The South African photographer’s series of self-portraits addressing race, gender, and identity has been awarded the prestigious photobook prize
Arnis Balcus, photographer, editor in chief of FK Magazine and director of Riga Photomonth, picks out the projects that caught his eye, including Georgs Avetisjans’ Homeland The Longest Village
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.”
Out of nearly 1000 submissions, the winners for this years Paris Photo/Aperture Foundation Photobook Awards, established in 2012 to celebrate the photobook’s contribution to the narrative of photography, have been announced at Paris Photo.
The Photobook of the Year award went to Laia Abril, for part one of her long-term project, A History of Misogyny, Chapter One: On Abortion (Dewi Lewis). The project is not about the experience of abortion itself, but about the repercussions for women who do not have access to legal, safe or free abortions, forcing them to consider dangerous alternatives that cause physical and mental harm.
In adopting the photobook as his primary medium, using complex sequences as well as free ranging associations to create what’s been described as ‘open metaphors’, Jason Fulford is more interested in questions than answers. He invites readers to become active participants in his work, presenting an open enquiry in which the various interconnecting layers are often cryptic and complex, and the meaning is less important than the experience of looking and thinking.
In October Chloe Dewe Mathews is publishing a book titled Caspian: The Elements with the prestigious Aperture (New York) and Peabody Museum Press (Cambridge, MA). In 2011 she won BJP’s International Photography Award with images from her first trip to the region. In 2014 Dewe Mathews was awarded the Robert Gardner Fellowship in Photography by the Peabody Museum at Harvard University to complete the work.
“For me, photography became a solution because I could be independent, spontaneous and more creatively engaged,” she says. “In feature films, you always work within a structure and you have to plan every shoot carefully; I liked the freedom you have with a stills camera. Fine art gives you more independence, of course, but it can also become too self-referential, so I was attracted to documentary photography because it felt more outward looking. I was keen to explore what was going on around me, as well as stepping out into the wider world.”
Launched last year, Labs New Artists is a exhibition of up-and-coming artists at the prestigious not-for-profit gallery, which has spaces in Brooklyn and in Los Angeles. The photographers picked out aren’t represented by galleries or agencies, and are selected by a global jury of experts; this year, each juror has agreed to mentor an artist for the year following the show.
The 25 artists in the show this year are: Antone Dolezal, US; Eli Durst, US; Peyton Fulford, US; Matthew Genitempo, US; Rudi Geyser, South Africa; Li Hui, China; Andrew Jacobs, US; Brendan George Ko, Canada; Kovi Konowiecki, US; Maria Lokke, US; Daniel Jack Lyons, US; Pat Martin, US; Chase Middleton, Australia; Tyler Mitchell, US; Diego Moreno, Mexico; John Francis Peters, US; Luis Alberto Rodriguez, Germany; Scandebergs, UK; Marcus Schäfer, UK; Hugo Scott, UK; Christopher Smith, South Africa; Renate Ariadne Van Der Togt, UK; Drew Vickers, US; Juyan Wang, UK; and Logan White, US.
“The whole jury was in agreement that Eva has a very strong vision and that her work is characterised by a consistency both in aesthetic and content, since the concepts explored are the hot topics of our contemporary society,” says Alessia Glaviano, senior photo editor on Vogue Italia and member of the Hyères Festival photography jury this year – which has awarded the grand prix to Eva O’Leary. The New York-based photographer has won with a series called Spitting Image, which shows American girls aged 11 to 14 photographed while looking at themselves in a mirror. A project involving both photographs and videos, Spitting Image shows both the girls’ discomfort with being put in front of the lens, and the ways in which they – and others – present themselves for the camera.
“I’m reclaiming my blackness, which I feel is continuously performed by the privileged other,” says South African photographer Zanele Muholi. Born in 1972 in Umlazi, a township close to Durban, Muholi defines herself as a visual activist using photography to articulate contemporary identity politics. In her latest series, Somnyama Ngonyama: Hail the Dark Lioness, she uses her body to confront the politics of race and representation, questioning the way the black body is shown and perceived.
“When I first arrived, my military escort said, ‘Gitmo: the best posting a soldier can have. There’s so much fun here!’,” recalls US photographer Debi Cornwall. “So I said, ‘Show me the fun!’” She had just touched down at Guantánamo Bay naval base, home to the infamous detention centre established in 2002 by US president George W Bush for the interrogation of suspected terrorists, enemy combatants and “extremely dangerous individuals” – “the worst of the worst, they call them” – following the 9/11 attacks. Since then, it has forged a reputation as hell on earth, where men are held for years without charge or legal process, and are often tortured. With 12 years’ experience of working as a wrongful-conviction lawyer, Cornwall began to enquire.