A new exhibition in London presents the work of seven contemporary Chinese artists, raising questions about gender, beauty, censorship, and the concept of diaspora
When Derek Bishton, John Reardon, and Brian Homer set up a photography and design agency in the late 1970s in Handsworth, a multicultural, inner-city district of Birmingham, they were viewed with suspicion. “I lived in Handsworth and walked to work with my camera, and I felt people were looking at me as if to say ’Who is this white guy, is he working for the police?’” says Bishton. “As I started to take photographs I was aware of this problem.”
Their agency, Sidelines, had been set up to work with community groups on issues such as social justice housing, unemployment and immigration though, so the photographers were keen to win the locals’ trust. Discussing it in their office, a converted terraced house on a busy shopping street in Handsworth, Bishton happened to find a photograph in Camerawork Magazine, showing a Ukranian woman who had photographed herself in a portrait studio set up by American photographer David Attie. It was, he realised, the perfect solution – and one which their office was seemingly built for.
Michael Danner’s book project Migration as Avant-Garde has won the prestigious Dummy Award at the Fotobookfestival Kassel. His mock-up will now be produced and published by Kettler, Germany, the company behind Mathieu Asselin’s hit book Monsanto: A Photographic Investigation.
Born in Reutlingen, Germany in 1967, Danner studied photography at Fachhochschule Bielefeld in Germany and the University of Brighton in the UK, and lived in London from 1997 to 2000. He’s now based in Berlin, where he lectures in photography at the Berliner Technische Kunsthochschule. He has previously published three monographs and seven artist’s books.
His project “examines the new ways in which migrants are pursuing their hope for a better life”, he states, adding: “The term ‘avant-garde’ stands for progress and the way of a pioneer. Driven by the desire to give their lives meaning, and guided by their own integrity, migrants bring new perspectives and points of view to our society. The origin of his work was the reading of a 1943 text by the philosopher Hannah Arendt.”
Born in Naples, Italy in 1988, Lorenza Demata was raised in Florence and took her first degree in International Cooperation and Conflict Management in the city. She went on to study photography for three years at the Fondazione Studio Marangoni in Florence, graduating in 2016 and moving to London to study for an MA in Photography at the London College of Communication. She recently graduated from the LCC with a final project called It all started when some of us left the country, which compares the movements of people and food – linking the fact that approximately 40% of London’s population is made up of expatriates, and almost 50% of the total consumption of food resources relies on imported fruit and vegetables. BJP: Your BA is in International Cooperation and Conflict Management, why did you switch to photography? Or do you feel you’re still working on similar issues? Lorenza Demata: I have always been interested in social and political issues. When I started my first BA, almost ten years ago, I wanted to understand what was happening …