When Jordan Baumgarten and his wife moved into the neighbourhood of Kensington in Philadelphia in 2013, they were shocked by what they saw – sex workers, dealers and drug use, all in plain view on the street, with almost no oversight from the police. Faced with these scenes daily on his doorstep, Baumgarten turned to his camera in an attempt to make sense of the area. “Photography forces an interaction and relationship with the world because it demands that you go to a certain place,” he says. Kensington is “a nexus for those in and around the city seeking heroin and all that it entails. It co-exists alongside everyday life in the neighbourhood and its surrounding landscape,” Baumgarten explains. But he adds that while this work focuses on Philadelphia, it addresses a much larger issue: “The city serves as a microcosm to discuss issues tearing apart the fabric of our social landscape.” Born in Philadelphia in 1983, Baumgarten stumbled across photography almost by accident after breaking his leg in 6th grade – keen to keep …
“I never had trouble walking up to people and asking them to take their picture,” photographer Arlene Gottfried (1950-2017) told The Guardian in 2014. Largely unknown to the public for the majority of her career, it was her black-and-white photographs of New York in the 1970s-80s that first sparked an interest in her work. Looking at them, it’s clear that Gottfried had a way with people as well as with images. “Arlene had a way of looking at the world with curiosity and love that was distinctly her own,” says Daniel Cooney, who runs a gallery of the same name currently showing Gottfried’s work.
The Sony World Photography Awards prides itself on being a truly global competition, and this year it received almost 320,000 entries from over 200 countries and territories. The awards cover four separate competitions – Professional, Open, Youth and Student Focus – which are themselves categorised into areas such as Architecture, Contemporary Issues, Landscape, Portraiture, and Travel. The winners will be revealed on 19 April, and a curated exhibition of the work will take place at Somerset House, London from 20 April-06 May.
“Folkestone is a hidden gem – inspiring, by the sea, relatively affordable, and only an hour from London,” says Lee Brodhurst-Hooper. “It is easier for me to be a photographer here. I can afford to be an artist here, and I couldn’t in London. There is a thriving creative community, with lots of active, enthusiastic, friendly people who want to push the agenda for the town forward. “But at the same time it is a town struggling with its identity. As one of the 10% of most deprived areas of the country, it has high rates of deprivation and low scope in terms of jobs and careers. There is dilapidation, it is rough around the edges, there are barren spaces and roads you should avoid.” Originally from the Midlands, Brodhurst-Hooper moved to Folkestone two years ago, after a long stint living and working in London. Studying first at the University of East London and then on the prestigious MA Photography at the London College of Communications, he had built up a successful career in trendspotting, picture …
“The streets were dark with something more than night,” wrote Raymond Chandler in The Simple Art of Murder (1950). Born in Chicago but brought up in Los Angeles, Chandler helped create the genre that became synonymous with the City of Angels – the grimy, morally ambiguous Noir. And, suggests a new book by Taschen’s executive editor Jim Heimann, there’s good reason why LA gave birth to Noir. A small (though already shady) city until 1892, it was transformed when oil was discovered in modern day Echo Park. The black gold brought in money, and with it corruption, and a series of lurid real-life crimes. At the same time, Hollywood and the burgeoning newspaper industry helped ensure a plentiful supply of photographers, documenting both the good and the bad to be found.
In the UK nobody lives more than 72 miles from the sea, and the seaside is entrenched in our culture because of it. “The coastline is significant to Brits whether we live there, or not,” says Simon Roberts, who lives in the seaside town of Brighton, and who has returned to the coast again and again in his work. Now his images are appearing in an exhibition called The Great British Seaside at the National Maritime Museum this spring, alongside work by David Hurn, Martin Parr and the late Tony Ray-Jones.
“The work represents my experience in recovering and understanding my parents, their life and their relationship towards myself,” says Marco Marzocchi of his series Oyster. “I never knew them well because they split when I was 6 years old, and they both died young.
“Drugs, addictions, jail, and dysfunctional environment, these were constant elements. This work is focused on dealing and replacing all the doubts and the fears that I had. Exorcising the pain and the searching for love.” A bold mix of colour, black-and-white, contemporary and archive images, presented with hand-written text, Marzocchi’s series has scooped first prize in the 2017 Gomma Grant. Marzocchi has worked on the project for a decade, honing down on the editing last year with distinguished photographers JH Engstrom and Margot Wallard at the celebrated Atelier Smedsby workshop.
“The term ‘Britishness’ has changed so much over the last ten years, I don’t really know what it means anymore to say ‘I’m British,’” observes Scottish photographer Niall McDiarmid, who has spent almost a decade photographing people in the street across Britain. In 2011 he started work on his latest series, Town to Town, which has just been published as a book and which will be shown at the Martin Parr Foundation in Bristol, UK from 31 January-12 May. Initially focussing on London, it soon expanded beyond the capital city and ended up covering 200 towns, tracing a journey around Britain and its diverse inhabitants.
Tormented by a traumatic past and challenged by a difficult present, Sicily is still haunted by the destructive presence of Cosa Nostra. In Terra Nostra, Mimi Mollica shows this problematic entanglement, focusing on the legacy of the Mafia in Sicily. Born and raised in Palermo, Mollica says the series was a labour of love on his homeland, and he tells BJP how he created it, and how he got into photography in the first place.
At 28, Zsolt Ficsór is part of this new generation, using his collective, MAMA Photobooks, to help promote local artists’ self-published work. In October Ficsór brought MAMA to Photo Book London at The Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, for example, while in September, he was invited to take part in the five-day Magnum workshop at the Capa Contemporary Photography Centre in Budapest. Lead by celebrated Magnum photographers Antoine d’Agata and Matt Black, this workshop was a masterclass in developing his style of urban documentary photography, he says, which stems from his fascination with “interacting with this surreal and unreal world that we are living in right here here, right now”.