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
It’s better-known as a medical process, but x-ray imaging has helped Nick Veasey carve out a very successful career over the last 20 years, working with clients such as the V&A, Adidas, H&M, Time, Harper’s Bazaar, and Vice, and exhibiting at galleries such as Stockholm’s Fotografiska. Now Veasey is opening an exhibition space next to his studio in Kent, rural England, in which visitors can watch him work in a purpose-built x-ray chamber, and see exhibitions by him and other contemporary artists.
Process Gallery is set in the middle of a two-acre site that will be landscaped into a sculpture garden next year. The opening exhibition is dedicated to Veasey’s work, but the photographer plans to show work by other artists, specialising in those who take an alternative approach to process.
To the people of Provence, the Mistral is a local menace. It regularly ruins weddings, steals hats and scarves with ease and, at its worst, this epic wind has the strength to sweep up metal chairs and smash them into neighbouring windows. Even so, says Rachel Cobb, “I think maybe they actually like it”. “What I feel is that it’s a source of pride among the Provincials, a way of defining the region,” she adds. “They can withstand it, and they’ve learned to live with it.”
Cobb’s new book, Mistral: The Legendary Wind of Provence, is a record of the 20 years she spent hunting the wind. She has holidayed in the south of France for 40 summers now and, though she has been victim to the perils of the strong gales, she’s also found it inspirational – as have many other artists and writers. “I’m energised by it,” she says. “At night, when you hear it stir, you can feel the energy in the air.”
Laia Abril is no stranger to themes of distress. Bulimia, coping with the death of a child, the asexual community, virtual sex-performer couples – these are all topics that the Barcelona-based photographer has explored and attempted to demystify with her multi-layered, story-based practice. The subjects she tackles are complex and provocative, but ones she is able to connect with by way of female empathy, “where I can be involved emotionally”, she says.
Nataal.com was born in 2015 as a platform to communicate the creativity coming out of Africa. It was launched by Sara Hemming, former art director at AnOther, Helen Jennings, former editor at Arise magazine, and Senegalese actor and director Sy Alassane. Focusing on fashion shoots, long form features and visual essays, Nataal collaborates with emerging artists around the world who are shaping global narratives around African culture.
This year, Nataal published its first annual print magazine, built around the theme “Future Gaze” and containing 336 pages of photography by well-known artists such as Viviane Sassen, Lorenzo Vitturi and Ayana V Jackson, as well as commissions by up-and-coming photographers such as Arielle Bobb-Willis. The photography is accompanied by in-depth editorials covering a range of topics including fashion, visual arts and music, as well as a short story by American-Ghanaian writer Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond, and articles about contemporary African culture and business.
BJP spoke to creative director Sara Hemming and editorial director Helen Jennings about Nataal media and why photography is so integral to their magazine.
In our latest issue, Nature, we speak with Lena C Emery about her latest work, Yuka & The Forest, which draws on Japan’s powerful cultural connection to forests. Todd Hido’s latest series, Bright Black World, presents a more chilling vision, showing icy landscapes that suggest a impending environmental disaster. Yoshinori Mizutani takes on the genre of nature photography, meanwhile, proposing a fresher approach to images of wildlife with his series HDR_nature. We also offer an insight into the latest technology trends to emerge from the Photokina trade show.
Born in Berkeley but raised in the East Bay suburb of Walnut Creek, Mimi Plumb has been a lynchpin in the network of photographers and educators who keep the region grounded in socially engaged documentary traditions. In her own photography, she has remained close to her roots, shooting long-term projects all over northern California. Many of those projects are only now beginning to see the light of day.
One of the reasons why her archive has lain dormant for so long is that she has been teaching photography most of her adult life at local institutions such as San Jose State University and San Francisco Art Institute, where she herself gained an MA, and which has played a key role in educating many photography students in the region. In 2014, her first body of work, Pictures from the Valley, was exhibited at City Hall in San Francisco. These pictures, taken in her early 20s when she was still a student, were a campaign for trade union rights among the Hispanic field workers of California’s farmlands.
Sarah Waiswa is a Uganda-based documentary and portrait photographer, whose key interests are people and their stories. Much of her work focuses on identity, and explores themes surrounding isolation and belonging in her native Africa. In particular, she is concerned with documenting what she calls the New African Identity – a term she coined to describe a new era of cultural freedom on the continent – and what this might mean for Africa’s future. Born during Idi Amin’s dictatorship in Kenya, Waiswa and her family were forced to flee to Uganda shortly after her birth. This formative experience has affected both Waiswa’s worldview, and her photographic aims; exploring her connection to place is still a central theme in much of her work. Waiswa’s photographs are pioneering in the way that they illustrate social issues in Africa in a contemporary and non-traditional way. She focuses on every aspect of African culture; from religion, to the isolation of people with albinism. Through her work, Waiswa has reclaimed her narrative; she is able to document Africa from an …
Aiyush Pachnanda may have yet to finish his Photojournalism degree, but he’s already taking the photography world by storm. EyeEm, a global photography marketplace and community, recently announced him as their Photographer of the Year, the most prestigious title in the EyeEm Photography Awards. As well as receiving a trip to Berlin Photo Week and a Sony Alpha camera, Pachnanda will act as the EyeEm ambassador during 2019. So what is it that sets Pachnanda apart from the 100,000 other photographers who entered? His winning image, a low angle portrait of a heavily tattooed man with a grey tower block looming behind him, says it all. Flick through Pachnanda’s work and you’ll notice two recurring themes: urban landscapes, and striking people. Splitting his time between London, where he grew up, and Cardiff, where he studies, Pachnanda has an enduring interest both in the city, and in the subcultures that people form there. In his unaffected way (he’s pursuing a rough-and-ready style of photojournalism, often using an old point-and-shoot), he captures the raucous underbelly of urban …
From 07 November to 04 February, the Centre Pompidou in Paris is showing a striking exhibition on a little-known aspect of the roots of 20th century social documentary photography, Photographie, arme de classe [which roughly translates as ‘Photography as a weapon in the class struggle’]. Curated by Damarice Amao, Florian Ebner and Christian Joschke, the show deals with a comparatively unknown period in French photo history, from the end of the 1920s to the arrival of the Front populaire government of 1936 – when the socialist, communist and radical parties formed a short-lived coalition to govern France, with the tacit backing of the Soviet Union.
Photographer and activist Henri Tracol (1909-1997) was the first to formulate the idea that photography could be an “arme de classe”, in the tract he wrote for the photographer’s section of the Association des Écrivains et Artistes Revolutionnaires [‘Association of Revolutionary Writers and Artists’ aka the AEAR], formed in 1932. Although this communist front, Moscow-sponsored organisation only lasted a few years, it attracted many of the leading figures of the day from art, theatre, literature, architecture, and particularly photography. Those who joined were either fellow travellers or politically attached to communism, seeing it as a bastion against the twin evils of the time – fascism and capitalism.