WHAT IS CONCEPTUAL PHOTOGRAPHY?
From 31st August until the 21st September 2012, Source will be releasing three films and one interview, attempting to uncover what various artists, curators and writers think about Conceptual Photography.
The term 'conceptual photography' is now widely used but may describe quite different things. Is it a movement, a working methodology, a historical tradition or none of these? This current issue of Source contains three essays and four portfolios of photographs relating to the subject. Here we will add three films in which we ask a number of artists and critics what they think of conceptual photography. Interviewees include the writers Sean O'Hagan, John Roberts and Lucy Soutter and the artists John Hilliard, Suzanne Mooney and Broomberg & Chanarin.
As John Hilliard says in the first film, these terms are more often applied to artists' work than used by artists themselves. A long interview can give a photographer more chance to explore their influences and background. At Source we have a collection of oral history style interviews in which people involved in photography talk about their work in relation to their lives. The next addition to this collection will be an extended interview (two and a half hours in total) with Trish Morrissey. Her new work, 'The Failed Realist' features in the current issue of Source.
We will also be adding archive material relating to conceptual photography and, as we put up these films and interviews, we will be asking via Facebook and Twitter for people's own opinions and definitions of the term.
The critics Lucy Soutter and John Roberts talk about the term 'Conceptual Photography' in relation to the art movement of the late '60s, Conceptual Art, meanwhile the artist John Hilliard, who was both described as a 'Conceptual Artist' in the '60s and '70s and is still making photographs today, explains his working method. For him conceptual photography would refer to work that is preconceived (rather than spontaneous) and contains ideas that can be retrieved and understood by the viewer.
The critics Sean O'Hagan, Lucy Soutter and John Roberts talk about conceptual photography after conceptual art and what distinctive features, if any, conceptual photography might have today. After the original Conceptual Art of the '60s and '70s, work by photographers continued to be described as 'conceptual' but took different forms. Suzanne Mooney is a contemporary photographer whose work is conceptual. She interrogates the conventions of photography but welcomes ambiguity in her work.
Conceptualism has sometimes been seen in opposition to other photographic traditions like that of documentary or reportage. The curator Louise Clements and the artists Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin talk about work that takes an alternative view of photojournalistic subject matter.
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