In 2011 Nigel Poor, a professor of photography at the California State University, began volunteering at the San Quentin State Prison, just north of San Francisco, as a photo history instructor in the prison’s college programme. Two years later, she moved over to work with incarcerated men in the existing prison radio station, but concurrently pulled on her background in photography.
In an exercise Poor calls “mapping”, she asked prisoners to annotate famous photographs. Works by Lee Friedlander, David Hilliard, Stephen Shore and others were pored over by prisoners, resulting in text-laden replicates. These creative brainstorms have been preserved, and now hang on wires sandwiched between glass as works of art, in the first room of an exhibition on show at the Milwaukee Art Museum until 10 March, titled The San Quentin Project: Nigel Poor and the Men of San Quentin State Prison.
John Myers is back with new book called Looking at the Overlooked – a good title for a photographer who specialises in images of the unremarkable, and who himself nearly fell from photographic history. Working in Britain’s post-industrial Midlands from 1973-1981, Myers created an archive of the unspectacular that attracted attention at the time but then lay undisturbed for 30 years until a chance meeting with a curator. A solo show at Birmingham’s Ikon Gallery followed in 2011, kick-starting a comprehensive reappraisal at his work that’s resulted in more solo shows and several publications.
Looking at the Overlooked is published by RBB Photobooks, which also published a collection of Myer’s portraits earlier this year. But where The Portraits focused in on pictures of people, Looking at the Overlooked is a glorious compendium of “the claustrophobia of the suburban landscape in the 1970s”. Focusing in on substations, shops, houses, televisions, and so-called “landscapes without incident” – or as Myers puts it, “boring photographs” – the images are all recorded with a deadpan aesthetic that’s won Myers comparisons to the celebrated New Topographics movement in the US.
For over 40 years, American photographer Dawoud Bey has been photographing people from groups too often marginalised in the USA, seeking out stories overlooked by conventional and stereotypical portrayals.
Born and raised in New York, Bey began his career in 1975 at the age of 22. For five years he documented the neighbourhood of Harlem – where his parents grew up, and which he often visited as a child – making pictures of everyday life. This series, along with three more of his projects, is on show this month at the Stephen Bulger Gallery in Toronto, Canad
Originally trained as a journalist, Barcelona-born Laia Abril expanded her storytelling methods after studying at New York’s ICP. She is best-known for the first chapter of her long-term project A History of Misogyny, On Abortion, which recently won the Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation PhotoBook of the Year Award and has been shortlisted for the 2019 Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize
She cradles a Rolleicord camera to her breast, her eyes staring into her reflection. Until recently, the woman behind the camera was unknown, living a quiet life as a nanny in Chicago and dying, alone in a nursing home, in 2009 at the age of 83. When Vivian Maier’s cache of 100,000 images were unearthed, her work was compared with the greats of street photography. A film was made, Finding Vivian Maier, which introduced a new generation to her work. But Maier herself was the draw; who, exactly, was the mysterious French nanny? What drove her relentless imagery, and why did she keep it so resolutely hidden?
Maier was a private but eccentric Mary Poppins-like figure, who spoke with a delicate French trill and was never without her medium format camera. She took thousands of photographs from the 1950s to 70s, but squirrelled them away in a room she forbade anyone to enter. She was poor, and in 2007 her possessions were auctioned off to recoup her debts – her archive of photographs among them. John Maloof, an estate agent and president of his local history society, discovered them at an auction and took a punt, hoping to find images for a book he was writing on the Portage Park area of Chicago. He found nothing relevant, and put the whole lot into storage for two years.
The Parisian curator Quentin Bajac has spent the past two decades working in three of the world’s leading cultural destinations – starting out at the Musée d’Orsay, he moved to Centre Pompidou, and then the most coveted post of all, chief curator of photography at MoMA in New York. Here he shares his insights into photography and life with BJP editorial director Simon Bainbridge
“How to fill the gap between politics and art? This is both an old and a new problem,” writes Takuma Nakahira, in the afterword to PROVOKE no.1, published 50 years ago this month. Led by some of Japan’s best-known photographers and art critics – including Takuma Nakahira, Koji Taki, and iconoclast Daido Moriyama, who joined from the second issue – the magazine stemmed from the anger and discontent that they felt towards the post-war world. Though it survived only three issues, and was criticised at the time, it is now widely recognised as a ground-breaking publication in the history of contemporary Japanese photography.
The magazines were printed in 1968 and 1969, both turbulent years for politics which featured the May 1968 riots in Paris; the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr and the anti-Vietnam protests in the US; the end of the Prague Spring. In Japan, 1968 was the year that a string of violent student uprisings forced many of the top universities to close.
When the first issue of Huck went to press in 2006, it was quite different to what it is today. Started by a team of friends passionate about the skate and surf scenes, and formed soon after the closure of Adrenalin magazine, where many of them had worked, it championed the personal stories of the sports’ icons and surrounding culture, rather than the action. Though still passionate about radical culture, Huck is now decidedly less niche.
“Over the years, the voice we’ve always had as an alternative to the mainstream became more relevant to more people,” says Andrea Kurland, who has been part of the team from the start, and became editor-in-chief in 2010. “As we’ve grown, the generation that grew up with us has become more socially and politically engaged. This is now very embedded in the magazine, so we’ve been bolder and braver with this particular world stance.”
In 1919, a year after the end of World War One and the start of the Weimar Republic in Germany, $1 was worth 48 Marks. By early 1922, $1 bought 320 Marks; by late 1922, $1 bought 7,400 Marks. By 1923, $1 bought 4,210,500,000,000 Marks. “Lingering at shop windows was a luxury because shopping had to be done immediately,” said the artist George Grosz at the height of this hyperinflation.
“Even an additional minute could mean an increase in price. One had to buy quickly. A rabbit, for example, might cost two million marks more by the time it took you to walk into the store. The packages of money needed to buy the smallest item had long since become too heavy for trouser pockets. I used a knapsack.”
If you don’t get the reference, it’s a curious title for a photobook – Fables of Faubus, the 30-year retrospective by British documentary photographer Paul Reas. But if you’re a jazz fan you’ll know it’s taken from a song by Charles Mingus, written after Arkansas governor Orval Faubus decided to bar the integration of Little Rock Central High School in 1957.
To Mingus, and many others, Faubus stood for a dark force holding back progressive social change. For Reas, the title suggests the metanarrative that runs behind the many stories he’s shot in the UK on heavy industry, consumer culture, the heritage industry, and more – namely, the disenfranchisement of the British working class, “the years of decline of industry and the fall out from that, communities being de-centred and levelled”.