In Charlie Kwai’s winning Portrait of Humanity image, a young child stands drinking milk from a bottle, seemingly stunned by the camera, and dressed in a Captain America costume. The photograph was taken in Mexico City in 2016, just a few days after Donald Trump won the presidential election in the US. “To see a Mexican boy dressed as Captain America seemed ironic,” Kwai explains. “At the time, and since, the rhetoric from the US administration has been extremely negative towards Mexicans.” The image is typical of Kwai’s work. Up close and severe, it embodies the beliefs at the heart of his practice; that “a picture exists to create discussion.” Kwai has long-established himself as a confrontational street photographer, but he insists this is not the case, and that while the proximity between himself and his subject can often appear intrusive, it in fact reflects their intimacy. Starting out shooting on the streets of London, Kwai has since taken his high-flash, up-close approach to portraiture elsewhere, specifically Mexico. Basing himself in the country’s capital, his …
Behind a shop vitrine, a human skull, wearing a helmet adorned with a swastika, grins. Next to it, an animal – apparently taxidermic – stands rigid on the floor. The silhouette of a pair of legs belonging to a passer-by on the street reflects in the glass. Above this desultory display, a banner stuck to the top of the window reads, “Mexico… ¡quiero conocerte!”. In this single photograph, taken in 1975 in Chiapas, Graciela Iturbide projects her vision of Mexico: a country of political, religious, social, cultural and economic pluralities and tensions. A place where contrasts present themselves at every turn – sometimes harmonious, sometimes tense.
It is this multilayered image of Mexico that Iturbide has slowly peeled back and revealed through her photography over the last five decades. She has travelled extensively across her own country, between urban and rural landscapes, living with different communities, and moving from the physical to the transcendental, the ancient to the contemporary, witnessing and experiencing the juxtapositions intertwined in Mexican culture.
“What do I know about it? All I know is what’s on the internet.” So said Donald Trump in an interview in March 2016, after he was confronted about the legitimacy of a video he had tweeted, along with the claim that the protester it depicted was a member of ISIS. The video has since been proved as a hoax, neatly demonstrating the difficultly of navigating between truth and fiction in today’s digital landscape. In a world where even a layperson can manipulate images on their phone, and spread them to thousands of fake followers with one click, how can we begin to know what is #real?
It’s the kind of question that All I know is what’s on the Internet will pose, a new exhibition opening at The Photographers’ Gallery, London including work by 11 artists and collectives. It includes “social media machines” made by Australian designers Stephanie Kneissl & Maximilian Lackner, built to maximise activity and likes; and wall-mounted installations by Eva and Franco Mattes that reveal the lesser-known, surprisingly personal, world of online content moderators. Curated to draw attention to the neglected corners of digital image production, the show helps visualise the vast infrastructure of online platforms, and the enormous amount of human labour needed to keep it churning.
A young boy who became a French resistance fighter as just a teenager; a German fighter who lost an arm; a Kazakhstani field nurse; an Indian deployed to fight the Japanese in Burma; a Holocaust survivor who is today a Donald Trump supporter. Sasha Maslov’s photobook Veterans travels the world to meet with some of the last surviving servicemen and women of the Second World War, a conflict whose impact is still being felt some seven decades after the conflict finished.
Growing up surrounded by oppression in a country where violent religious and ethnic clashes were commonplace and close at hand, Suryajaya was constrained by strict traditional and conservative values that condemned homosexuality. He needed to get out. He turned 18, alone, on a flight bound for the United States, leaving behind his family and his old life in Indonesia.
“Through putting together an image – either digitally and/or with scissors and paste, with or without text – people get to feel a sense of empowerment, an empowerment that communicates to the viewer, be it via a placard, a street poster, or an image on social media. The act of re-using existing images and re-presenting them through juxtaposition is inherently subversive, and showed up in the countless images of Theresa May that came thick and fast in direct response to the official election campaigning day-to-day.”
Albertan photographer Amber Bracken is the 2017 first prize winner of the World Press Photography award in the Contemporary Issues category. Bracken, whose work is particularly concerned over the relationship between indigenous communities and the government in Canada and North America, has earned the high profile award for her documentation of the increasingly desperate protests against the North Dakota Pipeline at Standing Rock. “I’ve been compelled by issues of indigenous rights for some time now,” says Bracken. “Especially after Canada’s Idle No More movement. The fallout of colonisation and the ongoing betrayal of treaties is the greatest source of domestic injustice in the western world. ” The demonstrations in North Dakota began early last year, where the Standing Rock native Indian tribes and hundreds of others began to protest the construction of a water pipeline that would run from the Bakken oil fields in the western part of the state, down to south Illinois. It would cross directly beneath the Mississippi Rivers and cut straight through a number of ancient, sacred burial sites. Just a few …
M Scott Brauer had the same access as any other photographer on the campaign trail of the US election, but, for his new series This is the worst party I’ve ever been to, he decided to “stepping away from the designated photo opps and subvert what was being shown, to look behind, deeper into, or next to the main event.”