Monday, 28 July 2014

Rebecoming, The Other European Travellers @ Flowers Gallery, London 10 September-10 October


Rebecoming
The Other European Travellers

Flowers Gallery, London. 10 September-10 October 2014
Virgílio Ferreira, Henrik Malmström, Tereza Zelenkova and Lucy Levene
Curated by Tim Clark, 1000 Words


Virgílio Ferreira, Being and Becoming, 2013. Injet print on cotton fine art paper, 70 x 47 cm.

1000 Words is delighted to announce a group exhibition featuring the four winners of the inaugural 1000 Words Award at Flowers Gallery, London this September.
Rebecoming brings together newly commissioned works from four artists Virgílio Ferreira, Henrik Malmström, Tereza Zelenkova and Lucy Levene. Focusing on migration patterns between 1950 and 1980 from southern to central and northern Europe, it depicts fragments of the lives, stories and environments of individuals who left their countries of birth to start a new life in new lands, principally due to economic reasons.
The works explore issues related to family, labour, mobility, boundary, cultural heritage and social expectation. They also connect to instances of courage, upheaval, opportunity, unfreedom, self-respect, heroism and the dream of returning ‘home’, not withdrawing exploitation and poverty; the ultimate capitalistic ethic. By offering personal visions of lived experience, Rebecoming examines the contradictory nature of how the stage for temporary migration in many cases became permanent.
An installation by Tereza Zelenkova (b.1985, Czech Republic) comprises black and white photographs from two series’, Girls & Gloves and Stewartby inspired by John Berger’s 1975 seminal text The Seventh Man. Shot in the former London Brick factory in Bedford, England - a company that once recruited more than 7,500 men from villages in southern Italy to fill the least desirable and repetitive jobs during the post-war reconstruction boom - the images make visible bits of detritus strewn across the building’s crumbling interior.
Workers’ gloves and posters of women form Zelenkova’s topology, offering monuments to desperate optimism. Drawing on her signature surrealist impulse, these objects undergo metamorphosis and alongside portraits and images of a housing estate in the adjacent town Stewartby, become imbued with emotional encryptions that speak to isolation, powerlessness, homesickness, sexual frustration and desire. Central to her project lies an exploration of how, or whether, the dream of a suburban life abroad was ever realised.
In The Spaghetti Tree, Lucy Levene (b.1978, UK) also responds to Bedford’s Italian community, the largest concentration in the UK at more than 14,000 people. The artist pulls together strands from her previous work, deftly fusing documentary photography with performance and construction, experimenting with varying levels of control and direction.
Attending events and accepting invitations to people’s homes, she developed attachments and became involved in the families’ intimate narratives. Her often witty photographs call into question mythologies of what it means to be ‘Italian’ and the nostalgic ideal of La Bella Figura felt by many as they try to forge an independent identity in their new home, simultaneously revealing the tensions in conventional modes of portraiture; the perfect and imperfect image.
Virgílio Ferreira (b.1970, Portugal) has created the series Being and Becoming in an attempt to evoke the inner feelings of his Portuguese subjects and open up a space for reflecting on hybrid-identities and polarity of living in-between cultures, languages, landscapes and borders. Using multiple exposures and diptychs, and by loading his imagery with metaphor, Ferreira’s images not only evoke a sense of duality but also lend tangible form to the condition of remembering.
The diffuse traces, obstructions and dappled light that routinely appear in his imagery lock the viewer into moments where elements of the past coalesce with the present to create a notion of continuity between ‘there’ and ‘here’. Ultimately, Ferreira’s images tap into feelings of being uprooted or of seeing oneself through the filter of difference in an adopted country.
Through a short film entitled Life’s Work Henrik Malmström (b.1983, Finland) offers an unpredictable twist on the distance between objectivity and subjectivity by reflecting on the mundane situations of various Portuguese inhabitants from his local neighbourhood in Hamburg, Germany.
Getting as close as possible yet aspiring to a neutral position, Malmström conjures up the vivid presence of cleaners, sex workers, laundrette staff, religious worshippers and commuters. With deadpan humour and an unremitting gaze, the artist seeks to open up ‘the universe next door’ whilst also engaging more broadly in the multitude of individual dreams that form one universal wish - to find happiness in life through comfort and material security.
Collectively the artists in Rebecoming offer insight into the complexities of the migrant experience at a charged and contentious moment in the evolution of modern Europe. It is an ode to those travellers who dared to make the journey, for better or worse.

Rebecoming is part of The Other European Travellers project, a co-production by 1000 Words, Cobertura Photo and Atelier de Visu with the support of EACEA programme of the European Union.

For further information or images contact Alex Peake on 020 7920 7777 or email alex@flowersgallery.com



Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Sean O’Hagan: “If you don’t annoy some people some of the time, you’re not doing your job properly!”


In the first of a new series of interviews with members of the international photography community - writers, curators, collectors, gallerists, picture editors and so on - Federica Chiocchetti of the forthcoming Photocaptionist speaks to The Guardian’s photography critic of 10 years Sean O’Hagan. They discuss conceptions of ‘good’ writing on photography, how he discovers new talent, and which British photographers he feels have been underemphasised by UK photographic institutions.



Federica Chiocchetti: Could you tell us a little bit about your background prior to your post as photography critic at The Guardian?

Sean O’Hagan: I studied English at university and worked as a music writer for several years. Then, I worked for The Guardian as a freelance writer and as a features writer for The Observer on art and culture. I still really love doing interviews. For me, it’s the best way to shed light on someone’s way of thinking creatively.

Photography was always there in the background as a fascination of mine and several interviews I did for The Observer Review section with the likes of Robert Frank, William Eggleston, Stephen Shore, and Anders Petersen prompted me to start writing about it more. That was about 10 years ago, when there seemed to be an absence of writing on photography in the ‘serious’ papers. It was usually left to the art critic or whoever else was available to review a big exhibition or book. It was not taken seriously as an art form – still isn’t, but to a lesser degree – compared to, say, theatre or film or dance. So, I was very much on a mission to help put that right. It just grew from there and I was offered a regular online forum by The Guardian a few years ago, which became On Photography.

FC: What is your conception of ‘good’ writing on photography? Is there anyone in particular that has inspired you? And what advice would you give to an emerging writer on photography?

SH: Writing that is clear and clear-headed even if it is tackling difficult or elusive or obtuse subject matter. I have a certain responsibility because I work for a newspaper with a huge readership. Many of my readers are regulars but many more may come to a column or a feature out of curiosity and with only a passing interest in the subject. I’d like them to come back. I’m not writing for an art magazine where one can assume that the reader has a certain familiarity with the subject or with the history of conceptualism or whatever. I can’t use dense, theoretical language to deconstruct works by Jeff Wall or Gursky, nor would I want to.

My formative inspirations were non-fiction writers like Joan Didion, in particular her first two collections of essays, The White Album and Slouching Towards Bethlehem. I like Truman Capote’s essays as well, much more than his fiction. And Gay Talese’s classic collection, Frank Sinatra Has A Cold, which has just been published as a Penguin Classics. On the more contemporary front, I’d recommend John Jeremiah Sullivan’s collection, Pulphead: Notes from the Other Side of America, which is a very personal take on music, politics and culture. As far as photography writing goes, it always amazes me how many great photographers are also great writers - Diane Arbus, Robert Adams, Danny Lyon. And Eggleston’s short illuminating afterword from The Democratic Forest still resounds. We ALL need to be more at war with the obvious right now!



FC: How do you discover new talent?

SH: Increasingly, it discovers me. Strange, but true. It’s the power of the internet again. People know where to find you!

I try to stay alert to what people I trust are enthusing about. I read photography mags, blogs, websites – at least the more interesting ones. There is an awful lot of new work out there and I have to be ultra-selective just because of space and the requirements of the job so I see all these other outlets as a kind of filter. And, of course, people send me stuff - books, pdfs, ongoing projects. It’s kind of relentless and so is the demand for an instant response. I worry about that a bit as I tend towards the reflective. I think we should all slow down... and breath. Let things settle. The quick response is journalistic, of course, but it is not necessarily critical. And opinions are not enough. That’s where we live right now, though. I wish there was a slow journalism movement. I really do.

FC: Do you read/appreciate photography theory?

SH: It depends. Good writing is good writing, whatever. But, when I read bad theoretical writing – dense theoretical jargonese – the old punk in me agrees with Nan Goldin, who said recently: “Fucking postmodern and gender theory. I mean, who gives a shit? People made all that crap up to get jobs in universities.” I think it kills the work for people who are not from that academic background. That kind of writing is exclusive by its nature. It often makes things less clear.

That said, I am familiar with theoretical writing. I did an English degree at a time when post-structuralism and semiotics were like time bombs exploding in the academy. I still return to Barthes and Foucault from time to time. I love Barthes when he is at his most personal and Camera Lucida is a very personal meditation on photography and memory and mourning.

I worry about the teaching of photography in colleges and the emphasis on theory. You see degree shows and MA shows where students present half-digested theory and really dull photographs. I think the ascendency of the curator is a cause for concern as well. They sometimes seem more important than the artists, which is something Brian Eno predicted when I saw him gave a lecture at the beginning of the nineties. I like this essay by Paul Graham, which touches on some concerns of mine. I don’t think it helps to exclude people – or images – from the ongoing debate about the meaning of photography. Theory can be a way of entering and decoding a work but, too often, it seems to me like an end in itself. It’s still valid to walk out into the world with a camera and simply take photographs, though there is, of course, nothing simple about doing that well. I often detect a kind of implicit disdain for that approach from curators and academics.

FC: What is the harshest criticism that you received in your career as a photography critic for The Guardian?


SH: Where to begin? You have to become thick-skinned pretty quickly if you venture online. There was a post recently suggesting that a ‘proper’ art critic should have reviewed Lorna Simpson’s show at BALTIC - “she deserves to be reviewed in a context and by a reviewer commensurate with her status!” - which I took personally for about five minutes until I realised the next post had demolished the inherent snobbery of that remark pretty succinctly. I received a fair amount of flak as well as support for my views on The Deutsche Börse Photography Prize a few years ago, when I suggested it was biased towards art photography at the expense of other genres, but that comes with the turf. I guess if you don’t annoy some of the people some of the time, you’re not doing your job properly.

FC: Which British photographers do you feel have been underemphasised by UK photographic institutions?


SH: Oh dear, where to begin? Chris Killip had a major retrospective in Essen, not that long ago, but has not had one here. That is mystifying to me. In fact that whole generation of great British documentarists get short shrift from British institutions. I can only put that down to curatorial bias. If not, what else explains it? I think people in the photography community were relieved when Tony Ray-Jones was finally given a show last year (at Media Space.) Likewise Tom Wood at The Photographers’ Gallery. I know Paul Graham had a big show at The Whitechapel a few years back, but why not at the Tate or the Hayward? It just seems odd at this stage of the game.

FC: What trends do you find interesting at present?

SH: Found photography continues to fascinate people in and out of the photography community – Thomas Sauvin’s Beijing Silvermine project looks like the last word but probably isn’t. I get sent a lot of diaristic work, which is probably the biggest trend. Says a lot about where we live. A lot of it seems solipsistic and has none of the heft of, say, Nan Goldin’s work.

I’ll be glad to see the back of (too) big prints, which everyone seemed to be doing for a moment there, whether the work required it or not. And, please, no more Google Street View projects! I think photographers do tend to get apocalyptic about the post-digital deluge – Instagram etc. – and the sheer numbers can be scary, but most people don’t even see that stuff. For me it’s just another moment in the continuum. I read somewhere that, in the sixties, over half of all households in America had a Polaroid or Instamatic camera, but I don’t think Robert Frank and Garry Winogrand were running around in a panic thinking, “It’s all over for us – everyone’s taking photographs!”

What it does to looking or processing images is another thing, though. We’re all living though a huge social experiment that it is hard to gauge the real meaning of. I’m a bit more concerned with what texting, tweeting and the rest is doing to literacy. Kids’  brains are definitely being rewired. Where will it lead? Who knows?

FC: Do you think that prizes and awards are a good thing?

SH: Yes and no. It’s good to be acknowledged, but there are too many prizes now. And they can tend to be a lottery of sorts. I looked at this year’s Deutsche Börse shortlist and thought, What?! Where’s Viviane Sassen, for example? But, that’s the nature of prizes: it’s four people’s opinions usually – and two of them are curators. I tend to take them with a pinch of salt - unless I’m up for one!

FC: Could you tell us a photobook and an exhibition from the past that blew your mind?

SH: The past is a big country. How about the very recent past? The Robert Adams retrospective at Jeu de Paume in Paris recently was just so impressive - a life in a body of work. I spent ages in there. He’s a living master. At the other extreme, someone who is relatively new. I walked into Tereza Zelenkova’s small show, The Absence of Myth, at Legion TV, a small gallery in Hackney last year and was blown away by the work and the way it was laid out - texts and multiple black and white prints in large frames. She’s a young photographer, but there is something very thoughtful as well as day dreamily melancholic about her approach to the gothic and uncanny. She’s fascinated by Georges Bataille and manages to get something of his aura into the words and pictures. She has her own way of seeing things. That’s what I’ m looking out for.



In terms of historical shows, Eggleston’s Ancient and Modern at The Barbican in 1992 was a game-changer for me. It presented a new way of seeing: the ordinary made luminous, the world as we know it, but slightly skewed.

And photo books...Off the top of my head: Love on the Left Bank by Ed van der Elsken was perhaps the first photobook that made me see the potential of photography to create a staged, semi-fictional, but somehow utterly real, visual narrative. It still amazes me that it was first published in 1957. So far ahead of the game. I also remember coming across Ray’s A Laugh by Richard Billingham in a bookshop in the mid-nineties and being really confused and excited by it. It had a similar impact on me as a great punk or hip-hop record would once have had – that feeling that you were encountering something new and so viscerally powerful that you were not quite sure what to do with it.

I had a similar reaction to Lieko Shiga’s Rasen Kaigan. What’s going on in these pages!? Still not sure, but it’s pretty powerful. And, recently, this photobook arrived though my letterbox and it’s pretty damn exciting, too: Shanxi by Zhang Xaio, published by Little Big Man.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Portfolio reviews at Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, Toronto

© Ian Willms, from the series The Road to Nowhere, 2012-13. Winner of the 2013 Portfolio Reviews Exhibition Award.

Just a heads up to our readers in Canada. On Sunday 4 and Monday 5 May, our Editor in Chief Tim Clark will be participating alongside a whole host of curators and directors, publishers and photo editors who have been brought together for two days during Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival in Toronto, Canada to do reviews for established and emerging artists, with a focus on documentary, photojournalism or photo-based art practices.

This is an important event for artists with projects at advanced stages of development who are seeking opportunities for publishing and exhibiting nationally or internationally- as well as looking for guidance on conceptual approaches or career development advice.

2014 Reviewers include:

Mauro Bedoni Photo Editor, Colors, Milan

Matthew Brower Lecturer in Museum Studies, University of Toronto

Laurence Butet-Roch Photo Editor, Polka, Paris

Johan Hallberg-Campbell International Board of Editors, Photo Raw, Helsinki

Federica Chiocchetti Independent Curator and Founder, Photocaptionist, London

Tim Clark Editor-in-Chief and Director, 1000 Words, London

Stacey McCarroll Cutshaw Editor, Exposure, Los Angeles

James Estrin Senior Staff Photographer, New York Times, New York

Kristen Gresh Assistant Curator of Photographs, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Cheryl Newman Photography Director, The Telegraph Magazine, London

Bonnie Rubenstein Artistic Director, Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, Toronto

Jonathan Shaughnessy Associate Curator, Contemporary Art, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

Stefano Stoll Director, Images Festival, Vevey

Amber Terranova Freelance Senior Photo Editor, The New Yorker, New York

Shelbie Vermette Director of Photography, The Grid, Toronto

Fu Xiaodong Independent Curator, Beijing

Portfolio Reviews Exhibition Award

One artist will be awarded with a solo exhibition presented at the CONTACT Gallery in January 2015. The award includes a $1000 credit at Vistek, and a $2500 credit at Toronto Image Works. Chosen by a jury of international professionals in the field of photography, this award recognises outstanding work presented at the Portfolio Reviews. The programme was created to support and advance the careers of talented emerging photographers.

Related Events

Portfolio Night & Cocktail Reception
Monday 5 May, 7pm
Artists and photographers are given the opportunity to share their work in an open forum with reviewers and invited local professionals.

Stories and Pictures
Tuesday 6 May, 5pm
Join James Estrin from the New York Times and Cheryl Newman from the Telegraph for an evening of lively discussions about identity and documentary today. The evening will also include a Q&A with members of the Boreal Collective moderated by Shelbie Vermette, Director of Photography, The Grid.

Stay for the afterparty with the band Das Piumas.
Presented with the Boreal Collective.

The Review Days take place at The Gladstone Hotel and the cost is $200 for 4 reviews. For those interested in attending, there may still be slots available. Please check with the organisers at Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival here.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

1000 Words Workshop with JH Engström in Marseille, 13-17 July 2014

*04.06.14:THERE ARE STILL TWO PLACES AVAILABLE-APPLY NOW!*

1000 Words is delighted to announce a workshop with internationally renowned Swedish photographer, JH Engström. The workshop will take place between 13-17 July 2014 in the port city of Marseille, immediately after the opening week of Les Rencontres d’Arles.

Marseille is France’s second largest city. Located on the southern coast, it is a wonderfully exciting and vibrant metropolis alive with a heady mix of cultures, nightlife and Mediterranean verve. During 2013 it served as the European City of Culture. An extremely visual and diverse locale, it is the perfect environment for creative exploration.

JH ENGSTROM:

JH Engström is a leading Swedish photographer who lives between Värmland and Paris. He is best known for his influential photobooks, most notably the highly collectable monograph Trying to Dance, published in 2003, as well as From Back Home, a collaboration with Anders Petersen for which he won the Author Book Award at Les Rencontres d’Arles 2009. Engström is represented by Galerie VU in Paris and Gun Gallery in Stockholm. He was shortlisted for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize in 2005.

His photography is marked by a distinctly subjective approach to documenting his surroundings. Born out of emotional encounters, at the heart of his work lies both an intimate connection with his subjects and expression of his own self. Critic Martin Jaeggi has spoken speaking of Engström’s pictures as having “the impression of looking at memories”.




ABOUT THE WORKSHOPS:

1000 Words Workshops will take place in the heart of Marseille at Le Percolateur atelier in the Longchamp district. The workshops will be an intense and productive experience lasting five days but numbers are limited to a maximum of 14 participants. 



PRACTICAL INFORMATION:

The cost of each workshop is £800 for five days. Once participants have been selected they will be expected to pay a non-refundable deposit of £400 within one week. Participants can then pay the remaining balance on a case-by-case basis. Participants are welcome to arrive the day before the workshop begins for a welcome dinner. The price includes:

-tuition from JH Engström (including defining each participant’s project; shooting; editing sessions; creating a coherent body of work; creation of a slide show; projection of the images of the participants.)
-a welcome dinner
-24 hour help from the 1000 Words team and an assistant/translator with local knowledge.

Participants will be expected to make their own travel arrangements and find accommodation, which in Marseille can be considerably cheap for the week. We can advise on finding the accommodation that best suits you. For photographers using colour film we will provide the means for processing and a scanner. Photographers shooting digital will be expected to bring all necessary equipment. Please note that for the purposes and practicalities of a workshop, digital really is advisable. All participants should also bring a laptop if they have one. Every effort will be made to accommodate individual technical needs.

HOW TO SUBMIT:

We require that you send 10 images as low res jpegs and/or a link to your website, as well as a short biography and statement about why you think it will be relevant for you to work with JH Engström (approx. 200 words total). Submissions are to be sent to projects@1000wordsmag.com with the following subject header: SUBMISSION FOR 1000 WORDS WORKSHOP WITH JH ENGSTROM.

31 May 2014: Final deadline for applications
12 July 2014: Arrive in Marseille for welcome dinner with JH Engström
13 July 2014: Workshop begins
17 July 2014: Workshop ends

IN ASSOCIATION WITH:


INTERVIEW:

1000 Words Deputy Editor, Michael Grieve, catches up with JH Engström ahead of the workshop for a quick discussion about one of a number of his recently released photo books, Sketch of Paris, published by Aperture Foundation. Enjoy, and see you the other side of Arles in Marseille!

Michael Grieve: Your new book Sketch of Paris is part of a fine photographic, literary and filmic lineage of representation of that city from Brassai, Henry Miller, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Christer Stromholm, Robert Frank, to name but a few. How do you regard your work in this history?

JH Engström: These names have inspired me and influenced me. Then it’s later now, it’s another era. All those people have done their job. I’m still working.

MG: Why is the book a ‘sketch’ of Paris? Why a sketch?

JHE: Because a sketch is the only way I could in any way represent Paris with photographs… Paris is really ungraspable to me… Also a sketch is unfinished. It’s a first tryout. I like tryouts and unfinished expressions. The attempts... A sketch is also something that is linked to spontaneity, which I also like.

MG: The photographs in Sketch of Paris are very grounded. We never look up and it is devoid of sentiment. You appear to be consumed in it. Do you think the book is a portrait of you or of Paris?



JHE: It’s both I think. But of course very much a portrait of me, of me in Paris. And yes I am totally consumed by Paris. I could of course have that feeling of being consumed anywhere on this planet, because of the dry fact that I exist. But in Paris that feeling often hits me very strongly. Sometimes I wish it was less like that. 

MG: Is your work honest?

JHE: I hope so. I want it to be.

MG: Your work generally deals with spontaneity, chance encounters, and you seem to be guided by your unconscious. What do you think it is in your early life experience that has steered you to work in this way?

JHE: That is of course impossible to answer. I believe a lot in things that cannot be explained. I believe in having the courage to stay in the ungraspable.

MG: You once said to me that what is more interesting about the work of Nan Goldin is not so much the diaristic aspect but more how she inadvertently documents her time. We can observe fashion, décor; In this regard your work this same form of documentation?

JHE: It’s not only the question of time that’s so strong with her work of course. It’s also her fantastic way of making photographs that talk about deeply existential, human issues. To me her work is quite painful and talks a lot about our mortality.




MG: So far your photography represents lived experience from your own experience. Love, loss, joy, melancholy, uncertainty, hope and the banal constantly permeate throughout your oeuvre. What is the need to share this to an audience?

JHE: I have of course asked my self that. I don’t know to be honest. I have a necessity to do it. Maybe it’s simply a way to deal with things you mention in your question.

MG: Many contemporary photographers and artists seem to want to produce conceptualised projects. What do you think about this?

JHE: I think all photography is conceptual per definition. Therefore conceptual photography can not be defined as different from the rest of photography. But I think maybe some artists tend to lean very much on the concept.

MG: To what extent should contemporary photography practice be aware of itself, by that I mean, should it have a critical awareness contained within itself? Does your work have a critical awareness of itself and if so how?

JHE: I don’t really like to talk about what photography “should” or “should not”. Or what art “should” or “should not”.

MG: What does the aesthetic of a photograph mean to you? Is the meaning of a photograph contained within the aesthetic more perhaps than the subject/object depicted. Is it about expression rather than content?

JHE: It’s impossible to separate the two.




MG: You speak often of the emotional aspect of photographs, that your spontaneous attitude is brought about by an unconscious rather than conscious decision-making process. Do you regard a photograph of a street as equal in relevance to a sexual act or a portrait?

JHE: Yes, if you talk about “equal” in some kind of hierarchal way of thinking.

MG: I am often reminded by your work with someone like Bob Dylan, in the sense that your work is introspective, and it is both real and romantic. Therefore it collides to reveal a fundamental uncertainty. Is it fair to say that work is really about the space and tension in between the beautiful and the ugly?

JHE: You could say that it deals with tensions and the dynamics being created in those tensions.

MG: Your photographs tend to work on the level of the senses, by which we can almost taste the dust in the atmosphere, and the stale smell of bars. Is your sensory perception heightened as a result of your photography?

JHE: I don’t know if it’s heightened. But I know my sensory perception is high. And as I touched in an earlier question I would maybe sometimes like that it was a little less active…




MG: Considering your work is eclectic and on the verge of chaos how do you keep control. I imagine you take control at the editing stage? How do you edit and then sequence? Is the association between images made at this point?

JHE: I don’t think it is control, maybe more an illusion of control. And that is as you say very much done at the editing stage. My process of editing is strongly based on intuition. Once something is finished, like printed in a book, the cards have been laid out on the table and then you can’t take them back.

MG: Given the increasingly sterile nature of contemporary what do you feel is the future of the more subjective approach and really what is your definition of ‘subjective’ photography?

JHE: I think there will always be an interest for the subjective approach. The subjective photography is a method among others. And in that method the photographer uses very much of him/herself as a starting point and tool.

MG: How has your relationship to Paris changed over the years?

JHE: I’m still amazed by the city. Maybe I go to bed a little earlier now a days but it is sure that it is a lifelong love story.

All images © JH Engström, from the series Sketch of Paris.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Maciej Pestka

All images © Maciej Pestka

Brad Feuerhelm rubs shoulders with Maciej Pestka’s self-published photobook The Life of Psy and gets a glimpse into a hilarious case of mistaken identity.

Maciej Pestka’s The Life of Psy is a brilliant navigation between the borders of fame, photography, and the complexities of credence sought through images. During Barcelona Fashion Week in 2013, Korean-born, French-raised Dennis Carre attended a whole host of parties and events in which people throughout the fashion and beauty industry wrongly identified him as K-Pop singer, Psy of ‘Gangnam Dance’ fame. Quick to capitalise on the doppelganger syndrome he represented, Carre’s appearance takes on a surreal façade as he tangos and kisses his way through a bevy of fashion mavens at various parties, where his image or rather the image of an international superstar administer Carre attention to acts of debauchery and trickery.

Maciej Pestka’s photographs themselves are event-type images where the rules of composition and pictorial photographic systems are reduced to a pop-and-flash candid mimicry much en vogue in fashion circles at present. But the point is not really about the quality of the photograph itself, but that of the embrace of spectacle and fame. Clever not to present Carre’s audience as too vacuous or vain, the photographs become a totem of celebration and “I was there” type of infamy. Brilliantly paced throughout the book are shots of Carre at work, partying and living up someone else’s life. Added ephemeral documents such as ‘cease and desist’ letters from Psy’s management add further umpf to the joke and bestow added value to the book as spoof and document of the existential trauma of where belief and need reside.
Brad Feuerhelm

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Kuba Dąbrowski @ Zachęta – National Gallery of Art, Poland



Piotr Drewko drops in on Kuba Dąbrowski’s solo exhibition at Walsaw's Zachęta – National Gallery of Art, Poland.

Kuba Dąbrowski’s exhibition titled A Drama Feature Film of Polish Production is a vibrant attempt to create well-structured visual correspondence based on artist’s long and fruitful escapade with photography. Entering the gallery we are faced with a chaotic, yet pleasurable space filled to capacity with a vast number of snapshots and portraits from Dąbrowski’s past.

Having read the curatorial statement we’re starting to grasp the principle narrative stream, which is a very personal and intimate portrayal of artist’s adolescent experiences, friends, spontaneous situations and palpable borders of now and then. What is emerging from rhythmic visual tensions is a certain diaristic photography. Dąbrowski’s exhibition does not formulate conceptual method, which situates the viewer at the intersection of art, philosophy, semiotics or science. Instead, the material presented is simply fiction-augmented documentary selection of artist’s life experiences, smattered across the white cube.

And while it seems choreographically careless what becomes vital is his ability to effortlessly translate the spirit of experienced situations and events. The viewer does not see anything that is beyond traditional representation but at the same time he becomes hypnotised by on-going dialogue arranged by the artist. We do not see any seeds of revolution in the way he operates the camera - it is rather very conscious and stimulating evolutionary journey through life. Dąbrowski’s work can be described as simply capturing visual coincidences, which happened to occur within his sight. A major facet of Dąbrowski’s practice is the engagement of our memory and collective experience. The sense of superficiality is reduced before the artist presses the shutter, which generates a strong feeling of familiarity in relation to every single depicted situation. By acknowledging that fact we are able to strengthen the relationship with presented images and address ourselves as participants in that particular conversation. Dąbrowski simply changes our positions as viewers: from being a passive audience we’re starting to actively contribute to the story. All the photographs with their synthesis of subjective and objective planes, of past and present articles, of dual and individual creative vision, become an poetic invitation into which new space is created for any individual, who is willing to look. What we see depends on what we look for.
Piotr Drewko