Friday Street

In 2008, Tate Modern opened the world’s first major public museum display of graffiti and street art, inviting six international artists to decorate its facade with enormous, eye-catching murals.

Laptop SkinMeanwhile, just down the riverbank at Southwark crown court, eight members of London’s well-known DPM crew were tried for an estimated £1m in graffiti-related damages across the country, and sentenced to a total of 11 years in prison – the biggest prosecution for graffiti that the UK has ever seen.

The Anti-Social Behaviour Act defines graffiti as “painting, writing, soiling, marking or other defacing by whatever means”. Anything from a quickly executed “tag” to a detailed mural could be deemed illegal, and the artist subject to a £5,000 fine or prosecution. Despite this clear-cut definition, there are double standards in the way graffiti is perceived, and the law creates pockets of permission for some artists while penalising others.

DrawString Bag

Ban it, legalise it or put it behind glass! No matter what city councils or the police do, graffiti remains the scapegoat for all manner of urban ills, from burglary on one extreme to gentrification on the other. There are, however a large majority of us who enjoy bringing the outside home, to decorate our own walls with artistry from the streets.

Presenting ‘Friday Street’notebook

‘Friday Street’ is a collection of urban art from the youth of Leicester. Friday Street is situated on a semi-abandoned Jitty close to the Centre of Leicester. The area has seen multiple arson attacks, gang violence and street robbery. Yet Friday Street itself is an entrance to a beautiful public park, which attracts thousands of visitors on a regular basis.

Legal or not, as graffiti seeps into the fabric of our neighbourhoods, it becomes a natural fact of everyday life, a cultural practice appreciated and legitimised by young urban dwellers.

This “gentrification graffiti” is representative of the cycle of transformation in cities across the world, whereby artists are caught up in contributing to their own displacement.

What might you discover on Friday Street? – Click here to find out!

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The problem with Ren Hang’s book

The problem with Ren Hang’s latest book, is that it’s so good! – It’s almost exclusively photographs and are the last set authorized by Ren Hang himself.  There will never be any more in this vein.  I’ve only sampled a few pages because when I get to the end, it’s the end.

So I read with caution and I promise not to ‘over excite’ myself with new material. I will learn to read with antici…

…pation and view just a few pages every and now and then and appreciate his work for longer.

Visit his website, (http://renhang.org) put his name in every search engine you come across and don’t forget to look at his beautiful, playful and innocent yet evocative, constructed and dirty photographs.

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My life is about to change

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It’s been awhile since I’ve used this blog and a lot has changed since my last post in April 2016.  I’ve decided to learn more about photography and will be joining the creative teams at De Montfort University in October.  Since finishing photography courses at college (2 years ago) there has been a gap, I feel the need to learn more and in a structured way.  As I learn, I’ll be sharing ideas and projects here, at TJRFoto and formally at my website.

I enjoy reading about photography & taking photographs because of their ability to communicate ideas, stories & emotions without conversation or spoken language. I find it necessary to photograph because I enjoy the process & satisfaction that I am creating something unique with meaning which can last.  For example, I searched for additional meaning in my own work. Charles Grogg has said that damaging or altering his photographs bring his attention to them once again” (Regrowth: 2012).

In his images, he manipulates printed photographs adding connotations to his original work. In “Road to Nowhere“, I damaged a set of photos & reshot the results. Both projects talk about changes & opportunities we face & the piece encourages me to develop myself.

My work is personal & expressive (and sometimes I’m screaming). I like to work on topics, which have deeper meaning.

For “Here I Am“, you are invited into comfort zones. As I saw the public respond to these images when they were exhibited in 2014, I found myself in agreement that photography encourages voyeurism. I will ask people why they like photographs & some cannot answer the question, yet there they are, looking at Photographs.

My work: “Self Harm” divides an individual into two separate selves; The resulting domestic violence photographs show that self-harm is real harm and aggression, there is a victim & a perpetrator. “The Pernicious Periodic” is a narrative of despair & the desire to change. It is a parody of Dash Snow in a bathtub filled with Polaroid photographs.

Photographs (stories) are being created in such a specific way, which persuades you into a similar way of thinking (or arguing) about the content. I enjoy the apparent permanence of Photography & when I read about its impact through history & in modern society, I am stimulated into creating my own work, that provides a platform to highlight subjects, which concern me.

I also enjoy photography to reflect on myself, some of my work is autobiographical.  Photography is interesting because it’s language is universal & speaks to people from all backgrounds & abilities. My favourite photographers change over time, however core examples are: Phillip Toledano, Richard Billingham, Robbert Mapplethorpe, Steven Klein, David Lachapelle and Wolfgang Tillmans.

Photographs have changed my perspective on the world, I am gladly surprised what hidden meanings can be found in them.

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Photography Exhibition: DISTORTED VISION

Distorted Vision Poster

 

Following from the successes of previous Exhibitions “The Eleventh Hour” and “Finding Focus” this year, Award in Photography Artists present: DISTORTED VISION.

Distorted Vision celebrates the final year of our collaborations together over three years as our qualifications are achieved and we are delighted to invite you to our exhibition which is held from 22nd to 26th June 2015 at The Old Library Café & Galleries, 54 Belvoir Street, Leicester, LE1 6QL (map).

The artist’s work on display contains a diverse range of photographic genres including portraiture, self-portraiture, street, documentary, still-life, conceptual, art photography, landscape and post-photography.  The artists also use a wide variety of techniques both in camera and by digital manipulation to produce the work.

Our teacher, Zoe Van-De-Velde has said “There was no intention to just teach students how to use their camera and to ask them to take the standard shots. Their work should, though their creative process be a reflection of them. By this method the students could, over the time of the course become themselves though their images and ultimately forget their tutor’s existence.”

Distorted Vision, presented by the Award in Photography Artists is a free entry, open exhibition featuring creative works by Doug Smith, Estelle Keeber, Gavin Whyman, Krupa Patel, Tom Robson and Zoe Van-De-Velde.

Of my own work, three titles shall be presented, “Left to our own devices”, “Road To Nowhere” and “ID²”

We do hope you are able to attend, should you live or work in this area.  Samples of my work can be seen at my portfolio: www.tomrobson.com.  If you have a project and feel my style is suitable for your needs, please contact me.  Selected artworks are available to purchase and I am available for hire.

Photography Exhibition: Finding Focus

Presenting, “Finding Focus” a photography exhibition” held between 20th June to 4th July 2014 at Flint Hall, Belvoir Street, Leicester.

The work is a celebration of the projects and achievements of the Award in Photography Artists as their qualifications are achieved.  The artist’s work on display contains a diverse range of photographic genres including portrait, self portrait, street, documentary, still life, conceptual, art photography and landscape. The artists also use a wide variety of techniques both in camera and through digital manipulation to produce the work.

 

Unicorn: Behind the Scenes

A recent project evoked a strong sense of emotion and in some instances, disdain for the collective work of myself and three others.

That work was Unicorn.  A project to provide students with real work experience of the creative industries.

Designated Art Director, my team consisted of Photographer, Assistant Photographer and Model.  Our brief was to create a two page printed clothing advert for a made up unisex clothing brand called Unicorn.  The requirement for students was to role play together and create not only photographs of our brief, but to gain experience we can use in a professional career.

From the outset, I had wanted to push boundaries and challenge people’s views, using the brief by creating a conceptual piece which highlights unisex clothing while demonstrating that men and women are equal.  Compared to some, my views are unorthodox because I do not subscribe to political correctness, nor the notion of appealing to a common denominator who may not accept,the artwork.  It is simply produced and and what I enjoy about art, is its inherent ability to provoke and have the viewer ask questions to understand why.

Unicorn was constructed and presented in a safe environment, free of real world constraints, free of the advertising standards agency and free of the fear of the work becoming banned or censored in any way.  It was, and is an educational project which I used to push the boundaries of the educational institution, and to learn how far it could be pushed with these constraints.  Peer reviews and professional constructive criticism is somewhat unanimous in that the the theme and photographs created are outstanding from a conceptual and artistic viewpoint, not necessarily from an advertising viewpoint.  (To be perfectly honest, I would wish to work with an advertiser who wanted to push boundaries, to create a set of lasting images which invoked a sense of emotion, to create a discussion on the subject matter and above all else, have fun while doing it)!

The subject of the photographs are a fight between a male and a female, each wearing unisex clothing.  While I certainly don’t condone real violence, domestic violence nor sexism I do condone and support artwork, (in any form, whether that’s sculpture, drawing, literature, film, painting, performance and of course, photography) which doesn’t hesitate to communicate challenging ideas.  Without it, great art simply would not be.

Marcel Duchamp, Fountain, 1917, ceramic
Marcel Duchamp, Fountain, 1917, ceramic

Consider Fountain, (left) one of the first examples of artist censorship, this artwork by Duchamp consisting of a porcelain urinal was quickly rejected for exhibition by the Society of Independent Artists in 1917.  The kicker here is that this exhibition claimed to accept all artworks by those who paid the fee; Duchamp paid the fee, but was denied under the terms of the work’s “indecency.”

I also draw your attention to Robert Mapplethorpe’s “The Perfect Moment”.  In the summer of 1989, Mapplethorpe’s traveling solo exhibit brought national attention to the issues of public funding for the arts, as well as questions of censorship and the obscene.  The Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., had agreed to be one of the host museums for the tour. Mapplethorpe decided to show his latest series that he explored shortly before his death.  Mapplethorpe’s exhibition included photographs from his X Portfolio, which featured images of urophagia, BDSM and a self-portrait with a bullwhip inserted in his anus.  The hierarchy of the Corcoran and several members of the U.S. Congress were upset when the works were revealed to them, due the homoerotic and sadomasochistic themes of some of the work.  Though much of his work throughout his career had been regularly displayed in publicly funded exhibitions, conservative and religious organisations, such as the American Family Association, seized on this exhibition to vocally oppose government support for what they called “nothing more than the sensational presentation of potentially obscene material.”

In light of the incident the Institute of Contemporary Arts stated:

“The Corcoran’s decision sparked a controversial national debate: Should tax dollars support the arts? Who decides what is “obscene” or “offensive” in public exhibitions? And if art can be considered a form of free speech, is it a violation of the First Amendment to revoke federal funding on grounds of obscenity? To this day, these questions remain very much at issue.”

These are two, of many examples of artworks which are deemed controversial, and I challenge you to consider who deems art to be controversial?  I believe that if no one encouraged “outrageous” art of  this kind there would be no more Arbus, Witkin, Ionesco, Saudek, Serrano, Helnwein, Meisel, Henson etc… Look them up, ask yourself “Why” share the photographs with your friends and ask them what they think!

I applaud the Vice fashion shoot “Last Words” featuring models styled and posed as famous female writers who have killed themselves.  At their times of death.  I don’t consider these photographs or their message tasteless, while I agree that suicide is not a fashion statement, I see an opportunity to highlight depression, self harm and suicide using fashion as a presentation method.  There are many people interested in suicide, who study it who argue for, and against it.  They already have considered what it means to them, unexpectedly what Vice did was to juxta a depressive and thought-provoking controversy with the idea of self-improvement, or jealousy.  (All while you’re window shopping for the next thing for you to acquire into your life)!  Read Jezebel’s differing view on the story here.

Unicorn was also banned, because there were no questions raised after viewing the photographs, because it was only the photographs which were seen, and not the collective team work which brought the concept together.

One of the most important things in art photography is highlighting a theme, especially themes and ideals which people often struggle to talk about openly such as depression, self harm, ruined childhoods and  domestic violence.  While I’m no Damien Hirst, Banksy or Helen Chadwick, they inspire me and Unicorn was created with similar ideals to their artwork, to demonstrate that in this crazy world full of censorship, full of ‘thought crime‘ and political correctness, it’s ok to photograph a man and a woman fighting.  It’s it’s safe to do so for the sake of art and for the sake of furthering discussions between people, who have not considered it.  If we ignore these issues, if we censor work like this, then the real discussion of violence between men and women cannot happen, and I don’t want to live in a world which doesn’t provoke discussion!

I’m very proud of the team I worked with on this project, they are all skilled and the work would not have been as hard-hitting without their dedication and support, (Thank you Zoe & Chris)!  I leave you now with what really happened on the Unicorn shoot, fun!

Unicorn

 

Unicorn Part 2, by Tom Robson

Unicorn Part 3, by Tom Robson

Unicorn Part 4, by Tom Robson

Unicorn Part 5, by Tom RobsonPhotographs evoke emotions which are just as individual as one’s self.

I had intended to accompany these images with dialogue; however after first presenting these images to peers, colleagues and close friends the discussions which ensured became varied.  The images speak for themselves, or do they?

Full size photographs can be found on deviantArt
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The Mask Part III: The Predator

 

In our second week, we were invited by our course tutor to join with another student and collaborate together and produce a sequence of themed images.  Angela Jarvis and I worked together on the theme of creating a presence by using long exposure photography.  With very little perceived time to work with, we quickly discussed the concept of a presence, a phantom following the subject.  If indeed they are two separate entities.

We worked together just outside college to produce the images using both our cameras.

See also: The Mask Part I and The Mask Part II

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