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.
“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
It’s a commendable milestone by anyone’s standards – for 70 years, Magnum Photos has been at the forefront of documentary photography, photojournalism and visual storytelling, its members reporting on conflicts, crises and changes for humanity the world over. To celebrate Magnum’s long and rich history, the agency has devised Magnum Retold, a huge group project in which current members revisit stories by their predecessors. Photographers were invited to respond to an archival story that had influenced or inspired their practice in some way – a story that meant something to them personally, or a topical subject they wished to revisit. “There is a repository of amazing work, which is the 70-year-old legacy of these incredible photographers,” explains Magnum’s content director, Francesca Sears.
“When you go out into the landscape, frankly if you’re saying I think this a wonderful landscape and you take a picture, why didn’t you buy a postcard?” says David Hurn, in an interview with Christopher Frayling published in his new book, Arizona Trips.
“The people that do postcards have spent more time, they know the light and they get it right,” he adds. “It just doesn’t interest me that much.” His shots of Arizona, which he photographed for 20 years, do something very different, focusing instead on the locals and on their interventions on the natural world in the southwestern US state. From billboards in the desert to paper cups protecting cactus plants from frost, and from rodeo events to Dolly Parton lookalike contests, his is a distinctly anthropocentric, gently humorous, look at life in the southwestern US state.