In classical music, ‘impromptu’ refers to a short improvised piece, performed spontaneously with little or no preparation. Géraldine Lay’s new book, Impromptus, is a visual take on the term, aiming “not to tell a story about the place or the country, but to be out of time”.
Lay first encountered photography during her course in History of Art at the University of Lyon; studying the history of the medium, she was bitten by the photography bug, and went on to study at the National Photography School. She graduated in 1997, and is now based in Arles.
“Initially, my practice was part of my daily life, I had no preconceived ideas or strict subject,” says Lay. “I got into the habit of always having a camera with me, to take advantage of all the little moments of life.”
From the 4 June, for five days only, signed or estate-stamped, museum quality 6×6” prints will be available to purchase for $100, from more than 70 Magnum photographers – each responding to the theme ‘freedom’. Fifty years ago, in 1968, the world succumbed to momentous change. It was a seismic year of deep societal and political shifts in the name of freedom. In America particularly, the civil rights movement took hold, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, and anti-Vietnam war protests raged. But all over the world, international issues of freedom from oppression, freedom of speech, and political, sexual and religious freedom, also came to the fore as protests racked cities. To celebrate this year in history, the Magnum Photos June 2018 Square Print Sale is examining the very definition of freedom and its legacy. The works on sale span the last 70 years, and capture both deeply personal, and universal, notions of freedom. “Freedom is often described with big words, but we encounter it every day in the little things we do,” says Newsha …
“Childhood is my main theme,” said Dagmar Hochova. “During the totalitarian regime it was one area that could be freely explored and this determined that I sought children out. It was a different era; children played on the streets, in the suburbs. One could see them everywhere.”
Little-known in the UK to this day, Hochova was famous back in Soviet-era Czechoslovakia for her photographs of children. In fact her work extended far beyond this topic but, often critical of the communist regime, much of it could not be published or exhibited until after the 1989 Velvet Revolution.
“I don’t have a journalistic bone in my body,” says Chris Dorley-Brown. “I’ve never been to Kosovo. Loads of people do that really well, but I don’t have the urge or the instinct, and that’s partly why I don’t really think of myself as a professional. I do the odd advertising job to earn money, and I think I do it okay, but the phone isn’t ringing off the hook with jobs because I don’t put the energy into promoting myself, since I’m wandering around here all the time. I keep my overheads low and can just about get away with it.” It’s a modest way to sum up an extraordinary body of work – more than 30 years of images, nearly all shot in London’s East End, and most photographed on the street. Some show luxury new developments, others rundown social housing. Some capture crowds of people, some empty streets. Many are one-offs, others – such as the images in The Corners – are manipulated using Photoshop to put various passersby together on one intersection
The “fictive hellhole” of Soham Gupta’s Angst makes for challenging viewing. Since 2013, with the night as his backdrop, the 29-year-old has been creating a haunting constellation of portraits of those living on the margins of Calcutta society. Drawing on a troubled youth spent struggling with societal expectations, Angst is a despairing, personal reckoning with a world in which the weakest and most vulnerable are neglected. The project started following a workshop with Antoine d’Agata and Sohrab Hura (a Ones To Watch in 2011) in Cambodia, where Gupta was encouraged to move away from his background in photojournalism and build on his innate interest in loneliness and vulnerability. Setting out on his own nocturnal journey through the streets of his hometown, Gupta began photographing and writing short fictional texts about the people he encountered. After instigating conversation, he would then collaborate with them to create a portrait.
The 18-year-old Hamburg Triennial will be directed for the second time by Polish curator Krzysztof Candrowicz, who moved to Hamburg four years ago and set about transforming the it, bringing people and institutions together, and determined to make it more relevant to the viewing public. The 2015 edition was, he says, “The first holistic attempt to create the collaborative framework of the festival. Before, the museums were basically highlighting their own exhibitions, but there was no actual curatorial collective structure.” The determinedly political and environmentally-conscious theme this year was inspired by an amalgamation of many factors, he says, including spending a year “away from structured, mechanised and commercial reality”, travelling around Latin America, Nepal and India. “Breaking Point became, for me, a metaphor for rapid and sometimes unexpected transformation on a personal and global level.”
In the UK nobody lives more than 72 miles from the sea, and the seaside is entrenched in our culture because of it. “The coastline is significant to Brits whether we live there, or not,” says Simon Roberts, who lives in the seaside town of Brighton, and who has returned to the coast again and again in his work. Now his images are appearing in an exhibition called The Great British Seaside at the National Maritime Museum this spring, alongside work by David Hurn, Martin Parr and the late Tony Ray-Jones.
Late in 2010, Michele Sibiloni left the sleepy town in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy where he had lived all his life and moved to Kampala in Uganda, a city eight times larger. He had come to cover the lead up to the 2011 general election in the country, which many had predicted might depose its leader, following the lead of the Jasmine revolution in North African countries. But, despite the jitter, all Sibiloni witnessed once the voting had ended was the swearing-in of President Yoweri Museveni for his fourth term in office since he helped overthrow Idi Amin in 1979. Even so, Sibiloni was hooked. “It’s so different to where I come from,” he tells me, by telephone from his apartment in Kampala. “At the beginning I found it really chaotic, but the more time I spent here, and the more I got to know about the surrounding region of East Africa, the more fascinated I became. In fact, I got really excited.”
If you caught the documentary What Do Artists Do All Day on him on BBC Four a year ago, you’ll have an idea of what Dougie Wallace is like – upfront, funny, and very, very energetic. You could say the same for his photography too, which though it’s been shot in a variety of places ranging from Mumbai, to East London, to outside Harrods, always bears his trademark wit and momentum. Now Wallace is showing his five book projects to date at the Bermondsey Project Space in London – Stags, Hens & Bunnies, Road Wallah, Harrodsburg, Shoreditch Wildlife, and a new title, Well-Heeled. A dogs-eye view of pampered pets, it’s now being published as a book by Dewi Lewis.
When Jordan Baumgarten and his wife moved into the neighbourhood of Kensington in Philadelphia in 2013, they were shocked by what they saw – sex workers, dealers and drug use, all in plain view on the street, with almost no oversight from the police. Faced with these scenes daily on his doorstep, Baumgarten turned to his camera in an attempt to make sense of the area. “Photography forces an interaction and relationship with the world because it demands that you go to a certain place,” he says. Kensington is “a nexus for those in and around the city seeking heroin and all that it entails. It co-exists alongside everyday life in the neighbourhood and its surrounding landscape,” Baumgarten explains. But he adds that while this work focuses on Philadelphia, it addresses a much larger issue: “The city serves as a microcosm to discuss issues tearing apart the fabric of our social landscape.” Born in Philadelphia in 1983, Baumgarten stumbled across photography almost by accident after breaking his leg in 6th grade – keen to keep …