“Tu sais qu’est-ce que c’est le rayon vert?” Marie Rivière’s listless character Delphine asks, her legs swinging, in Éric Rohmer’s 1986 film Le Rayon Vert [The Green Ray]. The film – a portrait of its main character’s halting search for summer romance – was based on Jules Verne’s 1882 novel of the same name. While in theory its title refers to an optical phenomenon – in which the appearance of the sun as it rises or falls beyond the horizon creates a brief flash of green, and with it a supposed moment of mental clarity for all those who see it – in reality its subject matter is far more elusive. “I related the ‘rayon vert’ phenomenon to the process of photography – this special and quick moment that happens rarely,” Swiss photographer Senta Simond explains, referring to her project of the same name. Her series, which will be published by Kominek and shown at London’s Webber Gallery soon, adds a new, compelling layer to the meteorological event/Jules Verne/ Éric Rohmer mix of references. Indeed, Simond, a former student of ECAL, University of Art and Design Lausanne, from which she graduated last summer, first encountered the concept via the 1986 film.
First featured in BJP in 2010 with her graduation project, Alma Haser came to wider attention two years later with a work titled The Ventriloquist. Struck by the identical, bowl-cut hairstyles of two close friends, Luke and James, she took their portrait – and image earned her a place on the shortlist for the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize. Despite the attention, Haser became disillusioned with 2D images and began to incorporate a form of paper manipulation to create her signature aesthetic. Rather than flattening the world around us, she now folds it into something new. “Experimentation has shaped my identity as an artist,” she says. “I’m always thinking about different sculptural approaches to photography and how I can build layers into the work.”
1854 was a big year for photography. Kodak founder George Eastman was born, and the first issue of British Journal of Photography was published in Liverpool. Since then, the magazine has undergone several evolutions, rejigging its format from a weekly trade journal to a monthly glossy, and changing its name several times along the way. The magazine’s content has also continued to shift. With roots in scientific journals, British Journal of Photography has now changed course and grown into an art and documentary photography magazine, focused on the cutting edge of editorial and commercial practices. However, looking to the past, its most instantly noticeable transformation is its change in design. Staying alive for 164 years is a formidable achievement, but perhaps the key to our long life is our capacity for change. The redesigns of the magazine have always reflected its changing direction and willingness to adapt to the times, and they have carried us through right up to the present day. Here are some of British Journal of Photography’s most drastic changes. 1864 This centenary …
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.”
Starting out in his father’s carpentry workshop, Ken Grant first pursued his interest in photography through a two-year technical course, studying with unemployed shipyard labourers in the mid-1980s. He’s now a respected documentary photographer who also teaches at the Belfast School of Art; as his work on New Brighton goes on show alongside his early mentors Tom Wood and Martin Parr, and BJP caught up with him on his approach to pedagogy
“I became interested in photography in the late 1940s and began to look at magazines such as Life, Look, and Picture Post,” David Goldblatt told Colin Pantall, writing for BJP in 2013. “In the early 1950s, I tried to become a magazine photographer. I sent my pictures to Picture Post and got rejected. Then, when the African National Congress became active in their struggle against apartheid, Tom Hopkinson, the editor of Picture Post, contacted me and asked if I could make something. So I went to an ANC meeting and photographed everything I saw. That was in 1952.
“I shot and I shot and I shot and then I realised that I was using a long roll of film – film that had failed to engage on the sprocket of the Leica I was using. It was an incredibly basic mistake. But the other thing I realised was that I wasn’t really interested in what was happening around me.
“After the ANC meeting, I discovered I had to understand what I was competent in and what I was interested in. That took some years to probe, until I could get to the underbelly of the society that underlay South Africa. And to understand it visually, I also had to get a grasp on the history of the country. So I did a degree, which included courses in English and economic history. This taught me how to think and understand what was happening around me.
“My father died in 1963. I was 32 with three children and a family, but I sold the shop [the family business] and, with a couple of Leicas and the capital to keep on going for a year, I became a full-time photographer.”
Out of a 1200km-stretch of grassland in northern Kazakhstan, glistening skyscrapers shoot up into the landscape. Among the impressive buildings rising out of the otherwise sparse terrain are two identical golden towers, a fantastical presidential palace, and a looming centrepiece that blossoms into a large golden sphere. It packs quite a visual punch, but what’s most impressive is that it’s all been built in just 15 years.
Astana became the capital of Kazakhstan in 1997, and has since developed into one of the most modern cities in Central Asia. It’s futuristic buildings are designed by world-famous architects such as Norman Foster and Zaha Hadid, their work paid for via the country’s recently-discovered oil reserves.
“Most of my initial photography projects have grown by asking myself questions about my heritage, culture and where I come from,” says Kovi Konowiecki, who’s currently based between his native California and Mexico City. Brought up in a Jewish home in Long Beach, the 25-year- old former footballer has intimately captured his hometown and its surrounding areas, as well as travelling further afield, to document the wider Jewish diaspora. The nebulous concept of home – what it means and what it is like to voyage beyond it – is a recurring theme in his work. From exploring contemporary notions of Orthodox Judaism in England, the US and Israel, to the racial and cultural discrimination faced by Ethiopian Jews in Israel, Konowiecki’s drive to better understand aspects of his own identity has brought him into contact with a broad range of distinct cultures and communities. Over the past three years, he began to trace similarities between the people he was photographing, who all tended to occupy a liminal space between belonging and isolation. His latest project, …
Yassine Alaoui Ismaili (Morocco), Paul Botes (South Africa), Anna Boyiazis (USA), Tommaso Fiscaletti & Nic Grobler (South Africa), and Phumzile Khanyile (South Africa) are the five winners of the seventh CAP Prize. Open to photographers of any age or background, the CAP Prize is awarded to work that engages with the African continent or its diaspora.
Born in 1984 in Khouribga, Morocco, Yassine Alaoui Ismaili – aka Yoriyas – lives in Casablanca and has been awarded his prize for the series Casablanca Not the Movie (2014–2018). “It is both a love letter to the city I call home and an effort to nuance the visual record for those whose exposure to Morocco’s famous city is limited to guide book snapshots, film depictions or Orientalist fantasies,” he says.
Unexploded landmines are responsible for the deaths of 15-20,000 people every year, and currently contaminate 78 countries worldwide. Nagorno Karabakh, a landlocked, mountainous region in South Caucasus, Eastern Europe, has one of the highest per capita incidences of landmine accidents in the world, and a third of the victims are children. Eva Clifford, former online writer at BJP, spent a week with the world’s largest mine clearance organisation, HALO, and their first female demining team in Nagorno Karabakh. Since employing its first female demining team in 2015, HALO now employs 11 women, with more undergoing training this year.