Active Witness: talk & private view

July 20, 2011

Photograph by Jonathan Goldberg

I was invited by Simon Baker, Curator of Photography at Tate Modern to take part in a talk discussing contemporary documentary practice. It was a prelude to the opening of the Active Witness exhibition at Europe House, which celebrates the European Year of Volunteering.

It was a great honour to share the stage with two exceptionally talented photographers, Dana Popa from Romania and Paulo Nunes dos Santos from Portugal. Dana showed work from her project ‘not Natasha’ which is about women from Eastern Europe who have been ensnared into sex slavery. I’ve known about Dana’s work for some time so it was a treat hear her speak about this powerful body of work.

Paulo, in his own words, is a journalist who also takes photos. This is an understatement. He is an exceptional photographer. Paulo showed recent work including the ongoing conflict in Libya. Paulo was a very softly spoken gentleman and his sensitive understanding of the human impact of the events going on around him is evident in his work. Photojournalists that operate in conflict zones are (from my experience) gentle characters that aren’t anything like the gung-ho stereotypes portrayed in movies. Paulo does an incredibly important and dangerous job and I really admire his work and dedication.

Paul & Richard from Guests & Volunteers

I spoke a little about my photography background and then about my work from the series Guests & Volunteers: Portraits from the Crisis Night Shift.

Annie looking through the Guests & Volunteers book

There are 27 photographers in the Active Witness exhibition, representing the 27 EU countries. Each of us had one image in the exhibition but we were also asked to bring along books so visitors could see the complete series of work that the photographs were selected from.

Kalleen and Rob looking at the photos in the Active Witness exhibition
James next to his portrait with Octavio

All the portraits I make are collaborations – if no one agreed to be photographed, I wouldn’t have any work. I always thank people but on this occasion it was great to be able to share the experience of the private view with James.

Shoah, Simon, Ines showing James the exhibition brochure featuring his portrait

James also got to meet the photography curators from Tate Modern. Ines and Simon had done a fantastic job putting on a great exhibition and I’m really grateful they asked me to take part. It has helped increase the profile of the Guests & Volunteers project, and highlights the dedication of the thousands of volunteers that turn up year-in, year-out to help at the Crisis homeless Centres over Christmas, as well as the work of other volunteers from all around the world.

If you’d like to volunteer at Crisis, please visit their website for more information.

The Active Witness exhibition brochure opening page
Some TV at the end of the day...

At the end of the night James and I were interviewed by the crew of the EuroNews TV channel. It was a slightly surreal experience!

The exhibition runs from July 19th – September 9th and is open from 10am – 6pm, Monday to Friday.

Nearest tubes are Westminster, Victoria and St James Park.

12 Star Gallery
32 Smith Square
London SW1