It’s little more than a decade since Ricardo Cases took his first tentative steps into the world with his personal work, exhibiting as part of New Spanish Photography at Lodz Fotofestiwal in 2007, a group show that travelled on to China and Slovakia. More than a dozen solo shows followed across Spain over the next three years before his international breakthrough with the book Paloma al aire [Pigeons in flight], published by Dewi Lewis in 2011. Ostensibly, the book follows pigeon-fanciers in Valencia and Murcia going about a local racing ritual, painting male birds for a competition in which the winner is the cock that attracts the hen. But with its distinctive spiral-bound, notebook appearance, and Cases’ tight framing, emphasising the surreality of the chase, it acquired a cult following, marking the arrival of a singular talent. The unconventional traits to this and his subsequent works are clearly evident in his first major survey exhibition, on show in Madrid from 13 June to 22 July at the spectacular Sala Canal Isabel II, as part of this year’s Photo España.
“If you are on the lowest rung of society, if when you get on a bus people turn away from you, it’s nice to be noticed,” says Louis Quail. “It’s nice to be seen.” We’re talking about his project Big Brother, which won the portfolio review prize at Format International Photography Festival and has been published as a book by Dewi Lewis. Shot over the last six years, it’s a portrait of Quail’s older brother Justin, who is now 58 and has suffered from schizophrenia for his whole adult life. Quail doesn’t shy away from the obvious effects of his brother’s illness, showing his wrecked shoes and chaotic flat, and including police notes and medical records that speak of medication, sectioning and arrest. But his project also shows another side to Justin – one less familiar, perhaps, in our conception of the mentally ill. It includes Justin’s excellent drawings and paintings, his poetry, and his love of bird watching; it also shows his girlfriend Jackie, who also has mental issues and is an alcoholic, but …
Laia Abril is no stranger to themes of distress. Bulimia, coping with the death of a child, the asexual community, virtual sex-performer couples – these are all topics that the Barcelona-based photographer has explored and attempted to demystify with her multi-layered, story-based practice. The subjects she tackles are complex and provocative, but ones she is able to connect with by way of female empathy, “where I can be involved emotionally”, she says.
If you caught the documentary What Do Artists Do All Day on him on BBC Four a year ago, you’ll have an idea of what Dougie Wallace is like – upfront, funny, and very, very energetic. You could say the same for his photography too, which though it’s been shot in a variety of places ranging from Mumbai, to East London, to outside Harrods, always bears his trademark wit and momentum. Now Wallace is showing his five book projects to date at the Bermondsey Project Space in London – Stags, Hens & Bunnies, Road Wallah, Harrodsburg, Shoreditch Wildlife, and a new title, Well-Heeled. A dogs-eye view of pampered pets, it’s now being published as a book by Dewi Lewis.
In the late 1980s, while studying, David Moore made a series of colour photographs depicting the everyday lives of working class communities in Derby. In Pictures From the Real World, since published as a book by Dewi Lewis, we meet married couple Lisa and John, among others. Intrigued by the notion of returning photographs to the contexts from which they came, Moore had the idea for a new imagining of the work as a piece of verbatim theatre (drama derived from unedited spoken transcripts), through which the photographs could be ‘returned’ to the couple. Moore invited Lisa and her now ex-husband John to work with him on what he calls an “archive intervention” – to create new dialogues from the photographs. From this The Lisa and John Slideshow was born, a 45-minute play written and directed by Moore, assisted by Gavin Dent, where actors played the couple.
“The end of war does not mean peace,” says Sara Terry, founder of The Aftermath Project. “Every story of war includes a chapter that almost always goes untold – the story of the aftermath, which day by day becomes the prologue of the future.” It was in September 2000 that Terry decided to go to Bosnia. Six weeks earlier she had come across a story reporting on so-called ‘Bosnia fatigue’, the factor that meant that, five years after the end of the Bosnian War, the reporters were long gone and the international aid agencies were shipping out. Frustrated by the idea that people could forget what had happened, Terry felt compelled “to capture the images that are the all-too-often forgotten companions of the vivid pictures of war itself.” Terry had started out as a print reporter but went on to produce formative photographic work in Bosnia, which she published as Aftermath: Bosnia’s Long Road to Peace. The experience also led her to set up The Aftermath Project in 2003, with the aim of telling post-conflict stories from around the world and throughout time.
Merrie Albion: Landscape Studies of a Small Island is a concise compendium of Britain over the past few years and is an excellent visual survey of the run-up to Brexit. The photographs examine rich and complex variations of Britain that are now even more poignant after last year’s vote. Images of election campaigning in clean and tidy suburbia, protests, the aftermath of riots in London, diamond jubilee celebrations, rock concerts, a family enjoying Brighton beach, computer screens of the trading floor of Lloyds – the list goes on. Roberts has managed to capture all the major events in juxtaposition with minor situations that are large with meaning, from the dead of the Iraq war being saluted by Army veterans through Wootton Bassett to an depiction of impoverished mothers and children at a youth club in Blackburn. Contained within each photograph are mini dramas, cheap-looking high streets with pound shops set against Victorian architecture. Roberts shows a Britain at odds with itself. Rather than a harmonious society, we sense fragmentation and awkwardness and a yearning for a glorious past that never existed.
The Warsaw-based photographer picks the top five projects from Eastern Europe in 2017 – including Alexander Chekmenev’s Passport
The Madrid-based photography correspondent reports on the Spanish top five of 2017 – including Álvaro Laiz’s The Hunt
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.