Our pick of the key stories from the past week, including an exhibition on the Japanese-American experience in World War Two, Gerry Johansson's latest book, and Gabriela Morawetz’s Imponderables hand-made microcosms
Then They Came for Me
On 19 February, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, setting in motion a process in which all Americans of Japanese ancestry living on or near the West Coast were imprisoned. In total, 120,000 Japanese Americans were forced to leave their homes, moving into detention camps in which they were sometimes literally held behind barbed wire, without recourse to due process or other constitutional protections to which they were entitled. It was, argues a forthcoming exhibition in San Francisco, a “dark chapter” in American history, motivated by “fear-mongering and racism at the highest levels of the US government”. Titled Then They Came for Me: Incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII and the Demise of Civil Liberties, the exhibition features work by both noted American documentary photographers such has Dorothea Lange and Ansel Adams and incarcerated Japanese American artists Toyo Miyatake and Miné Okubo.
American Winter by Gerry Johansson
“For me it is important not to create a story with the pictures,” says Gerry Johansson. “Normally when you edit you try to sequence the photographs. But for me it is important that each picture is considered as a single, individual image.” Johansson’s photography is largely driven by intuition, but when it comes to making a book, logic and order triumph. Almost all of his 31 photobooks are defined by their geography, if not the subject matter, and their equally-sized photographs are generally organised either alphabetically or chronologically, a bid to encourage readers to interpret them individually. The images in Johansson’s latest book, American Winter, are ordered alphabetically by location for example. “It’s very important to have the title of where the picture is made,” says Johansson.
Gabriela Morawetz’s Imponderables
Born and educated in Krakow and Switzerland, resident in Caracas, Venezuela from 1975-83, and now living in Paris, Gabriela Morawetz is a truly global citizen and artist, who has exhibited in galleries and museums across North and South America and Europe, Japan and China. Even so, she creates her own worlds in her photography, microcosms in which most of the elements are literally made by her. Her latest show, Unwägbarkeiten / Imponderables, features a series of images using painting, canvas, convex glass, metal, and reflections, drawing on her background in painting, sculpture, and engraving, which she studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow before moving into photography.
A fictional turn with A Thousand Word Photos
Set up in support of Interact Stroke Support, A Thousand Word Photos pairs documentary images with newly-commissioned works of fiction. “I think there’s a kind of magic that happens when a photo is taken completely out of context and put into the hands of a skilful writer,” says Alexia Singh, the picture editor on the project. “It breathes new life into the image – reimagines it in a wholly unexpected, wonderful way. As a photo editor, I’ve worked on photo books, gallery exhibitions, and multimedia presentations across a range of digital platforms, and in each space an image can take on a new significance and meaning. However I’ve never seen the transformation of an image in quite this way.
A kind of magic with Benjamin Deroche
Born in 1981, French photographer Benjamin Deroche studied literature before becoming a photographer – and its mark can perhaps still be seen in his images’ ability to “dereal reality”, as critic Françoise Paviot puts it. In his recent series Surnature and Baltica, for example, he creates installations within the landscape, contrasting the natural world with his constructed interventions. Evoking the land art of Andy Goldsworthy or Nils Udo but resulting in appealing, richly-coloured images, this work aims to help viewers question their vision of the world. “There are often very beautiful things in the exteriors of my image but I decide not to return them,” he says, “to leave them out of the field as if there existed a kind of magic to guess them.”
Felicia Honkasalo’s portrait of her late grandfather
When Felicia Honkasalo’s grandfather passed away in 2009, her family inherited stacks of boxes filled with shiny bits of rare rocks and minerals, stuffed between piles of notes, sketches, and fading photographs. “No one else in the family wanted them,” says Honkasalo, who never got to meet her grandfather. “I was really intrigued by it all, but I didn’t really know what to do with it at first.” Ten years later Honkasalo has published her debut book, Grey Cobalt, an attempt to use these items to construct an imagined identity of her grandfather, a metallurgist and avid cosmologist.
Details of the £35.5m revamp at London’s National Portrait Gallery
BJP-online loves public gallery spaces, so were were happy to see the National Portrait Gallery’s plans for its £35.5m refurbishment – the biggest-ever revamp at the central London building, which opened in 1896, and one which would increase its gallery space by 20%. The design, by Jamie Fobert Architects, proposes adding a new visitor entrance and public forecourt on the building’s north face, in addition to the existing entrance; it would also return the gallery’s East Wing to public use, and add new retail and catering facilities, and a new Learning Centre for visitors. The redevelopment would also see the gallery’s collection – which includes 250,000 photographs – redisplayed and reinterpreted across 40 refurbished galleries.
Life on the permafrost in Yakutsk
Yakutsk is located just shy of the arctic circle and in winter records the coldest temperatures for any major city on earth; in January the average monthly temperature is −38.6°C, and it’s not unusual to have days as cold as -50°C. The city is built on continuous permafrost, which means that it’s so cold that the subsoil is permanently frozen; in winter all the lakes freeze over and are turned into roads, and when it is very cold, a thick mist descends that makes it hard to see more than a few metres ahead. Staying with relatives, French photographer Alexis Pazoumian was moved to investigate how people make their lives in such extreme conditions.
Isabella Hunts – on hunters and their prey
“Witnessing death is shocking, but it is also cathartic,” says Isabella Rozendaal, Dutch photographer Isabella Rozendaal, whose new exhibition and book focuses in on hunters and their prey. “To realise that we too are mortal and vulnerable, and all made of the same flesh and blood strikes me as healthy. It puts life into perspective. That is not to say that I don’t still feel conflicted, like any hunter, meat eater or consumer of natural goods does, or should do. We live in a world where human dominance over non-human animals is simply assumed, made possible by powerful ideology, an ideology that differs in every culture, but is the same in essence.”
Days Japan director Ryuichi Hirokawa dismissed following sexual harassment allegations
BJP-online loves equal opportunities and safe working environments, so we were disappointed to hear that photojournalist has been accused of sexual harassment by seven different women. The women came forward with their claims on 26 December 2018, in a report published by the Japanese weekly tabloid magazine Shukan Bunshun – the report included accusations that Hirokawa had demanded sex and nude photo sessions from the women, one of whom was said to have been working part-time on Days Japan, the magazine he founded in 2004. The photographer initially denied the allegations, stating that he had not misused his position because he had believed that the women were attracted to him. But two days later he posted a statement on the Days Japan website, apologising and announcing that he had been dismissed as director of the magazine.