London, June 2011

© Philip-Lorca diCorcia
© Simon Norfolk
© Taryn Simon
© Paul Graham

A new tranche of Philip Lorca diCorcia's Polaroid residue from the last 30 years, sits on thin aluminium rails screwed to the walls of the Spruth Magers, an engaging mix of facts and fictions; saved exposure tests, delicate moments that caught the eye, and some fogging and chemical defects.

(Until 8th June 2011)

 

Last year Simon Norfolk spent several weeks in Kabul, in tribute to Irish photographer John Burke's Afghanistan photographs from 1878-80 (never previously exhibited). The accompanying documentary at this Tate show powerfully articulates the rage he feels about the long history of 'pointless cruel wars' suffered there - but he largely fails to come up with the intended honey-trap photographs - beautiful images which would convey a political message. His vivid description of the 'disappointed' light of pre-dawn and post-dusk that he preferred to work in is hugely resonant - as is the phrase 'cracked sewer' for the outpourings of all those emasculated photographers currently embedded with the present forces of occupation.

(Until 10th July 2011)

 

In the last decade the Tate have decided they like photography so much they have put a ring on it. Their compulsion to now constantly exhibit photographs possibly indicates saturation point is close to being reached. They have another show on at the moment, occupying several rooms on the fourth floor - the vast catalogues of family genealogies, large multiple panel image and text pieces, narratively and ethnographically precise, from American photographer Taryn Simon. The phenomenal hard work and fastidiousness involved is impressive but the underlying achievement is that those individuals involved are not completely overwhelmed by the sheer industrial scale of the enterprise. Faces may operate on the level of single pixels but nevertheless remain unique and somehow still of consequence.

(Until 6th November 2011)

 

The Whitechapel mid-career retrospective for Paul Graham encapsulates how anger is an energy. An inventive photographer who pushes himself but who can try too hard to cross some increasingly fading line in the effort to be unequivocally distinguished as an 'artist'. His anguished exploration of (the appearances of) social inequity has led to imagery that is invariably impressive and often affecting. But not being a photojournalist while addressing social concerns does put the work at risk of being awkwardly generic and insipid. Discretely observing grim 70's dole offices or sectarianism in Northern Ireland or the gulf between the haves and the have-not's in America, for instance, superficially there is only cautious engagement - but from this nerviness he teases repeated successes. The recent big white-out prints which have little content remaining - but which always include a single destitute figure - are daring in their conviction. The small sequence of hurried, (fumbled, one could say) twilight snapshots of an impoverished flower-seller on the edge of the highway, Christ-like in appearance, are somber and haunting. The languid, on-going series of people absorbed in watching TV (while he is absorbed in watching them) are appealing and thoughtful, as too his oddly surreal diptychs from Japan. In a concurrent show at the Anthony Reynolds Gallery are incidental scans of film ends, a by-product from the digitising of his work. These decorative prints illuminate the physical (almost metaphysical) nature of the grains and dyes that have for so long given him a voice.

(Until 19th June & 4th June 2011)