Our pick of the key stories from the past week, including Q&As with image-makers like Mathilde Vaveau and Karol Palka, Paul Senn’s documentation of a mass migration from Spain in 1939, and the programme for the 50th Les Rencontres d’Arles.
50 years ago, photographer Lucien Clergue, writer Michel Tournier and historian Jean-Maurice Rouquette put together the first edition of Les Rencontres d’Arles in the city’s town hall. They had three exhibitions – a group show tracing the history of photography, and solo shows by Gjon Mili and Edward Weston. Now it’s the largest and most prestigious photography festival in the world, and this summer, they celebrate 50 years with 50 exhibitions, looking back on their history and heritage, as well as championing cutting-edge photography and emerging talent.
Running from 01 July till 22 September, the festival is lead by director Sam Stourdzé for the sixth year. Last year, Stourdzé was criticised by a group of eminent photography specialists in an open letter urging him to include more women in the main programme. A year on, it seems they’ve taken the criticism on board. Marina Gadonneix, Germaine Krull, Helen Levitt, Evangelia Kranioti, Libuse Jarcovjakova, Camille Fallet, and Pixy Liao, among many more, appear on the main programme with solo shows; the festival also includes a section titled Replay, which is dedicated to female-led narratives.
Replay includes a group show titled The Unretouched Woman, which combines the work of Eve Arnold, Abigail Heyman and Susan Meiselas, whose photobooks from the 1970s challenged gender bias and celebrated women from across the globe. In the same section is a group exhibition of around 200 vintage prints by Berenice Abbott, Florence Henry, Germaine Krull and more, as well as Tom Wood’s Mothers, Girls, Sisters, which was shot in the suburbs of Liverpool between the early 1970s and late 1990s.
In 1997, a document titled A Study of Assassination was released by the CIA as part of the Freedom of Information Act. It is believed to have been created in 1953 with the purpose of instructing agents on how to kill, and was released with a collection of files relating to the 1954 CIA-backed overthrow of the-then newly-elected leader of Guatemala, Colonel Jacobo Arbenz Guzman. The operation in Guatemala was lobbied for by United Fruit Company, an American corporation that traded in tropical fruit, mainly bananas, and which wielded huge power in Central America at the time.
When he found out about these documents, George Selley was instantly captivated, and his new project, A Study of Assassination, combines pages from the manual with archival press images, banana advertisements and Cold War propaganda. BJP caught up with the recent London College of Communication MA graduate to find out more about this project and his approach to images.
Photomontage artist Peter Kennard is among 40 artists who have demanded their work be removed from London’s Design Museum after discovering the institution had hosted a private event associated with the arms trade. The museum complied with the requests to return work by 01 August, but defended its curatorial independence from its need to raise funds and sponsorships.
In an open letter, the artists said that they are “appalled” that the London institution arranged for Italian aerospace company Leonardo to hold an event on 17 July, during the Farnborough International Airshow. A demonstration outside the museum also took place on the same day (02 August) in which several artists arrived to collect their works.
“They had this amazing enthusiasm; a very creative enthusiasm,” says Peter Kennard, the well-known photomontage specialist and early member of the radical photography collective Half Moon Photography Workshop. “Camerawork contained all the different debates that were going on in photography at the time, but it was practical as well. The whole thing was about democratising photography.”
Radical Visions, a new exhibition at Four Corners in East London, reveals the lesser-known history of Camerawork magazine and its creators, the Half Moon Photography Workshop. The exhibition coincides with the launch of the Four Corners Archive, which has made all 32 issues of the magazine publicly available to view online.
The collective’s aim was to demystify the process of photography, and to use it as a tool for social change and political activism. The first issue of Camerawork, The Politics of Photography, published in February 1976, was stark black-and-white litho print on a broadsheet format – sheets of A2 paper folded to A3, then to A4 – and sold for 20p. It was pulled together over an all-night session fuelled by bagels and coffee at the Half Moon’s first studio in Chalk Farm.
“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.”