Saturday 18 December 2010

Walter Martin and Paloma Muñoz

When we think of snow globes we tend to think of cozy miniature worlds; that kitschy souvenir from childhood that took its pride of place on top of the TV, occasionally picked up, shaken and marvelled at in wonder as the snow flakes swirled round and round before eventually falling onto fairytales scenes, Jesus in a manger or The Statue of Liberty. Yet Walter Martin and Paloma Muñoz’s appropriation of the snow globe in their art is less about the sentimentality of tacky memorabilia than the effects of toying with the implicit innocence of these familiar objects by creating strange scenarios within them.

At first glance Martin and Muñoz’s snow globes recall the pleasant feeling we have when it snows. An atmosphere in which silence prevails, a time when people are generally in their homes, the animals are resting and even nature itself seems asleep. However upon closer inspection it quickly becomes apparent that the winter fantasy has been somewhat skewed. Not everything seems as it appears: small acts of cruelty, violence and even dark humour come forth to captivate our imagination. Trapped in these snow globes are men and women seen alone or at the mercy of others, lost in a bleak, largely nocturnal landscape straight out of the ‘dead’ of winter. These are momento mori, weirdly reminiscent of the morbid scenes from the Coan Brothers modern masterpiece, Fargo. Travelers is at the same end of the spectrum as the film; an offbeat pseudo-moralist parable that forgoes the boundaries between horror and humour, and that is set in a whitewashed, winter wilderness wherein people are gripped by the cold storm of life as various atrocities unfold around them.

In this photographic series we come across thoroughly malevolent deeds such as a burly man dangling a child over a well or a man pushing a naked woman up to the edge of a glacier. Elsewhere however, images which show a large headed boy banging his forehead against a tree or a couple slow dancing in a cemetery are simply absurd. And while several photographs are particularly horrifying, such as the one of the man in a suit who has hung himself from a tree as the horse that carried him there moseys away, others are hilarious; the figure tipping his hat to another figure tipping his whole head being just one example. Some on the other hand are just downright scary, as is the case with the photograph of a giant spider hunting a helpless man or the one that depicts a procession of villagers wielding torches and heads on stakes. These are like crime scenes that would have perhaps better remained hidden but instead are put on full view before the mantle of snow covers up any traces that these wicked deeds ever took place.

Walter Martin and Paloma Muñoz explore the human condition through an unsettling slippage of reality and fantasy. Paradoxes abound and so the works leave an ample space for interpretation in our minds to complete them. Travelers has a rich texture of ideas, references, memories and dreams but ultimately it is the suspension of disbelief that is the key to their reception and meaning-the odd experience of an everyday household object revealing itself to us as something more surreal totally stumps our expectations. This wonderful synthesis of the familiar and the strange is the linchpin of their work.

As many as 750 art works have been made by this artist team for Travelers. Their working method is clearly as painstaking as it is prolific, the end photograph being just the tip of the iceberg. After spending hours scouring model-making shops for tiny figurines the artists then take them apart, cut them up, paint them and finally reassemble the various body parts, often with oversized limbs or heads, to create the desired effect for their tableaux. Likewise all the elements used to create the barren environments require painstaking precision: spindly branches, trees empty of their leaves and other sparse shrubbery are fashioned out of plumbers’ epoxy (a malleable plastic that can be easily manipulated in order to imitate wooden parts) before being pieced together and covered in water resistant resin. Water mixed with a small measure of alcohol that acts as a preservative are used to fill the orbs so that they are finally ready to be photographed. By using a Mayima camera with a macro lens, bare backgrounds, shallow focus and uncanny illumination to photograph these snowy little worlds the resulting images simultaneously seduce and startle the viewer. Paloma Muñoz compiles hundreds of complimentary images in the process which are then enlarged into prints of enormous size.

The artists have been working together since 1994, having met one year previously when Muñoz was accompanying her mother on a trip from Madrid to New York for a painting show in which she was exhibiting. Not long after they were living and working together. According to them, the pivotal moment in their lives and in the development of their work according to them was when they lost their studio in Brooklyn to a developer in 2001. As a consequence of this they experienced a long period of time constantly chopping and changing their work space until they finally settled into a charming farmhouse in the highlands of East Pennsylvania. It has now not only become ‘home’ but also a great source of inspiration too since their huge studio windows afford a stark vista of snow-covered trees scattered across an otherwise barren landscape much like the ones we see in Travelers. To a certain extent the origin of Travelers can be traced back to this sublime experience of seeing the heavy mid-winter snow that falls like a blanket on these parts when house-hunting all those years ago. In the words of the artists themselves their work with snow globes in effect was a sort of “organic response to their immediate surroundings”.

Having said that, many of these snow globes in the Travelers series contain solitary individuals trudging through the snow storms, heavily laden with bags of shopping or suitcases on a journey to anywhere. Maybe then it is not the place but rather the placelessness that lies at the core of their project. After all the unstable notion of ‘home’ is like a seam running through their work; a constant presence which has resurfaced time and time again. Underlining this sense of belonging and personal identity the image most often used to represent the series is that of a couple struggling to drag their prefabricated house across an unforgiving, icy terrain. It could well be considered as personal anecdote and, by extension, symbolic of the artist’s uprooted lives. Cumbersome and immobile, the house appears to be rolling back down the very hill up which they have pushed it. Later, in a different work from the series, we see that their efforts have been entirely futile as the same house is found at the very edge of a cliff on the point of tumbling down to the abyss that awaits it below.

Those that have the strongest undertow of gloom however are the scenes where people set out, terribly ill-equipped through the blinding blizzard that lies ahead, with no home to go to whatsoever. Such images bring to mind the millions of immigrants in the world that have abandoned a past, a culture and a family in search of a better life abroad for one reason or another, not least because of international conflicts. The protagonists in Travelers walk down an empty road hauling what remains of there belongings with them without even knowing where they are heading. They are eternally frozen in limbo between two indefinite spaces. Their open ended narrative threads refuse to be neatly tied up and instead speak more to the universal concerns of struggle, loss and lament. Therefore the journey that we are really taken on here is not such much physical as psychological that in the end leads only to the existential doubts and fears we have within us.

All images © Walter Martin and Paloma Muñoz

Courtesy of Next Level. Originally published in issue 14 of Next Level magazine, and then in 1000 Words #4

Wednesday 15 December 2010


© Anders Petersen


1000 Words is very pleased to present its second workshop with highly-acclaimed Swedish photographer, Anders Petersen, in Fez, Morocco (27 April - 1 May 2011). We are asking both professional and amateur photographers to submit entries for this rare and challenging experience.

"You have to focus on what you are doing, not just as a photographer, but as a human being." Anders Petersen

Please scroll down for more information and how to submit.


The importance and achievements of Swedish photographer, Anders Petersen, cannot be overestimated. As a social realist he has had a significant influence on a bitter/sweet attitude that strives towards a `subjective documentary´ approach to photography. Taught by Christer Strömholm in the 1960s, Anders has continued and expanded the necessity for photographers to embark on personal diaries of the life, places and people that they experience. He has published more than 20 photobooks from the highly regarded and classic, Café Lehmitz (1978) to the more recent collaboration with JH Engström with From Back Home (2009). He is represented by Galerie VU in Paris, Marvelli Gallery in New York, Gun Gallery in Stockholm and Rat Hole Gallery in Tokyo.


The organisation´s flagship is 1000 Words, an online magazine dedicated to highlighting the best contemporary art photography worldwide. It reviews exhibitions and photobooks and publishes interviews, essays and multimedia. We are committed to showing the work of lesser-known but significant artists alongside that of established photographers in the aim of bringing their work to a wider audience. Often incredibly diverse in terms of subjects, concepts, styles and techniques, yet by covering a wide spectrum of genres 1000 Words intends to make us reconsider the contemporary photograph.

Released quarterly, the magazine attracts over 140,000 unique visitors from more than 75 countries every month and in May 2010 the 1000 Words Blog was ranked at number 3 in The Top 25 UK Arts & Culture Blogs in a survey carried out by Creative Tourist.

Yet 1000 Words is much more than just an online magazine. It is the first step in our concept. 1000 Words also operates a programme of exhibitions and events including four annual workshops in Fez, Morocco as well as talks, portfolio reviews, prizes and awards. In July 2010, we launched the 1000 Words Collection, in partnership with Troika Editions, offering limited edition photography prints at affordable prices from artists Simon Roberts,JH Engstrom, Bruno Quinquet, Sarah Small, Trinidad Carrillo and Virgilio Ferreira. The 1000 Words Workshops are organised by Tim Clark, editor-in-chief and director at 1000 Words and Michael Grieve, 1000 Words deputy editor and photographer represented by Agence Vu.


The 1000 Words Workshop takes place in an authentically restored riad situated in the medieval medina, at the heart of the beautifully evocative city of Fez, Morocco. The workshop will be an intense experience lasting five days between 27 April - 1 May 2011 and will consist of 12 participants. The medina is a vibrant labyrinth that will permeate all the senses. Surrounded by the Atlas Mountains, it offers a visually stunning backdrop for this truly unique workshop.

We are looking for a diverse range of participants who understand the work of Anders Petersen and feel that their own photography will benefit from his guidance. Depending on individual needs the daily structure begins with lunch at the riad and during the afternoon Anders will encourage group participation in looking, critiquing and developing ideas and image making. In the late afternoon participants will begin to photograph. The week will end with a slideshow of the work created. Undoubtedly it will be a very creative and highly rewarding experience for those who wish to push themselves.


The cost of the workshop will be £1250 for 5 days. Once participants have been selected they will be expected to pay a non-refundable deposit of £350 within two weeks. Participants can then pay the rest of the fee according to deadlines (see below). Participants are encouraged to arrive the day before the workshop begins for a welcome dinner. The price includes tuition from Anders Petersen, a welcome and farewell dinner, lunch everyday and snacks during the afternoon, 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 Fez can range from £150 upwards for the week. We can advise on finding the accommodation that best suits you. Remember that most of your time will be spent either at the riad or shooting. For photographers using film we will provide the means for processing and a scanner. Photographers shooting digital will be expected to bring all necessary equipment. All participants should also bring a laptop if they have one. Every effort will be made to accommodate individual technical needs.


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 Anders (approx 200 words total). Submissions are to be sent to with the following subject header: SUBMISSION FOR 1000 WORDS WORKSHOP WITH ANDERS PETERSEN.

14 February 2011: Deadline for applications
28 February 2011: Successful candidates contacted
14 March 2011: Deposit due (£350)
31 March 2011: Second instalment due (£900)
26 April 2011: Arrive in Morocco
27 April 2011: Workshop begins
1 May 2011: Workshop ends

Lycka till!

Monday 6 December 2010

Larry Sultan: Katherine Avenue

This Christmas 1000 Words is offering its readers discounted copies of Katherine Avenue from the late great Larry Sultan, courtesy of our partner Steidl. To order your copy please contact tim(at)1000wordsmag(dot)com.

Please see below for more details:

Larry Sultan
Katherine Avenue


All images © Larry Sultan

This book brings together three of Larry Sultan’s best known series: Pictures from Home, The Valley and Homeland. Made principally in the San Fernando Valley, where the artist grew up, in these works Larry Sultan explored the domestic landscape of his childhood and adolescence by photographing and re-presenting photographs of his parents, their home, and their experience of the American Dream. Wandering further behind this Californian fabric, he photographed in suburban homes serving as sets in the pornographic industry. His work culminated in a series of tableau of Latino day labourers undertaking prosaic tasks on the peripheries of these suburban sites – the kind of places where, growing up, he would find his own sense of space and freedom.

This publication accompanies an exhibition at the kestnergesellschaft, Hannover and features an essay by curator Martin Germann. It is co-published with Galerie Thomas Zander, Cologne, and kestnergesellschaft, Hannover.

Special price for 1000 Words readers £35.00

132 pages, 80 colour plates
27.4 cm x 26.9 cm
Hardcover with a dust jacket
Steidl & Partners
ISBN: 978-3-86930-135-8
Publication date: June 2010

Antoine and beyond

© Michael Grieve / 1000 Words

In October 2010, 1000 Words held its first workshop in the medina of Fez, Morocco with the very special Magnum photographer, Antoine d’Agata. The workshop was a resounding success with all 12 participants producing vibrant and intimate photography. The location of Fez offered unique challenges and presented an intense backdrop for photographers to be truly creative. It is easy to get lost in the medina and this was perhaps the underlining and appropriate theme to the week.

1000 Words (Michael Grieve and Tim Clark) would like to thank all the participants for their tremendous energy and contribution. They completely opened up to the experience and allowed themselves to discover new approaches and push their mental and emotional selves to the limit. The participants were:

Richard Bee, UK
Martin Bogren, Sweden
Laura Hynd, UK
Miwako Homma, Japan
Edoardo Pasero, Italy
Alex Lau, USA
Katie White, USA
Joao Linneu, Brazil
Roberta Holden, Canada
Karin Crona, France
April Mountfort, Australia
Kay Erickson, USA

© Michael Grieve / 1000 Words

We would also like to thank Antoine d’Agata for his incredible skill as a teacher and for his warm and gracious presence.

The workshop would not have been possible without the assistance of Omar Chennafi for his practical knowledge of Fez and for bringing a wonderfully positive attitude to a fervent and industrious atmosphere. And Vanessa Bonnin, who provided us with the means to process black and white films and sourced the only person in Morocco who supplies the necessary chemicals!

1000 Words is organising four more workshops in Morocco next year and will be making a call for submissions very soon. Until then, check out more photos from the workshop over at the 1000 Words Photography Magazine group on Facebook.