All posts filed under: Architecture


Photographing the slums of Riga, Latvia


When Alnis Stakle first took up photography, he was faced with a rigid conception of the medium. In Latvia in the 1990s it was largely considered a commercial craft, he says, with any more artistic ambitions restricted to banal nudes and sunsets. But for Stakle photography is “a kind of religion”, which has the power to change our relationship to the world.



Shadman Shahid – White Elephant

In the eighteenth century, the Kings of Siam found an ingenious way of excluding a courtier they didn’t like. They would present the offending socialite with a white elephant, a rare and unusual creature, one very difficult to make space for. No-one would dare decline a gift from the King. And so the recipient would be lumbered with something they could not maintain. They would invariably be ruined by the cost of trying to keep the white elephant, and would then be forced to take their leave of the Kings’ circles. Siam is now modern-day Thailand, but the idea of the white elephant has endured, entering our modern parlance. Shadman Shahid, a documentary photographer born and raised in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and a graduate of the city’s revered Pathshala South Asian Media Academy photography course, used the term to describe a remarkable discovery in China; a “ghost-city” called Chenggong, designed for more than a 100,000 people but standing silent, unpopulated, empty but for tiny pockets of life. “I was born and raised in a city where …


After hosting the Eurovision in 2012 and the European Games in 2015 Baku acts as a picture postcard of the country's newfound prosperity, but also of its contrasts. The country is home to known energy reserves of around a billion barrels of oil and 1.3 trillion cubic meters of natural gas. But if until now Azerbaijan did not have to worry much about paying the bills – they do now. The slump in global oil prices has put a crimp in the country’s budget. 
Travellers are waiting for their bus near the Bulvar waterfront promenade which stretch 14 kilometers from Flag square to the city center. Baku, Azerbaijan

Behind the shiny new structures of modern Baku, Azerbaijan


French photographer Mathias Depardon first visited Baku in 2012, shooting human rights issues at the Nagorno Karabkh border, and describes the place as “Orwellian”. “I was fascinated by the effect the government had made to polish the city and make it look fast and modern,” he says. “It seems like they are trying to attract the attention elsewhere to make their reputation more respectful on the international scene.” Once Soviet, Azerbaijan became independent after a bloody conflict with Soviet troops in 1990; a repressive government took control and, when the country found prosperity via a huge contract with a European oil consortium, the wealth was not even distributed. More than 40 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, and the global slump in oil prices is now poised to push living standards down still further. It’s also casting dark clouds over the ambitious infrastructure spending that has transformed the city scape, and which so struck Depardon. He’s visited Baku four times since 2012, taking a long-term approach to his project and fitting it …



Demolition: What lies behind the walls of the Brutalist landmark estate

For some, it is an iconic example of 1970s Brutalist architecture; for others, a big, ugly eyesore. “Whatever they think, there’s a huge sense of community here,” says photographer Kois Miah of Robin Hood Gardens, a housing estate comprised of two blocks containing 213 flats, soon to be demolished and replaced by a new build. In light of this, and because of the sheer volume of tenants that will have to be relocated – some against their will from the only home they have every known – local Miah and his friend and partner Nick Thoburn, together with the support of the campaign group SPLASH (South Poplar & Limehouse Action for Secure Housing) visited the affected families, and immortalised some of their last moments in the apartments in intimate portraits. “There has been a lot of talk about the Brutalist architecture, but I thought it might be quite interesting to get the residents’ perspective on living on that estate,” says Miah. “The thing about this project is that it’s really intimate – people invite you into their …


Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 16.55.37

BJP Breakthrough 2016: Presenting the Single Image runners-up

SAM IVIN What does it mean to be an asylum seeker in the UK? The question first struck Sam Ivin in 2013, after seeing news reports of a high volume of asylum applications and a UK border agency struggling to get a handle on the situation. A Documentary Photography student at University of South Wales, Newport at the time, he decided to visit drop-in centres and actually get up-close with the human beings behind the headlines. The resulting series, Lingering Ghosts, published by Fabrica earlier this year, gives a visceral insight into the inner lives of the dispossessed. The series has recently been exhibited at Athens Photo Festival, will be shown at Rome’s Galleria del Cembalo in September and features in our next issue of BJP, which focuses on photographic responses to migration. Ivin would listen to their stories, take their portrait and then radically intervene in the image – defacing the photograph with a Stanley knife and sandpaper, evoking their sense of loss, confusion and dislocation. His portrait [above], taken in a South London drop-in centre for …



JR makes The Louvre invisible

Chinese architect IM Pei’s glass entrance, first unveiled in 1989, was seen by Parisians, at first, as a tacky, unwanted gimmick, unworthy of the home of the Mona Lisa. Now, 27 years later, The Louvre’s transparent Pyramid is indivisible with one of Paris’ most iconic landmarks. So what better target for the photographic iconoclast JR. The 33-year-old started out as a graffiti artist from the Banlieues – he grew up in Les Bosquets, the son of an Arabic man and French woman. His public artwork is now very quickly becoming rather iconic in itself. For some ten years now, the artist’s photographic collages have been appearing on the walls of cities all over the world. He covered the wall that separates Israeli and Palestinian communities with hundreds of portraits  – Palestinians on the Israeli side, Israelis on the Palestinian side. The intended result was both obvious and, nevertheless, deeply powerful, for no-one could tell the difference between the two sides. He covered Paris’ Pantheon with images of the city’s street-level people. One of the city’s grandest, most ornate people, covered with the expressions of …


BJP Staff