“Throughout human history the depiction of the human body has been curiously investigated,” writes BJP‘s assistant editor, Izabela Radwanska Zhang. “In its rawest form, artists have dedicated their lives to perfecting it on paper – god and icons of religion and spirituality rendered in perfect anatomy. This changed with the arrival of the camera, and gradually our viewpoints of the figure became manifold.” We contemplate some of these viewpoints in this issue, which looks at the depiction of the human form and the ways in which contemporary image-makers are pushing its representation. From Amsterdam, we have Carla van de Puttelaar and her compelling work on the female nude, which takes inspiration from the Old Masters. Photographing female figures of the art world, Van de Puttelaar creates portraits that are both elegant and empowering in her ongoing project Artfully Dressed: Women in the Art World. Elsewhere, we feature a new three-part project by co-curators Holly Hay and Shonagh Marshall titled Posturing: Photographing the Body in Fashion, which explores the changing representation of the body in the ever-morphing fashion world. “It’s about …
Bruce Davidson has won a Lifetime Achievement prize in this year’s ICP Infinity Awards, which will be formally presented on 09 April. Best-known for his two-year project on the poverty-stricken residents of East 100th Street, Davidson joined Magnum Photos in 1958 and showed his work at the Museum of Modern Art in 1963. His work often documents social inequality, and includes iconic series such as The Dwarf, Brooklyn Gang, and Freedom Rides.
Carolyn Drake first visited Ukraine more than a decade ago, as part of a year-long Fulbright fellowship investigation of changing notions of gender in the former USSR. Coming of age at the end of the Cold War, and with preconceptions about the region, she “saw it as a chance to step out of my present frame of reference, as a way to look at the malleability and impermanence of beliefs,” she recalls. Searching for expressions of female identity in the West of the country, she met the hosts of a church-run orphanage, who directed her to an older institution nearby called Petrykhiv Internat. Tucked away in a forest on the outskirts of Ternopil, it was a state-run boarding house, where around 70 girls marked as ill or disabled had been sent to live. Labelled abnormal, they had been deemed unfit to live beyond the home’s towering walls. That first trip took place in 2006; eight years later, she returned, eager to find out what had become of the girls and their home. “I expected to show up and ask someone on the staff how I could find the girls,” she says. “But when I arrived, I found most of them were still there, now in their twenties.
Kathleen Fox-Davies and Anna Kirrage first met when they worked together at a Mayfair gallery. Eight years later, they’ve set up their own outfit – Black Box Projects. “We always attended art events together, so we retained a continual dialogue about the art market and our respective interests,” Kirrage tells BJP. “We have always worked in small businesses where there wasn’t necessarily room for growth, so the obvious step was to start out on our own.” Fox-Davies is a photography specialist with over a decade of experience in galleries such as Michael Hoppen, Hasted Hunt and ATLAS, while Kirrage’s experience is in managing art organisations’ PR and strategy. Drawing on their complementary skills, they’ve decided to break the traditional gallery mould and will run Black Box Projects as a series of pop-up installations, rather than opening a permanent space.
“The Garden Gate Project has a reputation in my neighbourhood,” says Jason Evans, who has just published a zine with participants from the Margate-based charity. “Established almost 20 years ago for people with learning difficulties and/or mental ill health, the Garden Gate Project is visited by various members of the community for a range of seasonal activities.” He was volunteering there two years ago when the organisers realised he was a photographer, and invited him to come up with ideas for the programme, which centres mainly on Horticultural Therapy. His first project with GGP was Tool Shed Dark Room, which saw Evans improvising with participants “without mains electricity or an enlarger to make photograms using materials from the garden”.
“They’re all driven by motivations that are both personal and political to a degree, and they are all self-initiated projects,” says curator Alona Pardo of the photographers in the show Another Kind of Life: Photography on the Margins. “Some may have started as commissions, but very early on took on a life of their own. It was interesting to think about the role of the photographer, because often the photographer hides behind the camera as a facade. There is also an interesting subtext of the photographer occupying the position of an outsider within mainstream society. They are there, assertively documenting the world.”
What does Eastern Europe look like 25 years after the fall of Communism? And how do young image-makers there see it? Calvert 22 is investigating, with an exhibition titled Post-Soviet Visions: image and identity in the new Eastern Europe. Curated by Ekow Eshun, creative director of Calvert 22 Foundation, and freelance writer and curator Anastasiia Fedorova, the exhibition includes work by 14 emerging photographers born in Eastern Europe and Russia – Armen Parsadanov, David Meskhi, Dima Komarov, Genia Volkov, Grigor Devejiev, Hassan Kurbanbaev, Ieva Raudsepa, Jędrzej Franek, Masha Demianova, Michal Korta, Patrick Bienert & Max von Gumppenberg, Paulina Korobkiewicz, and Pavel Milyakov.
“It is a very progressive, very independent festival. It’s not part of the city’s art establishment. It’s dynamic, because the organisers are working way out on a limb,” says Susan Bright, ‘godmother’ of the Circulation(s) festival of young European photography, which takes place in Paris from 17 March-06 May
This year, he says, all the images have been thoroughly checked before the shortlists have been announced, let alone the winners. “All the checking is already done – all raw files, where the images were shot, everything,” he tells BJP. “We know how important it is that everything can be trusted, and we keep asking questions until we are satisfied. We wouldn’t announce the shortlists unless we were.”
Born in 1991, Polish photographer Karol Palka is currently working on a PhD at the Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, which he hopes to finish in 2021. His series Edifice documents communist-era buildings in Poland and neighbouring Eastern Bloc countries. It includes shots of the Polana Hotel, once owned by the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, and the former office building for the management of the Nowa Huta Steelworks, which was once visited by Nikita Khrushchev and Fidel Castro.