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.
In 1935 Roy E. Stryker, head of the Information division of the Farm Security Administration (FSA), commissioned several photographers – including Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange and Russell Lee – to document America’s farm life and workers. The USA was in the throes of the Great Depression, and the scenes that the image-makers captured, from 1935-1944, created a damning and lasting vision of destitution. Lange’s 1936 portrait of the so-called Migrant Mother became a symbol of the plight of the impoverished itinerant farmers, for example – and, for Stryker, summed up his entire project at the FSA. “She has all the suffering of mankind in her but all of the perseverance too,” he reportedly said. “A restraint and a strange courage. You can see anything you want to in her. She is immortal.” As Stryker’s words suggest, he had a very particular vision of what he wanted to achieve with these photographs. Images that did not fit in with that vision were ruthlessly “killed” – rendered unpublishable by having a hole punched through the negative. Thousands of photographs were defaced in this way, in an act of censorship that has since been described as vandalism.
“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.”
When he first heard about the HOME project, Brighton-based photographer Mark Power’s immediate reaction was to make something personal. “Home is such an abstract concept,” he says. “For instance, if I’ve been travelling abroad for a while I’d probably consider my home to be England. If I’m already there, then I might think of Brighton as home. In Brighton I’d probably think of my house.” Ultimately though ‘home’ translates as family for him, and by coincidence the project landed just as his family was undergoing seismic change. “By chance, the subject was staring me in the face – our daughter Chilli was leaving home in September, moving to London to begin a degree in Fine Art at Goldsmiths University,” explains Power. “Ironically, this date coincided almost exactly with the deadline to deliver the final project.”
New York in 1968, Alessandra Sanguinetti’s family moved to Argentina when she was two years old. She lived there until 2003, but is now based in San Francisco – for her, she says, home is two places. “I was in Buenos Aires when the project was proposed,” says Sanguinetti. “My parents still live in the same apartment where I grew up. It’s where I stay when I’m down there, so it felt natural to make work in my childhood home. “Where you grow up becomes a reference for what home should and shouldn’t be,” she observes. “Patterns and habits and a sense of personal space are probably embedded within you and defined by your personal home, so what might seem like just another apartment to an outsider was a goldmine for me.” A lock, a stash of hidden money, jars labelled ‘Never Open’ – Sanguinetti hones in on domestic details, as well as the people close to her, especially her mother and father. Under her lens, they’re shown up close in raw detail, and looking …
“For me home is a very difficult concept because I was born in Peru, but grew up in Spain and lived in America,” Moises Saman tells me over the phone from his current base – Tokyo, Japan. “At first I was confused because I’ve moved around so much in the past few years. So for this project, I took the opportunity as a way to trace back to where I was born.” Born in Lima in 1968, Moises Saman relocated to Barcelona, Spain with his family when he was just one year old. He spent a month travelling in Kosovo photographing the immediate aftermath of the last Balkan war; during his seven-year stint at Newsday as a staff photographer, he covered the fall out of the 9/11 attacks, and spent an extensive amount of time in Middle Eastern countries before becoming a freelance photographer.
“I wonder what it will be like looking at them in twenty years,” write Magnum photographer Jonas Bendiksen of his contribution to the HOME group project. “This time capsule from when Anna and I were young, and the kids were just two bundles of limitless potential.” Born in 1977, Bendiksen is still young enough to be adding to his family, and shot his contribution to HOME last summer, “when Bille arrived and Boe went from being our little baby to being a big sister”. It’s a time he’ll never forget, he says, though it revolved around the simple things in life – playing, eating, being at home. “That’s what life was about at the time, so it seemed a bizarrely appropriate reason to photograph these events,” he says.
When the HOME project was proposed to her, Olivia Arthur was heavily pregnant with her second daughter and focussing that seemed a natural choice. “But in terms of presenting it as a project to the outside world, I think what’s interesting is this period of waiting – that’s where it all becomes very personal,” she says. Aptly titled Waiting for Lorelai, the project became about the anticipation she and her family experienced in the lead-up to the birth. “There’s this kind of emotion about how much it’s going to change the dynamics between us,” says Arthur, “and how my [older] daughter’s going to react when she finds out it’s not just her.”
“What is ‘home’?” writes Magnum Photos curator Pauline Vermare. “Instinctively, the idea of peaceful haven comes to mind. A cocoon where one feels secure, loved and understood – a nurturing and forgiving place.” It’s a topic she’s been thinking about in depth, because back in 2017 Fujifilm invited Magnum Photos to collaborate on an ambitious group project, which eventually saw 16 of its documentary photographers reflect on the idea of ‘home’. These photographers are better-known for documenting the lives of others, but in this project, they were able to create intensely personal work instead. “This project provided photographers with an ideal pretext to explore a place they held dear, a familiar and familial landscape,” says Vermare. “It was an invitation to look inward and outward. Home – an inherently intimate and introspective subject matter – was also a formidable challenge to take on; for the past seventy years, Magnum photographers have predominantly been looking into the lives of others – and seldom looking into their own.”