It’s the summer of 1976 in Weymouth, England, and 19-year-old Iain McKell is working the length of a busy seafront with two cameras strung round his neck. One is for his summer job, which is to sell portraits to sunburnt holidaymakers for £1.50 a print. The other is for a personal project, which now – 43 year later – is on its way to being published as a book, Private Reality: A Diary of a Teenage Boy.
Back then McKell was making photographs of everyone, not just sunburnt holidaymakers, but also friends, family, and the local people of Weymouth. His camera went everywhere, to the arcades, the caravan parks, down the pub, and even to the discos. His friends has no idea what he was doing – and neither did he, to some extent. “We were all partying and having fun, but somehow, I had my eye on the prize,” he says.
McKell is now half way through a month-long campaign on kickstarter to raise funds for the book, and plans to publish it this June in partnership with Dewi Lewis. In May some of the photographs will be shown in an exhibition curated by Val Williams and Karen Shepherdson, Seaside: Photographed at Turner Contemporary in Margate.
In the early 1900s, Paul Thulin’s great-grandfather settled on the coast of Maine, reminded of his homeland of Sweden. Thulin’s family has returned to Gray’s Point each summer ever since, and Thulin has been working on a project there, called Pine Tree Ballads, for over a decade. Initially inspired by his grandfather’s photographs, he hopes it has “a subtext of struggle and hope that mirrors my narrative sense of self and heritage”.
BJP: How did you first get into photography?
PT: My journey into photography started as a way to rebel against my growing contempt and frustration with the limits of language to effectively communicate. In 1996, I returned from a stressful year of studying Philosophy in a Master’s program at Syracuse University and I remember wanting to escape into the mountains to possibly join a Zen monastery. I wanted to meditate and remain silent in an effort to really just experience the world.
This desire led me to discover the writings and images of photographers Minor White, Frederick Sommer, and Emmet Gowin, as their mystical and spiritual use of photography intrigued me. Before I knew it, I borrowed a 35mm camera to try to make meaningful images of my own and I was hooked.
In the mid-1960s, a vast concrete housing estate began to rise out of a neglected marshland on the south bank of the River Thames. Headed by the Greater London Council (GLC), the scheme was seen as visionary; Thamesmead would provide a marina-esque lifestyle with plenty of greenery, and wide walkways that connected housing with schools and local amenities, all set within striking brutalist architecture. Thamesmead was to be the “town of tomorrow”.
Five years ago though, it was announced that the estate would be undergoing a huge redevelopment, and now a new book published by Here Press, titled The Town of Tomorrow: 50 years of Thamesmead, celebrates its part and present.
This month, we present a small selection of work that will be shown at Format festival, which returns to the Quad Arts Centre in Derby, England for its ninth edition this March. Under the theme Forever/Now, our edit of notable projects emphasises the festival’s slant towards ‘crooked’ documentary practices, where a lack of subject or search for the unknown is filled by fiction and interpretation.
An interview with Don McCullin is never going to be a dull affair – he is a complex man who has told the story of his life many times before. He is unfailingly polite and gentlemanly, but one detects a slightly weary tone as he goes over the familiar ground. He often pre-empts the questions with clinical self-awareness.
The story of McCullin’s rise from the impoverished backstreets of Finsbury Park in north London is one of fortuitous good luck, but it didn’t start out that way. Born in 1935, he was just 14 when his father died, after which he was brought up by his dominant, and sometimes violent, mother. During National Service with Britain’s Royal Air Force, he was posted to Suez, Kenya, Aden and Cyprus, gaining experience as a darkroom assistant. He bought a Rolleicord camera for £30 in Kenya, but pawned it when he returned home to England, and started to become a bit of a tearaway.
Redemption came when his mother redeemed the camera, and MccCullin started to take photographs of a local gang, The Guvners. One of the hoodlums killed a policeman, and McCullin was persuaded to show a group portrait of the gang to The Observer. It published the photo, and kick-started a burgeoning career as a photographer for the newspaper.
Then They Came for Me On 19 February, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, setting in motion a process in which all Americans of Japanese ancestry living on or near the West Coast were imprisoned. In total, 120,000 Japanese Americans were forced to leave their homes, moving into detention camps in which they were sometimes literally held behind barbed wire, without recourse to due process or other constitutional protections to which they were entitled. It was, argues a forthcoming exhibition in San Francisco, a “dark chapter” in American history, motivated by “fear-mongering and racism at the highest levels of the US government”. Titled Then They Came for Me: Incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII and the Demise of Civil Liberties, the exhibition features work by both noted American documentary photographers such has Dorothea Lange and Ansel Adams and incarcerated Japanese American artists Toyo Miyatake and Miné Okubo. American Winter by Gerry Johansson “For me it is important not to create a story with the pictures,” says Gerry Johansson. “Normally when you edit you …
“She hangs around with us after school even though we make it clear she bores us. We whisper nonsense and pretend to laugh at jokes so she laughs too, and we ask, ‘What’s so funny?’ to watch her squirm. She knows we are mean, and yet still she follows along behind. ‘Like a dog,’ we say, loud enough for her to hear.”
On athousandwordphotos.com this is the start of the text accompanying an image of Russian army cadets by Anastasia Taylor-Lind – but it’s not a direct quote from one of the young women depicted. Instead it’s a work of fiction by author Claire Fuller, inspired by the image but written without any knowledge of the circumstances in which it was shot.
It’s the same with the story that accompanies Karim Ben Khalifa’s photograph of a sofa, which was taken in war-torn Kosovo in 1999. In real life, the sofa had been looted and therefore set on fire by French peace-keepers to discourage further looting. But in author Dan Dalton’s hands, it’s set on fire by a 17 year old, who had spent happy hours with a slightly wayward group of friends hanging out on the abandoned couch. Meanwhile a photograph taken by Dungeness nuclear power station by Phil Fisk, inspired Lydia Ruffles to write a short story about a worker called Tomo who’s afraid of the sea.
Pairing documentary photography with fictional writing isn’t new – in fact it’s become quite a trend, with image-makers such as David Goldblatt, Vasantha Yogananthan, Max Pinckers, and Dayanita Singh – among many more – all playing with the combination in recent years. But the examples above come from quite a different project, set up to support Interact Stroke Support – a London-based charity that organises sessions in which actors read to recovering stroke patients.
From a piano tuner jailed for taking direct-action, to an 87-year-old activist, Rhiannon Adam documents anti-fracking campaigners outside of the protest context
Hakan Kalkan has been featured as one of The Guardian Editor’s Picks of the best Portrait of Humanity entries so far, but it took a while for him to discover his aptitude for portraiture. The Istanbul-based Turkish / British photographer nurtured an amateur interest in photography alongside a career in finance, but he initially focussed on landscapes. Gradually, his interest shifted to portraiture, and he now uses his camera to tell people’s stories. The image that our British Journal of Photography followers voted as their favourite of The Guardian Editor’s Picks show a young Turkish boy tending to the rams on his family’s farm. It’s bright and busy, and a perfect example of what Kalkan calls ‘capturing the soul of moment’. We spoke to Kalkan about the story behind the picture, and what being part of Portrait of Humanity would mean to him. Can you tell me about the photograph you entered into Portrait of Humanity? What is the story behind it? Turkey is a large and diverse country, and I’ve been trying to capture …
Fabiana Nunes is a Brazilian photographer based in Zurich, Switzerland. Having worked in the fashion industry for years, she frequently jets off to glamorous locations (including Paris, London, and New York) to cover industry parties as well as concerts, festivals and nightlife. Her favourite subject, however, is everyday life. The image that The Guardian editors picked as one of their favourite Portrait of Humanity entries shows a mother and child collecting shells on a Tanzanian beach. Though a daily routine for the subjects, it was an unusual scene for Nunes, who spends most of her days in hectic European cities. This encapsulates Portrait of Humanity’s motto: what’s ordinary to you may be extraordinary to someone else. We spoke to Nunes about the story behind the picture, and what being part of Portrait of Humanity would mean to her. What are your key interests as a photographer? I have always dreamed of visiting the places I’ve seen in pictures. My favourite subject is the diversity that I find while travelling around the globe. For me, photography …