Humans are tribal and we like to notice how we are different from each other - class, gender, wealth, race, faith, nationality - the list goes on. Our differences is what gives the world variety and ultimately humans share more basic traits (hunger, love, jealousy, fear, happiness, sleep, dreams) than we have differences. Some people tend to forget this.
For this work, Nick Danziger selected the pick of his black-and-white images of Britain's underclass and upperclass to create a vivid portrait of Britain at the start of the second millennium. He juxtaposed two very different ways of life.
From the palaces of Westminster to Durham's high-security, H-block prison wing for women murderers, from remote Scottish crofting communities to the violence-scarred, inner-city neighbourhoods of Scottswood and Benwell in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, from the richest man in England (the Duke of Westminster) and the C-in-C of the British Army to lives dominated by the abuse of drugs, violence and unemployment, Nick Danziger traverses the land in images of dramatic power.
Irving Penn was a leading fashion photographer in the 20th century. He photographed some of the most glamorous, famous and important people of his time. He also photographed everyday people - butchers, bakers and chimney sweeps in his series 'Small Trades' in 1950. Working in Paris, London, and New York in the early 1950s, photographer Irving Penn (American, 1917–2009) created masterful representations of skilled tradespeople dressed in work clothes and carrying the tools of their occupations. A neutral backdrop and natural light provided the stage on which his subjects could present themselves with dignity and pride. Penn revisited his Small Trades series over many decades.
Irving Penn, Small Trades, Chevrier, Paris, 1950
He photographed them in the same way as he photographed the famous - through his camera lens people became equal. The ordinary became iconic. Penn is said to have asked a sitter 'What does it feel like to realise this eye that is looking at you is the eye of one hundred and twenty thousand people?'. Along with unusual questions he would photograph his subjects for hours to capture that natural moment when they let their guard down. Irving Penn's photographs are icons that provide a fascinating record of cultural and economic trends that have now passed.
In 1984 Steve McCurry photographed a young girl in Afghanistan. It is a simple portrait and the girls piecing blue/green eyes are the point of emphasis for the viewer. Her head is framed by a red scarf which is contrasted with a blurred grey/blue background (that picks up colours in the girls eyes). The image became iconic but the girl herself carried on her life. The image was taken for National Geographic and became known as the 'Afghan girl' - for years McCurry has tried to once again find the girl from his famous 1984 photo and he did in 2002. He took an almost identical image 17 years later - but the woman seems to have aged a lot more than that. The natural effects of time coupled with the troubled history of Afghanistan can be read in the woman's face.
Nicholas Nixon 'The Brown Sisters 1975-2007' 2/16/09
Nicholas Nixon 'The Brown Sisters 1975-2007'
Time has a natural effect on the world around us. Time is a central element of Photography - at it purest form it can be the length of time a shutter is left open for. On another level it can record time - freezing it forever. We cannot see time - we invented clocks to give form to this abstract concept. However, we can see the effects of time - the sun moving over head, a worn step, a landscape eroding or the aging effect on humans. We notice people growing old mainly by looking back at old photographs. The Photographer Nicholas Nixon has Photographed his wife and her three sisters ever year since 1975. He created a Topograhic series. They are informal portraits but the women are always stood in the same order. If you look at the photographs chronologically the change is subtle. However, if you look at a photograph from the 1970's and compare it to a recent one the change is dramatic. Soft skin and features age and show the marks of a life's experience. Individuals faces can still be recognised but, at the same time, can change dramatically.
Rembrandt Self Portrait 1628
We take it for granted that we can document our lives. It is easy for us to create a photographic image of ourselves. Before the invention of photography all portraits had to be drawn by hand. If you couldn't draw you would have to pay an artist. This meant only the rich and successful were immortalised in an image. Rembrandt made self portraits from an early age and left one of the few pre-photographic documents of a person growng old.
Rembrandt, “Self-Portrait in Painter's Costume.” 1660-62
Over thirty years separate these two images by Rembrandt and show him transform from a young ambitious artist to an old master. He made a unusually large amount of self portraits that show him in various guises from a mischievous clown, respectable member of society to a lone artist. You can see these varied portraits here and here.
Irina Werning 'Back to the future'
'Back to the Future' is a fascinating project by Irina Werning. She has convinced friends and family to recreate their old photos — in some cases, the resemblance is absolutely uncanny. Of course the location, person, clothes etc are all the exact same, but she’s also done a wonderful job of matching the look and feel of the original photograph. That is harder than it looks - matching the lighting must have taken forever.
William Mansel Llewelyn photographed by his aunt Mary Dillwyn.