“I see the bastard countryside everywhere I go,” says Robin Friend, pointing out of the window of his studio in East London, where an ivy plant has climbed up a nearby wall and is wrapping its vines around a rusting CCTV camera. “I ran with this idea of city and countryside splattering into each other, creating this hybrid nature,” explains Friend, who has been producing photographs for his book, unknowingly at first, for 15 years since he started started his BA in Brighton, where he studied under Jem Southam.
“Bastard countryside” is a phrase coined by Victor Hugo in his novel Les Miserables, in which he describes the city of Paris as an “amphibian”, stretching out into the countryside and devouring everything in its path. It is a zone in which the urban and rural mix, the manmade and the natural, clashing and colliding to create a strange form of beauty and ugliness.
In the late 1700s and early 1800s, painters sometimes included ‘staffages’ in their work – human and animal figures that weren’t the primary figure, but which added life to the work. ‘Staffage’ means ‘accessories’ or ‘decoration’ in German, and was used to describe figures that had no specific identity or story, but which were included for compositional or decorative purposes.
It’s the name German-born artist Steffi Klenz has chosen for her latest series, which was commissioned by Tunbridge Wells Museum & Art Gallery and features objects from its collection. Researching the museum’s collections catalogue, Klenz got interested in museum theory – the idea that objects are given equal status through the way an institution registers, describes, displays and cares for them, and gain their value through the way they represent our shared stories.
If the inaugural Photo London seemed a little light on contemporary work, there is plenty in the fourth edition to show that the organisers were determined to do something about it. It is evident in the public programme, and it is there to see on the shop-floor too, with the Discovery section devoted to emerging galleries now given over to 25 dealers. Tristan Lund, formerly of Michael Hoppen Contemporary, now an art consultant and dealer in his own right, returns as curator, charged with injecting some cutting-edge elements into the fair, but remaining mindful of his responsibilities to the young galleries he is enticing in.
Fashion photography is changing – as Holly Hay and Shonagh Marshall, co-curators of a new three-part project entitled Posturing: Photographing the Body in Fashion, will attest. In November 2017, the pair held a London exhibition which placed 42 framed photographs and six magazine shoots in a west London space. It called into question both the function of this branch of contemporary image-making and the changing role of the figure in fashion imagery, placing work by Johnny Dufort, Marton Perlaki, Charlie Engman, Brianna Capozzi and others side by side. The show was followed by a specially commissioned film by artist Coco Capitán, Learning to Transcend the Physical Barrier That Owning a Body Implies, examining the respective practices of a choreographer, an artist and the founder of a traditional film-based darkroom, interrogating physical selfhood in all of its guises. This month, they launch the third part – a book created with Self Publish, Be Happy, in which photographers, stylists, editors and set designers respond to ideas about the body in fashion.
“In this series, I dissolve images and fragments of time,” says French photographer David Infante. The monochrome ‘portraits’ that make up Mirror without a memory certainly feel as if they are unfixed, spanning time as they shift and melt under a fragmented surface. Triggered by a period of solitude in London, he resurrected images from his archive, reprocessing his memories by selecting photographs, cutting them up and combining snippets to give them new forms. For Infante, slowing down time or wrestling many layers of it into one frame takes us into what he calls “parallel worlds”: a space to reflect and search for new meanings beyond the surface of the everyday. The photographer, who has just completed an MA at the Royal College of Art in London and is based in southern Portugal, ascribes his meditative approach to his early experience with analogue photography. “It brought me concentration and contemplation,” he explains.
Catherine Hyland’s fascination with landscape is the inspiration behind her otherworldly large format images depicting humanity’s attempts – some more effective than others – to tame the environment. It’s an observation that has led to both artistic and commercial commissions, with residencies at venues such as the Focal Point Gallery in Southend for the Radical Essex programme, the Cultural Association Su Palatu Fotografia in Sardinia and the Design Museum in London. She has also made a short documentary for the Sri Lanka Design Festival on the country’s eco-factories.
The International Photography Awards 2016 exhibition will be showing from the 25th February to the 12th March 2016 at London’s TJ Boulting gallery. Juno Calypso won the Series Award for Joyce, a collection of performative self-portraits that reflect on “modern rituals of seduction and the laboured construction of femininity.” The 26-year-old graduate of London College of Communication was chosen from over 1,500 entrants by a judging panel including The Guardian’s photography critic Sean O’Hagan, Self Publish, Be Happy founder Bruno Ceschel, TJ Boulting’s Hannah Watson and BJP’s Executive Editor Diane Smyth. As a photography student, Calypso spent her loan to fly to “the middle of nowhere in Pennsylvania,” alone, to picture herself in the state’s honeymoon hotels. “I began staging these photographs three years ago, using my grandma’s bedroom as the set, or a room found on Airbnb,” Juno tells BJP. “The idea always starts with the location – finding somewhere with a time-warp feel. This year I went to stay alone at a couple’s honeymoon resort in the US to continue the project. So it begins with an appreciation …