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THINKING THROUGH PHOTOGRAPHY

BEST OF SOURCE
archive selections by
JESSIE MCLAUGHLIN

Jessie McLaughlin

Photographer and Writer

When Source got in touch and asked if I’d like to be a part of this project exploring the magazine’s archive, it sounded great. What I didn’t expect is how moving the process turned out to be. I moved to Sweden just over a year ago, and have been (like everyone else) stuck in the pandemic for most of that time. In other words, stuck in an in-between space, not able to visit friends and family back in the U.K. and yet also not really able to roam and explore my new home. To be given this opportunity to reflect and look back through the Source’s back issues has in many ways given me an unexpected but much needed window to old friends and peers in and around photography, to places I miss, artists whose work takes me back to falling in love with photography, being confronted by photography, being drawn into what it can be and do. My selection is therefore a personal one, in many ways even a sentimental one and yet still, I hope, offers you a true sense of the sheer volume and scope of photographic practice Source has covered over the years.

Jo Spence

Jo Spence Book Review
Source Issue 6 Winter 1995

The photographer, writer, activist Jo Spence stands in a doorway of a brick house, two full milk bottles at her feet. She holds a broom in one hand as though it were a weapon and her gaze goes over our heads, her sights are set higher than anybody’s expectations of her. The highlighted quote reads: ‘She asked very simple... direct questions that most photographic practice has ignored’ which for me pretty much sums up Spence’s practice. Spence’s work has always been in my life one way or another, from my mum showing her work in the North London libraries she worked at when I was growing up, to spaces connected with my own working life putting on retrospectives, SPACE (the show is reviewed in Source Issue 72, Tate Britain and the Wellcome Collection. This Source piece is a great introduction, and reminds me why her work and the questions she asked were so important, and I hope we never forget to keep asking them.

Liz Johnson Artur

Liz Johnson Artur Review
Source Issue 99 Autumn 2019

I was away in Detroit doing a research placement when this exhibition was on. Everyone I know who went loved it and of all people Rihanna (!!!) came to it, writing down her appreciation for the show and signing her name in the visitor’s book. So I’ll forever be heartbroken I never made it. This review though gives me a really good feel for the show, and for that I’m deeply grateful. Bennett opens it with a beautifully selected quote, Johnson Artur speaking of her hunger to take pictures and in an instant those words bring me into the space.

‘Policewomen practice Jiu Jitsu. Photo shows Mrs. Hamilton, who is in charge of the class, giving instructions in how to handle the women annoyers. After they get their muscles hardened a little more the policewomen think they will be able to make arrests without the aid of accompanying masculine detectives.’ - Bettmann, 22 March, 1924

Self Defence for Women - Getty Images Archive
Source Issue 97 Spring 2019

The murder of Sarah Everard in March 2021 is still fresh in my mind as I come to this article. There are many great organisations against violence (for example direct action group Sisters Uncut). Its necessary work, in the U.K. alone two women a week are killed, one in two turned away from refuge and and the organisations that provide those refuges have had their funding cut by 25%. (statistics from Sisters Uncut, 2020). The images writer Joanna Burke has collected have mostly been created by upper class women and I am unsurprised and pleased to see an example of how to ‘throw’ a police officer [among them]. Self-defense has always been a part of women, queer and feminine people’s lives (Black and POC lives especially) and these images are a part of showing that. Violence is killing us, and we must work together to bring it to an end.

‘Teenagers, Belfast
- Michelle Sank

Michelle Sank Portfolio
Source Issue 45 Winter 2005

I am 32 years old but still feel very close to my teenage self. There’s something about being queer that means linear time, and ageing doesn’t feel so straight (forgive the pun) forward. When I look at these images by Michelle Sank I see a group of people who in many ways have a strong sense of themselves, but also look like they’re completely unsure. As I see it, it’s not so much a matter of confidence but more about discovering where they fit, why the world operates and is structured in the ways it is. The images capture the painful and joyful task of carving out space for yourself as a young person, a project I still happen to be working on.

Can Photographs Tell the Story of Black History and the Black Present – Tina Campt interviewed by Caroline Molloy

Tina Campt Interview by Caroline Molloy
Source Issue 101 Summer 2020

In my current research, I’m looking into what we can learn from images and artworks, especially when we apply this to how we make and maintain artistic spaces (museums, galleries, project spaces etc). As a queer brown femme person, I am particularly interested in anti-racist and queer work, that opens up more space for everybody. In this interview, by Caroline Molloy, Black feminist visual cultures theorist Tina Campt talks us through not only the content of her research into Black photographic histories but also the process of it. In this respect, this interview feels especially generous, we get a glimpse into the real life workings of Campt’s research, and in doing so, understand something more about our relationship to looking (or as Campt would have it, listening) to images. A fantastic and thought-provoking read.

Tyssen Community Primary School - Steve McQueen

Steve McQueen Review
Source Issue 100 Winter 2019

As someone who was born and grew up in North London, I wholeheartedly relate to Year 3 by Steve McQueen. and this double spread review by Catherine Grant is spot on. For those who aren’t familiar with the project, Grant summarises it briefly, McQueen collaborated with numerous photographers and educators to photograph Year 3 children in primary schools across London, displaying the portraits as billboards and in Tate Britain. She explores how all the parts of the project taken together create a more complex picture than we might have been expecting.. An example of excellent review writing, Grant’s piece reveals to us something significant and moving about both the work and the person looking at it.

Christopher Street 1976 – Sunil Gupta

Sunil Gupta Interview by Anthony Luvera
Source Issue 79 Summer 2014

As a brown queer person with a love of photographs of people, I have always loved and appreciated Gupta’s work. In this interview, by Antony Luvera we cruise through Gupta’s life and artistic career - from falling in love with images on the big screen, to buying and learning how to use his first camera and developing his own film, on through the many projects and themes he’s addressed in his work. What I especially love is how Gupta articulates his experience and reflects on his work, there’s an honesty and soft frankness that shines through and makes reading it a very intimate and tender experience.

In the Company of Mothers - Hannah Starkey

A Commitment To Merseyside - Open Eye Gallery
Source Issue 61 Winter 2009

I was born in North London but my mum grew up in Merseyside and many of my family members on that side live there. Liverpool is one of my favourite cities and I feel a love for all the ways in which growing up in Merseyside influenced my mum; her personality, and her leftwing politics. This article on Open Eye Gallery and its archive is an interesting and in many ways emotional read that highlights the character of the city as well as the crucial role our regional institutions play. As I read this over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, it shows me again all the reasons why we should fight to keep them properly funded and supported through the best and the worst of times.

In the Company of Mothers - Hannah Starkey

Hannah Starkey Portfolio
Source Issue 75 Summer 2013

My mum is a very important person in my life, her influence on me (from style to politics, art to an undesirable quick temper) almost knows no bounds. This series by Hannah Starkey moves me in that it shows that hot, fierce and often complex bond I feel I know so well from my own relationship with my mother. I also like this series because of how plainly it shows us that parenting work is tough work (something my mum would have definitely agreed with). It’s a moving tribute to mothers and parents gone, here and to be.

Start your day with a good breakfast together (2009) - Experimental Relationship Vol.1  - Pixy Liao

Pixy Liao Book Review
Source Issue 96 Winter 2018

I was initially drawn to writing about the privacy article in this issue until I spotted this little review at the back. The accompanying image by Pixy Liao that caught my attention shows two people, both naked, one sat on a chair with spoon in hand the other lying flat on their back with half a papaya covering their genitals. The image opens up exactly the kind of vulnerable, playful, and tender world that relationship building (sexual, romantic and not) creates, and the review articulates this perfectly sweetly and honestly.

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