At 10pm on 05 August, photographer and social activist Shahidul Alam was arrested at his home in Dhaka. The next day he was charged for violating Section 57 of Bangladesh’s Information and Communication Technology Act (ICT), after giving an interview to Al Jazeera on the current wave of student protests in Bangladesh against unsafe roads, in which he said that these actions stemmed from anger about widespread government corruption. He now faces up to 14 years in prison.
According to Amnesty International, which has taken up the photographer’s plight, Section 57 is a “draconian law” that has been used against well over 1000 people since it was introduced in 2006. “Police do not need arrest warrants or official permission to prosecute,” explains the organisation. “Those accused are mostly denied bail pending their trial and kept locked up for months with no official verdict. Shahidul himself was denied bail on 10 September 2018. Those arrested are often journalists who’ve published articles criticising the government.”
Those who have had the pleasure of ambling along the corridors of the 17th-century building at the heart of the museum district in Kensington, London, will recall the Victoria and Albert Museum’s high ceilings and impressive galleries, with polished floors and walls adorned with historical oil canvases, all connected by staircases embellished with intricate mosaics.
Climbing one such stairwell in a far corner of the building, you surface to face two tall, fudge-brown doors with shiny handles. The pair of robust glass cabinets framing these doors are currently empty, but will soon be packed with some 300 cameras and image-making devices. To one side, a long wooden table will be laden with models of some of the first cameras – a large format perched on a tripod, a Rolleiflex, a camera obscura and 35mm camera. Visitors will be invited to play around and put themselves in the shoes of the photographers who used these devices, pausing to peek through the lenses and take note of this new way of looking and constructing an image of the world on the other side. It is a sculptural array of the golden age of photography, the grand entrance to the new photography centre, opening its first phase to the public on 12 October.
Dr Yasufumi Nakamori has been appointed new senior curator, International Art (Photography) based at Tate Modern, heading up the development of Tate’s collection of photography and programme of photography exhibitions and displays. He’s taking up the post in October, filling the gap left by Simon Baker back in January (when he became director of the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris).
For the last two years, Nakamori headed up the photography and new media department at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, staging exhibitions with image-makers such as Omer Fast, and making key acquisitions “which transformed and diversified the museum’s photography collection”. From 2008-2016 he was curator of photography at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, where he created exhibitions such as Katsura: Picturing Modernism in Japanese Architecture, Photographs by Ishimoto Yasuhiro (which won the 2011 Alfred H. Barr Jr. Award for Smaller Museums), and For a New World to Come: Experiments in Japanese Art and Photography, 1968-1979.
Photographs of a woman holding her baby, two shoppers, a drum majorette, and a child from a remote village in Sierra Leone have all been shortlisted for the National Portrait Gallery’s prestigious Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize this year. The prize winners will be announced at an award ceremony at the NPG on 16 October, with the overall winner receiving £15,000 and other cash prizes awarded to the shortlisted photographers at the judges’ discretion.
Two of the images were shot in London, with Max Barstow behind a striking photograph of two women in a busy shopping street in the city centre. The image comes from his series Londoners and in it, he says, his aim has been to “make unposed portraits with the intensity of images made by great studio photographers such as Richard Avedon and Irving Penn”.
“We do see that our industry is male-dominated, world-wide – though not within NOOR,” say the photographers of the NOOR agency, via their current president Andrea Bruce. “We are encouraged by the current discussions happening throughout the photo world around abuse of power. These are sometimes painful, but necessary.” Photojournalism is still male-dominated, that much is undeniable. But does it have a macho culture, as World Press Photo’s MD Lars Boering has said? Do male photojournalists and picture editors abuse their power? And if so, what’s being done about it? In the wake of the #metoo movement, and in particular after the recent allegations against Patrick Witty, one-time deputy director of photography at National Geographic, and Antonin Kratochvil, one of the founding members of VII, these have become key questions in photography, and the big agencies are getting on board. For David Kogan, as for Bruce, it’s a work in progress. He’s executive director of Magnum Photos, which introduced a Code of Conduct for both its photographers and staff at its last AGM in June. …
Photographer Shahidul Alam has been imprisoned by Dhaka Metropolitan Magistrate’s Court for spreading “false and harmful information” against the government after remaining in police custody for seven days.
He was placed before authorities around 3pm on Sunday 12 August, and charged under section 57 of the Information and Communications Technology Act, Moshiur Rahman, deputy commissioner of police, told the Bangladeshi title The Daily Star. His lawyer and his family members were not informed about the court hearing.
In a letter submitted by investigating officer Mr Arman Ali, the 63-year-old was accused of giving “false and harmful information through Al-Jazeera, various electronic media, and his Facebook timeline, which led to deterioration of the law and order situation in the country, and created fear and terror in the minds of the public”.
Antonin Kratochvil has been suspended from the VII Photo Agency, pending an investigation into accusations he sexually harassed female photojournalists in the agency. The allegations were made in an article written by Kristen Chick for the Columbia Journalism Review, which contends that sexual harassment is widespread in photojournalism, and cites Kratochvil as just one example.
The report includes quotes from photographer Anastasia Taylor-Lind, a one-time member of VII, stating that Kratochvil physically groped her at a VII Annual General Meeting in Paris in 2014. “She says she was approached by founding member Antonin Kratochvil, a well-known photojournalist who has won three World Press Photo first prizes over his long career,” the article reads. “Taylor-Lind was wearing a long skirt, and said she stood with a group of people near a window during a break from the meeting.
“Without warning, Kratochvil slid his hand between her buttocks, she says, and pushed it forward until he was touching her vagina over her clothing. He held his hand there for several seconds, she says. She froze until he removed his hand and then she walked away.”
Swedish organisation Fotografiska has announced Alexander Montague-Sparey as the chief curator of their new gallery in London. He will oversee the exhibition programme for all seven spaces in the London venue, which will open in Whitechapel later this year. Montague-Sparey is an independent curator who has worked with a variety of private clients including collectors, art fairs and museums. He holds a Masters Degree in Art History from the University of Oxford, and is a photography specialist. “Fotografiska London’s seven exhibition spaces will allow for the display of some of the most cutting-edge and accomplished international photo and video artists,” he told BJP. “The venue in Stockholm has become one of the foremost international spaces dedicated to contemporary photography in the world. I look forward to advancing the discussion in this state of the art space, in London’s most exciting and creative postcode.”
The V&A’s new photography centre will open on 12 October, with newly-acquired photographs by Linda McCartney, a newly-commissioned series by Thomas Ruff, and an inaugural display tracing the history of photography through the Royal Photographic Society (RPS) collection. The new facility will more than double the V&A’s current photography exhibition space, and follows the transfer of over 270,000 photographs, 26,000 publications and 6000 pieces of equipment from the RPS collection formerly held in the National Media Museum in Bradford – a controversial transfer, described at the time as “an appalling act of cultural vandalism” by Simon Cooke, the leader of the Conservative opposition on Bradford council. Tristram Hunt, director of the V&A, said that the transfer had “provided the catalyst for this dramatic reimagining of photography at the V&A” however, and that the new centre will “seamlessly span the entire history of photography….from daguerreotype to digital”. He added that the V&A is particularly well-placed to tell this story given its long engagement with photography – it was one of the first museums to put together a photographic exhibition, partly because its founder, Henry Cole, was a keen amateur photographer.
Peter James was an instrumental figure in British photography, establishing an outstanding collection of photography at the Library of Birmingham over his 26-year career at the institution, and researching and curating exhibitions at the V&A, National Portrait Gallery, Somerset House, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Ikon Galley, the Library of Birmingham, and many more. He was also a modest and affable man, universally known as Pete and as at home over a curry as in a lecture hall delivering an academic paper. As Hilary Roberts, research curator at the Imperial War Museum, put it in a tribute on James’ Facebook page: “Pete has been a wonderful friend and exceptional colleague for more years than I can remember. His contribution to the world of photography cannot be overstated. It was a privilege to work with him and I will miss him more than I can say.”