One winter night at a charity shop in Paris, a young Afghan refugee named Zaman arrived at the store. He had travelled for sixteen months from Kabul in a flimsy pair of flip flops, and was looking for a new pair of shoes. When presented with the selection of footwear on offer, Zaman said, “Not ugly sneakers – sneakers like Jay-Z”. This anecdote was the starting point for photographers Ambroise Tézenas and Frédéric Delangle, leading to a project that questions the social function of clothing for refugees. Sneakers like Jay-Z was commissioned by the charity Emmaüs Solidarity – who currently run over 600 second-hand shops in France – and is the winning project of the inaugural Ooshot Award. The Ooshot Award is the first photographic prize dedicated to commissioned photography. Valerie Hersleven, founder of the award, wants to break the boundaries between art and commercial photography, pointing out that some of the greatest photographs in history were made under a commission. One of her favourite images, Tears by Man Ray, for example, was created for the mascara brand …
Our pick of the key stories from the past week, including the World Press Photo and MACK First Book Award nominees, and interviews with Iain McKell, Tommaso Rada, and Mona Kuhn
Xavier Barral, the award-wining publisher behind Éditions Xavier Barral, has died suddenly, at home in Paris on 17 February. Éditions Xavier Barral was behind books such as Antoine D’Agata’s Anticorps in 2013, a joint publication with Le Bal which won the Rencontres d’Arles Author’s Book Award; in 2015 another Éditions Xavier Barral/Le Bal co-publication, Images of Conviction: The Construction of Visual Evidence by Eyal Weizman, won the Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation Photography Catalogue of the Year.
Hunger is an experimental project based on Franz Kafka’s short story, A Hunger Artist, about the once-glorious, but now dying, art of performers who starved themselves. Curated by Greek publishing house Void, it involves the work of 28 photographers, both established and up-and-coming, presented in seven broadsheet publications, and in an online exhibition on PHMuseum.com.
The biggest photo fair in Europe, Paris Photo returns from 08-11 November, with a new section on erotic images, and a walk-through focusing on female photographers.
Curated by Martha Kirszenbaum, curator of the French Pavilion at the 2019 Venice Biennale, the Curiosa sector will bring together intimate images by 13 artists such as Nobuyoshi Araki, JoAnn Callis, and Antoine d’Agata. Kirszenbaum hope to challenge the viewer’s gaze on the fetishised body, and tackle “relations of power, domination, and gender issues”. “There are images not everyone would like to see, which I think is good,” Kirszenbaum told BJP in an article published in our November issue.
Photobooks have been booming for the last ten years or so but one prize has been there for the last 49 years – Les Prix du Livre at Arles, which was set up at the same time as the Rencontres d’Arles festival. With its long history and prestigious jury, which is this year overseen by FOAM director Marloes Krijnen, the Prix du Livre are some of the best-respected in photography.
Three Prix are up for grabs in three categories this year – the Historical Book Award, the Author Book Award, and the Photo-text Book Award, each of which come with a €6000 prize to be shared between the photographers and their publishers. The books are on show at Arles until 23 September, and the winners will be announced in the opening week.
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.
“What is ‘home’?” writes Magnum Photos curator Pauline Vermare. “Instinctively, the idea of peaceful haven comes to mind. A cocoon where one feels secure, loved and understood – a nurturing and forgiving place.” It’s a topic she’s been thinking about in depth, because back in 2017 Fujifilm invited Magnum Photos to collaborate on an ambitious group project, which eventually saw 16 of its documentary photographers reflect on the idea of ‘home’. These photographers are better-known for documenting the lives of others, but in this project, they were able to create intensely personal work instead. “This project provided photographers with an ideal pretext to explore a place they held dear, a familiar and familial landscape,” says Vermare. “It was an invitation to look inward and outward. Home – an inherently intimate and introspective subject matter – was also a formidable challenge to take on; for the past seventy years, Magnum photographers have predominantly been looking into the lives of others – and seldom looking into their own.”
At 28, Zsolt Ficsór is part of this new generation, using his collective, MAMA Photobooks, to help promote local artists’ self-published work. In October Ficsór brought MAMA to Photo Book London at The Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, for example, while in September, he was invited to take part in the five-day Magnum workshop at the Capa Contemporary Photography Centre in Budapest. Lead by celebrated Magnum photographers Antoine d’Agata and Matt Black, this workshop was a masterclass in developing his style of urban documentary photography, he says, which stems from his fascination with “interacting with this surreal and unreal world that we are living in right here here, right now”.
“If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough,” said Magnum Photos co-founder Robert Capa, famously. This week Magnum Photos is revisiting Capa’s concept with its Square Print Sale, part of a cycle of four print sales it’s running to celebrate its 70th anniversary.