All posts filed under: Report

2 SFMOMA expansion 2015

Inside the New San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

If you are into photography, the last three years have dragged interminably in Northern California. Since the lights went out at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) in 2013, when it closed for a massive expansion on the back of a blockbusting Garry Winogrand retrospective that brought in huge crowds, there’s been a sense of loss and anticipation. Founded in 1935, the museum has always been the city’s visual arts powerhouse. It was also the first North American museum to collect photography seriously, and has mounted many stellar photography exhibitions in its eight decades. The intervening period has seen other photography venues emerge from its shadow; most notably Pier 24, an exhibition space dedicated to a large and eclectic private photography collection that rivals many museums, housed in a massive set of vaults under the Bay Bridge. Those lucky enough to snag a slot via its reservation system (limited to just 20 viewers at a time) have enjoyed thematic exhibitions – such as  last year’s Secondhand, devoted to found imagery that has been reworked, …

2016-05-11T11:55:50+00:00

Remembering Malick Sidibé

They’re dressed, fantastically, in white, but they couldn’t be more black. They’re holding hands, in the midst of a dance, and most probably a courtship. It’s late in the night. Music is playing. They look flushed, happy. They couldn’t be more alive. And they are about to celebrate their independence. In Bamako, the capital of Mali, in the late nineteen fifties, where this photo was taken, the boys would form gangs with over the top names. They’d belong to the Wild Cats, or the Black Socks. In a country still under the control of an imperialist French government, in which the natives of what was then French Sudan were afforded virtually no civil liberties, and in which conservative ethnic and religious concerns still exert a powerful pull on the country to this day, these young men would dress snappily, head into the night, and spend it engaging in the joyous pursuit of the opposite sex. Existing beyond closed-doors, Malick Sidibé was the only photographer to capture this new,  revolutionary youth movement. They became zeitgeist images, not just for that specific generation …

2016-04-20T13:05:22+00:00

Imperfect Chronology: Charting Arab history through photography and film

A 15-month long exhibition that began in September last year, Imperfect Chronology traces a chronological lineage through the development of art from the Arab region, starting from the beginning of the 20th century. Given the depth and size of the exhibition, it is the first time some of the pieces have been shown in the UK. Omar Kholeif, Manilow Senior Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and curator of the exhibition, explains the challenge in dividing the works into parts, where a distinction does not necessarily exist. “It is impossible to synchronise specific events in art history when the historical materials of a place or site are limited,” says Kholeif. “The exhibition acknowledges that is is a chronology but also that it is a propositional one, one that could be read in many different ways.” In this third instalment, the exhibition will display Moroccan photographer Yto Barrada’s poignant image Rue de la Liberté (2000), from the The Strait Project series, a visual documentary seeking to address the social tension and plight of Moroccan immigrants trying to get …

2016-04-08T16:09:41+00:00

The Anatomy of Absence: Inside Croatia’s Only Prison for Women

Central Slavonia’s quiet Požega Valley is home to Croatia’s only correctional facility for women. Here, 130 convicts repay their debt to society for crimes of varying villainy; from year-long terms for drug possession or theft to life sentences for murder. Marina Paulenka obtained special permission from the government to photograph the penitentiary, documenting this sensitive social issue over a period of 18 months. The main prison building was first erected at the tail-end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1915, initially a correctional institution for young orphan boys driven off track by petty crime. But, with the arrival of more young girls, it became exclusively female in 1925. The institute closed for a brief period in 1941 and later re-opened as the Požega Penitentiary that it is today. Paulenka’s collection is the first of its kind. It focuses on a hinterland of seemingly banal details that form a comprehensive study of the drudgery of incarceration. The photographs have a calmness of vision that seem to possess a very Balkan minimalism. Paulenka, who doubles up as the director …

2016-04-08T13:04:57+00:00

The turbulent life of Robert Mapplethorpe

“Perfection. That’s the Mapplethorpe characteristic,” says Robert Mapplethorpe’s younger brother Edward Maxey as he leans back in his chair, his chin piercing catching the light. He, along with artist Sandy Daley, singer Debbie Harry and art critic Carol Squiers, are just some of the host of artists and friends interviewed in a compelling new film available to view in cinemas from 22 April. The film’s directors, Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, follow Mapplethorpe’s life from his Catholic childhood upbringing through to his final days in New York, charting how the bisexual man from Queens, NY, became perhaps the most controversial photographer in history. We begin in Los Angeles, 1989, amid the violent protests provoked by Mapplethorpe’s deeply controversial erotic imagery he displayed at his self-curated final show, The Perfect Moment, at the city’s Museum of Contemporary Art. We then cut to the present day, to the serene J. Paul Getty Museum. There, curator Paul Martineau and Britt Salvesen, head of photography and curator at LACMA, delicately unwrap Mapplethorpe’s archived black and white prints in preparation for the two retrospective exhibitions of …

2016-11-04T16:50:50+00:00

How photobook publisher Self Publish Be Happy became a focus for creativity and participation 

“All of this,” says Bruno Ceschel, sweeping his arm in a theatrical arc, “used to be my studio, where people could hang out. Now we are beginning to suffocate under boxes of books.” The room in question is an airy, light-filled rectangle two floors above the shopfronts and stalls of Dalston’s Ridley Road market. While we’re talking, and looking at books, the throaty beat of African music drifts through the open window. Beyond, a herd of the tower cranes that have come to define the east London landscape in recent years is potently visible. Ceschel, 39, is the brains behind Self Publish, Be Happy, the hippest publishing outfit around. Over the five years they have been in operation, SPBH, as they are more commonly known, has grown from an online platform for self-published material to a hub for participatory projects and workshops. The boxes causing trouble – red and blue plastic crates – are leftovers from an event they held in the Tate Modern Turbine Hall during Offprint in May. Offprint London is coming back …

2016-09-22T14:52:15+00:00

This is what hatred did

Cristina de Middel: Lady Isn’t Waiting

When I contact Cristina de Middel to ask for an interview, she’s in an airport. When we speak on Skype a few days later, she’s preparing for another flight later that day. When she sends us her images, she does so from a departure lounge. Talk to other photographers on the festival circuit, and de Middel is referred to with a lot of affection and a tiny bit of resentment. It’s as if they might be remembering an old friend they haven’t seen for a long time, and can’t help feeling a little rejected, a little jealous. For de Middel was, once, one of them. She was a photojournalist who no longer towed the editorial line, choosing to go it alone and focus on her own work, embracing a more conceptual approach, jettisoning the press for the art world. De Middel was hardly alone in doing this, and she was there, at the festivals, competing for attention like everyone else, necking the free wine at everyone else’s gallery launches, worrying about the bank account. Now …

2016-07-05T14:05:23+00:00

Belfast Exposed – a photography gallery that crossed the sectarian divide

On 17 October, 1983, a show called Belfast Exposed opened at the Peoples’ Theatre, Conway Mill, between the Falls and Shankill Roads on the nationalist side of the ‘Peace Wall’. It was the height of The Troubles and Belfast was still dealing with the social trauma of the hunger strikes – the series of politically motivated, self-imposed fasts that had killed 10 Republican prisoners at HM Prison Maze, including Bobby Sands, a Republican political prisoner who was elected to the British parliament while on hunger strike. But this exhibition aimed to cross the sectarian divides, and to go beyond the usual photojournalism to articulate the working-class experience of the city. It was put together by Danny Burke, a local teacher and trade unionist who put out the call for “any photographer who wishes to explore any aspects of the city or its people – photographs being preferred on the basis of content rather than artistic or technical merit”. He aimed to show Belfast “from the inside”, rather than through the lens of outsider press photographers, …

2016-01-13T14:33:24+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 …

2015-10-19T12:25:10+00:00

BJP Staff