Derby is a small British city but once every two years it hosts a big event – the FORMAT Festival. Directed by the well-respected photography specialist Louise Fedotov-Clements and running since 2004, FORMAT has established a firm reputation for interesting international work, and FORMAT19 looks set to continue the good work with exhibitions spread across both Derby and another neighbouring city, Nottingham. Taking place next spring, FORMAT19 is themed FOREVER/NOW and takes on an interesting contemporary question – the role of documentary photography.
“In 2007, while the photography world was still grappling with the idea of photography as an interpretive, non-narrative, non-representational medium, writer Lucy Soutter wrote about the ‘expressive’ versus the ‘straight’ documentary photograph, insightfully characterising the then two sides of the debate,” runs the FORMAT19 press material.
“Since then photography has grown to encompass many manifestations of the ‘crooked’ image through hybrid forms and visual practises and no longer worries about narrative versus abstraction, expressive versus objective. The new generation of photographic artists rush towards the new, embracing the rapid transformation that technology and cultural exchanges bring to it.”
The Chinese police have confirmed that they have arrested photographer Lu Guang, according to reports in The New York Times and elsewhere. He has been missing since early November but, his wife Xu Xiaoli has apparently confirmed, the police called his family this week to confirm he was arrested in Kashgar – an ancient city in southern Xinjiang that has seen a government crackdown on Uighurs and other Muslim minorities.
Xu says she still doesn’t know why Lu has been arrested though, and says that the police haven’t provided a written notice confirming the detention. A friend of Lu’s who disappeared at the same time is also still missing, though Xu had no more information about his fate.
BJP-online Loves the new Russian photography on FotoDepartament’s Attention Hub, the RPS’ list of 100 photographic heroines, Claudio Majorana’s Head of the Lion, John Myers’ Looking at the Overlooked, Feast for the Eyes – The Story of Food in Photography on show at FOAM, Jamie Hawkesworth’s a blue painted fence, and La Vertigine by Federico Clavarino
What do Sophie Calle, Rineke Dijkstra, Susan Meiselas, and Hannah Starkey all have in common? They’re all on the list of 100 contemporary women photographers picked out by the UK’s Royal Photographic Society, after an open call for nominations. Over 1300 photographers were recommended to the organisation by the general public, which was slimmed down by a judging panel headed up by photographer Rut Blees Luxemburg.
The final list includes well-known names but also less recognised image-makers such as Native American artist Wendy Red Star, Moscow-based photographer Oksana Yushko, and Paola Paredes from Ecuador. Each Heroine will be awarded a Margaret Harper medal, named after the first female president of The Royal Photographic Society, and the first female professor of photography in the UK. An exhibition and accompanying publication will follow, all part of a bid to highlight women working in what is still a male-dominated industry.
“Although it was a truly challenging exercise having to consider 1300 women, being a part of the jury for Hundred Heroines was ultimately an incredibly stimulating and inspirational process,” says Luxemburg. “This final list reflects both the global expanse of female practice and the intergenerational input into contemporary photography. It reflects the wide range of methodologies, practices and diverse approaches of women working with the photographic medium. This is a moment of change and this list of heroines pays heed to it.”
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.
As a medical student specialising in youth and cognitive neuroscience, Claudio Majorana is not a typical documentary photographer. Having grown up with a mother in fine arts and a father in medicine, his attraction to the symbiosis between art and science was initiated at a young age, and his interest in photography – an artistic medium rooted in scientific process – came to him naturally. “Throughout my childhood, I spent tiSme painting in my mother’s atelier, or helping my father develop X-rays in his radiology darkroom. That’s where my interest in images began,” he reflects.
When Majorana was accepted into medical school at 19, he also began photographing voraciously. In the summer of 2011, he encountered a group of kids in the suburbs of Catania, his hometown in Sicily, and began documenting moments in their daily life, rooted in skateboarding culture and the general struggles and raucous habits that colour adolescent life. The result is his series, Head of the Lion.
“The way the international audience perceives Russian photography is often based on ‘exoticism’, that builds a pernicious stereotyping around Russian art,” say the makers of Attention Hub. “We show the artists who speak an intercultural and international language, pushing imaginary boundaries.”
Put together by FotoDepartament, the respected St Petersburg gallery, publisher, and arts centre, Attention Hub’s premise is simple – to harness the international reach of the internet to promote a hand-picked selection of emerging Russian photographers. Prints of the photographers’ work can be bought online for as little as €220, with half the price going to the photographer; the rest of the money will go towards building a programme of international events and initiatives to promote their work.
“Online is a dynamic and accessible format, providing the maximum audience coverage from anywhere in the world,” runs the site’s introductory text. “The combination of technology, digitalisation of information consumption, and trends of selling art online all build new ways of overcoming physical boundaries and setting up the convenient and focused support that independent art needs.”
In 2010, when BJP first came across Jamie Hawkesworth, he’d just been shooting in Preston Bus Station along with Adam Murray and Robert Parkinson from the Preston is my Paris zine. Picking out passersby who caught his eye in the rundown but celebrated Brutalist transport hub, Hawkesworth’s images were published in a free newspaper and given to the disadvantaged teenagers who used the buses. They helped save the bus station from demolition, but they also helped launch a stellar career, with Hawkesworth signing up with the prestigious London agency MAP soon afterwards.
Fast-forward to 2018 and Hawkesworth is a celebrated fashion photographer, who’s shot ad campaigns for Alexander McQueen and Marni, and editorial for publications such as Vogue Italia, W, and Purple. He’s also got an exhibition on show in London, a blue painted fence, which shows off his film, drawings, and writing, as well as new photographs from Kenya, Louisiana and Romania. Despite his success he’s still very much the same man BJP first met eight years ago, down-to-earth and modest, with a refreshingly breezy approach to his many talents.
Of his drawings, for example, he says it’s just a case of “having room to get out there and explore, of being open to chance”. “I found myself giving it a try, thinking ‘Oh I’ll just try some charcoal’, and it went from there,” he says. “The great thing about charcoal is it’s easy to get it on [the paper] and see where energy takes you.”
BJP-online Loves Maria Sturm’s You don’t look Native to me, Jean-Vincent Simonet’s psychedelic images of Tokyo, Roger Melis’ photographs of East Germany, Dawoud Bey’s exhibition Places in History, and the fact that MACK’s First Book Award is now open-entry
In his latest book, Gap in the Hedge, Dan Wood looks at how a place affects the way you see the world around you, how it can open your mind to new vistas, create spaces for your imagination to run wild, and make an identity that is rooted in the landscape in ways that can be expanding or limiting.
The title refers to Bwlch-y-Clawdd, the mountain pass that joins Bridgend to the former mining communities of the Rhondda Valley. Built in 1928, the road was Wales’ biggest construction project at the time, intended to lift the Rhondda out of its over-reliance on coal mining. And it was some reliance. At its coal-mining peak, South Wales produced one third of global coal exports, with large numbers of migrants moving in to mine the coal, making it a surprisingly diverse community for a place that is still regarded as quintessentially Welsh.