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BJP #7869: The Community Issue

We look at photographers who work closely with their subjects, inviting them to contribute in order to incorporate their perspectives

Last month BJP focused in on group work; this month we’re looking at a different kind of collaboration – projects in which photographers engage in a two-way dialogue with their subjects.

One of the best – and the best-known – examples is Jim Goldberg, who works with subjects such as teenage runaways and migrants to tell wide-sweeping stories of marginalisation and economic disparity. Using an eclectic mix of photographs, archive materials and video, and both marking up himself and invites his subjects to write on, he creates complex montages guided by his sense of “intimacy, trust and intuition”. Incorporating the perspectives of the communities and subcultures he represents, his work is informed by his own background in a blue-collar family in New Haven.

“I grew up in a working-class family, and I was an outsider to Yale, which was and still is the prestigious and elite gravitational centre of New Haven,” he tells BJP’s Michael Grieve. “When I returned more than 40 years later, I was no longer a local, but as a Visiting Fellow, I had become an insider. This enabled me to have extensive access in New Haven. Politically and socially, while still deeply shaped by my earlier experiences of feeling outside the city’s cultural walls.”

We also interview fellow Magnum Photos member Carolyn Drake in this issue, on her striking new book Internat – which was made in collaboration with a community of young women, cut off from the outside world within the walled grounds of an orphanage. “The ideas I arrived with became a lot more interesting once the women got involved and started transforming them, sometimes just by being themselves,” she tells BJP. “We played at picture-making, using their bodies and objects found around the building as content and using this environment as a stage for imagining something beyond it.”

Elsewhere we talk to Jan Hoek about his struggle to represent the Maasai in East Africa, and his own role as an outside – a perennial topic for photographers, explored in a new exhibition at the Barbican Art Gallery, Another Kind of Life. We talk to the curator of the show about the underlying themes and practices of the artists in the show, and the communities they worked with.

Plus a profile of Çağdaş Erdoğan, the young Turkish photographer who has been detained by the police since 02 September – and whose case comes up for trial on 13 February; Q&A interviews with Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen of Newcastle’s Amber collective, and Jesse Lenz, creative director of travel and design magazine The Collective Quarterly; projects from Arthur Crestani, Nicholas JR White, and Anton Polyakov & Anya Galatonova; and Panasonic’s Lumix DC-G9 reviewed.

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