Our pick of the key stories from the past week, including interviews with World Press Photo-nominated photographers, details of Bangladesh's Chobi Mela festival, plus Piero Percoco on his wildly successful Instagram The Rainbow is Underestimated
World Press Story of the Year nominee Lorenzo Tugnoli
“Working in Yemen is extremely difficult,” says Lorenzo Tugnoli, talking to BJP by phone from Kabul. “It’s a country where you have to navigate through various factions, and there are bureaucratic obstacles on both sides. As an example, it took us months just to get a visa. And even when you get access, you are not allowed to have much time. For example, after long negotiation we were allowed to go to Hodeidah, but they only let us stay for a few days. I look at my pictures in the port: I was there just for half an hour.”
World Press Story of the Year nominee Pieter Ten Hoopen
“I think that today, we need to be able to tell stories in differently, to be able to connect to as many viewers as we can,” says World Press Story of the Year-nominated Pieter Ten Hoopen. “We’re heading towards a new phase. Before, a single image could become iconic for a whole war, or a situation of despair. Now it’s different, and I think we need to be able to tell stories in a more sensitive way.” Hoopen’s nominated photographs for World Press Story of the Year follow the movement of thousands of Central American migrants who joined a caravan heading to the United States border between October and November 2018.
World Press Photo of the Year nominee John Moore
On the evening of 12 June 2018, a dozen or so refugees from Central America crossed the Rio Grande river from Mexico, with the hope of making it across the US border. “It was a moonless night, very dark. I could hear them coming,” says John Moore, who was photographing along the border in South Texas. “The border agent shined the spotlight on them. Most of them looked tired, some of them scared.” Among them were Sandra Sanchez and her two-year-old daughter Yanela, who had been travelling from Honduras for a month. Sanchez was the last of the group to be searched, and as soon as she lowered Yanela to the ground, she began to cry.
World Press Photo of the Year nominee Mohammed Badra
It’s the child that’s the really shocking factor in Mohammed Badra’s photograph from Eastern Ghouta, Syria, which has been nominated for the World Press Photo of the Year. Showing victims of a suspected gas attack in hospital on 25 February 2018, the image includes a small boy hooked up to breathing apparatus. “I always use my ethical compass while creating a picture,” Badra tells BJP. “I imagine myself in the injured situation, or imagine that I’m taking a picture of one of my family members. When I see a victim I see myself, because in Douma it could easily be me or anyone next in those positions tomorrow. They are a mirror of our possible future, and this idea terrifies me.”
World Press Photo of the Year nominee Chris McGrath
“It was a really tough story to cover, because the subject wasn’t there,” says Chris McGrath. “There was so much press there, and everyone was having the same problem.” The story was the disappearance of the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi and the problem was exactly that – a Saudi Arabian journalist, author, and editor, who wrote for The Washington Post, Khashoggi had gone to the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul on 02 October 2018 and vanished. Lurid reports that he’d been killed and dismembered soon circulated, but his body has still not been found and initially, the Saudi Arabian government denied his death. There was, as McGrath says, very little to photograph.
Chobi Mela festival opens in Dhaka, Bangladesh
“Chobi Mela continues the way it began,” writes Shahidul Alam. “Unyielding to power.” He’s referencing the very first Chobi Mela festival, which opened in Dhaka, Bangladesh back in 2000. Alam and Robert Pledge had painstakingly put together an exhibition on Bangladesh’s 1971 war, which a government minister – phoning at midnight – wanted to censor; rather than comply and remove the offending prints, Alam and Pledge moved the entire exhibition to a new venue, which opened at 3pm the next day. But though he doesn’t mention it outright, it’s difficult to read his comments now without also thinking of Alam’s own recent experience, in which he spent 107 days in Dhaka Central Jail last year.
The Unwanted: homeless in America
It all began in 2014, when Thilde Jensen met two homeless men – Reine and Lost – in Syracuse, New York. They had survived three bitterly cold winters under a small concrete ledge built beneath a highway, where icy winds would whistle relentlessly through the underpass, as if in battle with the roaring traffic overhead. “It blew me away,” says Jensen. “I got drawn into thinking about what it felt like to live outdoors, having done it myself.” The Unwanted was shot over four years, in four American cities – Syracuse, Gallup, Las Vegas, and New Orleans – and completed with the support of a Guggenheim fellowship. Jensen is currently raising funds on Kickstarter to publish a book of the work.
Q&A: Piero Percoco’s The Rainbow is Underestimated
“I would compare myself to a barracuda, attacking the instant something shiny comes along,” says Piero Percoco. Percoco has never studied photography but, inspired by photographers such as Stephen Shore and William Eggleston, he started taking shots with his phone seven years ago and posting them on Instagram. He now has 45.2k followers, and is about to publish his second book with Skinnerboox, The Rainbow is Underestimated – after a successful first outing, Prism Interiors, edited by the respected photographer Jason Fulford.
Tender – In love with contemporary Czech photography
A group show of contemporary Czech photography in New York, Tender is dedicated to work that “registers vulnerabilities of people and their environments – the bruises on the fruit”. The selected photographers include image-makers such as Tereza Zelenková, Vendula Knopová, and Hana Knížová, who adopt widely varying styles but all investigate this idea in their selected work. Zelenková, for example, is showing a project based on the Czech literary classic The Grandma by Božena Němcová, which tells the story of a young woman seduced by a passing soldier, who spends the rest of her days haunting the local woods.
Berenice Abbott: Portraits of Modernity, on show in Barcelona
“To me photography is a means – perhaps the best means of our age – of widening knowledge of our world. Photography is a method of education, for acquainting people of all ages and conditions with the truth about life today,” wrote photographer Berenice Abbott (1898-1991), in an unpublished text, Statement in Regard to Photography Today, 1946. From portraits of elite avant-garde circles in Paris, to rapidly-changing cityscapes of her New York City, plus a career in science journalism, ideas of modernity pervade Abbott’s legacy. Now, a major exhibition of her work is going show at the Fundación MAPFRE in Barcelona.