“Philip always hated being called a ‘war photographer,’” says Hannah Watson, director of TJ Boulting Gallery, of Philip Jones Griffiths. “He wasn’t interested in the ‘action’ that you often associated with war photography.” Instead, Watson draws attention to the careful consideration and intelligence behind each of the Magnum photographer’s shots. “In a single image he could give insight and an in-depth analysis to a complex situation,” she says.
Photography is often considered a solitary pursuit, but the Ryerson Image Centre (RIC) in Toronto, Canada hopes to overturn this conception with a research project led by artists, scholars, and curators such as Ariella Azoulay, Wendy Ewald, Susan Meiselas, Leigh Raiford, and Laura Wexler. Now an exhibition at RIC called Collaboration: A Potential History of Photography is putting their work on view. Featuring approximately 90 photographic projects the work on show demonstrates some of the many ways photographers have collaborated with their subjects and other participants. It includes Wendy Ewald’s Reciprocating in Arabic installation, which combines image and text in an attempt to show the experience of walking through the Arabic language, and WEB Du Bois’ The Potential of the Archive I, a look into the history and present challenges of black America, among many other projects.
Tackling excessive consumption and its parlous effect on the environment and on mental health, Excessocenus uses brightly-coloured, staged images rather than the gritty photojournalism more familiar in this field. “On one hand we wanted to point out the culture of excess that is driving the planet to a total collapse, but on the other hand we also wanted to make a point about how this dramatic situation is normally presented to the audience,” says its creators, Cristina de Middel and Bruno Morais
This year, he says, all the images have been thoroughly checked before the shortlists have been announced, let alone the winners. “All the checking is already done – all raw files, where the images were shot, everything,” he tells BJP. “We know how important it is that everything can be trusted, and we keep asking questions until we are satisfied. We wouldn’t announce the shortlists unless we were.”
Last month BJP focused in on group work; this month we’re looking at a different kind of collaboration – projects in which photographers engage in a two-way dialogue with their subjects. One of the best – and the best-known – examples is Jim Goldberg, who works with subjects such as teenage runaways and migrants to tell wide-sweeping stories of marginalisation and economic disparity. Using an eclectic mix of photographs, archive materials and video, and both marking up himself and invites his subjects to write on, he creates complex montages guided by his sense of “intimacy, trust and intuition”. Incorporating the perspectives of the communities and subcultures he represents, his work is informed by his own background in a blue-collar family in New Haven.
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.
“It’s getting near show time!” the voice would boom out over the cheers of the punters. Susan Meiselas would hover at first near the back of the tent. “Don’t be shy, take your hands out of your pockets, take your money out of your wallets. Rest your elbows on the stage and look up into the whole, the whole goddamn show. Show time! Where they strip to please, not to tease!” Susan Meiselas was 24 when she started Carnival Strippers. It was the summer of 1972, and her photography experience was limited to portraits of her housemates in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She had just completed an MA from Harvard, yet she still was shy and unsure of herself – very unlike the direct intellect of today, who treats Magnum’s offices like second homes.
Susan Meiselas has been a pivotal figure in photography since her career began in the 1970s, a decade when the ethical discussion surrounding the inspiration, intent and dissemination of documentary image-making was rampant. Perpetually questioning the motivation and perception of her images, the American has spent her life grappling with these issues, practising what it means to document something outside of her own personal experience. This spring (06 February to 20 May), Jeu de Paume in Paris presents Mediations, a retrospective revisiting her vast oeuvre, beginning with early portraits that include 44 Irving Street (1971) and Carnival Strippers (1972-75).
In BJP’s latest issue, we focus on forms of collaboration. Collaboration in photography can be controversial, say the Danish collective Sara, Peter & Tobias, as “in school you’re told that you have to find your own personal interest and motive”. Yet collaboration – whether in an ad hoc duo or formalised collective – is a powerful tool to combine voices and perspectives, and create rich, multi-faceted work. In our featured projects we share work from Carlotta Cardana, for example, who teamed up with writer and tribal member Danielle SeeWalker on a 15,000 mile journey across the United States. In the resulting The Red Road Project, the dialogue between image and text paints a picture of contemporary Native American identity, and counters reductive stereotypes often fuelled by the media. Over in Europe, Belgian photographer Kevin Faingnaert entered a rural protest camp in France, where – despite initial resistance – he managed to gain his subjects’ trust and develop a deeper understanding of their alternative lifestyle. Christopher Bethell sought to capture his grandfather’s gaze in his series on memory and …
The founder of Firecracker and Global Business Development Manager of Magnum Photos picks out her top five of 2017 – including Megan Doherty’s Instagram feed