Starting out in his father’s carpentry workshop, Ken Grant first pursued his interest in photography through a two-year technical course, studying with unemployed shipyard labourers in the mid-1980s. He’s now a respected documentary photographer who also teaches at the Belfast School of Art; as his work on New Brighton goes on show alongside his early mentors Tom Wood and Martin Parr, and BJP caught up with him on his approach to pedagogy
Modern working life is so frenetic, we often don’t get the chance to dwell on how it’s evolving, how secure it is, or how we’d cope if our jobs came under threat. Who are the people, or groups of people, fighting this seemingly inevitable trend? The people who see something noble and worthy of protection in work?
Noel Bowler provides a possible answer in his series Union, which is on show at Impressions Gallery from 04 July – 22 September. Taking us inside the meeting rooms and head offices of industrial unions, it introduces us to the people who try to safeguard labour rights.
It’s disconcerting to think how years of work and effort, of countless hours spent practising and honing a skill, can be wrenched away from any of us in just a few minutes of misfortune. It’s also, for any of us used to good health, troubling to consider how reliant we are on the basic functionality of our bodies. A photographer, for example, needs to be able to hold a camera, to have the strength to frame a shot and time the click of the shutter in the heat of the moment. Shorn of that basic ability, what are we left with? Early one morning in May 2015, Sim had to face that exact question.
She was on assignment for a French newspaper, travelling to the Tumen Economic Development Zone, a government-owned complex of Chinese factories on the edge of the border with North Korea. Tumen employed North Korean labourers who, with state sanctioning, would be sent to live and work in the economic zone. The brief was to capture how North Korea and China trade. This place seemed like the perfect microcosm for that complex relationship – the makings of great pictures.
Entering Tumen with her driver and colleagues from Le Monde, she failed to spot a sign that read: “No smoking, photography, or practising driving”. As they approached the factories, the car passed a small group of women in black jumpsuits, knelt by the roadside picking weeds from the ground. Sitting in the driver’s seat with the window wound down, Sim instinctively raised her camera and fired off a couple of shots. “Almost immediately, the women turned around, ran towards the cab, and reached into the car,” she wrote in an article for ChinaFile, recounting events.
“Disgusting”. “Perverted.” “The British Judiciary should hold him accountable for what he’s doing.” These are just a handful of reactions to Dougie Wallace’s new body of work: Harrodsburg. Lauded for his documentation of the puke-tinged hedonism of Blackpool in Stags, Hens & Bunnies, the “total fucking chaos” of Shoreditch Wild Life and the Mumbai cab driver portraits Road Wallah, Harrodsburg finds Wallace on the hunt for richer prey. Wallace prowled the pavements of London’s richest post-codes, flash and camera primed, waiting for a suitable subject. When he spotted one, he approached, snapped a quick close-up and was gone, before they’d had time to process what had happened. Neatly, the roots of Harrodsburg come from BJP, after its December 2014’s Cool and Noteworthy issue mentioned (incorrectly) that you might spot Dougie working outside Harrods. This germ of an idea dovetailed neatly with an existing project that contrasts the people of Knightsbridge, London, and Calton, Glasgow. A resident of leafy Kensington can expect to live to their 80s, explains Wallace, whereas in the Calton area of Glasgow, near to where Wallace …
“It’s getting near show time!” the voice would boom out over the cheers of the punters. Susan Meiselas would hover at first near the back of the tent. “Don’t be shy, take your hands out of your pockets, take your money out of your wallets. Rest your elbows on the stage and look up into the whole, the whole goddamn show. Show time! Where they strip to please, not to tease!” Susan Meiselas was 24 when she started Carnival Strippers. It was the summer of 1972, and her photography experience was limited to portraits of her housemates in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She had just completed an MA from Harvard, yet she still was shy and unsure of herself – very unlike the direct intellect of today, who treats Magnum’s offices like second homes.
For more than 40 years, Peter Mitchell has been quietly making photographs of his surrounding environment in the north of England. He’s done so with the minimum of fuss, without any fanfare or desire for the public eye. Now he’s finally been awarded his first major survey show, A New Refutation of the Viking 4 Space Mission, opening a week before the closing of his exhibition at Rencontres d’Arles. A recluse he may be, but Mitchell is also extremely influential. “It’s a mystery to me,” he says with a shrug, when I ask him how he’s achieved such a feat. “But there you go.”
Tormented by a traumatic past and challenged by a difficult present, Sicily is still haunted by the destructive presence of Cosa Nostra. In Terra Nostra, Mimi Mollica shows this problematic entanglement, focusing on the legacy of the Mafia in Sicily. Born and raised in Palermo, Mollica says the series was a labour of love on his homeland, and he tells BJP how he created it, and how he got into photography in the first place.
One of the dominant influences in contemporary European photography is wheeled into the restaurant at the NRW Forum, a grand art gallery a stone’s throw from the Rhine. It’s the height of the Düsseldorf Photo Weekend, and people of all ages are passing through the galleries on either side of us. Many of them won’t realise it, but most of the photography here is deeply indebted to this slight and unassuming woman, born in East Germany before the war, and now happily talking over pasta and wine in the café. She has now been without Bernd, her husband, for more than seven years, after he died from complications during heart surgery. That straight bob of blonde hair is greying. She is now 81, and sits slightly stooped in her wheelchair. You have to strain to hear what she says, yet she recounts her life with a remarkable wit and poise. Some people start to switch off at this age; Hilla Becher, it seems, could not be more connected to her surroundings. She met her husband in …
“I admit didn’t really get the fuss about Hawkesworth when he first started to make ripples in 2010 with his portraits shot in Preston Bus Station (a centrepiece of Brutalist architecture set for demolition ahead of a successful campaign to have it saved and listed), and his signing to Julie Brown’s M.A.P agency, but I have been won over by the ongoing developments in his work,” wrote Jason Evans for BJP in 2015; two years later and the institutions are also catching on, as Hawkesworth’s forthcoming solo show at the Huis Marseille in Amsterdam shows
Rose Marie Cromwell went beyond the cliches to build an expressionistic homage to the Cuba she knows and loves. “I wanted to make images that investigated my complicated relationship to this specific place, rather than trying to document something ‘about’ Cuba,” she says.