Taking a new approach to documentary photography after a near-death experience in Libya, Guy Martin captured Turkey’s fantasies and created a series which was recently published by GOST. “To not learn from that event in April 2011, I couldn’t do that to myself,” he says. “I couldn’t justify it to my family, I couldn’t be put in that same situation again,” he says. “The starting point was to take control of my photography, to use my photography instead of letting it use me.”
On 19 February, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, setting in motion a process in which all Americans of Japanese ancestry living on or near the West Coast were imprisoned. In total, 120,000 Japanese Americans were forced to leave their homes, moving into detention camps in which they were sometimes literally held behind barbed wire, without recourse to due process or other constitutional protections to which they were entitled.
It was, argues a forthcoming exhibition in San Francisco, a “dark chapter” in American history, motivated by “fear-mongering and racism at the highest levels of the US government”. Titled Then They Came for Me: Incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII and the Demise of Civil Liberties, the exhibition features work by both noted American documentary photographers such has Dorothea Lange and Ansel Adams and incarcerated Japanese American artists Toyo Mityatake and Miné Okubo. Drawing out “parallels to tactics chillingly resurgent today”, the exhibition is accompanied by a full programme of events, including a discussion on 02 March titled The Realities of Othering: Islamophobia and the Legacy of Japanese American Incarceration.
To look through Todd Hido’s lens is to view the world darkly. The San Francisco-based photographer’s entire oeuvre of compelling visual narratives is shrouded in inky obscurity, and in this regard, his latest work is no exception. The difference is that for the first time he has departed from his usual territory of suburban landscape and its relation to his own troubled childhood. Instead Bright Black World results from extensive travels abroad, and is steeped in a deep sense of pessimism about the future from the perspective of the present, attempting to “photograph the darkness that I see coming”.
There is something universally foreboding and immense happening here; work that captures nature on an awesome scale. And yet it can be read as a metaphorical measure of our individual existential lives, a dark poem alluding to our preconditioned mortality. His landscapes are magnificent in their brooding seduction, inspired by Norse mythology and the concept of Fimbulvetr – the long, harsh winter that precedes the end of Earth. Hido travelled to places he’d never visited before to capture these spectacles of natural devastation and melancholy, including the chilly vistas of the Norwegian tundra.
Charlie surfs on Lotus Flowers, which addresses the control of the one-party Communist government, and United States of Vietnam, which looks at the slow victory of capitalism over communism and its consequences for Vietnam’s economy. Using a combination of a staged, typological form of photography in United States of Vietnam, and a more autonomous, naturalistic style for Charlie surfs on Lotus Flowers, Sapienza intends to leave something for the viewer to work out. “They have to try to put their feet in the author’s shoes,” he says. “They just need to get the leitmotiv of your project, not the full, descriptive content. In that exchange lives the real core of the project.”
“The Soviet Union left a great heritage in various manifestations from architecture to people’s thoughts, and some are struggling to understand the new times,” says 22-year-old Ukranian photographer Vladyslav Andrievsky. “Often, because of this, the youth is struggling to find common ground with the elders.
“It’s obvious that there were many limitations when it came to one’s life or freedom. Today, when thinking about the Soviet Union, we are visualising it the way it could have been, not the way it was. Of course the fact that somebody could have been killed for a painting or a thought is shocking and devastating. Still, we are left with an enormous cultural heritage like art, literature, music, films, and we truly value that.
“Owing to people like Boris Mikhailov we can try to understand what life was like back then,” he continues. “In his book Case History he is showing homeless people like heroes, who are giving their lives for the brighter future of the new generations. As a young person I don’t want to be a let-down. I don’t want to upset Boris.”
Our pick of the key stories from the past week, including: World Press Photo Foundation’s 6×6 talents from North and Central America; Kensuke Koike and Thomas Sauvin’s No More No Less; Graciela Iturbide’s Mexico; JA Mortram’s Small Town Inertia; and the Jimei x Arles festival in China
“These documentary practices coalesced into a visual culture which, with its aptitude for capturing and transmitting collective emotions, became a tool for political propaganda,” write Hannah Darabi and Chowra Makaremi. They’re talking about the work produced in Iran in the years 1979-83, the period after the fall of the Shah and at the start of the Islamic government and a time in which freedom of speech briefly flourished, they argue, before descending into something darker.
“These few years stand out on their own in terms of the country’s publishing history,” adds Makaremi. “The creation and distribution of books would never be as unfettered as it was during this period. Nevertheless, at the same moment, books were also progressively becoming instruments of political propaganda and publishing became the laboratory in which to experiment with every form of dissemination of emotions, ideologies, and opinions. This propaganda operated through the production of texts, but also, and especially as of 1979, through visual and pictorial production.”
Darabi is a visual artist and collector who was born in 1981 in Tehran but is now based in Paris; her collection of Iranian photobooks make up the backbone of Le Bal’s latest exhibition, along with her own photographic “reconstructions”, creating using contemporary photographs of Tehran and archive images such as family snaps, press images, and postcards. Makaremi, a tenured researcher and a member of the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in Paris, has “decrypted” the exhibition; in addition, Le Bal and Spector Books have worked with Darabi to create an accompanying photobook, with an introduction by Makaremi.
In 2011 Nigel Poor, a professor of photography at the California State University, began volunteering at the San Quentin State Prison, just north of San Francisco, as a photo history instructor in the prison’s college programme. Two years later, she moved over to work with incarcerated men in the existing prison radio station, but concurrently pulled on her background in photography.
In an exercise Poor calls “mapping”, she asked prisoners to annotate famous photographs. Works by Lee Friedlander, David Hilliard, Stephen Shore and others were pored over by prisoners, resulting in text-laden replicates. These creative brainstorms have been preserved, and now hang on wires sandwiched between glass as works of art, in the first room of an exhibition on show at the Milwaukee Art Museum until 10 March, titled The San Quentin Project: Nigel Poor and the Men of San Quentin State Prison.
Behind a shop vitrine, a human skull, wearing a helmet adorned with a swastika, grins. Next to it, an animal – apparently taxidermic – stands rigid on the floor. The silhouette of a pair of legs belonging to a passer-by on the street reflects in the glass. Above this desultory display, a banner stuck to the top of the window reads, “Mexico… ¡quiero conocerte!”. In this single photograph, taken in 1975 in Chiapas, Graciela Iturbide projects her vision of Mexico: a country of political, religious, social, cultural and economic pluralities and tensions. A place where contrasts present themselves at every turn – sometimes harmonious, sometimes tense.
It is this multilayered image of Mexico that Iturbide has slowly peeled back and revealed through her photography over the last five decades. She has travelled extensively across her own country, between urban and rural landscapes, living with different communities, and moving from the physical to the transcendental, the ancient to the contemporary, witnessing and experiencing the juxtapositions intertwined in Mexican culture.
JA (or Jim) Mortram was born in 1971, and studied art in Norwich. In his third year of college he dropped out to become the primary carer for his mother, who has chronic epilepsy, in a small market town in Norfolk called Dereham. In 2006 he started shooting people in and around Dereham, focusing on those facing disadvantages and social exclusion; he went to create a blog called Small Town Inertia, featuring his images and their words. The blog was critically acclaimed early on, and in 2013 Mortram was one of BJP’s Ones to Watch. Mortram has made publications of three of his stories with Cafe Royal Books, and recently published the book Small Town Inertia with Bluecoat Press. The exhibition Small Town Inertia is on show at Side Gallery, Newcastle from 12 January – 24 March