History confirms it – the first photobook was made by a woman, with British photographer Anna Atkins publishing Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions in 1843, a year before Henry Fox Talbot’s The Pencil of Nature. Still, many historians, including Allan Porter in his introduction to The Photobook: A History, dismiss Atkins’ work as “photographic prints” rather than photography.
“Unfortunately, this is far too often emblematic of the uphill battle women photobook-makers still encounter when we talk about their history,” says Russet Lederman, co-founder of 10×10 Photobooks. “As we conducted research for the How We See project, we discovered that although women photographers produce relatively equal numbers of photobooks to men, their representation in the higher-profile sectors was, and still is, disappointing.”
This year marks the third annual Portrait of Britain exhibition. As much a showcase of photography as it is a celebration of our nation, Portrait of Britain is the largest contemporary portrait exhibition ever held. And for the first time since the exhibition’s inception, British Journal of Photography has produced a book in collaboration with Hoxton Mini Press, containing the 200 shortlisted entries, from which the 100 winners have been chosen. Among the winning photographs is Kovi Konowiecki’s portrait of East London twins, Dick and Clark – Kovi’s second winning Portrait of Britain image in the competition’s three-year history. In 2016, Kovi’s portrait of Shmuley, a young Orthodox Jewish boy, was also selected. “It is always cool to be a part of an exhibition with such a wide-reaching audience,” says Kovi. “Having been selected for Portrait of Britain a couple of years ago, it was amazing seeing my photograph across numerous screens and tube stations on my daily commute. It feels great to be a part of the exhibition again.” Joining Kovi in the exhibition is John Davis, …
“We do see that our industry is male-dominated, world-wide – though not within NOOR,” say the photographers of the NOOR agency, via their current president Andrea Bruce. “We are encouraged by the current discussions happening throughout the photo world around abuse of power. These are sometimes painful, but necessary.” Photojournalism is still male-dominated, that much is undeniable. But does it have a macho culture, as World Press Photo’s MD Lars Boering has said? Do male photojournalists and picture editors abuse their power? And if so, what’s being done about it? In the wake of the #metoo movement, and in particular after the recent allegations against Patrick Witty, one-time deputy director of photography at National Geographic, and Antonin Kratochvil, one of the founding members of VII, these have become key questions in photography, and the big agencies are getting on board. For David Kogan, as for Bruce, it’s a work in progress. He’s executive director of Magnum Photos, which introduced a Code of Conduct for both its photographers and staff at its last AGM in June. …
Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “Everyone has the right to seek, and to enjoy in other countries, asylum from persecution.” The UK was one of 48 nations to vote in favour of this document at the United Nations General Assembly in 1948 and now, 68 years later, British photographer Sam Ivin prints the full statement at the start of his first photobook, Lingering Ghosts. Made up entirely of portraits of people who have applied for asylum here, the book is a reminder – and an interrogation – of the codified notions of morality and fairness that Britain voted for but is not living up to.
Published by Fabrica, Lingering Ghosts asks a simple but thorny question – what does it mean to be an asylum seeker in the UK? Ivin scratched out the eyes of his subjects to induce a sense of foreboding, discomfort and alienation. As Gemma Padley notes in the foreword, “Once we remove our ability to connect with a subject through a person’s eyes, what remains?”
When the HOME project was proposed to her, Olivia Arthur was heavily pregnant with her second daughter and focussing that seemed a natural choice. “But in terms of presenting it as a project to the outside world, I think what’s interesting is this period of waiting – that’s where it all becomes very personal,” she says. Aptly titled Waiting for Lorelai, the project became about the anticipation she and her family experienced in the lead-up to the birth. “There’s this kind of emotion about how much it’s going to change the dynamics between us,” says Arthur, “and how my [older] daughter’s going to react when she finds out it’s not just her.”
“What is ‘home’?” writes Magnum Photos curator Pauline Vermare. “Instinctively, the idea of peaceful haven comes to mind. A cocoon where one feels secure, loved and understood – a nurturing and forgiving place.” It’s a topic she’s been thinking about in depth, because back in 2017 Fujifilm invited Magnum Photos to collaborate on an ambitious group project, which eventually saw 16 of its documentary photographers reflect on the idea of ‘home’. These photographers are better-known for documenting the lives of others, but in this project, they were able to create intensely personal work instead. “This project provided photographers with an ideal pretext to explore a place they held dear, a familiar and familial landscape,” says Vermare. “It was an invitation to look inward and outward. Home – an inherently intimate and introspective subject matter – was also a formidable challenge to take on; for the past seventy years, Magnum photographers have predominantly been looking into the lives of others – and seldom looking into their own.”
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.
Illuminating India: Photography 1857-2017, is the first exhibition to document the history of photography in India, and includes both archive and contemporary work. It includes images by India’s first known photographer Ahmad Ali Khan, pioneering art photographer Marahaja Ram Singh II, the country’s first female photojournalist, Homai Vyarawalla; and award-winning contemporary photographers such Magnum’s Sohrab Hura. It also includes images of India taken by non-Indians, including Henri Cartier-Bresson, Werner Bischof, Margaret Bourke White, Lucien Hervé, Mitch Epstein, Vasantha Yogananthan, and Olivia Arthur.
Now in its third year, the Sicilian photo festival is tackling big issues under a theme of “Communication in uncertainty and chaos”. The idea is telling of its locale: a crucial crossing point in the Mediterranean and an entry gateway to Europe, Sicily has been at the centre of the migrant crisis as people cross the sea in search of peace and a better life. The photographs in this series cover ideas of identity, politics, war, nationality, feminism and more.
“If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough,” said Magnum Photos co-founder Robert Capa, famously. This week Magnum Photos is revisiting Capa’s concept with its Square Print Sale, part of a cycle of four print sales it’s running to celebrate its 70th anniversary.