Last year, after 10 years of creating hundreds of images for a project about her relationship, Pixy Liao decided it was finally time to create a book. “I’m not a very productive photographer, so I always felt like I didn’t have enough images” she says, “but ten years felt like the right time”.
As a woman brought up in China, Liao always thought she would end up with an older man who would look after her and protect her. But while studying for an MFA in photography in Memphis, Tennessee, she met Moro, a Japanese musician five years her junior. Being with Moro challenged her own views on how a man or woman should behave in a heterosexual relationship, and so she began to explore this through photography with a project titled Experimental Relationship.
Thomas Demand is known for building and photographing three-dimensional models that are made to look like real rooms. Often loaded with political significance, his recreations include the kitchen in which Saddam Hussein cooked his last meal, the location of a failed assassination attempt on Hitler, and the interior of the Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima after the 2011 earthquake forced workers to evacuate.
Recently his work has taken a new turn, and he has become more interested in other people’s models than his own. In Model Studies, Demand photographs discarded structures made by famous architects such as John Lautner.
During the winter months in Kazakhstan’s capital city, Astana, fishermen park up on the frozen Ishim river, hoping for a bite beneath the ice. The tradition goes back for generations, back to when Astana was a small rural farming village, not the high-rise, futuristic city it is today.
When the country was part of the Soviet Union, fishing equipment was standardised and sold only at government-run hunting shops. But since the collapse of the USSR in 1991, the fishermen have been constructing their own customised fishing tents, sewn together out of plastic packaging found in the city’s markets.
Aleksey Kondratyev’s new book, Ice Fishers, examines the use of this salvaged material, mostly originally used to import Western, Chinese, and Russian goods, as a means of protection against the harsh weather conditions. Kondratyev, who has lived in America for most of his life, but is originally from Kyrgyzstan, first saw the fishermen when he travelling through Central Asia in 2015 for his project Formations. “I wasn’t sure what they were, but as I got closer I could make out what was going on,” he says.
While most photographers value their time behind the camera, Alexandra Catiere’s love for the craft lives in the darkroom. “For me, the beauty of a picture doesn’t lie in the beauty of the subject matter,” she says. “I’m more interested in pushing the boundaries of printmaking, and how far you can go from reality.”
Catiere always knew she wanted to become an artist, and in photography found a craft that was both independent and experimental. “Taking pictures is fascinating, but for me, it’s not enough,” she says. When she was 21, she built a darkroom in the bathroom of her house in Minsk, Belarus, where she spent most of her time developing photographs of still lifes, seeing how far she could push a gelatin surface.
“For me, photography was more of a need, because I was going through a personal crisis. I had lost a friend, and I had to find a way of living again.” At the beginning of last year Debmalya Roy Choudhuri travelled to Rishikesh, a city in northern India, at the foot of the Himalayas, known as the “yoga capital of the world”.
He wanted to remove himself from the urban chaos and violence in his hometown, Kolkata, and challenge the idea of home as defined by four walls. “I had a very difficult childhood where I had to confront a lot of darkness,” says Choudhuri, who was sick for a long time. “I grew up in a very confined space. My parents went through a lot of problems and my family fell apart.”
In Aldershot, a town in Hampshire, England, there is an old 1930s Art Deco theatre called the Empire. Since its renovation several years ago, it operates mainly as a Nepalese community centre. On the top floor there is a restaurant and a temple; downstairs is a function room, where groups of Nepalese men meet up every so often to play xbox, table tennis and traditional Asian games like carrom.
Aldershot is home to the largest Nepali community in the UK and, because of its close proximity to an army base, Gurkha families make up a large proportion of the population. The Gurkhas are Nepalese soldiers who were recruited into the British Army following the Anglo-Nepalese war in the early 19th century. Over 200,000 Gurkhas fought for Britain in both world wars, but they were unable to settle in the UK until 2004. Since then, after a campaign famously championed by the actress Joanna Lumley, the population of Nepalis in the UK has increased from 6,000 to an estimated 100-150,000.
British-Nepali photographer Nina Manandhar’s most recent project, Gurkha Sons, questions the challenges and benefits of coming from a Gurkha family in the UK. The group she photographed calls themselves the k-BOYZ – the “k” standing for Kaprukka, the Nepali word for “frozen stiff” as that’s how they feel when they go out on their motorbikes in cold British weather. Manandhar asks how living in the UK informs their sense of identity, and most importantly, where home now lies for them
When the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840, most of the land in New Zealand belonged to the Māori tribes. The treaty prevented the sale of land to anyone other than the Crown, and was intended to protect the indigenous people against other European colonial forces. But within a century, the Crown had either bought, occupied, or outright confiscated huge portions of the country, leaving the Māori with only a few pockets of their sacred land.
The Whanganui river is New Zealand’s third longest river, home to the Whanganui tribes and seen as both their ancestor and source of spiritual sustenance. The land surrounding the river was once one of the most densely populated areas in New Zealand. But with the arrival of colonial settlers, it became a major trading post.
On 15 March 2017, after 140 years of negotiation – New Zealand’s longest-running litigation – the Whanganui river was granted the same legal status as a human being, meaning it would be treated and protected as an indivisible whole. Hundreds of members of Māori wept with joy as the lifeblood of their tribe, from which they take their name, spirit and strength, was given recognition as one of their ancestors.
Diversity has never been hotter in the fashion industry. This year, more non-white, plus-sized, and transgender models have walked the runway than ever before, and a record number of black women have appeared on the covers of glossies worldwide. Alessia Glaviano, senior picture editor at Vogue Italia and director of the Photo Vogue Festival thinks we owe it to the internet. “I believe that nothing would have happened, or not this fast, in terms of inclusivity, if it wasn’t for social media,” she says. “It’s a progressive platform for talking about race, identity, sexuality, and disability.”
But diversity isn’t just a trend, it’s a reality. Years before #diversity began to take off, forward-thinking publications such as Vogue Italia were already poking holes in the industry’s representation problem, with initiatives such as the July 2008 “all black” issue. Vogue Italia is known for being adventurous, for setting a standard for cutting-edge fashion photography. Over the years has given artistic freedom to commissioned photographers such as Steve Meisel, Ellen von Unwerth and Miles Aldridge, who have shot stories unlikely to be seen elsewhere, engaging with themes such as plastic surgery and domestic violence.
“It’s been in our DNA since the beginning,” says Glaviano. “We’ve always been really engaged and committed to this part of fashion that can be very strong and influential.
“I’ve never believed in boundaries and labelling things,” she adds. “No one cares that Michelangelo was commissioned to create the Sistine Chapel. What they care about is the final result.”
Merkenbrechts is a small, rural village in Waldviertel, Austria, with a population of 200. It has a fire station, a church, and a large stretch of water where the village’s 35 children spend their summers swimming, climbing trees and playing hide and seek.
Carla Kogelman originally visited the area in 2012 while working on a documentary about the region for a commission. During her stay she met Sonja and Roman Liebhart, who invited her to come and photograph their children on their farm in Merkenbreacht.
Visiting the village, Kogelman found its residents were very conscious of how they produced and consumed resources. They powered their homes using solar panels, resisted using chemicals on their crops, and had community gardens in which children could learn to grow their own vegetables and herbs. “People over there, they just care about the soil, about the earth, about each other and the animals,” she says.
Between 1930 and 1964, Liberty Theater was the name of a non-whites only cinema owned by Rosalind Fox Solomon’s family in Chattanooga, Tennessee. “There was an irony in the name. I chose Liberty Theater as the title of this book because of its multiple meanings,” she says. “In a broader context, the title relates to performance and pretence in the theatre of life.”
The photographs Liberty Theater collects together were taken through the 1970s to 90s in the southern United States, and have never before been published as a group. From Georgia to South California, through Mississippi, Tennessee and Louisiana, Solomon captured the complexity of race, class, and gender divisions.
“I had no idea that photography would change my life,” says Solomon, who began photographing when she was 48, after graduating from college, getting married and raising two children. In 1977 she moved to Washington DC, where her husband worked for the General Services Administration, and visited New York City to study privately with Lisette Model.