“I don’t have a journalistic bone in my body,” says Chris Dorley-Brown. “I’ve never been to Kosovo. Loads of people do that really well, but I don’t have the urge or the instinct, and that’s partly why I don’t really think of myself as a professional. I do the odd advertising job to earn money, and I think I do it okay, but the phone isn’t ringing off the hook with jobs because I don’t put the energy into promoting myself, since I’m wandering around here all the time. I keep my overheads low and can just about get away with it.” It’s a modest way to sum up an extraordinary body of work – more than 30 years of images, nearly all shot in London’s East End, and most photographed on the street. Some show luxury new developments, others rundown social housing. Some capture crowds of people, some empty streets. Many are one-offs, others – such as the images in The Corners – are manipulated using Photoshop to put various passersby together on one intersection
70 years ago, on 22 June 1948, HMT Empire Windrush anchored at Tilbury Docks, Essex, carrying 492 men, women, and children from former British Caribbean colonies, who came to be known as the “Windrush generation”. They crossed the Atlantic in response to Britain’s post-war labour shortages, and are now recognised to have transformed vital parts aspects of British society. Amid the recent scandals surrounding the mistreatment of the Windrushers by the Home Office, Jim Grover’s Windrush: Portrait of a Generation seeks to give a more intimate insight into the lives of one community of Caribbean migrants – and their families – who made a corner of South London their home. On show at gallery@oxo until 10 June, the exhibition doesn’t specifically address current issues, but Grover hopes it will help celebrate a group which “truly deserves our respect and admiration”.
“I am just obsessed by the beauty of botanical drawings,” says Kenji Toma, describing his new book, The Most Beautiful Flowers. It’s a homage to Pierre-Joseph Redouté’s celebrated book of watercolours, Choix des plus belles fleurs [The most beautiful flowers], which was first published in France back in 1827 – long before colour photography was available. “His images were illustrated with the purpose of replicating the botanic subject as close to reality as possible,” says Toma. “I’m more interested in doing the exact opposite with photography.” His series shows hyperreal, unrealistically perfect images of flowers, each shot with the same lens, angle, and lighting, and delicately arranged with pins and armature wire. Going one step further than nature, they put a contemporary spin on the concept of the botanical encyclopaedia.
Eight years since he first set foot in California, photographer Ryan Shorosky is still discovering the state
“Contrast, characters, dark humour, forms, shapes, awkward gestures and actions interest me,” says Noma Osula. In his portraits, the Nigerian photographer punctures the staid conventions of portraiture with playful gestures. A man, hands folded formally on his lap, blows a chewing-gum bubble; a woman, resplendent in a jade-green dress and doused in a painterly light, sucks on a red lollipop. At just 25, Osula’s sharp eye for colour and atmosphere already makes for a distinctly offbeat aesthetic. Using his vision to counter mainstream narratives has been an important drive for Osula, and a crucial part of his development as an artist. “First, it was changing the narrative of the so-called ‘Africa stigma’, then embracing imperfection, just like the Japanese idea of wabi-sabi,” he explains. “This projection of Africa as a completely dark and primitive continent, as well as what we represent, is obviously incomplete and inaccurate.”
The “fictive hellhole” of Soham Gupta’s Angst makes for challenging viewing. Since 2013, with the night as his backdrop, the 29-year-old has been creating a haunting constellation of portraits of those living on the margins of Calcutta society. Drawing on a troubled youth spent struggling with societal expectations, Angst is a despairing, personal reckoning with a world in which the weakest and most vulnerable are neglected. The project started following a workshop with Antoine d’Agata and Sohrab Hura (a Ones To Watch in 2011) in Cambodia, where Gupta was encouraged to move away from his background in photojournalism and build on his innate interest in loneliness and vulnerability. Setting out on his own nocturnal journey through the streets of his hometown, Gupta began photographing and writing short fictional texts about the people he encountered. After instigating conversation, he would then collaborate with them to create a portrait.
“Eastern and Central Europe has a lot of treasure in its photographic histories,” says Kate Bush, speaking about the exhibition she has curated for Calvert 22, Family Values: Polish Photography Now. It’s the first exhibition in the UK to focus exclusively on Polish photography and, says Bush, “hopefully, it will all be part of feeding a greater understanding and interest”. Family Values is part of Calvert 22’s mission to show the cultural and societal change in eastern Europe, the Balkans, Russia and Central Asia through photography, and Bush – who is adjunct curator of photography at Tate Britain – was commissioned by the gallery for the project shortly after the EU referendum. She sees the exhibition as an opportunity to celebrate London’s Polish community, the largest outside of Poland, as well as commemorating the centenary of Poland’s independence.
The 18-year-old Hamburg Triennial will be directed for the second time by Polish curator Krzysztof Candrowicz, who moved to Hamburg four years ago and set about transforming the it, bringing people and institutions together, and determined to make it more relevant to the viewing public. The 2015 edition was, he says, “The first holistic attempt to create the collaborative framework of the festival. Before, the museums were basically highlighting their own exhibitions, but there was no actual curatorial collective structure.” The determinedly political and environmentally-conscious theme this year was inspired by an amalgamation of many factors, he says, including spending a year “away from structured, mechanised and commercial reality”, travelling around Latin America, Nepal and India. “Breaking Point became, for me, a metaphor for rapid and sometimes unexpected transformation on a personal and global level.”
Unexploded landmines are responsible for the deaths of 15-20,000 people every year, and currently contaminate 78 countries worldwide. Nagorno Karabakh, a landlocked, mountainous region in South Caucasus, Eastern Europe, has one of the highest per capita incidences of landmine accidents in the world, and a third of the victims are children. Eva Clifford, former online writer at BJP, spent a week with the world’s largest mine clearance organisation, HALO, and their first female demining team in Nagorno Karabakh. Since employing its first female demining team in 2015, HALO now employs 11 women, with more undergoing training this year.
José David Valiente’s graphic flash-lit images render his native Spain in an uncanny light. Drawn to the peculiar and mysterious, his projects steer towards the oddities of everyday human behaviour. From documenting the surreal atmosphere and prized pigs of the Semana Porcina – an annual food-farming fair held in his hometown, Lorca – to capturing the dark energy of the underground punk scene, the 31-year-old’s offbeat vision sheds light on diverse aspects of Spanish society.