Is the Photographers Gallery ‘shit’?Written by duckrabbit
Sounds like an Ali G question, but apparently this is what Magnum photographer Chris Steele-Perkins said during a talk at Host Gallery last night:
“I don’t hate the Photographer’s Gallery, I just think they’re shit.”
duck wouldn’t know, he’s never been. I did speak at an event with one of the curators, Camilla Brown, and she was lovely, plus she also had something interesting to say which wound up a lot of photographers. But I have to say when it comes to photography a lot of people’s idea of caviar is my idea of shit, and vice-versa.
I wonder what all our cultured (and uncouth) readers think?
UPDATE FROM OUR SOURCE AT HOST:
Yes, he did mentioned that several times in fact. he said that “tub of lard” (aka Photographer’s Gallery) uses £1.2million of Arts Council money yet the quality of the shows are really lame, which i completely agree because I’ve seen exhibition left hanging for two months or more without being changed. his beef is that many dynamic small and independent galleries in London, Newcastle etc aren’t supported enough Arts Council funding, yet churning quality works. However he agrees that “sometimes the Photographer’s Gallery gets it wrong and put on good shows.
Not liking something and it being ‘shite’ are two different things of course. The point about funding is a good one but that’s an issue for The Arts Council.
Nick Turpin comments
Unfortunately there is a serious point here, The Photographers Gallery is Arts Council funded and utterly fails to provide London with the photography gallery it deserves. London is the biggest city in Europe with a thriving community of extraordinary photographers who go completely un supported or promoted by the ‘Lens Based Media’ culture of the Photographers gallery regime. How is it that small groups like the above mentioned Host gallery manage to provide more for the majority of UK photographers than the Arts Council Funded Photographers Gallery. Brian Griffin was pretty damning of the Photographers Gallery , at last months Photography Symposium in Derby he quizzed Charlotte Cotton (who is to Creatively Direct the new London satellite of the Bradford National Photography museum) as to wether she will finally provide London with the Photography Gallery it deserves.
The team at the Photographers gallery are not interested unless you are already a name in the conceptual photography world, when I have invited them to events and launches in the past they don’t even reply. I would wholeheartedly support a campaign to have the current Photographers Gallery stripped of its Arts Council funding until its reputation as a gallery and resource for photographers exceeds its reputation as a cafe and bookshop. How is it that the much smaller city of Amsterdam has a gallery like FOAM that London can’t match.
The Photographers Gallery is failing, its time for change.
Here are some of the ‘other’ answers:
|Yes has been for years, finally someone says so.||1|
|i only go for the bookshop||1|
|Haven’t been there enuf- but the cafe food really sucks…||1|
|small, poor light. Not shit though…||1|
|Chris Perkins Steele: “They put up any conceptual trash there”||1|
|the coffee was ok in 1991||1|
|I only go there to use the toilet and bookshop.||1|
|http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-0MKKsabx0 What Chris said on video||1|
|It’s got a good shop!||1|
|pretentious shite, unworthy of the title ‘photgraphers’||1|
|It’s filled with pretentious kids on any given day. The work is too arty.||1|
|has a free toilet in central London||1|
|It’s pretty hit and miss||1|
|the nly good thing is that they have nice loos in the centre of town||1|
Not only Brian Griffin spoke up at NPG but also Frances Hodgson in his keynote, who said it needs to be closed down. Both raised more than passing comments, and both to murmours of assent and ripples of applause from the audience.
I’ve only been once, but this is what I think:
1. I visit London approx 4-6 times a year and regularly visit NPG, Tate Modern, maybe Deimar Noble or Spruth Magers, the White Cube, small things in places like Photofusion, local shows & openings. That I’m going to The Photographer’s Gallery for only the second time ever, is telling. They either don’t have anything I want to see, or don’t tell me about it, or both.
2. One of my friends has some photographs in their Fresh Wildeyed contest. That’s why I’m going this time, but I wouldn’t know without knowing him. It’s not hard these days to publicise events. All you have to have are a few social media accounts and know how to use them.
3. Camilla Brown spoke at our NE Photography Network Symposium and she is extremely pleasant in a terribly well brought up kind of way that may not be quite the thing if we are looking for startling or cutting edge, but that might be exactly what the Arts Council wants. She’s not the radical, forthright approach of Charlotte Cotton, for instance, but that can be good too. I don’t think she commissioned any work from the portfolio reviews she conducted here, and there is certainly lots of work of the calibre worthy of a national showing, that simply isn’t being seen.
4. 1.2 million doesn’t seem much to provide a national resource for photography, but if it doesn’t do that, and it seems it doesn’t, then we end up simply not having one.
5. There’s a case that can easily be made for spending 1.2m in my area alone, the NE. The Side Gallery does a fantastic job for documentary photography, and is well supported, but the big galleries like Baltic and MIMA only go for stars like Parr and while that can be interesting, we don’t get any feel for what’s happening right here and now. We have no funded gallery for showing new, current, interesting work.
So, do I think it’s shite? No idea.
Do I think it’s shite that I don’t use it? Do I think it’s shite that they don’t show anything I want to see? Do I think Camilla could do with some support from us to turn things around, get a head start to change things, get them right? Yes! Any chance that the powers-that-be at The Photographers’ gallery can make that begin to happen? Do they have a steering group, a user group, an open forum? Is there a fighting chance they’re listening to any of us? Is there?
Ever since Sue Davies left the PG it has been the private plaything of a cabal of career bell ends. Davies at least tried to give space to an eclectic variety of photography, and the result was quite often inspirational and surprising. The current lot seem to alternate between big name retrospectives ( read “contractual footfall obligations to the ACGB”), and endless postmodern conceptual stuff. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with that, but PG don’t seem to have the faintest idea what photography is, or what quality is. Mostly they achieve the visual equivalent of Steven Katz http://www.infiltec.com/j-postmd.htm
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve left the place deeply pissed off at the underachievement of the PG. It ought to be a hub of energy and light, but it feels like the Church of Up Itself. And there is always a rather peculiar smell in the cafe, like something has died.
I have persevered with the PG for years.
I first visited as a student, then as an assistant, then as a photographer. I would go 4-5 times a year, over time this got less and less, as the exhibitions became less and less, eventually I stopped going in altogether, even if I was passing the door!. It does indeed feel like a place of worship where reverence needs to be paid, even the cafe is always deserted.
A vibrant lively Tate-modern-esque approach would do it many favors, the potential of such a prime piece of London real estate could huge.
Would I agree, the PG is (currently) shite!, yes
Do I think they should close it?, no.
A massive overhaul and a rethink, yes.