The last time we spoke to Vasantha Yogananthan he was preparing to release chapter one of his hugely ambitious seven-part project A Myth of Two Souls. A project that he started in 2013 with his first trip to India, the collection is a photographic re-imagining of one of the most significant Hindu texts, the epic poem Ramayana. Dating back to the 4th century, the Ramayana still holds tremendous significance in India, with its allegorical, mythical stories helping convey concepts such as love, duty, violence, loyalty and divinity. Yogananthan had always been familiar with the Ramayana growing up – his Sri Lankan father told him stories from it during his youth in Grenoble, France, and he picked up comic book adaptations of it as a teenager. But it was only when he visited India that he realised just how interwoven the analogies presented in Ramayana are with the experience of everyday life on the subcontinent, and just how thin the line can be between mythology and reality.
Born in 1983 in the United States, Lucas Foglia grew up on a small farm some 30 miles east of New York city. His family grew their own food and lived a life away from the bustle of shopping centres and the surrounding suburbs. “The forest that bordered the farm was my childhood wilderness,” he says. “It was a wild place to play that was ignored by our neighbours, who commuted to Manhattan.” But in 2012 Hurricane Sandy charged through his family’s fields, flooding the farm and blowing down the oldest trees in the woods. “On the news, scientists linked the storm to climate change caused by human activity,” Foglia recalls. “I realised that if humans are changing the weather then there is no place on earth unaltered by people. I looked through my archive and set aside some photographs that became the seeds for my third book.”
The numbers are just staggering – 2813 applicants showing up for nine nursery teacher positions; 10,000 for 14 policer officer roles; and 1099 for one nursing post. These are the Italian Civil Service exams, and Michele Borzoni photographed them for over a year, capturing their sheer size with a medium format camera and a perspective-correcting lens more usually used for large-scale architectural shots. “I wanted to emphasis this sense of mass, the loss of individuality, the person reduced to number,” he says. “The competitions are sometimes a humiliating path, because often they do not assess the individual capacity, at least not in the early stages of the competition.”
Foto/Industria Biennial returns to Bologna, with 14 exhibitions centring around the idea of identity and illusion in photographs of work, curated by Francois Hébel and including image-makers such as Thomas Ruff, Josef Koudelka, Lee Friedlander, Joan Fontcuberta, Alexander Rodchenko, Mitch Epstein, Yukichi Watabe, John Myers and Michele Borzoni.
One of the dominant influences in contemporary European photography is wheeled into the restaurant at the NRW Forum, a grand art gallery a stone’s throw from the Rhine. It’s the height of the Düsseldorf Photo Weekend, and people of all ages are passing through the galleries on either side of us. Many of them won’t realise it, but most of the photography here is deeply indebted to this slight and unassuming woman, born in East Germany before the war, and now happily talking over pasta and wine in the café. She has now been without Bernd, her husband, for more than seven years, after he died from complications during heart surgery. That straight bob of blonde hair is greying. She is now 81, and sits slightly stooped in her wheelchair. You have to strain to hear what she says, yet she recounts her life with a remarkable wit and poise. Some people start to switch off at this age; Hilla Becher, it seems, could not be more connected to her surroundings. She met her husband in …
We are in Arles, where in July 2016 he showed Mortuary, one of his signature sculptural installations, made up of heavily manipulated, elongated photographic forms. He had been selected for the Rencontres photofestival’s Discovery Award, though in truth this cat had been long out of the bag – Yokota exhibited in Arles in 2015, showing his almost imperceptible inky-black prints from his Inversion series as part of Another Language: 8 Japanese Photographers, curated by Simon Baker of Tate Modern. And in the preceding half decade, his intriguing, visually arresting performances, experiments, installations, books, soundscapes and collaborations have blazed a trail from Tokyo to wider international acclaim, taking photography on a journey to the extreme. In this he is a revolutionary, with neither pretension nor timid creativity. The sheer energy with which he produces work is extraordinary, verging on obsessional and driven by a desire to constantly record, destroy and then recreate. Anxiety is the fuel. “In my mind, I have an image of burning energy in continual production,” he says.
It can be tough breaking into an industry known for its dog-eat-dog reputation, but a good attitude goes a long way – as long as its accompanied by talent. Based between Exeter and London, 22-year-old photographer Harry Cooke is taking on the fashion world with an open spirit, a sharp eye, and a pinch of salt. “The fashion industry is a weird one – I am always hearing stories of bad experiences,” says the Arts University Bournemouth graduate. “But I always think the concepts, teams and shoots that I put together are relaxed and fun. Taking life too seriously is a dangerous thing, and that’s what I aim to bring to the world of fashion. Goodbye seriousness!”
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.”
Katie Burdon’s ethereal fashion images make no secret of a childhood spent outside in the English countryside. A Cornish native, the 20-year-old first began taking photographs when she was 14, using her friends as models and the picturesque fields, woods, and seaside of her surroundings as her backdrop. Now a graduate of the University of Bournemouth, her practice has evolved into an intimate and considered portrayal of femininity through fashion photography. With a rich yet hazy 1970s-inspired palette and surreal undertones, Burdon’s photographs are elegant in their composition, yet still capture something of the raw and playful nature of youth. Determined to counteract the impossible beauty standards of the imagery she grew up with, the young photographer prefers being real and “celebrating women”, choosing models with big personalities.
“There are two important things about this show,” says Clément Chéroux, senior curator of photography at SFMOMA. “First, the quantity of work – more than 300 photographs, quite a large selection, because we were able to get support from most of the big institutions – MOMA, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Gallery of Canada, the Musée du Quai Branly and so on, and private collections from around the world. Second, is the fact that it is arranged thematically rather than chronologically. Usually when you look at important retrospectives they are chronological, but we organised by theme because we wanted to organise it around Evans’ passion for the vernacular. He was fascinated with vernacular culture.”