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Mark Power

By Stella Cardus

Mark Power

Mark Power is Professor of photography at the University of Brighton and a member of Magnum, the infamous photographers co-operative. He is our first guest curator on the Brighton & Hove Photographic Collection website and this is what he has to say...

"I've lived in Brighton since 1978, moving from the suburbs of Leicester to go to art school. I loved Brighton then, as I still do today. But - especially after looking through the website - how I regret that I failed to document the town as it was, as it looked, way back then.

All the pictures I've chosen immediately appeal on a visual level (Churchill Square II, for instance, is wonderfully constructed and endlessly fascinating). Within this broad sweep are pictures which remind me of my own past (Pookiesnackenburger playing on the day of the royal wedding takes me right back to my time at college, when the music scene in Brighton - led by the wonderful Piranhas - dominated our student world).

Others are fascinating historically (wounded soldiers arriving at Brighton, Hove & Sussex Grammar School), or they reveal something about a Brighton I never knew (the SS Brighton Ice Rink and Sports Stadium in West Street in 1953 - what a terrible shame we lost such a beautiful building). Then there are the simply strange (Betty in a bus shelter wearing a horses head) or wonderfully mysterious (Armed police attend an incident in St. James's Street - probably my favourite picture of all, since it suggests so much but actually tells us very little. I love pictures like this...). And, since one of my first 'serious' photographs was of the doomed Athina B, I've included two pictures of the ship by other photographers. Both, I freely admit, are much better than my own; the image of children drawing on the rusting hull is quite simply beautiful.

The picture titled Clocktower Café showing the menu teaches us something of how we might document the times in which we live. For the photographer, who I'm guessing knew the young woman, the passing of time will be evident in the way she has since aged (for the camera freezes anyone or anything it photographs in a specific time and place). But to the rest of us, who don't know her, it's the prices on the menu which fascinate. What we learn from this simple example is to always think about photographing friends and family in some sort of context. The title of the photograph suggests that the photographer recognises this.

My Magnum colleague Martin Parr once posed this question: Why do so many people continue to photograph the things around us that don't change, like cathedrals or sunsets, while ignoring the things that do - shops, cars, fashions, our cul-de sac or our High Street... the ordinary things we see everyday which become more interesting with each passing year. This is advice for us all to ponder, no matter how obvious it might seem. But how many of us will actually act upon it? In our constant search for the exotic we tend to overlook the familiar. But, ultimately, maybe these are the subjects which really matter?"

Mark's work has been seen in museums and galleries across the world and he has published five books: The Shipping Forecast (1996), a poetic response to the esoteric language of daily maritime weather reports; Superstructure (2000), a documentation of the construction of London's Millennium Dome; The Treasury Project (2002), about the restoration of a nineteenth-century historical monument: 26 Different Endings (2007), which documents those landscapes unlucky enough to fall just off the edge of the London A-Z, a map which could be said to define the boundaries of the British capital; and The Sound of Two Songs (2010), the culmination of his five year project set in contemporary Poland.

To see some of Mark's work visit www.markpower.co.uk


This page was amended on 15/11/2012
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