The last time we spoke to Vasantha Yogananthan he was preparing to release chapter one of his hugely ambitious seven-part project A Myth of Two Souls. A project that he started in 2013 with his first trip to India, the collection is a photographic re-imagining of one of the most significant Hindu texts, the epic poem Ramayana. Dating back to the 4th century, the Ramayana still holds tremendous significance in India, with its allegorical, mythical stories helping convey concepts such as love, duty, violence, loyalty and divinity. Yogananthan had always been familiar with the Ramayana growing up – his Sri Lankan father told him stories from it during his youth in Grenoble, France, and he picked up comic book adaptations of it as a teenager. But it was only when he visited India that he realised just how interwoven the analogies presented in Ramayana are with the experience of everyday life on the subcontinent, and just how thin the line can be between mythology and reality.
“Kid was a bit of a boorish figure – a troubled man with limited capacities. He could also show his bad temper sometimes, so I can understand why many people found his bellowing voice and coarse speech intimidating. Over the years, I saw the police delivering him home several times after short detentions for various minor misdemeanours he apparently committed. Kid was also addicted to hard drugs, but I only understood all this at a later stage. He was a different person when he allowed me into his apartment, where I got to see another side of his character.”
Tormented by a traumatic past and challenged by a difficult present, Sicily is still haunted by the destructive presence of Cosa Nostra. In Terra Nostra, Mimi Mollica shows this problematic entanglement, focusing on the legacy of the Mafia in Sicily. Born and raised in Palermo, Mollica says the series was a labour of love on his homeland, and he tells BJP how he created it, and how he got into photography in the first place.
Congenital achromatopsia is a hereditary condition in which the eye cannot detect colour – the cones in the retina do not function, leaving the vision to the rods alone, which only detect shades of grey. In most places the disease is rare, occuring in less than one in 30,000 people. But on the Micronesian island of Pingelap it’s much more common, present in more than 5% of the population. It’s an extraordinary phenomenon – and one that immediately gripped Belgian photographer Sanne De Wilde when she heard about it back in 2015
Born in Washington DC in 1981, Peter van Agtmael studied history at Yale before moving into documentary photography. Largely focusing on America, his work considers issues such as power, race and class; he also works on the Israel/Palestine conflict and throughout the Middle East. He has won the W.Eugene Smith Grant, the ICP Infinity Award for Young Photographers and many more, and joined Magnum Photos in 2008. His book Disco Night Sept 11, a study of the USA post-9/11, was published in 2014 and named a Book of the Year by titles such as The New York Times Magazine and Time Magazine. His latest photobook Buzzing at the Sill is the sequel.
Born in the Italian South Tyrol in 1967, Marco Pietracupa moved to Milan in the early 1990s, where he studied at the Italian Institute of Photography and swiftly started working in the art and fashion industries. His work has been published by L’Officiel, L’Uomo Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Wallpaper and Rolling Stone, and he has also shown at Vice’s Milan Gallery, the Brownstone Foundation in Paris, the Asni Gallery in Addis Ababa, among others. He recently published his first monograph, Shapeshifter, with Yard Press.
“You’ve probably never heard of Feng Li’s photography,” wrote Leo de Boisgisson in American Suburb X in March; that was true at the time, but it’s changed rapidly since September, when the Chinese artist was nominated for the prestigious Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation First Photobook award. He made the shortlist for his first publication, White Night, which was published by Jiazazhi Press in July and contains 160 images shot from 2005-2015. The title is inspired by the Bible, specifically the Book of Job and a phrase which reads “They meet with darkness in the daytime, and grope in the noonday as in the night”.
“Very often when dealing with Albania, artists, photographers and journalists – especially those who don’t come from the country – deal in a very repetitive form with the poverty, the post-communism, and the old and sporadically still-practiced traditions,” says Anna Ehrenstein. “All in all they focus on the otherness of the people and the country.” Brought up in Germany but of Albanian heritage, Ehrenstein has done something very different with her project on Albania, Tales of Lipstick and Virtue. Rather than focusing in on picturesque, unchanged farming life or remaining vestiges of the Soviet Block, she hit contemporary values on the jugular, photographing women into “a certain kind of aesthetic that can be found in Albania, but comes from all over the globe”.
“I don’t start with intentions,” explains Elliott Erwitt. “I take pictures and then see what I’ve got and put something together.” It’s a process which has served him well throughout his career as a photographer. Born in Paris in 1928 to Russian parents, he spent his childhood in Milan, then emigrated to the US, via France, with his family in 1939; he first cut his teeth in the photography industry whilst still at high school, then built up a professional portfolio whilst serving with the Army Signal Corps in Europe. Joining Magnum Photos in 1953, he went on to apply his unmistakable style to everyone from Marilyn Monroe to Presidents of the United States. Now 89, he prefers to let his very varied collection of photographs speak for themselves, and his new collection, Cuba, is no exception. “I took a lot of pictures and sat down and made an edit. The way I always work,” says Erwitt. “[The book] seemed like a good idea since I was going to Cuba anyway
“I think politics affects every decision in daily life – it’s hard to remain on the sidelines,” says Musuk Nolte. “For me, photography is a visual element to work on these very complex issues. “With all the problems we have in our country, we have the responsibility to leave a visual document,” continues the photographer, who was born in Mexico in 1988 but is now a naturalised Peruvian.”I felt the desire to leave a document of what was going on, that it could serve as a visual and historical record. It was my way of relating to my country, but it’s important that this work also has an impact outside the community.”