In 2017, Brian Griffin was invited to undertake an artist’s residency in Béthune-Bruay, northern France. Griffin, who is one of the most prominent British photographers of his generation, was initially selected because of the links between this region and his native Black Country, Midlands – both in terms of landscape and industrial heritage. But Griffin soon had other ideas, drawn from the fact that Béthune-Bruay was just ten miles from the Western Front during World War One. “I’m just a basic Black Country boy and I do make some obvious decisions, which do many times turn out to be fruitful,” he says. “So I decided to focus on the First World War.”
“I’ve waited a long time to bring this book out and between Donald Trump and #MeToo, I don’t see how it could possibly be a better moment,” says Andrew Moisey from his office at Cornell University, New York, where he is an assistant professor in art history and visual studies. The book, The American Fraternity: An Illustrated Ritual Manual, is published by Daylight, and is looks at the secretive, ultra-masculine worlds of the fraternity houses that dominate US university life.
The image we now have of fraternities is very different from how they were when they first set up in the late 1700s. The initial male collegiate organisations were literary societies, where university students gathered to debate politics. Many had mottoes and names in Greek lettering, such as the first and perhaps more poignant Phi Beta Kappa in Williamsburg, Virginia.
Over the years these gave way to social societies in more universities around the US, recruiting members according to their race, religion and social status. Their exclusivity, need to differentiate and tradition of privacy were traits that gradually reached extremes in the modern day, and have now earned them a reputation of encouraging misogyny, bullying and elitism.
Thomas Demand is known for building and photographing three-dimensional models that are made to look like real rooms. Often loaded with political significance, his recreations include the kitchen in which Saddam Hussein cooked his last meal, the location of a failed assassination attempt on Hitler, and the interior of the Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima after the 2011 earthquake forced workers to evacuate.
Recently his work has taken a new turn, and he has become more interested in other people’s models than his own. In Model Studies, Demand photographs discarded structures made by famous architects such as John Lautner.
During the winter months in Kazakhstan’s capital city, Astana, fishermen park up on the frozen Ishim river, hoping for a bite beneath the ice. The tradition goes back for generations, back to when Astana was a small rural farming village, not the high-rise, futuristic city it is today.
When the country was part of the Soviet Union, fishing equipment was standardised and sold only at government-run hunting shops. But since the collapse of the USSR in 1991, the fishermen have been constructing their own customised fishing tents, sewn together out of plastic packaging found in the city’s markets.
Aleksey Kondratyev’s new book, Ice Fishers, examines the use of this salvaged material, mostly originally used to import Western, Chinese, and Russian goods, as a means of protection against the harsh weather conditions. Kondratyev, who has lived in America for most of his life, but is originally from Kyrgyzstan, first saw the fishermen when he travelling through Central Asia in 2015 for his project Formations. “I wasn’t sure what they were, but as I got closer I could make out what was going on,” he says.
From 07 November to 04 February, the Centre Pompidou in Paris is showing a striking exhibition on a little-known aspect of the roots of 20th century social documentary photography, Photographie, arme de classe [which roughly translates as ‘Photography as a weapon in the class struggle’]. Curated by Damarice Amao, Florian Ebner and Christian Joschke, the show deals with a comparatively unknown period in French photo history, from the end of the 1920s to the arrival of the Front populaire government of 1936 – when the socialist, communist and radical parties formed a short-lived coalition to govern France, with the tacit backing of the Soviet Union.
Photographer and activist Henri Tracol (1909-1997) was the first to formulate the idea that photography could be an “arme de classe”, in the tract he wrote for the photographer’s section of the Association des Écrivains et Artistes Revolutionnaires [‘Association of Revolutionary Writers and Artists’ aka the AEAR], formed in 1932. Although this communist front, Moscow-sponsored organisation only lasted a few years, it attracted many of the leading figures of the day from art, theatre, literature, architecture, and particularly photography. Those who joined were either fellow travellers or politically attached to communism, seeing it as a bastion against the twin evils of the time – fascism and capitalism.
Invisible Britain, a forthcoming book of portraits, shows people who have been left out of the media narrative and left behind by government policy – people who for whatever reason fell on hard times, and found there was little or no support, beyond what they might be able to set up for themselves. Running through the book are references to austerity, the programme of public spending cuts introduced in the UK after the recession, and the impact it’s had on the people here – whether it’s in the lack of support for the full-time carer Greg, who ended up committing suicide, or the patchy probation offered to Matt, who’s spent the last decade falling in and out of prison. The spectre of Brexit also looms, and the uncertain future, but all too obvious intolerance, it’s brought in its wake.
Chris Steele-Perkins began The New Londoners four years ago, a project reflecting the individuality, community and unity of Londoners today. “The idea behind it was to think of a different way to photograph migration,” he explains. “Migrations have always been photographed very extensively in a dramatic, photojournalist sense, but I wanted to change that.” The project encompasses portraits of families from over 180 countries across the globe, who have all settled in London. Before it’s culmination into a book in Spring 2019, Steele-Perkins hopes to photograph 20 more. “It’s one of those projects that could go on forever,” he says, “But I have to draw the line somewhere.” He chose London as the setting for the series because, in his own words, “London is leading the way as a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural city.” Home to people from every nation on the planet, there are currently around 200 nations listed in the city, according to the UN, making London the most ethnically diverse place in the world. This push to globalisation has occurred over the last 20 …
“He had such a strong character, he was full of energy and funny. Even if his health had worsened in recent months, he was always happy to welcome others and share good memories with friends in his famous Ara Kafé, near the no less well-known Istiklal Avenue. We will miss him,” says Emin Ozmen of Ara Güler – the ‘eye of Istanbul’ who has died aged 90
“For me, photography was more of a need, because I was going through a personal crisis. I had lost a friend, and I had to find a way of living again.” At the beginning of last year Debmalya Roy Choudhuri travelled to Rishikesh, a city in northern India, at the foot of the Himalayas, known as the “yoga capital of the world”.
He wanted to remove himself from the urban chaos and violence in his hometown, Kolkata, and challenge the idea of home as defined by four walls. “I had a very difficult childhood where I had to confront a lot of darkness,” says Choudhuri, who was sick for a long time. “I grew up in a very confined space. My parents went through a lot of problems and my family fell apart.”
Multiple jigsaws, almost completed, are laid out in the living room. On the sideboard, porcelain creatures jostle for space with family photos – a marriage scene, a smiling elderly couple, kids in the park. Dolls are piled high on a chair in the corner, arranged in a chaotic arc. White masks, like those from the Venice Carnival, are positioned across one wall. The wallpaper is a scene from a seaside town – spinning Ferris wheels, winding rollercoasters, fairground murals – yet the paper itself is pockmarked with holes and stains.
Richard Billingham, who grew up in this environment, describes the room as “carnivalesque”. When he lived here, in Cradley Heath in the West Midlands, he did so with his mother Liz and, after she moved out, his father Ray. This jam of decorative stuff was all Liz. She had winding, flowering roots and flowers tattooed across her arms. She wore floral dresses and she smoked until the ashtrays overflowed.
When Billingham was 10 years old, Ray was laid off from a job as a machinist. The family sold their home for two grand – a cash-in- hand job to a local conman – and moved here, to what was quaintly referred to as public housing. Ray, who until this point only drank in the pub, began his life as a committed alcoholic and a full-time hermit.