Last Friday, we welcomed 750 people to the Royal Geographical Society in west London for Here 2016. Our fifth annual symposium, it was a day of inspirational talks, presentations and activities. Throughout the week we’ll be sharing stories and images from the event – and so to kick things off, here are some key things we learned from the day.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Kicking off the day Wilfrid Wood talked us through his career to date and gave an insight into where he finds inspiration. While taking us through his work, he observed: “Pretty people make boring caricatures, you want weird features to pull out.”
B is for boring.
Taking us through an A-Z of Apartamento magazine, co-founders Omar Sosa and Marco Velardi offered an insight into why they founded the publication that celebrates its 10th anniversary next year: boredom. “Most magazines show empty photos with no life in them. We like clutter,” they said, before going on to remark: “We show a lot of toilets in the magazine. It’s where people have ideas. It’s where shit happens.”
Art is our human right.
Artist Bob and Roberta Smith delivered an impassioned call to action. He shared artworks of the names of artists and journalists who had been imprisoned or killed by regimes around the world for daring to speak out. “Creativity is about free speech. These people are guilty of creativity,” said the artist.
There are two types of compromise: good and bad.
“As a creative person, everyone knows the meaning of compromise,” said illustrator Malika Favre. “There is good compromise and bad compromise.” Taking us through her career using the metaphor of a relationship Malika was frank and honest about the ups and downs of a life as an illustrator. “You always get commissioned for stuff you’ve already done, not what you might do,” she said.
Be more like Wu-Tang.
Joe Halligan from Turner Prize-winning collective Assemble took us through the structure of the company and made a startling comparison: “Assemble and Wu-Tang Clan could be kind of the same thing.” He went on to explain using a diagram that founders of Assemble, much like Wu-Tang Clan, were united under a broad moniker but pursued a diverse range of interests and disciplines as individuals.
Fashion is using violence and abuse to sell images.
In an astute and assured takedown of the fashion and advertising industries, Yolanda Domínguez showed her projects that reveal the shocking nature and impact of recurring tropes in fashion advertising. “Fashion advertising normalises violent imagery, and seeing it over and over make its appear normal and even attractive,” she said. “We know who we are through images.” To further highlight her point, she concluded by asking everyone in the auditorium to strike the same pose as a model she showed on screen while she took a picture.
Everything is casting and casting is everything.
Director Kim Gehrig shared an insight into the importance of casting both in front of and behind the camera. Her presentation looked at the intricacies of trying to present a diverse and complex view of the world in her work and the importance of personality. “I want to cast people based on attitude rather than looks,” she said.
You need to ask questions of the viewer, not provide answers.
In a considered presentation by Nadav Kander, the photographer posed a series of questions about the nature of intrigue in image making and how it is important not to give too much away easily. “I must frustrate my viewers in not letting the unravelling of the image be too swift,” he said of his work.
Great covers are never made by one person.
“Art directors are in the unique position of commenting on the news in a visual way,” said New York Times Magazine art director Gail Bichler. Taking us through the process behind some of her recent covers that have depicted everyone from Donald Trump to Barbie (“a total diva – she came with her own stylist”), Gail’s talk revealed how collaboration is key to effective communication and design.
Just having a good idea isn’t enough.
Closing the day, MTV creative director Richard Turley spoke about how attitude and energy are key to make a project happen. “To be able to make something fast or quickly is a gift,” he said. “We throw everything at the fucking screen and see what happens.”
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