This article was originally published in issue #7892 of British Journal of Photography. As a free gift to our community during the coronavirus lockdown, we are offering it as a free digital edition here. Male privilege permeates the private clubs depicted in Karen Knorr’s series, Gentlemen – hidden spaces where the act of exclusion protects the power of those invited in. Spread throughout St James’s, a historically wealthy area in central London, grand Georgian buildings housed, and continue to house, the playgrounds of the rich: extended living rooms for royalty, politicians, new and old money. In perpetuating racial, class and gender divisions, the clubs, which Knorr photographed from 1981 to 1983, safeguarded the ascendency of a privileged few. Now, Knorr’s series is being shown as part of the Barbican Art Gallery’s latest blockbuster show, Masculinities: Liberation through Photography (currently closed due to the coronavirus lockdown in London). Knorr was born in Germany to American parents, grew up in San Juan, Puerto Rico, studied in Paris, and moved to London in the summer of 1976. She wanted …
A newly edited and expanded edition of Jōji Hashiguchi’s seminal photobook is published this month. Here, the photographer reflects on his past, and the time he spent documenting the plight of youth in the 1980s
Born in Poland in 1985 and based in London, Joanna Piotrowska has had a stellar career so far. Studying photography at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków and then on the prestigious MA at London’s Royal College of Art, she won MACK’s First Book Award in 2014 with FROWST, and then the Photoworks & Jerwood Award in 2015. She’s already shown her work at the Winterthur Fotomuseum, Switzerland, MoMA in New York, Hayward Gallery, Institute of Contemporary Arts and Sadie Coles in London, and now her first solo show has opened at Tate Britain.
Titled All Our False Devices, the exhibition includes both still photographs and 16mm films to consider gestures, relationships, and power. The series Self Defense, 2015 shows young women re-enacting poses from self-defence manuals, for example, while Shelters, 2016-2018 shows makeshift structures Piotrowska invited people to build at home in Lisbon, Rio de Janeiro, Warsaw, and London.
In the winter of 1988, at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, an exhibition opened, triggering outrage. The Perfect Moment, a display of 125 photographs by New Yorker Robert Mapplethorpe, was the most comprehensive show of his work to date – and the most provocative – featuring images he had taken over the previous 25 years, including those of his divisive X Portfolio.
The retrospective came at a difficult time in Mapplethorpe’s life: he was 42, and losing his fight with Aids – the disease that would take his life the following March. Perhaps, for him, this was his final chance to show this expansive oeuvre to the public – most of it shot in his Manhattan loft. But his pristine black-and-white photographs of BDSM scenes, and the sexy, sinewy strangers he met at the Mineshaft sex club, shocked conservative audiences. On a political level, the culture wars in the US were raging.
“For me it is important not to create a story with the pictures,” says Gerry Johansson. “Normally when you edit you try to sequence the photographs. But for me it is important that each picture is considered as a single, individual image.”
Johansson’s photography is largely driven by intuition, but when it comes to making a book, logic and order triumph. Almost all of his 31 photobooks are defined by their geography, if not the subject matter, and their equally-sized photographs are generally organised either alphabetically or chronologically, a bid to encourage readers to interpret them individually.
Portrait of Humanity provides photographers with the chance to share portraits of everyday life around the world, with the world. The aim is to explore and celebrate the many faces of humanity. That’s also the aim of Holland-based documentary photographer Leander Varekamp, whose image was selected by The Guardian editors as one of their favourite Portrait of Humanity entries so far, and voted by our followers as their favourite of the picks. The image, a crisp black & white portrait, is part of a series on Burrneshas – Albanian women who have chosen to live their lives as men. With only a few dozen Burrneshas left, the tradition is quickly dying out, and Varekamp is using portraiture to ensure that this little-known phenomenon is not forgotten completely. Since Varekamp discovered a talent for photography at the age of 17, he has used his camera as a means of investigating communities – such as Burrneshas – that intrigue him. As he puts it, ‘the camera opens doors that would otherwise remain closed’. We spoke to Varekamp …
Sara Palmieri’s Scenario is the latest instalment of an ongoing photographic experimentation with the nature of the invisible and the mysterious. Her investigations began with M, a work based around family archives depicting her grandmother’s hair. Subsequently Palmieri, who was born in Rome, attended a year-long workshop at the ISSP International Masterclass in Latvia, which was headed by Aaron Schuman, and where she produced La plume plonge a la tête and Scenario.
The projects share a vocabulary of darkness and shadows, with a weighty element of construction: each work produces its own internally functioning visual universe, where everything is significant and no element is left to chance. “I’m interested in the non-visible aspects of reality that I try to represent through a process of time, memories and intuitions, the unconscious and revelations, fragments and recompositions,” Palmieri explains.
Last few hours left to apply! BJP IPA 2019 deadline: 20 December, 2018. There will be NO extended deadline. “Placed anonymously and often hidden from view, ‘Ex-Votos’ are offerings left by pilgrims as signs of gratitude and devotion,” explains Alys Tomlinson of the subjects of Ex-Voto, a series exploring offerings of religious devotion found at Christian pilgrimage sites. These small donations of gratitude take the form of handwritten notes neatly folded and hidden in the crevice of rocks, crosses etched into stone, or lengths of ribbon tied around piles of twigs, creating a tangible narrative between faith, person and the landscape. Ex-Voto explores this narrative through formal portraiture, large format landscape photography, and small, detailed still lives of the objects and markers left behind. Last year, the series was shortlisted for the BJP International Photography Award, and it has garnered global attention ever since. “To have my interests recognized as resonating beyond my own curious impulses is both exciting and encouraging,” says Alys of being shortlisted for last year’s BJP IPA, “While to receive recognition from …
“In my youth, I had a significant dream about the area of the Alta Amazonia, the place where I later based my project,” the Italian photographer Nicola Ókin Frioli tells BJP. “One day I met someone who confirmed I had a kind of calling to this area and advised me to go.” Ókin took his first trip to the Ecuadorian Amazon in January 2015, which coincided with the 20th anniversary of the Alto Cenepa War, a conflict that broke out between Ecuador and Peru over disputed territory from 26 January to 28 February 1995. “It was a war of the governments, not of the natives. Yet they participated anyway as civilians in support of the inexperienced military,” explains Ókin. “For the indigenous people, particularly the Shuar and Achuar, it was a resistance because their territory was in danger.” Now, the indigenous communities are facing another imminent threat – that of large-scale mining. Rich in copper and gold, the Shuar and Achuar territories are in danger of being exploited and its inhabitants risk being forcibly …
The September issue brings the otherwise invisible into sharp focus. Invisible World explores forgotten conflicts, intimate retreats, abused landscapes and remote islands to uncover the hidden realities and unknown societies behind ordinary backdrops. “As social beings, we all demand to be seen,” says Hoda Afshar, whose latest series, Behold, takes us to an exclusive male-only bathhouse. Her point resonates with all the photoseries explored in this issue: how do we negotiate our surroundings, how do we see our societies, how do we interpret our world? We need to first see the invisible to answer these ever salient questions.