In 2010, US photographer Haley Morris-Cafiero set up a camera to take a self-portrait in Times Square, NYC. When she got the film developed, she noticed one of the images had captured a passerby, looking at her with what looked like a sneer. Believing it to be body-shaming, caught in the flesh, she set out to capture more, hoping to illustrate the social condemnation that polices body size in America (and beyond). Her resulting book, The Watchers, was published in 2015 to acclaim, and the images went on to be widely exhibited, and shown online.
As soon as the images went public, however, Morris-Cafiero encountered another wave of social control – negative images posted online or emailed to her, with vicious comments on her body and what was apparently read as her audacity in highlighting peoples’ responses to it. “The major problem is she’s disgusting,” read one such reaction. “Normal people are never going to want to fuck you, regardless of how much you complain,” read another.
Again, rather than being hurt, Morris-Cafiero was amused – and inspired. Immediately deciding she’d use the comments to make a project, she experimented for two years with her response.
“I was the first to move to New Brighton, and it was by sheer chance,” says Tom Wood. “I studied fine art part-time [a Fine Art Painting BA at Leicester Polytechnic], then went back to the car factory where I had worked before. Then I found a job as a photo technician at the poly [now Wirral Metropolitan College, where he went on to teach], and we moved there in September 1978.”
Thus began a golden age for photography in New Brighton, which lasted until 2003 when Wood moved to his current home in North Wales. In the intervening 25 years, Ken Grant also lived in New Brighton from 1992-2002, studying for a spell at Wirral Met, and Martin Parr was based just 20 minutes away from 1982-1985. Between them the three photographers created a huge body of work on the seaside town, which is based just across the River Mersey from Liverpool in North England.
“I’m thrilled to be given the opportunity to lead an organisation I have admired for so many years,” says Shoair Mavlian of her new role, director of Photoworks. “I look forward to working with the team, developing partnerships and supporting artists at local, national and international levels to connect new audiences with photography.”
Inspired by personal identity, the natural world, and the fear of dying, the three young artists in this year’s Jerwood/Photoworks Awards exhibition are presenting very different work. Picked out as winners in January 2017, all three have received a year of mentoring on their work from industry specialists such as photographer Mitch Epstein, publisher Michael Mack, and gallerist Maureen Paley. They each also received a bursary of £5000 and access to a production fund of another £5000, to make new work which goes on show in London’s Jerwood Space from 17 January-11 March then tours to Bradford and Belfast.
“Her project talks about the identity that the state wants women to project in public,” says Vivienne Gamble, director of Seen Fifteen and now curator of the show Catharsis for Belfast Exposed. “She comes from a family where they didn’t have those rules behind closed doors at home. She was conflicted about having this public-facing image, and this different, much more relaxed and liberal, private existence.” She’s talking about Shenasmenah, a project by Iranian-born photographer, filmmaker and curator Amak Mahmoodian included in the three-person Catharsis show.
Back for its second year, the 24-hour event allows photo-lovers to see “an area of London where artists are actually working on a day-to-day basis”, says co-founder Vivienne Gamble.
To create his expansive, understated work, Belgian photographer Geert Goiris journeys to far-flung locations – polar regions, deserts, mountain valleys. There, with a large format camera fixed to a tripod, he brings into stark focus desolate landscapes littered with modernist ruins and futuristic objects. The shots themselves are mundane yet spectacular, familiar yet unfamiliar, as if we’ve entered a not-too-distant future in which people have abandoned their homes because of some natural calamity. Exploring these isolated locations is at the heart of what Goiris does. “I’m very much drawn to open spaces and sites that are hard to live in or colonize or hard for people to domesticate,” he says. “I think these places, first of all, give us a strange mix of calmness and relaxation with anxiety and fear; they also show what existence is without human beings, when there is no infrastructure… it’s very much this detached, alien point of view as well.