Hartley, Martin. (7 of 7). Oral History of British Photography.
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2013-10-08, 2013-11-21, 2013-12-10
The British Library
Hartley, Martin, 1968- (speaker, male)
Read, Shirley (speaker, female)
Part 7: A description of a visit to the Yemen in 2004 working with a journalist who was tracing the frankincense route along the camel trail through Yemen, Oman and Saudi Arabia using the book The Thousand and One Nights. Comments on the issue of photographing muslim women, developing relationships quickly in order to take pictures, the differences between Oman and Yemen. An anecdote about visiting the Marib fort where the Queen of Sheba is supposed to have lived which was being excavated by an American woman and a geomorphologist, an ex NASA man who was trying to identify where the pillars of rock had come from – because the type of rock came from 300 miles away. [00.07.13] Comments on how he worked, photographing people using a male interpreter, removing the threat and photographing amazing buildings. Brief anecdote about a museum guide who called MH the ‘grub of the devil’. Comment on the benefits of working with a National Geographic writer. A story about meeting Zim-Zam, a fifteen year old girl and outcast who worked as a tourist guide miles from anywhere. Remarks about how the photographs were used to encourage tourism in the Yemen which is now classified as unsafe and a description of the only time MH felt unsafe in Yemen. [00.15.00] Comments on working with the same journalist in 2009/10, kayaking the Niger river in Mali to do a soft scientific survey and to photograph a documentary film being made, the difficulties of this. [00.17.43] Description of photographic journeys to Greenland to cover a training exercise and Kamchatka for Berghouse to photograph outdoor clothing, a description of training and the shoot itself. [00.21.42] Comments about sponsors and MH’s rights to use the photographs, his contractual arrangements, exclusivity and ‘creative imagery’. An example of this working well in Siberia in 2004 with Ben Saunders in Katanga where he got some of his favourite photographs, a godsend of an opportunity. MH’s ability to switch from ‘the job’ to photographing other things, comment that in the sponsor world he has to direct everything to get what he wants while on the personal work he loses the pressure of having to fulfil a brief. All the sponsor scenarios are fairly aspirational, clichéd, heroic photographs. [00.29.03] For himself he looks for different things depending on where he is. Description of trying to photograph people who live in the extreme environment of Katanga, that in other places he wanders off to take photographs of people, street photography mostly, trying to make the situation as beautiful as he sees it to be, that he has a shot which makes Katanga look like a Lowry painting, a depressing place to live. [00.32.42] Conversation about his reaction to the anti beauty mode of some photographers, mention of Wolfgang Tillmans and Juergen Teller. His affinity with landscape photography, lack of conviction about other types of work, mention of the Taylor Wessing competition and that he sometimes enters travel photography competitions. [00.37.13] Comments on working with environmental campaigners such as the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace, the Arctic 30 which made everyone aware that people are now risking their lives to protect the Arctic, Nick Cobbing. MH’s problem with needing to be paid, not being good at getting grants but trying to do environmental work while being sponsored. [00.40.06] Brief description of solo exhibitions, one for the Royal Geographic Society in Kensington and Extraordinary Journeys which was in Trieste, Simon Murray the connection, help from Natasha Freidman, difficulties of doing it, a catalogue designed by Russell Warren Fisher. [45.25] Description of MH’s new project, inspiration from a National Geographic photograph of an exhausted surgeon, his plan to photograph an exhausted James Roberts [00.51.50] After 20 years of work he is only now doing personal work. [00.52.33] Comment about MH best photograph, on the cover of his exhibition catalogue. A story about being in an isolated northern Indian village called Padham, being the only westerners to visit that year. MH’s work there, using Polaroid, being invited into a home to photograph a baby and Stanzin, making a family portrait using a single light source. Comment on walking round holding a pink camera because its coat was made the wrong way round. [1.00.05] Comments about MH’s image of Elliot Forge on top of an unclimbed peak in the Pamirs in the fog. And a story about their only phone call reaching a wrong number. [1.05.18] Comments about what has changed for MH over the years, the challenge, his knowledge of his physical boundaries and motivation to take photos however tired he is, photography keeps him in suspense and interested in what is about to happen, that his images are improving and the reasons for this, body language and photographing people at break times. [1.09.40] Description of MH’s situation at the current moment, the physical and emotional problems of having a broken neck, keeping working by taking photographs of athletes. An account of losing his balance when in Norway photographing for Walking with the Wounded charity and being the only person there who couldn’t walk and description of some of the treatment and effects, that it is ‘the next hurdle’.
Life story interview with photographer Martin Hartley, 1968-