“I am just obsessed by the beauty of botanical drawings,” says Kenji Toma, describing his new book, The Most Beautiful Flowers. It’s a homage to Pierre-Joseph Redouté’s celebrated book of watercolours, Choix des plus belles fleurs [The most beautiful flowers], which was first published in France back in 1827 – long before colour photography was available. “His images were illustrated with the purpose of replicating the botanic subject as close to reality as possible,” says Toma. “I’m more interested in doing the exact opposite with photography.” His series shows hyperreal, unrealistically perfect images of flowers, each shot with the same lens, angle, and lighting, and delicately arranged with pins and armature wire. Going one step further than nature, they put a contemporary spin on the concept of the botanical encyclopaedia.
The “fictive hellhole” of Soham Gupta’s Angst makes for challenging viewing. Since 2013, with the night as his backdrop, the 29-year-old has been creating a haunting constellation of portraits of those living on the margins of Calcutta society. Drawing on a troubled youth spent struggling with societal expectations, Angst is a despairing, personal reckoning with a world in which the weakest and most vulnerable are neglected. The project started following a workshop with Antoine d’Agata and Sohrab Hura (a Ones To Watch in 2011) in Cambodia, where Gupta was encouraged to move away from his background in photojournalism and build on his innate interest in loneliness and vulnerability. Setting out on his own nocturnal journey through the streets of his hometown, Gupta began photographing and writing short fictional texts about the people he encountered. After instigating conversation, he would then collaborate with them to create a portrait.
Established back in 2008, the Fotobookfestival Kassel was the first festival devoted to the photobook and, over the last 10 years, has made a name as one of the most interesting on the calendar. Its 10th anniversary edition looks set to bear out this reputation from 31 May-03 June, with talks by celebrated photographers and photobook-makers such as Anders Petersen, Susan Meiselas, Carlos Spottorno, Mathieu Asselin, Gerhard Steidl, JH Engström, and many more, and exhibitions by Dana Lixenberg, Daniel Gustav Cramer, and the designer Sybren Kuiper (SYB). The exhibitions programme also includes two shows devoted to Kassel’s well-regarded prizes – the Dummy Award and the Photobook Award. In total 30 books have been selected for the Photobook Award by a prestigious panel including, Laia Abril On Abortion; Mathieu Asselin Monsanto – A Photographic Investigation; Ludovic Balland American Readers at Home; Tim Carpenter Local Objects; Sanne de Wilde The Island of the Colorblind; Carolyn Drake Internat; Li Feng White Night; Stephen Gill Night Procession; Anne Golaz Corbeau; David Goldblatt Structures of Dominion and Democracy; Daniela Keiser Kairo; Stephan Keppel Flat Finish; Paul Kranzler and Andrew Phelps The Drake Equation; Sandrine Lopez Moshé; Alix Marie Bleu; Raymond Meeks, Adrianna Ault and Tim Carpenter dumbsaint 01: township & bremen …
The 18-year-old Hamburg Triennial will be directed for the second time by Polish curator Krzysztof Candrowicz, who moved to Hamburg four years ago and set about transforming the it, bringing people and institutions together, and determined to make it more relevant to the viewing public. The 2015 edition was, he says, “The first holistic attempt to create the collaborative framework of the festival. Before, the museums were basically highlighting their own exhibitions, but there was no actual curatorial collective structure.” The determinedly political and environmentally-conscious theme this year was inspired by an amalgamation of many factors, he says, including spending a year “away from structured, mechanised and commercial reality”, travelling around Latin America, Nepal and India. “Breaking Point became, for me, a metaphor for rapid and sometimes unexpected transformation on a personal and global level.”
Chrystel Lebas has won the Kraszna-Krausz Foundation Photography Book Award, beating off the two other shortlisted photographers – Stephen Gill and Dayanita Singh. Lebas won the prize for Field Studies: Walking through Landscapes and Archives, which she published with Dutch outfit FW: Books. Field Studies is framed by the work of 20th century botanist Sir Edward James Salisbury, particularly his glass plate negatives from the 1920s, retracing his steps and making new images in the same Scottish landscapes. Gill was shortlisted for Night Procession, which he self-published through his imprint Nobody Books; Singh was shortlisted for her multi-book project Museum Bhavan, which was published by Steidl.
In July 2016, Diamond Reynolds’ partner was shot dead by a police officer during a traffic-stop in Minnesota. Reynolds used Facebook Live to broadcast the moments after the shooting, creating a video that became widely circulated, amassing over six million views, and which was also played to a jury as evidence in June 2017 – in a court case which saw the officer acquitted of all charges. In November 2016, Thompson invited Reynolds to collaborate on a project that would portray her in a different way to the original, publicly-consumed image. The resulting 35mm film, autoportrait, shows Reynolds apparently deep in thought and seemingly unaware of the camera, and is presented as a large-scale installation without a soundtrack. First exhibited in London’s Chisenhale Gallery in 2017, it’s been picked out of the winner of the £30,000 Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2018, over the three other shortlisted artists – Mathieu Asselin, Rafal Milach, and Batia Suter.
Half a century on, the events of May ‘68 still burn in the memories of its provocateurs. Morphing from a frenzy of student protests into a nation-wide revolt, embroiling seven million people at its height, France was dragged out of its post-war complacency that summer and into seven weeks of turbulent action and police brutality. The fire of the rebellion was first sparked on Valentine’s Day, when students of Nanterre University in the Western suburbs of Paris, held a residents’ strike to promote the right to move freely between male and female dorms. The university hesitated over making any change, so on 22 March, 600 frustrated students gathered to occupy an administration building in protest against the old institution’s ageing values.
It’s a prestigious prize, which earns the winner an exhibition at Photo London plus a photobook published by the well-regraded specialist MACK Books. This year it’s gone to Hayahisa Tomiyasu for his book dummy TTP. Shot from the window of his eighth-floor student flat in Leipzig, Germany, TTP shows a park with a ping pong table, shot at various times of day and in various seasons, and showing different protagonists each time. The table is used as a tischtennisplatte (table tennis table, as a sun lounger, as a climbing frame, as a skate obstacle, and as much more, and, states MACK Books “thanks to Tomiyasu’s sustained curiosity, we observe the habits, humour, and idiosyncrasies of human behaviour”.
Hacking into the live feed of a CCTV camera is “shockingly easy” says Marcus DeSieno, whose new book, No Man’s Land, presents a series of landscape photographs captured on surveillance cameras around the world. He got the idea for the project back in 2013, after seeing a couple of park rangers attach a security camera to a tree in the Everglades National Park, Florida. Even though the cameras were ineffective at night, when most trespassers would plan to break in, the wardens said that the purpose of installing them was to instigate fear, and “act as a symbol of power”.
“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.”