Monday 22 February 2010

Freya Najade: If you are lucky, you get old

RAE, 80,

Rae, 80, In her bedroom

I loved my girlfriend very much. We were true soul mates. I am very proud that I was with her for 43 years. The first evening I met Rabbie, I got up to make a drink and I asked her: "Can I make one for you too?" And she said: "No, but you can come over and kiss me." And damn it, if I didn’t!

Tree in the desert

This July was a tough month for me. There was our anniversary, Rabbie’s birthday, and her day of death.

Rabbie´s ashes

Red is my favourite colour. She hated red, I didn’t ask for the red and they brought her ashes to me like that. After that, I went and bought a red car.

Rae and Rabbie

Rabbie’s death was for me the most devastating thing in my life. I thought I would never get over it. I miss her so very much. When I die, our ashes will be mixed together and spread in the canyon. The pain is slowly getting better, though. I never thought it would. You tend to idealise people who are dead. Now there is no Saint Rabbie anymore but Saint Rae. I have to look after myself better.


Dennis, 76, In his room

I have my own house, where I live half of the year. Sometimes I don’t talk for a week to anybody there. In the summer I rent a room in a gay retirement home. I enjoy meeting people of my kind.

Fir tree

I was married for thirty years. I loved my wife very much. If she hadn’t died, we would be still together. After her death I was devastated.

Dennis with his flight costume

The thing I regret most is that I didn’t become an astronaut and never went into space.

Dennis in stockings

The first time I dressed as a girl, I was eight years old.

Dennis´ wall decoration

I don’t want to be a woman. I am happy the way I am. I just enjoy the kick.

Dennis dressed up

I feel that I am transforming from a caterpillar into a butterfly. Sometimes I go out like this. If people don’t like it, it is their problem.

All images from If you are lucky, you get old © Freya Najade

"In the project If you are lucky, you get old I capture encounters with the elderly passing by and I tell stories of those I spent time with. To my surprise, the old people I met were not just proud of their age and the fact that they made it that far in life, they were also still falling in love and breaking up. They were overcoming their lifetime partner’s death, living out their erotic fantasies or dealing with the loss of their sexual desire. Talking to them showed that inner growth is ever lasting and that humans above the age of seventy continue to love, suffer, long, dream and have sexual feelings."

Freya Najade was born in Germany in 1977. After studying in Bremen and San Francisco, she moved to London, where she currently lives and works. In December 2009she graduated with Distinction from the University of the Arts London (London College of Communication) after completing a Masters in Documentary Photography. Her work was selected for the 2009 AOP Student Awards and she has had honourable mention in the IPA Awards (2008, 2009).

Saturday 20 February 2010

Bruce Gilden

Here is a little something for the weekend. Photography needs more of these characters, don´t you think? Thanks to Michael for the tip-off, who co-incidentallly has just laid his cards on the table and turned his hand to blogging. It makes for a riveting read. Check it out here. Show us your characters.

Wednesday 17 February 2010

Lasting impressions or fading impressions?

International Colloquium

Lasting impressions, or fading impressions?
The Photobook Today and Tomorrow
Musée de l´Elysée
20-21 February 2010

There are as many ideas of what constitutes the ideal photography book as there are photographers wanting to make them! This unique event brings together a wide range of highly experienced specialists representing all aspects of book production: publishers, printers, production experts, packagers, graphic designers, art directors, typographers, booksellers, historians, curators, critics, journalists and, of course, photographers!

In a series of informal round tables (followed by open debates), these experts will look at the current state of the photobook, speculate as to its immediate and long-term future, and discuss the realities of book production and distribution. Colloquium participants will also have an opportunity to take guided tours of the current exhibition, Lasting Impressions: The Art and Craft of the Steidl Book.

Karl Lagerfeld © 2008 Steidl

Monday 15 February 2010

Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2010

©Anna Fox

Just opened at The Photographers’ Gallery is an exhibition of the work of Anna Fox, Zoe Leonard, Sophie Ristelhueber and Donovan Wylie - the four shortlisted artists nominated for its annual Deutsche Börse Photography Prize.

UK-born photographer Anna Fox has been nominated for her exhibition, 'Cockroach Diary & Other Stories' at Ffotogallery, Cardiff and initiated by Impressions Gallery, Bradford. Dark yet highly comical, the work is a curious blend of stark photographic evidence and written anecdotes that tell the story of a cockroach invasion in a shared house in London where the artist once lived. It is typical of the artists' wider concerns of extracting beauty from both the bizarre and the banal, particularly in relation to domestic British life. A pioneer of exciting colour documentary photography, Fox has undoubtedly helped to redefine the medium in Britain and Europe.

Also in the running for the highly coveted prize is American, Zoe Leonard, who has been selected for her retrospective exhibition, 'ZOE LEONARD: Photographs', at the Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich, organised by Fotomuseum Winterthur. Like Fox, she takes a radically different approach to capturing and memorizing seemingly everyday things but her images offer a more subtle, visual look at the world and, in the process, reveal something of its wonderful inarticulated contradictions.

French photographer, Sophie Ristelhueber has been nominated for her retrospective, 'Sophie Ristelhueber' at the Jeu de Paume, Paris. For more than twenty years, Ristelhueber has turned her camera on people and places scarred and shaped by war and has emerged with timeless, deeply affecting images about serious world issues without resorting to tacky sentimentality.

Working with similar notions of territory and history, is the British Magnum photographer Donovan Wylie. The youngest of the four shortlisted artists, Wylie has been chosen for his exhibition 'MAZE 2007/8' at Belfast Exposed for which he spent a period of almost one hundred days photographing inside one of Ireland's most oppressive prisons (The Maze) in the aftermath of its demolition process. The only photographer granted official unlimited access to the site, he has focused on the empty landscapes to investigate the psychology of its architecture.

Brett Rogers, Chair of the Jury and Director of The Photographers' Gallery, said: "The four finalists all manifest a sustained commitment to investigating the nature and role of the photographic image. Each of them, in their own way, explores pertinent ideas around gender, nationality, surveillance and political conflict."

The annual award of £30,000 rewards a living photographer, of any nationality, who has made the most significant contribution, in exhibition or publication format, to the medium of photography in Europe between 1 October 2008 and 30 September 2009. This year's Jury is: Olivia Maria Rubio (Director of Exhibitions, La Fàbrica, Spain); Gilane Tawadros (Chief Executive, Design Artists Copyright Society, curator and writer); James Welling (artist, USA); and Anne-Marie Beckmann (Curator, Art Collection Deutsche Börse, Germany). Brett Rogers, Director of The Photographers' Gallery, is the non-voting Chair.

The exhibition went on display at The Photographers' Gallery on 12 February and runs until 18 April 2010, with the winner announced at a special award ceremony on 17 March 2010.

This article was originally published as a news story in the December/January issue of a-n magazine

Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize

© Paul Floyd Blake, Rosie Bancroft, 2008

If success begets success then the latest incarnation of the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2009 at The National Portrait Gallery is no exception. Strong, varied and utterly captivating, the show presents the very best in contemporary portrait photography. Featuring students' work alongside established photographers, the competition is democratic at heart, and this year attracted over 2,400 photographers who submitted more than 6,300 images.

First prize was awarded to Paul Floyd Blake for his shortlisted portrait Rosie Bancroft, 2009 from an ongoing project entitled On Track for 2012. Shot with a large format 5x4 field camera, the head on image shows a young athlete who has the potential to complete in the 2012 Olympics despite having her right foot removed when she was ten months old. The sitters' posture is at once powerful yet tender, the lighting delicate and the composition carefully considered.

Speaking about the wider project the photographer says, "The series is probably less about sport than it is about young people growing up and the transition from childhood into adulthood. These teenagers exist in this ultra-professional world that can often be very isolating. It is about them growing up and how the experiences they have now shape them for the future."

Elsewhere, Vanessa Winship (who I have already featured here), scooped second prize for Girl in a Golden Dress, Georgia, 2009 from the series Georgia Song. Winship is the queen of the poetic portrait and her chosen photograph was taken on one of several trips to Georgia where she was searching for people who somehow reflected the contemporary ethos of the country. "I found this particular young girl in the capital, Tbilisi, at one of the Palaces of Marriage," she said. "I liked the delicacy of her features and the way she held herself in what looked like a new and best outfit."

Other prize winners included Michal Chelbin (Murder, Juvenile Prison, Russia 2009 from the series Locked) whose quiet but terse portrait depicts Stas, a fifteen-year-old boy who is an inmate at a high security prison in Russia and Mijana Vrbaski's more immediate and striking Girl, a photograph of anonymous girl taken in June 2009 in Netherlands.

Through an alluring mix of editorial, advertising and fine art photography, the competition broaches an equally broad range of themes, styles and subjects from the commissioned portrait to the more spontaneous family snapshot. Clearly, contemporary portraiture is very much alive and kicking and the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize provides a unique opportunity to see some of the most exciting and inspiring work from photography's current cream of the crop.

The exhibition has unfortunately closed now at National Portrait Gallery but there is still time to catch at the Shipley Art Gallery in Gateshead from 27 March to 6 June 2010 and The Art Gallery Walsall from 16 July to 12 September 2010. The exhibition tour is organised by the National Portrait Gallery.

This article was originally published as a news story in the February issue of a-n magazine

Thursday 11 February 2010

Elliot Wilcox

All images © Elliot Wilcox

Wow! There really is some exciting work landing in the submissions inbox nowadays! Firstly, let me just take the opportunity to thank you all for everyday I get more and more spoiled by the sheer volume and quality of artwork that comes my way. Thank you for satisfying my hungry eyes, but also for making me relish more.

Elliott Wilcox is the latest artist whose work has truly captivated my attention. Wilcox is a London based, British photographer who is currently studying at the University of Westminster, MA Photographic Studies. He graduated from the University of Wales, Newport with a BA in Photographic Art in 2008. He has been the recipient of several awards including a Judges Award at the Nikon Discovery Awards and a New York Photo Award in 2009. Elliott recently won a prestigious Lucie Award for the Discovery of the Year at the International Photography Awards. 

Elliott has exhibited internationally and in the UK, his work was part of Singapore’s first International Photography Festival and selected for both Catalyst Arts Belfast and the Crane Kalman Gallery Brighton’s Graduate showcase exhibitions. His work was part of the recent show PRUNE – Abstracting Reality at FOAM Gallery Amsterdam guest curator Kathy Ryan, editor of the New York Times Magazine.
His work is featured in the Magenta Foundation’s latest publication on the future of photography, focusing on emerging talent, Flash Forward - Emerging Photographers 2009, The New York Photography Festival and in the New York Photo Awards Annual 2009. Elliott is also featured in FOAM magazine’s Talent issue and FOAM Gallery’s 2010 Annual. 

Wilcox has also been a part of the BBC’s latest Documentary – School of Saatchi. His work beat thousands of applicants to be in the last 10 artists involved in the show. Elliott was the only photographic artist to make it through to the final stages, a testament to the quality of his photographic works. 

The images showcased here are taken from his fantastic project Courts. The work "examines representations of the enclosed spaces of sports courts. In photographing the empty courts, absent of the fast paced action we are so familiar with, these environments reveal themselves in a new light."

"The camera shows details that the viewer can see closely, revealing many subtleties that usually go unnoticed. The vivid stains, ball marks, blood and scratches force the viewer to focus on these details rather than just the court."

"The courts have one single use – a ball game, with all their complicated rules and regulations. These normally sub conscious spaces become alive. Much like a gallery space is missed to the artwork, the space of these courts is missed to the sport. These large format images are slow and deliberate. The non-judgemental image creates an experience to explore, a path to revealing the unnoticed and exposing the unexposed, consequently romanticising the courts."

Forthcoming projects for 2010 include an artist run exhibition featuring works from artists affiliated with MurmurArt which is set to run in autumn 2010. Later this year Wilcox is planning to exhibit Courts in his first ever solo show in London. In the meanwhile, he says he "hopes to continue developing his photographic practice and pushing the boundaries of his medium."

Tuesday 9 February 2010

Rachel Wolfe

All images © Rachel Wolfe

There are some really nice, quiet images that form part of Rachel Wolfe´s series Not Even But Almost which she recently submitted to the magazine. Rachel Wolfe(b 1984. Dixon, IL) is a photographer and writer currently based out of Chicago, IL whose work and wanderlust "take her from remote areas to densely populated locations near and far". She has performed poetry and exhibited in both Chicago and across the States. She has written the following statement by way of introduction to her project:

"Not Even But Almost is an investigative look at contemporary life and its unsatisfying nature. By looking intimately at perceived ideals of happiness in the out-there, we can understand how our in-here situations of containment and discontent are created. The understanding of the mind creating a mutually agreed upon reality becomes apparent in these external manifestations, unconsciously creating perpetual unsatisfactory situations. The relentlessness of discovering almost-understanding continues to persist through the inherent flaws in human nature. Through this work I hope to help viewers discover, the quest for wholeness is disguised in our pursuit of happiness."