The fifth instalment of our regular pick of photography includes work from Revelations at the Science Museum, Nick Waplington/Alexander McQueen: Working Process, Blake Little, Syngenta Photography Award 2015, Project Sea Change, Jennifer Abessira, Nicola Okin, and Pedro Alvarez.
Revelations: Experiments in Photography
(Media Space at the Science Museum, London 20 Mar – 13 Sep
National Media Museum, Bradford 19 Nov – 7 Feb)
“The 19th century pioneers in photography harnessed a tool which would represent phenomena indiscernible to the human eye. Their work depicted the astronomically distant, and microscopically small. It reveled the nuances of rapid motion and lent form to invisible energy sources. These photographs provided visual art with a radically new set of forms and techniques,” says Greg Hobson, co-curator of the show.
This intriguing new exhibition explores experiments in photomicrography and astrophotography, iconic works in high-speed photography and long exposure, visual treatments of electrical force, camera-less photography and radiation. It examines photography’s ability to give form to the intangible through revelatory scientific imaging techniques and presents the artistic work that were influenced by them.
It begins by looking at the work of ground-breaking scientists and experimental photographers of the 19th and early 20th centuries, including William Henry Fox Talbot, Eadweard Muybridge, Étienne-Jules Marey and Adolphe Bertsch, and moves on to consider the impact that this work had modern and contemporary artists, including work from Treveor Paglen, Idris Khan, Ori Gersht, Sharon Harper and Claire Strand.
“Early scientific photographs both exposed and surpassed the limits of human vision. In doing so, they revealed important formal possibilities, and spoke in clear and articulate terms about man’s changing relationship to science and technology,” co-curator Ben Burbridge explains. “These qualities lie at the core of the photographs’ appeal for twentieth-century artists; and they have found currency again among artists working in the context of our own ‘digital age’.”
Shown above from top: Blow Up (2007) by Ori Gersht; Bullet Through Lemon (1955) by Harold Edgerton; Negative Discharge (1892) by Alan Archibald Campbell Swinton; Untitled smoke study (1901) by Étienne Jules Marey;Proboscis of the Hummingbird Hawk-moth (1928) by Carl Strüwe
Nick Waplington/Alexander McQueen: Working Process
(Tate Britain, London 10 Mar – 17 May)
“It’s a sackable offence this collection. I could have easily made it digestible but I didn’t want to. … Everything is extreme. Extreme-d. An illusion.”
To document Alexander McQueen’s 2009 Autumn/Winter collection, ‘The Horn of Plenty! Everything and the Kitchen Sink’, photographer Nick Waplington was invited behind-the-scenes of the creation of this provocative and satirical collection, which would be the iconic designer’s last A/W show, a year before his death. Knowing Waplington’s “dirty, messy style”, McQueen asked the photographer to create a photobook about his working process for this show – a grand retrospective, recycling ideas from the across his career, reusing silhouettes and fabrics and borrowing discarded elements from other catwalk shows.
“We wanted the book to be like no other book dealing with fashion. We decided to use pictures of landfill sites and recycling plants to create a form of intervention. These images referred to the political situation in Britain,” Waplington says. “The theme of recycling was multifaceted. While he was recycling old ideas, Lee also brought back a lot of people he had worked with over the years, including the modes. He wanted to bring everything into play again as an act of renewal.”
From the first fittings in McQueen’s London studio, to the final moments before the Paris show, Working Process is a rare and intimate record of the designer’s work. It’s a great show to catch either before or after Savage Beauty at the V&A (read our review here), with the images in magnificent large format, and the beautiful original book is also available from the Tate shop (Damiani, 2013, £35).
Preservation by Blake Little
“Honey is one of the few substances on earth that never spoils,” describes photographer Blake Little. “Of course, human flesh and beauty last just a short moment in the grand scheme of life and time. It is the combination of the two that fascinated me: what happens when this amazing natural substance is dripped, poured and dumped from buckets onto skin.The transformation is amazing in how it changes, distorts and amplifies the human body and raises questions of immortality, death, physical perfection and repulsion.”
Dripping, dribbling, gleaming golden honey, transforms the bodies of Blake Little’s subjects in his new series Preservation, which on a sculptural quality under the weight of this sticky substance. Some appear like creatures caught in amber, calm and still, others in dynamic poses, as though succumbing to or fighting against a terrible fate.
“It was honey’s viscosity, as well as its color, transparency, and luminosity that compelled Blake to experiment with the material. Innovatively, he applied the substance to the human body, first in drips, then in sheets, creating gleaming, vibrant forms, which, though far from imitative, recall, in different ways those made by Auguste Rodin, Francis Bacon, and Jeff Koons,” writes Kenneth Lapatin, Associate Curator of Antiquities at the J. Paul Getty Museum in the foreword to to the book.
Whether you think they are sensual or repulsive, the images are certainly facinating and have proven popular in the photo-blogosphere since being published.
Syngenta Photography Award 2015
The theme of this year’s awards was scarcity and waste, chosen with the aim of raising awareness and stimulating debate around key global environmental, political and social challenges, including the increasingly limited natural resources around the world. The images tell a range of stories around drought, landfill, recycling, climate change, overpopulation and mass consumption. In light of the fact that over the past 50 years our demands on the natural world have doubled, many of these striking images ambitiously attempt to portray the fragility and dependency of our relationship to these resources, and the tensions between scarcity and waste.
“Our first place winners, Mustafah Abdulaziz [professional competition] and Benedikt Partenheimer [open competition] share not only a common occupation but also a deep engagement with humanity,” says judging panel member Karen Irvine. “Abdulaziz’s photographs not only document the water deficit but also illustrate its human impact in very personal, intimate portraits. Partenheimer’s image was chosen as the winner of the Open Competition for its remarkable ability to tell a full story in one photograph, that of the acute air pollution that is enveloping major cities after rapid development.”
Explore more from the shortlisted works online at scarcitywaste.syngentaphoto.com
Shown above from top: Shijiazhuang, AQI 360 (2014) by Benedikt Partenheimer, winner of the open competition; Pulling of the Well (2013, Tharpakar, Pakistan) by Mustafah Abdulaziz, winner of the professional competition; 7 Days of Garbage – Michael, Jason, Annie and Olivia by Gregg Segal (Altadena, CA, 2014); Drought In Kenya by Stefano De Luigi (2009); Red Chair by Marcus Doyle (North Shores, 2008); SOUP – Refused by Mandy Barker (2011)
Project Sea Change
“Documentary photographs have a unique power. Their testimony fixes a situation in time and place, providing a point of departure for further reflection. Our ambition is to participate in a conversation about Europe at a time of great upheaval.”
Harald Birkevold, journalistic director of Sea Change
This photo documentary about young Europeans today, presents photographs from 13 countries, by 13 photographers, with the aim of capturing a moment in time, after the global financial collapse in 2007, which led to increased uncertainty across Europe but also new opportunity and new beginnings. In many European countries unemployment is still high, particularly amongst young people who face an array of socio-economic challenges and doubts about the possibilities of their futures.
Project Sea Change, created by Jocelyn Bain Hogg and Harald Birkevold, seeks to create a tapestry of stories and perspectives from young Europeans exploring their coping mechanisms in daily life, their dreams and their ambitions. With both established and up-and-coming photographers involved, images range from naturalistic, candid shots, to intimate portraits, and more traditional press style images. The project presents in-depth documentary work from each country and journalistic photo essays addressing pan-European issues, including migration, political extremism, and unemployment to name a few, in the hope of provoking debate and political action.
See more from the series and buy the book at projectseachange.com Forlaget, £25)
Shown above from top: (Image by) Jocelyn Bain Hogg (United Kingdom); Pep Bonet (Spain); Joanna Demarco (Malta); Yannis Kontos (Greece); Fabian Weiss (Germany); Jose Sarmento Matos (Portugal); Maciek Nabrdalik (Poland)
Elastique by Jennifer Abessira
The series of images presented in pairs by Parisian born, Tel Aviv-based artist Jennifer Abessira, is inspired by the ‘hyper-reality’ of the digital age. The connections and juxtapositions she makes between images are relatively spontaneous, which are then brought together via her Tumblr blog, which she started in 2011.
“Each diptych creates an association between two different images. The essence of Elastique is to constantly classify and arrange my life, which is dominated by an unstoppable flow of images. From a wider perspective, it can be perceived as an ongoing cultural archive,” Abessira says. “In today’s hyper-reality the constant flux of images and meanings generates a situation in which it is difficult to identify the source; in this multiplicity, the concept of truth, of authenticity, is lost. I embrace that multiplicity as my playground.”
Work will be exhibited at the new Soho Revue Gallery, opening on 14 April. Images courtesy of the artist and Soho Revue Gallery
Teofilo Santos Rivera, 42, Panamá. He was the victim of an attempted mass assault by gang members during the crossing through Mexico. He jumped off the roof of the train, hurting his feet. Also suffers from liver cirrhosis and a cancerous sore on the back. In January 2014, the doctor gave him only 40 days to live. His idea is to reach his children and grandchildren in the U.S. to say goodbye. – Tapachula, Chiapas, 2014.
Yenifer, 8, Guatemala. She suffered, along with her 12 year old sister and 11 other migrants, an automobile accident in Chiapas. The accident was caused by a flat front tire of the truck they boarded. The only person who died was the driver. – Tapachula, Chiapas, 2014.
Mariana, 29 years old, Honduras. She was assaulted during her crossing as an undocumented person through Mexico, with the intent to arrive in the US. She was pushed by the assailants into a ravine, and was able to avoid an attempted rape. – Tapachula, Chiapas, 2010.
Al Otro Lado del Sueño, or The Other Side of the American Dream by Nicola Okin
Revealing the abuse and suffering faced by many migrants crossing from Central America in Mexico, this project by Mexico City-based Nicola Okin presents a bleak series of portraits cast in foreboding shadows.
After leaving El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, or Nicaragua in hopes of a supposedly better life away from gang culture and economic trouble in the US, many of these men, women and children pass through Mexico. Often victimised and exploited as migrants, they face hostility, violence, sexual abuse, kidnappings, and sometimes murder, whilst also risking life – and limbs – on the cargo train known as “The Beast”.
“The intention of the project is clear: to gather documents and testimonies of the complaints and all the abuses the migrants suffer; to be more knowledgeable about the abuse and corruption that Mexican border authorities direct against Central American migrants,” Okin says. “And to use pictures-painful and touching images-to reveal the physical scars, the pain, and the humiliation of those who at one point allowed themselves to dream of something better.”
London-based photographer Pedro Alvaraz has an interest in “shooting at that magic, dreamy hour around dusk”, as described by his reps Black Dog. There’s something wonderful about the way he uses hazey light – often soft and warm – with a muted colour palette of pastel mauves, greens and yellows and flashes of brighter tones. Added to the double exposures and use of direct sunlight found in images in his Orisel series (top) shot in Cuba, and the highlighting used to pick out the subjects and saturated background colours in the Hailers series (below) shot in New York, serene and subtly beautiful compositions are formed from the most ordinary and everyday scenes.
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