We visit Studio Stauss in Berlin, “a laboratory for documentary photography”
No Photos on the Dancefloor!, a new exhibition opening at C/O Berlin, charts the evolution of Berlin club culture from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the present day
What happens when you put a white flower in a vase of coloured water? It’s an experiment some of us might fondly remember from our childhood, magically transforming a bunch of flowers with a dash of food colouring.
But the results are a little more frightening in a similar experiment by French artist Cornelius de Bill Baboul, as his flowers suck the colour out of sugary energy drinks. “I think they look a little bit like dancers,” he says. “Like kids on ecstasy in a techno club celebrating the end of the world”.
The director of the respected bookshop in Paris’ Le Bal gallery picks out her favourite photography and projects, including Joanna Piotrowska’s Frantic
“It was a moment where I could step out of my ordinary and rather boring existence, and shape it into something different,” says Federico Clavarino, who’s photographs from his foundational years at Blank Paper in Madrid are now published as a book
“This book….does not – and this I must emphasise – document life in the GDR [German Democratic Republic]. Rather, it shows how I saw this country and the people who lived here,” writes Roger Melis in the introduction to his book In a Silent Country, now published for the first time in an English edition.
“When selecting the photographs for this volume, I placed no demands on myself, and certainly did not try to comprehensively depict working and living conditions in the GDR,” he later adds. “…they focus on the everyday, and not on the spectacular. In my photographs, I only rarely attempted to capture a decisive, unrepeatable moment. The moments I always searched for were the ones in which whatever was special, unusual or temporary about people and things had dropped away, revealing the core of their being, their essence.”
When Robin Hammond started work on his project Where Love Is Illegal, he changed his approach to photography. Shooting members of the LGBTI [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex] community who have faced persecution and punishment in countries in which such prejudice is enshrined in law, he relinquished much of the creative control to the sitters.
Up until then, he’d worked in the tradition of great photojournalists, committing extended periods of time to documenting stories as they unfolded in front of his lens. His acclaimed project Condemned, for example, a study of the treatment of the mentally ill in Africa, was shot over 10 years. But during his numerous trips to the continent, he had become acutely aware of the deep-rooted homophobia there.
“Wherever I went, I was surprised by how extreme the views on homosexuality were,” he says.
“Photographers have a responsibility to tell these stories,” says Esa Ylijaasko of his project, November is a beginning, which shows a community of Syrian refugees living in Istanbul. Forced out by the civil war some 2.9 million Syrians have fled to Turkey, of whom about 800,000 have settled in the capital city, many in the formerly abandoned Süleymaniye neighbourhood. Knowing little Turkish and lacking the right documentation, they are left in a kind of limbo – unable to work legally, they rely on their meagre savings, cash-in-hand jobs and charity. “If they’re are caught by the police, they are sent to refugee camps,” explains Ylijaasko. “But as illegal workers, they earn below the minimum wage – around $250 to $300 USD monthly, which is just enough to cover their living expenses. Kind-hearted locals bring food and clothes, helping them to survive. But life stands still.” Originally from Finland, Ylijaasko started shooting the series back in 2013, after moving to Istanbul and hearing about the community. “I decided I’d try at least,” he says. “More people can help …
We are in Arles, where in July 2016 he showed Mortuary, one of his signature sculptural installations, made up of heavily manipulated, elongated photographic forms. He had been selected for the Rencontres photofestival’s Discovery Award, though in truth this cat had been long out of the bag – Yokota exhibited in Arles in 2015, showing his almost imperceptible inky-black prints from his Inversion series as part of Another Language: 8 Japanese Photographers, curated by Simon Baker of Tate Modern. And in the preceding half decade, his intriguing, visually arresting performances, experiments, installations, books, soundscapes and collaborations have blazed a trail from Tokyo to wider international acclaim, taking photography on a journey to the extreme. In this he is a revolutionary, with neither pretension nor timid creativity. The sheer energy with which he produces work is extraordinary, verging on obsessional and driven by a desire to constantly record, destroy and then recreate. Anxiety is the fuel. “In my mind, I have an image of burning energy in continual production,” he says.
In our third annual edition focusing on photography education, BJP visits schools around the world to discover what it takes to “see photographically”. From one of the oldest photography schools in the UK, to pioneering institutions in Germany and Denmark, tutors stress the need to appreciate the mechanics of a photograph – light, shape, space and perspective. “Our bodies learn to adapt to the camera that is shaping our experience,” explains Thomas Sandberg, photographer and co-founder of the Ostkreuz School for Photography in Berlin.