Born in Australia in 1978, Adam Ferguson studied photography at Griffith University. He first won recognition for his work in 2009, when his photographs of the war in Afghanistan won awards from World Press Photo and Photo District News. Since then he has worked all over the world, for clients such as The New York Times, TIME Magazine, National Geographic, The Financial Times Magazine, WaterAid, UNICEF, and Human Rights Watch. Ferguson has been nominated for the World Press Photo of the Year for his shot of Aisha, a 14-year-old girl who was kidnapped by Boko Haram and wired for a suicide bombing, but managed to escape. The image comes from a series of portraits shot on commission for The New York Times, which has been nominated in World Press Photo’s People category. BJP: Your image is very different to a hard-news style shot. Why did you choose to shoot a portrait (and in fact a series of portraits) in this way? How did you do so? Where did you take the shots, and how did you set …
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.”
“If you are asked to think what is the photo of the year, you have to try to have something about the events of that year, and that sends you to a news or documentary photography,” says Magdalena Herrera, director of photography for Geo France and chair of the jury for the 2018 World Press Photo Contest. “But we were looking for a point of view, the photographer’s point of view. We weren’t looking for an opinion, but for images in which someone had been able to take the photographic tool to envisage their part. Even if you are a documentary photographer, you choose the moment when you take the shot. YOU are the one reporting.
It would be an understatement to say that the legacy of Gyula Halász – better known by his pseudonym, Brassaï – has been the object of extensive research and countless curatorial projects. Yet the Fundación Mapfre, the private institution that has shown the highest devotion to photography in Spain, has entrusted Peter Galassi, the former chief curator of photography at Museum of Modern Art, to conduct what will probably be the definitive exhibition about the Hungarian-French photographer at its Barcelona gallery, the Garriga i Nogués exhibition hall (19 February to 13 May). The exhibition could be considered to be Galassi’s biggest curatorial endeavour so far since he retired from MoMA, and the catalogue, published by Fundación Mapfre, can attest to the pertinence of this major survey of Brassaï.
Marrakech is a hub of arts-related activity this February. On the 24th, 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair launches its first edition on the continent, and on the same day the Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden opens a special exhibition and programme, Africa Is No Island. Curated by Afrique in visu, the latter exhibition is a physical embodiment of everything the photography platform has been working towards since it was started a decade ago online with the mission to develop a professional network for photographers across the continent and the wider diaspora.
“When people think of Victorian photography, they sometimes think of stiff, fusty portraits of women in crinoline dresses, and men in bowler hats,” says Phillip Prodger, head of photographs at the National Portrait Gallery. “Victorian Giants is anything but. Here visitors can see the birth of an idea – raw, edgy, experimental – the Victorian avant-garde, not just in photography, but in art writ large. The works of Cameron, Carroll, Hawarden and Rejlander forever changed thinking about photography and its expressive power. These are pictures that inspire and delight. And this is a show that lays bare the unrivalled creative energy, and optimism, that came with the birth of new ways of seeing.”
On 13 February, Çağdaş Erdoğan will stand trial in Istanbul accused of membership and support of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a separatist group classified as a terrorist organisation by the Turkish government. Erdoğan is of Kurdish descent, grew up in the region and, as an adult, embedded with affiliates of the PKK during the complex, multifactional conflict that has crossed the borders of Syria, Iraq and Turkey. But he did so, he claims, purely as a photojournalist intent on documenting an unseen conflict for the world’s media and without any alliance with or allegiance to any organisation. His only allegiance was to photography.
“The works selected here have all run up against a more or less bitter-sweet reality, and their authors have liberally arranged, glued, assembled, masked and cut out the components of that reality in order to present it to us as something different, eminently subjective, and decidedly moving,” writes Raphaëlle Stopin, artistic advisor for the 2018 Prix HSBC. She’s writing of the 12 photographers shortlisted for two top prizes, which this year have gone Antoine Bruy (France, 1986) and Petros Efstathiadis (Greece, 1980). The other shortlisted photographers are: Olivia Gay (France, 1973), with the series Envisagées; Karin Crona (Sweden 1968), De la possibilité d’une image; Elsa Leydier (France, 1988), Platanos con platino; Sandra Mehl (France, 1980), Ilona et Maddelena; Shinji Nagabe (Brazil, 1975), Espinha; Michele Palazzi (Italy 1984), Finisterrae; Walker Pickering (USA, 1980), Esprit de corps; Marie Quéau (France, 1985), Odds and ends; Brea Souders (USA, 1978), Film electric; and Vladimir Vasilev (Bulgaria, 1977), T(h)races.
Last month BJP focused in on group work; this month we’re looking at a different kind of collaboration – projects in which photographers engage in a two-way dialogue with their subjects. One of the best – and the best-known – examples is Jim Goldberg, who works with subjects such as teenage runaways and migrants to tell wide-sweeping stories of marginalisation and economic disparity. Using an eclectic mix of photographs, archive materials and video, and both marking up himself and invites his subjects to write on, he creates complex montages guided by his sense of “intimacy, trust and intuition”. Incorporating the perspectives of the communities and subcultures he represents, his work is informed by his own background in a blue-collar family in New Haven.
“The work represents my experience in recovering and understanding my parents, their life and their relationship towards myself,” says Marco Marzocchi of his series Oyster. “I never knew them well because they split when I was 6 years old, and they both died young.
“Drugs, addictions, jail, and dysfunctional environment, these were constant elements. This work is focused on dealing and replacing all the doubts and the fears that I had. Exorcising the pain and the searching for love.” A bold mix of colour, black-and-white, contemporary and archive images, presented with hand-written text, Marzocchi’s series has scooped first prize in the 2017 Gomma Grant. Marzocchi has worked on the project for a decade, honing down on the editing last year with distinguished photographers JH Engstrom and Margot Wallard at the celebrated Atelier Smedsby workshop.