“I believe photographers have got to come to terms with the world we live in, not the world journalists like, which is spectacular and exciting and makes good copy,” says John Myers. “Photographers and sub editors and journalists, all kinds of journalist want a story. They want to sell papers, and what sells is something unusual. ‘Man with three legs marries 86 year old widow’, it makes a terrific headline. They’re not so interested in what’s going on down the road at number 83.”
Famously described by Susan Sontag in her 1964 essay Notes on ‘Camp’ as “a sensibility (as distinct from an idea)”, the appreciation of camp was born out of artifice and opulence, a vulgar fascination with theatrical exaggeration. And while it has long been tied up with LGBTQI culture, it has become a compelling way to convey messages without limits. “To me, camp is a very powerful thing,” says Phillip Prokopiou. “It’s a form of satire – a way to exaggerate and ridicule things that are very serious.” Prokopiou, a South Africa-born, London-based photographer behind an eponymous studio, which he co-founded with his partner-in-life-and-art Panagiotis Poimenidis, has long been fascinated with the power of kitsch to communicate our deepest hopes, fears and fantasies – whether they manifest in the form of a moustachioed Virgin Mary (stage name: Virgin Xtravaganzah) sitting chastely in the glow of ‘Gawd’’s glory, or an otherworldly extraterrestrial gazing into the distance.
Travelling to Kiev in the wake of protest, revolution and civil war, Belgian photographer David Denil set about documenting the aftermath of conflict in the minds of ordinary people still coming to terms with the country’s sharp divisions. The resulting series, Let Us Not Fall Asleep While Walking, departs from journalistic record, instead attempting to depict “the psychological state of this Ukraine looking at its future while haunted by its past and memory,” he says. “The images are metaphorical representations from the everyday life encountered where time seems frozen but dreams of hope still linger.”
“In Centralia, Poulomi Basu continues to focus her gaze on the interrelation between violence, state power, and gender,” says Monica Allende, member of the jury for the PHM grant. “By intertwining multilayered fictional narratives she aims to challenge the viewer’s perception of reality, as well as established neocolonialist histories. “In an era of post-truth and fake news, where we battle for control of “official” narratives, Basu’s work forces us to reflect on our own prejudices and educated preconceptions. Despite addressing such complex issues, the work is both illuminating and engaging – a testament to her innate ability as a documentarian. The result is a beautifully executed story which is thoroughly deserving of the winning grant.”
Alighting at Peckham Rye train station in south London, a short walk across a busy market street takes you to the Bussey Building complex, a former cricket-bat factory that is now home to an assortment of bars, music venues, yoga studios and art spaces, including the Copeland Gallery. This bright exhibition space is once again the main site of Peckham 24 festival of contemporary photography, celebrating its third edition this year and running over the weekend of 18 to 20 May to coincide with Photo London – more than the 24 hours with which it launched and gave it its name. “Last year we were literally pushing people out of the door at midnight,” laugh the co-founders, Vivienne Gamble, whose Seen Fifteen gallery is in a nearby space, and artist Jo Dennis.
“This isn’t something new or something connected to a particular part of the country,” says Sarker Protick, speaking about his recent work, Of River and Lost Lands, which deals with the contemporary relationship between people and nature in Bangladesh, in the context of the devastating damage and loss of land caused each year during monsoon season. “The seasonal rising and falling of the many rivers in our country is part of our culture. It’s the first thing we learn at school; we are a country of rivers. Music, poetry, philosophy, folklore, religion – all have key elements connected to the river.” Protick’s photographs, on show at Hamburg Triennial of Photography as part of Enter, curated by Emma Bowkett and Krzysztof Candrowicz, were all made along the powerful Padma River. “When the famous Ganges flows over the border from India into Bangladesh, it becomes the Padma; a river that many along its banks depend on for their livelihood, but paradoxically the river is also the main cause of destruction.”
How do you capture a neighbourhood in the throes of transformation? How do you negotiate the complex tensions between old and new that lie at the heart of regeneration? These are some of the quandaries that prompted Gretje Treiber to begin Hamburg Barmbek Nord: Attempts at an Encounter, an intimate requiem for the disappearing features of her local community. Originally a small collection of farms, Barmbek-Nord was transformed into a working-class district shaped by industry in the early 1900s. The area became an expanding residential hub with many new blocks of flats designed with a striking red brick and equipped with green spaces and sports facilities, built during the 1920s, only to be destroyed during the Second World War and rebuilt 15 years later. Since 1980, few urban changes have taken place, leaving the neighbourhood “almost forgotten” by the rest of the city, according to Treiber.
“Many photographs remain forgotten in my archive, while others are destined to come back with a new life,” says Carlo Lombardi. It’s a sentiment that could apply to the subjects of his latest series, Dead Sea, which focuses on the diminishing number of loggerhead sea turtles in the Mediterranean, and which appears in the 2018 Hamburg Triennial Off section from 07 June as a result of an open call. The Italian’s ongoing work began in spring 2016, following a visit to the Museum of the Sea in Pescara, where he was fascinated by a skeleton pinned to the wall. The bones belonged to a loggerhead sea turtle, a species whose population is decreasing at an alarming rate due to climate change. Increasing sand temperatures, storms and rising sea levels vastly impact the turtles’ habitats and ability to breed, while fishing and pollution also contribute to the death toll.
“The whole jury was in agreement that Eva has a very strong vision and that her work is characterised by a consistency both in aesthetic and content, since the concepts explored are the hot topics of our contemporary society,” says Alessia Glaviano, senior photo editor on Vogue Italia and member of the Hyères Festival photography jury this year – which has awarded the grand prix to Eva O’Leary. The New York-based photographer has won with a series called Spitting Image, which shows American girls aged 11 to 14 photographed while looking at themselves in a mirror. A project involving both photographs and videos, Spitting Image shows both the girls’ discomfort with being put in front of the lens, and the ways in which they – and others – present themselves for the camera.
“One could easily say there’s nothing to photograph there, because it’s just like any other park,” says Latvian photographer Arnis Balcus of Victory Park. Situated in the Latvian capital Riga, Victory Park [‘Uzvaras Park’ in Latvian] was officially opened in 1910, in the presence of Tsar Nicholas II and the Mayor of Riga. But, as Balcus explains, “it is a park with a complex history”. First built to commemorate Latvian independence, the park was given its current name after the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in WWII, and as such “embodies the historical trauma of a small Baltic nation”, says Balcus. It’s famous for its Victory Monument which, at 79m high, looms over Riga’s skyline and provides a daily reminder of the controversial issue it signifies.