Photography Reviews

The Second Shift – Clare Gallagher

Sometimes I like photography work that is highly representational, but sometimes I love works that are just simple and more directive, that it doesn’t take a genius or knowledgeable brain to pick apart or understand. You know, entirely simple and close to us in our everyday.

Clare Gallagher, an Irish artist based in the UK, made laundry and the everyday chores just as beautiful. “Although there has been progress, women still resent the day-to-day reality of housework, its draining repetition and the anxieties it breeds,” Gallagher says. “The more I research the subject, the more I think it is tied to the relentless drive of capitalism, and informed by deeply embedded notions of female duty and respectability. What’s really annoying is that you become good at it – cooking dinner, cleaning, coaxing the kids, doing the laundry and making sure it dries fast. And then you go to your actual paid job. In both contexts, you are constantly being measured up and judged.” From the Guardian by Sean O’Hagan.

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© Clare Gallagher, from the book ‘The Second Shift’; Source @ Clare Gallagher

‘Few tasks are more like the torture of Sisyphus than housework, with its endless repetition. The clean becomes soiled, the soiled is made clean, over and over, day after day.’ — Simone de Beauvoir

‘And what’s worse is that all of it, all of this work that I shouldn’t be doing, is taking place in the one place I shouldn’t have to be doing work at all: in fact, the one place I come to get away from work. It is taking place at home.’ — Edward Hollis

Get the book here: The Second ShiftReview of the book by Jorg Colberg

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Photography Reviews

The Unforgetting – Peter Watkins

I’ve read much about this book The Unforgetting by Peter Watkins, from Tim Clark at 1000 Words and Brad Feuerhelm at ASX to being mentioned by a few as top favourites of photobooks 2019, to be honest, I didn’t quite get it at first other than the captivating cold black and white images of object assemblages and memorabilia. As Tim Clark mentioned, “the work is spared of sentimentality: objects are catalogued and composed in a manner that evokes early scientific photography or evidence gathered at a crime scene.”

The work is based on the history of his own family marked by the suicide of his mother when he was nine years old. The heart of the artist’s project is his reconciliation to that loss, through an examination of their shared German heritage.

“This is a work that explores the machinations of memory in relation to the experience of trauma,” says Watkins. “The culmination of several years work, The Unforgetting is a series made up of remnants, as well as the associated notions of time, recollection and impermanence, all bound up in the objects, places, photographs, and narrative structures circulated within the family.”

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Self Portrait (2011), an image that pictures the artist stripped from the waist up and seated on a hard wooden chair. His face is cast down, fist clenched, shoulders hunched. Numerous large circles scar his smooth skin: the legacy of cupping, a well-known Chinese treatment for depression. Source @ 1000 Words

© Peter Watkins, from the book ‘The Unforgetting’; Source @ Peter Watkins

What really inspired me about this work was that the work has taken several different iterations since he began in 2010. He started out quite differently, with more of a documentary approach, visited the place where his mother had died, and filmed the village where she grew up, and interviews with family members. “What I came to realise was that everything seemed too literal to me, it was too sad and too sentimental and obvious somehow. I noticed from the filmed interviews that my family’s recollections had somehow blurred and merged into a kind of unified narrative as if the passage of time had stripped away any sense of complexity and subjectivity from each individual’s experience.”

“I didn’t want the project to feel sentimental in the way that projects about this subject so often tend to feel. It was about finding a balance between thinking and feeling. e.g. the Super 8 canisters contain home movies of my mother and her family on holiday. Instead of using those kind of seductive Super 8 images, which carry an unavoidable nostalgia, I came to think of that one picture as a way of conflating all [of the others] into one single, mysterious image that resists that kind of sentimentality. It’s an important part of the work, that resistance to the obvious or the overtly emotive.” he says.

References:

https://fotoroom.co/the-unforgetting-peter-watkins/

http://www.1000wordsmag.com/peter-watkins%E2%80%A8/

https://www.bjp-online.com/2017/06/show-peter-watkins-the-unforgetting-at-the-webber-gallery/

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/mar/13/peter-watkins-photography-ghostly-reflection-on-grief-and-loss

https://americansuburbx.com/2015/02/peter-watkins-the-pain-of-loss-is-a-motherfucker.html

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Photography Reviews

Entrance to Our Valley – Jenia Fridlyand

“Entrance to Our Valley” was one of the picks from Photobookstores as one of the best photobooks 2019. Jenia Fridlyand, a Russian photographer, photographed with a large-format camera the 200-acre farm in the Hudson River Valley that Jenia and her husband bought for them and their entire family. The beautifully poetic black and white images of this place, which was purposed for a multi-generational home – “for our parents, who are now living more than five thousand miles from the place of their birth; for my husband and I, both first-generation immigrants; and for our children, so they could have the privilege of coming back to a place where they grew up.”

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© Jenia Fridlyand, from the book ‘Entrance to Our Valley’; Source @ Fotoroom

Her work reminded me of photographic works by Raymond Meeks, Mark Steinmetz, Bryan Schutmaat, Jonathan Levitt etc. To me, they all possess a similar type of visual aesthetics which is intimate, calm and subtle that feels timeless yet still contemporary. Maybe it’s the everydayness that I like about these works, as it is not context-specific which everyone can easily relate to. I can easily resonate with most of the images here even though I am not a Russian, nor do I have a farm or live in the States.

Other references:

https://collectordaily.com/jenia-fridlyand-entrance-to-our-valley/

 

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Photography Reviews

Radiator Theatre – Ina Jang

Korean born artist Ina Jang now currently based in New York turns amazing colourful photo collages into paintings. Her latest work Radiator Theatre uses abstract shapes and distinctive colour palettes in the resemblance of female figures: round bodies, ribbons, masks, legs, and heels.

How the work came to life, she mentioned, “for Radiator Theatre, I encouraged myself to let go of my usual processes. Back then, I was exploring photography as a way of documenting what’s around me – I liked its immediacy and directness. I started sketching ideas, and suddenly, it wasn’t enough only to photograph objects as I found them. To create the Radiator Theatre images, I made temporary, painted three-dimensional structures. The project is devoted to the relationship with one’s mother-tongue and our encounters with foreign languages.”

© Ina Jang, from the series ‘Radiator Theatre’ ; Source @ Unseen / Trendland

The work was created from a small set made by the artist on top of the radiator in her modest apartment in New York. Each of the abstract figures is imperfectly hand-cut, hand-coloured, and suggest narratives of their own. They would float listlessly against the background, if not for the shadows created by the sun that shines through the apartment’s window. Their dark shadows root the figures to the ground, creating a sense of space and a new language for relationships between moments in the photographs.

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Photography Reviews

Photobooks 2019 – Part 1

2019 has now ended, and as usual, there are always lists of best of at the end of the year. So reading through some if not most of the important best of photobook lists coming from Sean O’Hagan, Photobookstore, Photoeye, The Times, Aperture, ASX and BJP, here are the ones that caught my eye so far.

1. Paul’s Book by Collier Schorr published by MACK

© Collier Schorr, from the book ‘Paul’s Book’; Source @ MACK

‘There is a common assumption about youth which is: Youth is about youth. But that isn’t really true. Youth is really about the past. Youth is not the pool that young men gaze adoringly into; it is the pool that old men gaze in, in order to measure the distance their bodies have travelled’. – Collier Schorr

Collier Schorr met Paul Hameline, a young French artist and model, in New York in 2015. A friend of a friend, he came to her home for a ‘go-see’, which is when a photographer gets to see how a model looks in front of the camera. Paul’s family lives in the Marais section of Paris around the corner from the hotel Collier stays at while in Paris, so they began to meet and to make a project that lasted two years in which Collier would visit Paul at his parents’ house and take pictures and talk. The idea was for Paul and Collier to experience photography as a social space, a conversation in which his body and her eyes could try and understand each other’s fascinations and fantasies. Many of the pictures were published in Re Edition magazine. Paul’s Book expands that magazine story to form a larger piece about the way in which a photographer and model can search for some greater revelations with the simplest movements and various states of undress.

2. Because by Sophie Calle published by Editions Xavier Barral

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3. L’Inventaire Infini by Sebastien Lifshitz

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Both a filmmaker and major collector of vernacular photography since his teenage years, Sébastien Lifshitz gathers in this personal anthology over 300 images. A surprising collection from all periods and origins. Beyond the playful or aesthetic aspect of this corpus structured under different themes, each set of images presents details that characterise an individual, a social class, or a lifestyle. The attention to clothing, the zoom on parts of the body, staging, and errors – all of the things that amateur photography explores allows the unique characteristics of the individual to be expressed. One encounters the same investigations as in visuals arts in this amateur approach. Each series is accompanied by a text written by photography historian Isabelle Bonnet. It thus resituates the themes broached within a particular context, exploring their aesthetic and conceptual qualities.

4. The Park by Kohei Yoshiyuki published by Hatje Cantz/Yossi Milo 

© Kohei Yoshiyuki, from the book ‘The Park’; Source @ Radius Books

For his notorious Park photos, taken by night in Tokyo’s Shinjuku, Yoyogi, and Aoyama parks during the 1970s, Kohei Yoshiyuki used a 35mm camera, infrared film and flash to capture a secret community of lovers and voyeurs. His pictures document the people who gathered in these parks at night for clandestine trysts, as well as the many spectators lurking in the bushes who watched—and sometimes participated in—these couplings.

With their raw, snapshot-like quality, these images not only uncover the hidden sexual exploits of their subjects, both same-sex and heterosexual, but they also serve as a chronicle of a Japan we rarely see. As Martin Parr writes in The Photobook: A History Volume II, The Park is “a brilliant piece of social documentation, capturing perfectly the loneliness, sadness and desperation that so often accompany sexual or human relationships in a big, hard metropolis like Tokyo.”
5. Positive Disintegration by Tania Franco Klein published by Editions Bessard

© Tania Franco Klein, from the book ‘Positive Disintegration’; Source @ Tania Franco Klein

The work is influenced by the pursuit of the American Dream lifestyle in the Western World and contemporary practices such as leisure, consumption, media overstimulation, eternal youth, and the psychological sequels they generate in our everyday private life. The project seeks to evoke a mood of isolation, desperation, vanishing, and anxiety, through fragmented images, that exist both in a fictional way and a real one.

Philosopher Byung-Chul Han says we live in an era of exhaustion and fatigue, caused by an incessant compulsion to perform. We have left behind the immunological era, and now experience the neuronal era characterized by neuropsychiatric diseases such as depression, attention deficit, hyperactivity disorder, burnout syndrome, and bipolar disorder. Drawing inspiration from his theories, Mexican photographer Tania Franco Klein places this contradiction at the centre of her autobiographical project.

The constant need to escape, to always look outside. Her characters find themselves almost anonymous, melting in places, vanishing into them, constantly looking for any possibility of escape. They find themselves alone, desperate and exhausted. Constantly in an odd line between trying and feeling defeated.

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Photography Reviews

I Am Fat – Marie Hald

Danish photographer Marie Hald who won the World Press Photo Award, The Danish Picture of the Year and many other international prizes focuses thoroughly on projects about women and their relationship to beauty and the female body.

Recently I discovered her series “I am fat” through Witness, a publication on Medium, which documents girls from Scandinavia who are considered “fat” in the public eye.

“They’ve had enough. They refuse to be ashamed. They refuse to hide. And they’ve had enough of being shouted at. Stared at. Laughed at. Spat at. Of being objects of ridicule and hate on social media.”

Hald portrays young Scandinavian women who insist on living in their fat bodies without trying to change or become smaller. It is not a way of promoting fatness, it is about the permission to exist. Without being shamed.

The portraits of the girls are beautiful, showing dignity, power, confidence, and freedom. There is a sense of warmth in these photographs, and the way she chose to do the portraits intertwines with the everydayness e.g. riding the bike, being with a loved one, drinking a cup of tea etc. Even her choice of locations is very home-based or nature-based, reflecting on the concept that “fatness” is similar to our nature – it just exists.

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© Marie Hald, from the series ‘I Am Fat’ ; Source @ Marie Hald

The problem of how they are being portrayed in the public still exists in the system and in society, even for countries like Denmark and Sweden. “Society talks about being fat like it’s a choice. You could just lose the weight, right? It’s not at all that simple.”

“I hired a ‘duola’ (a birth assistant)… but at the same time, I think it’s absolutely insane that I have to spend a thousand pounds from my own pocket to make sure that I’m treated as a human being by the health care system.”

“We were together the whole time. I thought we were probably soon going to be boyfriend and girlfriend — so I asked him. And he simply replied: ‘Well, I can’t be with you in the street. I can’t take you home to my family and friends. You’re fat.’”

To look on the controversy side, Hald created a new story called “The Girls from Malawa” which focuses on girls who have anorexia and bulimia. They all ties in with her earlier work called “Perfect Girls” which talks about the portray of being a woman in the current society. “My generation of girls does not compete for anything. We’re just fighting ourselves. Expectations for us are fierce and we feel tremendous pressure: To be right, to become something special. Stand out and perform. One must not fall into one with the crowd. We live in a time where we learn that we need to have the X-Factor. And if you can get famous it is top-notch. We must be slim, smart, look good, be good lovers and live a good social life. But what happens when the pressure becomes too much?”

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Photography Reviews

Summer Camp – Mark Steinmetz

American photographer, Mark Steinmetz, is known for his timeless photographs of “ordinary people in the ordinary landscapes they inhabit.” As Jorg Colberg says in one of his articles,

“If anything, what we really should be talking about when we use the word “timeless” is a photographer’s sensibility, a sensibility that in some form is translated into the pictures: what do the photographs make us feel (instead of: what do we see)? Are those feelings tied to specific eras, or do they connect to something that falls outside of the continuum of time? And what would that falling out of time mean?”

For the recent listed best photobook of the year 2019 by Chose Commune at BJP  ‘Summer Camp’, it is a book about youths during trips away at summer camp. Whether it is in the 60s or in the 90s, the feeling of leaving home and entering a space with other kids just before their teenage years can easily resonate with many of the viewers – the “timelessness” of this book. The photographer brilliantly captured the moments of the excitement, the pain, the friendships, the late games etc, just as they are, with a touch of tenderness and softnesses.  It marks the transition period from kids to adolescence, where as Steinmetz described, “when a little kid laughs or cries, it doesn’t have real resonance, whereas if someone has these emotions between eight and 12, there’s a poignancy to it. When they become adults, it’s just not the same. Many of these photos are about the predicament of being a kid put into a certain situation. In one picture, these girls who have been so horrible to each other all summer are now parting – and the depth of their love just gushes out. It’s almost excruciating…”

Summercamp-2© Mark Steinmetz, from the series ‘Summer Camp’ ; Source @ Mark Steinmetz

© Mark Steinmetz, from the series ‘Summer Camp’ ; Source @ Mark Steinmetz

Note: Also check out his most recent work ‘Terminus’, another brilliant series.

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Photography Reviews

Apple – Zhang Xiao

Zhang Xiao the star photographer from China who’s best known for his work “coastline” has been making works rigorously ever since (as he shared on the projection night). The installation work “Apple” was one of the main exhibitions showcased at the Lianzhou Museum of Photography during the festival.

Using apple as the anchor point, the work talks about how the cultivation of apple from the west brings in apple industrialisation in his hometown, Yantai and how that impacts on local people as well as the environment.

© Michelle Chan, series ‘Apple’ by Zhang Xiao at 15th Edition Lianzhou Foto Festival 2019

The work presented was a multi-media work with photographs, polaroid emulsion prints, videos and a apple tree sculpture installation that narrates the story from how apples are collected and industrialised to markets and other trading centres, to the effect it has on the environment and the society. The progression of the exhibition goes from photographs and a video of how apples are processed in the factories to a wall of meticulous yet beautiful photographs of death birds. Zhang uses birds as the channel for the storytelling because many birds are trapped in-between electrical fences that were built to protect the apples in the factories. The way they were photographed felt very much like corpse photographs but also photographs of specimen where the choice of printing on acrylic or glass reinforces the feeling of preciousness of these corpses. The very last piece of artwork was created from a collaboration with the local people putting fake apples printed “Gong Hei Fat Choi” onto winter trees, symbolising their wishes for prosperity for the coming year. This work shows how the value of apple as just a simple type of food changes according to human impacts.

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Photography Reviews

Tales of the Invisible – Yanxin Guo

A hidden gem from the Lianzhou Foto festival was the series by Yanxin Guo “Tales of the Invisible”. Stamping from her personal experience when she returned to China last summer where she witnessed the biggest typhoon yet and 13 people died, it strikes her that the invisible can become something powerful and one should never overlook.

© Yanxin Guo, from the series ‘Tales of the Invisible’ ; Source @ Yanxin Guo

Her series of photographs are images which hints the invisibles through the visible. Clean, poetic and sentimental images transcend this strong feeling that there is some magical power in the nature which is stirring behind e.g. an image of a gush of water in the ocean pairing with the boy curling up, or the lite up trees at night pairing with a portrait of a Chinese girl with her hair blowing.

© Yanxin Guo, from the series ‘Tales of the Invisible’ ; Source @ Yanxin Guo

The images are subtle, which combined with the fragmented story written by Guo reinforced further the concept of “Tales of the Invisible”. The series is highly metaphorical yet could be easily felt and filled the room with mystery.

© Yanxin Guo, from the series ‘Tales of the Invisible’ ; Source @ Yanxin Guo

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© Michelle Chan, series ‘Tales of the Invisible’ by Yanxin Guo at 15th Edition Lianzhou Foto Festival 2019

 

The book will be printed soon so watch out for this one.

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