All posts filed under: Documentary

USA. Teviston, California. 2001. Boy with an old farm truck.

Matt Black’s ‘moral’ photography of America’s sprawling poverty

“It’s a very simple idea: to say no, this is not isolated, it’s literally everywhere and it’s something we all need to address squarely,” says Matt Black.  For newly appointed Magnum nominee Black, photography is as much an exercise in morality as it is one in aesthetics and artistry. That high-minded idea has been put, steadily and consistently into practice, evidenced by the two decades he’s spent exploring the rural United States, meeting communities that have been excluded and neglected. His work caught the attention of Magnum Photos, who named him as a Magnum Nominee this year alongside Carolyn Drake, Lorenzo Meloni, Richard Mosse, Max Pinckers and Newsha Tavakolian (featured in our September 2015 issue.) Black’s current ongoing project, The Geography of Poverty, is perhaps his deepest foray into these strongly-felt concerns. He’s travelling across the United States photographing communities with poverty rates of over 20 per cent, the official level for a ‘poverty area’. There are over 70 towns that meet the ’20 per cent’ standard and this in itself, Black finds appalling: “I …

2015-08-28T14:39:51+00:00

Python, 2013

How did a Scottish photographer get inside America’s strip club scene?

How did Ivar Wigan, a Perth-born, London-based photographer, infiltrate feared gangs and Atlanta strip clubs? “I lived in this motel and went to the club every night for eight or nine weeks,” he says of his series The Gods, recently exhibited at P-A-M, “until I knew all the dancers, all the security, I knew the management, the bar staff, I was the guy who was there every night.” The Gods focuses on the street culture of America’s southern cities; Atlanta, Miami and Los Angeles. The communities depicted — largely black, often deprived of resources and driven to alternative sources of income — represent a side of America that inspire fear and fascination in equal measure among many of its inhabitants. There is a charged dynamic implicit in a middle-class, European photographer documenting their lives for consumption in the cosy environs of a west London art gallery. Wigan distances himself from a grander, societal interpretation of his photos and stresses that his motives were relatively simple: “I was really looking to see what made this scene tick, …

2015-08-14T12:16:24+00:00

The British fashion photographer equally at home in Preston and Paris

Effortlessly moving between documentary and fashion, editorial and commercial assignments, Jamie Hawkesworth is a photographer who is steadily making a name for himself. On the one hand, he is quite at home documenting passers-by in the grade II-listed Preston Bus Station, the future of which hangs in the balance, or photographing a British polo contest at Cowdray Park, as he did for Man About Town. On the other, he has shot campaigns for designers Céline and Marc Jacobs, and has been featured in magazines such as i-D and Paris Vogue. In light of this impressive CV, Hawkesworth’s ability to turn his hand to whatever comes his way seems to know no bounds. Self Publish Be Happy’s Bruno Ceschel, who nominated Hawkesworth for our One to Watch issue in January 2014, explains what drew him to the photographer’s work: “Jamie has this kind of romantic, street photography aesthetic. Stylistically, he’s the younger brother of photographer Alasdair McLellan, in terms of his interest in documentary aesthetics and a certain kind of casting. Jamie often photographs working-class teenagers, and in his personal work Alasdair photographed young …

2015-08-13T16:18:33+00:00

Registration XP15431, Photograph, Circa 1901. Alice Springs, Northern Territory. Institution: Museum Victoria / Amoonguna, Northern Territory. June 2014. Image © Christian Vium, from the series The Wake.

Images 1-5: Sir Baldwin W. Spencer and Frank J. Gillen photographs are from the collections of the Museum Victoria and South Australia Museum. The repurposing of the images and the views expressed in the work are those of the author alone and in conjunction with community consultation

The re-enactments of Aboriginal history that won the Tokyo International Photography Competition

A series that includes portrait ‘re-enactments’ of archival images of Aboriginal people has won this year’s Tokyo International Photography Competition (TIPC). The Wake: Re-enacting the Spencer & Gillen photographic archive by Danish photographer Christian Vium was selected from eight shortlisted entries to be awarded the Grand Prix. Vium, who is a photographer, filmmaker and anthropologist, made his winning work in Central Australia between May and June 2014. His aim, he explains, was to creatively respond to the photographic archives of anthropologists and photographers Frank Gillen and Baldwin Spencer, who produced a comprehensive record of aboriginal life between 1875 and 1912. At the time, Vium had been researching the Spencer & Gillen archives at the Victoria Museum in Melbourne via the online digitised collection, www.spencerandgillen.net. “I wanted to revisit their cardinal work and use it as a point of departure for a contemporary dialogue about how we see and represent ‘the Other’,” says Vium in a statement about his work. “I went into the field with a selection of photographs divided into three categories: the portrait, the …

2015-08-13T10:26:33+00:00

Every year workers in the largest public cemetery in Guatemala exhume the bodies of some 4,000 infants to deposit in a mass grave, which borders the main garbage dump in the capital city. Cemetery rules state that six years after a burial, relatives must pay 180 Quetzales, around US$24 dollars, to renew the burial plot for another four years. If there is no payment, cemetery workers exhume the bodies of the young children and put the skeleton in a mass grave. Almost none of the relatives pay the fees and over 4,000 bodies are exhumed annually.

The cemetery in Guatemala that exhumes babies’ graves

When a child dies, some parents quell their pain with the belief that their child is among the angels. Others find comfort in knowing their child is at rest. They know there is a place where, in moments of quiet despair, they can drop to their knees and grieve the absence of their little body to hold. So when photojournalist Saul Martinez learned that, in his home country of Guatemala, deceased children were being exhumed from their places of rest and being disposed of in a public burial pit, it struck him as inconceivable. “I set out to find this cemetery that I had heard about. It was somewhat difficult to get access to it; the workers didn’t really want to let me see much at first. “I was so shocked when I saw the remains of children being pulled out, not only because of the fact that babies were being exhumed but because a job like this actually exists.” And so began Forgotten Children, Guatemala City, a documentary short and series of images that …

2015-08-28T13:37:00+00:00

Max Pinckers, Will They Sing Like Raindrops or Leave Me Thirsty, 2013_20

Max Pincker’s Indian couples running away from their family’s honour-based violence

How do you communicate, through photography, what it’s like to live in a city like Mumbai? A city of such variety, ethnically and economically, one of total poverty for so many and free of want for a few. Traditionally, Western photographers have approached the city from a humanitarian perspective, using people – their expressions, gestures, moments of clarity – that might  symbolise the social realities of the city Max Pinckers, the 27-year-old Flemish photographer newly invited into the Magnum Photo Agency, found a new way to visualise Mumbai. In The Fourth Wall, Pinckers photographed, with a careful, cool composition, how human beings apply their creativity, how they problem solve, how, in the most basic ways, they use ingenuity to  survive and overcome the hardships of their environment. First released in 2013, The Fourth Wall caused huge waves in photography world. The Europalia International Arts Festival, in its 24th biennial, quickly commissioned Pinckers to continue his India work. The Brussels-based festival highlights the artistic and cultural output of one country. In 2011, the featured country was Brazil; in 2013, it was …

2015-07-24T16:55:12+00:00

10-year-old Eliola. Her father was killed in front of the door of their home. Since then she has dreamt of taking revenge. From 2/7 Shkodra © Guillaume Herbaut

The Albanian children imprisoned in their homes because of a 15th century death law

“Emine was a peacemaker,” says Guillaume Herbaut. “His job was to pacify families at war.” But the families Emine sought to help were not in a warren, but living quiet lives in the north of Albania. Yet certain family members, the French photojournalist discovered, were shut away in their homes, never seeing the light of day for fear of reprisal by fellow Albanians – neighbours, former friends, even other family members – seeking revenge for being slighted, insulted, besmirched – or, in the extreme, the murder of one of their kin. “I was able to get in touch with some of the families affected by this tragedy through Emine,” Herbaut says. “But he was murdered a few months after I shot 2/7 Shkodra, the series of photographs I took in 2004.” Herbaut didn’t learn his craft in the traditional sense, at art college, putting theory into practice. Instead, it was more visceral. He was born and raised in the suburbs of Paris, in a block of flats perched on the edge of a highway opposite an industrial …

2015-07-22T13:07:55+00:00

From 1800 Millimètre © Emi Anrakuji

Emi Anrakuji – ‘1800 millimetres. It’s the size of my bed’

The elusive Emi Anrakuji. Her work seems to have exploded onto the photography scene in early 2000, attracting the attention of Daido Moriyama in 2004. “He was very much impressed,” says Emi, whose body of work is a series of self-portraits in which she often focuses on the most intimate details of her anatomy while simultaneously concealing her identity. It’s this contradiction that obfuscates the viewer. Legs splayed, crouched on a bed on all fours, a finger inserted into her vagina – the self-portraits in 1800 Millimètre, Emi’s latest body of work, “are not erotic at all,” she says. “1800 millimetres is just the size of my bed.” A bed to which she was confined, which came to represent her world – the very world from where her work originated. “It’s work that came out of my sickbed.” In 1800 Millimètre, Anrakuji poses nude, in solitude, in close shadowy settings – the confines of her bedroom staged for the gaze of a lens. She describes herself as “an alchemist of images”, blurring the contrived and the authentic …

2015-07-17T12:48:37+00:00

Edmund Clark photographed Afghanistan’s Bagram Air Base, home to more than 40,000 people

Our impression of war is shaped by images of soldiers on patrol or in combat. Actually, points out photographer Edmund Clark, the vast majority of the 40,000 people who were stationed at Bagram Airfield – America’s largest enclave in Afghanistan – never left it. Protected, but also confined, by perimeter walls that are secured by daily patrols, they lived in mess halls, meeting rooms, sleeping quarters, a supermarket and a gym. Their experience of Afghanistan is restricted to the landscape they can see over the walls, images of the country on murals in the meeting rooms and paintings in the dining facility, a weekly bazaar and 7000 security-screened local workers who provide cooking and cleaning services. Some of the personnel may also meet locals in the Parwan Detention Facility, the on-site jail whose treatment of prisoners has attracted Amnesty International’s attention. Insurgents based in the mountains also sporadically take pot-shots at the camp, launching rudimentary missiles that may or may not go off. Clark has previously shot the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base and a British control …

2015-07-07T16:58:35+00:00

Holding room. From Corrections, 2015 © Zora Murff

Kid criminals: tagged, tracked and cast off by society

“My dad left us when I was four or five, and I’ve been estranged from him ever since. Things were rough for my mum trying to raise two boys on her own,” says 28-year-old Zora Murff, whose series Corrections is informed in no small part by his experiences growing up disenfranchised, with a family diminished by low income, lack of opportunity and alcohol abuse. Born and raised in Des Moines, where one in three children live below the poverty line, Zora could easily have become a write-off. His mother was forced to take jobs out of town at weekends to provide for her two boys, often leaving them unsupervised for many hours. “My brother and I were very close when we were young, and I spent a lot of time following him around, until he got to the age where it wasn’t cool to have your little brother tagging along any more. When that happened, I had to learn to be alone – I started to read a lot and draw.” As Zora got older – with …

2015-07-06T15:26:20+00:00

BJP Staff