“For me the beach is the perfect place to observe people,” wrote Massimo Vitali on his blog back in July 2018. “In other words, we go to the beach to take pictures of people, not to take pictures of the beach. The beach is the most suitable place to observe human beings’ behavior, the existence of us human beings. How do people share the space on the beach, how are they staring at each other, or are they looking the other way? This is more important than geographical elements.
His new series, Short Stories, features plenty of beach scenes, often shot in his native Italy. Born in Como in 1944, Vitali studied photography at the London College of Printing and worked as a photojournalist in the 1960s and 70s before becoming a cinematographer for TV and film in the early 1980s. He started to shoot large format photographs in 1993, finding fame with his work Beach Scenes in 1995. He’s also shot crowds in other landscapes though, including in nightclubs, and the new portfolio includes these other social spaces as well as beach scenes.
The subtitle of Patrick Waterhouse’s latest work, Restricted Images, is Made with the Warlpiri of Central Australia – and the word ‘with’ is notable. Over repeated trips, the 37-year-old Briton began to collaborate with, photograph and collect the work of Warlpiri artists, basing himself at the Warlukurlangu Artists art centre in the Northern Territory, five hours’ drive from Alice Springs.
“I wanted to create a situation where the people I was working with had an encounter again, a chance to flip the power dynamic,” he tells me over coffee at his new studio in east London. He is surrounded by prints from the series, neatly packaged and ready to travel with him two days later to Australia for the next chapter of a project that started in 2011 when, through his editorship of the iconic Colors magazine, he first visited the art centre. “I wanted to give the people in this community agency over their own representations,” he says.
Publications we loved, and the big news stories from the last month in photobooks – including the nominees from the 2019 Mack First Book Award and an interview with photobook collector extraordinaire Manfred Heiting
“Chobi Mela continues the way it began,” writes Shahidul Alam. “Unyielding to power.” He’s referencing the very first Chobi Mela festival, which opened in Dhaka, Bangladesh back in 2000. Alam and Robert Pledge had painstakingly put together an exhibition on Bangladesh’s 1971 war, which a government minister – phoning at midnight – wanted to censor; rather than comply and remove the offending prints, Alam and Pledge moved the entire exhibition to a new venue, which opened at 3pm the next day.
“That is how we’ve always done it,” writes Alam, the founder of Chobi Mela. “Against the odds, facing the storm, with the wind against our face.”
Though he doesn’t mention it outright, it’s difficult to read his comments now without also thinking of Alam’s own recent experience, in which he spent 107 days in Dhaka Central Jail last year. The 63-year old photographer and Drik Gallery director was arrested on 05 August after stating in an interview with Al Jazeera that the wave of student protests in Bangladesh last year was a reaction to government corruption. He was charged with violating Section 57 of Bangladesh’s Information and Communication Technology Act (ICT) – which has been used in more than 20 recent cases involving journalists, most of them related to news-reporting – and was held for more than 100 days.
Our pick of the key stories from the past week, including the World Press Photo and MACK First Book Award nominees, and interviews with Iain McKell, Tommaso Rada, and Mona Kuhn
“I got into photography because I’m a little restless, and I liked that it was fast,” says Brazilian photographer Mona Kuhn, who has just published her sixth book with Steidl, She Disappeared Into Complete Silence. Even so, the speed of photography haunted her, as Kuhn feared that her photographs would be consumed then discarded – like so many of the magazines she read and tossed away. “I wanted to stop time with photography,” she says. “That’s another reason I got into nudes, for the timeless aspect.”
She Disappeared Into Complete Silence is an experimental project shot in Acido Dorado, a reflective house in the middle of the Californian desert designed by American architect Robert Stone. Inside it are mirrored ceilings and walls, which refract sheets of golden desert light that flood the house. Here, Kuhn presents a solitary nude on the edge of the desert, removed from any symbols of time, creating “an abstraction of being,” and “a space where our mind resides”.
Our pick of the key stories from the past week, including details of Photo London 2019, an interview with Don McCullin, an interview with photobook specialist Manfred Heiting, and several emerging photographers
Manfred Heiting started collecting photobooks in the 1970s, turning to it in earnest in the 1990s and creating a library that was considered one of the most complete in the world, including a copy of most of the important photobooks that appeared from 1888-1970 in Europe, the United States, the Soviet Union, and Japan. This collection formed the basis of several compendium books published by Steidl, including “Autopsie” – German Photobooks 1918-1945, The Soviet Photobook 1920-1941, and The Japanese Photobook 1912-1990 – but sadly, it was decimated in the California wildfires of 2018, when it went up in smoke along with Heiting’s home in Malibu. As Steidl publishes a new book by Heiting, Czech and Slovak Photo Publications, 1918-1989, BJP caught up with him.
“Nothing seemed to me more appropriate than to project an image of our time with absolute fidelity to nature by means of photography… Let me speak the truth in all honesty about our age and the people of our age.” These are the words of August Sander, one of the most poignant figures in the history of photography, best-known for his ambitious, lifelong project, where he sought to create a comprehensive photographic work that faithfully represented the physiognomy of German society.
People of the 20th Century, as it was eventually named, is an attempt at a social portrait of the everyday German man and woman living in the 1900s – a period of time which, unbeknownst to the photographer at its inception, would give way to two world wars, the largest migration of people in human history, and ethical, economic and political hysteria.
BJP’s annual Cool + Noteworthy issue is back, presenting the people, places and projects that have caught our eye over the past year.
Among this year’s noteworthies is the photographer behind our cover story, Tyler Mitchell, who became the first black cover photographer of American Vogue when he shot Beyoncé for the September 2018 issue. He tells the BJP about his new-found mission since returning home after living in London: “I realised I have a responsibility to be, specifically, a black American photographer and filmmaker.”
We also spotlight Kensuke Koike, a Japanese collagist who gives new life to old photo albums. Koike has attracted a loyal following on Instagram with his savvy cut-and-move videos, making his latest book one of the most anticipated on 2018. Feng Li is another newcomer who has made waves in fashion photography over the past year. This issue we feature Li’s playful fashion shoot in his native Chengdu, a creative city on the rise in China.