Think about conspiracy theories and the initial topics that come to mind often occupy a realm that’s beyond an everyday belief system – stories such as the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot or similar tales that are better contextualised as ‘urban legends’. While those stories might not have much truth to offer, there are many other theories within the category that, although fantastical, contain far more fact than fiction. These include the secretive workings of those in power which lead to a mutual feeling of suspicion between the authorities, government and citizens.
What is arguably more interesting than the concepts themselves, however, is the way that some individuals compile their own investigative research on suspicious topics, creating accessible and expressive visuals soaked in data, philosophy, and their take on the truth. From 18 September to 06 January, The Met Breuer in New York will exhibit the expansive show Everything Is Connected: Art and Conspiracy, featuring 70 works by 30 artists who represent an alternative to postwar and contemporary art from 1969 to 2016. The media presented in the exhibition includes painting, sculpture, video, installation art and, of course, photography.
It’s six years since the inaugural edition of Unseen Amsterdam arrived with the mission to shake up the art fair model, focusing on emerging photographers and collectors, and instilling a welcome dose of fun to proceedings. And despite its beginnings during difficult times for arts funding, the ‘fair with a festival flair’ has largely succeeded, developing into something more ambitious than a glorified trade show, with its own public programme and a city-wide celebration of the medium in one of the world’s great photography capitals.
The emphasis remains on championing new talent, and with this in mind, the latest addition to Unseen is Futures, a cross-European photography platform bringing together 10 cultural institutions from around the continent, each with their own talent programmes.
“I never thought of myself as doing anything other than telling stories,” said Erich Lessing. “The camera became the medium through which I did that, but I don’t carry a camera everywhere I go. To me, it is simply the means to a very specific end. I observe the world through my eyes and not through the viewfinder of a camera. I don’t interpret, nor do I adjust anything in the dark room. I am a realistic photographer.”
They’re modest words from a man who created iconic images of the 20th century, and who was a member of Magnum Photos for well over half a century. His photographs of the Hungarian revolution in 1956 were seen around the world, as was his shot of the presentation of the Austrian State Treaty on the balcony of the Belvedere palace in front of a cheering crowd in 1955.
“In the EU today, we take women’s rights for granted,” says Marina Paulenka, director of Organ Vida, a three-week international photography event held annually in Zagreb. Founded in 2008, the festival has always been driven by political context, and this year, for its 10th edition, its all-female team have chosen to emphasise female-identifying perspectives from around the globe.
“In a time of post-capitalist global turmoil, technological advancements, with the strengthening of rightwing extremism, the growing influence of religion that limits women’s rights again, and the semblance of democracy in the 21st century, we are facing a situation in which women must fight anew for the rights that had been won long ago,” Paulenka insists.
Foam founder Marloes Krijnen, curator Yumi Goto, and photographers Rob Hornstra, Mark Power and Mariela Sancari highlight the photobook that have impressed them most so far in 2018 – including Senta Simond’s Rayon Vert, Christian van der Kooy’s Anastasiia, and John Myers’ The Portraits
“I come across so many amazing women in photography, and yet their voice is nowhere near as powerful as their male counterparts,” says Del Barrett, vice-president of The Royal Photographic Society. “We are working to ensure that there are no barriers in photography. Hundred Heroines is a major step towards this, raising public awareness of the excellent work being created by women globally.”
Inspired by the 100-year anniversary of women’s suffrage in the UK, Hundred Heroines invites members of the public to nominate inspirational female photographers. Nominations are open until 30 September, then a panel of judges, chaired by photographer Rut Blees Luxemburg, will pick out the top 100 photographers. An exhibition of their work will go on show next year, and each one will receive a specially-minted medal named after Margaret Harker – the first female professor of photography in the UK, and the first female president of The Royal Photographic Society.
“The new interest in street photography over the last decade and a half is perhaps the single biggest global movement photography has seen in its 170-year history,” says Nick Turpin, creative director of Street London, the third annual edition of the festival dedicated to street photography, taking place at D&AD’s new east London space from 17 to 19 August.
The three-day event, hosted by Hoxton Mini Press, includes guest speakers, shoots, panel talks and, of course, a street party on the Saturday night. There is also an opportunity for photographers to pitch for a 10-minute slot on stage, the Spotlight sessions, where 12 successful applicants will present their projects to an audience for constructive feedback. The theme for discussion this year revolves around how street photography is being redefined by photographers who have emerged from other backgrounds, including photojournalism, art photography and portraiture and how this has influenced them today. There is also a conscious view to look to contemporary expressions of genre.
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
Marina Gadonneix has won the 2018 LUMA Rencontres Dummy Book Award and a €25,000 award to publish her project, Phénomènes. Shot in various laboratories, Phénomènes considers the paradox at the heart of these places – microcosms of larger environments, but microcosms in which nature is strictly measured and controlled.
Born in Paris in 1977 and graduating from the l’École nationale supérieure de la photographie d’Arles in 2002, Gadonneix specialises in creating photographing highly specialised and controlled zones, creating works which “play with the clash of document, simulation and fiction”. Gadonneix won the Prix HSBC pour la photographie in 2006 for a project called Remote Control, a series of empty TV sets.
“When I was younger I was jealous of photographers who had their own very personal subject matter and aesthetic. It’s so important to allow yourself the freedom to be truly creative,” says Dutch artist Viviane Sassen. “Experimentation is central to my practice.”
Sassen’s daring and idiosyncratic approach hangs somewhere between fashion and fine art. At the core of her practice is an understanding of the importance of constant experimentation, thus making her images complex, unexpected and disarming. Her works are often an exchange or interaction between different elements, contributing to the tactility and physical quality of images. Colour, shape, powder and paint are just some of the tools she uses as enhancers.