Selley discusses his latest project, which combines image and sound from landscapes where evidence of the first human species in the UK were found, with anonymous quotes from world leaders
Jon Pountney shares images and reflections from lockdown in Treforest, a village near Pontypridd, southern Wales
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.
“I see the bastard countryside everywhere I go,” says Robin Friend, pointing out of the window of his studio in East London, where an ivy plant has climbed up a nearby wall and is wrapping its vines around a rusting CCTV camera. “I ran with this idea of city and countryside splattering into each other, creating this hybrid nature,” explains Friend, who has been producing photographs for his book, unknowingly at first, for 15 years since he started started his BA in Brighton, where he studied under Jem Southam.
“Bastard countryside” is a phrase coined by Victor Hugo in his novel Les Miserables, in which he describes the city of Paris as an “amphibian”, stretching out into the countryside and devouring everything in its path. It is a zone in which the urban and rural mix, the manmade and the natural, clashing and colliding to create a strange form of beauty and ugliness.
“I was trained as a sculptor, and this was the first time I had used the camera,” wrote Jacqueline Hassink in the Financial Times in 2011, of her breakthrough project The Table of Power. Between 1993 and 1995 Hassink contacted forty of the largest multinational corporations in Europe, asking to photograph their boardrooms. “I wanted to find a table that symbolised modern society’s most important value: economic power,” she writes. Nineteen refused, while the remaining 21, in Britain, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Switzerland and Italy, eventually agreed.
The book was published in 1996; it was the first time that photographs of these places had been made public, and in the spring of 2009, after the global recession, Hassink decided to revisit the boardrooms. With The Table of Power 2, she examined how boardroom design, revenue and employee numbers had changed over the intervening years.
Hassink, who has died aged just 52, was born in Enschede, the Netherlands, on 15 July 1966. She trained to be a sculptor at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague, and then at the Trondheim Academy of Fine Art in Norway, but after graduating in 1992, presented herself mainly as a photographer, publishing nine books – including another celebrated title, Car Girls, in 2009. It was shot over five years at car shows across seven cities in three different continents, including New York, Paris, Geneva, Tokyo, Detroit, and Shanghai, focusing in on differing cultural standards on ideals of beauty on the women paid to pose with the cars.
“Most people would walk by a dump pile and assume that there’s no picture there,” says global industrial landscape photographer Edward Burtynsky. “But there’s always a picture, you just have to go in there and find it.” Born in Canada in 1955, Burtynsky has been investigating human-altered landscapes in his artistic practice for over 35 years, capturing the sweeping views of nature altered by industry; from stone, to minerals, oil, transportation, and silicon. “Of course, it’s important to me to make sure that my pictures are attractive to the eye,” he says. “But beneath the surface there’s always a bigger, deeper environmental issue.”
Born in Tehran, Iran, in 1988, Hashem Shakeri studied architecture in TAFE (New South Wales Technical and Further Education Commission of Australia), and started his professional photography career in 2010. In 2015 he was Commended in the Ian Parry Scholarship, and in 2017 his images were included in the Rencontres d’Arles exhibition Iran, Year 38, alongside work by photographers such as Abbas Kiarostami and Newsha Tavakolian.
Shakeri’s ongoing series on climate change in Sistan and Balouchestan looks at the effect of drought in the Iranian province, which is located in the southeast of the country, bordering Afghanistan and Pakistan. It has been suffering from drought for the last 18 years, which has created severe famine in a region once famed for its agriculture and forests. “Nowadays, the Sistan region has faced astonishing climate change, which has turned this wide area into an infertile desert empty of people,” writes Shakeri.
EyeEm is currently the world’s largest photography competition, and this year it welcomed a record 700,000 entries. The submissions came from more than 100,000 photographers, hailing from over 150 countries, who have now been whittled down to 100 finalists. The daunting task of selecting the finalists from this number came down to a panel of industry experts that included Nik Schulte, Image Director of High Snobiety; Jose Cabaco, the Global Creative Concept & Storytelling Director at Adidas; Lucy Pike, Director of Photography at WeTransfer; and Sasha Dudkina, last year’s EyeEm Photographer of the Year, among others. Together, they selected the top 10 images from each of the nine categories, and the 10 shortlisted photographers for Photographer of the Year. Among the diverse categories are ‘The Architect’, ‘The Creative’, and ‘The Traveller’, with shortlisted images ranging from Juan Manuel Molina Avilés’ eerie photograph of a man with his head submerged under a tap in ‘The Creative’ category; Maxym Gorodetskyy’s depiction of far-right protesters baring #freetommy posters, and fighting for the release of ex-EDL leader Tommy Robinson …
What’s your vision of America? Dominating popular culture for years, it’s a country nearly everyone has an image of, encountered via films, TV, books, and music. French photographer Rémy Artiges first went to the US “a few decades” ago, experiencing the country “at her climax”, as he puts it, “carrying in her all the past and present photographic projections, accounting for all the technologies of contemporary representation of a time when she invented herself, images emissaries of the one who we served so many examples without really knowing why today”. When he was invited to go back by the festival Eyes on Main Street, he tried to go with without preconceptions, to let “reality there catch me up”. It helped that the residency was so open-ended, with no parameters other than that he stick around and make work in Wilson, North Carolina during November, 2017. Wilson has a population of roughly 50,000 people and, once at the heart of the tobacco industry, saw a decline in its fortunes when the tobacco warehouses closed down. Today the …
“In St. Louis, ZIP codes matter,” says Piergiorgio Castotti, an Italian photographer who lived in the US for three years. “North of Delmar boulevard, 95% of people are black, and life expectancy is 67. A few hundred yards south, 70% of people are white, and there is a life expectancy of 82.”
Index G, a collaborative project he’s made with photographer Emanuele Brutti, explores the harsh reality of this segregation, which is measured with the so-called Gini Index. Where once racial segregation in the US was obvious, and even enshrined in law, it’s now peppered throughout cities on a micro level, from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, and can therefore be easy to miss. “There were unexpectedly very few literal barriers in St. Louis; this meant that our first trip was a disaster,” says Castotti. “I didn’t know what to take pictures of.”