Kandhola, Max. (2 of 4). Oral History of British Photography.
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Kandhola, Max, 1962- (speaker, male)
Read, Shirley (speaker, female)
Part 2: Further comments and reflection about discussing and selling photography and how MK had observed the process while at TPG, that he had worked closely with Rhonda Wilson and that Birmingham was a close photo community with Ten 8, Pete James, Rhonda and Philippa Goodall, that he understood the significance of conservation, framing, matting and mounting and had learned this from Zelda Cheatle, Rhonda Wilson and looking at artists such as Cy Twombly and Basquiat, that it was a very good time for all sorts of reasons, that he also spoke to Chris Littlewood of Flowers Gallery and hired work out, that he understood then that the skill to manage a project is crucial and teaches this. [10:15] Comment that this was a transitional period, his work was in group shows, that in 1993 he was part of The Dead [an exhibition at The National Museum of Photography, Film and Television in Bradford curated by Val Williams and Greg Hobson], a description of his work in that show, Blood Red Death, which was bought for Birmingham Central Library by Pete James. [15:08] A comment that MK was very conscious of not wanting to work on the idea of cultural identity, he wanted to reflect much more on the experience of living in England. [16:30] A description of, and tribute to Rhonda Wilson, [1953-2014] who was then a freelance photographer, she opened a gallery, Poseurs, and an organisation called Seeing the Light; that she was passionate about photography and one of the first people to look at the business of photography and set up Rhubarb Rhubarb to get world class curators to look at work and launched a lot of photographers; that this was unique and successful, and became part of the Festival of Light. [18:42] Description of being asked to apply at Nottingham Trent University for a fractional teaching position and MK’s reasons for doing this and the impact on him of observing the New York art world during a visit in 1996, understanding that an academic job could give him consistency and sustain his work. [22:00] Comments that he got the job and the Dean expressed the university’s interest in his skills in the business of being a photographer. That at this time he had a substantial body of work and had started to investigate his identity as a Sikh and re-appropriate the paintings of two gurus; a description of making work which was his version of F Holland Day ‘s The Seven Words of Christ, the different versions he made, that he showed the work in London, Brazil and Frankfurt where it was used as the poster for an exhibition. Reflection on this being another period of transition, his love for New York, the problems of exhibiting and of storing work safely afterwards, the different types of gallery and issues around printing and storing photographic books. [29:21] Comment that experiencing storage problems in MKs studio changed his practice; that he no longer makes work unless it has been bought and further reflection on the differences between public and private galleries. [30:45] Comment that his work became less about the aesthetic of destruction and decay, that he was invited back to New York by a gallery, the intoxication of that visit, the people he contacted. [34:19] that his father had become seriously ill, that the gallery wanted to represent MK and he asked for, and got, a one person show which was The Divers, a description of the work and its origins, that most of it sold, what MK saw and learned. [40:50] Description of making his father’s portrait at around the time of his illness, that MK had started a new project on boxing in about 1996 and of photographing in the hospital with his father while he had chemo then going to document boxing, which he did for 6 years till 2002; that his father died in 1998, their joke, his father’s attitude to MK’s work and life, that he photographed his father’s final hours but, later was unable to photograph his brother’s death, wondering about it, having to live with the photographs and showing them to MS. [45:17] Remembering MS’s expression, that the work was shown very soon after the death with Evelyn Wilson at Lightworks and that it was published by the BJP [British Journal of Photography] and by Chris Arnot at The Guardian, that some members of MK’s family were upset by it, further description of the work and reflections on the questions it raised, MK’s feelings that this was not taking advantage and that it is still a concern, he has the hair from his son’s first haircut, that MS published a monograph on death and dying and Anne McNeill remade the show for Impressions in York, that Dewi [Lewis] published it in hardback and Lightworks as a softback which meant a lot of hardbacks came back to MK. [55:23] Comment that this was an interesting time when MK was developing his academic career, Illustration of Life was taking its own route and went from America to Germany and Bratislava, that he had a sabbatical to work on the book but the New York gallery closed after 9/11. A description of events around the death of MK’s brother in 2000, he was a diabetic and died while at a conference in Edinburgh; how MK heard the news in London, losing his cameras, the journey, his observations, that it stopped him working, that photography became irrelevant to him, he researched, had read Kubler-Ross a long time before, that this has helped him help students who also go through awful things, that he has a portrait of his father taken the year he died in his hallway and thinks that’s important and that his father lives on in MK’s work, his feelings about photographing his father, his brother and his son that he talks about it with his students and moves the work on. [01:14:38] A description of how the work which became Flatland grew out of MK’s father’s death and his understanding of Indian thinking about life and death, the way Indira Ghandi and Benazir Bhutto talked about food, clothing and a house the things you leave behind when you emigrate. The trilogy is called Roti, Kapra, Omichan, a famous Indian statement in politics. MKs decision to go to India, wanting to create a critical context and using European painters such as Turner and Constable to do it. That he was exorcising his ghosts, he travelled all around Punjab, he had to do a lot of mapping, it’s about his own identity and the land and he worked as he would here, that he had support in Britain and worked with an Indian academic, Alka Pande, who wrote a piece. That the exhibition was taken up and printed by Lakeside, supported by Pete James and Rhonda Wilson, that the tour was good despite a couple of setbacks. [01:27:02] Mention of a chance meeting when MK was in Verona with Dewi [Lewis] doing the book which led to an exhibition and the work sold well in India.
Life story interview with photographer Max Kandhola (1964-)