At first glance, the suburban district of Southall, West London seems the epitome of harmony. Home to 70,000 people, nearly half of whom were born outside the UK, it boasts Sikh Gurdwaras, Christian churches, Islamic Mosques, and Hindu temples. The dominant population is Asian, earning the area the nickname Little India and bilingual English/Punjabi signage. But for Manny Melotra, who was born in the area and still lives there, that apparent harmony is an illusion. “If you’re a resident, you know a completely different Southall,” he says.
Situated on the harbour in the Stadsgårdskajen district of Stockholm is the privately-owned and commercially-run photography centre Fotografiska. A self-styled museum housed in an impressive and beautifully-renovated former customs house, built in 1906 in the Art Nouveau style, Fotografiska opened in 2010, and has since exhibited the work of renowned photographers such as Annie Leibovitz, Joel-Peter Witkin, Anders Petersen, Sarah Moon and Christer Strömholm, to name but a few. Two of the most recent solo exhibitions were of the photojournalist Paul Hansen and the fashion and art photographer Viviane Sassen. Such is the success of Fotografiska that the museum is now set to open two new galleries, with others planned for the future. New York will be first, then London – and the plans for London would make the world’s largest photography gallery.
There is something frantic about David Brandon Geeting’s photography. In his latest collection, Amusement Park, the Greenpoint, Brooklyn-based artist creates a mood that is exhilarating and vibrant, but also verging on collapse, as though its tether could snap at any moment. Where his 2015 book, Infinite Power, was energetic and kinetic, with Amusement Park he’s aiming for “information overload”. “I’m not afraid of making people confused or dizzy,” he says. “I wanted it to be an onslaught of colours and forms and things that don’t make sense.”
Robin de Puy’s new series, Randy, started on a 2015 road trip across the US, after she spotted him by chance in Ely, Nevada, and she asked if she could take his photograph. Back in The Netherlands she found he stuck in her mind, and returned to see him at the end of 2016, in February 2017, and in May 2017, taking “hundreds” of portraits. An exhibition of this work, which includes photographs and videos, is on show at the Bonnefantenmuseum in Maastricht from 26 January-13 May; Hannibal also recently published the series as a photobook.
Since 2009, around 400 acres of land in Notre-Dame-des-Landes, a commune in the west of France, has been home to Europe’s largest rural protest camp. Led by a mix of environmental activists and locals, the ZAD (which roughly translates to ‘Zone To Defend’ in English) developed in opposition to the construction of an international airport that would wipe out the wildlife and villages of the area. Though these plans have stalled for several years now, the ZAD has taken root, growing into a self-sufficient community complete with its own markets, bakery, brewery, theatre space, newspaper and even a pirate radio station. Intrigued by people and the structures that bind them, sociologist-turned-photographer Kevin Faingnaert spent a month documenting the ZAD as part of his participation in World Press Photo’s most recent Joop Swart Masterclass.
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.
“It’s getting near show time!” the voice would boom out over the cheers of the punters. Susan Meiselas would hover at first near the back of the tent. “Don’t be shy, take your hands out of your pockets, take your money out of your wallets. Rest your elbows on the stage and look up into the whole, the whole goddamn show. Show time! Where they strip to please, not to tease!” Susan Meiselas was 24 when she started Carnival Strippers. It was the summer of 1972, and her photography experience was limited to portraits of her housemates in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She had just completed an MA from Harvard, yet she still was shy and unsure of herself – very unlike the direct intellect of today, who treats Magnum’s offices like second homes.
On 08 December 2013, the Bessarabska Lenin statue on Taras Shevchenko Boulevard in Ukraine was demolished in the midst of the Euromaidan revolution. What followed was a wave of symbolic violence that came to be known as Leninfall [or ‘Leninopad’ by Ukrainians]. Seeking to erase all traces of the Ukraine’s Soviet past, the government launched an official decommunisation process, outlawing communist monuments. Prior to these events around 5500 statues of Lenin stood in former Soviet state; today, not one remains. Fascinated by the fate of these statues, Swiss photographer Niels Ackermann and journalist Sébastien Gobert went on a quest to find them, documenting the results in the series Looking for Lenin. Published as a book last year, the series now going on show at Espace Images, Vevey.
“The term ‘Britishness’ has changed so much over the last ten years, I don’t really know what it means anymore to say ‘I’m British,’” observes Scottish photographer Niall McDiarmid, who has spent almost a decade photographing people in the street across Britain. In 2011 he started work on his latest series, Town to Town, which has just been published as a book and which will be shown at the Martin Parr Foundation in Bristol, UK from 31 January-12 May. Initially focussing on London, it soon expanded beyond the capital city and ended up covering 200 towns, tracing a journey around Britain and its diverse inhabitants.
Susan Meiselas has been a pivotal figure in photography since her career began in the 1970s, a decade when the ethical discussion surrounding the inspiration, intent and dissemination of documentary image-making was rampant. Perpetually questioning the motivation and perception of her images, the American has spent her life grappling with these issues, practising what it means to document something outside of her own personal experience. This spring (06 February to 20 May), Jeu de Paume in Paris presents Mediations, a retrospective revisiting her vast oeuvre, beginning with early portraits that include 44 Irving Street (1971) and Carnival Strippers (1972-75).