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.
“Her project talks about the identity that the state wants women to project in public,” says Vivienne Gamble, director of Seen Fifteen and now curator of the show Catharsis for Belfast Exposed. “She comes from a family where they didn’t have those rules behind closed doors at home. She was conflicted about having this public-facing image, and this different, much more relaxed and liberal, private existence.” She’s talking about Shenasmenah, a project by Iranian-born photographer, filmmaker and curator Amak Mahmoodian included in the three-person Catharsis show.
With so much to see condensed into one city over the course of five days during Paris Photo (09-12 November), you’d be tempted to skip round the 149 galleries lining the elegant, glass-topped halls of the Grand Palais in a couple of hours, or even miss the main event altogether, as many do. That would be a mistake. You won’t get a better snapshot of what constitutes saleable photography in 2017, from the blue-chip North American dealers such as Gagosian, Pace MacGill and Howard Greenberg, to the work of younger artists championed by the likes of Project 2.0, Trapéz and Taik Persons. And eavesdropping on the sales patter can be a real an eye-opener.
Preconceptions and stereotypes about Northern England are so entrenched that it can be hard to know how they got there, but curators Lou Stoppard and Adam Murray hope to change that this winter with a show examining how photography, fashion and art have developed in the region over the last century. And in doing so, they hope to demonstrate – and celebrate – North England’s immense influence on global culture and style. Running from 08 November-04 February at Somerset House, North: Fashioning Identity continues a show that Stoppard, SHOWstudio’s editor-at-large, and Murray, academic and lecturer at Manchester School of Art and Central Saint Martins, exhibited at earlier this year. Featuring over 100 works, the exhibition includes fashion photographers such as Alasdair McLellan, Corrine Day, David Sims, and Glen Luchford, but also documentary photography dating from the 1930s to the present day.
“Everyone talks about 1968 as the year of revolution, but America was burning in 1967,” says Mark Sealy. “There were many riots and disturbances that year, but Parks was looking at intimacy, not running across the country shooting riots. He was telling history through these very personal stories.” He’s talking about Gordon Parks, the feted documentary photographer and film-maker (best known for directing Shaft). In particular Sealy is talking about Parks’ work with the Fontenelles, a family living in poverty in Harlem in 1967 that Parks photographed for a 16-page story published in Life in March ’68.
“When I first arrived, my military escort said, ‘Gitmo: the best posting a soldier can have. There’s so much fun here!’,” recalls US photographer Debi Cornwall. “So I said, ‘Show me the fun!’” She had just touched down at Guantánamo Bay naval base, home to the infamous detention centre established in 2002 by US president George W Bush for the interrogation of suspected terrorists, enemy combatants and “extremely dangerous individuals” – “the worst of the worst, they call them” – following the 9/11 attacks. Since then, it has forged a reputation as hell on earth, where men are held for years without charge or legal process, and are often tortured. With 12 years’ experience of working as a wrongful-conviction lawyer, Cornwall began to enquire.
100 works by legendary fashion and portrait photographer Louise Dahl-Wolfe are going on show at The Fashion and Textile Museum from 20 October-21 January 2018. A Style Of Her Own features over 100 photographs shot from 1931-59, celebrating work that helped define the image of the modern, independent woman, and inspired photographers such as Richard Avedon and Irving Penn. Born in San Francisco in 1895 to Norwegian parents, Dahl-Wolfe studied art history and design at the San Francisco Art Institute, taking up photography in 1921 and going professional in 1930 after meeting Edward Weston and Dorothea Lange. A leading contributor to Harper’s Bazaar between 1936 and 1958 (where she worked extensively with influential editor Carmel Snow, fashion director Diana Vreeland, and designer Alexey Brodovitch), Dahl-Wolfe is credited with having invented the idea of the ‘supermodel’, and creating distinctive styles for models such as Suzy Parker, Jean Patchett, Barbara Mullen, Mary Jane Russell and Evelyn Tripp. She is said to have kickstarted actress Lauren Bacall’s Hollywood career, after shooting her for a Bazaar cover in 1943.
Palomäki specialises in taking photographs of children and young people, and says her work deals with growth, memory, the problematic ways we see ourselves, and – crucially – our mortality. “We fight against our mortality, denying it, yet photographs are there to prove our inescapable destiny,” she has written. “The idea of getting older is heart-rending.” Palomäki is currently showing new images, depicting siblings, titled Shared. BJP caught up with her to find out more about this project and her work in general.
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.
“It’s got nothing to do with Brexit or Europe!” says curator Greg Hobson. “I think we can’t begin to understand that yet. It’s just being addressed by photographers now. We’re discussing the exhibition A Green and Pleasant Land – British Landscape and the Imagination: 1970s to Now, which he’s curated with Brian Cass, head of exhibitions at Towner Art Gallery, and which recently opened at the Towner. Including over 100 works by 50 artists (52 if you count the people in duos separately), it’s a major survey of the land we live on and how photographers have shown it, including image-makers such as John Blakemore, Thomas Joshua Cooper, Fay Godwin, John Davies, Paul Graham, and Theo Simpson.