Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Market Photo Workshop's 20 year celebration

A couple of week's ago I attended the Market Photo Workshop's 20th birthday celebration. All of Jozi's hot-shot photographers - David Goldblatt (of course), Mikhael Subotsky and 'Lolo Veleko - were there to swig a bit of champers and commemorate this institution's anniversary. But among the crowd were unhappy staffers who confided in me about the problems that plague the workshop; organisational woes, big egos, limited funds and an inadequate curriculum. Not that it came as a surprise. The exhibition that was curated to mark the event was disappointing: their were a limited number of photographs that were blown-up too large for their own good, drawing attention to the photographers technical flaws. Here is the review that I wrote: 

SHORT CHANGE, the exhibition curated to mark the Market Photo Workshop’s 20th anniversary, teeters between being a journalistic endeavour and a fine art exhibition, consequently embodying the dual outcomes that the institution attempts to achieve with its students, preparing them to enter both realms or to be able to grasp the nuanced, albeit sometimes elusive, distinctions that separate journalism and art. Some of its graduates have done so with aplomb; Zanele Muholi and Nontsikelelo ‘Lolo’ Veleko, for example, both started out in the social documentary genre but have been able to manipulate that language to create work that transcends its boundaries.

Other graduates have, even after years of exhibiting, struggled to compete with the conceptual photographic work that fine artists have been generating. Thus one can’t help feeling that this institution perhaps only offers a foundation of knowledge on which students must build. The curators of Short Change, John Fleetwood and Lester Adams, have tried to locate the work outside a purely journalistic realm, evidenced in their expressed desire to probe “change as a state rather than methodology or subject matter”.