charged relationship with time and memory. So we picked some photographers who returned to the same or similar subjects over or after long periods of time, such as Sirrka-Lisa Kontinen returning to Byker or Paul Hill in fact physically collaging new work onto images he took in the seventies. Other bodies of work we selected because they were made very conscious relationship to time, such as work from Chris Steele-Perkins’ series Echoes, images shot in one year, 2001.
Which are the key works in this exhibition, or your personal favourites? Could you explain why?
I love all the works in the show. Each of the selections from the eight photographers are rich microcosms, taken from bodies of work that are filled with their own stories and moments. However I find the works of Ian Beesley and Homer Sykes images especially moving as they record entire worlds that have disappeared almost entirely. From Ian’s work, perhaps, I’d single out ‘Foreman of the plate-laying gang having received his redundancy letter’.
What is your opinion on the coming of digital photography?
I’m interested in the ways in which digital culture is altering the relationship between image, time and memory. Since the exhibition tackles these three through a selection of images that are mainly from the post-digital era, one reading of it might be to question the nature of those changes. So my question about digital culture is not about its relationship to ‘truth’ per se, but memory. What does it mean to young individuals who’ve grown up immersed in digital culture, who have a tendency to record and publish so much of their lives online? Does the selectivity inherent in the approach of each of the photographers in Photo 50, make for a more mindful relationship with memory, or does the constant engagement of new digital culture make for a richer relationship?