From John B Turner’s Photography blog: The First Shenzhen International Photography Exhibition 2017

SZIPE – The First Shenzhen International Photography Exhibition  21 – 24 2017


JBT©20170622111: Lineup of organisers and guest exhibitors at the Opening Ceremony Shenzhen Convention and Exhibition Center in Futian

Themed “Postures of City,” the First Shenzhen International Photography Exhibition (SZIPE) organised by the Shenzhen Federation of Literary and Art Circles and the China Photographers Association, is intended to become an annual four-day day event.

Billed as the largest photography exhibition in Shenzhen’s history, the main display was presented in Hall 6 of the handsome, modern 7,500 sqm Shenzhen Convention and Exhibition Center in Futian District. Thirteen parallel exhibitions, which I did not see, were also being held at 10 locations in different districts of Shenzhen, all on the theme of growing cities around the world.

Three foreign exhibitors do not an international exhibition make, of course, but the pertinent ambition is to put Shenzhen on the map of places to go in China to see significant photographs as communication and expression. Many of the works on display were in fact made outside of China and reflect the tourist boom that has accompanied China’s increasing affluence and “Opening Up.” The stage is now set for better and perhaps bigger future exhibitions of relevance to Shenzhen’s lively and growing art audience.

JBT©20170622143 Exhibition in Hall 6 of the Shenzhen Convention and Exhibition Center in Futian District, Shenzhen.


JBT©20170621001: The 11.30pm welcome to Shenzhen from Lai Xuhui, Department Chief of the Shenzhen Federation of Literary and Art Circles, after our long flight delays from Beijing. Guest curator Su Yuezhou is at centre, flanked by Brian Leng, our energetic volunteer student helper. The scene is the lobby of the sparkling new Lafont International Hotel

The international (foreign) contingent

Two major contemporary foreign photographers were featured: Britain’s Brian Griffin and France’s Yann Layma and the historical exhibition co-curated by Su Yuezhou and myself featured the late Tom Hutchins (1921-2007), an outstanding overlooked New Zealand photojournalist who came to China in 1956.  Our exhibitions were shown alongside those of a group of outstanding Chinese photographers including Tongshen ZhangYingli LiuZhu XianmingWang YuwenChen Jin, and Fu Yongjun. Continue reading the full blog HERE




John B Turner review: The Land of the Long White Cloud

The Land of The Long White Cloud – New Zealand through Chinese Lens.
Editors: Kenneth Wang, Hong Lin Xu, Leo Guan, Xue Wei He, and Heidi Xue. United Chinese Photography Association of New Zealand Inc., Auckland, 2012. A4 landscape format, hardbound 80pp, 78 photographs, no contact address nor recommended price.

On the one hand this self-published book, organised by leaders in the United Chinese Photography Association of New Zealand, is hardly distinguishable from the commercial “Beautiful New Zealand” books that dominate airport bookshops and supplement the suntans and happy memories of most visitors.  As such, it is at the higher level in regard to photographic skills. On the other hand, however, it does not question New Zealand propaganda of the 100% pure green kind that hides deep seated problems with dealing with urban and rural pollution, and non-sustainable practices, let alone social inequalities.
Rather, it extols the virtues of the known – that an unpolluted “natural” environment, from the coastline to the tip of a mountain, is sublime subject matter that can open the heart and mind to feast on. Such exulting and breathtaking vistas, we know, can bring out the best of even a land agent when they discover that not every piece of real estate should be bought or sold at any cost without an environmental audit.
These mostly amateur and Chinese-born photographers appreciate what is left of New Zealand’s more pristine scenic spots, because they come from crowded, noisy, places like Beijing, Guangzhou, and centres of even more industrial and commercial pollution. Thus, Xue Wei He, in Auckland, can title his preface to this book, ‘Within the Heavenly Shores of New Zealand,’ because his sentiments are genuinely heartfelt. Xue Wei He and the other photographers in this book, have found in New Zealand ‘A Paradise on Earth’ (his words) because it represents for them a ‘pure and sublime paradise [which is] always the ultimate dream of mankind.’

Compared to the devastating turmoil of China’s recent history, and what some of New Zealand’s Chinese photographers went through to get to New Zealand in the first place, their idealism  might be justified. Their rosy view of New Zealand as a paradise, however, is still a long way from the reality of the country of my birth, that I see. Just as it is for my friend Ans Westra, whose latest book, Nga Tau ki Muri – Our Future (Suite, Wellington, 2013) is a wake-up call for taking stock of what is actually being done to our land. Read the full review HERE.

John B Turner
Beijing, November 2013

John B.Turner: Xie Hailong’s Hope Project & Dragon Gallery of photography, Gaobeidianxi, Beijing.

Imagine seeing an exhibition about photographers and their activities as individuals and within groups such as PhotoForum, or another photographic society in New Zealand.

It was something of a surprise, and delight, to see an exhibition of framed but unglassed photographs of Chinese photographers associated with Xie Hailong, the famous photographer and director of China’s Hope project. One of the most inspiring documentary photography projects in the world, the hope project, by showing Xie’s photographs of poverty stricken children in remote areas without schools, helped raise awareness and the money to rectify their problems and educate the kids and their families. His photo essays are, in a sense, the equivalent of what Sir Edmund Hillary and his coworkers achieved in Nepal; what the Farm Security Administration during the great depression in the United States did in the 1930s, with the work of Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Arthur Rothstein and other talented photographers in Roy Stryker’s team. It is also similar to the outcome of W Eugene Smith’s great ‘Nurse Midwife’ Life essay that raised consciences and money to build medical facilities in a poor area of the US south.

Cover of Xie Hailong’s small book on the Hope Project, printed on cheap uncoated paper.

Two of the children depicted in Xie Hailong’s early photographs which inspired the Hope Project to provide schools for deprived rural children.

Xie Hailong is something of a legend in mainland China. He holds, as so many of China’s senior photographers do, numerous government-sponsored positions of influence. Recently retired, he started his own art gallery, the Dragon Gallery, in 2006. It is located in Gaobeidianxi, east Beijing, which is a one and a half hour train ride from where I live in Changping District in the north. He initiated a meeting through Zoe Zhang, and with my wife, Liu Jianguang, we met him, curator Mrs Li Jianjun, publisher Liu Feng, and saw the current exhibition in the one room gallery on 15 October 2013.

Installation view of the Dragon Gallery’s exhibition of overlooked photographs of photographers made during the 1980s.

The art scene here seems very hierarchical, which might explain why the catalogue of his exhibition at the Beijing Art Museum, Xie Hailong Artist, starts off, after a romantic cover picture of the photographer, staff in hand, posing during a tramping high above a misty mountainous valley. This Pilgrim’s Progress kind of image is followed on the small title page with a list of his public positions and awards, in an ugly type face and design. He is, for example, Vice Secretary-General of the Chinese Photographers Association, and Director General of the Images Copyright Society of China, as well as being on the Council of the Soong Ching Ling Foundation. (She was the widow of Sun Yat Sen, the acknowledged founder of the Republic of China, and a friend of Rewi Alley’s, on the side of Mao Zedong’s Communist Party. While her sister, Soong Mei-Ling, was the wife of Mao’s arch rival, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek.) Mr Xie is also an honorary councilor of the Police Literature and Arts Association of China, and Vice Chairman of the Beijing Photographic Fine Art Association. He has won many awards for his photography and his activism for improving education for the poor.

Seeing his gallery took me back to the Snaps Gallery period when PhotoForum was getting started in the mid 1970s. Dragon Gallery is nothing posh like some of the dealer galleries in the 798 Art District that are financed by wealthy backers. Although they looked flimsy, the lack of glass protecting the prints made them easy to see, but the heavy string holding the frames was a little distracting at first glimpse. The wall labels were in Chinese, of course, but I could read the dates and ascertain that the pictures paralleled the development of PhotoForum’s education based activities of that period and earlier which encouraged the formation of galleries, collaborative exhibitions, workshops and publications. Read the full article HERE

John B. Turner, Beijing, China

Harvey Benge: Four Parts Religion Six Parts Sin – 20 years on…

‘In 1993 the Auckland based photography collective PhotoForum published my first photobook. I called the book Four Parts Religion Six Parts Sin. The title came from a song played by Texas rocker Jimmy LaFave. I’d heard him perform at Auckland’s notorious Glue Pot pub and music venue, long since demolished. Jimmy said this – Let it out baby stir it up and mix it in. Two parts religion and three parts sin. It’s the truth or consequences because the new king reigns, and desperate men do desperate things. I can’t remember now why I changed the number of parts.

I’ve just discovered a few remaining copies of the book deep in my archive. To celebrate the passage of twenty years and many photobooks in between, I’m offering 10 copies which I will sign and number. The book has 84 pages with 74 photographs.’ Harvey Benge, blog post 17/08/13.

Copies can be obtained directly from:
A selection of images from the publication can be viewed HERE


John B. Turner: The Pingyao Experience – Part 1

The Pingyao Experience – Part I, Enjoy the Chaos

Pingyao International Photography Festival, Shanxi Province
China, 2010, 2011, 2012

by John B. Turner
co-editor PhotoForum (New Zealand)

John B Turner: Pingyao, September 2011. Remnants of previous year’s PIP linger until removed at the last moment.
“Expect chaos: milling crowds, posters, exhibitions, cameras everywhere; cafes, shops, pedicab touts, open-air mini-buses, tourist’s trinkets, Mao mementos, market stalls, performing monkeys, and umbrellas instantly on sale in case it rains….”

This article is written for foreign and Chinese mainland photographers and anybody contemplating going to the Pingyao International Photography Festival, or wanting to exhibit there. I thoroughly recommend PIP for anybody interested in seeing a huge range of work by Chinese photographers in particular, as well as interesting foreign work, and also the experience of this charming ancient city.

The sheer number of participants and visitors make PIP a worthwhile venue for showing local and foreign work and thus becoming better known. PIP’s English-language outreach publicity has been found wanting so it is nowhere near as well patronised by foreign visitors as it deserves to be. I hope this introduction, which I intend to follow up with more critical review and commentary in future, will help you make up your own mind about visiting this extraordinary annual event. All illustrations are by myself unless otherwise noted. The copyright of photographs depicted reside with their authors. Please notify the writer of any mistaken identities, wrong attributions of works, or other factual mistakes. I cannot read Mandarin, but will make every reasonable effort to keep an accurate record of what I saw and how I interpreted it. The opinions expressed are those of a New Zealand photographer, teacher, editor, and occasional curator with 50 years experience in photography, who has twice presented exhibitions of New Zealand work at PIP.

It is not possible to list all of the fine work seen, or to mention all of the practitioners whose work impressed me: some because it was the best of its kind, and some for all the wrong reasons – because it seemed so superficial and misguided. In fact, I found that some of the award-winning exhibitions were weak or pretentious compared to some potent but overlooked work.

I am bemused by the Chinese propensity for grand gestures and the display of official certificates of approval for their work – by government agencies – as if the work can’t stand on its own or the audience is not smart enough to see through such humbug. It reminds me a lot of the old New Zealand camera club system which was fixated on gaining personal prestige at the expense of concentrating on honing the content and form of the work and its relevance to life in their times.

I am particularly interested in learning about Chinese photography and found that both young photographers and some of the more established exhibitors seemed hungry for informed critical feedback that is not being provided by their peers. It is not much fun when your work is ignored, so they might appreciate the observation that it is ok to make work that nobody seems to notice, as long as it is an honest expression of the things you value and want to share. That in the Western liberal art tradition, at least, it is expected that our work is made for ourselves, first and foremost.

Read the full article HERE.


John B Turner’s PHOTOGRAPHY Blog

Newly created is this photography blogspot by  John B Turner. After recently retiring as a lecturer in photography at the Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland, New Zealand (1971-2011), John is now living in Beijing and continuing his work as a photographer, writer, curator, historian and co-editor of PhotoForum NZ. Below is one of  his first blog articles:

A dialogue with Dave Heath

Forty four years ago, in 1969, I read a review of Dave Heath’s book, A Dialogue with Solitude (1965), in Aperture magazine. To see Dave’s book I requested a copy from the New Zealand National Library Service, which promptly acquired it. That is how we got to see books that would never reach a local library, let alone a book store, in those days. In the sense of how the term has recently been popularised by Martin Parr and Gerry Badger, for example, A Dialogue with Solitude is a classic photobook. It is poetic and deeply personal, while dealing with universal themes. And it is an emotional coaster ride through highly crafted black and white images exceptionally well printed to imitate in ink the full tonal scale of his silver prints. Few photography books had reached its level of perfection. I tried to buy a copy of A Dialogue with Solitude but already it was out of print. (1)

Dave Heath: Vengeful Sister (1956), from A Dialogue with Solitude

Dave Heath: Kansas City, Missouri, 1967

Through the kind help of Grace M Mayer, Curator of Photography at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, I got Dave’s address and wrote to him in Philadelphia, telling him what his book meant to me. I asked him how much he sold his prints for? And also asked if he would, perhaps, consider a print swap with me, so I didn’t have to apply to the Government for an import licence. (Foreign currency was strictly controlled then, to prevent the spiralling overseas debt that has become commonplace today.)

Dave chose two prints – mounted and signed – and I sent him a series of eight unmounted “8×10″‘s from my ‘Beer Garden Wall’ series which I had been working on with the poet, Patricia Godsiff, to make a book. One that never eventuated.(1)

Dave insured his prints for $US35 each, so in October 1969 I had to pay $NZ8 customs duty on delivery. He chose for me what became known as his 1956 ‘Vengeful Sister’ image from A Dialogue with Solitude, and a new 1967 picture of a woman in a Kansas City street. for me. They were beautiful prints, so different tonally and emotionally, like night and day. I got them framed to hang on our living room wall in Paparangi, where they joined  two John Daley prints and some signed Paul Strand gravures from his then recent book, Tir A Mhurain. I couldn’t afford much, but I was starting my own collection with work that I loved and was challenged by. Read the full article here


Publication by Gabrielle McKone: Catch My Eye

Wellington based street photographer, Gabrielle McKone has recently published  her first photo book, containing  a selection of photographs sourced from her long running daily visual diary.

As Gabrielle explains, “Every day since August 2007 I have recorded what I have seen. I am attracted to the eccentric and to the ordinary. I am also interested in the small things that we sometimes miss and discard, and I like to give them a new life. Fifty seven of my favourite images have been gathered together and published in a book called Catch My Eye.”

Visit here to listen to her interview on Radio NZ’s – Arts on Sunday programme and here to view additional images from Gabrielle’s publication.

Book details: Catch My Eye
Photographs/text: Gabrielle McKone
Publisher/distributor: Karaka Books, P.O. Box 15-149, Wellington 6022
Designer: Donna Cross
Printer: Printlink, Wellington
Offset printed, casebound & stitched
ISBN 978-0-473-20894-3

This publication is available for purchase from Unity Books (Auckland/Wellington) and Photospace Gallery (Wellington). Or you can email Gabrielle McKone.

Reviews so far received include this by Gregory O’Brien (recipient of 2012 Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement)

“I love the pairing of the images–the black-trousered gents on Lambton Quay peering across the page to where wetsuited legs protrude from a stationwagon… the roundness of an ice-cream across from a triangular sandcastle/tower… I approve of the lightness and whimsy (which are very different things, I hasten to add, from being lightweight and flippant). The figure in black watering the back wheel of his Morris 1100 strikes me as a classic NZ ‘gardening’ photo…The lurching gorilla…Favourite images: well, the bird taking off in the final photograph strikes me as a truly great, inexplicable image… The pavlova going down the road…the hand above the hamster…

There’s a joyfulness in the taking of the photos and this surfaces in the pictures themselves, even when they’re a little melancholy and dour (as life tends to be). Most street photos I come across (and it’s a genre I love, needless to say) tend to be a little existentially under the weather…narratives of entrapment. While some of your pictures are troubling (the plastic child across from the resuscitation dummy), there always seems to be more than enough oxygen to go around. Effervescence, even, aplenty. Look, the boat floats!”

Read a further book review on Beattie’s Book Blog

Editor’s note: Gabrielle McKone’s images are also featured in our  latest MoMento (issue 12) – Wellington Streets (alongside photographs by Lester Blair and Julian Ward, and essays by Des Brough). To receive this issue and other membership publications/benefits check out how to join PhotoForum here.

Richard Smallfield: Review of Nadav Kander book & a new gallery for Matakana

Here’s two recent articles just in from Matakana based photographer (and blogger) Richard Smallfield:

The Developing Tank Blog –  Richard’s book review of Nadav Kander: Yangtze, The Long River (included are links to Sean O’Hagan’s On Photography column for The Guardian newspaper and a narrated slideshow by Nadav Kander)

Rodney Arts Notes – an article on new gallery ‘The Vivian’, scheduled  to be opened in Omaha Valley Rd, near Matakana in Sept 2012.

Related links:
The Developing Tank
Rodney Art Notes
Richard Smallfield

Book review: The Auckland Project

Recently spotted on Harvey Benge’s blog is  Joerg Colberg’s review of  The Auckland Project (photographers John Gossage & Alec Soth).

Joerg writes:  “Working alongside John [Gossage] was stressful, but it was also life changing. After learning so much from this master of the medium (and friend), I began the process of dismantling my career.” write Alec Soth about his contribution to The Auckland Project. The book, or rather set of books, was “a trip of departures. Gossage has been working in black and white for over 40 years, and this trip yielded one of the first bodies of work he had ever produced in color.” (quoted from the press blurb) Soth, in turn, left behind his 8×10 camera, to bring a digital one. Since I have been ignoring discussions of cameras on this blog for years now, I’ll continue doing that for this review. Instead, I want to talk about the two photographers’ approach to photography – I do believe the books offer an opportunity to do that.

Background info on this collaboration and a link to the full review article can be found HERE

Harvey Benge blog
Conscientious website

How to make a photobook, article by Joerg Colberg

Below is a  recent article on photobook making by  Joerg Colberg (founder & editor of Conscientious , a website dedicated to contemporary fine-art photography). Check out the ‘Extended’ section of his website to view articles and interviews of a more in-depth nature, along with contributions by guest writers.

How to make a photobook
“My headline is slight disingenuous: There actually is no simple recipe for photobook making. If you asked ten people about how to make a photobook, you’d probably end up with ten different answers. That said, from what I can tell, most photobook makers seem to agree on quite a few things. So I thought I’d throw my own thoughts into the mix. I hope that some people might find them useful.” Read the full article HERE

Conscientious website