“I think women photographers are very good at building relationships with their subjects” says Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen, co-founder of Amber, a film and photography collective based in Newcastle that aims to capture working-class life in North East England. “They are more interested in the personal stories, and through these they get a much more intimate look into their subject’s lives.”
Women by Women is a major presentation of the work of five female photographers working in the North East from the 1970s – 2000s. Curated by Konttinen, the photographs are drawn from projects originally commissioned by Amber, and the exhibition forms part of Idea of North season at the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Newcastle.
“The North is often associated with the male more than the female, in terms of what has been documented,” says Konttinen. “I thought it [the show] would make a strong statement about our collection being more balanced than is perceived by the outside world. It’s the idea of bringing women into the picture of the whole concept of the North.”
Meet California will give four photographers the opportunity to road trip across the Golden State on a 10-day British Journal of Photography commission, in partnership with Visit California. To introduce the competition, BJP is profiling a number of photographers who have created work in the state. Twenty years ago, if you told photographer Tom M Johnson that Lakewood – the Californian city where he was born, raised and continued to live for much of his adult life – would be the subject of one of his most compelling bodies of work, he would have not believed you. Growing up it seemed as if there was nothing particularly special about the Los Angeles County community. Its leafy streets, single storey houses, and perfectly manicured lawns were the norm. It was only upon returning from his travels that Johnson began to see his neighbourhood in a new light. “It was necessary to leave Lakewood in order to appreciate it,” he says. “Growing up, it was just so normal but it seems special now. All the little things – …
“It asks, inevitably, questions about who we are. Who we are in Britain, or who we are in the world. It asks questions about legacy, my own life, and cycles; the very folding of time,” says Vanessa Winship of her latest project, the ongoing series And Time Folds. “It’s difficult to say exactly what it is about because I don’t really know what it will end up being,” she adds.
Winship was the first woman to win the prestigious Henri Cartier-Bresson Award back in 2011, and she now has a major solo show opening at London’s Barbican Art Gallery on 22 June, also titled And Time Folds. It features over 150 photographs including previously unseen projects and archival material; it also includes her newest series, a mixture of “completely different, random formats” and found objects, inspired by her granddaughter and “how she frames herself in the world in relation to seeing, hearing and touching”.
Under the back garden of an unremarkable family home in Las Vegas is an extraordinary 16,000sq ft, all-pink, bomb-proof bunker. Inside are decadent bedrooms decorated with crystal chandeliers and baby pink wallpaper, and a bathrooms with a hot-pink toilet, white marble hot tub, and opulent golden fittings. Surrounding the house is a hand-painted mural of the countryside, and an underground garden with a swimming pool and fake trees growing out of a carpet that stands in for grass.
“It’s basically a house within a house,” explains Juno Calypso, who spent three days of solitude in the bunker, for her project What To Do With A Million Years. Designed to be safe from any disaster or intruder, the bunker was built in 1964 by Avon cosmetics founder Gerry Henderson and his wife, who were terrified of a potential nuclear breakout in the advent of the cold war.
Calypso is currently showing the series at London’s TJ Boulting gallery, and has transformed the basement space into a version of the garden, complete with fake plants, eerie mood lighting, and a soundtrack of soft romantic rock that plays against the continuous sound of running water from a stone fountain in the corner.
Catherine Hyland creates an eclectic series of portraits along the banks of Linz’s central waterway for an exclusive British Journal of Photography commission
Hayati, meaning “my life” in Arabic, reflects on photographer Karim El Maktafi’s dual identity as a second-generation Italian born to Moroccan parents. The images were taken in both Italy and Morocco, and are all shot on an iPhone SE [Special Edition] – for a couple of reasons.
El Maktafi got into image-making via smartphones as a teen, after using them to take photographs of his friends. After graduating from the Italian Institute of Photography in 2013, he decided to return to the device with a more trained eye, when he decided to shoot Hayati.
He also uses a smartphone camera is because it’s less intrusive. El Maktafi’s family were against him photographing them, and in general don’t approve of photography as a career, which is why their faces are either cropped out or disguised by rays of light in the project. Using a smaller camera proved gentler way to record them, and the many other people involved.
In classical music, ‘impromptu’ refers to a short improvised piece, performed spontaneously with little or no preparation. Géraldine Lay’s new book, Impromptus, is a visual take on the term, aiming “not to tell a story about the place or the country, but to be out of time”.
Lay first encountered photography during her course in History of Art at the University of Lyon; studying the history of the medium, she was bitten by the photography bug, and went on to study at the National Photography School. She graduated in 1997, and is now based in Arles.
“Initially, my practice was part of my daily life, I had no preconceived ideas or strict subject,” says Lay. “I got into the habit of always having a camera with me, to take advantage of all the little moments of life.”
“I’m one of those people who enjoy feeling like they have control over their life,” writes Mitch Epstein in Rocks and Clouds. “My house is spare and neat, my photographic expeditions are well-planned. Here’s the thing about clouds: they don’t give a damn if you planned well or not.”
Despite having spent years confronting the FBI as he shot power plants throughout America, and photographing his father as he faced the failure of his business, clouds ended up being one of Epstein’s trickier subjects. “I’m really just at the mercy of the unexpected and nature itself,” he says, adding that shooting clouds requires malleability and intuition – both of which are central to his practice.
For the past five years, Ulla Deventer has been working on a project about women and prostitution in Europe – specifically in Brussels, Athens and Paris – but also, more recently, in Ghana. Several of the women she met in the project’s early days were from West Africa, and Deventer developed close friendships with some of her subjects, who inspired her to travel to their home countries to experience first-hand what life is like for women living there.
In May 2017, Deventer, who was born in Henstedt-Ulzburg in north Germany and is now based in Hamburg, spent six weeks in Accra, the capital of Ghana, where she focused her attention on the living conditions of the city’s youth, particularly its female sex workers. She recently returned to the country to continue to work on Butterflies Are a Sign of a Good Thing – an extension of her original project.
In Chongqing, the largest city in southwest China, city officials have been planting trees for over a decade, aiming to create a “forest city”. But after investigating the origins of these trees, photographer Yan Wang Preston uncovered a troubling process. “The whole concept of trying to be green is being abused,” she says.
By way of example, she tells the story of Frank – a 300 year-old tree that’s a central character in her new book, Forest. When Preston first encountered Frank in 2013, he was being forcefully removed from a small village that was soon to be flooded by one of the Yangtze River dams. Frank was sold to the owners of a five-star hotel in a nearby county for 250,000 RMB, approximately £30,000. When asked whether the tree would survive, one of the guards replied with pride, reassuring Preston that they were all experts at transplanting trees.
But when she returned in 2017, Frank had been dead for over two years – and so had the tree that had followed it. “The older the trees are, they more likely they will die, because it’s hard for them to adapt to a new environment,” says Preston. “I’m interested in the complicity of this whole thing. For the tree, it’s very sad to be relocated. But then, the ultimate motivation is to be closer to nature”.