Stathatos, John. (6 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 6. British photography increasingly Americanised, Saatchi exhibition depends on shock value and the abject. Comfortable with the mix of photography, writing and curating, does bits of teaching but doesn't want to do more. Wrote less and less for Creative Camera when Susan Butler left. Wrote for Artscribe from 1987 and for European Photography from 1988 and for Art Monthly from 1988 till 1990. Wrote for Portfolio from 1993 and sometimes for Art News. Started Untitled magazine in 1993. Gave it up in 1998. Co- published with Mario Flecha, they had met for dinner and discovered how cheap it was to print on newsprint using a tabloid format. Got an ACE grant. Had distribution problems. Wanted to avoid jargon and to involve people who were active in the arts and to get artists to write. Wanted reviews because they're first generation discourse. Interested in the politics of the arts. Didn't ever quite break out of the ghetto. A wide range of contributors included Susan Butler, Sacha Craddock, Clifford Myerson, Rob Kessler, Emmanuel Cooper, Mark Currah, Kate Bush, Jeremy Millar, Ian Walker, David Thorpe and many artists. Proud of encouraging young writers and artists - like Jonathan Jones who now writes for the Guardian. Involved a lot of editing. Never really viable financially, grant never increased much, a lot of time spent on paperwork. The YBA phenomenon at its most intense, started to take a sometimes critical or oppositional stance. Questioned whether it was healthy to concentrate on a small group of artists. Also had more writing on photography than most periodicals. Taking about half of his working time by 1998 so considering retiring from it if the grant wasn't increased. His 'unfashionable' stance, especially on design, being questioned so increasing tensions within the editorial team. So dropped out after issue 15. Now writing for Portfolio, European Photography and catalogue essays and a great deal on Greek photography. It wasn't always easy to find people who could write knowledgeably about photography, Susan Butler, Ian Walker, Clifford Myerson became fascinated by it. Britain could use another photographic magazine which would publish longer essays, be quite eclectic and provide an outlet for good new writing. A shortage of good writing on photography, both reviews and longer pieces. No complete research library. Colin Osman had the single biggest collection of photographic books. British Library's holdings on photograph are dismal and exhibition catalogues appear under gallery names rather than the photographers. With Untitled wanted to promote various photographers like Roger Palmer or Susan Trangmar who were not producing fashionable work. Fashion played a major part in the British art world in the 1990s and suddenly everyone was promoting the same people.

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