The Walther Collection has kicked off an 18-month exploration of vernacular photography with a show titled The Shadow Archive: An Investigation into Vernacular Portrait Photography. Taken from the 1850s to the present day, the collected portraits depict groups such as ‘migrant laborers’, ‘inmates of an asylum’, ‘criminal photographs’, and ‘G&G Precision Works Photographic Identity Badges’, and, says the organisers, show how “identification photographs have been used to sort, shape, segregate, and select subjects based on occupation, social group, body type, or political affiliation”. The title references a phrase used by writer and photographer Allan Sekula to reference “the entire social field of human representations, comprising both heroes and deviants, within which every portrait takes its place as part of a moral hierarchy”.
With so much to see condensed into one city over the course of five days during Paris Photo (09-12 November), you’d be tempted to skip round the 149 galleries lining the elegant, glass-topped halls of the Grand Palais in a couple of hours, or even miss the main event altogether, as many do. That would be a mistake. You won’t get a better snapshot of what constitutes saleable photography in 2017, from the blue-chip North American dealers such as Gagosian, Pace MacGill and Howard Greenberg, to the work of younger artists championed by the likes of Project 2.0, Trapéz and Taik Persons. And eavesdropping on the sales patter can be a real an eye-opener.
“Asselin’s Monsanto® is a courageous, investigative project that connects evidence-driven photography and visual research to the democratisation of knowledge; it’s important that this book exists in physical form, as a document, and not just in the virtual world,” says Cristiano Raimondi of Mathieu Asselin’s photobook Monsanto®. A Photographic Investigation. Raimondi is head of development and international projects at the New National Museum of Monaco and an invited curator for Platform 2017 at this year’s Paris Photo, but he’s speaking as a jury member for the 2017 Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation PhotoBook Awards because Asselin’s book has just won the prestigious First PhotoBook prize.
“On s’engage, on va le faire” – that is, “We’re in, we’ll do it”. The New York-based, French-Venezuelan photographer Mathieu Asselin goes back and forth from Spanish to English to French as he recalls how Sam Stourdzé, the director of the Rencontres d’Arles, enthusiastically agreed to exhibit his five-year long, research-intensive project about the US chemical corporation Monsanto. It happened a week before last year’s festival, and Asselin was then showing the dummy of his photobook, Monsanto®. A Photographic Investigation. This year the project is being shown at the Magasin Électrique at Arles, and the book has been published in French by Actes Sud, and in English by the Dortmund-based Verlag Kettler. Asselin’s project is conceived as a cautionary tale putting the spotlight on the consequences of corporate impunity, both for people and the environment. Designed by fellow countryman Ricardo Báez, a designer, curator and photobook collector who has notably worked with the Venezuelan master Paolo Gasparini, Monsanto® submerges the reader into an exposé of the corporation’s practices, whether by showing contaminated sites and the health and …
“When 9/11 happened, I was four, so obviously I didn’t really know what was going on. But in terms of now, of how Muslims are portrayed in the media, I think it’s a very one-sided story. We’re all terrorists, evil, who want to take over this country. I mean, thinking back now, I was only four, so all I’ve experienced is that this country hates me.” So says one of the sitters in Mahtab Hussain’s You Get Me?, a series of portraits shot over nine years in Birmingham, Nottingham and London. It shows young, working class, British Asian men, a group which has been negatively depicted in the media since 9/11 but which Hussain hopes to portray in a more nuanced way.
Born in 1983, Emmanuelle Andrianjafy grew up in Madagascar and worked as an engineer in France before moving to Dakar in 2011. Relocation to Senegal proved quite a shock. “It’s very energetic, very hectic, very loud,” she told BJP for the June Ones to Watch issue. “It’s very different to where I’ve lived before. It’s by the sea but it’s not peaceful; the landscape is harsh and dry. I was tempted to not deal with it and just stay at home.”
When approaching Mathieu Pernot’s 20-year-spanning work on a Roma family settled in southern France, you should leave all misconceptions and prejudices aside, as he did, and read the introduction to Les Gorgan, the photobook published by Editions Xavier Barral to accompany his critically-acclaimed exhibition at this year’s Rencontres d’Arles festival. When he began, the French photographer writes, he didn’t know anything about the Gorgan family, nor was he aware that its members had been living in France for over a century. It was to be a transformative experience, one that led Pernot to witness the birth of a child for the first time, attend funerals and engage in a type of intimacy that only time and surrender can offer.
Laia Abril is no stranger to themes of distress. Bulimia, coping with the death of a child, the asexual community, virtual sex-performer couples – these are all topics that the Barcelona-based photographer has explored and attempted to demystify with her multi-layered, story-based practice. The subjects she tackles are complex and provocative, but ones she is able to connect with by way of female empathy, “where I can be involved emotionally”, she says.
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.
Tormented by a traumatic past and challenged by a difficult present, Sicily is still haunted by the destructive presence of Cosa Nostra. In Terra Nostra, Mimi Mollica shows this problematic entanglement, focusing on the legacy of the Mafia in Sicily. Born and raised in Palermo, Mollica says the series was a labour of love on his homeland, and he tells BJP how he created it, and how he got into photography in the first place.