“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 – I was talking with other photographers and the Getty Images office about how to tell the story. It became every day going to the same place, standing, trying to get a picture that said something.”
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.
Then on 15 October, Saudi and Turkish officials were allowed in to inspect the building, and McGrath, along with many other journalists and photographers, went along to photograph the development. “We didn’t know when the inspectors would arrive, but everyone was there,” says McGrath. “All the press was trying to get something, and this guy was holding us back.”
Back in 2011, Mohammed Badra was studying architecture at Damascus University, a 20-minute drive from his native Douma. Then war broke out in Syria and he was forced to abandon his studies, initially becoming a first-responder for the Syrian Red Crescent, and then starting to take photographs of the conflict. “Taking a picture is documenting history,” he says simply. “I am an architecture student, I was pushed into photography.”
In 2015 Badra joined EPA [European Pressphoto Agency], working under Oliver Weiken and starting to focus in on images of children. Children are “the biggest losers in this war” he says, and there are many caught up in the crossfire, with the UN estimating that some 500,000 are currently living in 16 besieged areas in Syria.
And it’s the child that’s the really shocking factor in Badra’s photograph from Eastern Ghouta, 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.
Born and raised in Basildon in Essex, CJ Clarke grew up assuming he’d leave. “Just to stand on any street on a warm summer a ernoon is to become engulfed by a silence – a silence so vast that time seems to have disappeared,” he explains in the afterword to his book, Magic Party Place. “On such days, it really does appear like nothing has ever happened or will ever happen in the town.”
His escape route was image-making, and he moved to London years ago to study documentary photography at the London College of Communication. Like many, he had been politicised by Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war, and his first thought was to pursue photojournalism in the Middle East, in an attempt to understand Britain’s ignoble part in its history. But travelling to Lebanon in 2005 to cover the elections, he met Judah Passow, a photojournalist born in Israel, who encouraged him to think again, and in particular to believe “that there was something worth exploring at the heart of my unremarkable hometown”.
“The photographers we have selected who are part of the exhibition are the vanguard – they are the next generation,” says Brendan Embser, managing editor of Aperture. He’s talking about the professional finalists in this year’s Sony World Photography Awards, which he helped judge alongside three other photography experts: Emma Lewis, assistant curator, Tate; Liu Heung Shing, founder of the Shanghai Center of Photography; and Isabella van Marle, head of artist & gallery relations at Unseen Amsterdam.
The Sony World Photography Awards are divided into four categories – professional, student, youth, and open – which this year received over 326,000 submissions from 195 countries and territories. The shortlisted work will go on show at the 2019 Sony World Photography Awards Exhibition at Somerset House, London, before going on tour around the world; this exhibition will also include a section dedicated to work by Nadav Kander, who has been awarded a prize for his Outstanding Contribution to Photography.
In 2016, a chance meeting with a young Iranian couple led Youness Miloudi to make his first visit to Tehran. The encounter had, evidently, made a big impression. “To be honest, I didn’t know much about the country, especially about the daily life of Iranians,” he says.
A French photographer based in Paris, Miloudi found the trip a huge learning experience. “This first visit was enough to make me realise how much I did not know this culture, and that I had, like many people, prejudices about Iran.”
With the aim of challenging his own preconceptions, and of coming closer to understanding the country, he embarked on several more trips throughout 2017 and 2018, documenting the people and places he visited. PerseFornia is one part of the resulting project, The Iranians, and consists of documentary portraits of the youth of Tehran.
Shooting meticulously set-up still lifes on film with a large format camera, Lucas Blalock scans his images and digitally manipulates them, creating tricksy, mind-bending work that plays with the boundary between reality and fiction. Now it’s fashionable to talk about fake news, but Blalock got in early, poking holes in our trust in images.
It’s earned him an enviable career, with books published by respected outfits such as Morel Books and Self Publish, Be Happy, and solo exhibitions at private galleries such as the White Cube. Now he’s got his first solo show at a public gallery in the US, the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), Los Angeles, where he’s showing images made since 2014. Initially he might have seemed part of a movement, but Blalock has carved out a career on his own.
Spanning a 30-year career, Schorr’s work explores identity politics and photography’s fetishistic gaze. Best-known for her early portraits of adolescent boys, and her fashion and editorial work for magazines, her 2014 show, 8 Women, highlighted a shift in focus.
What draws me to photographing adolescent youth? The sense of things being unresolved. I succeeded in nothing as a child. I waited for high school to be over so I could go to New York. I knew things wouldn’t come easy. But I knew they could come if I worked for them.
“For me the beach is the perfect place to observe people,” wrote Massimo Vitali on his blog back in July 2018. “In other words, we go to the beach to take pictures of people, not to take pictures of the beach. The beach is the most suitable place to observe human beings’ behavior, the existence of us human beings. How do people share the space on the beach, how are they staring at each other, or are they looking the other way? This is more important than geographical elements.
His new series, Short Stories, features plenty of beach scenes, often shot in his native Italy. Born in Como in 1944, Vitali studied photography at the London College of Printing and worked as a photojournalist in the 1960s and 70s before becoming a cinematographer for TV and film in the early 1980s. He started to shoot large format photographs in 1993, finding fame with his work Beach Scenes in 1995. He’s also shot crowds in other landscapes though, including in nightclubs, and the new portfolio includes these other social spaces as well as beach scenes.
London’s National Portrait Gallery is no longer taking a £1m gift from the Sackler Trust, amid growing controversy over the trust’s links to Purdue Pharma – makers of the OyxContin prescription painkiller which has been linked to the opioid crisis.
The £1m gift was to support the gallery’s Inspiring People initiative, a £35.5m project which would see the biggest-ever building development of the gallery since it opened in 1896. The NPG has stated that it has jointly agreed not to proceed with the gift with the Sackler Trust, and has issued two statements.
“The Sackler Trust has supported institutions playing crucial roles in health, education, science and the arts for almost half a century and we were pleased to have the opportunity to offer a new gift to support the National Portrait Gallery,” reads the first statement, from a Sackler Trust spokesperson. “The giving philosophy of the family has always been to actively support institutions while never getting in the way of their mission.
Think of a horror or thriller, and you may think of the happy first half hour or so when everything seems to be going just fine. The Stepford Wives’ town initially seems like it’s perfect; The Vanishing opens with a couple going on a holiday. It’s only later that the tone takes a turn for the worse, before descending into something more substantially scary. That shift is something the residents of Amherst, Massachusetts seemingly live in fear of, because – while on the face of it their small town is an idyll – they’re constantly on the alert.
“7.32pm – Residents at The Boulders complained about a man yelling out the window in a foreign language,” reads a police report published in the local paper, the Amherst Bulletin. “The man told police he was just stating his excitement for the dinner he was about to eat.” “5.53pm – A woman called police after being approach by a photographer in downtown who asked if he could take pictures of her feet,” another reads. “The photographer was not located.”