All posts filed under: Portrait

Near Kaaterskill Falls, New York, from Songbook

“Photography is a language.” Alec Soth on his first UK exhibition Gathered Leaves

“Everyone can take great pictures,” Alec Soth tells BJP at the opening of his first UK exhibition, Gathered Leaves, at London’s Science Museum. “What’s hard is taking a collection of great pictures and making them work together. It’s like language: everyone can speak but putting the words together is the real challenge.”  Gathered Leaves meets that challenge head on. This is his new exhibition in London’s Science Museum, displaying a comprehensive set of pictures from a photographer widely considered the greatest contemporary explorer of the American psyche. Derived from his four books Sleeping by the Mississippi, Niagara, Broken Manual and Songbook, the work combines portraiture, landscapes and interiors, presented with a smattering of inspirational material. Though the subject matter ranges from portentous wide shots of waterfalls to bearded men clutching model planes to naked Neo-Nazi hermits it’s easy to deduce Soth’s common thread: we’re witnessing the less-travelled America. Soth’s work has taken him across the whole of the US, though it’s what are derisively called ‘the flyover states’ that firmly hold his attention. This is …


The democratic defacement of French political posters

During France’s presidential election in 2012, Pascal Fellonneau began photographing election posters obsessively. “I had occasionally photographed them before, but when I saw posters everywhere in the runup to the last election, I decided to start a new body of work,” says the 46 year old, who divides his time between Paris and Bordeaux. “I took daily walks looking for bills posted around Paris.” It was both an exercise in portrait photography and a way of documenting French politics. Rather than deliberately making the politicians into parody by using a wide-angle lens to create distortion, Fellonneau comes in close, framing their faces tightly. Despite this, “they look like caricatures due to they way they have been displayed and intervened upon”. The posters are often ripped, crinkled or defaced: eyes are occasionally blacked or scratched out, and some of the posters have been covered in paint or have been drawn on. “There is a tradition in France of drawing glasses, moustaches, beards or penises on posters of politicians’ faces. I think it’s a symptom of the mistrust people have of politics. People sometimes …


Julian Germain photographed classrooms in 19 countries all over the world

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s Ethiopia or Germany”, says Julian Germain, the British photographer who has spent the last 11 years photographing children in their classrooms at school’s all over the world. “Each school is instantly recognisable,” Germain says. “A teacher standing in front of rows of children in an oblong space, with a blackboard at one end is the template of education throughout the world.” This universal experience is something that Germain has captured in his aptly named series Classroom Portraits, that will have its UK premiere at the Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne at the beginning of October. After starting the series in the north of England, Germain photographed in 19 countries across the world, including Russia, Taiwan, Bangladesh, the USA and Saudi Arabia.    The project began when his when his own daughters first started their education.  He realised that, despite this experience being universal, there were hardly any depictions of schooling in the photography world. “The way it worked was pretty random,” Germain says. “If I was travelling somewhere, I’d ask people I knew …


Portraits of gang members in a El Salvadoran prison too dangerous for the wardens to enter

Not many photographers get the chance to enter a prison guarded by an army, let alone shoot inside one. But Adam Hinton managed it, travelling to El Salvador, the most densely populated country in Central America, and gaining access to one of the world’s most dangerous gangs. Hinton’s photobook MS-13, published this month by Paul Belford, gathers 22 photographs, primarily portraits of members of the gang La Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13). Each were serving 20 to 40-year sentences in Penal de Ciudad Barrios, a prison with 26,000 inmates – it was built for 800 – and the final destination for the vast majority of convicted MS-13 members. El Salvador has one of the highest homicide rates in the world, with 4,000 murders this year. Gang culture is rife; just last month, gangs forced a bus strike and killed seven drivers. There are an estimated 70,000 active gang members in El Salvador according to the BBC, and approximately 12,000 of them are behind bars. But the images seek to show a human side to such dangerous men, Hinton says. “They only …


How Dennis Stock took those iconic pictures of James Dean

When the Magnum photographer Dennis Stock met actor James Dean in Hollywood in 1955, something about the rising star caught his attention. The young actor had yet to make what would be the defining film of his short career – Rebel Without a Cause – and, while not completely unknown, he was not the iconic figure he would soon become. Yet Stock, who at the time was making a steady living as a photographer for Life magazine, couldn’t get the actor out of his head. He saw something in Dean – charisma certainly, an untapped star quality – and was determined to capture him on film. So began the brief and at times fraught relationship between Dean and the photographer as he tried to convince the actor to make a photo essay for Life. The ups and downs of their relationship lie at the heart of a new film, Life, directed by Anton Corbijn, and starring Dane DeHaan and Robert Pattinson. Dean (DeHaan), wrapped up in his own bubble, is a tricky customer, not one …


Breathe copy

How photography is just like photosynthesis

The photography of Alice Cazenave, as much a scientist as an artist, is intriguing, her methods of construction ambiguous. In her work Breathe a ghostly portrait emerges from the fragile architecture of a geranium leaf. It’s one of the first images created through a new photographic process Cazenave calls Pelargonium printing. Although pushing photography in exciting new directions, Cazenave’s new process engages with some of the medium’s longstanding concerns: light, time and memory. The concept of a photograph as an “exact trace of light, shadow, time and space” is paramount to the artist. She cites Susan Sontag’s On Photography, regarding the process of looking at a photograph: “‘The photograph of the missing being will touch me like the delayed rays of a star’ – I think it’s a beautiful way to explain photography,” she says. Having recently lost someone close to her, the artist places great value on: “The notion that light can freeze time for the keeping, as a physical keepsake.” Cazenave’s interest in photography was piqued at an early age when a school teacher introduced her …


Amira and her Children by Ivor Prickett © Ivor Prickett/UNHCR/Panos Pictures

Shortlist for the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2015 announced

Four photographs have been shortlisted for the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2015, the major international photography award organised by the National Portrait Gallery, London. Beginning in 1993, the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize has become the National Portrait Gallery’s signature exhibition, attracting contemporary photographers around the globe and offering extensive exposure to seasoned photographers and talented amateurs. The prize will be announced on the 10th of November 2015, with the first prize winner receiving £12,000. The shortlisted portraits include: Hector by Anoush Abrar is inspired by the dramatic chiaroscuro lighting of Baroque paintings. The Iranian-born Swiss photographer was strongly influenced by Caravaggio’s work, particularly his painting Sleeping Cupid from 1608. Abrar explains: “Somehow I needed to make my own Sleeping Cupid. I found my portrait of Hector so powerful and iconic that it inspired me to continue this project as a series called Cherubs.” Ivor Prickett’s photograph Amira and her Children, of a displaced Iraqi family who had fled their village near Mosul after Isis took control of the area. The documentary photographer has …


Peter Watkins’ photographic exploration of his late mother


“I had no revelatory introduction to photography,” says Peter Watkins. “I used to walk around the streets photographing people and detritus just like anyone else with a camera, until eventually I got bored making photographs in this way. The revelation really came for me when I realised that photography was essentially about everything: philosophy, sociology, history, language, religion and politics.” The London-based photographer completed an MA at the Royal College of Art, following a degree at university of Westminster, which he says, “knocked him into shape”, with its emphasis on writing and theory. “I suppose what attracts me most to Peter’s recent work is the way it engages with some elemental questions about photography and the relationship between part and whole, form and expression,” says one of his lecturers at Westminster, Eugénie Shinkle. “As single images – formal studies – his photographs have a kind of monumental clarity about them. Bound together in a series, they’re transformed into something lyrical and occult. This tension is compelling.” In 2013, Watkins finished working on the series The Unforgetting, a project relating to his …


Photographing the people of Burma as the country opens its borders for the first time

“I wanted to document life in Burma by capturing a visual time capsule of the country, a country largely closed off from the outside world and largely untouched, but not for much longer,” says Clarisse d’Arcimoles of her new series Myanmar to Burma: Portraits of Change. In 2012, after half a century of repressive military junta rule, Burma reopened its borders to the outside world. A rapidly changing country about to have its first democratic election in November, d’Arcimoles, a French documentary photographer and fine artist, immersed herself in its culture to produce images of a people presenting itself to the outside world for the first time in decades.   She first travelled to Burma in the spring of 2014, when she organised an art competition to sponsor Burmese art through social media and exhibitions. In 2015 Clarisse decided to return in order to pursue her own photography project. “I immersed myself into the Burma of today, inside the homes which until recently were shut to outsiders, and in border towns amongst hill tribe villages and their …


Louise, Jacksonville, 2012

One Stephen Shore student is setting Paris alight

“I choose to work without limits. I follow my instincts and allow my subconscious to be in control. By neither having a theme nor a structured project, I am able to keep my photographic process as natural and intuitive as possible,” says 27-year-old Louis Heilbronn. His first exhibition, Meet Me On The Surface, at the Galerie Polaris in Paris in February 2013, was a revelation for many. Brigitte Ollier, art critic for the French daily Libération, described his images as “gifted, with a captivating power”, while Claire Guillot of Le Monde wrote that their charm came from their elusive nature. Heilbronn’s large-format photos, which were shown as small 23×30cm prints, flowed like an organic stream of consciousness, mixing portraits of loved ones such as his girlfriend with shots of strangers, images of everyday objects, and an array of varying landscapes. With no indication as to when or how far apart they were taken, the images created a quiet riddle to which each spectator found his own answer. The Brooklyn-based photographer graduated from the photography programme …


BJP Staff