Five questions with Photomonitor editor Christiane Monarchi

Christiane Monarchi is the founding editor of online magazine Photomonitor and presented Gravitas in the Photo50 exhibition at London Art Fair 2017.

We talk to her about inspiration and how she selects work.

What inspired you to set up Photomonitor?

A few years ago, I was subscribing to all of the good photography magazines, yet missed features of some that were no longer published. The wonderful Portfolio had long shelf life and PLUK had a good cross section of shorter features and current listings in London and around the UK.

The online listing guides weren’t great for showing what was on in photography specifically, and printed reviews are by their nature usually out of date.

I wanted to build a sort of ‘hub’ of current UK and Irish photography reviews and listings which included a platform for presenting work to an international audience.

After five years, we have published more than 800 features online from more than 200 writers and artists and maintain a comprehensive listings database and archive for the region.

We also remain free to read thanks to the support of the institutions advertising their exhibitions and websites on Photomonitor.

Photomonitor editor Christiane Monarchi curated Gravitas
Young Girl (iii) from Let’s Go to a Place 2016 © Wendy McMurdo

How do you decide which photographers and exhibitions to feature?

For the commissioned features like reviews, interviews and essays I operate a sort of ‘bottom up’ editorial policy of allocating the monthly commission budget across ideas submitted to me.

This way there is a good match between writer and subject in terms of engagement and expertise, and it also brings up many new spaces, artists and exhibitions I may not know.

Within these, I like to prioritise areas outside the extensively-covered London spaces, where possible. 

For the portfolio and homepage each month I make a personal selection, the only place I do this, as it works like a mini online gallery which I am proud to curate each month.

These may be artists I’ve met at exhibitions or portfolio reviews; sometimes even people who have sent in their work on spec.

I enjoy presenting a broad cross section of practising photographers and lens-based artists in the UK and Ireland across all of these features.

I am particularly proud to be able to present work in progress or older series that aren’t being shown in a gallery.

Gravitas at Photo50
From the series Martha ©Sian Davey

Can you tell us a bit more about Gravitas for Photo50?

Photo50 is an annual curated exhibition of photography set within the London Art Fair each January.

This year I was privileged to be able to present Gravitas, a group exhibition of 13 lens-based artists whose work incorporated an exploration into the time of adolescence.

From moving image work of Melanie Manchot – her nine channel video presentation 11/18 was quite popular with exhibition visitors – to the most recent work of Sian Davey from her series Martha, a global premiere for Wendy McMurdo’s new series of portraits, and also a very visual presentation of imagery in Baptiste Lignel’s new photobook Pop Pills, the exhibition engaged with many facets of growing up today, and what it looks like to be ‘coming of age’ as a young adult now.

I’m currently working on the next iteration of this theme, with details hopefully soon. 

Which five photographers, past and present, would feature in your dream exhibition?

I’m very interested in the hand-made and material craft of photographers working today, and am presently researching artists working across photography in particularly physical and contemporary ways.

I’ve got a much longer list than five, but some of my top picks include Susan Derges, Joni Sternbach, Chloe Sells, Almudena Romero, Adam Fuss, Dafna Talmor, the duo Walter & Zoniel.

I really enjoy learning more about analogue and alternative process work, as I never studied this myself. 

Photomonitor editor Christiane Monarchi presented Gravitas
11 18 Year3 ©Melanie Manchot

If you had to choose between writing, lecturing and curating, which would you pick and why?

As I spend a lot of time editing others’ writing, sometimes it’s difficult to find my own voice, so I enjoy the times I get to write for other people.

I’ve only done a little bit on the ‘guest lecturer’ circuit but have definitely enjoyed meeting students in that magic time before they hit the real world, and keeping up with some who have started working professionally and artistically after graduation.

But now I’ve been able to curate an exhibition visited by so many people as Gravitas was. I was delighted to see the many reactions to, and interactions with, these lens-based works from people who may not ever read photography magazines or heard a speciality lecture. I’d certainly like to do that again.

Christiane Monarchi is founding editor of Photomonitor.

Gravitas presented a group exhibition of lens-based works as part of Photo50.

Copy editing by Sheena Campbell.