Calendar +

Stories, Weekly Interviews, things to see and footnotes.
Stories, Weekly Interviews, things to see and footnotes.
Stories, Weekly Interviews, things to see and footnotes.


May 22, 2018

Sion and Moore presents its inaugural show of the works of Nigel Shafran

Rosalind Jana

Interview Rosalind Jana

Nigel Shafran, Filofax 1984 from Works Books 1984 – 2018 © the artist, courtesy of Sion and Moore
Nigel Shafran Paris 1989 From Works Books 1984 – 2018 © The Artist, Courtesy Of Sion And Moore
Portrait Of Lucy Moore And Kim Sion 2018 © Alasdair McLellan, Courtesy Sion And Moore

“Can we just say love, and leave it at that?”

I’ve just asked Kim Sion what compelled her towards a professional partnership with Lucy Kumara Moore. We’re sitting in a café near Bethnal Green on a gorgeously sunny morning several days before the first show for Sion and Moore: a commercial gallery project set up by the duo. Focused on photography – especially work as yet unseen in London – it’s a joint venture borne out of a particular kind of work ethic, singularity of vision, and taste for collaboration.

“I think we wanted to spend more time together,” Moore adds. “We wanted to do something unexpected, and… we respect a lot of the same photographers.” It’s obviously a natural fit for the pair. What began with regular lunches, conversations about future ambitions, and a general appreciation for each other’s company eventually led them towards this: a project that, Sion notes, “seemed like a natural for us to do together”. It’s an idea that’s been brewing for a good long while, Sion having first thought about the possibility of a gallery space perhaps a decade ago. In the interim years the “gap in the market” she identified then wasn’t filled – and now the time is ripe for something new.

Around the corner things are being set up ahead of the opening of Work Books 1984-2018. There are a hundred and one things to do before they launch later in the week, but everything’s whirring along well. Made up of several decades’ worth of photographer Nigel Shafran’s work books (numbering around 40 in total), it’s an exciting chance to witness pages stuffed with images, notes, newspaper clippings and other daily ephemera — along with films of the books. It’s a presentation that makes for an incredible insight into Shafran’s working practices, as well as his ways of approaching – and accumulating fragments of – the world around him.

“He’s just totally exceptional,” Moore says of Shafran. “No one else takes pictures like him. Over and over again I’ve had people say to me that they’ve had their portrait taken by Nigel and it’s the best portrait they’ve ever had.” His work, often dwelling on the minutiae of everything from charity shops to supermarket checkouts to bird nests, is quietly powerful – and widely venerated. “We both really, really love his work, and he’s very respected. He’s a kind of photographer’s photographer,” Moore adds. They’re obviously thrilled to have him onboard. “We didn’t think he’d say yes!” Sion exclaims. “He’s put his faith in us, and that’s such a great thing to happen on our first project.”

Why the work books specifically? What do they add to our understanding of Shafran’s photography? Sion pauses. “I suppose for me, knowing Nigel, it’s like reading someone’s diary.” Moore nods. “All of [his] chosen areas of focus say something about daily life and the span of a lifetime, or our interactions with each other,” she adds.

Between them the pair possess a forceful combination of skills. Kim Sion’s background lies in commercial photography and agenting. Founder of Smile Management – where she nurtured the careers of photographers and stylists including Mario Sorrenti, Katy England, Ellen Von Unwerth, and Edward Enninful – she’s since gone on to balance up a career stretching from creative consultancy to setting up her own pop-up shop. She’s perhaps the perfect foil to Lucy Kumara Moore, whose widely-respected work as both a writer on and curator of contemporary art, not to mention her role as director of the deliciously good bookshop Claire De Rouen, has left her with a similar wealth of insight into contemporary photography – and the commercial world around it.

Their respect for one another is quickly apparent. In conversation they build on each other’s points, occasionally stopping to get the other to confirm or elaborate. I ask them about what makes this particular project novel. “We're very different to an institutional space,” Moore reflects, “and that means we can do things with speed and fluidity and flexibility, or do things in a fun way if we want to – or do a one-night exhibition, or a three-month exhibition…”

In this particular case, it also means creating a very specific, immersive space for people to encounter Shafran’s prodigious output. “One of the things that the exhibition designer that Nigel wanted to work with – Michael Marriot – has done, is place opaque film across the windows so you get this beautiful quality of light in there,” Moore adds. “And light is so important to Nigel. This will be a beautiful exhibition that will reward multiple visits at different times of the day, or in different weather conditions.”

So, perhaps it’s not the best time to ask, but what’s next for the duo? “We want to show two more before the year is out,” Sion says. “We’ve got some people in mind but we haven’t committed to when and where yet. But we want to focus on this. It’s not always about ‘the next thing’... Everything’s just over so quickly, and for me, that’s the importance of this, [to go] ‘let’s just enjoy this and see how this goes, and then be ready to do the next one.’ The whole point of doing this is to slow things down.”

Nigel Shafran Work Books 1984 – 2018, runs from 18 May – 17 June 2018 at Sion and Moore, 4 Herald Street, London, E2 6JT

All images © Nigel Shafran, courtesy of Sion and Moore