Nelson Morales was seven years old when he saw a Muxe for the first time. Seeing an individual he didn’t identify as a woman proudly wearing a tiny swimsuit, fluffy feather boa and glistening sequins at a local festival, he was “shocked”, he says.
But Morales was growing up in the city of Oaxaca, central Mexico, where the Muxes are regarded as a third gender – assigned male at birth but interested in codes of dress and behaviour associated with femininity, often from a young age. Asked to photograph the Muxes community, Morales soon found himself liberated by them.
He continued to photograph the Muxes – and himself – for eight years, hoping to capture the complexity of their lives and to confront his own identity as he joined their community. His book, Musas Muxes, is published by Mexican collective Inframundo.
In the city of Oaxaca, the Muxes are regarded as a third gender. They are assigned male at birth, but from a young age they dress and behave in ways associated with the female gender.
One day, Morales was asked by a friend to photograph this gender-fluid community, and soon he found himself liberated by them. Over eight years he photographed them, and himself, hoping to capture the complexity of the Muxes lives, while confronting his own identity in the sensual and challenging space of the Muxes.
“I felt like I was always playing the same cards. With this project, I wanted to collect the cards and reshuffle them,” says José Pedro Cortes, whose latest book, A Necessary Realism, proposes new ways of seeing old images, gathered from almost 15 years of work and presented in his favourite medium, the photobook.
“The book is always an important moment for me,” says the Portuguese photographer, who is co-founder of the publishing Pierre von Kleist. “They are a mirror into the time I am living in, where I looked for a while in the same area.
“I wanted to fill in the gaps,” he adds. “By trying to break from this idea that images have a connection to a specific geography, and also a specific time, I wanted to take a different look at my archive, as if it were something new.”
“It was a moment where I could step out of my ordinary and rather boring existence, and shape it into something different,” says Federico Clavarino, who’s photographs from his foundational years at Blank Paper in Madrid are now published as a book
When William Henry Fox Talbot pioneered the salted paper and calotype processes in 1841, he soon turned his new inventions to food, capturing two baskets overflowing with fruit. Creating an image designed to mimic the paintings of the time, and to contrast the colours and textures of the pineapple and peaches, he also made an image rife with welcoming symbolism – the pineapple a sign of hospitality, the peach a sign of fecundity.
“Fox Talbot’s photograph was copying the traditions of painting and its attendant symbolism,” says photography curator and writer Susan Bright. “But it was also concerned with the role of photography, and elevating its status to that of art. In this respect it resonates nicely with artists such as Daniel Gordon, whose work also deals with the medium of photography. But his constructed pineapple has nothing to do with symbolism, or striving to be understood as art. It is art. He is questioning the role of visual perception, what is real and what is not.
“The way food is photographed says a tremendous amount about significant aspects of our culture,” Bright continues. “It is often about fantasy, be that national, sexual or historical. Photographs of food are the carrier for so many things – desire, consumption, taste, immigration and feminism, for example. It has been a major part of the development of fine art, editorial, fashion, marketing and product photography throughout the 20th and 21st century.”
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 people in Chloe Rosser’s anonymous human sculptures are sometimes friends or couples, but mostly, they are strangers. They twist, bend, and stretch, before they eventually lock, morphing into curious, intimate, and sometimes grotesque figurines.
“Photography is the only medium which allows me to sculpt with human flesh,” says Rosser, “the human body is the most intimately familiar thing to us. Seeing it in these strange poses affects you deeper than if you were to see a sculpture because it’s real, and you can imagine being it, and feeling what it feels.”
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 love how the city is in perpetual metamorphosis. It’s always moving and glowing,” says Jean-Vincent Simonet, who visited Tokyo, Japan for the first time in 2016, and quickly decided he would shoot at night. “Giving a liquid feeling to the photographs made sense to me. It reinforced the psychedelic experience of being in the city”.
People in Japan describe Tokyo as a “living entity” – not just because of the earthquakes and typhoons that regularly stir the capital, but because it is a city in constant flux. At all hours of the day and night, streams of people and cars rush down its huge neon streets, which sprawl out like tributaries into pedestrianised roads, stacked 10 stories high with shops, restaurants and karaoke bars. Vibrant city centres seem to emerge right off the back of darker inner-city suburban streets, which are all connected by colossal highways, and an elaborate train network that dwarfs most other capital cities’.
“This book….does not – and this I must emphasise – document life in the GDR [German Democratic Republic]. Rather, it shows how I saw this country and the people who lived here,” writes Roger Melis in the introduction to his book In a Silent Country, now published for the first time in an English edition.
“When selecting the photographs for this volume, I placed no demands on myself, and certainly did not try to comprehensively depict working and living conditions in the GDR,” he later adds. “…they focus on the everyday, and not on the spectacular. In my photographs, I only rarely attempted to capture a decisive, unrepeatable moment. The moments I always searched for were the ones in which whatever was special, unusual or temporary about people and things had dropped away, revealing the core of their being, their essence.”