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Julio-Galeote: Excess n.1, 2012 (crop)

Work / Photography

Photo50 curator on this year’s show and what makes a great photographer

If you want to be a great photographer, it’s all about “integrity,” “dedication” and a “strong self belief about what you’re trying to produce,” according to a man who knows better than most: photographer, curator and founder of contemporary photographic art magazine Next Level, Sheyi Bankale.

Sheyi, who in his former life as a music photographer has snapped the likes of Prince and Madonna, is curating the Photo50 space at the London Art Fair, which opens its 2015 edition next week in Islington. The space is a discrete section of the fair that sets itself apart from the more commerce-led gallery spaces not only because the work isn’t all for sale, but because, according to Sheyi, its main purpose is to "transmit an idea” and show more experimental work, although some will be available to buy.

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Andrew Lacon: Sculpted Image, 2014

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Hassan Hajjaj: Installation ‘Le Salon’, 2010

This year’s Photo50 takes the theme Against Nature, the English translation of the title of French writer Joris-Karl Huysmans’ 1884 novel À Rebours, which tracks the strange life of its eccentric protagonist through his aesthetic tastes in art and objects.

Nine artists are showing their work, united by an approach to photography that in some way challenges the nature of the discipline itself, merging it with practices such as performance and sculpture. These artists include Tom Lovelace, Andrew Lacon and Thorsten Brinkmann; and all of the works explore, in the words of Sheyi, the idea of “the photograph as an object.”

He says: “I wanted to look back at what the photograph stood for. With the internet, an image is condensed down to just ‘content.’ It’s not tangible, but that’s becoming our vehicle of viewing, so I wanted to create a reaction to that, and a way of celebrating the object.”

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Jonny Briggs: Super Natural, 2012

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Jonny Briggs: Envisionaries series #1 (My mouth during free association pinned over the
eyes of my ancestors), 2013

The curation certainly seems to stem from the oft-touted observation that with the advent of smartphones and apps like Instagram, everyone is in effect a photographer. “Playing devil’s advocate, I will say there’s still a fantastic place and position for Instagram and digital aspects as that was a major movement, and for every major movement there has to be a reaction,” says Sheyi.

“Everyone is a photographer in the sense that everyone has the ability to take a picture, but there’s a difference between taking a picture and creating an image.”

“Everyone is a photographer in the sense that everyone has the ability to take a picture, but there’s a difference between taking a picture and creating an image.”

Sheyi Bankale

So what to Sheyi’s eyes makes a great photograph? “The most important element in photography and contemporary art is the initial idea of the artist, the way they’ve applied that execution and the way they’ve displayed that,” he says.

“An image could be mundane but when you understand the mechanics [of the idea] it reinvigorates it and charges it. I’m not one for the aesthetically beautiful, I’m more drawn to the brutal aspects of the aesthetic but at the same time I do have an appreciation [of the ‘classically’ beautiful].”

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Tom Lovelace: In Preparation No.09, 2012

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Darren Harvey Regan: When Is An Image Not An Image?, 2013

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Nikolai Ishchuk: Leak X, 2014

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Julio Galeote: Excess n.1, 2012

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Thorsten Brinkmann: Grand Duc Vasario, 2014