Chloe Dewe Mathews won the series category of BJP’s International Photography Award this year with her lyrical images from Caspian. But unlike many of the other entrants, she’s never studied photography. Instead she graduated in fine art at The Ruskin School of Art, Oxford University, then worked in the film industry for a few years before teaching herself how to use a camera.
“For me, photography became a solution because I could be independent, spontaneous and more creatively engaged,” she says. “In feature films, you always work within a structure and you have to plan every shoot carefully; I liked the freedom you have with a stills camera. Fine art gives you more independence, of course, but it can also become too self-referential, so I was attracted to documentary photography because it felt more outward looking. I was keen to explore what was going on around me, as well as stepping out into the wider world.”
It’s said that inspiration can be found anywhere, and revelations from otherwise unremarkable moments. It’s this subtlety that London-based photographer Rick Pushinsky has explored in his new work, Powerful Mantras, a set of 10 image-text postcards.
Pushinsky got into the habit of sharing images of the everyday via Instagram stories, which he uses to upload shots he’s taken with his iPhone. “I take pictures of things I find interesting or amusing, and I share them,” he says. “After some time, I started pairing those pictures with slices of text.”
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
When Polish photographer Wiktoria Wojciechowska first heard about the ongoing Ukrainian conflict she was in China, shooting a project titled Short Flashes, which went on to win the 2015 Leica Oskar Barnack Newcomer Award. “I was cracking the internet but everything was so blocked I couldn’t get any information,” she says. “I was asking all my friends, then I realised not many people knew about it, even though it’s so close [as Ukraine borders Poland]. I was really inspired to go by fear, by wondering how I would react if the same thing happened in my country.”
Paul Kooiker’s latest photobook, Nude Animal Cigar, is a peculiar hybrid made up of variations on the three themes revealed in the title. It’s as if the weirdest and most beautiful nudes, mournful animals and mysterious still lifes of cigar butts have been picked out from photography’s 176- year history. But although the images look old- fashioned, they have all been made within the past five years by this contemporary Dutch artist. Applying sepia filters to all the images, he lends the series a vintage and melancholy feel, and by virtue of the treatment knits this motley trio of monochrome motifs together.
“My work is successful if it is about looking, and about photography,” says Kooiker in his studio, located in a quiet street on the southern periphery of downtown Amsterdam. “Ultimately, my work is about looking, and looking is the ultimate act of voyeurism. It makes the work accessible, as everybody is able to recognise himself in this act. It also leaves the viewer confused. What I want to achieve is to make the public feel accessory to the images they witness.”
It is difficult to unravel, in many of the stories that Max Pinckers tells, where fiction became unstuck from fact. Or how the characters in his photographs can look back out at the world so boldly, shake their heads at reality as most people see it, and tell stories that fly in its face. But for the Brussels-based photographer, the six curious individuals in his latest book, Margins of Excess – including a boy who compulsively hijacks trains, and a private detective with prosthetic hands – lead the way to understanding documentary photography’s role in the ‘post-truth’ era.
One such character, an American amateur inventor with a mane of silken hair, sat at the kitchen table of his home in Dunnellon, Florida and told Pinckers that he believed he had become the media’s new Osama bin Laden. “My name is Richard Heene. A few years ago I got into a bit of trouble,” said the forty-something showman, detailing the events that led him to end up behind bars.
“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.
Four years ago, British Journal of Photography dedicated an issue to photography education, in response to the direction that things were going in the UK; university fees were rocketing, resources were being cut, and teaching was being refocused on lectures and distance learning. Every year since, the education issue has presented an alternative to this limited approach, focusing on teachers who mentor and encourage experimentation. Something they all have in common, besides their reputation for guiding and inspiring students, is a clearly understood philosophy, which informs their unique learning environment and leads to specific goals, modules and exercises that are carefully honed over years. In this issue, Aaron Schuman talks to acclaimed photographer, book-maker and educator Jason Fulford about his approach to teaching workshops, and their relationship to his own photographic practice. A guiding light in education, Fulford explains the overarching progression of these workshops, and his improvisation technique within this structure. Daniel Boetker-Smith profiles Yumi Goto’s “fortress” in Tokyo, finding out the secret to the success of her highly coveted workshops at the Reminders …
Every year, Cortona On The Move has a focus, and this time it reflects the festival’s mission more directly than before by placing the spotlight on female photographers. “My selection is never a list of ‘favourites’, but rather involves an attempt to listen to what is happening around me, globally, both on a political, social and economic level, as well as in the field of photography itself,” says Rinaldo.
“These past months, women and women’s issues have been at the forefront of discussion in various fields, often in the news and even more on the street – protesting, resisting, demanding. My small contribution to this ‘movement’ is to acknowledge the numerous women photographers who tread the world to tell stories; to give them space and make them protagonists.”
Every so often there is an opus that challenges received wisdom not just on a single subject, but on a range of them. An Autobiography of Miss Wish, the collaboration between Noor photographer Nina Berman and Kimberly Stevens, the protagonist, published by Kehrer, is one of them. The book reads many ways: as a memoir, a commentary on justice systems and social services, an indictment of our disregard for the less fortunate and a reflection on documentary photography.
The hefty volume is, first and foremost, the story of a black woman who once went by the name of Cathy Wish, who Berman met on the streets of London’s West End in 1990 while studying the legacy of Margaret Thatcher’s neoliberal policies. “I noticed her banging on a door, headphones in her ears and cigarette in hand,” the US photojournalist says.