Thursday, 30 October 2008

New Photojournalism?

Martin Parr © Dreamscapes Ocean Dome [bath center] 1996

Following a recent post on Jörg Colberg "Some thoughts on the visual language of photojournalism" a debate has started with lots of posts on the Magnum Blog over this argument. It all started with a comment about creating awareness of drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) a project that photojournalist James Nachtwey had been working on. I personally see this debate as very interesting one, having had long discussions in the past with colleagues on this very subject.
For myself it all started when I attended a lecture in a theater college in Rochester England in 1996 and the topic of "new photojournalism" was behind the debate which saw a confrontation between the photographer Martin Parr, the then Photoeditor of the Guardian and a classic BW photojournalist which name unfortunately can`t remember. At that time many exhibition in London were petrol for this argument, infact may exhibition of people like Richard Billingham (previous post in Ph39) Nick Waplington Paul Graham were taking place. We could not call the photographers above photojournalism but certainly moved the border with the way photographer interpret society at least in the UK and Europe.

Alex Soth ©

At the time of the lecture Parr just joined Magnum and I remember asking him about what Magnum members thought of his his way of photographing and how the old school saw his way to photograph sometimes far from subjects traditionally associated with photojournalism.
To which he replyed along the line of that it was called hopefully because Magnum member appreciate his work and that we would wish to see in the future other photographers in Magnum with interst different from the traditional topic of photojournalism. Over ten years have passed and I think that great strides have been made in Magnum and in similar agencies around the world, although sometime it certainly remains an interest in preserving the fiction of emotions related to traditional subject.

James Nachtwey © Rwanda, 1994 - Survivor of Hutu death camp
Memorable photojournalist images are still linked to historical, emotional or dramatic event, but I personally hope to see more photographers who try with a different approach to defuse the situation even in front of less happy situation without necessarily emphasize the drama.
In a recent interview on PDN this summer "Why Photojournalism Must Get Modern" Martin Parr says: "I don’t regard myself particularly as a photojournalist. I’m a documentary photographer. The idea of my work is to try put my finger on the zeitgeist of what’s happening. That’s constantly changing and shifting. I’m not interested in photographing things that are disappearing, although I’ve engaged in a slight bit of nostalgia. I’m interested in things as they are now." and "in the end, it comes down to the personality and individuality of the photographer to express that."

Monday, 27 October 2008

Childhood memory at Paris Photo

Billingham ©

As i was looking at the preview of the next Paris Photo on Lens Culture I saw the work of Richard Billingham, a Turner Prize nominee in 2001 and winner of Citibank Photography Prize in 1997. I rembember seeing his works around 1994 during a group show "Who's Looking at the Family " held at Barbican art centre in London. A couple of years later Ray's a Laugh was his first book and an immediate success who started off a series of social, political and artistic debates in England.

Billingham ©

With the publication of Ray's a Laugh, Billingham ended a six years research, that he began to source material for his paintings, looking at his mum and dad, Liz and Ray living in a council estate in west Midland. Ravaged by alcoholism and poverty, the project was about his family every day life with some brutally frank images of an alternative family album.
Billingham says about this project "In all these photographs I never bothered with things like the negatives. Some of them got marked and scratched. I just used the cheapest film and took them to be processed at the cheapest place. I was just trying to make order out of chaos." I still remember when seeing this photographs asking myself how can he ever produce a projects in the future capable of matching Ray`s laugh.

Billingham ©

So few years later Zoo is Billingham’s compelling series of photography and video installations, inspired by his childhood visits to the Zoo. Billingham with this project is questioning the relationships between the public audience and captive animals and their unnatural environment.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Question Time with Giorgio Barrera

Giorgio Barrera ©

Few months ago I asked Giorgio Barrera , who has an interesting mix of projects, to take part in our question time. I was delighted when he agreed and after a period conflicting commitments we arrange to talk about his work.

Ph39 - In the project "Through the Window " do people in the images lives in those houses or are they actors?

GB - Both things are happening and that the two things coexist in some cases.

Ph39 - What kind of involvement do they have during the seen? What kind of feedback, if any, do you get when they see the final image?

GB - It does not happen often that I have a feedback from people. The people who participate in the photographs they do enjoy it, because of curious situations that occur during the shooting and sometime they like the act of being themselves. Once I asked a girl to foot the person in front of her and she told me that this was something she had never done and that would have liked to do.

Ph39 -In this series you seems to have an inner and an outer frame. In the inner frame we are seeing private life moment, while on the outer frame you define the context. How do you build your own own idea and the narrative to combine the two frames?

GB - It depends, however in general I would say that the shape of the windows, the architecture of the place and the location of the house suggest to me what will happen. In some occasion I want to represent a circumstance and therefore I have sought a place for this imaginary situation.

Giorgio Barrera ©

Ph39 -In the outer frame we often see neighboring buildings, gardens, bricks detail of houses and to me they all seem to define a social pattern and a way we live in today society. How important is the context of the outer frame in your images?

GB - Earlier research would be especially anthropological, sociological. The places belong to a platform, which accepted a certain social class that I had identified as the middle class that was also the object/subject of my previous work. Later my research has moved on to languages and therefore homes had to be closer to the idea of a scenic container.

Ph39 - I some way by just looking at the final image, this project could be seen as a theatrical practices of representation with carefully staged seen but also as a mere representation of reality. Was this the intent and could you tell us more about it?

GB - There is a sentence of Gilles Deleuze that I am found of "you are in the world in a sound mind and pure." My Pictures want to remain on a threshold where it intends to represent the reality, the everyday in an objective and truthful way. On the same threshold, however, want to deny to the image the opportunity to represent and then tell in a comprehensive way a certain event. I believe to be a representation everything that exists outside of a direct experience of real.

Ph39 - Would you consider your project "Through the Window " as documentary photography and how do you perceive the decisive moment in this work?

GB - In this work for me there is not a decisive moment. The image is not the interpretation of a random moment. I would say that "Through the Window “ is a documentary work and to some extend is looking at the cinematographic photography of Jeff Wall that invites the viewer to ask questions about what we can see and experience.

Ph39 - In your project "Battlefields", you are dealing with historic sight, what inspired you to do this work and can you tell us more about the motivation behind it?

GB - I started this project somewhat randomly and gradually (it took me three years to finish it) I have enriched it with conceptual reasoning. With this series I visit the sites of Battle of the Risorgimento. It is a photographic work that looks at historic landscapes and investigates those sites avoiding the commemorative, epic or didactic. It was mapping a visions of the Italian landscape.

Ph39 - I saw on you website some new interesting narrative work on video. How did you find the transition and is there more to come?

GB – Yes, I hope so. I do not think there has been a shift from photography to video. Sometimes I find myself more comfortable when I prepare and execute a video that a photograph or a series of photographs. If you refer to window # 1333 °, a work made for Jarach Gallery in Venice, almost the opposite of what happens in the series Through the Window took place. The setting is in a foundations in Venice and except for the three actors who play the part no one is allowed to know what is really happening, when the story began, when and how it ends or why. This is another way to emphasize that with images you can say and not say, and above all you can conceal a truth assuming a different one.

Ph39 - I understand over the summer you have spent sometime traveling around northern Europe and working on your projects, any anticipation?

GB - I worked on a project presented for the prize Baume & Mercier. The project aims to collect a series of works showing places within Europe that for geographical, political or cultural reason they are defined as on the borders. In most cases I tell the story by watching what happens in the home through that inner frame that is the window.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Naked Suit

Pablo Chiereghin ©

A couple of nights ago I went to the opening of Pablo Chiereghin exhibition at Micamera Bookshop in Milan. A very good show with a number of conceptual projects on display, more of his work on the website . The main project on show was Birthday Suit ( nakedness, being nude ) a series of street portraits made by the photographer while he was naked inside a window of a busy London street. While i was watching the backstage video a very interested Gianni Berengo Gardin was also there next to me, I did not dare to ask his comment on a work so far from traditional photography but he seem certainly amused.

Pablo Chiereghin about Birthday Suit says: " People had been paid £1.13 (average UK daily income multiply by the time wasted and by the poverty coefficient of the artist) to be portrayed by the nude photographer that stood inside the shop window. The situational agreement is a dualism of power: the artist seduces the model engaging him in a voyeuristic situation where the spectator has a strong advantage: being dressed. On the other hand, the photographer has the power to determine the situation through the photographs. When the spectator is photographed, he is suddenly naked". Two catalogues were on sale on the night, both limited edition.

Here is a backstage video of Birthaday Suit here

Thursday, 9 October 2008

An ordinary landscape

Bert Danckaert ©

Bert Danckaert work is mainly looking at places that defines our lives in the everyday life often by isolating spaces from their surroundings. The photographer introduce his project Simple Present with this sentence “Any idiot can face a crisis; it is this day-to-day living that wears you out"Anton Chekhov (1860-1904)

Bert Danckaert ©

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

End of Festival FotoGrafia in Rome?

After months of speculation now It`s ufficial , The International Festival of FotoGrafia in Rome is not longer in calendar for 2009 due to financial difficulties. Marco Delogu, creator and director of the Festival was surprised by the decision, and confirmed to the press here that all the sponsor are in place for next year and the Festival team has been working as normal to organize the event. On the FotoGrafia Roma website you could see the previous seven edition of this vibrant event for a city mostly known for its past. Meanwhile there are rumors about Milan preparing a Biennale Internazionale di Fotografia with the Fondazione Triennale di Milano and other institution to welcome the Expo 2015, more detail to come.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Twelve Dogs

Jo Longhurst © Twelve Dogs Twelve Bitches

For several years Jo Longhurst worked with dog breeders, exploring the obsessive quest for the perfect dog. The artist with his work is exploring the history and practice of photographic portraiture and the concept of visual perfection showing the "evolution of the visual image of the Whippet, and the construction of human identity through the shaping of the figure of the dog".

Jo Longhurst © The Refusal

Jo Longhurst says in a statement that his "study of the Whippet foregrounds the intimate relationship between human and animal, and the increasing significance of photographic technologies in the development of human identity. Twelve dogs, twelve bitches is the establishing piece of an extensive body of work, The Refusal, which foregrounds the intimate relationship between human and animal, and the increasing significance of photographic technologies in the development of human identity.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

FFF Award to Leonie Purchas

Leonie Purchas © from the series The Ward family, London

Leonie Purchas with the project "In the shadow of things" she is the winner of the 2008 F AWARDS FOR CONCERNED PHOTOGRAPHY organized by Fabrica and Forma.
Her project "In the shadow of things"is a photographic documentary about her mother struggling with an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder illness. The photographer looks for several months at her mother complication with the every day life and through photography she says "I am trying to capture and express the feeling of being confronted by the mirror of myself, an experience both troubling and rewarding at the same time."

Leonie Purchas © from the series The Ward family, London

F25 AWARD went to Abdul Munem Wasif from Bangladesh, represented by VU' Agency with the project "Old Dhaka". Abdul Munem Wasif is also the winner of the Young Photographer at the Perpignat Festival this year. A video interview of the photographer here

Abdul Munem Wasif ©

Jonas Bendiksen a Magnum photographer from Norway received a special mention for the essay "The places we live", an exceptional project shot in 4 megalopolis of the eastern and southern world. A special mention to Norma Rossetti, Italy, for the essay Scampia...periferia nord di Napoli (Scampia. Naple's north outskirts).
The F Award, an international award for concerned photography, is sponsored by two Italian photography organizations: Fabrica, the Benetton Research Centre on Communication, and Forma, International Center of Photography, a joint initiative of Fondazione Corriere della Sera and Contrasto.