Every so often there is an opus that challenges received wisdom not just on a single subject, but on a range of them. An Autobiography of Miss Wish, the collaboration between Noor photographer Nina Berman and Kimberly Stevens, the protagonist, published by Kehrer, is one of them. The book reads many ways: as a memoir, a commentary on justice systems and social services, an indictment of our disregard for the less fortunate and a reflection on documentary photography.
The hefty volume is, first and foremost, the story of a black woman who once went by the name of Cathy Wish, who Berman met on the streets of London’s West End in 1990 while studying the legacy of Margaret Thatcher’s neoliberal policies. “I noticed her banging on a door, headphones in her ears and cigarette in hand,” the US photojournalist says.
The 18-year-old Hamburg Triennial will be directed for the second time by Polish curator Krzysztof Candrowicz, who moved to Hamburg four years ago and set about transforming the it, bringing people and institutions together, and determined to make it more relevant to the viewing public. The 2015 edition was, he says, “The first holistic attempt to create the collaborative framework of the festival. Before, the museums were basically highlighting their own exhibitions, but there was no actual curatorial collective structure.” The determinedly political and environmentally-conscious theme this year was inspired by an amalgamation of many factors, he says, including spending a year “away from structured, mechanised and commercial reality”, travelling around Latin America, Nepal and India. “Breaking Point became, for me, a metaphor for rapid and sometimes unexpected transformation on a personal and global level.”
Indian photographer Arko Datto (b.1986) completed two masters degrees in theoretical physics and mathematics before deciding to take a “leap of faith into photography”. After studying photography at the Danish School of Journalism in Aarhus, his long-term projects have since been published in leading international publications, such as TIME and National Geographic. For PIK-NIK, Datto spent the last five winter seasons photographing picnic spots across eastern India, primarily in West Bengal but also in Jharkhand and Orissa. Here, families and colleagues converge for a day of food, drink and revelry before departing at sunset, leaving piles of rubbish in their wake. “Vats of freshly slaughtered chicken, sacks of vegetables and an arsenal of pots, pans and gas cylinders are lugged along, taking cooking en plein air to a whole new level,” says Datto.
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.”
It’s one of the best-respected photo agencies in the world, representing image-makers such as Nina Berman, Yuri Kozyrev, and Kadir van Lohuizen – and yet NOOR is offering three four-day masterclasses completely free of charge to “young, aspiring photojournalists and documentary photographers”. Run by NOOR and the NOOR Foundation with the support of Nikon Europe, the masterclasses will take place in Warsaw (26 February-01 March), Stockholm (12-15 March), and Brussels (19-22 March).
Pongo has won the prize for his ongoing series The Uncanny, which is shot in The Congo. Born in Belgium in 1988 to a Belgian mother and a Congolese father, Pongo started the project as an attempt to reconnect with his Congolese heritage. He first visited the country in 2011, staying with his Congolese family – most of whom he had never met before – and arriving as the DRC held its second ever democratic elections, for both Presidential and Legislative positions. “I am conscious that photographing in the Congo, as a photographer educated in Europe, reveals my own limitations (in accessing and understanding the environment), bias, and stereotypes,” he says. “However, by turning to a more personal story and documenting my confrontation with my family, the country, and by relying on friends and siblings to introduce me to their visions of this environment, I hope to be able to overcome some of these limitations.
Anna Alix Koffi realised that the issue of women in photojournalism was so big that it warranted a publication of its own, and started thinking out a framework for a second edition of Visa Paper focusing on work by women. “I realised I could do this because there are women artists everywhere I go,” she says. “Most of the time publications don’t focus on women, but I knew that Woman Paper Visa would be special because women in photojournalism is a strong thing. It’s much more difficult than any other form of photography.”
NOOR, the prestigious photo agency and foundation, has signed up three new nominees – Sanne de Wilde, Arko Datto and Leonard Pongo. Hailing from Belgium, India and Belgium/DR Congo respectively, all three are known for their cutting-edge work, rooted in documentary but pushing the aesthetic boundaries of image-making.
Passing away this morning, the American photographer leaves a legacy of outstanding work, particularly from Chechnya, and memories of an elegant, generous man