“When people think of Victorian photography, they sometimes think of stiff, fusty portraits of women in crinoline dresses, and men in bowler hats,” says Phillip Prodger, head of photographs at the National Portrait Gallery. “Victorian Giants is anything but. “Here visitors can see the birth of an idea – raw, edgy, experimental – the Victorian avant-garde, not just in photography, but in art writ large. The works of Cameron, Carroll, Hawarden and Rejlander forever changed thinking about photography and its expressive power. These are pictures that inspire and delight. And this is a show that lays bare the unrivalled creative energy, and optimism, that came with the birth of new ways of seeing.” He’s promoting Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography, a new show at the NPG featuring Lewis Carroll, Julia Margaret Cameron, Oscar Rejoinder, and Clementine Hawarden. The four photographers were from very different backgrounds – Rejlander was a Swedish émigré, Cameron an expatriate from colonial Ceylon, Carroll an Oxford academic, and Hawarden landed gentry – but were united in their passion for the new discipline. …
Born in Italy, Luca Desienna has been a freelance photographer since 1998. One of the co-founders of Gomma Books in 2004, he has produced four Gomma magazines plus two publications devoted to black-and-white photography, MONO volumes I and II, working with image-makers such as Roger Ballen, Antoine D’Agata, Trent Parke, Daido Moriyama, and Anders Petersen. Petersen has described Desienna’s personal project My Dearest Javanese Concubine as “a story full of vitamins and warm energy”, and the series was shown at the official selection of the 2012 Arles Voies Off. My Dearest Javanese Concubine is now being made into a book by Gomma Books in collaboration with VOID and BlowUp Press, available for pre-order now and due for publication in May. BJP: How did you get into photography? Luca Desienna: I graduated in Graphic Design and Photography in Italy, but I got truly into photography way after that. I started taking pictures because I needed to for myself – during a delicate time of my life, the camera quickly became my companion, my friend, my ally. I remember …
On 13 February, Çağdaş Erdoğan will stand trial in Istanbul accused of membership and support of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a separatist group classified as a terrorist organisation by the Turkish government. Erdoğan is of Kurdish descent, grew up in the region and, as an adult, embedded with affiliates of the PKK during the complex, multifactional conflict that has crossed the borders of Syria, Iraq and Turkey. But he did so, he claims, purely as a photojournalist intent on documenting an unseen conflict for the world’s media and without any alliance with or allegiance to any organisation. His only allegiance was to photography.
“The works selected here have all run up against a more or less bitter-sweet reality, and their authors have liberally arranged, glued, assembled, masked and cut out the components of that reality in order to present it to us as something different, eminently subjective, and decidedly moving,” writes Raphaëlle Stopin, artistic advisor for the 2018 Prix HSBC. She’s writing of the 12 photographers shortlisted for two top prizes, which this year have gone Antoine Bruy (France, 1986) and Petros Efstathiadis (Greece, 1980). The other shortlisted photographers are: Olivia Gay (France, 1973), with the series Envisagées; Karin Crona (Sweden 1968), De la possibilité d’une image; Elsa Leydier (France, 1988), Platanos con platino; Sandra Mehl (France, 1980), Ilona et Maddelena; Shinji Nagabe (Brazil, 1975), Espinha; Michele Palazzi (Italy 1984), Finisterrae; Walker Pickering (USA, 1980), Esprit de corps; Marie Quéau (France, 1985), Odds and ends; Brea Souders (USA, 1978), Film electric; and Vladimir Vasilev (Bulgaria, 1977), T(h)races.
Six years ago, when John Arsenault first started taking photographs of flowers, they were intended as modern-day love letters to his new boyfriend. Posted on Instagram with the ambiguous title ‘For You!’, the tender images depicted roses the NYC-based, fine-art photographer had picked out for his lover – but the identity of that new beau stayed private at the beginning. Six months later he was ready to reveal the secret recipient – his partner, and now his husband, Raf. Shortly afterwards For You! became a series for everyone, as Arsenault started tagging all the people he was thinking of while photographing the flowers. For You! Was completed in 2017, when he captured the image ‘9:15am, Haverhill, Massachusetts’ at his aunt’s home. “I took the image and knew immediately it was the final image of the series,” he says, adding that he used the same simple facts for the captions of each of his images – the time, the date, and often the location.
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.
In the UK nobody lives more than 72 miles from the sea, and the seaside is entrenched in our culture because of it. “The coastline is significant to Brits whether we live there, or not,” says Simon Roberts, who lives in the seaside town of Brighton, and who has returned to the coast again and again in his work. Now his images are appearing in an exhibition called The Great British Seaside at the National Maritime Museum this spring, alongside work by David Hurn, Martin Parr and the late Tony Ray-Jones.
Nicholas Bonner first visited Korea in 1993, and since then has spent “most of my adult life involved in North Korea”. Now based in Beijing, he makes regular trips to the country with his company, Koryo Tours, and has also put together films and other cultural projects with North Korea with his other business, Koryo Studio. Bonner has collected ephemera from North Korea for nearly 25 years and recently published a book showcasing some of it with Phaidon, Made in North Korea: Graphics from Everyday Life. Featuring everything from metro tickets to stamps, postcards to luggage labels, tinned food labels to gift-wrap, it includes a healthy proportion of photographs made and disseminated by the DPRK. BJP caught up with him to find out more.
“The work represents my experience in recovering and understanding my parents, their life and their relationship towards myself,” says Marco Marzocchi of his series Oyster. “I never knew them well because they split when I was 6 years old, and they both died young.
“Drugs, addictions, jail, and dysfunctional environment, these were constant elements. This work is focused on dealing and replacing all the doubts and the fears that I had. Exorcising the pain and the searching for love.” A bold mix of colour, black-and-white, contemporary and archive images, presented with hand-written text, Marzocchi’s series has scooped first prize in the 2017 Gomma Grant. Marzocchi has worked on the project for a decade, honing down on the editing last year with distinguished photographers JH Engstrom and Margot Wallard at the celebrated Atelier Smedsby workshop.
“It may seem like a provocation, but I am not particularly interested in architecture – at least not in that of great architects and cult buildings,” says Eric Tabuchi. “I’m interested in what humans build, whether for shelter, work, recreation or worship. Basically, what has captivated me for 20 years is the vast domain of anonymous architecture, which is the daily environment of most of the inhabitants of this planet, and which we do not look at it so much. It appears to us without any real quality.”