Biographies of artists and their approaches to the project
Michael Collins is a photographer, writer and curator. His work has been widely exhibited in the UK and the USA, and is in the collections of the V&A and the British Library. He works using a combination of old and new technologies, making 8" x 10" colour film negatives which are scanned and then output as vast digital c-type prints. The resulting images are infused with an unparalleled definition that allows the viewer a chance to see more than could ever be seen by the naked eye at the time of exposure. His landscapes, interiors and cityscapes detail the contemporary vista, showing current transitions in the context of what was there and how it has been left, presenting a palimpsest of eras and activities.
Michael has lectured at colleges here and in America and has developed a practice working on public art commissions. In 2006 his photographs of Birmingham factories, including pictures from Jaguar and Rover, were exhibited in a site specific exhibition at the Museum of Lost Heritage, Hockley, and in Birmingham City Art Gallery in 2009. Most recently he has been working on a series of cityscapes of Birmingham.
Approach to the commission
Michael is primarily focussing on the new construction of the new building. In making a series of views of the new building from selected high vantage points around the site, he will reveal the structure developing into the new building and the way in which this fits into a wider pattern of building and regeneration across Birmingham city centre. These exterior images will be complemented by a series of interior views, showing the progress of the inside of the new building under construction, before it is fitted out and prior to its completion.
He will also photograph Birmingham Central Library when it has been vacated, recording the traces of its heavy use and providing a visual comparison to the new building. He has photographed the Shakespeare Memorial Room before its dismantling and installation in the new building, further recording the legacy and continuity of the historical library.
Born in Birmingham in 1948, Griffin studied photography at Manchester Polytechnic’s School of Photography, where he was first able to encounter a myriad of artistic movements in the college library – from the Renaissance to Symbolism, Expressionism and Surrealism He became a freelance photographer in 1972. The British Journal of Photography has said of him that he: “has had a profound effect on photography in the last 30 years - he creates works of art that leave the viewer mesmerised”. Portraiture is an important aspect of Griffin’s work, and his diverse career has encompassed both commercial and fine art photography, film, audio-visual performance, fashion photography and books. In his portraits renowned politicians, designers and singers, undergo a complete transformation in front of his camera. He can take what could be dull, corporate, everyday or commercial and magically transform it to be the most insightful, mesmerising, personal and exciting work. Birmingham Library recently acquired 36 vintage prints by Griffin. These sit alongside other major bodies of work including signature projects such as Team Photo and The Water People
Approach to the commission
Brian will make a series of portraits featuring people working across the entire project: from the architects who designed the building, project managers, and representatives from partner organisations such as The Birmingham Rep and BCU to the young apprentices gaining work experience, training and jobs in the construction industry. Occasionally using theatrical props loaned from the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Brian will create a series of astonishing portraits that will simultaneously reveal the some of the key roles in this vast enterprise, the character of his subjects and the vast range of influences from painting, film, photography and literature which have informed and shaped his unique style of work.
Andrew Lacon was born in Dudley and recently graduated from the Royal College of Art London with an MA in Fine Art Photography, having previously studied at The University of Plymouth. Andrew has developed a practise that engages the viewer with the overlooked, the abandoned and manipulations of the English landscape. Since Studying at the RCA, Andrew has been commissioned alongside photographers Olivier Richon and Sarah Jones to make work at the Household Cavalry Knightsbridge Barracks and has started to exhibit national and in Europe including a group show alongside artist Peter Kennard and solo shows of his work A Magnitude In Albion (2011) at Outpost Norwich and previously The Priory at Wolverhampton’s Light House and Dudley Museum and Art Gallery. He was presented with the Metro Imaging Award for his final show at RCA and was previously shortlisted for the Deutsche Bank Art Award 2011 and Prix Leica 2010.
Approach to the commission
Questioning the nature of photography and what it is to ‘document’, Lacon tackles the idea of documentary photography and if it can exist as a conceptual art form. Looking at the relationship between photography and sculpture, and how the two disciplines work alongside each other, Lacon regularly asks, is the photograph a document, an artwork or a method of documenting? This questions the way we look at photography and its purpose within the context of an archive.
Drawing inspiration from Minimalism, Lacon uses both objects on site and constructs his own. The new Library of Birmingham’s building site replaces the traditional photographer’s studio and instead creates the backdrop for what Lacon describes as ‘found sculptures’. The resulting small prints celebrate shape, form and the often over looked objects through Lacon’s re-appropriation.
Similarly to the fetishistic nature of photography, and the value placed upon film and the hand print within a fine art context, Lacon approaches the physicality and nature of the materials and processes used to build the Birmingham Libraries. Drawing upon images from the archives, the current library and his own images from the new site, Lacon creates sculptures within his own studio. Shapes, forms and structures are identified to inspire and influence individual sculptural responses. The sculptures are not direct copies of what is found but representations. The materials concrete, steel and timber are used within these works, directly referencing the ones found on the building site and in the archival images. These sculptures are then taken back into the new library where they are sub sequentially photographed, creating large scale framed prints, objects within their own right.
Birmingham based photographer Stuart Whipps was awarded joint first prize at East International 2009. He is best known for his ongoing documentation of the redundant Rover works at Longbridge. In 2006 he was awarded first place in the prestigious Observer newspaper Hodge photographic prize for this body of work. He has exhibited at Luminous at Rencontres d'Arles, France (2006) and Bill Brandt in Bournville, a commission to create and exhibit new work as part of the Bill Brandt in Bournville group exhibition, at the International project space, Birmingham (2006). In April 2008 he had a solo exhibition at The New Art Gallery Walsall and launched his book featuring the celebrated Longbridge: a project supported by the Library. Birmingham Central Library acquired work from his Longbridge series in 2008. Stuart Whipps’ most recent show was ‘Why Contribute to the Spread of Ugliness?’ which was shown at the Ikon in Birmingham (2011-12).
Approach to the commission
The existing Birmingham Central Library building is the main focus of Stuart’s work, and he is making work in response to the building, the people who use and work in it, and some of the collections housed in its extensive archive. He aims to comprehensively photograph the site before the contents are removed and the building demolished. Stuart anticipates using video and sound as well as still photography.
In the development of new work for this commission, Stuart has accessed the archive of John Madin, the architect of Birmingham Central Library, made initial photographs of the interior, exterior and the surrounding environs of Birmingham Central Library, made test video footage of the conservation team at work and begun initial research into microfilm production. He has photographed the 487 boxes of archived paperwork that come from the architectural practices of John Madin, made photographs of pertinent material and made photographs of places that are referenced in the archive.