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Urbanautica

your daily source of images

KEMPENAERS: ENJOY THE PROCESS

Breese Little, Londono
19.09.2014 - 25.10.2014

Jan Kempenaers: Enjoy the Process is a substantial mid‐career survey of Jan Kempenaers’ new and recent work. BREESE LITTLE will present a focus on the Antwerp‐based artist’s output across the ground floor gallery, introducing the breadth of Kempenaers’ work beyond his most renowned images. This will include a number of photographic series and individual images largely unseen in this country, accompanied by Kempenaers’ recent experiments with screen‐printing and a full display of the artist’s books.

Kempenaers’ photographic body of work is highly considered and meticulously compiled. Most series are restricted to a few carefully chosen shots of striking compositions. A glimpse of the artist’s website shows this archiving procedure, which shaves down any surplus imagery in favour of crucially representative images. The photographer presents a spectacle of cities and nature linked by understatement. Unusual vantage points and vistas are achieved without the crutch of Photoshop, resulting in a characteristic purism. S.F. – L.A. (2010), on display for the first time in the UK at BREESE LITTLE, documents a road trip down the West Coast of America, privileging plants, trees and cacti along the route, whether in the desert or the central reservation of a highway.

© Jan Kempenaers, Spomenik #17 (Kolašin), 2009

Kempenaers is best known for the stark photographs of his Spomenik series, iconic images charting World War Two memorials commissioned by General Tito in the 1960s and ‘70s in the former Yugoslavia. Crucial to his career and recent development, a number of Spomeniks will feature in the exhibition, focusing on those that are not much exhibited in this country. The Spomeniks will be exhibited alongside new works entitled Ghost Spomeniks, monochrome re‐workings of Kempenaers’ original views of the monuments.

© Jan Kempenaers, Spomenik #4 (Tjentište), 2007

Screen‐printing was likewise the focus of a 2014 residency at Frans Masereel Centrum, Belgium, a departure from Kempenaers’ signature approach of rigorous structure into unusually free form images, initially inspired by a similar foray into abstract photography by Lázló Moholy‐Nagy (1895 ‐ 1946). Alongside his affiliation with KASK/School of Arts Ghent, Kempenaers collaborates on site‐specific social art integration projects and artist workshops. A recent initiative resulted in the artist book Satellite Building: Kasper Andreasen & Jan Kempenaers, which will be on display during Enjoy the Process, alongside Kempenaers’ photographic books with Roma Publications. 

© Breese Little | Jan Kempenaers

WAWRZYNIEC KOLBUSZ

SACRED DEFENSE

Sacred Defense is a story of producing artificial war images, from raw materials used in their making to their social reception. It not only traces the existing modes of construction of fake war narrations and images. It mainly creates new war-related simulacra in digitally amended satellite images of Iranian nuclear installations.

imageSacred Defense is a tantalizing game, in which alluring images make us believe we see the war. We are looking at illusions, however. We follow how the war simulacra of social and political importance are being constructed within different spaces and narrations. A cinema city, constructed only for the purpose of shooting war movies, is a self-referencing space, created not to be experienced itself, but to become an image of war. Museums mimic the wartime reality in the smallest detail; with wax figures of fallen martyrs allowing to meet dead heroes again; and plastic replicas of antipersonnel mines sold as souvenirs. A nation is curing its trauma by enhancing its own image - by beating the world record in the number of aesthetic nose surgery; yet this means wearing new bandages.

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From a play between the real and the unreal, a copy and the original, the author leads us to the point where he creates his own, new simulation. He amends satellite images of the Iranian nuclear installations with mutually exclusive versions of destruction, which may be caused by the US/Israeli strike. Buildings destroyed in some images stand intact in others, and all parallel versions of the same event are presented on a single satellite map.

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On the one hand, we have alternative versions of destruction, but at the same time we see a multiplication of the same strike, a repetition required, to use Milan Kundera”s view, to create real meaning in historical events. Yet in his self-referencing simulations, the author does not use past events as a basis, but instead is plotting alternatives of an event that never happened despite being widely discussed in the media.

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Sacred Defense is embedded in the post-war reality of the Iraq-Iran war (1980 - 1988), an internationally forgotten conflict which cost nearly a million lives and caused a deep national trauma with consequences comparable to the impact of the Second World War on Western societies. In the Iranian historiography, this war is called the Sacred Defense War; a very particular concoction of religion and war.

© Wawrzyniec Kolbusz

RUSSIAN SELF-PUBLISHED BOOKS

UNSEEN PHOTO FAIR

18th September – 21th Semptember 2014 will take place Third International Unseen Photo Fair in Amsterdam, which is focused on undiscovered photography talent and unseen work by established photographers. Organizers traditionally pay much attention to the photobooks. The Unseen Book Market is an integral part of Unseen’s festivities. It celebrates the independent publisher, beautiful books and their creators, and provides a meeting place for book makers and book lovers. It is the place to meet the artists and will provide a stage to present new publications.

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FotoDepartment’s stand with Russian self-published books will be presented at UNSEEN - Photography Fair Amsterdam Book Market for the first time. Here will be presented about 20 newest editions of Russian authors from Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kazan and Chelyabinsk including several mentioned books of young Russian photographers: 

- Kirill Savchenkov. Iceberg / Short list MACK First book award 2014;
- Elena Kholkina. Did we ever meet? / Winner of the Rock Your Dummy Prize at a fringe event Le Photobookfest 2013 in Paris;
- Jana Romanova. Shvilishvili / Selected for the shortlist of the 50 books in the International Photobook Festival 2014, Kassel, Germany;
- Julia Borissova. The Farther Shore / Selected for the shortlist of the 50 books in the International Photobook Festival 2013, Kassel, Germany

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Some books will launched for the first time: 

- Sergey Artemyev / St-Petersburg. “Olympia” - on example of Sochi Olympic games aggressivly media translation artist noticed the loss of influence of media;
- Irina Zadorozhnaia / St-Petersburg. “The drill charted a point…” - abstract-philosophic photobook, attempt to catch a thinking process through image;
- Katya Yushkevich / St-Petersburg. “Four letters. First - L.” - project in which the  artist makes experiments on himself, reflect on our society and on the surrounding reality;
- Anna Vahitova / Kazan. “Marker” - examining the notion of trace in literal and metaphorical sense through the features of photographic medium;
- Fedor Shklyaruk / Moscow. “On Aether” - how intangible appears through the photography;

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© Fotodepartment

NG SAI KIT: AN EXPANDED DEFINITION

BY STEVE BISSON

Some say that if art could be explained in words it would have no reason to exist. Whether we like it or not, I believe that an art work cannot be read without taking into account the evolution of the artist. A path which insists in the ongoing process of art history. 

Speaking of Ng Sai Kit’s visual research we cannot but recognize that the definition of landscape, rather than the landscape itself, is a key aspect of investigation or a necessary pretext. The artist proves to be willing to challenge the ‘seeing’, and thus the mind, before any description of others.

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© Installation view ‘dis/close’ at Osage Gallery, Hong Kong by Ng Sai Kit

In this sense, Ng Sai Kit does not try to please the human eye imitating reality, or trying to represent possible impressions; he strives to build a new reality, that must feel true in all respects. Rather than describe faithfully the surrounding world, he breaks down - with a ‘cubist’ attitude - the reality in levels, shapes, spots and synthesizes in a single series different points of view, which in reality could not be adopted simultaneously. Of this principle of attention we can find numerous references in his earlier works, and particularly in the Meta Landscape series where he seems to experience a deconstructive strategy. 

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© Installation view ‘dis/close’ at Osage Gallery, Hong Kong by Ng Sai Kit

Of this lack of interest in the realistic rendering of the landscape and hence of human figures, we find an almost final statement in the most recent series based on Instagram solutions. This particular technique led him to obtain images of an apparent incomprehensibility, as they are completely different from what our experience is accustomed to when seeing things.

The landscape is split in a multiplicity of points of view to get an almost “total” view of the landscape. In the transition from the vertical grey sections of Meta Landscape to the explosion in multiple colored faces of Instagrams [Sai Kit has no work titled “Instagrams”. Should it be “the Instagram pictures” ? Or “The Faces of the Other” ?] we recognize the gradual breakdown of the uniqueness point of view, and in fact the introduction into the photographic representation of the element time. The frequent presence of diorama - whether as vernacular fragments of nature or of human bodies - demonstrates even more a need to perceive different moments of the same scene. Ng Sai Kit suggests that reality cannot be read and understood at a glance instant. It must be perceived with a precise time of reading, which allows to analyze the individual parts, and re-build them mentally, to come gradually from the image to its meaning. 

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© Installation view ‘dis/close’ at Osage Gallery, Hong Kong by Ng Sai Kit

The simultaneous viewing of different points of view of figure applies in particular to the series Faces of the Other that deliberately deceives the observer. In the reproduction of Botticelli’s Venus - crumpled in the ground - I see the female faceted appearance of Picasso’s Femme nue dans un fauteuil but above all the inexorable decay of the image itself.  

Almost as in Mimmo Rotella’s torn iconic posters, Ng Sai Kit’s faces establish an ambivalent relationship with reality. Photography goes beyond the reality, but cannot ignore it. The artist works a renewal movement tended to get out of the picture, to get hold of a new physical size of the existing. 

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© Catalog ‘dis/close’ of Ng Sai Kit by Osage Gallery, Hong Kong, 2014

I hear therefore an echo of the critic Pierre Restany. The tearing anonymous, the sudden outbreak of a face, the appearance of a body, take on unexpected importance since they are equipped with a demystifying overexposure. The images have become more real than the myth that they claim to embody, more real than the reality they represent. A doubt may cross our mind when we look at Ng Sai Kit’s photograph depicting a picture of Jimi Hendrix printed on someone’s tshirt.

The work of Ng Sai Kit, and its orientation to new perceptual approaches to reality, follows in the footsteps of the new conceptual realism, and in the wake of those artists that in the context of 20th-century consumer society and industrial expansion sought to reaffirm a humanistic ideal. The more we observe the same thing, the more we empty it of meaning, and this is why the artist must act in the opposite way, uploading new meanings to reality in a final attempt to come to a new awareness.

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© Catalog ‘dis/close’ of Ng Sai Kit by Osage Gallery, Hong Kong, 2014

It should also be noticed in this body of work a significant experimental aftertaste, that is expressed by a tendency to abstraction, into something purely mental, without any relationship with the concreteness of reality. Furthermore, I see Ng Sai Kit’s interest for a sculptural translation of objects. The artist seems to seek the essential aspect of the objects beyond the outward appearance, made of colors and volumes, which may change over time. There is confidence and creativity in the images created by the Hong Kong-based photographer, yet I see also the ability to cut out significant moments from reality, as well as a desire to translate the pictures into pieces of simplicity that joined together may constitute a new poetics of being in a place. 

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© Catalog ‘dis/close’ of Ng Sai Kit by Osage Gallery, Hong Kong, 2014

In all this we can not but recognize in Ng Sai Kits’ latest research a willingness to question the role of photography, and to respond to the growing demand on its future. “Is photography over?” was the provocation launched by the curators Sandra S. Phillips and Dominic Willsdon at the symposium held by San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in April 2010. Certainly we know that the digital revolution has transformed the landscape of photography. As Trevor Paglen put it «Photography theory and criticism has less and less to do with the way photography is actually practiced by most people (and as we will see, most machines) most of the time».[Trevor Paglen ‘Is Photography Over?, Still Searching Blog, FotoMuseum Winterthur] In this sense, the attempt to embrace, almost evocatively if not provocatively, a new technological means as Instagram, demonstrates the author’s desire to get away from anachronistic contentions, to focus once again on the content of the photograph, and to explore the implications of an increasingly expanded definition of photography.

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© Installation view ‘dis/close’ at Osage Gallery, Hong Kong by Ng Sai Kit

We are left with a question: what is happening to the landscape of Ng Sai Kit? Is it fading? Was the philosopher Jean Baudrillard right when he wrote that «Every photographed object is merely the trace left behind by the disappearance of all the rest»?  [“Jean Baudrillard: Art and Artefact”, edited by Nicholas Zurbrugg, Sage Pubblications Ltd, 1997]

::dis/close: A Solo Exhibition by Ng Sai Kit
Osage Gallery, Hong Kong
05.09.2014 - 30.09.2014
Curated by Chloe Chu, Yohsuke Ishizuka

If Instagram killed photography, what is Ng Sai Kit doing on it? For the last two years, the established Hong Kong photographer has been an active Instagrammer. Rather than your usual selfies, food-porn, and travel diary however, Ng’s Instagrams of abject spaces and imageries probe the found physical and cultural frames that are enclosed within his own. Through Ng’s series of Instagram works, dis/close aims to investigate how social dynamics are embedded within our information networks, and technological hardware, determining what and how we see, as well as the frictions and synergies between social media platforms and photographic languages.

© Ng Sai Kit | Osage Gallery

JONI STERNBACH AND THE DISCOVERY OF THE NEW YORK SUBWAY 1975-1980

THE PASSENGERS

Rick Wester Fine Art, New York
06.09.2014 - 25.10.2014

Joni Sternbach, known internationally for her extensive documentation of surfers and surf culture using the archaic wet-plate collodion tintype process, had 25 years of experience photographing before delving into her 19th century process revival. In what may seem to be a huge surprise to all who know her solely for the unique images on metal plates, Rick Wester FIne Art is very pleased to present ‘Joni Sternbach: The Passengers’, an exhibition of photographs dating from the mid-1970s to 1980 when she was extensively photographing underground in the New York City subway.

© Joni Sternbach, The Passengers (Father and Daughter), ca. 1975

This recently rediscovered body of work establishes her as a humanist photographer capable of great empathy and sensitivity at a time when “street photography” invariably reflected the formal and disassociated conditions of the era. In The Passengers, Sternbach posits herself as an intimate observer, a passenger herself but one capable of objective distance. Invariably, any photographer working in the New York City subway draws comparisons to Walker Evans’ Many Are Called. Unlike Evans however, Sternbach does not rely upon a hidden camera to capture the alienated and self absorbed state of many riders. She has an eye for the dispossessed, whether it be an older gentleman seated by himself, lost in thought, or a father, the lone occupant of a subway car, his attention poured into the baby carriage before him. Children are a central theme to the work, in retrospect acting metaphorically for the photographer’s own nascent talent just beginning to find its way in the world.

© Joni Sternbach, The Passengers (Woman from Clarck Street Station), ca. 1975

Sternbach received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from the School of Visual Arts, New York in 1977, followed by a Master of Arts from New York University and the International Center of Photography in 1987. From 1976 to 1983 she worked as a professional black and white printer for various clients including Magnum Photos, New York; Danny Lyon, Dennis Stock and Horst P. Horst. The rare vintage prints on view attest to her talent. Most of the images exist in a limited number of copies and many are unique. To more fully represent the work, recent prints of certain images have been produced in small editions.

© Joni Sternbach, The Passengers (Corner Seat), ca. 1975

Joni Sternbach is a New York based photographic artist specializing in the tintype, a wet-plate collodion process invented in the 1850s. Her first monograph, Surfland (Photolucida, 2009) is illustrated with 52 images of tintypes of surfers. Her first exhibition at RWFA, Surfland Revisited 2006-2011 was held in May 2012. She was also featured in the exhibition Not Long Hidden from January - March 2014. Another monograph, Promise Land was published by the UK-based boutique publisher Café Royal Books in 2013. Earlier this year, The Passengers was also published by CRB and quickly sold out of its edition of 150. Next spring Damiani Editore, the Italian book publisher, will release Surf Site Tin Type, a retrospective catalogue of images produced since Sternbach’s first monograph Surfland was released in 2006.

© Rick Wester Fine Art | Joni Sternbach

PURE PHOTOGRAPHY AT THE SOUTHEAST MUSEUM

PICTORIAL AND MODERN PHOTOGRAPHS FROM THE SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY ART COLLECTION

Southeast Museum,
12.09.2014 - 14.12.2014

The evolution of photography as an art form has been influenced by countless individuals, thematic styles, and chemical processes. At its earliest, photography was largely utilized to document images of what surrounded or intrigued the public eye. Daguerreotypes captured portraits of military and presidential figures. Large format cameras were brought onto the battlefield to portray the true nature of war. Carte de visites revealed foreign lands and served as souvenirs of a journey. As more individuals gravitated towards the new process, the idea that photography could be a form of art rather than a form of documentation captured the attention of many artists, most notably Alfred Stieglitz. The result was the formation of the Photo Secession and the establishment of Pictorialism.

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© Alfred Steiglitz, The Steerage, 1907

"There were men, women and children on the lower level of the steerage….The scene fascinated me: A round straw hat; the funnel leaning left, the stairway leaning right; the white drawbridge, its railings made of chain; white suspenders crossed on the back of a man below; circular iron machinery; a mast that cut into the sky, completing a triangle. I stood spellbound for a while. I saw shapes related to one another-a picture of shapes, and underlying it, a new vision that held me…" - Alfred Stieglitz

© Adolf Fassbender, The Sailors Menace, 1930

Pictorial Photography emerged from the shadows of a “point and shoot” craft into an aesthetic where artists strived to create painterly, romantic images. Through the use of soft focus lenses, photographers believed they had found a unique outlet for artistic expression. More importantly, the utilization of labor intensive printing processes such as the Photogravure and Chloride Print allowed the artist an opportunity to mimic brush strokes, eliminate the sharpness of a photographic image, and create rich tones in printed images. This stylistic choice is evident in Adolf Fassbender’s The Sailors Menace. The photograph’s soft, undefined lines could easily allow the image to be mistaken by the naked eye for a painting, etching, or drawing.

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© Berenice Abbott, Fulton Fish Market, c1949, from the series, Changing New York 

However, as the processes associated with the medium evolved so did the concept of photography as an art form. What was considered the preeminent method to express artistic vision through the camera soon fell out of fashion as a more modern concept of photography emerged. The artists who once embraced the illusion of manipulated photographs, such as Paul Strand, began to favor a straighter version of photography. This form of photography, termed Pure or Straight, focused on recreating a scene as truthfully as possible without any manipulation. It was the opposite of its pictorial ancestor of the early 1900s. As such, Modern Photography was born.

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© Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Retrato de lo eterno [Portrait of the Eternal], 1935

There was no longer the need for direct manipulation in photography in order to justify it as art. The pure beauty of a photograph was beginning to shine through as Modern photographers learned how to capture images that had always surrounded us, yet were seldom seen. As a result, images emerged that portrayed men at work, angles of light highlighting a woman’s profile, and the inner beauty of a Calla Lily. Unseen by many on a daily basis, these subjects were now captured and intensified by the wonder of photography. The modern ideal was to make these unique perspectives seen and in doing so create an aesthetically pleasing, pure photograph.

© Southeast Museum

JOSEF KOUDELKA THROUGH GREEK AND ROMAN VESTIGES

Jakopič Gallery, Ljubljana
20.05.2014 - 03.09.2014

Josef Koudelka, one of the world’s most acknowledged masters of photography, a member of Magnum Photos and the winner of prestigious photography prizes, who has to date shown his work in major centres of photography and contemporary art around the world, is to be presented in Slovenia for the first time at the Jakopič Gallery. Between 20 May and 3 September, the Sledi / Vestiges 1991–2012 exhibition will be on display within the framework of the Month of Photography 2014 and the pan-city project Emona 2000. The show will also be accompanied by a varied programme.

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© Josef Koudelka, book ’Sledi / Vestiges 1991–2012’

According to the curator Marija Skočir, ‘Sledi / Vestiges 1991–2012’ is an exhibition comprising monumental black-and-white panoramic photographs taken by Josef Koudelka during the mentioned time span in 19 countries by the Mediterranean Sea while he was visiting over 200 ancient Greek and Roman archaeological sites. The exhibition offers an insight into a unique and intimate research journey which has not yet come to an end: Koudelka continues to visit archaeological sites in Greece, Turkey, Tunis, Algeria, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and other Mediterranean countries where he, displaying limitless perseverance and requiring little help, documents ruins from a different, entirely individual vantage point.

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© Josef Koudelka, Atene, Greece,1991

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© Josef Koudelka, book ’Sledi / Vestiges 1991–2012’

In his photographs, Koudelka preserves the world we are leaving behind and losing sight of. However, he does not do this as a photojournalist nor is he driven by a wish to create documentary photographs. Koudelka records monuments, those mighty traces of man’s activity, in periods of the day which allow them to appear in their innermost essence and in the complete absence of any live presence around them. The images convey the photographer’s experience of the monologue conveyed by the silence of the ruins, inviting the viewer to enter through the photographs into this world of glorious witnesses of the past.

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© Josef Koudelka, book ’Sledi / Vestiges 1991–2012’

The photographs are taken with a panoramic camera, an item employed by Josef Koudelka ever since 1986 when he participated in the DATAR photographic mission. He later also used it during the Transmanche expedition and in projects such as Chaos. It is only in the last few years that the artist has been using a digital camera adjusted to the panoramic format.

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© Installation views Jakopič Gallery; photo: Matevž Paternoster/MGML

The show to be staged in the Jakopič Gallery innovatively presents the photographs as spatial elements positioned on the gallery floor, i.e. embedded in a pattern marking the layout of the ancient Emonan buildings that once stood at the site of the present-day gallery. Making visitors feel as if they are strolling through archaeological remains, they highlight both horizontal and vertical lines deriving from the structural elements of the squares, fora, cities, buildings and building elements of ancient civilisations. Arranged in this way, the photographs interact with the large panoramic photographs hanging on the gallery walls. After viewing these, visitors can observe a projection of 300 photographs which cannot yet be put on display. The projection complements the photographer’s journey which has still not come to an end, with the artist not being aware of the true impulse that makes him return to the same places time and again: “Basically, what dominates is an attraction to beauty, the solitude in beauty – a beauty that encourages and feeds reflection. It’s this beauty that has attracted me for the past 21 years, and leads me to visit the same places several times. Each time I try and capture the place better than I did on the previous visit.”

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© Josef Koudelka, Amman, Jordan, 2012

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© Josef Koudelka, book ’Sledi / Vestiges 1991–2012’

The focus will also be on book publications which account for a significant part of the artist’s work, thereby rounding off the insight into his brilliant career as a photographer. Visitors will be able to flip through some of Koudelka’s fundamental photo monographs. As an introduction to the exhibition, there will be a display case containing the “Teatro del Tempo” monograph which presents one detail of a topic that is more extensive yet similar to Vestiges: in it, Koudelka has published photographs of archaeological remains and patterns created by landscapes and buildings taken between 2000 and 2003 in the Eternal City of Rome, where they were later put on display as part of the FotoGrafia festival.

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Since the Vestiges project has not yet finished, the exhibition has no catalogue. However, the Jakopič Gallery, in co-operation with the photographer, has published a boutique volume designed and printed in Slovenia at an extremely affordable price containing 20 key photographs of the Vestiges 1991−2012 series, which should not be missing from the bookshelves of any true collector of Josef Koudelka’s publications.

© Jakopič Gallery

PHOTOTALK WITH DUSTIN SHUM

BY STEVE BISSON

1. More than one year from the start of The Salt Yard, tell us about this experience and your curatorial approach? 

The Salt Yard  is run under the condition of scarce resources. It’s basically administered and funded by three co-founders, Lit Ma, Gary Ng and me. We don’t have a wealth of choices, budget and time, it’s always a challenge for us to make a decent presentation. And we can only organize a limited number of exhibitions. Our location is not particularly convenient but still we have visitors coming not only within Hong Kong but around the world.  We feel very fortunate  the photographers and artists  are very supportive to us and understand the limitation we have. 

2.The first exhibition ‘Mother Russia’ and the recent exposure of David Chancellor ‘The Game is Killing the Game’ were born in collaboration with a guest curator. These projects show an international opening and a smart curatorial capacity for dialogue which is not always detectable in the contemporary galleries. The Salt Yard in this sense appears as an independent space more able to experiment in a critical way. Tell us of these experiences…?

In a certain extent we try to run the gallery with a global vision. On the one hand, we  find a lot of good works by many mid-career photographers are not particularly active in art market. On the other hand, there are photographers like Shen Chiao-liang, Taca Sui or collector Thomas Sauvin who are already active in global photography scene but still quite obscure to local audience. Introducing their works to Hong Kong audience is one of our major goals as The Salt Yard is a space for the audience more than a space for the creators.

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© The Salt Yard, installation view ‘Mother Russia’, 2013

We also emphasize effort in the curation of the exhibition, I guess that make us different from typical artist-run space. Cooperating with guest curators also  offers alternative perspective that is different from the way we usually understand the world.

3. In the past exhibitions we also recognize the attempt to offer a broad vision on photography in the Asian continent: the Taiwanese Shen Chao-liang, the Japanese Patrick Nagatani or  Kazutomo Tashiro.  All these works have the advantage of a journey through different cultures. How do you perceive the photographic panorama in different Asian countries. What differences and meeting points you have acknowledged?

The spectrum of cultures within Asian countries is very broad, sometimes I think it is oversimplified in many occasions. The variety of works among Asian photographers is huge. We are attracted by their works not simply because of cultural shocks but the subject matters of their works. I always believe photographers’ styles are greatly influenced by the environment and the cultural atmosphere that  they were brought up. So even on the same subject matter we can see colourful variety of treatments by the photographers from different Asian countries.

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© Patrick Nagatani from the series ‘Nuclear Enchantment’

There are areas I think I still have not known well enough, photographers in South Asian countries for instance. And I have strong interest in works by Korean photographers, I hope I can spend more time and effort to study works from these countries in the near future. 

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© The Salt Yard, installation view ‘Nuclear Enchantment’ by Patrick Nagatani, 2013

4. Unlike many foreigners photographers who come to China to carry out often very similar projects, somehow returning a stereotyped vision on the transformation of the human landscape of China, your programming has presented some Chinese authors that are realizing a more experimental research. The Salt Yard has curated the first ever solo exhibition of Sui in Hong Kong inspired by the Book of Odes (Shi Jing) and more recently the joint photography show ‘Definitely Maybe’ by Paul Yeung and Zheng Yaohua (Paul is from HK and Zheng Yaohua is emigrated to US) . What is your impression on photography in China? And what about the scenario of Hong Kong?

I think the approach of looking for striking spectacle in China is a norm for foreign photographers. I  keep warning myself not to indulge myself in this cliché too. However China is a much complicated country or political entity than most of us can imagine, even for me as a Hongkonger, I find it hard to to understand in some situations. As photography is a way to portray the world, I don’t like the way many foreign photographers portray China without fully understanding this complicated place. 

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© Taca Sui from the series ‘Odes’

I don’t think I’m the right person to comment on photography in China and Hong Kong, but I can share a bit of my thought. Photography in China is of course very energetic and vibrant. In my humble opinion the strange combination of economic bloom and the instability of the society nurtures the many unique works by artists in China. Many of them are bold and fearless. As one of my favourite quotes from Nietzsche puts it, “You must carry a chaos inside you to give birth to a dancing star”.

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© The Salt Yard, installation view ‘Odes’ by Taca Sui, 2013

Works by Hong Kong photographers, especially for my generation or before that, prefer working in a more subtle way in a certain extent, as we are brought up during the time of colonial Hong Kong while the society is stable and there was steady growth of economy. They tend to use implications or metaphors to express their views rather than speak out their thought explicitly through their works. However younger generation are more willing to articulate their thoughts by using directorial mode of photography like staged photography. It’s a rather rough summary, as the situation here in Hong Kong is ever-changing.

5.  In the choice of the exhibitions presented we find a strong emphasis on the social aspects of photography: the discriminated role of women in Russia, the controversial issue of hunting in the African countries, the consequences of nuclear in Japan, the rapid changes in Chinese culture that emerge from the archive of negative films by Thomas Sauvin. Tell us about….

Hong Kong is a politically charged city, people always view things in their own ideological ways, and me too! I guess this is due to my own background as well. Though I was trained as a designer, I worked as a photojournalist for over a decade. I’ve been influenced by works of documentary photographers with social concerns. I have also invested much of my time researching the social and ideological issues in photography, which are not necessary in the genre of documentary photography or even straight photography. Some photography works look up these issues subtly, for example the casual and lighthearted portraitures in When Coast Lilies are in Blossom by Kazutomo Tashiro. They perfectly showcase how people cope with the aftermath of the disaster in Fukushima. This kind of works always catches my attention as I always believe photography is not just for aesthetics’ sake. Having said that, I am open to any kind of photography. 

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© The Salt Yard, installation view ‘When Coast Lilies are in Blossom – momentary dialogues in Sanriku and Fukushima, 2011-2013’ by Kazutomo Tashiro, 2014

6. The Salt Yard host a nice bookshop with a special selection of books and magazine. What are the criteria that you have followed in the choice of books?

We especially look for books that are published by lesser-known publishers, books self-published by photographers that not distributed by mainstream distributors. Being an independent publisher myself I know how tough it is in finding outlets for my own publications. I perceive the bookstore as a way to nurture the culture of photobook in Hong Kong, rather than treating it as a business. It helps us to sustain The Salt Yard in a very very minor way though!

7. Tell about your personal research, you are working on a new monograph about the series ‘Blocks’?

’Blocks’ is a documentary series about Hong Kong’s public housing estates, or a collection of  portraits of these housing estates. I’ve been a public housing estate tenant for nearly three decades,  witnessing the changes Hong Kong public housings throughout the years. Many of the old estates are recently renovated with kindergarden styled color palette, but it fails to hide the realities faced by people living in: low income, unemployment, disability, family problems, new immigrants, ageing population, etc. The appearance and what is inside is simply a glaring contrast.

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© Dustin Shum from the series ‘Blocks’

Also, there are photographs of shops and restaurants folded due to sky-high rent of “The Link REIT” (a real estate investment trust). Although in the past,shopping malls in housing estates were poorly managed by the government, they were serving the needs of the residents. The Link REIThowever, as a listed company, naturally works for the profit of its shareholders. It has introduced large chain stores into these shopping malls, increased the rent to market price, that many small shops, wet market venders and eateries have been kicked up. These small businesses used to provide services and products at lower-than-market prices, so that people living in public housing who earn relatively less could still enjoy reasonable quality of life. But now they have to shoulder the burden of expensive commodities. My photographs cannot possibly capture everything I want to express, but they are the projections of my psychological landscape as a resident.

8. Conflicts between Hong Kong people and Mainland Chinese are increasing nowadays, as the recent protest of the 1st of July has shown us. How do you feel being a Hong Kong based photographer living in the fast developing China yet still with memories of the ‘old days’. How this has affected your research and photography?

I graduated from  college in the late 90s, about the time when Hong Kong’s sovereignty was to return to China in 1997. During that period there was a very popular topic among artists in their works: the so-called “identity crisis”. People were miserable about their own identity that they were about to be changed from being a citizen in a British colony to one in China.  Exploring China with photography was becoming a way to tackle this issue. 

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© Dustin Shum from the series ‘Photogenic Olympians (volleyball one)’

My previous series “Themeless Parks”, “A Shopping Mall Odessey” and “Photogenic Olympians” basically follow this path. I want to criticise the contemporary Chinese through these works and  question the relationship between Hong Kong and China as well. Nowadays, attitude of the general publics towards China tend to be more radical, works relating  to China is no longer popular. For me, I always want  to make my point after a profound apprehending of the background, just like Abraham Lincoln said, “I don’t like that man, I must get to know him better.”

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© Dustin Shum, installation view ‘Themeless Parks, AAFF 2011, Italy

9. Projects for the future both as curator and photographer? The project ‘Blocks’ has been selected for the new edition of the exhibition “Naturae” which is centered on the experience of landscape through nature. Tell us about how the photographic medium is involved in the perception of space, or rather in its awareness. Also tell us about the relation with nature inside a dense city as Hong Kong?

I’m very glad to be involved in this exhibition. I always treat photography as a way to make a dialogue with the space around us, especially urban and man-made environment. I view this dialogue in a political way too. These spaces and environments  are the ways authority manifesting their powers. Everything exists with a reason. 

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© Dustin Shum from the series ‘Blocks’

Regarding my future I’m still striving to divide my time between my own photographic work and the work for curating exhibition for The Salt Yard. I won’t give up pursuing my own projects. I’m always a photographer first, a curator comes second.

© urbanautica | Dustin Shum

MICHELANGELO ANTONIONI’S FILM CLASSIC AND PHOTOGRAPHY

Blow-Up
Fotomuseum Winterthur
13.09.2014 - 30.11.2014

The cult film ‘Blow-Up’ by Michelangelo Antonioni (1966) occupies a central position in the history of film as well as that of art and photography. No other film has shown and sounded out the diverse areas of photography in such a differentiated way. The photographic range of ’Blow-Up’ is highly diversified and ranges from fashion photography and social reportage to abstract photography. Film stills are shown next to works that can actually be seen in ‘Blow-Up’, as well as pictures that illuminate the cultural and artistic frame of the film production, London in the Swinging Sixties. For the first time in Switzerland the exhibition at Fotomuseum Winterthur presents in several chapters the diverse and differentiated connections between film and photography, thus allowing a trenchant profile of the photographic trends of the 1960s.

Arthur Evans
David Hemmings in Blow-Up, 1966
Film still, gelatin silver print, 20.3 x 25.4 cm
Private Collection, Wien
Foto: Arthur Evans, Privatsammlung Wien, Courtesy: Neue Visionen Filmverleih GmbH

Set against the social and artistic backdrop of London’s Swinging Sixties, Blow-Up tells us about a fashion photographer by the name of Thomas (David Hemmings) who secretly photographs two lovers in a park. He later enlarges these pictures and believes that he has coincidentally documented a murder. The blow-ups reveal a man lurking in the trees with a gun and, as Thomas supposes, a corpse. However, the blow-ups only offer ambivalent proof as they become more and more blurred and abstract by the continuous enlarging. Even photography that supposedly represents reality like no other form of media cannot help in shedding any light on the mysterious events in the park. Pictorial reality – thus Antonioni’s conclusion – is only ever constructed by the medium itself. ​

Arthur Evans
David Hemmings in Blow-Up, 1966
Film still, Ektachrome, 12.7 x 10.2 cm
BFI National Archive
Foto: Arthur Evans, Privatsammlung Wien, Courtesy: Neue Visionen Filmverleih GmbH

The meaning of photography for the film ‘Blow-Up’ is most apparent when Antonioni uses it to characterise his main character Thomas. Played by David Hemmings, the protagonist is not only a fashion photographer, but is also working on an illustrated book with photographs of social reportage. In order to depict both the main figure and its two areas of work in an authentic way, Antonioni is guided by real photographers of the time; before starting to shoot the film he meticulously researched the work as well as environment of the British fashion (photography) scene.

Don McCullin
Thomas’ „blow-ups“ from the park, 1966
Gelatin silver print, 51 x 60.8 cm
Courtesy Philippe Garner
© Neue Visionen Filmverleih GmbH/Turner Entertainment Co. - A Warner Bros Entertainment Company. All rights reserved.

In the course of his preparations Antonioni sent out questionnaires to fashion photographers and visited them in their studios. Thus the main character is modelled after various photographers like David Bailey, John Cowan and Don McCullin; some of them Antonioni asked to cooperate on his film. He also integrated their works, for example Don McCullin’s reportage photographs that the protagonist browses through in the film, or fashion photographs by John Cowan that in the film can be seen in the protagonist’s studio.

© FotoMuseum Winterthur

SITES OF MEMORY

Gallery Luisotti, Santa Monica
19.07.2014 - 06.09.2014

Sites of memory are fundamentally remains, the ultimate embodiments of a memorial consciousness that has barely survived in a historical age that calls out for memory because it has abandoned it. They make their appearance by […] producing, manifesting, establishing, constructing, decreeing, and maintaining by artifice and by will a society deeply absorbed in its own transformation and renewal, one that inherently values the new over the ancient, the young over the old, the future over the past. Pierre Nora, 1989

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© John Divola, Subject Observation F, 1995

Gallery Luisotti is pleased to announce its upcoming exhibition Sites of Memory. The show finds its theoretical underpinnings in Pierre Nora’s seminal essay “Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Mémoire.” The works in the show hover on the dialectic between the two poles of memory and history. They comment on the movement of society at large to rationalize and archive all memories into a totalizing and ever-expanding historical record. To trace the arc of Nora’s trajectory, one only need think of the caches of daily minutiae that fill larger and larger hard drives, and which are now increasingly omnipresent in ‘the cloud.’ The artists in this exhibition—Lewis Baltz, John Divola, Christina Fernandez, Mark Ruwedel, Ursula Schulz-Dornburg, and Catherine Wagner—point to various histories via their individual visual strategies. They offer the viewer partial views onto environments, objects, and the human body that suggest even larger structures that are present outside or invisible within the frame.

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© Ursula Schulz-Dornburg, Element from Ararat, Armenia, 2006

The show pulls on the historical reserves that are present in all six artists’ practices to demonstrate the myriad formulations and decompositions of sites and memory over time. The landscape is a key component of several works in the exhibition, but it is also crucially absent from others to reflect the variety of vessels in which memory can be stored.

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© Mark Ruwedel, Built / Not Built (The Smithson Panoramas), 2010

The title of the show relays the delicate balance of the historical record. On the one hand, the word site connotes a substantial physical place that one can find herself in or that is known to exist elsewhere. It suggests permanence (though not necessarily imperviousness) through the ages.

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© Christina Fernandez, Dianzu, 1999-2000/2014 from the series, Ruins

The other key word, memory, is a concept that is personal, biological, yet which can also be shared between people, among societies and across time. However, memory, which lodges itself with each of our delicate minds, is constantly under threat and always at risk of being compromised, even without our being aware. It is the sites of memory, then, that guard against catastrophic loss of personal and collective memories.

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© Lewis Baltz, Element from Fos Secteur 80, 1987

The photographs in this show reaffirm the stakes of remembering and the costs of forgetting. They, as Nora writes, “nourish recollections that may be out of focus or telescopic, global or detached, particular or symbolic—responsive to each avenue of conveyance or phenomenal screen, to every censorship or projection.”

© Gallery Luisotti

PHOTOTALK WITH GEOFFROY MATHIEU

BY STEVE BISSON

1. Tell us about your approach to photography. How it all started? What are your memories of your first shots? 

I began to be seriously interested by photography in college. With my old friend Ambroise Tezenas, when we were 16, we began to photograph Paris and our friends, developing pictures in the laboratory of the college. We walked in the streets of Paris at night, discovering the possibilities of the medium. Our first masters were the humanist photographers Izis, Brassai or Doisneau. Later, we were fan of Magnum photographers and their ability to tell the story of the world. But, too afraid to choose photography as a job, I studied accountancy first and photography was just a hobby at this time. Things became more and more clear for me, so I tried to enter the school of Arles, but didn’t succeed the first time. To be more credible, I worked in Magnum agency for almost one year, this time was my real birth in photography. When I succeeded in entering the National Photographic school in Arles, I discovered a world behind Magnum and reportage…

© Geoffroy Matheiu from the series Canopée, 2009 - 2012

2.How did your research evolve with respect to those early day?

From Magnum legendary photographers, I shifted to Walker Evans and the landscape photographers Stephen Shore, Robert Adams or Lewis Baltz. I felt closer to their ways of using photography not only as a testimony but also a description of a world changing as they exposed. My first studies were street photography in 4 different cities (NY, Mumbai, Marseille and Cairo). I gained experience there while walking in cities and building a  series that tries  to create a conversation about modern cities and how humans are living in them. Landscape photography arrived later in my progression when I chose a first project that dealt with the landscape around the building of the Millau viaduc. In this series I searched for landscapes of transition, fascinated by the changes that appear just as if they were installed by Land artists. I discovered there that land is a moving matter. It’s always my deep purpose, I think.

© Geoffroy Matheiu  from the series 'En ville, à la plage 1997-2000', New York, Le Caire/Alexandrie, Bombay, Marseille

3. Could you please tell us about your experience with the Observatoire Photographique du Paysage? Some of this research also deals with time. What are your personal impressions about photographing the same place/landscape over the years?

The Observatoire Photographic of Paysage involves the procedure of shooting the same place  with the same frame each year to observe the changes. I have always been fascinated by the power of light or the time passing on a scene. A landscape is never the same, each minute, each hour, each day, imagine each year or every 10 years ! It produced very interesting corpus of pictures, to study in a technical way, but in an artistic way it produced a poetic vision of time passing. As long as you come back on the same spot each year, you begin to develop an intimate relationship just as with a good friend. For some of them, I am happy to see them each year. They become good friends.

Hey landscape ! what happened to you this year ? what did you change ? how is the light on you today ? maybe it’s better if I come back tomorrow ?

© Geoffroy Mathieu  from the series ’Observatoire Photographique du Paysage - Communauté de communes de la Vallée de l’Hérault’, extrait 2010 - 2011 - 2012

4. Tell us about the project ‘Marseille, Wild City’.

The story of this project is born when I met Baptiste Lansapeze who is a writer and editor (wildproject editions). He was interested in theories on urban ecology research and deep ecology theories. I discovered those thoughts when walking in the peri-urban landscapes of Marseille and talking with him. During 4 years we began to understand why this city was a perfect place to study the relationship between nature (not only vegetation) and urbanity. He was writing an essay on urban ecology, and I was taking pictures of Marseille ,not to illustrate his point of view, but to show that within Marseille nature and urban grow together in a mix.

5. The project ‘Marseille, Wild City’ has been selected for the new edition of the exhibition “Naturae” which is centered on the experience of space, especially through nature. Tell us about how the photographic medium is involved in the perception of space, or rather in its awareness.

Photography is a good medium to understand and transmit the intelligence of a place. In a frame, you can arrange the world, make it intelligible. That is what happens when the photographer succeeds in transmitting in pictures the personal relationship he builds with the scene he saw. I consider those relationships as meetings. A meeting between an exposure, a light and a geography. This is successful when the photographer succeeds in finding the best point of view to transmit the poetry of this meeting. When you work in any project with a purpose, as with Marseille, Wild City, the challenge was to find the best point of view to express our idea of the wild and how we consider cities as part of nature. In fact, the place where a majority of homo sapiens are living.

© Geoffroy Matheiu  from the series ’Marseille, Wild City’

6. Today we are witnessing, at least in technological societies, a huge production of images (photographs, advertising, satellite, street view, social networking and so on). A sort of daily bombardment. How do you think this affects the perception of the world by individuals?

This bombardment is producing on our children a very different sense of perception, that is sure. They don’t use, look and read pictures as we do but they will develop a way of thinking about them. This is the evolution of the story of photography, we, photographers and artists, have to do our job, making intelligent pictures that give a point of view on the world. I am optimistic, I think that the more “poor” pictures will be taken and seen, the more we will need intelligent pictures. Now and more than ever, we need their glances to understand our world. 

© Geoffroy Matheiu  from the series ’Marseille, Wild City’

7. You have studied at Ecole Nationale de la Photographie d’Arles. Do you feel that is important to educate people to read images? Should we be more active in relation to what we are exposed to?

Of course, we have to do this job at school, to educate children to read pictures, but they see so many pictures that they develop an experience that we didn’t have. There will be experts ! In this stream of pictures, we need more places that show pictures with a real point of view : Museums, websites or books, whatever… 

8. Some images of the series  ‘Marseille, Wild City’ are included, among others taken in Edinburgh and Tangier, in your recent book “Geum Urbanum”? Could you please introduce us to this special edition. 

After my investigation of Marseille, I wanted to compare the relationships between vegetation and cities in other towns. I chose Tangiers and Edinburgh. In Tangiers I photographed the growing city in the countryside around and in Edinburgh I tried to show the peaceful and Anglo-Saxon way of including nature in the cities. At the end, I realized how much, through my exposures, we can find the same situations in different places. With triptychs I put together pictures of similar types of landscape found in those cities. 

© Geoffroy Matheiu, book “Geum Urbanum”

9. Projects that you are working on and plans for the future?

A part of my work is made by walking, I introduce more and more the walk in my creative process. I did it without really thinking of it in the project Dos a la mer, which was a series of promenades. I was walking in the cities with no protocol, as a perambulation. More recently, in the project of Paysages Usagés, that I made with Bertrand Stofleth on the GR2013. We walked on a trail made for discovering the peri-urban of the metropole of Marseille. 

In 2015 I worked with SAFI, a collective of two artists working on wild urban plants. We trace a new trail in the souvenir of the rurality of Marseille. I present those pictures in a diaporama, showing our research, and our walks.

© urbanautica | Geoffroy Mathieu

DOUGLAS LJUNGKVIST AND THE OCEAN BEACH

BY STEVE BISSON

The weight of things. A critical response to Douglas Ljungkvist’s book ‘Ocean Beach’

When looking at the images that complete the series ‘Ocean Beach’ by photographer Douglas Ljungkvist is easy to find myself in these thoughts: the fall of the American dream, the natural world has recovered its spaces, or the humanist utopia of control over the earths forces. All these considerations are inevitabile but not decisive.

© Douglas Ljungkvist, book ‘Ocean Beach’

Firstly, it is interesting to recall the differences with the ‘Pre-Hurricane’ series which is certainly more descriptive. A more empathic choice of colors reflects a deliberately darker mood. Even more significant is the decision to show, as a juxtaposition the housing wreckage, natural elements of the landscape: the beach, the sky and the sea. A contrast that is unseen, however, when the photographer is inside the remains of houses. It is here that the observer, with no way to escape, is forced to confront the inner dimension of destruction. Here, in these shots I feel all the uncertainty and the fear of post-modern man.

© Douglas Ljungkvist, book ‘Ocean Beach’

In truth, when I see these images I am projected far beyond a possible commentary on the medium and classification with respect to categories of discourse on photography. I see rather in this second part of the Douglas Ljungkvist’s work a centrifugal force that pushes the gaze out of the aesthetic dimension. In this sense, I do not think useful to recall ideas that surround “New Topographics”. Instead, I find it useful to turn my thoughts to the deconstruction axioms or to the “building cuts” by Gordon Matta-Clark. This series of images is a real détournement, a state that is antithetical to a thought of origin, as a recycling of pre-existing artistic elements into a new form. The photographer works, more or less consciously, on a re-contextualization. It is no longer important to point out which elements are in opposition and why. We need to understand what new meanings emerge from these realities because their future exists in their irreducible and irremediable coexistence.

© Douglas Ljungkvist, book ‘Ocean Beach’

I get the impression that this work effectively places in the face of a spectacle of the illusory and comfort fetishism of the modern age. In the words of Guy Debord “everything directly lived has receded into representation”. Ljungkvist inevitably prompts us to question our notions of the real and not so much on the role of the photographer. From this point of view I appreciate the photographer’s detachment from the implied compassion that often hovers around these situations. The decision to not include human beings gives this work the distance necessary to prevent the process of identification with this place and instead feed a sense of alienation.

© Douglas Ljungkvist, book ‘Ocean Beach’

We can not conclude this brief critical reading without expressing the need to present a dualistic semiotics reading of the images in order to grasp those signs that express cultural phenomena. In this sense, Douglas Ljungkvist is skilled in returning to the careful viewer, without prejudice, a useful anthropological summary on Western consumer society; throughout we see its fragile precariousness and all its apparent fun. From this perspective, can what we see also be a symbolic reaction to the continued expansion of the world based on the exploitation of resources? In other words, have these homes been destroyed by a natural disaster or by their own weight? Steve Bisson

© Douglas Ljungkvist, book ‘Ocean Beach’

info:

Designed by Kehrer Design
Hardcover
24 x 20 cm
108 pages
92 color ills.
English
available here
ISBN 978-3-86828-403-4 
2013

© Douglas Ljungkvist

PHOTOTALK WITH HELDER SOUSA

BY TIAGO DOS SANTOS

1. Tell us about your approach to photography. We know you only define yourself as a photographer since 2008, how did it all started?

My first contact with photography was ten years ago, during high school. I attended the Graphic Arts course at the Soares dos Reis high school, in Porto, and I had the chance to work with the dark room, and with all the steps that it involves. At that time I became truly interested in photography and even wanted to pursue further studies academically but, due to the lack of knowledge on opportunities available, I ended up enrolling in Painting, at the Fines Arts Faculty. After graduating, I started working on a photography studio where I picked up the camera again. I worked mainly on commercial work, weddings and things like that, on all the post production process, as well as video editing. I also worked on cruise ships, on the Douro River, where I sold pictures to the tourists. From that point on I recovered my taste in Photography, and the need to learn more on the subject, not so much in the commercial sense, but on an author’s perspective. I knew I wanted to keep on studying  on a masters degree, so I researched the offers available, and I found the masters at ESMAE. 

© Helder Sousa from ‘Unfinished Projects’

2. How did your research evolve with respect to those early days?

By 2008 I did all the work required at the studio. While trying to solve the problems presented to me, I was able to develop some post production skills that had become forgotten. At the masters degree everything changed. My worries went from strictly aesthetically matters to more theoretical ones. Everything was in question, I could no longer say I’d like a picture just because. I started to know all the classic photographers, as well as the mandatory essays for any photographer, with more theoretical concerns. Initially I even started doing portraits, but I went on to landscapes, my main object of interest now.

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© Helder Sousa from ‘Unfinished Projects’

3. Tell us about your educational path. Bachelor Degree in Painting, at the Faculty of Fine Arts of Porto University, and then a Master Degree in Audiovisual Communication, Specialisation in Documental Cinema and Photography at Porto’s Superior School of Music and Performing Arts. What are your best memories of your studies, and what was your relationship with photography at that time? Why the need to change from Painting to Photography?

Analysing at this distance now, I consider it was a very profitable detour. I studied Photography during the bachelor degree but, since I was very involved in the painting world, I wasn’t able to do anything interesting. At that time, the subjects I would approach would be more symbolical and metaphysical. I used mainly imagination and creativity, while little contact with reality. Now I can understand that that contact was what I missed. By a natural order of things, I went back to Photography and it’s where I feel good. I also consider that due to my pragmatic and humble personality, I’m able to develop a better work with the Photography medium, since it deals more with watching the reality around us than with the imaginative aspect that painting requires.

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© Helder Sousa from ‘Unfinished Projects’

4. What were the courses that you were passionate about and which have remained meaningful for you? Which skills acquired studying Painting do you apply in Photography?

At college, I think the best tool I acquired was learning to “watch”. In the Drawing class, it was very important do develop that skill, because then, the practical part, comes with training. We all know how to write, that being a way of drawing, we just need to practice it. At that time, I acquired that skill, as well as the sense of composition and colour sensitivity with the Painting class. To a painter, a blue isn’t just a blue. There are many shades that can match better or worse in the colour palette that compose a painting.  I also consider that I already possessed some sensitivity regarding composition. It was always a concern of mine, many times developed at an unconscious level, but that made me take the right choice.

5. Any professor or teacher that has allowed you to better understand your work?

All the teachers that crossed my academic path have had an influence on me, one way or the other. I think that in the MA there were two teachers that influenced me the most, Paulo Catrica and Cláudio Melo. The first, in a more theoretical way,  that made me think and see how photography is thought of nowadays. Being him a photographer himself, with daily practice and with studies in History, he had the skills I needed and he knew how to transmit them well.  Cláudio Melo was very important in a more practical way, with post production and image editing. In a project developed throughout the year, we made dozens of images that needed to be sorted out in editing, a very important part to a photographer. Knowing what stays and what is left out is as important as what you’re photographing.

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© Helder Sousa from ‘A Fábrica na Cidade’

6. What do you think about teaching methodology in the era of digital and social networking? 

To someone that wishes to be a photographer nowadays, it’s like everything has been made easy. All of us are a potential photographer! We all have a camera in our pockets. However, there’s the need to know what to do with it. We live currently on a sharing hysteria. We fell an urge to share everything. As if, if we don’t do it, we don’t actually exist. Nowadays, what’s not on a social network, doesn’t exist! I think we need to get some distance to current reality so we can understand it better. If you notice, in the way we share everything, it seems like we’ve never been so watchful to reality, but truthfully that’s simply illusory.  We’ll apply a filter on a photography that changes the original colour, makes it more saturated, with more contrast, and all seems good, better looking. But that’s about it. It’s nothing more than a better looking picture, that doesn’t say anything to you, doesn’t tell you any story. There’s no punktum. It might say something, but only to the one that took it, never becoming a plural discourse, always individualistic. 

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© Helder Sousa, book ‘Topografias a Norte’

Here is where school comes in, so we don’t fall on that hysteria and be simply one more. I can help us to create tools that allows us to know better what we’re really interest in exploring. It helps us build a critical thought that will allow us to choose the better solution. Photography is precisely that, selecting the best option. The camera does the rest, but the before and after is as important as the click.  It’s obvious that the web brought us a world that made sharing easy and, as a consequence, disclosure to new photographers. It made a lot of processes easy, but it also brought difficulty on distinguishing the best things being produced. We have to pay more attention!  

7. About your work now. How would you described your personal research in general? 

At this time, I’m developing many works related to the city territory. With my MA project, Unfinished Projects, I approached a particular question of the city, and I felt the need do open the spectrum and analyse the city in a more global way. My concerns are always about the question of the urban landscape, the urban expansion, of progress - as something that grows in a positive way - , to a sense of disorder. Behind all this, there’s always a connection to the Human component, as a being that inhabits a planet, that builds a territory, and that is always in constant expansion, as if it was an sociological or even anthropological look. Either because of economical or other matters, there’s this need of development, of “growth”, that based on the use of reason, makes us justify all of our actions. I think that photography can have a very important part in that aspect, because it ends up freezing a certain moment and allows a better analysis and perception of these matters.

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© Helder Sousa from ‘A Line Made By Man’

8. Do you have any preferences in terms of cameras and format?

I can say that, during my MA, I was converted to analog. I developed my project in large format and, if I could, I would only work that way. Since at this time that’s not possible, I’ve working with digital, using tilt-shift lenses that simulate the camera movements large format cameras allow. Regarding formats, I like to work in the square ones, may it be 4x5, 6x7 or 6x8. I I have the desire to produce a square format project that I never used.

9. Tell us about Unfinished Projects.

This project results from another one that I made during my MA. I had found out some buildings that were unfinished and decided to photograph them. Later, I started to realise there wasn’t just one or two in this situation, but a lot of them inside the county I live in. I started doing a survey of all the buildings I could find, with a digital camera, to try to understand if there were enough of them to do a project about. Indeed there were, and I started to develop the idea. A very important step in this was being persuaded by my teacher Cláudio Melo to shoot this project in large format. That changed everything. I realised a new potentiality of Photography that I didn’t know about. The way large format makes it possible to compose an image allows us a relation to the subject to be shot completely different that with a digital camera. It even relates a little bit to painting, and the camera obscura Vermeer used.

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© Helder Sousa from ‘Unfinished Projects’

I ended up developing the project in series, where each one resulted in an identifiable area. I restricted myself geographically to Valongo county, and to residential buildings that had been abandoned. The fact that they were in this condition was a big question mark for me. It was that that drew me on those buildings. I couldn’t understand it’s origin. In the research work, that resulted in the master thesis, I was able to conclude that a number of factors contributed to that. There was an over construction that, in a moment of inversion of economy - and money acquisition by banks - it ended up causing bankruptcy of many construction companies that had to abandon their buildings, and deliver them to banks. And here is where the problem resides. Is in the best interest of banks that nothing is resolved at this time. On one hand, to finish a building, they would have to spend money that they don’t have right now, on the other hand, if they want to demolish it, they also would have to entail expenses. While this remains like this, they can argue they have a rated asset, being that asset a concrete skeleton! It’s a very perverse situation.

10. Is there any contemporary artist or photographer, even if young and emerging, that influenced you in some way? 

Since I don’t many contemporary photographers, I can’t recall one that might have influenced me. I search mainly theoretical influences. But, to recall some examples, one of the big influences that allowed me to find a way was, without a doubt, the ones from the exhibit New Topographics, A Man Altered Landscape: Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz, Bernd and Hilla Becher and Sthephen Shore. This group of photographers influenced and still does many contemporary photographers. In a formal way, I think that my work relates a lot with the so called School of Düsseldorf: Andreas Gursky, Candida Hofer, Thomas Struth and Thomas Russ. Although it’s not so visible, I feel that I’m also very affected by two italian photographers, Gabriele Basilico and Luigi Ghirri.

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© Helder Sousa from ‘Unfinished Projects - Addendum’

11. Three books of photography that you recommend?

Quoting a classic, Susan Sontag’s On Photography, still very current. Joan Fontcuberta are always very interesting, as El Beso de Judas. Lastly, o Land Matters from Liz Wells, that presents the way how landscape has been represented and/or undeveloped.

12. Is there any show you’ve seen recently that you find inspiring?

The last one I saw was Porto Poetic and although it was directed to architects, I found it to be very interesting. Architecture is always very present in my projects, and I try to see and read everything related. 

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© Rita Burmester, Opening of the exhibition ‘Porto Poetic’ at Triennale di Milano, September 2013

13. Projects that you are working on now and plans for the future?

I’m currently developing two projects, simultaneously. The first has to do with housing in Porto, and a phenomenon that has been  developing and is more and more noticeable in the city, the walled buildings. The second project has a concept/title that is city-territory, where I approach different urban landscape. It’s still undeveloped so I don’t know what will be the outcome. I also decided to give continuity to my MA project, but in a broader sense. There are no geographical or typological restrictions. It will be called Unfinished Projects – Addendum, and it will be an open work, where new images will be added. For the future, I’ve been recently contacted by the architectural office ADOC and the architect Miguel Eufrásia, that will be representing Portugal in the Biennale Architettura 2014. They’ll be showing some images of Unfinished Projects and some new ones. I hope it will help me open some doors and that it’ll be an opportunity to do some new projects.

© Helder Sousa

BACK GROUNDS: IMPRESSIONS PHOTOGRAPHIQUES

Organized with Olivier Renaud-Clément
Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York
28.06.2014 - 15.08.2014

Andrea Rosen Gallery is thrilled to announce Back Grounds: Impressions Photographiques (2), a historically rooted exhibition organized with Olivier Renaud-Clément that traces a profound lineage of conceptual, process-based photography. Ranging from early experimentations of the early 19th century in France to our contemporary era, this exhibition juxtaposes pioneering historical legacies with divergent contemporary trajectories, as a means of building a contextual foundation for the experience and re-experience of such work. The resulting orchestration is an intimately curated dialogue between artists Liz Deschenes, Martin d’Orgeval, Gaylen Gerber, Chargesheimer, Sherrie Levine, Baron Adolphe Humbert de Molard, Alfred Stieglitz, and James Welling, which traverses between realms of methodology and intention, and channels attention to the processes of looking.

Built from the foundation of five early paper negatives by Baron Adolphe Humbert de Molard (b. 1800), first exhibited as part of a three-person show originally presented ten years ago at Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York and Galerie Nelson, Paris, this expanded exhibition further investigates a premise that expounds the ways in which our perception of such work, historically bound to context and experience, has shifted over time, and continues to generate a discursivity and evaluation of content. “One thing to remember,” states Renaud, “is that in the earliest stages of the medium, the practitioners were not necessarily artists per se or even photographers, but curious experimentalists and chemists who had yet to realize the potential of a new medium that had barely come to life. Today, somehow, in our digital age, it seems we have come full circle and are re-addressing this with the lessons and facts of history.”

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© Adolphe Humbert de Molard, Untitled, 1848

Beginning in the 1800s, at a time when photography was inherently experimental, such venture into abstraction, as present in de Molard’s fragile, golden images of William the Conqueror’s Normandy Castle, was an unusual attempt. Attracted to the chemical medium, de Molard experimented with alternative fixing baths and chemical processes, producing what may be perceived definably as both artifacts of a developing technique and the artworks of an amateur pioneer. 

Over a century later, Chargesheimer’s silver gelatin chemigrams introduce early techniques of painting with chemicals on light-sensitive papers, creating liquid, abstract scapes conditionally belonging to a medium understood as representing reality. Re-presenting such early methods, James Welling’s works move towards the reanimation of historical approaches; presenting both chemigram surfaces, as well as pristinely isolated autobiographical scenes documented with large format cameras.

© Chargesheimer, Harlekinade, 1961

Alfred Stieglitz’s significant body of work Equivalents (1925-1934), shifts our gaze to consume both expansive and claustrophobic images of the sky, of dissipating and cumulating clouds, provoking, as Stieglitz described, an awareness of the awesome infinity beyond our existence. In an act to re-place historical content before contemporary audiences, Sherrie Levine’s reprisal of iconic imagery, such as Stieglitz’s Equivalents, provokes questions of authorship, originality, and artistic lineage, and encourages work to be experienced anew.

© Alfred Stieglitz, Songs of the Sky, 1924

The natural abstractions of Martin d’Orgeval’s wall photographs, developing a specific idea of frame, space and relief through a concern for metaphysical interiority, address subtle and complex issues of perspective. By interacting with the photographed shadows in the image, the real cast shadows of the salient frame create a coalescence of figurative and real spaces, activating the symbolic tension between materiality and immateriality.

Renaud-Clément’s presentations of Gaylen Gerber’s work in this exhibition foreground its more relative qualities. Renaud-Clément presents Gerber’s “contextual” Backdrop, which normally is a ground to the whole exhibition, as an object itself sited on a constructed partition. He also presents a series of “discrete” photographic works in a way that underscores their contextual reading. This unusual reprise uses two bodies of work that take different forms but address similar concerns, drawing attention to the permeability of the distinction between the contextual and the discrete and suggests that everything in the exhibition may be considered both background and subject.

© Gaylen Gerber, Backdrop/Back grounds: Impressions Photographiques (2), 2014

Working to expand the dialogue surrounding photography, Liz Deschenes extends unique viewing experiences that explore the self-reflexive concepts of the medium. As one of the three artists who comprised Renaud’s first exhibition in 2002, Deschenes has presented significant and distinct bodies of new work with each incarnation: Blue Screen Process (2002), Black and White (2003), and for this exhibition, a new body of works that stem from the photographs recently exhibited in Bracket (London) at Campoli Presti.

Olivier Renaud-Clément dedicates this exhibition to Philip Nelson, with whom he organized the first exhibition in Paris in 2002.

© Andrea Rosen Gallery

PHOTOTALK WITH FRANCESCO TAURISANO

BY GAIA MUSACCHIO

1. Tell us about your approach to photography. How it all started? What are your memories of your first shots?

I guess that my first approach to photography was quite unusual, in the sense that it all started four years ago using a digital camera rather than on analog one. From that moment I started to move backward, which is very much an attempt to trace and reconnect myself with the fundamentals origin of photography, in other words going back to film photography to slow down, but also to think about what I am doing.

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© Francesco Taurisano

I remember quite clearly the first few projects shot with a 35mm camera and black and white film, developed and printed in the darkroom, which represented a tremendous breakthrough to me. I gradually got interested and fascinated with the entire process. Later I become interested in medium format photography. In a sense It feels like everything started almost a year ago, when started to work on a long term project entirely exclusively shot with a medium format camera. This became a defining period for me and represented a breakthrough in terms of my practice.

2. How did your research evolve with respect to those early days?

Personally I think this is one of the most important aspect of my practice nowadays, in the sense that my projects are highly influenced by my research, whether those investigation are heading me towards the exploration of the environment where I will be shooting, but also in regards of other photographers work and critical readings which I personally found essential for the developing of my projects. 

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© Francesco Taurisano

Lately I was constantly looking at the work of Walker Evans and August Sander but also contemporary artist such as Paul Graham, William Eggleston, Guido Guidi and Martin Parr which I have found extremely useful to structure the narrative of my latest project.

3. Tell us about your educational path. You are attending a Bachelor degree in Fine Art at the Dublin Institute of Technology. What are best memories of your studies.What was the relationship with photography when you started?

I attended two photographic courses before I decided to get more serious about it and consequentially applying for a BA in photography at D.I.T, which has been so far an essential step to develop my photographic skills from a technical and theoretical point of view.

Yet I am particularly thankful to some of the people I met in this institution and lectures, which are particularly important for any student attending third level education courses. Definitely some of my best memories about photography are attached to my previous lectures that have helped me a lot along the way such as Martin Cregg, but also to some my good friends with who I share my passion for photography, particularly with Luca Truffarelli and Brian Cregan.

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© Brian Cregan, The Glass Garden

These people have totally revolutionized my perspective on photography and helped me in the transition from digital to film, but most importantly to think critically about photography and encourage me to grow technically.

4. What were the courses that you are passionate about and which have remained meaningful for you?

I think this is very much related to your lecture and how passionate they are towards the subject they are teaching, addressing specific issues in contemporary practices that normally wouldn’t be considered. All the courses I have been in to were influential.

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© Anthony Haughey, Postcards from Mosney

Recently photographic practice with Anthony Haughey and Ellen Thornton were my favorite, due the photo-documentary classes undertaken with them, which happened to be what I am really interested in. But again all classes on history of photography and visual studies were essential to me, it is because of them that I reconsidered the potential of building a personal archive and work with collage and photomontage, which consequentially lead me to be very passionate about academic texts written by Allan Sekula , Walter Benjamin, Craig Owens, Abigail Solomon-Godeau and Roland Barthes. Recently I also got interested in the work of Barbara Kruger, Sherrie Levine and John Stezaker and the phenomena of appropriation in postmodern context.

5. Any professor or teacher that has allowed you to better understand you work?

There are two important figures in this process, at first Martin Cregg who definitely helped me to find my path when I returned to Education. Nowadays I am highly influenced by Anthony Haughey in the sense that through tutorials he has helped me to negotiate some issues related to portraiture and landscape. Anthony also helped me to talk about my work, to contextualize it.

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© Martin Cregg

6. You live in Dublin, tell us about your experience and how you got there.

I moved to Dublin few years ago and I honestly can’t recall the exact reason why I picked Ireland. My intention was to go traveling at the time and for some reason I decided to stop here in Dublin. Eventually that turned out to be a great idea because I went back to college. I don’t think my generation and the latest one have the same opportunity to move abroad that easily as the media are trying to convince us due the actual economic crisis that is actually impeding to the vast majority of people to do something different or just have the freedom to travel in search of new opportunity in other countries across Europe.

7. By looking at you bio I can see that you’ve been featured in many exhibitions. Did you also get the chance to publish something of your own work?

I haven’t managed to work on a self published photo book yet, even though I am intending to work on one in the near future. In fairness I prefer not to rush into anything, since this is a quite long process I prefer to take my time and work on the selection slowly. In the meantime I will try to participate in collective exhibitions and just keep working on my projects.

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© Francesco Taurisano

8. You’ve also attended Enrico Bossan Masterclass. Tell us about this experience in general and how it affect your personal research.

The collaboration with Enrico Bossan and his team was simply phenomenal, I really appreciated the opportunity he gave me to show case my work on his platform. The entire experience was particularly enjoyable and I guess it kept me motivated to keep working on my project and see how it can be developed further in regard to personal research on the subject we are photographing.

9. About your work now. How would you described your personal research in general?

My personal research is quite simple and is fundamentally based on readings, looking and studying other photographers work. I love reading photographic online magazines such as Urbanautica. I also have a notebook with me at all time, so if have an idea I can simply write that down and then go back to it, just like when I am shooting I always keep a notebook in my camera bag because I think it is quite essential. 

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© Francesco Taurisano

Once I have some ideas about what I am looking for and who I might want to photograph, I just go out walking endlessly, exploring new places. This process becomes quite useful also when I need to get in touch with local people living in a certain area.

10. Do you have any preferences in terms of cameras and format?

It took me a while before I managed to decide what format would have suit my work best, and eventually I went for a manual medium format camera.  Working with film in conjunction with this particular format helps to slow down the entire photographic process, which essentially is what I was looking for. Fundamentally I don’t like the idea of being in a rush all the time and working with this medium enabled me to reflect about what I am doing when I am photographing landscapes and establish some sort of relationship with my sitter if I am doing a portrait.

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© Francesco Taurisano

I also very much enjoy working with film because I have almost have the control on the entire process from start to finish, especially when I use black and white emulsion, after all working into darkroom these days can be quite relaxing in a way.

11. Tell us about ‘Urbana Lignum’

In a sense ‘Urbana Lignum’ was the beginning of everything, and even these days I am still thinking about that project, and eventually I will get back to it at some point, but I want change the approach I had in regards of that project. I need to do more research about it and plan everything more carefully next time, and I might consider to use a different format as well, yet I think there might be a potential project there with ‘Urbana Lignum’.

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© Francesco Taurisano

12. Is there any contemporary artist or photographer, even if young and emerging, that influenced you in some way?

There are plenty of photographers that have inspired my most recent project and my research is focused on them, on how a project could be approached and so on. My major influences at the moment in contemporary photography are Paul GrahamMartin Parr, Guido Guidi, Hin Chua, Bryan Schutmaat, Massimo Vitali, Ofer Wolberger but also modernist photographer such Edward Weston, Bernd and Hilla Becher, August Sander are definitely the ones that are influencing me the most at the moment.

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© Ofer Wolberger, Training, Atlanta, GA, 2001

13. Three Books of photography that you recommend?

I would definitely recommend ‘A Shimmer of Possibility’ by Paul Graham which is one of my favorite books of all time. I personally think it is absolutely magnificent, certainly one of the best photographic books ever made and an object that everyone should have. There are other two books which I absolutely adore, which are ‘Tokyo Compression’ by Michael Wolf, and then ‘A New Map of Italy’ by Guido Guidi which is one the best books you can possibly buy.

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© Michael Wolf

Those are the three books I always wanted to have in my collection/archive and I always suggest people to buy these books because they are beautiful objects to have, that you can always go back to, and flicking through images printed on a book is a total different feeling than watch them on a computer monitor.

14. Is there any show you’ve seen recently that you find inspiring?

I would say that Paul Graham show ‘A Shimmer of Possibility’ is definitely one of the best show you can see. I remember that all the prints were phenomenal and the lay out was simply incredible. It was that good that once he came to Dublin I went to his show at list twice a week, for the entire for the entire duration of the exhibition which lasted for three weeks if I remember well.

© Paul Graham Pittsburgh (Man cutting grass), 2004 from “a shimmer of possibility ” 

15. Projects that are working in now and plans for the future?

I am working on a new series of images that are meant to be the extension of a long term project I started last summer, which I never had the time to scan or edit because I never had the time to do it. In the mean time since I have been traveling back and forward to Dublin, I have had the chance to keep photographing this project and gather more material and informations about it.

The project it self is quite simple, in the sense that the images I am working on at the moment are meant to create physical and tangible memories about the people and the land where I used to live. It is an attempt to create a sort of family album that will finally include my family and friends back in Italy but also the one I have here in Dublin, which is my other family constituted by close friends I have encountered over the past few years, since I moved to Ireland.

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© Francesco Taurisano

The project examines how the life of the younger generation living abroad contrasts with the one that remaining in their native land. Also, it is a reflection of the economic crisis that has been affecting all countries across Europe with particular focus on Italy and Ireland. Despite these two factors, the project is a reflection of how the chances for younger generation to do something different are technically decreasing daily. In contrast to that movement there are a certain amount of people who have decided to remain on their native land, and it is quite incredible to see how these people are helping the entire community where they live into to preserve old cultural traditions that are at risk to fade away if people are continuing to move away to different places or countries. At the moment my plans for the future are to continue this project, my study and looking for something new to work on.

© urbanautica | Francesco Taurisano

(Source: photoschools)