“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.
Alice Mann is a South Africa-born, London-based photographer, who was awarded the prestigious Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize in 2018 for her photographs of all-female teams of drum majorettes in South Africa’s Western Cape province. The images that make up Drummies are celebratory and empowering portrayals of young majorettes from some of South Africa’s most marginalised communities. “Winning the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize was confirmation that people were able to instantly access the power these women had,” Mann says, “I’m really pleased that the girls’ confidence came across in the series.” Alice Mann is one of our females in focus; a remarkable photographer making extraordinary work, whose images we are revisiting as part of our pledge to elevate photography by women. Female in Focus is a new award, launched this year by 1854 Media, in which female-identifying photographers are invited to apply to have their work exhibited as part of a month-long group show at United Photo Industries gallery in Brooklyn, New York. Female in Focus is our way of addressing the gender imbalance …
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.
Documentary photographer Danyelle Rolla is proud of her roots. That much is clear from her portfolio, which reads like a guide to working-class Britain. Rolla grew up in Norris Green, one of Liverpool’s poorest towns – the type of town, she says, that the press misrepresents as a hotbed of crime and social decay. Out of frustration at this, Rolla has made it her mission to rewrite the narrative of the people and places that have shaped her, by photographing them in a more flattering light. The photograph that won Rolla Portrait of Britain 2018 captures Dotty, an older resident of Norris Green, Liverpool, outside the local pub. She is sporting a perm that might be from the Eighties, with shoulder pads to match. In fact, many of the scenes that Rolla photographs could be from other eras: from kitsch village fetes, to groups of skinheads in bomber jackets. In her playful, sometimes garish, images, she captures a Britain that seems to be longing for the past. This is the same Britain, Rolla’s photographs suggest, …
In 1939, Spanish refugees started to flee the country’s bitter civil war, in a movement that’s become known as the Retirada [the ‘withdrawal’]. More than 450,000 men, women, and children crossed the border into France in February 1939 alone, following the fall of the Second Spanish Republic and the victory of General Franco. France, anticipating the mass migration, had started to make provisions for the refugees, but underestimated the sheer numbers. Many ended up on the beaches in makeshift accommodation, and by 1940, some 50,000 had ended up in a series of camps. Diseases such as dysentery were rife, and the mortality rate high.
One of the camps was Camp de Rivesaltes, also known as Camp Maréchal Joffre. Built in 1938, near Perpignan and just 40km from the Spanish border, it had originally been intended as a military base but, following the Retirada, the French government decided to use it as an internment camp. By January 1941 was housing more than 6500 refugees though, as by then World War Two had broken out, half the camp was Spanish – the other half Jews who had fled various counties and French gypsies. In just under two years, the camp housed some 17,500 people, just over half from Spain, 40% Jewish, and 7% French gypsies.
Born in Poland in 1985 and based in London, Joanna Piotrowska has had a stellar career so far. Studying photography at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków and then on the prestigious MA at London’s Royal College of Art, she won MACK’s First Book Award in 2014 with FROWST, and then the Photoworks & Jerwood Award in 2015. She’s already shown her work at the Winterthur Fotomuseum, Switzerland, MoMA in New York, Hayward Gallery, Institute of Contemporary Arts and Sadie Coles in London, and now her first solo show has opened at Tate Britain.
Titled All Our False Devices, the exhibition includes both still photographs and 16mm films to consider gestures, relationships, and power. The series Self Defense, 2015 shows young women re-enacting poses from self-defence manuals, for example, while Shelters, 2016-2018 shows makeshift structures Piotrowska invited people to build at home in Lisbon, Rio de Janeiro, Warsaw, and London.
Maurice Scheltens and Liesbeth Abbenes have long been preoccupied by perspective. In fact, this year is the 18th that the artist duo – partners in life, as well as in work – have spent creating their painstakingly controlled scenes to capture on camera together. Translating their immaculately constructed three-dimensional sets into technically precise two-dimensional images, they have made a name for themselves with rich, playful and illusory works that toy with spatial dimensions, and which, though aesthetically pleasing, are conceptually rigorous first and foremost. The concept, Abbenes assures us, always precedes the picture.
Their spring exhibition at Amsterdam’s Foam Museum (from 15 March to 05 June) is something like a retrospective, giving the Dutch duo an opportunity to look back over almost two decades of work from a new perspective. And true to form, they are first rearranging the rooms their work will inhabit by uncovering windows that have not been opened in many years. “We will have light and some fresh air, hopefully. We have to give up walls for that, but it’s good to have a bit of the outside world coming in,” they say. Shifting the dimensions and conditions of the space itself will alter the way viewers see the work, and that typifies their approach to the exhibition, rethinking how the works will appear in this new context, and how they relate to each other.
Did you know that across the photography industry, just 1 in 9 award winners are women? And while equality in our own awards is improving, last year only 38% of our winners were female. If we are to make real steps towards equality in the photography industry, we must start at home. It is for neither lack of interest nor talent that the photography industry is so imbalanced. While just 15% of professional photographers are women, 80% of photography graduates are female. We want to know what is happening to these promising graduates, and to re-engage the talent that gets lost along the way by giving underrepresented photographers the tools and platforms to succeed. By valuing everyone and their stories, equally, we can start to make photography more fair and more representative. For that reason, we are introducing a new global award, Female in Focus, which seeks to highlight the exceptional quality of photography by women. Our aim is to open up the world of photography to diverse talent, and to empower women and …
The subtitle of Patrick Waterhouse’s latest work, Restricted Images, is Made with the Warlpiri of Central Australia – and the word ‘with’ is notable. Over repeated trips, the 37-year-old Briton began to collaborate with, photograph and collect the work of Warlpiri artists, basing himself at the Warlukurlangu Artists art centre in the Northern Territory, five hours’ drive from Alice Springs.
“I wanted to create a situation where the people I was working with had an encounter again, a chance to flip the power dynamic,” he tells me over coffee at his new studio in east London. He is surrounded by prints from the series, neatly packaged and ready to travel with him two days later to Australia for the next chapter of a project that started in 2011 when, through his editorship of the iconic Colors magazine, he first visited the art centre. “I wanted to give the people in this community agency over their own representations,” he says.
Discovered objects and images play a vital role in the work of Vancouver-born, Brooklyn-based artist Sara Cwynar. Her practice blends collage, still life and portraits in photographic and filmic forms, incorporating material sourced on eBay, or at flea markets and the like. So when the opportunity arose to hold an exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Art last autumn, followed by a show at Milwaukee Art Museum this spring, it seemed a serendipitous moment to unearth works incorporating items from an archive close by.
“Some of the pictures that I’ve used as source material over the years came from an eBay seller who bought the archive of an old photo studio in Milwaukee,” she explains. “I think it was operational from the 1950s to the 1970s or so, and it closed down a long time ago. I like that they tie in to the location; I have repurposed some of the negatives from that for this show.”