I’m often asked how I decide to visit the places that I end up photographing. While the standard answer proffered to everyone is that I use Google Maps’ satellite view functionality, what does this really mean beyond that simplistic explanation?
Writing is hard work for me. It’s a constant struggle to sound vaguely eloquent, to link terse sentences together into some kind of flowing prose. I’ll spend days tweaking sentences and shifting text only to remain frustratingly dissatisfied by the ponderousness of it all. When Port Magazine asked for a short piece, I worked for a couple of days on something which was considerably rewritten and improved upon by my contact there. Not willing to let it rest (let’s face it, this blog could do with some activity), I present to you my version of his improvement. Y’know, what I really need is a good editor I can regularly lean on for help!
The Good, the Bad and the Just-About-Okay (exhibition reviews, that is)
Here’s a selection of reviews from my recent show at the Third Floor Gallery. The opinions range from the positive to the opaque to the downright scathing, which goes to show again that you can’t expect and shouldn’t attempt to please everyone.
So all I seem to be doing recently on this journal is announcing new shows. I know, I know, my bad, but I will atone for my sins later in the year.
This is my first solo show in the UK! The Third Floor Gallery in Cardiff have been fantastic with this. The exhibition is from February 2 to 17 March, with the opening on Friday February 1 at 102 Bute Street, Cardiff.
You’ll see more posts about this show later, but for now if you’re in Wales, I hope to see you on Friday night!
Having enjoyed a social-networking-free summer, I’m delighted to return… wait, no, I’m not delighted, every photographer’s announcement of something good involves the words “delighted” or “honoured” or “humbled”. I’m tickled pink to announce that 30 of my photos will be exhibited in the Stadtmuseum Graz in Austria as part of their “Eyes on the City” exhibition, opening on Saturday 13 October at 19:30.
The photographers involved are:
Sabine Bitter & Helmut Weber
Paul Albert Leitner
Yeah, who would have thought that by the coincidences of alphabetic sorting that you’d see me next to the big F right? Anyway, here’s more information about the exhibition and the catalogue.
It may please you (it certainly pleases me!) to know that I will be having a solo show in Paris in a couple of weeks. I first met with the great crew at La Petite Poule Noire during Paris Photo in November and we spent the next month discussing the possibility of an exhibition. I’m thrilled to say this has come to pass.
So for everyone in the vicinity, please consider this to be your formal invitation to the opening. I’ll be displaying 30 prints from After the Fall and for those of you with money in your pockets, they’ll all be for sale. I will also be in Paris for the weekend of the opening, so it’d be more than a pleasure to catch up with some of you!
Ok kids, I’ve gone and set up a mailing list to keep you in the personal one-to-one (ok, one-to-many) loop in case of future interesting Hin Chua-related announcements? Why? Because future interesting Hin Chua-related announcements are pending.
Prior to boarding the Cathay Pacific flight at Heathrow, the customs official flipped through my papers and dryly remarked “now that’s a pretty well used passport!” I’d never paid heed to the fact before, but he was right. Beginning as a bumpkin who had remained within Australia’s borders for seven years and never visited Europe till 2004, I somehow managed to almost completely consume an entire passport in less than five years of travelling under my own steam.
As I meandered throughout the urban countryside bordering Beijing , I began reflecting on my experience as a foreigner photographing around the world and how it both reflected upon and affected my identity.
Before I arrived in Beijing, there was a period of a couple of days where I was feeling extremely apprehensive about returning to China. I had last visited Shanghai at the end of 2007, when my process of working was far less disciplined (it was almost completely free-form to be honest: turn up at a random location, walk around for several hours without any map or any idea I where I was going and then try to find my way back home). Since then, my practice has evolved considerably in terms of research: mapping of locations via Google Maps, utilising Street View for reconnaissance and plotting an appropriate path with suitable end point (so that I didn’t have to return home the way I came).
I’ve procrastinated. I’ve debated the subject. I’ve agonised. But finally, I’m decided. Writing my last post was what prompted me to finally do it: I’ve resolved to sell as many of my cameras as I’ve can.
Maybe it’s because I’ve managed to convince myself they’re irreplaceable, but I’ve always hung on to most of my cameras for an unnaturally long period. When I’m out photographing, when I stumble across some scenes in the field, I’m almost terrified to depart because of the knowledge that more often than not, I’ll never return to that particular rat-arsed corner of the world.
Similarly, letting go of a camera represents to me the closing of a chapter. Once my Hexar RF departs, I’m quite certain I’ll never use another one ever again. It’s not like they’re a particular iteration of the latest wunderplastic DSLRs; I’ve never had any kind of attachment to any of the ubiquitous digital Canons I’ve ever owned. But the cameras and lenses listed below are very much more unique.
Regardless though, clinging on to these objects doesn’t change the fact that I don’t use them anymore and that’s more than a little criminal given how nice they are. Besides, I swore to myself that I would never become a camera hoarder, or worse yet, a collector!
So here’s the initial list of equipment. I haven’t listed prices, but they’ll will be extremely competitive, priced to beat eBay. So if you’re interested, drop me an email!
Leica M8 (SOLD)
Here’s my Leica M8, purchased in early 2007 and used actively for less than a year (before I committed fully to my Mamiya 7). The serial number is 3109346. It comes with all the packaging, the charger, the latest firmware, 3 original Leica batteries and I’ll throw in three Sandisk Extreme 2 gig SD cards . Other than a few scuff marks on the top and some stickiness where I decided to foolishly cover up the red Leica dot (I was in my dumb stealth-ninja street photographer phase), it’s in very good condition. The LCD was always covered with a screen protector. Oh, and it comes with a Tom Abrahamsson Minisoftrelease attached.
Konica Hexar RF (SOLD)
This is the legendary Konica Hexar RF, the only Leica M compatible rangefinder with motor drive. I bought this in 2005 from a photographer who himself purchased it in 2004 but had to sell it as a result of parenthood. I remember sitting in his cluttered lounge in West London, almost salivating at the chance to get my hands on this beauty. This is a late-production RF (serial 1452370); by this time Konica had resolved all the niggles encountered during the initial production run. In addition, while I don’t have the receipt, the camera was serviced right after it was last used actively (you’ll just have to trust me on this). There are scuff marks on the bottom baseplate but beyond that it is in very good condition. It comes with all the original packaging.
Zeiss Ikon (SOLD)
In my opinion this is the ultimate refinement of the M mount film camera. But hell, don’t take my word for it, check out some of the reviews. The viewfinder in particular is outstanding. I bought this in 2006 and am ashamed to say that it was barely used. To be honest, this is the camera I feel most guilty about neglecting. As a result, it is practically in mint condition and comes with all packaging and a Minisoftrelease. The serial number is 15590531.
Leica 28mm Summicron F2 ASPH (SOLD)
This is the finest 28mm M mount lens in existence. Purchased with the M8 in 2007 (it functions as a 35mm lens on that camera), it was the last of my “ridiculous” purchases. The really interesting thing is that thanks to the depreciation of the pound and Leica’s price rises, this lens has appreciated considerably in value over intervening 5 years, but you can get it at a bargain price! The lens comes with all packaging, Leica lens pouch, Leica metal circular lens hood and a Leica UV filter. The serial number is 4007586 and you can see it is in great condition.
Leica Tri-Elmar F4 E49 (SOLD)
I bought this in 2005 and it’s one of the most interesting lenses Leica has ever made, with the ability to switch manually between 28mm, 35mm and 50mm focal lengths. The only compromise is the fact it is larger and slower than most M mount lenses, but during daylight, its flexibility is unmatched. I kept it at 35mm almost all of the time at F8, safe in the security that I could go “long” or “short” when the requirement arose.
Once again, it comes with all packaging, its associated lens pouch and a Leica UV filter. It didn’t come with a lens hood. The serial number is 3948546: this is the E49 version of the Tri Elmar, the third and ultimate refinement of the lens.
Reining myself in: a few unadulterated, unedited interview answers
I’ve talked in the past about speaking your mind (or not speaking your mind) in public. I know that I’ve given some polished, professional interviews when I’ve willingly reined myself in to a sometimes considerable degree; those who know me in person will appreciate the difference. On other occasions, typographical and layout constraints have forced my answers to be succinct.
When I was pondering the answers to the latest interview in front of me, I thought to myself “why not release the brakes just a bit?” People have also always been interested about my computer programming background, but I’ve never really talked about my past in any detailed manner.
I have no idea if this interview will ultimately be published or how greatly it will have to be edited, but here are some responses in their full, unadulterated form. So I take full responsibility for all the typos and the references to Jeff Goldblum, comic cosmic super-villains, cocaine and sex-changing fish!
One of the things I’ve been doing a lot more of in the last couple of years has been talking about photography. I’ve always respected artists who have been able to talk eloquently about their work and spin an interesting story around their photographs. One occasionally feels the urge to call bullshit, but I’ll excuse most implausible justifications for making photographs if they’re at least clever or entertaining. Especially when you’ve experienced the painful counterpoint: the poor individual who struggles to contribute more than a couple of semi-meaningful sentences about their work.
Sex or photography: which would you give up? (a profile of Hin by Adam Chidell)
It’s been a summer of incredible busy-ness so far. Even though I’m still not making as many photographs as I’d like, every spare moment seems to be fully allocated. I can’t remember spending any weekend over the last two months actually in London, I’ve either been travelling, shooting or having adventures with various groups of friends.
Here’s something that happened in, whoa, February: Adam Chidell dropped me an email, asking to profile me as part of the journalism degree he was doing. I could hardly resist, being never one to refrain from shooting my mouth off and generally embarrassing myself. Adam did a great job, especially with the opening sentence (damn that big mouth again), hopefully I helped him get a decent grade!
I’ll be exhibiting ‘After the Fall’ at the FORMAT Festival in Derby in March 2011. There’ll be a diverse and interesting range of work being shown: I’ll personally be curious to see Amy Stein, Bruno Quinquet and Trent Parke amongst others (you’ll find my exhibition at the QUAD).
The theme of this year’s exhibition was “exposures in the public realm” and when I was invited to submit a proposal, my initial concern was how to describe my work within that context. After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing, here’s what I settled upon:
Here’s every place outside of the United Kingdom that I photographed in 2010. Looking back, the list initially appears puny and undersized, but in hindsight, almost anything would pale in comparison to my epic 2009 (when I somehow managed to spend more than four months out of the country).
A mile from Zhang Jiang High Technology Park, Shanghai, 2007
I should be writing to tell you all about 2010 (screw 2011!), but I’m knee-deep in my scanning and planning my next photographic expedition. To tide you over till next week (I promise), here’s an (extended version of) article I wrote for last year’s fLIP magazine about a particular turning point in my photographic life.
A New Years’ resolution for 2011 has been to write more about myself, for myself. I’m not talking about your run-of-the-mill “personal press releases” designed to convince people how talented and wonderful I am (because hell, that’s stating the blooming obvious isn’t it?)
Instead, I want to perforate the impenetrable veneer of the professional artist, to discuss some of what goes on behind the scenes and to talk honestly and truthfully about my practice, its challenges and some of the moments of pure joy or terror that I often experience. Uncertainty is such a critical conceptual and practical component the way I make images, and I want to try better communicate that in textual form.
I’m not overly concerned about writing to build an audience or a brand and I’m under no illusions that anyone other than myself may be interested in this. But that’s the point: I need to hold myself accountable, I need to remind myself what I’ve accomplished and what still needs to be done.
The Savignano Festival opens tomorrow in Rimini, Italy. Amongst the artists showing their work will be Roger Ballen, Mark Steinmetz (as far as I’m concerned, the ultimate photographer’s photographer!) and Martin Parr. But hey, amongst all that goodness will be six of my photographs as part of Urbanautica’s Naturae exhibition.
So go see Ballen, go see Steinmetz, go see Simon Roberts, but deep down you know you really want to see Chua… um, right?
If you happen to be in Kaunas, Lithuania over the next week, you’ll undoubtedly stumble across the Kaunas Photography Festival. Over the course of several nights, they’ll be showing a series of Photography Duels where selected photographers from competing countries will be pitted against each other in a battle to the finish (or more likely, gentle applause).
Laura drove us to Folkestone. During the course of the day, I moonlighted as her assistant, helped her look for a missing camera part in the sand (we never found it) and managed to get completely soaked by a sudden thunderstorm. And great fun was had by all!
I would call it ‘intentionality’. Sometimes I meet young artists and it becomes clear that for some the main motivation is getting a show in Chelsea. It strikes me that this is very different to the way it was for me, which was that I wanted to understand photography and the world and myself. To do that, I produced work. The work that was shown was like a by-product, but never the purpose of my photography.
The thought process doesn’t even have to be conceptual or intellectual. It can be visual, or a layer of thought that’s wordless. I’m always exploring some question or other, but it may not even be formulate as such. I believe the work produced by most established artists, was produced as a by-product of their personal explorations.