‘View from a Judgment Seat’-Quentin Bajac in conversation with Philip Gefter- Aperture Blog

Some short reflections on the article beyond its immediate relevance to section 5 EYV


Quentin Bajac- photo copyright Ed Alcock

I read with interest the referenced article on the aperture blog, highlighted in section 5 of EYV (pp105) because of the Paul Graham reference. Bloomfield’s (2014) reference to ideas developing and changing during the process of executing a project are of interest and link to my own emerging thoughts about practice dictating the final out come of a project rather than sticking slavishly to a concept from the start of a process, idea, project or assignment. I will pick this theme up later but I was also interested in the wider content of the article and this short reflective writing piece picks up some of these wider themes.

The interview sheds some light on the role of The Museum of Modern Art’s (MOMA) role on photography over a number of decades. MOMA known the world over as a centre of modern art with photography being a key area of its work.

Quentin Bajac as the then new curator (January 2013) is in conversation with Philip Gefter who writes about photography. The interview raises some interesting issues about the role of  MOMA in the development of photography as an art form over a number of years.

The role of curator of photography at MOMA has in the past been referred to as: the judgement seat of photography. Bajac clarifies this suggesting the the history of photography being written by MOMA is now in competition with histories of photography being written by other institutions internationally. In short MOMA is one of a number of judgment seats on photography.

The conversation also considers the historically american centric view of MOMA regarding photography, indeed implying the photography was seen as fundamentally being an america centric art form. Bajac quickly replies that this might have been the case in the past but MOMA is in a different place now. Indeed the appointment of a european as the curator is perhaps a way of amending this history.

When asked about the mark he would want to leave on the photography department at MOMA, given the high profile predecessors in the role: Beaumont Newhall, Edward Steichen, John Szarkowski, and Peter Galassi, Bajac replies:

“to leave the museum with a photography department and collection that is more fully integrated into the museum’s collections, more in dialogue with the other departments, and more global in scope.”

Is he perhaps suggesting that photography still sits outside the notion of art as seen in great galleries and collections? I am unsure, but it is an interesting thought to ponder!


Bloomfield, R. (2014) Photography 1, Expressing Your Vision, Open College of the Arts, Barnsley

Gefter, R. (2013) View from a Judgment Seat-Quentin Bajac in conversation with Philip Gefter found at: http://aperture.org/blog/view-judgment-seat-quentin-bajac-conversation-philip-gefter/ (Accessed December 2015)

Quentin Bajac’s background experience can be found at: Bajac


The Weather Man by Evgenia Arburgaeva

Portfolio feature in the British Journal of Photography May 2015.

I came across this work in the recent issue of the British Journal of Photography.

Evgenia Arburgaeva was born in town Tiksi located in the Russian Arctic, she is the recipient of an Oskar Barnack Award for her study of her home town of Tiksi,  above the Arctic Circle. She is a graduate of the International Center of Photography in New York and she works as freelance photographer.

This very engaging collection of beautiful, indeed haunting images of a solitary Weather Man living high above the arctic circle. I was really drawn to this work in the BJP in part because of the subject matter but possibly more for the painting like quality of the photographs. They have a dark almost monochrome quality, although they are colour, but the central subject matter in the images almost glows in the darkness of the rest of the frame. They reminded me of Dutch School paintings that give the impression of being illuminated from behind or within.

The prints in the BJP don’t quite do justice to the detail in the images and to see them a little better I visited Arbugaeva web site where her previous work is also available. I will comment on this in a subsequent blog entry.

The set conveys the vast and empty expanse of an arctic peninsula on the Bering Sea, as well as the solitary existence of the lone worker at Weather Station in an old Russian Lighthouse. The opening image of Vyacheslav Korotki, the Weather Man, is simultaneously benign but also a little I menacing. She has captured something of the solitude of his existence in that one image. The image of Korotki siting working at his desk is simply stunning in my view and has the feel of a old masters painting. There is a simplicity about the composition, yet the detail in the image tells so much about this place and the weather man himself. The image is a document, a small slice of history.

In all, these images capture both the human presence in this inhospitable land whilst recording the unforgiving nature of this world of darkness and ice. These are very inspiring documentary pictures.

Image copyright of Evgenia Arburgaeva

The full set of the Weather Man can be found at:


Following up further the work of this photographer I found this interesting short video by Arburgaeva describing how she is drawn to her home, the arctic, how it recharges her energy. She is drawn to both the landscape and the people. She talks fluently about the emptiness of the tundra and how it is hard to photograph, how you have to look down, how you have to look harder. this is in sharp contrast to the sensory over load of the city. I was also intrigued bi the idea of time being ‘longer’ in a less interesting, less stimulating landscape. She also  It is an escape from the city and all of the sensory overload.  I found this particularly interesting,  it forced me to reflect on my Square Mile assignment. I struggled with my perception the uninteresting nature of the landscape in which I exist. I need to review this thought, in terms of my ability to capture things of interest, things that say something meaningful about man and the land

There is much food for thought  for me to consider when deciding what to frame in the viewfinder of my camera, perhaps more importantly though I can now understand some of the visual elements in her images, to me they freeze moments that record marks not only on the landscape, but also the trappings of existence carefully recorded in her interior scenes.

The video interview can be found here: