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#BJP 7868: Group Projects

We look at collaboration in photography, and how it can add perspectives and power to projects on particular subjects

In BJP’s latest issue, we focus on forms of collaboration. Collaboration in photography can be controversial, say the Danish collective Sara, Peter & Tobias, as “in school you’re told that you have to find your own personal interest and motive”. Yet collaboration – whether in an ad hoc duo or formalised collective – is a powerful tool to combine voices and perspectives, and create rich, multi-faceted work.

In our featured projects we share work from Carlotta Cardana, for example, who teamed up with writer and tribal member Danielle SeeWalker on a 15,000 mile journey across the United States. In the resulting The Red Road Project, the dialogue between image and text paints a picture of contemporary Native American identity, and counters reductive stereotypes often fuelled by the media. Over in Europe, Belgian photographer Kevin Faingnaert entered a rural protest camp in France, where – despite initial resistance – he managed to gain his subjects’ trust and develop a deeper understanding of their alternative lifestyle. Christopher Bethell sought to capture his grandfather’s gaze in his series on memory and nostalgia, meanwhile, delving deep into the personal archive of family history.

Elsewhere, we take a look at Susan Meiselas’s work – which will be shown in her upcoming retrospective Meditations in the Jeu de Paume, Paris, this spring – including her latest project A Room of One’s Own. Focusing on women who have escaped domestic violence and are now living in a refuge, her project demonstrates what it means to document something beyond one’s own experience, and to work closely with one’s subjects. Collaborating with the women she depicted, Meisela’s A Room of One’s Own includes first-person testimonies, collages and drawings alongside the Magnum photographer’s images.

For our cover feature, we share insights from the Copenhagen-based collective Sara, Peter & Tobias on why collaboration is so effective, and how to maintain individual style within a group entity. “The purpose of the collective is not to be one photographer,” says Sara Brincher Galiati, “it is to be three individual photographers showing different perspectives on the same topic.”

We also discover Mike Crawford’s group project Obsolete and Discontinued, which draws together no less than fifty photographers. After being handed a box of expired photo paper Crawford invited the photographers to use them to create artworks, as a welcome respite from the mass-produced materials of today.

Also uniting old and new, the iconic Magnum Photos agency celebrated its 70th anniversary last year by inviting a group of its current members to create work inspired by their icons. Titled Retold, the project saw photographers retracing their predecessors’ steps, from Chile to Russia.

We discussed what we might like to do for our 70th anniversary and something we returned to again and again was the legacy of the agency, and how important it is that we keep telling contemporary stories,” explains Magnum’s content director Francesca Sears. “It was a nice way to marry up old and new – to honour the founding fathers of the agency, to look at the seminal stories they had worked on, and to consider who inspires our current photographers.”

The Rawi’ya Collective, meanwhile, shows how combining different artists and voices can provide a powerful way to address a subject from multiple perspectives. A group of of Middle Eastern photographers confronting stereotypes of their region, they were asked to combine their existing projects by curator Sara-Jayne Parsons in the wake of Trump’s election.

Plus, we revisit the work of Brassaï, give the lowdown on the new Reflex 35mm, and review the Canon EOS 6D Mark ll.

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