“Your memory isn’t like a file in your hard-drive that stays the same every time you revisit it. It actively changes,” says John Houck, whose images, just like our memories, can be deceptive. His pieces are made cyclically, by photographing and rephotographing objects, paintings, and sheets of folded paper, adding and removing elements with each iteration. “It’s a way to get at the way in which memory is an imaginative act,” he says.
For over 40 years, American photographer Dawoud Bey has been photographing people from groups too often marginalised in the USA, seeking out stories overlooked by conventional and stereotypical portrayals.
Born and raised in New York, Bey began his career in 1975 at the age of 22. For five years he documented the neighbourhood of Harlem – where his parents grew up, and which he often visited as a child – making pictures of everyday life. This series, along with three more of his projects, is on show this month at the Stephen Bulger Gallery in Toronto, Canad
“I was trained as a sculptor, and this was the first time I had used the camera,” wrote Jacqueline Hassink in the Financial Times in 2011, of her breakthrough project The Table of Power. Between 1993 and 1995 Hassink contacted forty of the largest multinational corporations in Europe, asking to photograph their boardrooms. “I wanted to find a table that symbolised modern society’s most important value: economic power,” she writes. Nineteen refused, while the remaining 21, in Britain, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Switzerland and Italy, eventually agreed.
The book was published in 1996; it was the first time that photographs of these places had been made public, and in the spring of 2009, after the global recession, Hassink decided to revisit the boardrooms. With The Table of Power 2, she examined how boardroom design, revenue and employee numbers had changed over the intervening years.
Hassink, who has died aged just 52, was born in Enschede, the Netherlands, on 15 July 1966. She trained to be a sculptor at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague, and then at the Trondheim Academy of Fine Art in Norway, but after graduating in 1992, presented herself mainly as a photographer, publishing nine books – including another celebrated title, Car Girls, in 2009. It was shot over five years at car shows across seven cities in three different continents, including New York, Paris, Geneva, Tokyo, Detroit, and Shanghai, focusing in on differing cultural standards on ideals of beauty on the women paid to pose with the cars.
Since its discovery in 2009, Vivian Maier’s work – and her life – has attracted global attention. It been exhibited all over the world, featured in mainstream media outlets, and circulated in multiple books and films. Even so, many details of the American street photographer’s life remains a mystery.
We know that she worked as a nanny for 40 years in Chicago, and that she liked to spend time walking the streets, taking photographs with her Rolleiflex camera – with and without the children she was looking after. We also know that Maier took more than 150,000 photographs, many of which remain unseen, mostly of the people and architecture in Chicago, New York and LA, but also of herself, and her young charges.
To the people of Provence, the Mistral is a local menace. It regularly ruins weddings, steals hats and scarves with ease and, at its worst, this epic wind has the strength to sweep up metal chairs and smash them into neighbouring windows. Even so, says Rachel Cobb, “I think maybe they actually like it”. “What I feel is that it’s a source of pride among the Provincials, a way of defining the region,” she adds. “They can withstand it, and they’ve learned to live with it.”
Cobb’s new book, Mistral: The Legendary Wind of Provence, is a record of the 20 years she spent hunting the wind. She has holidayed in the south of France for 40 summers now and, though she has been victim to the perils of the strong gales, she’s also found it inspirational – as have many other artists and writers. “I’m energised by it,” she says. “At night, when you hear it stir, you can feel the energy in the air.”
While most photographers value their time behind the camera, Alexandra Catiere’s love for the craft lives in the darkroom. “For me, the beauty of a picture doesn’t lie in the beauty of the subject matter,” she says. “I’m more interested in pushing the boundaries of printmaking, and how far you can go from reality.”
Catiere always knew she wanted to become an artist, and in photography found a craft that was both independent and experimental. “Taking pictures is fascinating, but for me, it’s not enough,” she says. When she was 21, she built a darkroom in the bathroom of her house in Minsk, Belarus, where she spent most of her time developing photographs of still lifes, seeing how far she could push a gelatin surface.
“For me, photography was more of a need, because I was going through a personal crisis. I had lost a friend, and I had to find a way of living again.” At the beginning of last year Debmalya Roy Choudhuri travelled to Rishikesh, a city in northern India, at the foot of the Himalayas, known as the “yoga capital of the world”.
He wanted to remove himself from the urban chaos and violence in his hometown, Kolkata, and challenge the idea of home as defined by four walls. “I had a very difficult childhood where I had to confront a lot of darkness,” says Choudhuri, who was sick for a long time. “I grew up in a very confined space. My parents went through a lot of problems and my family fell apart.”
Between 1930 and 1964, Liberty Theater was the name of a non-whites only cinema owned by Rosalind Fox Solomon’s family in Chattanooga, Tennessee. “There was an irony in the name. I chose Liberty Theater as the title of this book because of its multiple meanings,” she says. “In a broader context, the title relates to performance and pretence in the theatre of life.”
The photographs Liberty Theater collects together were taken through the 1970s to 90s in the southern United States, and have never before been published as a group. From Georgia to South California, through Mississippi, Tennessee and Louisiana, Solomon captured the complexity of race, class, and gender divisions.
“I had no idea that photography would change my life,” says Solomon, who began photographing when she was 48, after graduating from college, getting married and raising two children. In 1977 she moved to Washington DC, where her husband worked for the General Services Administration, and visited New York City to study privately with Lisette Model.
“You’re always looking for that time where everybody forgets you’re there and becomes themselves. Surprisingly, they do, sometimes to the detriment of what you knew about them,” says Eugene Richards, who has devoted his career to documenting social injustice in America, and injecting himself into intensely personal situations.
Richards’ style is up-close and unflinching, “ironically it’s the process of becoming as not there as you possibly can, if you hang around long enough people don’t care”, he says. Though his photography has been described as poetic and lyrical, he has never thought of himself as an artist. “I went in with some knowledge of photography, but mostly with the idea of providing information,” he says.
“You should get into the habit of looking above eye-level while walking,” says American photographer Brian Kanagaki. “It’s much more beautiful than looking down at the dirty street and trash.” Golden Persimmons, shot over a period of six years, captures geometric subjects in ambiguous environments; spanning over eight countries (though predominantly New York), the brutally black and white images take inspiration from the graphic, organic shapes found in cities globally.
The project began when the design director got lost while taking a shortcut in his hometown, San Francisco. “It was funny to get lost in a city that I thought I knew so well,” he says. “I ended up driving around and finding so many new things that got my mind working.” One of which was decorative trees in people’s front gardens, the original basis for the series. But after moving to New York and spending time travelling, the idea quickly evolved to focus on tying the world together by capturing its mundane similarities.