The historian, curator and director of the Canadian Photography Institute at the National Gallery of Canada picks her best of the year – including Timothy Prus’ exhibition The Cow and the Orchid
Vogue Italia’s picture editor picks out Monica Alcazar Duarte’s The New Colonists as one of her top five of 2017 – and throws in one more selection for luck
The Walther Collection has kicked off an 18-month exploration of vernacular photography with a show titled The Shadow Archive: An Investigation into Vernacular Portrait Photography. Taken from the 1850s to the present day, the collected portraits depict groups such as ‘migrant laborers’, ‘inmates of an asylum’, ‘criminal photographs’, and ‘G&G Precision Works Photographic Identity Badges’, and, says the organisers, show how “identification photographs have been used to sort, shape, segregate, and select subjects based on occupation, social group, body type, or political affiliation”. The title references a phrase used by writer and photographer Allan Sekula to reference “the entire social field of human representations, comprising both heroes and deviants, within which every portrait takes its place as part of a moral hierarchy”.
It’s the 21st year of the prize, and this year the shortlisted projects by Mathieu Asselin, Rafal Milach, Batia Suter, and Luke Willis Thompson all “reflect a shared concern with the production and manipulation of knowledge and systems of representation through visual formats”, say the organisers of the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2018. Mathieu Asselin (b. 1973, France) has been nominated for Monsanto: A Photographic Investigation, which was published this year by Actes Sud and exhibited at Les Rencontres d’Arles, and which has already won the First Book of the Year in the Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation Photobook Awards 2017.
“I lived there, I grew up there, and I loved it very much,” Latif Al Ani has said of his home, Baghdad. “All of it has been devastated, and most of it has vanished.” Known as the founding father of Iraqi photography, Al Ani captured the country in its cosmopolitan Golden Age from the late 1950s to the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq War in 1980. Employed by the Iraqi Petroleum Company in the 1950s, he went on to found the photography department in the Iraqi government’s Ministry of Information and Guidance in 1960, and to become the head of photography at the Iraqi News Agency in the 1970s.
“Asselin’s Monsanto® is a courageous, investigative project that connects evidence-driven photography and visual research to the democratisation of knowledge; it’s important that this book exists in physical form, as a document, and not just in the virtual world,” says Cristiano Raimondi of Mathieu Asselin’s photobook Monsanto®. A Photographic Investigation. Raimondi is head of development and international projects at the New National Museum of Monaco and an invited curator for Platform 2017 at this year’s Paris Photo, but he’s speaking as a jury member for the 2017 Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation PhotoBook Awards because Asselin’s book has just won the prestigious First PhotoBook prize.
“On s’engage, on va le faire” – that is, “We’re in, we’ll do it”. The New York-based, French-Venezuelan photographer Mathieu Asselin goes back and forth from Spanish to English to French as he recalls how Sam Stourdzé, the director of the Rencontres d’Arles, enthusiastically agreed to exhibit his five-year long, research-intensive project about the US chemical corporation Monsanto. It happened a week before last year’s festival, and Asselin was then showing the dummy of his photobook, Monsanto®. A Photographic Investigation. This year the project is being shown at the Magasin Électrique at Arles, and the book has been published in French by Actes Sud, and in English by the Dortmund-based Verlag Kettler. Asselin’s project is conceived as a cautionary tale putting the spotlight on the consequences of corporate impunity, both for people and the environment. Designed by fellow countryman Ricardo Báez, a designer, curator and photobook collector who has notably worked with the Venezuelan master Paolo Gasparini, Monsanto® submerges the reader into an exposé of the corporation’s practices, whether by showing contaminated sites and the health and …
Born in 1983, Emmanuelle Andrianjafy grew up in Madagascar and worked as an engineer in France before moving to Dakar in 2011. Relocation to Senegal proved quite a shock. “It’s very energetic, very hectic, very loud,” she told BJP for the June Ones to Watch issue. “It’s very different to where I’ve lived before. It’s by the sea but it’s not peaceful; the landscape is harsh and dry. I was tempted to not deal with it and just stay at home.”
Taking inspiration from the DIY culture of his homeland during the Soviet era, Belarusian photographer Alexey Shlyk’s series of playfully staged photographs explores craftsmanship and resourcefulness.
“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.”