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.”
Now in its 22nd year, the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize is awarded each year to image-makers who’ve made the biggest contribution to the medium in the previous 12 months in Europe. This year the shortlisted artists are: Laia Abril, for her publication On Abortion; Susan Meiselas, for the retrospective exhibition Mediations; Arwed Messmer, for his exhibition RAF – No Evidence / Kein Beweis; and Mark Ruwedel, for the exhibition Artist and Society: Mark Ruwedel. The winner of the £30,000 prize will be announced at The Photographers’ Gallery on 16 May 2019.
Alys Tomlinson’s Ex-Voto book is the culmination of a five-year journey across Catholic pilgrimage sites in Ballyvourney in Ireland, Grabarka in Poland, and Lourdes in France. “Placed anonymously and often hidden from view, ‘Ex-Votos’ are offerings left by pilgrims as signs of gratitude and devotion,” she explains. Since being shortlisted for the BJP IPA in 2018, the series has been recognised across the industry, also making the shortlists for the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize and the Renaissance Photography Prize. Most recently, Ex-Voto won first prize in the Discovery section of the 2018 Sony World Photography Awards. The eagerly anticipated release of the Ex-Voto book coincides with several exhibitions of the work; at HackelBury Fine Art in London from 7 March to 18 April, at Chichester Cathedral from 2 March to 23 April, and at SIDE Gallery in Newcastle from 6 April until 9 June 2019. Included in Ex-Voto are essays by experts Dr Rowan Cerys Tomlinson, Professor John Eade, and Sean O’Hagan, each detailing some of the history of the sites photographed and the ex-votos …
Virginie Rebetez is a photographer preoccupied by absence. Her work explores themes around disappearance, loss and death, her subjects often physically absent or removed from the projects that depict them. Such is the case with Out of the Blue, which centres around the unresolved disappearance of Suzanne Gloria Lyall, who went missing in 1998 at the age of 19, in Albany, upstate New York. Out of the Blue was published last year by Meta/Books, and is showing in Mutable/Multiple at Quad during Format.
Lyall has never been found but traces of her remain even now, more than 20 years later. “Photography has this relationship with traces but also with proof and reality,” explains Rebetez, whose work attempts to make concrete something unthinkable, this vacuum, by becoming acquainted with Suzanne and her life in her absence. “It’s really interesting to work on something invisible with photography because somehow it gives something material to that which is not present,” she says.
When the Portrait Gallery was established in London in the mid-19th century, its role was envisioned “to consist of those persons who are most honourably commemorated in British history”. Opening in an era when photography was still a new and untried technology, the National Portrait Gallery (as it later became known) was intended to be the national repository of the images, chiefly paintings and drawings, of those men and, much later, women who represented what was best among the British hierarchy of achievements, skills and aptitudes. Its function was to hold up a mirror to Britain that reflected its qualities back to those who came to observe them, as object lessons about how to aspire to, or more simply respect, the qualities and moral standing of the great and the good.
This conception of the NPG may still be widespread in the public mind, as even Martin Parr thought his work would be an ill-fit for a contemporary exhibition along these lines. “I never thought of myself as a portrait photographer,” he says, “and when I first met Phillip Prodger [NPG’s former head of photographs], I told him I had only a few celebrity portraits. I just put a lightbox together and sent them to him, though I was quite surprised at what I had.” Prodger, however, had other ideas, seeing in Parr the work of a social observer who could also offer a portrait of a nation at a key point in its history. So it is that the NPG put together Only Human, on show from 07 March to 27 May, bringing together some of Parr’s most famous photographs alongside a number of works never exhibited before.
When Derek Bishton, John Reardon, and Brian Homer set up a photography and design agency in the late 1970s in Handsworth, a multicultural, inner-city district of Birmingham, they were viewed with suspicion. “I lived in Handsworth and walked to work with my camera, and I felt people were looking at me as if to say ’Who is this white guy, is he working for the police?’” says Bishton. “As I started to take photographs I was aware of this problem.”
Their agency, Sidelines, had been set up to work with community groups on issues such as social justice housing, unemployment and immigration though, so the photographers were keen to win the locals’ trust. Discussing it in their office, a converted terraced house on a busy shopping street in Handsworth, Bishton happened to find a photograph in Camerawork Magazine, showing a Ukranian woman who had photographed herself in a portrait studio set up by American photographer David Attie. It was, he realised, the perfect solution – and one which their office was seemingly built for.
“To date, hardly any research has been conducted into Belgian photobooks,” opens the exhibition Photobook Belge, now on show at FOMU and published as a book by FOMU in partnership with Hannibal. “Photobook Belge provides an overview of the evolution of the Belgian photobook from the mid-19th century to today.”
Including nearly 250 publications, Photobook Belge is divided into eight chapters, looking at areas such as Artists’ Books, Belgian national identity, and the relationship between text and images. Belgium’s brutal colonisation of the Congo, its subsequent relationship with the country, and its often problematic representation of it in images, is given a whole chapter. “Many of the photobooks published since the 50th anniversary of [Congo’s] independence in 2010 oscillate between a more or less overt nostalgia, Afro-pessimism and an aesthetic of ruins,” states the curator Tamara Berghmans. “Most are still the result of a white, male gaze.”