Sleeping by the Mississippi has been ranked with the great representations of the United States, including Walker Evans’ pictures of the depression, Robert Frank’s harsh vision of the 1950s and, more recently, the colour work of Joel Sternfeld. As Alec Soth’s seminal work goes on show in London and is given a handsome reprint by MACK, we revisit an interview with him from back in 2004 – when the series first came out.
“Kid was a bit of a boorish figure – a troubled man with limited capacities. He could also show his bad temper sometimes, so I can understand why many people found his bellowing voice and coarse speech intimidating. Over the years, I saw the police delivering him home several times after short detentions for various minor misdemeanours he apparently committed. Kid was also addicted to hard drugs, but I only understood all this at a later stage. He was a different person when he allowed me into his apartment, where I got to see another side of his character.”
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.
When an earthquake and tsunami struck the northeast coast of Japan on 11 March 2011, thousands lost their lives and many more were left homeless. Worse still, the quake triggered a devastating accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, forcing 80,000 more people to flee their homes. People have slowly returned but, despite huge efforts to make it safe, radiation persists. Many former residents have decided to stay away, and those who came back are still adjusting to life in the shadow of a still very present past. Photographers Guillaume Bression and Carlos Ayesta spent six months covering the immediate aftermath of the disaster for the French media, and decided to work on a much longer project together.
Venezia graduated from university in 2016; starting life as his end-of-year project, Nekyia demonstrates the research-based direction he moved into, drawing on classical literature to explore the complex economic and political situation of modern Greece. It focuses on the river Acheron, which flows through Epirus in northwestern Greece, and is featured in classical epics such as The Odyssey, Aeneid and The Divine Comedy as the boundary between this world and the underworld. Its name literally translates as the ‘river of woe’.
Congenital achromatopsia is a hereditary condition in which the eye cannot detect colour – the cones in the retina do not function, leaving the vision to the rods alone, which only detect shades of grey. In most places the disease is rare, occuring in less than one in 30,000 people. But on the Micronesian island of Pingelap it’s much more common, present in more than 5% of the population. It’s an extraordinary phenomenon – and one that immediately gripped Belgian photographer Sanne De Wilde when she heard about it back in 2015
Born in Washington DC in 1981, Peter van Agtmael studied history at Yale before moving into documentary photography. Largely focusing on America, his work considers issues such as power, race and class; he also works on the Israel/Palestine conflict and throughout the Middle East. He has won the W.Eugene Smith Grant, the ICP Infinity Award for Young Photographers and many more, and joined Magnum Photos in 2008. His book Disco Night Sept 11, a study of the USA post-9/11, was published in 2014 and named a Book of the Year by titles such as The New York Times Magazine and Time Magazine. His latest photobook Buzzing at the Sill is the sequel.
Merrie Albion: Landscape Studies of a Small Island is a concise compendium of Britain over the past few years and is an excellent visual survey of the run-up to Brexit. The photographs examine rich and complex variations of Britain that are now even more poignant after last year’s vote. Images of election campaigning in clean and tidy suburbia, protests, the aftermath of riots in London, diamond jubilee celebrations, rock concerts, a family enjoying Brighton beach, computer screens of the trading floor of Lloyds – the list goes on. Roberts has managed to capture all the major events in juxtaposition with minor situations that are large with meaning, from the dead of the Iraq war being saluted by Army veterans through Wootton Bassett to an depiction of impoverished mothers and children at a youth club in Blackburn. Contained within each photograph are mini dramas, cheap-looking high streets with pound shops set against Victorian architecture. Roberts shows a Britain at odds with itself. Rather than a harmonious society, we sense fragmentation and awkwardness and a yearning for a glorious past that never existed.
Malick Sidibé was lauded “the eye of Bamako” for his work in the Mali capital in the heady years after independence from France in 1960. Often shooting in dance halls and soirées as well as in his studio in the Bagadagjii district, Sidibé captured the vitality and verve of the time, photographing the country’s young people and their clothes, dance moves, and musical tastes. By the 1990s Sidibé’s work had gained attention outside Africa and in 1995, the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain was the first to give him a solo show outside the continent. Now, a year after his death, the institution is staging the largest ever exhibition of his work, including over 300 images taken from the early 1960s to 80s. Mali Twist includes iconic works such as Un Yé-yé en position and Nuit de Noël (Happy-club), both shot in 1963, but also previously unseen vintage photographs and portraits – including 30 previously unshown studio portraits selected from thousands of negatives in Sidibé’s archives.
“You’ve probably never heard of Feng Li’s photography,” wrote Leo de Boisgisson in American Suburb X in March; that was true at the time, but it’s changed rapidly since September, when the Chinese artist was nominated for the prestigious Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation First Photobook award. He made the shortlist for his first publication, White Night, which was published by Jiazazhi Press in July and contains 160 images shot from 2005-2015. The title is inspired by the Bible, specifically the Book of Job and a phrase which reads “They meet with darkness in the daytime, and grope in the noonday as in the night”.