The Format Photography Festival in Derby (throughout March 2011) is offering an array of exhibitions and events around the theme of “street photography”. My eye was caught by one of the opening weekend’s speakers, Richard Kalvar. Not a household name by any means, not even amongst other photographers, but still one of my favourites. The art of the “funny” photo is often neglected in favour of chin-stroking analysis of “serious” imagery, but I would like to champion the joy of the well-observed, quirky pictures captured by Kalvar. He’s in the same vein as the possibly better known Elliott Erwitt (whose many photos of dogs are rightly celebrated), and favours quiet, gentle observations of the absurd or plain weird things that happen in front of us every day (although most of us are too wrapped up in our own worlds to notice).
He says, “Let’s say we consider the general category of “un-posed pictures of people”… and then the subcategory “with nothing particularly important going on.” If we further narrow it down to the “play” sub-subcategory, we get into the domain I’ve worked in for forty years. That’s what I like to do: play with ordinary reality, using un-posed actors who are oblivious to the dramas I’ve placed them in.” Richard Kalvar, 2007, on the In-Public website.
While many of his Magnum colleagues quite rightly concentrate on showing us the serious, terrible events that go on in our world, in his elegantly composed images Kalvar prefers to show it as a place where the ridiculous happens every day. At times like these we all need a little light relief.
Richard Kalvar is speaking at The Quad, Derby, on Saturday 5th March at 10.30 am. Click here for more information.
No. 1 in a series on Great Photographers.