This “photographer’s photographer” is known for his measured understatement and his influential books, such as The Pond (1985) and Berlin in the Time of the Wall (2004). His latest, Looking Up Ben James – A Fable, will soon be published by Steidl, and he’s currently working on his next, The Last Days of Fontainebleau, shot in his hometown, Washington DC
Photographs of women prisoners typically depict them in their cells, behind bars, their femininity stripped away. In contrast to this, French photographer Bettina Rheims has made a series of studio-like portraits of women in four jails across France, images that seek to restore and capture the feminine aspect of their identity. Titled Détenues [Detained], the series comprises 68 frontal portraits shot against white walls in Autumn 2014, and is currently on show in the chapel of Château de Vincennes – a former royal castle near Paris, that housed ‘women of ill repute’ in the 18th and 19th centuries. The exhibition is accompanied by a book, published by Gallimard.
The first night he spent in a bothy, a primitive and remote man-made shelter, Nicholas JR White witnessed a sight he would not forget in a hurry. He and a friend had arrived at Warnscale Head in the Lake District and were talking about the project that would become Black Dots – now a book published by Another Place Press – when they looked out of the window and saw the Northern Lights stretching far into the distance. “We had the whole of the fells to ourselves and sat outside with beers, just watching,” says White. “That was the first night of the project and it was a really good start. The next day I got the first image that would make it into the series.” Little did White know then that this would be the first of many nights spent in bothies across Scotland, Wales and northern England over the following three years. He first had the idea to make a project about these former crofters’ cottages and farmers’ huts, nestled deep in the …
The medium of photography is inherently entwined with memory and nostalgia, especially when it relates to family history. For Christopher Bethell, the recollections of his American grandfather, Joseph ‘Joey’ O’Donnell, were shaped by the few photographs he saw of his relative while growing up in the seemingly unglamorous northern town of Stockport, England. Joey passed away when Bethell was a baby, and the photographer developed a fiction around him – that of a jazz musician who had left his family for a doomed second shot at his career, before falling for the temptations of Las Vegas and ending up in an early grave. Yet when he eventually sat down with his grandmother to find out what she remembered of Joey and their life together in the US, he uncovered “a story that was far more complex and much less cinematic”. In an attempt to deconstruct his own romanticised timeline of his grandfather and – as a dual citizen of the UK and the US – to discover America for himself, Bethell took a six-week road trip taking in Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Reno and Seattle in 2015, ending the journey in Clarkston, Washington, where his grandfather had settled at the end of his life. The subsequent series is affectionately titled The Duke of Earl, a reference to the song by Gene Chandler, which Joey had sung to his future wife the first time they met. Divided into four chapters, Bethell’s images are prefaced with a family photograph of Joey, each followed by its inscription on the back, penned by Joey.
Arunà Canevascini was nominated by Erik Kessels for the richness of her projects, which merge femininity, domesticity and migration. In Villa Argentina, Canevascini examines these themes through elaborately-designed images in which the domestic settings she photographs are disrupted by intrusions from both the history of art and her own family past.
As Peter Lavery’s 50-year project Circus Work goes on show, we revisit an interview with him published in BJP in 1997 – when the series was a mere 30 years in the making. “I started Circus Work at college [Lavery has an MA in Photography from the Royal College of Art]. I was visiting home in Wakefield, and I took in a a performance of the Winships Minicircus in the Queen’s Hall in Leeds. That’s where it started.”
Last time I spoke to Polish photographer Rafal Milach, he told me that protesting the alarmingly fast political changes brought about by the PiS (Law and Justice) government felt like his new hobby. And he reiterates this today, speaking of the “permanent state of demonstration”. In summer 2016, he was invited to participate within the Kolekcja Września residency programme, which each year selects a photographer to produce a body of work reflecting on town life. Milach and his Sputnik colleagues have been amassing an archive of found and newly shot photographs from the post-communist Eastern Bloc for their Lost Territories projects, so he was naturally drawn to the town’s historical material. He was also aware of a children’s protest that had taken place there at the turn of the 20th century, when western Poland was under German occupation.
Documentary images of North Korea have trickled steadily into the media landscape since the late 1990s. Since those granted access to the region are afforded little freedom to be creative, their main depictions are usually of totalitarian dictatorship, state-sanctioned ideologies, normalised militarism, and colossal architecture, all of which have become over-familiar in images of the country. This documentary déjà vu is what prompted Eddo Hartmann to pursue a multimedia project about North Korea, to act as a record for what many of us cannot see. The photographer visited Pyongyang, the country’s capital, four times between 2014 and 2017, creating thousands of large and medium format digital images of the city’s architecture and citizens. “I kept seeing images in this World Press Photo kind of style,” he explains. “I knew that if I were to go there, it would not be the way that I would take pictures, because it wouldn’t be interesting.”
A white painted stone sits atop a pile of concrete from a fallen telephone pole. A seemingly random assortment of rubble, it has in fact been gathered to fasten a manhole cover in place. During a period of particular hardship in Ukraine in the 1990s, manhole covers were often stolen and sold for scrap metal, leaving dangerous open holes in the road. This makeshift device, erected over time out of miscellaneous materials, is one of the objects in Viacheslav Poliakov’s Lviv – God’s Will, a taxonomy of the “unexplored field of accidents” that make up his surrounding urban environment.
It’s a spectacularly beautiful early morning in December and the traffic is rolling past indifferently on one of North London’s less than silent streets. I’m standing in front of a large red door, having come to visit David King and his world-famous collection documenting the extraordinary visual history of the Soviet Union. King has been assembling the collection for almost five decades and now it is in the process of being transferred to the archives of Tate Modern. The collection has always run in parallel to his work as a graphic designer, photographer and author – work, it is fair to say, that shows influence from the Bolshevik-era material he has discovered on his many visits to the former USSR, and which he has often drawn from in his books, posters, photographs and graphic work.