Congenital achromatopsia is a hereditary condition in which the eye cannot detect colour – the cones in the retina do not function, leaving the vision to the rods alone, which only detect shades of grey. In most places the disease is rare, occuring in less than one in 30,000 people. But on the Micronesian island of Pingelap it’s much more common, present in more than 5% of the population. It’s an extraordinary phenomenon – and one that immediately gripped Belgian photographer Sanne De Wilde when she heard about it back in 2015
Born in Washington DC in 1981, Peter van Agtmael studied history at Yale before moving into documentary photography. Largely focusing on America, his work considers issues such as power, race and class; he also works on the Israel/Palestine conflict and throughout the Middle East. He has won the W.Eugene Smith Grant, the ICP Infinity Award for Young Photographers and many more, and joined Magnum Photos in 2008. His book Disco Night Sept 11, a study of the USA post-9/11, was published in 2014 and named a Book of the Year by titles such as The New York Times Magazine and Time Magazine. His latest photobook Buzzing at the Sill is the sequel.
Merrie Albion: Landscape Studies of a Small Island is a concise compendium of Britain over the past few years and is an excellent visual survey of the run-up to Brexit. The photographs examine rich and complex variations of Britain that are now even more poignant after last year’s vote. Images of election campaigning in clean and tidy suburbia, protests, the aftermath of riots in London, diamond jubilee celebrations, rock concerts, a family enjoying Brighton beach, computer screens of the trading floor of Lloyds – the list goes on. Roberts has managed to capture all the major events in juxtaposition with minor situations that are large with meaning, from the dead of the Iraq war being saluted by Army veterans through Wootton Bassett to an depiction of impoverished mothers and children at a youth club in Blackburn. Contained within each photograph are mini dramas, cheap-looking high streets with pound shops set against Victorian architecture. Roberts shows a Britain at odds with itself. Rather than a harmonious society, we sense fragmentation and awkwardness and a yearning for a glorious past that never existed.
Taking inspiration from the DIY culture of his homeland during the Soviet era, Belarusian photographer Alexey Shlyk’s series of playfully staged photographs explores craftsmanship and resourcefulness.
The opening image in his latest book, Sacrifice Your Body, typifies Roe Ethridgeʼs approach. At first sight, itʼs just an ordinary product shot of a Chanel No 5 bottle and its packaging, but closer inspection reveals chipped paint, stray drops of perfume and an intruding wasp. Rippling the surface of a glossy ad with droll other-world elements, itʼs the kind of image thatʼs made him a star in contemporary art, fashion and advertising. Like Juergen Teller, he shoots both commercial and editorial (for the likes of Kenzo, Self Service, Acne Paper and W) alongside his own artwork, and has been shortlisted for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize (in 2011, alongside Elad Lassry, who heʼs often cited with as evidence of a new trend for dry conceptualism). The Deutsche Börse organisers described his work as follows: “Blurring the boundaries of the commercial with the editorial, and the mundane with the highbrow, Ethridge’s conceptual approach to photography is a playful attack on the traditions and conventions of the medium itself.”
“You’ve probably never heard of Feng Li’s photography,” wrote Leo de Boisgisson in American Suburb X in March; that was true at the time, but it’s changed rapidly since September, when the Chinese artist was nominated for the prestigious Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation First Photobook award. He made the shortlist for his first publication, White Night, which was published by Jiazazhi Press in July and contains 160 images shot from 2005-2015. The title is inspired by the Bible, specifically the Book of Job and a phrase which reads “They meet with darkness in the daytime, and grope in the noonday as in the night”.
“Very often when dealing with Albania, artists, photographers and journalists – especially those who don’t come from the country – deal in a very repetitive form with the poverty, the post-communism, and the old and sporadically still-practiced traditions,” says Anna Ehrenstein. “All in all they focus on the otherness of the people and the country.” Brought up in Germany but of Albanian heritage, Ehrenstein has done something very different with her project on Albania, Tales of Lipstick and Virtue. Rather than focusing in on picturesque, unchanged farming life or remaining vestiges of the Soviet Block, she hit contemporary values on the jugular, photographing women into “a certain kind of aesthetic that can be found in Albania, but comes from all over the globe”.
“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
“I think politics affects every decision in daily life – it’s hard to remain on the sidelines,” says Musuk Nolte. “For me, photography is a visual element to work on these very complex issues. “With all the problems we have in our country, we have the responsibility to leave a visual document,” continues the photographer, who was born in Mexico in 1988 but is now a naturalised Peruvian.”I felt the desire to leave a document of what was going on, that it could serve as a visual and historical record. It was my way of relating to my country, but it’s important that this work also has an impact outside the community.”
Founded in 2006 by photographer and curator Olga Korsunova, art-manager and photography critic Nadya Sheremetova, and art historian Elena Zyrianova, FotoDepartment is a gallery, bookshop, library and education hub in St. Petersburg, Russia. Aiming to promote and develop contemporary Russian photography at home and abroad, FotoDepartment runs many events, exhibitions and workshops, and represents internationally-recognised artists such as Kirill Savchenkov, Irina Yulieva, and Jana Romanova. FotoDepartment is also currently running several digital projects. Now it’s started a publishing project called Amplitude, creating photobooks of emerging Russian photographers’ work which can be read individually, or gathered together into groups. Amplitude No.1 includes photobooks by Alexey Bogolepov, Margo Ovcharenko, Irina Zadorozhnaia, Anastasia Tsayder, Igor Samolet, Yury Gudkov, Olya Ivanova, Irina Ivannikova, Anastasia Tailakova, and Irina Yulieva. BJP caught up with Nadya Sheremetova to find out more