“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.”
Between 1960 and 1997, the idyllic Italian island of Sardinia witnessed a series of kidnappings at the hands of the anonima sequestri sarda – a group of vigilantes meting out justice according to a traditional, local code of honour known as the codice barbaricino. Over 37 years, 162 people were kidnapped for ransom, with some of them killed. The kidnapping of seven-year-old Farouk Kassam in 1992 is particularly vivid for Sardinian-born-and-raised Valeria Cherchi, who was the same age at the time. The case instilled in her a profound fear. “I clearly remember the news, during his fifth month of imprisonment, that the upper part of his ear was found by a priest on a mountainous road in Barbagia, central Sardinia,” she recalls.
Roland Barthes’ tear-jerking account of his confrontation with his mother’s photograph captures the emotions that a picture of a loved one can evoke, and the significance of a family photograph. From early formal portraits of upper-class families shot in studios to contemporary snaps, images have welded families together under the premise of memory. But with private pictures now becoming more public, family photographs are evolving in the way we document our histories. Rie Yamada’s family photographs take it a step further: instead of documenting her nearest and dearest, in her series Familie werden (which translates as Become a family), the photographer plays every relative herself, highlighting gender stereotypes and social archetypes with a good dose of hilarity and absurdity.
Swedish organisation Fotografiska has announced Alexander Montague-Sparey as the chief curator of their new gallery in London. He will oversee the exhibition programme for all seven spaces in the London venue, which will open in Whitechapel later this year. Montague-Sparey is an independent curator who has worked with a variety of private clients including collectors, art fairs and museums. He holds a Masters Degree in Art History from the University of Oxford, and is a photography specialist. “Fotografiska London’s seven exhibition spaces will allow for the display of some of the most cutting-edge and accomplished international photo and video artists,” he told BJP. “The venue in Stockholm has become one of the foremost international spaces dedicated to contemporary photography in the world. I look forward to advancing the discussion in this state of the art space, in London’s most exciting and creative postcode.”
Foam Talent returns to London, with an exhibition of forward-thinking photographers under the age of 35 including Alinka Echeverria (UK/Mexico), Weronika Gęsicka (Poland), Namsa Leuba (Switzerland/Guinea), Erik Madigan Heck (USA), Viacheslav Poliakov (Ukraine), Harit Srikhao (Thailand), and Vasantha Yogananthan (France). This year 1790 artists responded to Foam Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam’s annual talent call, and the 20 selected photographers were picked out for their experimental approaches to the medium. The new generation of artists explore a variety of subjects, says Foam, including several photographers openly denouncing the totalitarian regimes of their countries.
Phoebe Kiely was 14 years old when she first picked up a camera. It was terrible, though: a four megapixel digital device from Aldi. But despite the poor quality, Kiely became obsessed with taking pictures. One of the earliest photographs she remembers was of her best friend, Amanda, captured in the garden of Kiely’s family home in Ingoldsby, Lincolnshire. “It’s a picture of her on a small trampoline,” she says. “I’m above her and she’s curled up, looking up at me.” The Aldi camera was replaced with a film camera when Kiely hit her late teens and the “buzz” of shooting, developing and seeing the final results of her pictures became stronger. It was what helped her get through three years of working in retail after finishing her A-levels in 2009. “I remember running into town during my 15-minute morning break to drop my film off,” she says. “I would walk back during my lunch hour to pick up the pictures. It was the most exciting part of the day.” Kiely graduated in 2015 with …
“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.”
“It was a different time to now, it’s hard to remember just how scarce images were,” says John Myers. “Now you can get things on screen, in the early 1970s there was only a smattering of images available. When I give a talk, I often start by handing out a sheet of paper with a list of interests and influences in 1972-75. The names run across just half a side of A4. There aren’t that many on it, and it includes people I was interested in on the basis of one or two images.” But for Myers, this scarcity was part of the allure. After studying Fine Art with Richard Hamilton, he got into photography in 1972 “because I had never done it”; initially only familiar with Bill Brandt and Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work, as photography rapidly gained recognition in Britain he soon had access to much more. “I was so excited to come across people, when photography suddenly started emerging from the shadows and books were being published,” he says. Myers started shooting with a Mamiya but, finding it “odd” to be looking down at his waist, moved to a 5×4 plate camera and soon found his stride.