The numbers are just staggering – 2813 applicants showing up for nine nursery teacher positions; 10,000 for 14 policer officer roles; and 1099 for one nursing post. These are the Italian Civil Service exams, and Michele Borzoni photographed them for over a year, capturing their sheer size with a medium format camera and a perspective-correcting lens more usually used for large-scale architectural shots. “I wanted to emphasis this sense of mass, the loss of individuality, the person reduced to number,” he says. “The competitions are sometimes a humiliating path, because often they do not assess the individual capacity, at least not in the early stages of the competition.”
Foto/Industria Biennial returns to Bologna, with 14 exhibitions centring around the idea of identity and illusion in photographs of work, curated by Francois Hébel and including image-makers such as Thomas Ruff, Josef Koudelka, Lee Friedlander, Joan Fontcuberta, Alexander Rodchenko, Mitch Epstein, Yukichi Watabe, John Myers and Michele Borzoni.
We are in Arles, where in July 2016 he showed Mortuary, one of his signature sculptural installations, made up of heavily manipulated, elongated photographic forms. He had been selected for the Rencontres photofestival’s Discovery Award, though in truth this cat had been long out of the bag – Yokota exhibited in Arles in 2015, showing his almost imperceptible inky-black prints from his Inversion series as part of Another Language: 8 Japanese Photographers, curated by Simon Baker of Tate Modern. And in the preceding half decade, his intriguing, visually arresting performances, experiments, installations, books, soundscapes and collaborations have blazed a trail from Tokyo to wider international acclaim, taking photography on a journey to the extreme. In this he is a revolutionary, with neither pretension nor timid creativity. The sheer energy with which he produces work is extraordinary, verging on obsessional and driven by a desire to constantly record, destroy and then recreate. Anxiety is the fuel. “In my mind, I have an image of burning energy in continual production,” he says.
Katie Burdon’s ethereal fashion images make no secret of a childhood spent outside in the English countryside. A Cornish native, the 20-year-old first began taking photographs when she was 14, using her friends as models and the picturesque fields, woods, and seaside of her surroundings as her backdrop. Now a graduate of the University of Bournemouth, her practice has evolved into an intimate and considered portrayal of femininity through fashion photography. With a rich yet hazy 1970s-inspired palette and surreal undertones, Burdon’s photographs are elegant in their composition, yet still capture something of the raw and playful nature of youth. Determined to counteract the impossible beauty standards of the imagery she grew up with, the young photographer prefers being real and “celebrating women”, choosing models with big personalities.
“There are two important things about this show,” says Clément Chéroux, senior curator of photography at SFMOMA. “First, the quantity of work – more than 300 photographs, quite a large selection, because we were able to get support from most of the big institutions – MOMA, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Gallery of Canada, the Musée du Quai Branly and so on, and private collections from around the world. Second, is the fact that it is arranged thematically rather than chronologically. Usually when you look at important retrospectives they are chronological, but we organised by theme because we wanted to organise it around Evans’ passion for the vernacular. He was fascinated with vernacular culture.”
When approaching Mathieu Pernot’s 20-year-spanning work on a Roma family settled in southern France, you should leave all misconceptions and prejudices aside, as he did, and read the introduction to Les Gorgan, the photobook published by Editions Xavier Barral to accompany his critically-acclaimed exhibition at this year’s Rencontres d’Arles festival. When he began, the French photographer writes, he didn’t know anything about the Gorgan family, nor was he aware that its members had been living in France for over a century. It was to be a transformative experience, one that led Pernot to witness the birth of a child for the first time, attend funerals and engage in a type of intimacy that only time and surrender can offer.
NOOR, the prestigious photo agency and foundation, has signed up three new nominees – Sanne de Wilde, Arko Datto and Leonard Pongo. Hailing from Belgium, India and Belgium/DR Congo respectively, all three are known for their cutting-edge work, rooted in documentary but pushing the aesthetic boundaries of image-making.
Nicholas Bonner first visited Korea in 1993, and since then has spent “most of my adult life involved in North Korea”. Now based in Beijing, he makes regular trips to the country with his company, Koryo Tours, and has also put together films and other cultural projects with North Korea with his other business, Koryo Studio. Bonner has collected ephemera from North Korea for nearly 25 years and recently published a book showcasing some of it with Phaidon, Made in North Korea: Graphics from Everyday Life. Featuring everything from metro tickets to stamps, postcards to luggage labels, tinned food labels to gift-wrap, it includes a healthy proportion of photographs made and disseminated by the DPRK. BJP caught up with him to find out more.
When Veronica Viacava moved to London, straight out of high school in Milan, she had never studied photography. But she had developed an interest in the concept of the photographic image, beyond the physicality of manually taking pictures, and seeking independence from her family, who didn’t approve of her desire to study the arts, enrolled at the University of Middlesex. Viacava has just graduated, and her work has been deeply personal throughout. When she was 17, her mother passed away, which led to intense musings on old family photo albums. By the end of her second year at Middlesex, she had begun to think about the materialisation of memory and “the idea of photography turning the past into an object”, she says. “So that you can look through it.”
On the face of it, Thomas Ruff has radically altered course since his first major series brought him to international fame in the mid-1980s. He followed his portraits of fellow students at the Düsseldorf Art Academy (where he was studying photography with the legendary Bernd and Hilla Becher) with photographs of modern architecture in the 1987-1991 series Hauser, and then began working with appropriated images. His 1989 series, Sterne, used astronomical panoramas from the European Southern Observatory, for example, while his Zeitungsfotos made during the 1990s took images culled from newspapers. Over the following decade he has continued working with the vernacular, incorporating source material such as manga comics which he manipulated into colourful abstractions (Substrat), highly pixellated images he downloaded from the internet (Jpegs), and an archive of glass negatives found in a factory archive from the 1930s and 40s (Machines). But while Ruff is happy to admit his techniques change from series to series, the concept behind his work has remained consistent. In an interview for his latest catalogue he told Hans Ulrich …