Author: Donatella Montrone

Hometown America: Chris Gravett’s undiscovered Arkansas

“I Googled myself, as you do, and accidently added an ‘e’ to the end of my name,” says 64-year-old recent graduate Chris Gravett. “The city of Gravette in northwest Arkansas came up. Wikipedia says it has a population of 2300 – 90% white, with 23 churches, in an area of four square miles. I thought it was such a bizarre demographic I wanted to know more.” And so began the making of Gravette The Heart of Hometown America, which is currently on exhibit at the Free Range Graduate Art and Design Show at The Old Truman Brewery in east London – a summer season of shows celebrating up-and-coming graduate talent in the fields of art, design, fashion, photography and architecture. Chris researched further and discovered that the city of Gravette was founded by a man named Ellis Tillman Gravett – without the ‘e’ – in 1893. A further ancestral search uncovered that Ellis Tillman was British, a settler originally from Steyling in Sussex, and that their ancestral lines cross in the early 16th century. Inspired …

2015-06-25T16:27:33+00:00

Gili Yaari photographs the Purim celebration in Ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem

When Gili Yaari was a child having a kickabout with friends, and his father walked past after a long day’s work and patted the top of his head with those giant hands, coarse from the hours spent mending leather goods in a workshop, the sadness that engulfed him wasn’t always apparent because, as a young boy, what Yaari saw was his Dad’s sweet face, his tender gaze. The fact that his father was a Holocaust survivor wasn’t immediately apparent because he was, after all, a survivor – a provider, a worker, a lover, a Dad. “I grew up in what seemed like a ‘normal’ house. My parents emigrated to Israel from Hungary, and they integrated into society, worked for their living and managed to raise a family. It was only when I grew up that I understood I was actually raised in a house where there was no happiness, where joy was illegitimate, where fear and survival were a driving force,” says the Israeli photojournalist of his upbringing in Beit-Shmesh, a suburb of Jerusalem. That …

2015-05-22T15:24:32+00:00

Anastasiya Lazurenko: Pearly Gates

Perched on the end of a bench in her gymnastics class in Lugansk, enjoying a moment’s reprieve from her daily, four-hour-long lessons, a five-year-old Anastasiya Lazurenko, in leotard and tights, eyes locked on the succession of “beautiful young girls from that small Ukrainian town” doing perfect aerial flips, wondered “why people go to all the trouble of living when in the end all they’re going to do is die”. “I remember feeling very alone at the time,” says the 28-year-old photographer. Existentialist thoughts have always consumed Lazurenko: “Had I not had a strong education, my brain would have blown out my head and I wouldn’t be here today. I also wrote poetry from an early age – that saved me too.” Lazurenko sees beauty in everything and says that ‘thinking’ is what she does best. A shaman once urged her to spread beauty to the world – suggesting she should do it with words, for they are entry points to the emptiness. But Lazurenko’s entry point to the emptiness comes by way of a viewfinder. …

2015-06-02T15:40:42+00:00

Katrina d’Autremont – If God Wants

“We’d all be in hell if that’s what God wanted.” Katrina d’Autremont’s grandfather used to say that often; he believed life was entirely determined according to God’s will. “I like the notion that we love our family because that’s what God wants,” says the photographer. Born in Denver in 1980, d’Autremont grew up in Montana and then Arizona; she’d spend extended holidays in Buenos Aires visiting her mother’s family, who live in a beautiful, airy old apartment. “I went to Argentina every two years for at least a month when I was growing up because my mom wanted us to know her family. When I think back on it, it was really magical.” As a child, photography was merely an amusement. She’d aim her basic point-and-shoot at random objects without giving thought to composition. Then at 14, while in high school, she used an SLR for the first time and began learning how to process film in a darkroom. “When I was an undergrad at college, I took a few photography classes, but it wasn’t until …

2015-05-05T13:25:07+00:00

Lorenzo Moscia’s Haiti

“It was inconceivable to my father that he would end up with a son who wanted to pursue a career in the arts,” says photographer Lorenzo Moscia. Like many of his father’s generation in Italy, having lost nearly everything to the Second World War, the aftermath thrust him into manhood, and having to provide financial support to his struggling, large family of siblings. By the time his father had become a grown man himself, married, with a child of his own, he had worked tirelessly for many decades. So it’s not surprising that Lorenzo, his only child, would be raised to prize hard graft. Lorenzo’s upbringing in Rome was fairly typical, albeit lonesome – a constant quest for friendships. His parents relocated within Rome when he was 11, and he suddenly found himself starting a new school across town – the local Catholic school – surrounded by nothing but male priests. “It was the longest period of boredom I have ever experienced,” he says. This was alleviated somewhat by his parents’ purchase of a VHS camcorder in …

2016-02-24T13:27:59+00:00

Elene Usdin – the ‘mockification’ of objectification

“I was terrified of my dolls when I was little. I used to think they came alive at night, that they’d open their eyes and come at me. I used to have nightmares,” says French photographer Elene Usdin of the time she and her family lived in Quebec. “I was four and we were living in a house in Canada; my father is a doctor, and whenever he worked late and my mother found herself alone in this big house with the three of us, she’d start to worry about prowlers and vampires and other fantasy creatures that just aren’t real. “That’s probably why I had so many nightmares about my toys – I think I felt all her fears. But it’s also how I learned to create my stories.” Featuring her naked self in her carefully staged shots, Usdin takes the notion of “woman as object” and transforms it into a farcical representation. Many of her self-portraits can perhaps best be described as the ‘mockification of objectification’, a piss-take of the tiresome consumerisation of …

2015-05-06T14:41:20+00:00

From the series New Marshfield, Ohio © CK Vijayakumar

CK Vijayakumar – New Marshfield, Ohio

“I don’t consider myself a storyteller,” says the Tamil-Indian photographer CK Vijayakumar. “I photograph primarily because it helps me deal with reality; it helps me to understand how life can be perceived through a camera.” Unlike many photojournalists, Vijayakumar never experienced that moment – a calling – when he suddenly felt moved to document the lives of others. He is not, in the tradition of many photographers, driven to affect a change; rather, photography is a means with which to process a reality, to deconstruct it. And it’s very personal to him. A software engineer from Chennai in India, Vijayakumar was seconded to a software developer in Houston some six years ago, and in that time moved from his job in the most populous city in Texas to a job in the most populous city in California. “I bought a car about a month after I arrived in the US and started driving around by myself, looking out the window and watching the country roll by,” he says. “I think the US does that to you …

2015-04-17T13:29:06+00:00

Bara Prasilova – Evolve

“Sometimes I forget to breathe when I’m working on a shoot,” says Bara Prasilova, who doesn’t consider herself a fashion photographer, though much of her livelihood comes from commercial and fashion shoots. “There’s often total quiet on the set when I’m shooting an editorial for a magazine.” She plans each shot with near military precision: carefully storyboarded or sketched beforehand, Prasilova even makes some of the props herself. “The shots are often prepared for several hours,” she says. “Clothes, hair and make-up are arranged within one millimeter accuracy, and I discuss every detail with my stylists.” Prasilova almost never improvises, she says, and because she isn’t “saying anything urgent” in her shoots, the results tend to be static and calm. “I don’t often work with emotions; what I value is perfect lighting, focus and technical perfection.” Yet Evolve, the series that won Prasilova the Hasselblad Masters 2014 in the fashion and beauty category, is fraught with emotion, albeit in the highly stylised, meticulous manner in which Prasilova approaches her work. The series examines the delicate, often fragile threads …

2015-04-17T13:55:07+00:00

Phil Le Gal – Days of Mercy

“From the moment I looked into my dad’s camera I remember thinking the world looked better in that frame,” says 37-year-old Phil Le Gal of his love for photography. As a teenager growing up in Brittany, he always carried a camera, “practising photography casually”. Then, 11 years ago, he moved to London and enrolled in several short courses at Central Saint Martins before starting a foundation degree focused on professional photography. “I was very interested, but I just couldn’t find my way. I couldn’t see myself doing fashion or food photography.” And that’s when he discovered documentary – “it was my answer to engaging with the world around me” – which led to him documenting aspects of life in Nigeria, China and former Soviet countries. But after working in such remote places, “I became aware of the unintentional, unwanted, almost ‘colonial’ aspect of my work. Going abroad thinking you’ll take more meaningful photographs is a mistake that’s easily made; I knew I wanted to work on a subject about my home, but I had left Brittany …

2014-12-03T14:46:23+00:00

BJP Staff