Stathatos, John. (5 of 9). Oral History of British Photography

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  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's home, nr Finsbury Park, London, United Kingdom

  • Interviewees

    Stathatos, John, 1947-, (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Read, Shirley, (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 5. Went from photo-journalism to a documentary and much more personal work e.g. spent two months in the winter of 1982-3 photographing the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, sites, buildings and remains of small Greek community there. It was a personal project aimed at exhibition and shown at Cambridge Darkroom. Was trying the waters, had started looking at photography more seriously in the late 1970s when had started using it with poems. By 1981 BJP was publishing less photojournalism. 1981 visited Ian Hamilton Finlay, having written about him and reviewed his book for Telegram, and started photographing the garden. About ten of these pictures were published in Creative Camera in 1983. John Stathatos (JS) was fairly clear by the early 1980s that he wanted to work more with photography. Was giving up poetry, felt it was connected with youth, had had fifteen intense years but didn't want to become an academic poet and felt it was time to stop. Photography has the phenomena of the ten year span. Two kinds of photography - head and heart. Robert Frank and Josef Koudelka both worked from the heart, produced brilliant work and then had a fallow period. Ones who think, like Kertesz, remain interesting. A whole generation worked instinctively. You need a mix of emotion and intellect. So made a deliberate decision to stop writing poetry as photography became more interesting in the 1980s, though both are hopeless careers. Susan Butler was editor of Creative Camera, its short period of intellectual glory. She'd heard JS speak and asked him to write for Creative Camera. He did this virtually on a monthly basis so was thinking about photography and wrote for a number of publications. Was interested in landscape and portraiture. Saw Mari Mahr's work, bought a print by Fay Godwin. Discovering European photography rather than American. Exhibited in his local library and then at the Photo Gallery in St Leonards, 'City Light', fascinated by the combination of natural and artificial light. Took part in a couple of Greek shows at Cambridge Darkrooms. In 1983 had met Mark Lumley, who started Cambridge Darkroom and worked hard to keep it going. A vital venue, regional galleries very important in the 1980s but died with the YBA (Young British Artists) in the 1990s. Weakness of British art system is its lack of infrastructure and professionalism, still very personalised. 1986 in Israel to give a lecture at their first Photo Biennial. Quite a large British contingent, met Martin Parr and Roger Palmer. Was asked to curate the third Photo Biennial in 1991, one large museum show and others in smaller venues. Had started curating in 1986 - 'Multiple Originals' for Zelda Cheatle at the Photographers Gallery Print Room. Then curated in Greece 'A Post Classical Landscape' which toured to Britain. Curated Metamorphosis of the Image: Recent Photographic Strategies in Britain for the British Council, shown in Athens in 1989. Enjoys curating. Max Kozloff lecture.

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