Derby is a small British city but once every two years it hosts a big event – the FORMAT Festival. Directed by the well-respected photography specialist Louise Fedotov-Clements and running since 2004, FORMAT has established a firm reputation for interesting international work, and FORMAT19 looks set to continue the good work with exhibitions spread across both Derby and another neighbouring city, Nottingham. Taking place next spring, FORMAT19 is themed FOREVER/NOW and takes on an interesting contemporary question – the role of documentary photography.
“In 2007, while the photography world was still grappling with the idea of photography as an interpretive, non-narrative, non-representational medium, writer Lucy Soutter wrote about the ‘expressive’ versus the ‘straight’ documentary photograph, insightfully characterising the then two sides of the debate,” runs the FORMAT19 press material.
“Since then photography has grown to encompass many manifestations of the ‘crooked’ image through hybrid forms and visual practises and no longer worries about narrative versus abstraction, expressive versus objective. The new generation of photographic artists rush towards the new, embracing the rapid transformation that technology and cultural exchanges bring to it.”
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.”
“The way the international audience perceives Russian photography is often based on ‘exoticism’, that builds a pernicious stereotyping around Russian art,” say the makers of Attention Hub. “We show the artists who speak an intercultural and international language, pushing imaginary boundaries.”
Put together by FotoDepartament, the respected St Petersburg gallery, publisher, and arts centre, Attention Hub’s premise is simple – to harness the international reach of the internet to promote a hand-picked selection of emerging Russian photographers. Prints of the photographers’ work can be bought online for as little as €220, with half the price going to the photographer; the rest of the money will go towards building a programme of international events and initiatives to promote their work.
“Online is a dynamic and accessible format, providing the maximum audience coverage from anywhere in the world,” runs the site’s introductory text. “The combination of technology, digitalisation of information consumption, and trends of selling art online all build new ways of overcoming physical boundaries and setting up the convenient and focused support that independent art needs.”
“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.”
For over 40 years, American photographer Dawoud Bey has been photographing people from groups too often marginalised in the USA, seeking out stories overlooked by conventional and stereotypical portrayals.
Born and raised in New York, Bey began his career in 1975 at the age of 22. For five years he documented the neighbourhood of Harlem – where his parents grew up, and which he often visited as a child – making pictures of everyday life. This series, along with three more of his projects, is on show this month at the Stephen Bulger Gallery in Toronto, Canad
Acclaimed Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons this autumn, when he was arrested in Dhaka on 05 August for making “provocative comments” following widespread protests against government corruption. After over 100 days in jail he’s now been freed on bail, and back in the media for his images – which is now on show in London. He’s included in the third FIX Photo Festival, which is open until 01 December in London, and also includes work by Magnum Photos’ Chris Steele-Perkins, Zaklina Anderson, Robert Clayton, Christian Nilson, Mercedes Parodi, Helen Petersen, Einar Sira, Chloe Rosser, and more, plus a symposium on women in photography.
“What lies behind this project is my particular, unique attachment to Slovenia,” writes Klavdij Sluban, a French photographer of Slovenian origin and curator of If Slovenia Were. “It is an exceptional project in as much as it was born out of the desire to share a stretch of a photographic journey with a group of young Slovenian photographers, quite apart from any institutional, educational or other structures.”
Stemming from a desire to keep in touch with the country of his roots, Sluban began the project with an open call, selecting 18 young Slovenian photographers to take part. Each responded freely to the theme, and have been working on their projects for the past three years, developing them in meetings with Sluban on his occasional visits to the country. The resulting projects include series on expatriates who have emigrated elsewhere, photographers’ personal interpretations of Slovenian family life, and introspective series dealing with the artists’ private experiences.
Since its discovery in 2009, Vivian Maier’s work – and her life – has attracted global attention. It been exhibited all over the world, featured in mainstream media outlets, and circulated in multiple books and films. Even so, many details of the American street photographer’s life remains a mystery.
We know that she worked as a nanny for 40 years in Chicago, and that she liked to spend time walking the streets, taking photographs with her Rolleiflex camera – with and without the children she was looking after. We also know that Maier took more than 150,000 photographs, many of which remain unseen, mostly of the people and architecture in Chicago, New York and LA, but also of herself, and her young charges.
Now in its second year, the PHmuseum Women Photographer Grant has a simple premise – to recognise and award world-class photographers, who also happen to be women. Judged this year by a prestigious panel including Magnum photographer Alessandra Sanguinetti and The Photographers’ Gallery senior curator Karen McQuaid, the Grant has two main sections – The Women Photographer Grant and the New Generation Prize for those under 30 years of age. BJP takes a look at those who have made the shortlist.
In 1919, a year after the end of World War One and the start of the Weimar Republic in Germany, $1 was worth 48 Marks. By early 1922, $1 bought 320 Marks; by late 1922, $1 bought 7,400 Marks. By 1923, $1 bought 4,210,500,000,000 Marks. “Lingering at shop windows was a luxury because shopping had to be done immediately,” said the artist George Grosz at the height of this hyperinflation.
“Even an additional minute could mean an increase in price. One had to buy quickly. A rabbit, for example, might cost two million marks more by the time it took you to walk into the store. The packages of money needed to buy the smallest item had long since become too heavy for trouser pockets. I used a knapsack.”