Carolyn Drake first visited Ukraine more than a decade ago, as part of a year-long Fulbright fellowship investigation of changing notions of gender in the former USSR. Coming of age at the end of the Cold War, and with preconceptions about the region, she “saw it as a chance to step out of my present frame of reference, as a way to look at the malleability and impermanence of beliefs,” she recalls. Searching for expressions of female identity in the West of the country, she met the hosts of a church-run orphanage, who directed her to an older institution nearby called Petrykhiv Internat. Tucked away in a forest on the outskirts of Ternopil, it was a state-run boarding house, where around 70 girls marked as ill or disabled had been sent to live. Labelled abnormal, they had been deemed unfit to live beyond the home’s towering walls. That first trip took place in 2006; eight years later, she returned, eager to find out what had become of the girls and their home. “I expected to show up and ask someone on the staff how I could find the girls,” she says. “But when I arrived, I found most of them were still there, now in their twenties.
“The Magnum/BJP series of workshops have been extraordinarily rewarding for me,” says Beren Patterson. “Despite being only two intense days per topic, the depth, coverage and expertise from Magnum photographers, industry speakers, and fellow attendees is incredible. I can’t recommend the workshops strongly enough for those wanting to be inspired and grow as a photographer.” Patterson has attended all of the Magnum/BJP workshops to date – and has already signed up for the 2018 series, which kicks off on 17-18 February with session titled Editorial Assignments – How to succeed in the editorial market.
“The moment I entered the refuge, I felt connected to their mission,” says Susan Meiselas of her recent work in the Black Country, at a refuge for women who have escaped domestic violence. “When I walked into the place it felt intuitively interesting.” Meiselas was invited to Britain’s Midlands by West Bromich-based arts organisation Multistory; making a series of visits over 2015 and 2016, she honed in on the refuge and started working with the women living in it – photographing them and their living spaces but also, crucially, getting their input.
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 …
Sleeping by the Mississippi has been ranked with the great representations of the United States, including Walker Evans’ pictures of the depression, Robert Frank’s harsh vision of the 1950s and, more recently, the colour work of Joel Sternfeld. As Alec Soth’s seminal work goes on show in London and is given a handsome reprint by MACK, we revisit an interview with him from back in 2004 – when the series first came out.
“I don’t start with intentions,” explains Elliott Erwitt. “I take pictures and then see what I’ve got and put something together.” It’s a process which has served him well throughout his career as a photographer. Born in Paris in 1928 to Russian parents, he spent his childhood in Milan, then emigrated to the US, via France, with his family in 1939; he first cut his teeth in the photography industry whilst still at high school, then built up a professional portfolio whilst serving with the Army Signal Corps in Europe. Joining Magnum Photos in 1953, he went on to apply his unmistakable style to everyone from Marilyn Monroe to Presidents of the United States. Now 89, he prefers to let his very varied collection of photographs speak for themselves, and his new collection, Cuba, is no exception. “I took a lot of pictures and sat down and made an edit. The way I always work,” says Erwitt. “[The book] seemed like a good idea since I was going to Cuba anyway
At 28, Zsolt Ficsór is part of this new generation, using his collective, MAMA Photobooks, to help promote local artists’ self-published work. In October Ficsór brought MAMA to Photo Book London at The Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, for example, while in September, he was invited to take part in the five-day Magnum workshop at the Capa Contemporary Photography Centre in Budapest. Lead by celebrated Magnum photographers Antoine d’Agata and Matt Black, this workshop was a masterclass in developing his style of urban documentary photography, he says, which stems from his fascination with “interacting with this surreal and unreal world that we are living in right here here, right now”.
Magnum photographers share the stories behind their selected images for the Magnum Square Print Sale
For over four decades, the documentary photography course has forged a reputation as one of the UK’s leading photography teaching destinations. In fact, the very first photography class can be dated back even further to 1912, when it was introduced by the head of the school of art at Newport Technical Institute. The course, however, was set up in 1973 by Magnum photographer David Hurn as a 12-month Training Opportunities Scheme to ‘re-skill’ miners and steelworkers.
No matter how hard you try, sometimes Arles can be just like Glastonbury (sans mud) – lots of things going on and you get sidetracked, and don’t get to see the one thing you wanted to. However I did manage to get round a diverse group of exhibits this year, one of my favourites actually being the Alice Neel painting show at the Fondation Van Gogh. Here is my round-up of what I saw of note this edition. The House of the Ballenesque, Roger Ballen This was very talked about in Arles – an old ramshackle house that Ballen has taken over, to express somewhat of what goes on in his mind and informs his photography. Like a giant walk-in sketchbook, it’s part fun-house and part mental asylum, with lots of creepy figures and dolls heads stuck on mismatching bodies. It’s worth seeing because it’s a bit different, though it doesn’t quite feel like the main event – it’s more of a fun sideshow to his practice, but interesting nonetheless. Try to go on a …