PREVIEW Foam Magazine #24, Talent Issue 2010

Page 1

fall 2010 / #24

Bergström / Boske / Dubuisson / Engman / Gibson / Lopez Luz / Lowy  / Herman /  Nagahama /  Prager  / Rotatori / Stephenson / Somers / Volpatti / Weiner

BP €17,50


foam magazine #24 / talent



Marloes Krijnen, director Foam_Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam

For the editors of Foam Magazine an exciting time arrives at the end of March every year. It’s the moment when we put out our annual call for any photo­graphers under thirty-five who believe they have talent to send in their portfolios. The editors are always eager to see the first responses. Where will the portfolios come from and what will the quality of the work be like? Slowly but steadily, work begins to arrive on the Foam Magazine website – at first only a few portfolios, but before long dozens a week. Foam Magazine’s editors are absolutely delighted that for the 2010 Talent issue they received almost a thousand portfolios. That’s an extra­ ordinary number and we are incredibly grateful to everyone who sent us their work. The magnitude of the response demonstrates a high degree of appreciation for what we are hoping to achieve as editors and, of course, a desire among hundreds of photographers to see their work published in Foam Magazine. The fact that the magazine has reached so many young photographers and that they in turn have made contact with us pleases us greatly. That is after all precisely our aim. As well as creating a platform for striking and, we hope, inspiring work by famous and less famous photographers, Foam Magazine wants to be at the centre of the photographic community and communicate actively with it. We were also pleased to see that, as in previous years, the sub­ missions came from all parts of the world. Photographers in the United States and Europe were naturally represented in large numbers, but again we received numerous submissions from Central and South America, from Asia and even Africa. It may sound pompous, but this is exactly what we’re after with our annual Talent issue: a periodic worldwide sizing up of the work of a young generation of photo­graphers.


Such a large number of portfolios has meant a lot of work for our editors – almost a thousand portfolios, and therefore thousands of photos, had to be viewed, judged and where necessary discussed. With so many photographs of such high average quality, we would have no difficulty filling this issue with submitted work, but as in previous years the editors also looked at the more than one hundred photo­graphers nominated by international experts for the Paul Huf Award, the prize for young photographers organized every year by Foam. This means that other work fulfilling the specified criteria (created by photographers under thirty-five) and of an equally exceptional quality was not considered for this issue. The editors made a decision as far as that was concerned and as a result we have excluded some young, extremely talented photographers who have produced work of extraordinary quality and with that work have reached an audience, even become more or less famous, for example simply because they are already represented by a renowned gallery or have held exhibitions that have been reviewed, or because their work is regularly published. It goes without saying that we are following these photographers closely and will continue to do so, but we also think it’s important to investigate whether, among the countless young people involved with photo­graphy, there are exceptional talents yet to be discovered by the photographic world. We are eager to find them, and pleased to be able to share our conclusions with you, our readers. The result is an extremely varied assembly of photographers who are working in the medium in highly diverse but consistently fascinating ways. We consider it more than worthwhile to present them to you here. +

foam magazine #24 / talent


Contents On My Mind Pages 16 – 21

images selected by Dorothea Flodin ~ Seba Kurtis ~ Alex Klein ~ Dinu Li ~ Hester Keijser ~ Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin

Pablo Lopez Luz ~ Natura Pages 35 – 44

Interview Pages 22 – 26

Eder Chiodetto: On the Flowering of Photography in Brazil by Sophie Wright


Sarah Mei Herman ~ Julian and Jonathan Pages 45 – 54

Talent: Theme introduction Pages 27 – 34

An Annual Assessment of the State of Play By Marcel Feil Portfolios Pages 35 – 240

All interviews by Marc Feustel

Alex Prager ~W eek-end Pages 55 – 72

~ Photobooks Pages 242 – 247

by Sebastian Hau

Foam_Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam Exhibition Programme

Cyrille Weiner ~ Avenue Jenny

Pages 249 – 262

Pages 73 – 82

Johan van der Keuken ~ Visual Narratives

Melinda Gibson ~ The Photograph as Contemporary Art Pages 83 – 100


Luke Stephenson ~ An Incomplete Dictionary of Show Birds

Emile Hyperion Dubuisson ~ Siberia, The Far North Pages 167– 184

Pages 101 – 110

Breno Rotatori ~ Manélud Pages 111 – 128

Elian Somers ~ Droom als er ooit een was Pages 185 – 194

Benjamin Lowy ~ Iraq Perspectives I

Theo Volpatti ~ Stolen Identity

Pages 129 – 138

Pages 195 – 212

Chris Engman ~ Landscapes

Johan Bergström ~S moke Signals

Pages 139 – 156

Pages 213 – 230

Toru Nagahama ~ Layout of Everyday

Kim Boske ~ I Go Walking in Your Landscape

Pages 157 – 166

Pages 231 – 240


foam magazine #24 / talent On My Mind...

God Save the Queen, from the series Interseries, 1977 © James Welling

Alex Klein I first encountered this photograph in James Welling’s catalogue, Abstract, and was immediately attracted to its blunt investigation of what a photograph depicts versus what it signifies – the oscillation between abstraction at the level of image, material, and meaning. Presaging Welling’s better-known phyllo dough images, it is a classic still-life on black velvet. With the gravitas of some kind of precious relic, the record has been delicately removed from its paper cover and lit so as to illuminate every crinkle in the plastic sleeve and groove in the vinyl. Although produced amidst the zeitgeist of the punk moment, this is not simply a wry commentary on an iconic material trace of mass-produced, commoditized radicalism. It was not until I saw the actual small, 4 × 5 inch, black-and-white contact print that I became aware of a crucial detail I had overlooked in the reproduction. In the upper portion of the photograph, located just above


the 45 rpm single, lies an oblique wooden slab – an African talismanic object, I was later informed. This additional element only served to amplify the picture for me. Signaling the way in which a photograph can make available and remobilize the energies latent in cultural artifacts, it presents a nuanced investigation of desire that highlights the fetishistic power of object as image. +

Alex Klein is an artist based in Los Angeles. She recently edited the essay collection Words Without Pictures (LACMA /Aperture, 2010) and is a co-founder of the independent publishing imprint Oslo Editions.

foam magazine #24 / talent On My Mind...

Identity Cards, 2009 © Dinu Li

Dinu Li This photograph was taken inside an apartment in the city of Guangzhou, China in the summer of 2009. It shows an assortment of ID cards belonging to my cousin Yu Jian Tong. The apartment itself is in the grounds of Guangdong Television, for whom my cousin has worked for most of his life; first as a sports journalist and later as a TV sports presenter. He is expected to retire this winter, making way for another generation of TV presenters. As the shapes, sizes and colours of each card changes, so too does my cousin’s hairstyles and fashion sense. The graphic element of each card emphasis’s the increasingly diverse attitudes of a nation and its people. On the one hand, a self-consciously small ID card expresses little more than a name, its code number and a red star, once an omnipresent


symbol of China. As one’s eyes comes closer to contemporary times, sizes and colours become increasingly bold. Nationalism is replaced by transnational sensibilities. The line-up reflects my cousin’s attempt to map out his own life, through the display of his entire collection of cards. In spite of this, his efforts appear inconsistent, as the narrative alludes to a non-linear passage through different epochs, reminding us of the many histories and memories lodged within a single ID card. + Dinu Li is a Hong Kong born artist living in the UK and China. Encompassing video, photography, installation and performance, Li’s practice centres on the relationship between the personal and the political, the public and the private.

foam magazine #24 / talent On My Mind...

From the series Liminaire © Benoît Vollmer

Hester Keijser Most photography I encounter is online, and so it was with Benoît Vollmer’s series Liminaire. I knew his work from a previous project, mostly architectural in nature, on Swiss ski resorts. I confess to finding myself puzzled by the seemingly random capturing of quotidian scenes in Liminaire. Certainly it wasn’t what I had expected as the next logical step in his work. I felt I was totally missing something here, and decided to suspend my comments for the time being. When I had the chance to see Liminaire installed at Galerie Paul Frèches, things immediately fell into place. I had been initiated into the secret society of Benoît Vollmer viewers, to paraphrase fellow blogger Aric Mayer, and like him, I could describe in detail what it means to experience the work personally, but that would be pointless for the reader, because it would mean little to anyone who had not shared that experience. In fact, these works, all in-camera Ilfochromes on 4x5 or 8x10 inch, have the kind of presence that precludes a re-rendering of


their essence. The how of the photograph takes complete precedence over the what that can be seen on it. In this double sense the work is non-representational. This particular image is one I keep coming back to. It must contain a secret I haven’t deciphered yet. It also reminds me sharply of the limits of the belief in lossless migration of images from one medium to the next, as if their materiality was indifferent, something we online photo workers may forget too easily. +

Hester Keijser, a visual artist based in Holland, is the founder of Mrs. Deane, a blog trailing the endless fields of photography, seeking what feeds the eye, nourishes the soul and riddles the mind. She is assistant curator at The Empty Quarter Gallery in Dubai, and free-lance producer of photo books. Together with Jörg Colberg she set up The Independent Photo Book blog.

foam magazine #24 / talent

theme introduction


foam magazine #24 / talent

theme introduction

Image from the series The Edge, Moscow Boundaries, Russia, 2009 Š Alexander Gronsky


foam magazine #24 / talent

theme introduction

An Annual Assessment of the State of Play

by Marcel Feil ~ curator Foam_Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam

One of the first things the editorial team of Foam Magazine did when the month of May came around was to look at the results of our call to young, talented photographers to send us their work. The announcement was made both on our website and in the spring issue of Foam Magazine, which became available from late March. Of course in the interim we occasionally checked to see how many portfolios had reached us, but still we were amazed by the large number of people who sent in work: more than 950 young photographers from over fifty countries. The editors knew that once again a delightful task awaited them in examining, assessing and discussing a varied collection of photo­graphic work. At the same time we would be judging work nominated by prominent photography experts for the Paul Huf Award, a prize for young photographic talent organized by Foam every year. This meant the addition of another hundred portfolios, so in total we would be called upon to judge the work of over a thousand photographers. It goes without saying that our assessment focused on the question of whether the work was good enough to be included in our annual Talent issue, but in the process the editors could steadily build up an impression of what the youngest generation of photo­graphers is up to, what kind of work they are doing and how they relate to the medium. The work of a thousand photographers from fifty countries is sufficient to give a fairly accurate idea of specific developments, of trends and tendencies. It’s important to note at this point that a number of the things that leapt out at us may have arisen simply from the fact that we were looking at work by relatively young photographers. Most of it, for instance, radiated a desire to practice photography, rather than the wish or indeed the need to create images. Desire often involves a high degree of freedom from obligation, which detracts not only from a photo­grapher’s sense of urgency but from the extent to which a photograph is truly original and surprising. For the editors this was an important criterion: to what extent does a photograph add something to that which already exists and to what degree are we touched by it because it is unfamiliar, provocative, challenging, or simply because we feel it


has a certain something but cannot immediately say what that is? In short, we prefer photography that challenges what already exists rather than corroborating it, but it was predictable that much of the work would mainly do the latter. With so many submissions and given the age limit, this is unavoidable. Nevertheless, I would like to mention a number of our findings: It was striking that ‘the world at large’ was left out in almost every case. Literally. Are we experiencing an ecological crisis in these early years of the 21st century? An economic or moral crisis too? Are there still con­ flicts, local or global, that we should be worried about? Are we at the beginning of a massive shift in the balance of power in the world? Is thoroughgoing social change on its way, brought about by the influence of the latest digital technologies? Is the way we communicate with each other changing, and with it the way we relate to our fellow human beings? Closer to home, what is the status of the medium of photo­ graphy? How is it used and understood? What is its relationship with other media? Are any of these intriguing issues at all relevant to the work under discussion here? They were certainly relevant to a few of the portfolios we looked at – meaning only in highly exceptional cases. In the vast majority the big bad world did not come through in the work in any way. This may have to do with the age of the entrants, but we found it remarkable to say the least. Sometimes we had the impression that engagement had been trans­ lated, in an indirect, non-insistent way, into photo series that concen­ trated on things that are on the point of disappearing. We regularly saw portfolios about some small isolated community that was fending off the problems the new century thrusts upon us. In many cases this produced photos of farmers with weather-beaten faces, old-fashioned, hand-made agricultural equipment, or a single cow in a paddock. There were photos replete with romanticism and nostalgia for a time in which industry, mass-production and rapid means of communication did

foam magazine #24 / talent

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Image from the series The Edge, Moscow Boundaries, Russia, 2009 Š Alexander Gronsky


foam magazine #24 / talent

theme introduction

not yet exist, and photos that went against the grain but with subjects that may have been tempting for their photogenic qualities more than anything else. There were countless variations on this theme. A great deal of the work took the immediate environment of the photo­grapher as its subject. Remarkably often, instead of travelling to far-off destinations the photographer had stayed at home and taken pictures of close friends and family. Perhaps it was a question of making a virtue of necessity (being young, with little money). Many of the photos were created with an infectious zest for life and we found ourselves confronted with images of enjoyment and warm mutual ties – in short, pictures of safety and security. Even where families were less closeknit, this produced an inward-looking view of the photographer’s own private existence. One variation on this turning away from the world is more frivolous but cannot be passed over without a mention. For the third year in a row we were treated to a diverse array of photographs of ‘the bed’. Every year there is a subject that emerges time and again as a kind of unconscious trend, but photos of beds beat them all. They were presented to us in all shapes and sizes: thrown open and stained, standing upright against a wall, seen from extremely close proximity, neatly made up, as part of a perverse sculpture, or standing casually between other pieces of furniture. A bed can quite easily become loaded with significance. It’s the place where we sleep, make love, where most of us are born and eventually die. The bed as a metaphor for life. Of course, with its distinction between sheets, blankets and wall, the bed offers countless opportunities for quasi-abstract studies in form, with the emphasis on the portrayal of texture. However that may be, the editorial team still talks about the great, all-embracing Beds issue. Never having gone away completely, black-and-white photography appeared more often than in previous years. Usually grainy and dark, this is work that tends, by associative, non-linear means, to convey an atmosphere rather than telling a clear story. A combination of Japanese Provoke work from the early 1970s, the more social or private photographs of Anders Petersen and the direct, uncensored honesty of a photo­grapher such as Antoine d’Agata still proves extraordinarily attractive to young photographers from all parts of the world. South American photography, from Brazil especially, is slowly but undeniably on the rise. Much South American work still consists of hardcore documentary photography, mainly in black-and-white, addressing street violence, gangs, drugs and prostitution. At the same time there is another trend, which lays the emphasis on a magical-realist atmosphere that is also unmistakably South American and whose forerunners can mainly be found in literature: lyrical, colourful and always on the boundary between dream and reality. In contrast to previous years, we did not consider work by participants in the Joop Swart Masterclass, organized by World Press Photo. Yet based on the photo-journalism and documentary work that we did see, we got the impression that the symbolic language of this genre too is slowly changing. Young photo-journalists are searching for new ways to communicate with the public. Ideas about new communications strategies also came through in the form of a different kind of photography, however incipient this development may be as yet. The visual


language of photo-journalism will probably become more differentiated, more closely related to the personal approach of the individual photo­ grapher. A number of examples of such an approach were convincing enough to be included in this issue. A considerable proportion of the submissions from China also stood out, because of a bizarre mix of elements from (we suspect) fairytale, computer games and folk stories wedded to totally over-the-top styling – in our eyes, at least. The lack of a shared cultural and visual context made it difficult for us to connect with it at all. Although such work remains strange to us in essence, it is certainly fascinating, perhaps precisely because we cannot truly fathom it. Eventually, after an intensive process of looking, judging and sifting, fifteen out of more than a thousand portfolios remained. We agreed not only that they were the best, but that it would be possible to use them to create a powerful issue of the magazine. That too, after all, was and remains an important responsibility of the editors.

~ The work of a thousand photographers from fifty countries is sufficient to give a fairly accurate idea of specific developments, of trends and tendencies ~ As you may know, regular issues of Foam Magazine consist of eight portfolios of sixteen pages each. For the previous Talent issue we decided to feature six complete portfolios and another twelve half-portfolios, each of eight pages. This year our Talent issue consists of seven whole and eight half-portfolios. This should not be regarded as a distinction simply based on quality. A smaller portfolio does not automatically mean that we valued the work less highly. The nature of the work and the ultimate rhythm and balance of this issue of the magazine as a whole were the deciding factors in determining whether to feature a whole or a half-portfolio. This year is the first in which no portfolio has been included by the winner of the Paul Huf Award, despite the fact that publication in Foam Magazine is part of the package of prizes that goes to the winner. The reason is simple. The winner of the 2010 Paul Huf Award is Russian photo­grapher Alexander Gronsky, who decided to send in his work in the spring of 2009 after reading our annual Talent appeal. The editors were immediately convinced of its quality and published it in the 2009 Talent issue. Less than a year later, it turned out that a foreign expert had nomi­nated Gronsky for the Paul Huf Award and he was subsequently chosen by an independent international jury as the winner. Along with a considerable sum of money, Gronsky was rewarded with an exhibition in Foam to be held this autumn. It therefore seemed to make little sense to publish a portfolio by Gronsky in another Talent issue. Nevertheless, the editorial team is extraordinarily proud that our call for work last year reached such a promising photographic talent and that in our selection

foam magazine #24 / talent

theme introduction

Image from the series The Edge, Moscow Boundaries, Russia, 2009 Š Alexander Gronsky


foam magazine #24 / talent

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we were running a little ahead of the decision of the Paul Huf Award jury. Who knows, maybe in this Talent issue too there are photographers who will receive prizes in the future or win their spurs in some other way. The fifteen chosen photographers have produced extremely diverse work and it’s difficult to make comparisons between them. In that sense the application of the label ‘talent’ is a perilous affair. You are a talent within a specific genre or discipline, in the light of an endorsed norm, within an existing context and tradition. It’s hard to draw up objective standards for something as complex and intangible as ‘a talent’. With this in mind, here is a series of short descriptions of the work of the photographers presented in this issue, based in part on the texts they sent in. It’s more important to look at their work and give it the attention we believe it deserves. You now have the opportunity to form your own judgement of the work of each of them. Melinda Gibson – The Photograph as Contemporary Art Arising out of an investigation into the canonization of certain photographs, this series uses the medium of photomontage to examine an educational book of the same name by Charlotte Cotton. Each photograph is composed of three parts manipulated to form a single picture. They are sometimes placed under or over one another; some parts may even be removed or discarded and others added. The images and texts are sliced out, cut and recomposed, so that they become de-contextualized and are recreated as new realities. The series questions both copyright and the endless re-appearance of the same image that can lead to a questionable form of canonization. Emile Hyperion Dubuisson – Siberia, The Far North This series embodies Dubuisson’s first experience with still photography. In a northern region of the polar circle, with practically no light in the coldest month of the year, he began to photograph what he could: a few furtive silhouettes stir in the dim light surrounding windswept encampments. He processed the films some weeks later, but his lack of experience made their development quite random: some films were blank, others almost translucent. He decided to store the negatives away and ten years passed before they caught his attention again. A haphazard chemical process, an unconsciousness of the image, and a large element of chance came together to create a series that is at once constructed and magical, consistent and surreal. Breno Rotatori – Manélud The vivid and playful diptychs presented by Breno Rotatori in the series Manélud display great aesthetic simplicity in a primitive and direct visual language. Each diptych shows two images displayed side by side: one of Rotatori taking a photograph of his grandmother, for example, and the other of his grandmother photographing Rotatori at almost the same instant. The two combined images of an identical moment seen from opposite standpoints raise questions about the depiction of reality. This is emphasized by the use of two different cameras, which inevitably produces two qualitatively different images. Almost all the photographs are taken on family occasions, so the diptychs also challenge the idea of the family album as an important memorial tool. Theo Volpatti – Stolen Identity The project Stolen Identity presents an intimate portrait of the lives of ordinary Palestinians on the West Bank. During a two-month journey


into the territory, Volpatti succeeded in depicting a society at the mercy of another country. With impressive directness and honesty, he vividly captured the story of contemporary Palestinian life. It required an enormous personal investment to present this often-told story from the perspective of ordinary Palestinians. As a result of his genuine closeness, Volpatti adds something important that is as convincing as it is rare. Alex Prager – Week-End With her constructed narratives and dramatic portraits, Prager explores a broad range of female types, from vulnerable to powerful, tragic to tender, coolly detached to literally playing with fire. Inspired by the high drama of classic movies, Prager’s images at first seem all exquisite surfaces, but the girls in the series conceal pain beneath their lipstickline smiles and dead eyes. Informed largely by Los Angeles, with its perpetual blue skies and birds singing from imported palm trees, Prager’s work exudes an underlying sense of eerie monotony and unease, which percolates through the superficial beauty and the promise of happiness. Johan Bergström – Smoke Signals In the Lausitz region of eastern Germany, machines dig their way through the landscape in search of lignite, the dirtiest combustible fuel on the planet as measured in carbon dioxide emissions. These immense opencast mines are expanding rapidly, forcing more and more villagers to leave their homes. Bergström’s ambition was to present these facts in a new way, rather than in traditional reportage or documentary form. He interweaves his pictures of threatened homes, resettled commu­ nities and evacuated houses with images of lignite mines and power plants. The result is a highly subjective series, with fragmentary narration. Bergström has created hypothetical before-and-after pictures of an entirely new kind. Chris Engman – Landscapes The manipulation of perception is at the core of Chris Engman’s photo­ graphy. Of late he has worked almost exclusively in the arid landscapes of eastern Washington, often inventing intriguing, elaborate structures that challenge our notions of what it is we are seeing. Once he has turned an initial idea into a workable plan, the search for the right location is an essential next stage that may well force Engman to travel for long periods through the wilderness. Sometimes he feels a need to return to a specific place several times in order to create new work. The result always tricks our perception and leaves us to puzzle over how the image came about. Toru Nagahama – Layout of Everyday An important element of Nagahama’s photographic work is the relationship between photographs and the real world. This relationship exists on several levels. It begins with the depiction of ordinary and banal subjects that may turn out to be the most powerful and absorbing forces of reality. For Nagahama the photograph is primarily an object with a realistic image inscribed on it, one that has a specific relationship with the surrounding space. The interaction of photographs in a given grouping with each other and with the real world in which they are exhibited fascinates Nagahama, and this lies at the root of his desire to make handmade books and to work as a graphic designer. Luke Stephenson – An Incomplete Dictionary of Show Birds To find his subject Stephenson had to enter the world of bird breeders, a dedicated group of individuals many of whom have been keeping birds all their lives. This is a close-knit community with which you will not generally come into contact without being an active member. Stephenson does not keep birds, but he was fascinated by all their variations and

foam magazine #24 / talent

theme introduction

~ In short, we prefer photography that challenges what already exists rather than corroborating it ~ colours, and he tried to capture them in a way that would do justice to this fascination. Bearing in mind the many recognized criteria by which birds are judged, from their shape and form to the patterns of their plumage, he has created a sensational series of typologies in which he also attempts to encapsulate the personalities of his feathered subjects. Elian Somers – Droom als er ooit een was (  A Dream If Ever There Was One) This work and the archive of the same title is a reflection on changing attitudes towards post-war modernist cityscapes. It aims to be an open and dialectical representation of utopia, dystopia and the way we reflect on them. The modernist cityscape has been dealt with differently over time and from place to place, depending on the socio-political and cultural climate, with each treatment touching upon the ways of thinking that once underpinned modernist utopianism. Somers archives the most striking ideal cities and cityscapes in different parts of the world.

In Kanazawa she constructs images from her encounter with one of Japan’s most beautiful gardens, the Kenroku-en. This series consists of five photographs, each composed from the same material in an attempt to represent multiple perspectives on the same place simultaneously in a two-dimensional, synthetic whole. Cyrille Weiner – Avenue Jenny Timeless and fragile places still exist at the periphery of urban centres. Along with its rapid and seemingly unstoppable growth, life has produced places of rest and havens of tranquillity. Nevertheless, the city grows, preceded by letters of expropriation and the attendant fractiousness, drama and uprooting. Avenue Jenny in Nanterre doubles as a boundary between the Paris communes of Nanterre and Courbevoi, close to La Defense. Property development in Courbevoi disrupts the landscape, threatening and assaulting the suburban neighbourhood. Weiner’s series depicts the striking contrast between different urban forms and cultures. Pablo Lopez Luz – Natura This project deals with the classic notion of a naturalistic landscape. Lopez Luz’ intention was to approach specific natural spaces and capture them by adhering to the aesthetics and point of view of naturalistic paintings. He juxtaposes contemporary elements, including human figures and architecture, by means of which the space and its historical purpose can be reinterpreted. Lopez Luz uses these confrontations both to comment on the history of naturalism and to gain a better understanding of human nature and behaviour. Alexander Gronsky started photographing at the age of eighteen and has since won numerous prizes and honourable mentions. In 2003, he was chosen as finalist for the World Press Photo Joop Swart Master Class. In 2006, he was nominated for the Ian Parry Award and in 2008 for the Kadinsky Award.

Benjamin Lowy – Iraq Perspectives I Confronted by a level of violence so great that taking photographs on the Iraqi streets is tantamount to suicide, Lowry found himself limited to working with American soldiers, spending most of his time on missions in armoured Humvees. His only view out was through an inches-thick bulletproof window. This is a view of the Iraqi streets rarely seen by the American public, but it is the most common sight for American soldiers. Metaphorically, the window represents a barrier that impedes dialogue. Lowry’s images are not intimate, instead they offer a distant and detached perspective on an empty and desolate country, and a dire state of affairs. Sarah Mei Herman – Julian and Jonathan Sarah Mei Herman’s work is about relationships between people, about the physical closeness and distance between us, exploring the importance of our physical proximity to others. She mainly focuses on intimacy within the family, with a special interest in sibling relationships. Sarah Mei’s half-brother Jonathan is an important subject in her work, an eight-year-old boy with an ability to withdraw completely into his inner world. In recent years she has photographed Jonathan either alone or together with the man who is the father of them both. In doing so she attempts to approach her sibling relationship from a physical distance. Kim Boske – I Go Walking in Your Landscape Boske’s work can be described as a body of research in which different snatches of time and space run together. It seems to embody the way time presents evidence of its discrete, unique moments. Nevertheless, by eschewing the individual viewpoint and instead combining multiple perspectives in a single image, Boske creates a new, layered reality.


In 2009 he won the Linhof Young Photographer Award and the Aperture Portfolio Prize. That year also saw Gronsky’s portfolio appear in the annual Talent edition of Foam Magazine. His work has been published in numerous international magazines. Gronsky has been attached to Photographer. ru agency since 2005.

foam magazine #24 / talent


Pablo Lopez Luz Natura

foam magazine #24 / talent

portfolio text

Pablo Lopez Luz

Pablo Lopez Luz was born in Mexico City in 1979 and did his undergraduate studies at the Universidad Iberoamericana before getting his MA at the University of New York. He was awarded with the Velazquez grant from Spain in 2004, and most recently he was he was the winner of the 2010 IILA Photography Award, an Artist in Residency grant which will take place in Rome this fall. His work has been exhibited in numerous group exhibitions in different countries including: USA, Brazil, Italy, Spain, Mexico, Japan, and


others. His work is part of the prestigious latin American photo­graphy collection Anna Gamazo de Abello, and is also part of several private collections. Pablo Lopez Luz will also be publishing his first book later this year. He is represented by Sasha Wolf Gallery in New York and by Rose Gallery in Los Angeles, California. More information can be found at

All images Š Pablo Lopez Luz

foam magazine #24 / talent

portfolio text

‘My interest resides in the landscape itself, and the transformation of it.’

interview by Marc Feustel

I understand that art played an important part in your upbringing as your father is a curator in Mexico. How did you first come to photography? My father was one of the first people to open an art gallery in Mexico City, more than thirty years ago. I spent a lot of my childhood going to exhibitions, visiting artists’ studios and going out to lunch with them. My first direct contact with photography came when I was around seven or eight years old. My father had a German friend who became very close to us; he went on trips around the world with a camera always hanging around his neck. He made long, beautiful photo essays of every­ thing he saw and would later show them to us as slides with a steaming bratwurst dinner. I remember I used to love the images projected on the wall, as well as the tales and the exciting life of the man behind it all. Around this time I got my first tiny camera. Later, in high school, I had the opportunity to take a photo class where I learned all the basics of black and white photography. Are there specific photographers or movements who have influenced you in your work? What is it about their work that inspires you? I’ve been influenced not only by photographers, but also by writers, paint­ ers and film makers. However, if I had to choose one specific group of photographers, I would say the work of the American photographers of the 1970s (Baltz, Adams, Shore, Sternfeld, Eggleston). To be even more specific, I would cite two books: Lewis Baltz’s Candlestick Point, and French artist Jean-Marc Bustamante’s Tableaux 1978-1982. It is through these books that I started to get a grasp of what landscape photography or photography itself could mean, as a language, a mode of expression and a visual art form. The first time I flipped through their pages, I didn’t really understand what the work was all about... but I was interested in it nonetheless. In the end, I think what I most enjoyed about the work was the very specific intention (visual, conceptual, narrative) to tell a different story through a different point of view. There’s a whole subtext in the work which is carried through by the subtlety of the photographs. In Natura your photographs depict classically beautiful natural landscapes. How did you choose the locations that you photographed in this series and what motivated you to include people in these images? The first photographs in Natura came about without any intention of developing a specific project. I just happened to have my camera with me. Later, when looking at those contact sheets, I thought there was a good project behind those first two images. Once the project came about conceptually, I knew that I needed a very specific landscape to be able to get my point across. Most of the series was shot in specific locations around Mexico. The idea behind Natura was to reinterpret the classic pictorial nat­ uralistic landscape through a contemporary viewpoint. The natural scenarios were extremely important; they had to be as aesthetic and historically classical as possible, but it was equally as important to have people interacting with them... this relationship between man and the


landscape is what the project is all about. The resulting images depict a landscape that exists in some way in our collective consciousness, but with a noise that wasn’t there before. Many contemporary landscape photographers such as Edward Burtynsky or Michael Light have some form of environmental or political message in their photographs. Do you consider that your images are political in this way or do you seek to maintain a neutral approach? I believe that every image can be read through a political or social point of view. In most of my work, particularly the urban landscapes of Mexico City, there is a very clear political and social weight to them, even if my approach is neutral. The conceptual and symbolic presence of Mexico City is too powerful for social commentary not to arise. However, in my landscapes and cityscapes, I do intend to keep a neutral approach to political or environmental subjects. My interest resides in the landscape itself, and the transformation of it, or the interaction it has with man and how something new arises. The photographs are also a vehicle to reach a closer understanding of man’s nature. Nonetheless, I am aware that this other message will always come through in the work. It is impossible to control how people will approach the work, so I assume from the beginning that I have to get as close as I can to my personal interest, and after that, let it go. Why do you think landscapes have come to assume such a prominent place in contemporary photography? For you, what is it that attracts you particularly to the urban or natural landscape? One answer is that through recent technological advancements and large-scale printing, photography has rivalled, and many say, surpassed, painting. I don’t want to get into that specific discussion, however, the fact is that technological advances have definitely brought landscape photography into a whole new realm. These new tools have given photographers in general, a much greater control over what they create and what they wish to portray. Also, the proliferation of the medium is helping people to understand photography better than ever before. A clear example of this can be seen in the reaction people had to the New Topographics exhibition held at George Eastman House compared to the reaction to Andreas Gursky’s solo show at the MoMA. The genre of the landscape itself has evolved to a point where it has become a lot more than a depiction of a beautiful or interesting space, to actually becoming a medium through which to comment on and come closer to the essence of man himself. You live and work in Mexico City, one of the largest and most chaotic cities in the world. What is it that inspires you about this city? The landscape of the city has been my greatest inspiration! I think it is unique because it is created (unconsciously, of course). It has also been part of my personal history: I have always had a close (subconscious) relationship to the classic Mexican landscape painters. When I first started photographing the city, I realized after a while, that I wanted to be part of this history, I wanted to re-interpret the landscape that I had grown up with, a landscape that had changed completely since it was first repre­sented. In the end, my photographs are not just about the present, but also about the history of the city itself. Going back to the idea of the created landscape, I believe that it is exactly because of the chaos of the city, and the obvious overgrowth and overpopulation of Mexico City that this new space has arisen. A landscape with organism-like qualities that is constantly shifting, moving and extending, but where the sense of man is always present. I have very seldom encountered a landscape where the relationship between man and space is as strong, and devastatingly direct, as in Mexico City. +

foam magazine #24 / talent


Sarah Mei Herman Julian and Jonathan

foam magazine #24 / talent

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Sarah Mei Herman

Images in order of appearance: Here they are in the order of the portfolio: Julian and Jonathan, December 2007 Julian and Jonathan, September 2009 Jonathan, April 2008 Jonathan, 2007 Jonathan, November 2009 Julian and Jonathan, July 2009 Jonathan, April 2010 Jonathan, Febuary 2010 All images © Sarah Mei Herman

Sarah Mei Herman was born in 1980 in Amsterdam. After studying philo­sophy for one year, she studied photography at the Royal Academy of Fine Art in The Hague and received her bachelor degree in 2005. From 2008 – 2010 she studied at The Royal College of Art in London and received her MA for Fine Art Photography two months ago. In 2008 she received a scholarship from Prins Bernard Cultuurfonds and from Fonds BKVB for her 2 year MA at the Royal College. She has an


upcoming solo show at gallery Soledad Senlle in Amsterdam in November this year. Sarah Mei Herman is fascinated by relationships, physical closeness, thresholds and transitions between people. In her series Julian and Jonathan she investigates the relation between her, her father and her half brother. More information can be found at

foam magazine #24 / talent

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‘I’m drawn to the things between people that are hard to put into words’

interview by Marc Feustel

Your work focuses mainly on stages of childhood and adolescence. What is it that draws you to these phases in particular? I’m drawn to the fleetingness and vulnerability of these stages. The constant changes that occur during them. In these stages our relationship to others is constantly evolving. A child has the ability to escape from the everyday into an endless world of imagination. I think this is one of the most enviable aspects of childhood. They can experience an endless wonderment about things. Children just are. Pure and real. I love their directness. In their being they can seem totally separate from the adult world. The transitions from childhood to adolescence, and from adolescence to adulthood can be a time of extreme loneliness. These transitions can make closeness impossible during certain stages of life; like a young girl suddenly losing closeness and intimacy with her father because she is not a child anymore, or a boy feeling miles apart from his older brother. On the other hand incredibly close friendships can exist at a certain stage in life, before relationships are formed with partners from outside… like the twins Jana and Feby who I have been photographing for the last five years. I’m also very interested in the ambiguity that often exists between femininity and masculinity. Up to a certain age, these boundaries have not yet fully set and can sometimes still be blurred. You grew up as an only child. When you gained your half brother Jonathan, when did you first decide to start photographing him and his relationship with your father? I started photographing Jonathan when he was about four years old. The first series I did of my father and half-brother (and grandmother) was during a trip to South Africa. I started photographing them in a very intuitive way, without really asking myself why. In the past two years I have become more focused on the triangular relationship between the three of us. The series is as much about the relationship between a relatively older father and his younger son, as it is about my relationship to them and my memories of being a young child which are now in a way mirrored in my half-brother Jonathan. Not being my father’s only child anymore, taking these photographs was also my way to relate to my half-brother, who is 20 years younger than me. A way to get closer to him. You have done several series involving your family members. Do you always work with family or friends, for example in the case of the Siblings series? How different is it for you to work within the intimacy of your family versus working with strangers? I don’t always work with my own family: my father and half-brother are a very important subject in my work which I will pursue, but apart from that I work with people outside of my family who I have slowly got to know by photographing them. The projects on people outside my family started from when we were total strangers. Trust builds up slowly over time with these projects and visiting the same people again and again becomes almost like a ritual. Of course there’s a difference between photographing my own family and people from outside my family. But in both situations moments of intimacy are created between us. This all depends on how close they allow me and my camera to get.


In the series Jonathan, and indeed in all of your series, there are virtually no images that portray joy or laughter. This strikes me as slightly unusual for images of children. Is this a conscious decision on your part and if so why do you avoid this kind of image? It’s not so much a conscious decision, but I search for a certain stillness and withdrawnness which one can’t get to when capturing laughter. The people I photograph are physically present, but often mentally absent or in another space. For me, by capturing these moments of stillness, the delicate and tender things between people can be revealed. For my brother his seriousness and stillness is very much how he is. I try to get a bit closer to his inner world... children can be extremely serious, and these are the ones that I’m drawn to most. When I photograph I’m concentrated and close to my subjects, and so are the people I portray. I never tell them not to laugh. Your photographs often seem to focus on moments of physical or emotional tension between people. What attracts you to these moments? Do you intervene when you are shooting to stimulate tension or do you take more of a ‘fly on the wall’ approach? I’m drawn to the things between people that are hard to put into words. Sometimes gestures and body language can reveal so much, and make things very palpable. I’m interested in the boundaries of the body, the closeness and distance between individuals, how people relate to each other, how they respond to the other’s presence, the importance of our physical proximity to others. By isolating my subjects from the rest of the world for one moment, I explore the thresholds between them, both physically and emotionally. I try to find the delicate balance between staged photograph and snapshot. There is no single way in which I always work. Sometimes I have a certain image in my head, but most of the time it’s an interaction between the subject and myself. Sometimes I see something happening which I then ask them to act out or perform again. Photographing children has always been a controversial issue, as can be seen in the lengthy discussions that surround the work of Sally Mann or Elinor Carucci. What is your reaction towards those that see photographing children as exploitative? I think Sally Mann and Carucci are able to make these photographs because they are the mothers of these children. In my opinion Sally Mann has photographed the sensual beauty of fleeting childhood, in a very direct and honest way, without trying to make it look any more or less beautiful then it just is. I don’t think photographing children is exploitative as long as your intentions are honest, genuine and loving. I never feel that I’m exploiting children or young adolescents. I am very careful and never put any pressure on them. It is a collaboration between them and me, and I take them very seriously. Are there any photographers or movements that have influenced or inspired you? I draw inspiration from many different fields: cinema, photography, painting, literature. Cinema is an important source of inspiration for me and I’m particularly drawn to the subtle magic-realism in certain Spanish and South-American films. In terms of photographic inspiration I’ve already mentioned Sally Mann, but, although his work is very different to mine, I’m also very intrigued by the way that Philip-Lorca diCorcia is able to get close to people. I also discovered the Victorian photographer Lady Clementina Hawarden’s portraits of her two adolescent daughters. These images, mostly of the girls posing together, are very intimate and seem to speak of adolescence, eroticism, sibling- and mother-daughter relationships. +

foam magazine #24 / talent


Alex Prager Week-end

foam magazine #24 / talent

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Alex Prager

Works in order of appearance Deborah Lois Rita Maggie Molly Barbara Wendy Becky and Jill Sophie Rachel and Friends Tiffany Sheryl Anne

All images Š Alex Prager

Alex Prager was born in Los Angeles in 1979. She was raised by her grandmother in a small apartment in the suburb of Los Feliz. Her nomadic upbringing saw her splitting her time between Florida, California, and Switzerland without truly settling down long enough for a formal education. Prager’s interest in art began in her adolescence, but it was in her early twenties that she began to focus on photography. In keeping with her independent spirit, she eschewed art school and began taking photographs on her own, teaching herself equipment and lighting through trial and error. Prager has since contributed to a number of publications including New York Magazine and The New York Times Magazine, Dazed and Confused,Details, i-D and Tank. All the while, continuing to exhibit her work in various galleries worldwide.


After the release of her first book The Book Of Disquiet (2005) Prager was given her first solo show at the Robert Berman Gallery in Santa Monica, entitled Polyester. Her 2008 exhibition The Big Valley shown by the Michael Hoppen Gallery, London, received critical acclaim. Her most recent show entitled Week-end opened in Los Angeles, New York, London and Japan in 2010. This fall she is going to be in her first museum show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in the New Photography group exhibition. More information can be found on

foam magazine #24 / talent

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‘ The images don’t have to make narrative sense ’

interview by Marc Feustel

I understand that you are self-taught. Can you tell me about your background and how you came to photography specifically? I didn’t go to high school and I spent my teenage years travelling around Europe. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. When I came back to LA, I had to support myself so I took on three (terrible) jobs. I got into a cycle of working in an office job and spending my money on food, clothes, travel and CDs and then having to sell my clothes and CDs to pay my rent. Nothing mattered and I started thinking that this could last my entire life unless I did something about it.I started going to museums and gallery shows to see if there was anything that I might be able to do in the area of art, because I knew that I needed to do something creative. I ended up at the Getty Museum and by chance I stumbled on a William Eggleston exhibition. I hadn’t even thought about photography at that point. I saw one photograph as I walked in the room and I knew from that moment on that I was going to be a photographer. It was instant. I bought a camera the next day and my darkroom equipment three days later. It came with a little instruction manual and I just followed the instructions and it worked! So you are extremely self-taught! Did you start out shooting in blackand-white or colour? I started out with black-and-white which is strange since it was Eggleston that influenced me (although I found out years after seeing that first exhibition that Eggleston started out shooting in black-and-white as well). A few months later I shot a roll of colour where I staged a photograph. A friend of mine then talked me into doing a little exhibition with her. At the opening this staged image was the one that people responded to the most. It was also the image that I enjoyed making the most because it was completely my own vision. I then moved definitively into colour. The word that must be most associated with your work is ‘cinematic’. How much were movies a source of inspiration for you when you started to search for your photographic style? It’s difficult to say. Film has always been a big part of my life. Growing up with my grandmother, she had a classic movies channel and this was my favourite channel as a kid. But, I never specifically thought of movies in relation to my images. Only one of my images is a direct reference to film: the birds photo which is an homage to Alfred Hitchcock. This was also an attempt to stop being compared to Hitchcock. With my first series Polyester, everyone kept referring to Hitchcock, which wasn’t something I had intended. That image was an attempt for me to make the Alfred Hitchcock photo and to try and put that comparison to bed. When staging your images, do you think of a specific time or era? No. In general, I come up with an idea of a girl in a specific situation. The next step is to choose what she is going to wear. That is where the Eggleston influence comes in: I’m obsessed with his colours. I wish we still had dye transfer because it just isn’t possible to get colours like that any more. Today everything is gray, black and neutral tones, whereas in


the 1960s and 1970s there were brighter colours everywhere. I use ele­ ments from that era because I find them much more aesthetically inter­ esting and beautiful. There always seems to be a sense of narrative in your images. How much do you explicitly think of a narrative for your images? I think of them more as mood pieces. I think of an emotion I want to por­ tray and then of a scenario where that emotion would be relevant. It’s definitely not a narrative; if I thought in narratives I would have been a writer. I think in visuals: I literally form images in my mind and that is how I get my photographs. The images don’t have to make narrative sense. Recently you shot a short film, Despair. What made you want to try this experiment with film? Despair was my take on what it would be like if I showed the before, during and after of one of my photographs. The idea came about because I had an idea for a series of images, rather than a single image. I was approached by a producer who had seen my work who offered me the opportunity to shoot a film. I mainly wanted to try it because I felt like I was hitting a kind of wall with photography. My last three series have been in a similar vein and I felt the need to really challenge myself. It was a huge production and it was very intimidating at first; realizing that all these people were depending on me being so certain of my idea. But it only took the first five minutes of shooting for me to realize that it was no different to my photo shoots, just with more hands helping me to achieve my vision. The only major difference was the way in which moving pictures translate differently than still images. At first I was worrying about every frame, the placement of a hand or a strand of hair. When I saw the edit I realized that these details get lost in moving images. It ended up becoming more about the overall mood than specific visual details. This is a time of huge technological change in photography. How attached are you to shooting film and to the darkroom? Have you tried shooting digital? I don’t print my own pictures in colour. I spend a huge amount of time with my retoucher working on each image, so the advances in techno­ logy really work for me. My images are done like collage or paintings: there’s always something I want to add or subtract, whether it be changing the colour of dress or adding a building. As for the danger of film becoming obsolete, that really scares me. For me digital doesn’t work at all. I don’t really know how I would continue photography without film. It is so different, particularly in terms of depth and texture. The grain of film shows people that this is a photograph and not reality. It creates a feeling of separation from reality. It keeps the picture in a little glamorous bubble that allows me to create my own world. Digital is too flat, too crisp, too perfect. Los Angeles is a big presence in your work. What is it that you find inspirational about the city? L.A. is my home, I love it more than anywhere else in the world. It’s beau­ tiful, but it has a certain ugly side that makes me feel that I can contribute something there. In Europe I don’t get inspired at all. It’s too beautiful, too perfect. L.A. is more like a blank canvas, it still has the feeling of the Wild West. You can make L.A. into whatever you want, especially as it’s the city of illusion. It’s a mish-mash of every culture, period and architecture that you can imagine. You can find anything you want there. +

foam magazine #24 / talent


Cyrille Weiner Avenue Jenny

foam magazine #24 / talent

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Cyrille Weiner

Cyrille Weiner is based in Paris and was born in 1976, he studied at the École Nationale Supérieure Louis Lumière after completing a Masters in Economics. His work has been published by several international magazines and exhibited at the Musée d’Art Contemporain in Lyon, the Rencontres d’Arles, the Villa Noailles in Hyères, the Centre de Photographie in Lectoure, the Guangdong Museum of Art in China and the Festival of Light in Buenos Aires. Cyrille Weiner is interested in the uses and appropriation of places and questions the fictional and poetic power of the photographic


document. He runs the blog Silverpoetics ( and for more information about his work, see Avenue Jenny is shot in the outskirts of Paris, a remote area in between two towns; the lightly absurd atmosphere and warmth of the portraits challange our picture of Paris as well as its suburbs.

All images © Cyrille Weiner

foam magazine #24 / talent

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‘The idea of poetic docu­ments appeals to me ’ interview by Marc Feustel

What first brought you to photography? My first exposure to photography was through my grandmother’s family albums. Whenever I went to visit her in Marseille I would spend time leaf­ ing through those albums. It’s one of my earliest childhood memories. My parents took very few pictures. But one day I came across a camera that belonged to my grandfather. That’s how I started taking photographs. I was about thirteen years old when I started to get really passionate about photography. I studied economics at university, but while doing an internship in a big audit firm, I realized that if I didn’t do something I loved, I would probably regret it. So I entered the Louis Lumière school to study photo­ graphy and it went from there. After working with the press for a while and through showing my work relating to landscape and urban space, I started to get more institutional assignments from urban planners or architects. What attracted you towards landscape, urban spaces and architecture? I’ve always had a contemplative nature. Many friends of mine who studied architecture and that was a path I considered myself for a while. How­ ever, in photographic terms, I am less interested in the landscape as such. I wanted to look at spaces in terms of human presence: the way that we use and occupy space. My eye is drawn towards the foreground in a photograph. For me, in formal terms, the landscape is a backdrop. The landscape provides a décor or a stage on which I can observe what happens. How people navigate, use, transform or appropriate the space. Avenue Jenny is your first personal project? How did you discover this area on the periphery of Paris? Avenue Jenny is where it all began. It was my first constructed, thoughtout series. I had been taking photos for a while already. I was fascinated by urban expansion and had been searching for a location for over a year. I often drove out to visit a friend in the suburbs of Paris and I became curious about this place on the margins that seemed to be going through a significant transformation. A director friend of mine was scouting for locations at La Défense and he got his car towed away. When he went to pick it up, he discovered the neighbourhood in Avenue Jenny and told me I should come to see this area.  Avenue Jenny is on the border be­ tween Courbevoie and Nanterre. On one side there is a communist town, on the other a right-wing one. It’s a suburban neighbourhood with a wasteland in the middle and scrap yards, metal yards… activities that are relegated to the fringes of contemporary cities. The area had a diverse, bohemian social life, from the homeless to the bourgeois intellectual. The images in the series give off a sense of detachment from their subject. However, the artist statement for the project is more lyrical, engaged even. How did you strike a balance between neutrality and personal engagement in your work? I reject romanticism in photography. I don’t like to use photographic effects like black-and-white or blur, to produce an emotion. I am inter­ ested in using a realistic, almost naive image to try and produce meaning, or maybe even an emotion, to stimulate the imagination, but from an image of the world as I imagine it to be seen by everyone. Most of the people in Avenue Jenny I came to know well by shooting the series,


returning to this neighbourhood very regularly over a period of two months. I became almost like a member of the family in some cases. Of all of my work, this is the series with the most emotional engagement and in which I integrated the most personal and shared experiences into my images. With regards to the statement, at the time it felt like the neighbourhood was under threat. All of those activities that contributed to the life of the neighbourhood, like the scrap yards or the metal workers, were in danger of being pushed out. All that is gone now. Now when I go back to this area, I have not been able to find the same spirit again. My text was in some way a reaction to that feeling of menace at that time. Do you consider your photographic approach to be documentary? How much do you allow yourself to intervene in the spaces that you photograph? I am not so interested in the photography as document. In my projects I want to integrate emotion and personal experience. I am more interested in showing my experience of the things that I photograph than maintaining a detached documentary approach. The idea of poetic documents appeals to me. There is no manipulation in my images. I spend a lot of time scouting for locations and figuring out when something is likely to happen there. Once I have found a location that interests me, I will keep coming back until I get the specific image that I am looking for. Nonetheless, there is still something about the documentary that is important to me in my work. I search for hyper-reality in my images. For example, when doing in the artistic commissions I have done for urban planners or developers, I like the idea of confronting them with a reality that they otherwise will not, or choose not to see. In your series Le Ban des Utopies you used this quote by Siegfried Kracauer, ‘The worth of cities is determined by the number of places in them devoted to improvisation’, which strikes me as an interesting framework for looking at your work. We live in spaces that are overly planned, controlled and regulated, which leave very little room for individual expression. I search for experiences of appropriation that bypass these overly rigid structures. I am also looking for a spirit of freedom in the places that I photograph. Places where there is space for individual initiatives to escape the collective norms which do not place any trust in individuals. People are not given the means or incentives to construct the spaces and environments where they live. They don’t even think about this anymore, they just take whatever they are given. This thinking has lead to aberrations in the urban space: stopping homeless people from sleeping by removing benches for example. Kracauer’s words express a desire to escape from this. It is also a call to pay attention to the margins, as this is often where the most interesting activities occur. Instead of learning from the periphery, our societies perceive it as something dangerous, as something that needs to be controlled. We have talked about urban spaces and utopia. I am curious as to what a utopian urban space might look like for you? I am interested in an urban space that is constructed from the individual to the collective rather than the reverse. I think the ideal space for me, would be one where everyone has the opportunity to reflect on their way of living. That we don’t just always buy or accept readymade elements, but that we are given the opportunity to build our own environments. For me the real issue is not to create individualized or unusual spaces, but rather to create links between people. To go against the anonymity of the contemporary urban environment. So my concern is less about the form itself than what it can generate in terms of social relationships and integration. +

foam magazine #24 / talent


Melinda Gibson The Photograph As Contemporary Art

foam magazine #24 / talent

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Melinda Gibson

Melinda Gibson was born 1985 in Aldershot, UK and currently lives and works in London. She studied for a BA in Photography at the London College of Communication and has plans to complete an MA in the next few years. After graduating Melinda Gibson assisted various photographers, notably Martin Parr and Wolfgang Tillmans, while still continuing to develop her photographic practice. Melinda Gibson has exhibited in London and will be participating in the European Capital of Culture exhibitions in Finland 2011. The Magenta Foundation has selected Melinda as one of the UK winners for this years Flash Forward Emerging photographers award.


In The Photograph as Contemporary Art Melinda Gibson is interested in the changing perspectives of the photographic medium, it’s posi­tioning within contemporary art and the help and hindrances brought about through the technological advances in photography. More information can be found at www.melindagibson.blogspot.

All images © Melinda Gibson

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‘ The concept behind the series grew out of a sense of frustration ’

interview by Marc Feustel

How did you come to photography? Can you remember your first photo­ graph or the first one that sparked your interest in photography? I can’t recall any time when I was younger when I was without a camera, either my own or my father’s. My dad was an avid amateur of photo­ graphy and he always had one of his many Nikons with him documenting everything around us. From a very young age, probably eight or nine, I learnt what it meant to see the world through different eyes. When I was about ten years old we were holidaying in the Lake District with friends from Australia and I took the first photograph I was truly pleased with. I had taken many before this, but nothing where I felt I had captured something unexplainable. I stood overlooking a lake, my father photographing to the right and our friends to my left. I watched my father for a while as he shot one frame after the other and then I composed my own. I remember the overhanging tree, lush green leaves resting on top of the deep, clear blue lake and the stunning reflections of the sky. The composition was perfect. Once the film was developed, we all sat down and went through the photographs, I will never forget that our friends looked at that picture and at my father’s, which was similar, and asked me if I would make them a copy to take home! From that moment on, I realized I had found a way to express myself. Your series The Photograph as Contemporary Art is made by reconfigur­ ing the book of the same name by Charlotte Cotton. Can you explain the concept behind the series? How did the idea first come to you? The concept behind the series grew out of a sense of frustration at seeing the same images appearing and re-appearing every year at art institutions. As I wandered through different exhibitions, I felt I could point out photographs that were just modern takes on Martin Parr, Stephen Shore or Nan Goldin. What crossed my mind was whether insti­ tutions are in fact to blame for this, or whether it is truly impossible to produce something new. I recall a lecture I had about the canonization in photography and remembered the book by Charlotte Cotton, The Photograph as Contemporary Art. I started looking back through the book and found the same photographers and imagery appearing again. What interested me was whether these types of educational tools contribute to this canonization or dispel it. Through dismantling the book and removing every image, you de-contextualize the photographs and they start to become something different. As the project grew, I realized that slicing these images apart, reconnecting them to others brought a new dismembered reality to the imagery. It also brought an audience participation that I felt was lacking in these texts. The concept brings together many questions I have sur­ rounding the medium. I wanted to produce a body of work that was original, made up of unique pieces that cannot be reproduced, which in turn was a comment on the availability of photography in our digital age. I also wanted to provoke questions about copyright and ownership through the re-appropriation of imagery.


You referred to the process of images becoming canonized. The Internet has had a big impact on the way that we consume photographs today: we can now see hundreds of photographs from different sources within the space of a few hours. Do you think it is possible to still have iconic or canonical images in this context? The Internet has revolutionized the way we view images and there is now an infinite number of images to be seen. But I find that these images are still presented in a canonical context. The canons appear to be the same as those previously determined through education and texts, but what is apparent is that the images can alter dependant on time, date and search engine. However, they never alter dramatically and the most iconic images are always still there. I feel that this canonization of imagery will always remain, even in our digitalized age, as it is fuelled by education and institutions. If the same photographers and images are taught, exhibited, and published then the canons will stay the same. What will be interesting to watch is, when younger, emerging photographers, start infiltrating the canons of today. In the series you juxtapose photo montages with layers of text that have been sliced apart to create these montages. What motivated you to include the text with the images? The textual additions were made to work in two ways: alongside the photo montages and as individual pieces. They contextualize the source of the imagery and add a new dimension to the series. I felt like it was important to deconstruct every part of the book and the text plays an important role in this. When looking at the textual additions, you gain an appreciation into the edit of this style of photo book. What becomes apparent is how many words, phrases and sentences are repeated. When overlaying three pages, you alter the description of the imagery and in turn create a new visual analysis. Juxtaposing the text alongside the photo montages acts as an index or an appendix. It contextualizes the space where the montages where conceived and it shows the direct link between process and resolution. The series raises the question of photography’s place in contemporary art. In Britain photography has not received as much attention as contemporary art. For instance the Tate Modern only very recently appointed its first photography curator. What is your impression of the place of photography in the British contemporary art world? I feel it starts with whether you say you are an artist or a photographer. Whatever you decide, this dictates which market and world you enter. There seems to be a hierarchy in contemporary art, which photography is unable to penetrate. I feel that photography is seen as a lower form of art, a form for the masses and I worry that, through the developments in digital technology, this gap will only widen. It amazes me that the country that created the Calotype cannot embrace a medium so rich in historical, technological and social advances as a form of contemporary art. I get the impression that photographs in the British art world are seen as pieces of evidence, documents that testify to an event, rather than as a highly contemporary and conceptual medium. For example, in Saatchi’s recent exhibition, Newspeak: British Art Now, there wasn’t any photography included. I don’t doubt the country’s ability to see photography as an art and I think we have come a long way in that field, but there is still a lot more that can be done with regards to the way that photography is represented in the art world. +

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Luke Stephenson An Incomplete Dictionary of Show Birds

foam magazine #24 / talent

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Luke Stephenson

Luke Stephenson was born in 1983 in Darlington in the North East of England and is now based in London. He studied at the Blackpool and Fylde College. In 2005 he was one of the winners of the Jerwood Photography Award, with his series Spectacle Wearing Folk, and was selected the year after to be part in the Festival International de Mode et de Photo­ graphie in Hyères.


His work has been published in numerous magazines, like Portfolio, Dazed and Confused, Capricious, Nico and Vice Magazine. His latest series An Incomplete Dictionary of Show Birds is here being published for the first time.

All images © Luke Stephenson

foam magazine #24 / talent

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‘It’s very simple really: I just want to show them at their best, to show how beautiful they are.’

interview by Marc Feustel

How did you start doing photography? What was it that interested you about it specifically? It was very simple really, when I was in school in art class we had a little darkroom that I used to mess around in. I just found out from there that photography was something that came quite naturally for me and that I really enjoyed. I just carried on with it from there, went to college, did a little photography course and then went to university. I find that one of the best things about photography is that it gets you into places that you wouldn’t normally have any access to. You can enter little worlds or communities that you would never get the same kind of access to if you didn’t have a camera. You were asked once what you would make if you didn’t make photographs and you said ‘bad paintings’ . Did you ever consider painting instead of photography? If I was any good at painting, that is something I would have liked to do. With photography you have the restrictions of having to make use of what is in front of the camera. With painting you can work from an idea, adding elements or taking them away. There’s a kind of luxury to that. Unfor­ tunately I’m just not very good. You could say that your work is all portraits of one kind or another whether its people, birds or puppets. How did you get into portraiture? When I was at university in Blackpool, I mostly did landscapes or little observational photographs. It was quite a closed environment and all the students were using each other for their fashion shoots down a back alley. It was always the same people getting used all the time for shoots, which put me off. This got me thinking about trying something different and towards the end of my degree I came up with the idea for the Spectacle Wearing Folk series. I collected glasses and clothes from charity shops and developed the idea over six months, the theory behind it and the way of shooting it. That was what started me off in portraiture. I find people fascinating. Real people rather than models, although I wouldn’t necessarily say no to photographing a few models, don’t get me wrong, but ordinary people just really fascinate me. Their movements, their body language, all these little elements that tell you something about their personality. It feels like you use the minimum amount of elements to make your images? I try to give the people or the things that I photograph their own impor­ tance. I find that by using a blank background, you can use stance and positioning to say about the person rather than having their belongings or environment speak for them. I think it makes it more interesting when you have to work a bit to figure out what might be going on beyond that little blank space. I like that elusiveness. I also like the challenge of work­ ing within the confinements of a small blank space.


In your series Budgies, the birds have a very pronounced, almost human, personality. That also comes through in An Incomplete Dictionary of Show Birds, although in a more subtle way. Do you approach photographing the birds the same way as you would people? Photographing birds is quite different, just technically speaking. When I first started, with the series Budgies, I was quite naive thinking I could go along and have them sit on someone’s finger and just photograph them against a white wall. When I arrived for the first shoot, the owner told me that was never going to happen. Luckily he had a little cage to put them in and I was able to get some shots. Also the budgies are easier to photograph because they’re quite lazy. Since then, over the last few years, I’ve been researching and developing the way I photograph the birds. I learnt quite a lot about the criteria for judging the show birds and when I showed the budgie images to someone that knew about birds they really didn’t like them. People in photography always got excited about them, but not bird-lovers. I also found out about a famous bird photographer, Dennis Avon, and tried to learn from the way that he set up his shots. Although I didn’t really know how he did it, I got some ideas from looking at his images. The theory about photographing birds, is that they will go to the highest point they can find to sit on. So if you give them a box with a single highpoint to sit on, they will generally rest there. I’m not really a technical photographer. I approach it more like someone tinkering around in their shed and making do with what they’ve got. I find it interesting to try and figure out ways of doing things that are more sparing and economical. What are you looking for when you’re taking those shots? I’m just trying to show the birds for what they are. A lot of people never see birds from close up. It’s very simple really: I just want to show them at their best, to show how beautiful they are. A lot of the series comes down to the edit since there’s a lot of trial and error in photographing them. Trying to find the best combination of stance, colours and shapes. How did you end up finding the breeders in the first place? I was living up North for a couple of years, where I was brought up. They had a great good bird club and I went along to a few meetings and met some people there. They were quite suspicious at first as, surprisingly, there is quite a bit of bird theft that goes on because they are worth quite a bit of money. Once you get to know a few people you can drop a few names which opens doors. The thing that takes the most time is gaining their trust and getting in their front door. There are quite a few subjects in your work that are very British. What is it about Britishness that interests you as a subject? Britishness is quite important to me. I’ve lived in Britain all my life and I don’t think I could live anywhere else. I think its because I understand the British and their slightly off-key attitudes. I’m interested in entering these little worlds and societies that you don’t generally get a chance to see. In terms of British photography I think there’s a lot that has been overdone, time and time again, but I still think that there’s a huge amount that hasn’t really been explored yet. +

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Breno Rotatori ManĂŠlud

foam magazine #24 / talent

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Breno Rotatori

Breno Rotatori was born in 1988 in Saõ Paulo. He studied at the Senac University Centre and completed his bachelor in 2009. Currently he is doing research in the area between reality and fiction and their use and representation in photography. Alongside photo­graphy, video is also an integral part of this research. Breno was awarded the Porto Seguro de Fotografia award, 2009 for the category Revelation. He was selected for the Descubrimientos


Photo España (in São Paulo’s Centro Cultural). He was also nominated for the KLM Paul Huf Award 2010. In his series Manélud, he juxtaposes his own images with his grand mothers amateur images taken at the same moment.

All images © Breno Rotatori

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‘An elderly lady, who just starts one day to photo­ graph her own life, intrigued me ’

interview by Marc Feustel

Have you studied photography or are you self-taught? What is it that first attracted you to photography? Are there particular photographers that inspire and influence you? I graduated in photography in 2009. Photography has always been present in my life. My dad had a darkroom in his house and he used to photograph a lot. He was a great amateur so for me it came very natu­ rally. Even when I was small, I knew that I was going to study photography. There are many photographers who have inspired me, but there are three who have influenced me a lot. They don’t all strictly consider themselves photographers, they all use photography in their work as more of a tool: Miguel Rio Branco, Antoine d’Agata and Rosângela Rennó. What is it about the work of these photographers that inspires you? The way in which we relate to photography really interests me: the use of poetical freedom to dilute a theme and the fusion of life with images. I really like the way they think about and use photography. The journey through photographic terrains and among different photographic lan­ guages raises more photographic questions, which lately have left me thinking a lot about seeing photography from outside its current para­ meters. These characteristics are reflected a lot in Rennó’s work. How did the idea for a series with your grandmother come about? How long did it take you to shoot it? My grandmother started taking photographs at the beginning of 2009. At that time I was working on an essay, Bloco de Notas. I guess that she was influenced by me and started taking photographs, too. She asked for a film camera and we gave her an automatic Canon. With the inten­ tion of memorizing family events she photographed birthday parties, trips, family meals and all kinds of things that make up a family album. With a feeling of both curiosity and admiration I started photographing her taking pictures. An elderly lady, who just starts one day to photograph her own life, intrigued me. The results were quite interesting. The first images displayed side by side - mine and hers - generated many ques­ tions about the photographic language itself, the use of its many repre­ sentations and the relationship between foreground and background. From these first experiments, I developed the habit of photographing her as she was going about her photography and it became a genuine project for me. For these diptychs did you shoot the images at exactly the same time? Was there one of you who would shoot first? My intention was to shoot at the exact moment that she took a photo, but there was no way to be exact. Sometimes I used her flash as a cue. When it activates and the red light comes on, I click. Generally, my click follows her click, but she triggers my shot. The diptych which comes closest to precision is the one in which I photographed her flash so that my photograph became almost completely white. This image was the pinnacle of this relationship.


Why is that? I mention that image as the peak of our encounter because of the precision of the two shots. The image symbolizes that precision. I am not talking about a moment in the sense of the moment, that perfect instant, because I don’t believe in it. Has your grandmother seen how you have put the series together? What was her impression when she saw the results? Yes, she has seen the series but she relates to the images differently than me. Sometimes she doesn’t understand why I use images, which, in theory, aren’t technically refined. It is precisely this that makes the most sense for me, this lack of formal commitment, which paradoxically ends up being an aesthetic; it wouldn’t make sense otherwise. My project needs that kind of technique and simpler language. That which some see as ugly, I see as beautiful. Are family photo albums important to you? Family albums are important to both my working processes and my life. They are like a memory of the things that I didn’t experience, or in the cases where I did, I see the images as a form of tangible memory. I like that element of fiction that family albums brings us. Our memory consti­tutes, for the most part, photographs, which are often a great way to reinvent reality. I like the idea that because we want to keep things, we create memories. That, for me, is the purpose of a family album, to establish a properly forged and fragmented memory. My work often draws from references to the anonymous photographers of family albums. I have been appropriating those sorts of images more and more for my work. Can you tell me more about how you use images from family albums in your work? I am currently developing another series in which I use images from family albums, but in a different way. By putting two images together in a diptych, I then create a new relationship between them that didn’t exist previously, which results in a new memory. It has been a very interesting process, a meditation on how to create new meanings using images that are already charged with their own significance. In your other photographs, you take a more poetic, artful approach. The images in this series look instinctive, like not much thought was given to composition or use of light. Did you decide on a style for the series or did you just aim to keep these images as natural as possible? I opted to present them with a greater aesthetic simplicity, a cruder less delicate language but I don’t believe that detracts from the quality of the images; they are good for what they are. I really love my grandmother’s pictures and this particular project demands that kind of approach. I can’t imagine this series being presented in any other way. I try to keep it all as natural as possible; she buys the films and has them developed at ordinary labs, like those you find in supermarkets. What I do then is reproduce the images. It is vital that the whole process remains intact, so that the images really are those of a family album. Like that I can appropriate what I need. Living in São Paulo, what is that inspires you in your city? Do you think that there is a specific style of photography that is coming out of Brazil? Living in São Paulo allows me to see a lot of things like exhibitions and cinema. I imagine that if I lived in another city, I probably wouldn’t have the same access to those things. I don’t like to think of there being a specific national identity. From what I’ve seen of the work here, it goes well beyond such definitions. Obviously each place produces its own particular style, but I don’t think that that is relevant, here. I think that Brazilian photography has already passed that phase and has expanded in significance. +

foam magazine #24 / talent


Benjamin Lowy Iraq Perspectives I

foam magazine #24 / talent

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Benjamin Lowy

Benjamin Lowy was born in 1979 and received a BFA from Washington University in St. Louis in 2002 and began his career covering the Iraq War in 2003 for Time Magazine. Since then he has covered major stories in Afghanistan, Darfur, Chad, Haiti, Indonesia, China, and other various worldwide locations. In 2004 Lowy attended the World Press Joop Swart Masterclass and was nominated for the ICP Infinity Award. He was named in the Photo District News 30 and his images of Iraq were chosen by PDN as some of the most iconic of the 21st century. Lowy has received awards from World Press Photo, POYi, PDN, PGB, Communication Arts, American Photography, and was a finalist for the Oskar Barnack Award. Lowy’s work from Iraq and Darfur have been collected into several gallery and museum shows, including London’s Tate Modern, and the San Francisco MoMA.


The series Iraq Perspectives I is shot from within an Army Humvee. The decision to include the actual windows in the images serves a literal and a metaphorical purpose. Lowy wanted to create a visual technique to present Iraq to the public that is different from the usual images and metaphorically speaking they represent the barrier that impeds dialogue. Benjamin Lowy is represented by Reportage by Getty Images. Lowy’s work can be seen on his website -

All images © Benjamin Lowy

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‘There was a general apathy towards Iraq. After some time, people just didn’t care anymore’

interview by Marc Feustel

Can you tell me about your background and how you first came to photography? I originally wanted to be a comic-book illustrator. My mother and grandmother are artists, so I grew up going to museums and galleries, but photography was not a part of my upbringing. It was only when I was doing figure studies at school that I picked up a camera to photograph some nudes so I could improve my drawing. I would spend time in a bookstore looking at fashion books or books of nude photography to improve my drawing. They were all tall books and one day I pulled out Inferno (by James Nachtwey) thinking it was one of those fashion books because it was so big. I looked at the pictures and I was transfixed. I decided to take a year off from school to teach myself photography. When the second intifada broke out I went to Israel and Palestine to photograph. That was my first experience of photojournalism and it convinced me to carry on. I then went back to school to study photo­graphy and did my thesis living and photographing in a homeless shelter for five months. I interned at a newspaper and learned that that was not what I wanted to do. After making my way to New York, Corbis asked me to be their embedded photographer in Iraq. That was the beginning of my career. The state of photojournalism today is the subject of much debate. What is your perspective on the way things are changing in photojournalism and where do you see things going? Assignment photojournalism is in bad shape, and that will continue to be the case. But I don’t see photography as being dead, I see it as changing. Photography didn’t destroy painting and I don’t think the internet or multimedia technologies will destroy still photography, I think they will just change it. Our goal is always communication. I think we just have to find a different way of doing that. For instance, I had an assignment to cover the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in May and June. In my spare time I shot abstract pictures of the oil on the surface of the water. Those pictures got a much greater response from the public than my reportage images because they were so different to what everybody had been seeing on the internet or on the TV news. The more I think about all my personal work that shows such stories in a different light, the more I feel that I have found an area that really has to develop in photojournalism. Because there is so much out there, to really make an impact you need to create something that looks different but that still has a message. Something that will transcend people’s apathy or lack of interest and communicate with them on another level. I think that is where the future lies.


You wrote that you shot your series Iraq Perspectives I because of people’s inability to comprehend what Iraq is like. Why do you think that is the case? Every time I came back from Iraq people would ask me how it was. How do you answer that question? How do you begin to explain to someone what 120-degree heat (50°C) feels like. The way that sand just floats in the air, like dust. It’s so difficult to explain that type of detail to someone who hasn’t experienced it. I think people understand that they can’t really fathom what it’s like. Particularly as most people in America aren’t connected to soldiers anymore. There was a general apathy towards Iraq. After some time, people just didn’t care anymore. Part of the problem with photojournalism now is that there’s too much content. There are so many images out there that there isn’t a single picture to gravitate towards. Particularly now, with all the issues that people are facing in western countries. There was so much information out there to which people had no personal connection, so they just stopped caring. I felt that there had to be a way to make people care. I wanted to transcend that barrier of apathy, and to find a way of communicating with people. Finding a different way of engaging people with my work, to get them to look. That’s how I ended up putting the windows project together. The whole idea behind it was to create something I call an aesthetic bridge. To create a look that will get people curious. At first they might not understand what they’re looking at, but once they get drawn in, the message gets delivered to them. I began to use repetitive compositional elements to create that bridge. A lot of the images that can be seen through these windows are very ordinary scenes. How did you select the images that you chose to show in the series? These images were taken during the moments between assignments and so the content was never likely to be extreme. But I also chose to shoot this series in order to show people Iraq. People who aren’t connected to the war have no way of knowing that Baghdad was a normal city that had Italian restaurants, Chinese restaurants, pizza joints, streets that worked, internet cafés… I wanted to show people that there was normalcy and life going on there. What is your opinion on the separation of art and photojournalism in relation to your own work? If I have an assignment, that is where I make my money. I have to deliver something specific according to the needs of my client. If I want to work around that and do something for myself, I can do that. In terms of war photography I have a problem with putting those images up in a gallery and having people walking around an opening sipping wine and eating cheese. But I understand the desire for the image to be consumed differently. That is what art is in a way: it’s a matter of consumption, having it in a newspaper where it will last for a day, or even less on the internet, where most photojournalism ends up these days, is very different from creating a piece of art that will have a much longer lifetime and therefore a more viable, longer-lasting message. When my wife and I got married, you’re supposed to write your profession down on your marriage certificate. My wife wrote photojournalist, and I wrote photographer. To me I’m not just a photojournalist. I make a living doing photojournalism and that is also a passion, but I also express myself in ways with a camera that are not photojournalism. +

foam magazine #24 / talent


Chris Engman Landscapes

foam magazine #24 / talent

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Chris Engman

Images in order of appearance: Ode The Artist as an Explorer Equivalence The Meeting The Haul Object, Shadow Transplant Equipoise Three Squares Three Moments Empty House All images Š Chris Engman

Chris Engman was born in 1978 and is leaving in Seattle. He studied at the University of Washington and completed his BFA in 2003. In 2004 he received the Artist Trust Fellowship. He has received the GAP Award (Grants for Artists) three times (2004, 2007 and 2010) and was shortlisted at the Hyères International Fashion and Photography Festival in 2009. In his series Landscapes Chris Engman explores the vaste deserts of the State of Washington. By intervining in the landscape with complex


artefacts he alters the scenery as if he could conquere the forces of nature. The structures he erects are demanding and involve several days of reconnaissance and construction. Chris Engman is represented by the Greg Kucera Gallery, Seattle and Luis De Jesus, Los Angeles. For more information see his website

foam magazine #24 / talent

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‘I am like a sculptor or installation artist who uses photography as a tool’

interview by Marc Feustel

What attracted you to the landscapes of eastern Washington that you use for your photographs? When I set out to make a photograph I begin with an idea. I write about it, turn it over in my mind, and gradually the requirements for a site take shape. I then go out and drive, sometimes for a long time, until I find that site. The idea is not a response to the landscape; in my work the land­ scape is a response to the idea. Once I’ve found and used a site I become attached to it, and there are some that I frequently revisit. They go from being spaces where I am free to let my imagination wander to being places with a personal history and familiarity. I have dreams about buy­ ing up all that land and doing nothing with it so that it will be left alone. You refer to these landscapes as resembling ‘an unformed dream or empty canvas waiting to be acted upon.’ What made you want to intervene in these landscapes? They fulfilled the requirements for the illustration of my ideas. When I refer to these spaces as an empty canvas I mean that they are relative­ ly free from distracting associations, so that the work can just be the work. Undeveloped land, ocean views, deserts, the associations they have are ones that are appropriate to the work: freedom, possibility and a desire for purity. The Japanese photographer Naoya Hatakeyama has suggested that ‘nature is already so distant from us that you might say it has become a fantasy’. Is this an idea that resonates with you? I don’t personally feel more distant from nature than I want to be. My work affords me a lot of opportunities to be in nature and for adventure and misadventure. Being and working in extreme places connects me to nature by confirming the power it has over me. I don’t really imagine that there is such a strict division between man and nature. We are a part of nature, when we harm it we harm ourselves. Can you describe how you go about constructing your images? The process seems quite elaborate. Every image presents unique challenges. In the case of Equivalence, to begin with I found a suitable piece of private land and got permission to use it. I built a frame and photographed it. Back in Seattle I made fifteen large prints altogether measuring 4.5 meters wide and over 3.5 meters high. The prints had to be skewed digitally to account for the fact that the frame was not parallel to the film plane. I returned to eastern Washington and placed the prints back onto the same frame. In the final photograph you wouldn’t know by looking at it that the prints were ever skewed be­ cause the camera, replaced to its original location, skews them again back into ‘correct’ perspective. The piece is titled after the series of clouds by Alfred Stieglitz, in which he suggests that his images of clouds can represent inner states and emotions. My version asserts that photographs are not objective and can only ever tell partial truths, and beauty and emotion are constructs of the mind. For me this doesn’t lessen photo­ graphy, beauty or emotion but makes them all the more interesting.


Manipulation in photography is not new, but digital technology has extended the range of possibilities and the line between straight and manipulated photographs is increasingly blurry. Do you think people’s perceptions of what a photograph is are changing as a result? One question I get a lot is are they manipulated? The answer is supposed to be no, they are ‘real.’ This is a false dichotomy. All forms of representation are manipulation. But the question gets asked, and at the root of it is a desire for authenticity. What needs to be better understood is that sometimes even heavily manipulated images are truthful and sometimes straight photographs tell lies, so there should be a different set of criteria for authenticity. My own photographs are in many ways closer to what is meant by straight than not. That is, the majority of the digital manipulation that I do could have, at least theoretically, been done in a darkroom. However, I have no qualms about crossing that line when necessary. In The Haul, for example, street signs and text on the buildings have been removed so that the place would have a more generic quality. One thing I will not do is pretend I did something that I did not do. Many photographers are finding ways to make their work be less work, while I have gone in the opposite direction. My photographs are laboured, and they don’t take short cuts. In that sense I am like a sculptor or installation artist who uses photography as a tool. I am curious to know about your influences and in particular your relationship to landscape photography. Your work occupies quite a unique space and it seems to integrate many different photographic and artistic traditions. I think a lot about Robert Smithson’s work relating to time and place. The Earthworks artists often have more in common with my process and practice than do landscape photographers. I enjoy the work of Michael Heizer and Walter De Maria, Georges Rousse and Robert Irwin. The rephotographic work of Mark Klett has been an influence recently. Fiction by writers such as Milan Kundera, Salman Rushdie, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Faulkner and Hemingway often directly spurs ideas for particular photographs. Also the writings of the neurologist Oliver Sacks are an influence. As opposed to many contemporary landscape photographers your photographs don’t seem to have a direct message about the relationship between man and nature. Do you consider that there is a political aspect to your work? I am a political person but my work is not directly political. A lot of contemporary landscape photography is concerned with human exploitation of the landscape, usually with a pessimistic or nostalgic undertone. Although I am of course concerned about exploitation, the subject of my work concerns abstract ideas relating to perception and the human condition. On the other hand a few of my works do contain some subtle social criticism. One way to read The Haul, for example, is as a questioning of consumerism and the ideas about success that drive us to always want more and do more and never be content. The piece expresses a desire to travel through life with a lighter load. What are you working on at the moment? The piece I’m working on is a diptych called Dust to Dust. My plan is to find or make a large pile of sand or dirt and photograph it. For the second part of the diptych I will employ land-moving equipment to rotate the pile ninety degrees clockwise. The mountain of dirt will be reformed in its original shape, the shadows will be repeated with careful timing and camera placement. In this way the pile of dirt will appear to remain stationary while the landscape itself will appear to have moved. The piece is a meditation on impermanence and the fact that not only existence but even the features of the physical world are temporal and will come to an end. +

foam magazine #24 / talent


Toru Nagahama Layout of Everyday

foam magazine #24 / talent

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Toru Nagahama

Toru Nagahama was born in Tokyo 1980, but have been living in London for the past 14 years. He graduated with a Master in Communication Art and Design Course at the Royal College of Art in 2005. He is current­ ly working as a graphic designer in London, at the same time as he is developing his photography practice. He was nominated in the 29th Hitotsubo Competition. Eventhough photography is his main interest,


he is investigating different media, such as threedimensional installations. This approach is very appearant in his series Layout of Everyday which is a playful attempt to deal with the banality of the everyday life. He is represented by G /P Gallery in Tokyo.

All images © Toru Nagahama, Courtesy G / P Gallery, Tokyo

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‘My approach is to try to find a way of dealing with boring feelings and the everyday ’

interview by Marc Feustel

I am interested to know more about your background since you are Japanese and spent half your life in the UK. Is that diverse background important to you in your work? I started photography because I was away from my home country and I missed the everyday views of Japan. When I had the opportunity to go back to Japan on holiday in the following year, I started taking photos and brought them back to London as souvenirs. To be away from home is a bit of a weird feeling. In photographs very familiar places exist as they are, but I am looking at them from a nine-hour time difference. In some of my works I tried to explore that feeling, such as in As a Mountain. For that piece I took back to London a photograph of a mountain next to my ancestors’ grave in Himeji town and reconstructed the same layout on my bed as a way of connecting two important and distant places. I work a lot in my bedroom, as it is a neutral place, a placeless place. It is like a laboratory where I can input images I took from the outside world and experiment with them. Many of your images integrate multiple elements or layers into more or less abstract tableaux. Can you describe the process that you go through in building these images? It depends on the project. Sometimes I work on a computer to create layers or other times I create installations and simply take photographs of them. I do not have a specific technique, both digital and film are great. The idea of layers is very important, as it leads me to the installation ideas for my work. When I create my works, I find it more interesting to explore how each image interacts with real objects. With the installation, I think there are different ways of approaching it. One is to walk close to each work to look into the world inside each photograph. Another is to stand further away to see how each image is installed and see the installation pattern as part of the work itself. You could even stand further back to see how people are looking at the work. This is how I started to think about layers. I get the feeling that photography plays a part in your work but is not necessarily its central focus. You are also a graphic designer and the use of design is apparent in many of your works. Do you consider yourself to be a photographer, an artist, a designer... none of the above? Photography is still the central focus in my life even when I am working as a graphic designer. My design work is also important to me as a way of exploring photography. For me photography is a way of communicating and interacting with the world that surrounds me. It is about thinking about how to make things interesting or to find something interesting in a banal scene.


I think that this type of idea is strongly related to the practice of graphic design. I have a lot of respect for graphic designers like Bruno Munari and Alan Fletcher who had a very distinctive and critical way of observ­ ing and analysing the world. Munari has a series of books on the most fundamental geometric shapes: the triangle, square and circle. The way that he analyses those shapes in graphic design terms is something that can be explored through photography as well. He has so many different ways of looking at such simple shapes: he opens our eyes to looking at the world in a distinctive way. I think I need to be active in both graphic design and photography to be able to develop my thinking on photography. Also there is another practical reason: I love making handmade books, and without graphic design I couldn’t explore that field. I also like to explore the possibilities of photographs as objects, this is why the process of installation is im­ portant for me. Several of your images show the framing and installation of photographs, often in unconventional ways. What is it about the installation process that interests you? I do not like to think of photography simply as a medium for showing an image that has been taken. I think it is more interesting as an object with a very realistic image that has been inscribed on it. I am interested in how photographs can interact with the real environment in which they are installed. There are many possibilities for the installation of photo­ graphy and it feels like they have not yet been sufficiently explored. I feel photography installation is like ‘musique concrète’. They are both made up of visual fragments of the world and once they come to­ gether it becomes like an orchestra. Images and space start relating to each other, and in the same way photographs relate to each other as well. It could be something as simple as a photograph of a fan and a white horse in the wind. But I like the fact that two separate places can be brought together to create a different meaning. Maybe that is because I have been away from my home for such a long time and I wanted to find a way of connecting two separate places. What is it that interests you in the practice of making handmade books? How does this differ from your installation work? Handmade books can turn photographs into a tangible object with which we can physically interact. For me books are not just a catalogue of my works. By using a certain concept for the layout and bindings, they turn into objects that people can play with. My installation work actually started as a result of thinking about how to open up the world inside a book into a real physical space. When I had the opportunity to do an exhibition I did not just want to display my works, I wanted to make something as playful as my handmade books. The everyday and the banal seem to be important to your approach and to the locations you use for your photographs? Why is this ordinary quality important to you in your approach? Yes the everyday and the banal are important to my practice of photo­ graphy. I want my photographs to look ordinary and banal, not dramatic. One of the reasons for this is that I have the feeling that even if I do something dramatic, after some time I will end up thinking that it is banal anyway. Even the most shocking things may appear ordinary if you see them all the time. So my approach is to try to find a way of dealing with boring feelings and the everyday. I sometimes think of the everyday and the banal as a big monster which can chew and digest the shocking into boring. When I thought of this image of the monster, it became truly thrilling to approach my works in that direction. +

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Emile Hyperion Dubuisson Siberia, The Far North

foam magazine #24 / talent

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Emile Hyperion Dubuisson

Emile Hyperion Dubuisson was born in 1975 in Paris and is now living in between New York and Paris. Prior to his photographical studies at the International Center of Photography in 2007, he studied cinema at UniversitĂŠ Paris 8 in France. His work reflects disciplines of both fields and he has exhibited widely in the States. The bleak and harsh images from Siberia, the Far North, were shot over 15 years ago. The lack of


experience made the development of the film accidental and random; the result was put in a drawer for a long time, and recently carefully scanned. For more information, see

All images Š Emile Hyperion Dubuisson

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‘His voice had a cultured ring in it and though he spoke in measured accents there was a suspicion of a quiver in the mellow tones.’ (James Joyce) I hope the Siberia series responds to that.

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‘ The set was unreal, lost in the northern part of the polar circle and plunged deeply into its low light ’

interview by Marc Feustel

Can you tell me about your background and how you first discovered photography? Beyond recollection, photography is my memory. There were many of us and we were happy: photography is the trace of that. The carefreeness of childhood is inscribed on these rolls of film. Later I branched off towards cinema, which, as a teenager, intrigued me more than photography. There was something enchanting, dreamlike and surreal about film. Photography came to the fore through the happenstance of random encounters. Its raw and instinctive language allowed me to join others without too much turbulence. Photography has that furtive pleasure of capturing something and the joy of sharing in a discourse. Did you study film or photography? Are there any photographers or bodies of work who have influenced or inspired you? I studied film in Paris and then photography in New York. Now I do photo­ graphy or cinema, sometimes both. They are very different mediums and I use them depending on what I am working on. I am interested in their speed, and how we create, share and forget the images. I’m interested in what happens in everyday life, I read a lot and watch people. It’s a constantly fluid way of thinking. I am a stranger in a curious city and that helps me to be in a state of constant awareness. Your images from Siberia, the Far North feel like found photographs. Some of the images are heavily scratched or stained which gives them the feeling of being from another time. I understand that you left these photographs in a drawer for ten years? How did you first rediscover these images? What was your impression when you first saw them again? I went to Siberia without a camera. I bought one there. I was eighteen. Before going there, I had never photographed. After shooting these images, I did not photograph again for more than ten years. There was only one kind of black-and-white film available. When I processed the film, it was in the winter, so the water from the sink was very cold; half the film didn’t turn out. The negatives were very thin and underdeveloped. I was so depressed. The film was practically blank, so I put it away for fifteen years. When I went back to Paris, I worked on movies for ten years as a cinematographer. In 2006 I came to New York to go to the ICP (International Center of Photography). I came to take a break, but mostly to build something different. It was a one-year program, where I shot a lot of film, experimented with the medium and did not find a specific path for my photographic endeavour. So, back to the beginning. If there is a beginning… I started to uncover the past that I was just about to forget. My studies and my background gave me the eyes to see what I might not have seen before. New technologies helped me to give a shape to something unprintable. I was ready to write my first story. Two years later, this two-part project became accomplished.


In a way mid-winter Siberia seems like the worst place in the world to try and make photographs, a process that is based on light. What took you to Siberia in the first place and how long did you stay? Can you describe your experience of Siberia? When I was working in the movie industry, we had to stay in Russia for six months while working on a documentary. One day we landed in Siberia for a few weeks. This is where I started to take out my camera. A no man’s land, perfectly devoid of images. A beautiful ‘snow’ page. The set was unreal, lost in the northern part of the polar circle and plunged deeply into its low light; it was in the middle of the winter, the coldest time of the year. I only just had the time to press the shutter before I would have to go back indoors. Time was on my hands. It’s like I was in a survival mode, my entire being focusing on that objective. Looking at these images now leads me to reminiscing about that time long ago when photographing was a totally instinctive act for me. Siberia is the first time rediscovered. Snapshot scratched. The effects of time. But not only… As a cinematographer, I am always interested in creating a specific image with a specific meaning. Here I had the traces of time anchored on frames. I played with the effect, subtly. Since I found the adequate pencil with which to draw, I started to create sequences. Siberia has a place in the collective imaginary of the furthest reaches, the undiscovered, in a contemporary world where the horizon is shared without it having a hidden face. And I do think that it’s not the place which makes the event, but its construction. This series seems quite different to a lot of your work since then. Are there elements in this series that you have used subsequently in your work? How do you see this series in relation to the rest of your work since then? I’m currently in the middle of two bodies of work. One is black-and-white portraiture, close-up head-shots and portraits, using Tri-X film, which I over-process. It creates a certain contrast and a softness at the same time, which is a perfect way to explore the contradiction of our feelings. The other one is a video project, looking at the shift of emotions across the face. I focus on capturing the in-between states. The calm after the storm. I am interested in the little window of time when we are changing our mind. The series from Siberia is far removed from the new directions in my work, but it gives me the times to muse. +

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Elian Somers Droom als er ooit een was

Palermo, Zen (2008) Imagined as a Modernist concept of community life, Vittorio Gregotti’s Zen holds a labyrinth of Mafia tunnels, lookouts and a firing range. (The Guardian, 2008)

Cumbernauld (2007) Honoured with an Award for Community Architecture, Cumbernauld wins ‘The Plook on the Plinth Award for the Most Dismal Town in Scotland’ (BBC News, 2005)

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Elian Somers

Works in order of appearance: Palermo, Zen (2008) Brasilia (2006) Detroit, Lafayette Park (2008) Rotterdam, Kleinpolder (2006) Cumbernauld (2007)

All images © Elian Somers

Elian Somers was born in 1975 in Sprang-Capelle, the Netherlands. She now lives and works in Rotterdam. She studied Architecture at Delft University and completed the Master Programme in Photography at St. Joost Academy, Breda in 2007. Over the last few years Elian Somers has been working on projects which examine the urban landscape, its architecture, utopia, the utopian thinking and the way utopian concepts have been generally perceived over the years. Text and image provide double reflections on the urban landscape and were shown in various installations, among others at TENT Rotterdam, Foam_3h


in Amsterdam and the Cobra Museum in Amstelveen. Current ongoing projects she works on are Droom als er ooit een was (A dream if ever there was one), Border Theories and All-Sided. Her newest project is about planned cities that just exist in their foundations and that can be seen as new heritage for the future. In this ongoing project, the first city she recently worked on and exhibited is California City. For more information, see

All images © Elian Somers

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‘I feel the need to photo­ graph places with a history’

interview by Marc Feustel

You started out studying architecture. What made you shift to photo­graphy? As an architecture student I was allowed to envision another world far from the existing reality. After I started working in the field of archi­tecture I had to deal with reality instead and was expected to adapt to the tough practices of the new millennium’s building boom without any space for reflection and critical research. As I searched for different strategies to develop my own little pieces of research, I became interested in the field of visual arts and especially photography. What was it that drew you towards photography in particular? When I was working in the field of architecture, I came across the work of photographers on the transforming urban landscape that seemed to contain hidden proposals for the future. More importantly the works were feeding the debate on architecture and urban planning. This drew me towards the field of photography and I decided to study it. The Düsseldorf school has had a major influence on contemporary photo­ graphy. Do you feel affiliated with any particular photographic ‘schools’ or move­ments? Who are the photographers that influence and inspire you? The New Topographics photographers influenced my photographic practice, but the photographers or artists working with photography (and film) who most inspire me are those who construct layered worlds of imagery, or collections of images, mostly presented in the form of instal­ lations or spatial interventions that are open in their format and aim to start a dialogue with the viewer. One example is Aglaia Konrad who in­ vestigates the contemporary urban space and the side-effects of urbanization. She is building an open and endless archive of images as a source for installations and publications. Your work deals with architecture, but perhaps more so with the urban and social landscape that derives from architecture. That’s right. My ongoing series and archive All-Sided considers architec­ tural objects that have been displaced from their original ideological context at the time when I photographed them, but in most of my projects I investigate the urban and social landscape, or cityscape. Over the last few years, I have particularly focused on utopian cityscapes: realized dreams that have been invented as an alternative to the existing built world, the utopian thinking that underpins these and the ways in which these concepts have been generally perceived over the years. The Netherlands was the starting point for the ongoing work and archive Droom als er ooit een was (A dream if ever there was one). In the Netherlands the post-war Modernist cityscape has become the scapegoat for contemporary social malfunctions and is being rapidly demolished. This demolition doesn’t just lead to the disappearance of an architectural environment, but also to the loss of the thinking that underpinned it, based upon the Modernists’ critical thinking and will to change the world. All of my work  – in addition to the Modernist cityscape,


I have also studied the socialist and neo-liberal urban landscape – dialecti­cally represents utopia as a failure, as well as utopia’s fading historical importance. You have referred to the Modernist and socialist utopias, but do you think that contemporary architecture is associated with an identifiable utopia? What might that utopia look like? At first sight there seems to be no movement in architecture as universal as the Modern Movement and based on such a widespread manifesto. Nevertheless the book De utopie van de vrije markt (The Utopia of the Free Market), by the Dutch philosopher Hans Achterhuis was launched recently, investigating the ‘capitalist manifesto’. Achterhuis considers neo-liberalism as a utopia brought to life by Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged (1957), a book about an elite of neo-liberal utopians who break with the existing world to construct a new world of ultra-capitalism. The thinking that underpins this utopia is reflected in today’s urban landscape. Your photographs seem to deal with modern rather than contemporary architecture. Do you photograph contemporary architecture or do you feel the need to photograph urban landscapes that have a history? I feel the need to photograph places with a history. In Border Theories I photograph enclaves with complex social and political histories that have experienced difficult times associated with territorial issues. These are places that are extremely susceptible to the utopian imagination. In this series I also collect newspaper articles, utopian planning maps, drawings, in short historical materials that can be seen as critical tools for understanding and figuring out the present and the future. Despite the neutral approach that you adopt in Droom als er ooit een was and the architectural similarities between the locations in the series, one gets the sense that these urban spaces function very differently from each other. Were there any similarities or differences that were particularly striking for you when shooting this work? Was there one particular location that you were drawn to more than others? In Droom als er ooit een was I focused on the post-war period, when large Modernist urban concepts appeared all over the world. The way that these have been dealt with over time differs from place to place, depending on social, political and cultural climates. I was particularly drawn to Lafayette Park in Detroit, a residential area designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. In 2005 the French ‘banlieues’, an example of the Modernist project, were burning, and in many European cities ‘superblocks’ were being blamed for social strife. As a result whole city areas made up of tower blocks were rapidly demolished to make place for family houses. However in Detroit the burning districts didn’t consist so much of superblocks, but mostly of abandoned family houses. Amongst these houses, I found Lafayette Park as a fully functioning example of the Modernist project. You integrate excerpts from press articles about the locations that you shoot for the series Droom… More generally text seems to be an important part of your work. How do you go about integrating text with your images and what is the function of the text for you? In my work I am in search of elements and essences that are both hidden and revealed. The texts that are part of my work are mostly rewritten from newspaper articles. In Droom… the images represent my own findings; the texts show their own truths based on remarkable (historical) facts. In between the images and text, there is space for the viewer to reinterpret the work and to rethink its inherent ambivalences. +

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Theo Volpatti Stolen Identity

foam magazine #24 / talent

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Theo Volpatti

Theo Volpatti was born in 1977 in the Valtellina area in the North of Italy. He moved to Milan to follow his University courses at Politecnico. In the same period he began to deepen his interest in photography and to follow courses at the European Institute of Design. In 1999 he moved to New York where he two years later finished his studies with a specialization in photography at the Fashion Institute of Technology. He currently works and lives in Brooklyn. Since 2004 he has been working at the Contrasto photo agency. In 2004 he received the Marco Pesaresi award and in 2005 he collaborated on the film


project Looking for Alfred directed by Belgian artist Johan Grimonprez. Volpatti’s work mainly focuses on social issues with a strong activist sense. His work gravitates between journalism and a very personal approach with the use of mixed media most of the time presented in diaries and blogs and he has been featured in a range of national and international magazines and exhibitions.

All images Š Theo Volpatti

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‘I’m not worried about giving an unbalanced view. Photo­graphy is a very subjective tool’

interview by Marc Feustel

Can you tell me about when you first discovered photography? What was it about photography that most interested you? Are there any photo­ graphers that have been a major inspiration or influence for you? When I was 16, I was in a theatre where my father was working as a set designer. I took pictures on the set of this great opera called Gilgamesh, and I was inspired. I appreciate the work of many different photographers from all different fields. I am influenced and inspired by everything I see that triggers my creativity. From nature to architecture to street art and books and movies. Two of the photographers that have inspired me are Luc Delahaye and Jacob Holdt. How did you start shooting your series on the West Bank? Did you go as a personal project or were you commissioned to do the series? It was a personal trip. I went there to work at Birzeit University near Ramallah, helping students in the darkroom. Everything started from there. During my free time, I started to wander around the city of Ramallah; I felt very connected to the land and the people and made friends with taxi drivers and everyone I came in contact with. I lived in Ramallah for three months. My projects are all personal. The stories I work on are the result of personal studies or simply personal experiences. Its rare that the stories that I do have been assigned to me: I seek them out and propose them. I think is very important to feel attached to the subjects that you are shooting: you need to feel and understand them in order to produce a story that really reflects their reality. Why did you choose the title Stolen Identity for the series on the West Bank? Well, the title is literal. Palestinian people have been deprived of their dignity and a sense of home. They have lost the concept of identity since they have been stripped of their homeland. In this series and others, your personal investment in the subject comes across clearly. How important is this to you in your photography? It is extremely important. You need to be accepted, to gain people’s trust in order to capture the essence of your subject. I don’t feel that I should shoot a story based on what I want to see. I want to capture the story from their perspective. The only way that can happen is if I live how they live, go where they go, eat what they eat and experience the same conditions as them.


Have you ever had to shoot a story where you found it difficult to relate to your subject? Do you ever worry about giving an unbalanced view of a situation if you are very personally invested with your subject? Of course. I’ve been given assignments where I was asked to shoot a place or an event with little background and a short time-frame. On one particular occasion, I was doing a story on marriage and priesthood where I had to shoot these religious figures and their wives. I only spent a few hours with them at a convention in New Jersey. Let’s just say my interpretation may not have been the vision they wanted to convey. When you’re given assignments, people have expectations of how it should look, and the lack of connection to the subject can affect that. People sense you as a photographer: it’s all about your energy with them and your instinct. I’m not worried about giving an unbalanced view. Photo­ graphy is a very subjective tool. With just a slight shift of the camera you can totally change the perception of what is happening. I believe that it’s about the photographer’s morals and determination to show what is really going on. I try to narrate stories with truth. You present a lot of your work in diary form, assembling images together like in a family album, writing or painting on your prints. When did you start using this method in your photography? I’ve always had this urge to share what I saw. To give the viewer a very direct understanding of what’s going on and the concepts I want to express. A few words or diagrams drawn on the image can strengthen the point. A great philosopher once said, ‘Communication is for insects, expression is for humans.’ With the problems affecting newspapers and current affairs magazines, it has become increasingly difficult for photojournalists to find outlets to publish their work. What is your opinion on the state of photojournalism today? Do you think photojournalism still has an important role to play in today’s media climate? Photojournalism is in a state of transition. The Internet and the digital world are allowing for a new era of amazing practical discovery. Finally the voice of – pure and not corporate, corrupted – photojournalism, can be spread to the entire world with a simple click! Now, the truth has a way of coming out. I think that photojournalism has more opportunities, and the challenges that photographers now face will just lead to better and more inspiring images. In recent years there has been an increasing blurring of the distinction between photojournalism or documentary photography and fine art photography? Do you consider yourself a photojournalist or an artist? For now I consider myself a documentary photographer. Time will decide if I’ll have the honor of being considered an artist for what I have done as a documentary photographer. You referred earlier to Luc Delahaye as an inspiration. He famously declared that he was no longer a photojournalist and had become an artist. Do you think that the worlds of photojournalism and art are separate or do you seem them as overlapping? Of course, its possible to be both a photojournalist and an artist, and at times the two worlds overlap. But, I believe, only few documentary photo­ graphers have the privilege to be considered artists. I believe in total freedom of expression and I’m open to seeing new languages and new ways of expressing photojournalism. I’m open to creativity in any possible way, so I would love journalism and art to overlap even more. +

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Johan Bergstrรถm Smoke Signals

Kerkwitz #08, 2009

Smoke Signals #02 (Schwarze Pumpe), 2009

J채nschwalde #03, 2009

Welzow-S端d #04, 2009

Grabko #06, 2009

J채nschwalde #01, 2009

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Johan Bergström

Johan Bergström was born in Piteå, in the North of Sweden in 1978. He now lives and works in Stockholm and Berlin. Before his studies at the School of Photography in Göteborg he assisted various photographers – most notably, Christer Strömholm, Anders Petersen and JH Engström. He received a Bachelor in Photography in 2007 and was awarded with the Robert Frank fellowship 2007 for his final project Nostalgia at the School of Photography. He was nominated for the Hasselblad Foundation Victor Fellowship in 2007 and presented in PLAT(T)FORM 08 at Fotomuseum Winterthur. Bergströms work is included in the collection of Fotomuseum Winterthur, as well as numerous private collections.


His work is currently shown at Fotogalleriet in Oslo and has previously been exhibited internationally at Paris Photo and DFOTO in San Sebastián by Galerie VU’. In the series Smoke Signals Johan Bergström reflects on the extrusion of villages caused by lignite mining in the Lausitz area in eastern Germany, operated by Swedish state-owned power company Vattenfall. Johan Bergrstöm is represented by GunGallery in Stockholm. For more information see

All images © Johan Bergström

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‘My first instinct was to try to avoid the aesthetics of reportage ’

interview by Marc Feustel

Let me begin by asking you about your background and how you first came to photography. I have always been interested in visual expression and as a child I made drawings, sketches and paintings, often from photographs. I kept on drawing and painting but when I began high school chance led me to a photography class that I attended a couple of hours a week. This was the first time I worked with photography in a more serious way and it soon became an obsession of mine. I believe I was attracted to the direct­ ness and the non-verbal nature of the photograph. It’s funny because nowadays I tend to work more and more in a literary way, using titles and references to set my works in context. Are there specific photographers that have been important influences for you? I have some close influences and some more distant. After studying photography for two years directly after high school, I knew I wanted to work with photography on my own terms, not as a commercial or press / reportage photographer. Through JH Engström I was recommended as an assistant for Christer Strömholm, the grand old man of Swedish photo­graphy. I lived and worked with Christer for almost a year, printing pictures for what was supposed to be his last book called The Testimony. Unfortunately time ran out and Christer passed away before the book was finished. After that I worked with Christer’s apprentice Anders Petersen for some time, but then JH Engström called and so I moved with him to Värmland to make prints for his project Trying to Dance and since then I’ve been working with him now and then. I guess my work with JH has lasted because I can relate to his work and admire him, even though we don’t share the same strategy or method. Christer, Anders and JH all work in a social/private documentary tradition while I’m more of a distant observer, who likes to play with images and words. I should also mention that at the School of Photography in Gothenburg I was tu­ tored by the Swedish artist Annika von Hausswolff. Her approach to photo­graphy, with her witty and dark staged images where a lot of weight is given to the titles, was different to my background. We had good con­ versations during the making of Nostalgia, my final project at the school. Your series Smoke Signals deals with the impact of the lignite mines on the communities and landscape of an area of eastern Germany. How did you first hear about the mines? There was a documentary on Swedish radio discussing the resettlement of communities for commercial and industrial benefits through the ex­ amples of the Swedish community Kiruna and the German community Horno. In my earlier work I had dealt with questions of history and memory, and was intrigued by the fact that people were forced from their homes in this way. Still for me there was a difference between the two given examples, because Kiruna is a community that was built as a result of the mining of iron ore while many of the communities in the Lausitz area were shaped hundreds of years before the mining of brown coal began.


The fact that the mining in eastern Germany was operated by the Swedish state-owned power company Vattenfall since 2000 and that the resettle­ ments in Lausitz followed a historic pattern, with more than 136 communities partly or totally erased since 1924, made me want to find out more. After this I did some related research about the situation in Lausitz and decided to work with the subject. After reading the statement for Smoke Signals, it is quite surprising to see the treatment of this series. The statement suggests reportage and yet the images have none of the traditional characteristics of reportage photography. Can you describe how you developed your approach for this series? Smoke Signals is the closest I have come to the documentary field, given that it describes a situation that is occurring in our society. My earlier works have been centred on questions of conception and perception with loose and non-narrative structures. My first instinct when deciding to make the work was to try to avoid the aesthetics of reportage because this would be the proper way to deal with the subject. I travelled there without a clear idea of how to visualize the situation, but I had a list of things I wanted to include. I soon realized how extensive the area and content were and decided that I would need a kind of systematic indexing, almost a Becherian method, to be able to cover it. So I collected and reduced at the same time. I wanted the work to display the scale of Vattenfall’s mining and extrusion activities against the smallness of the villages which depend on Vattenfall for work opportunities while remaining insignificant economically, and the warning signs of lignite power plant pollution. My idea was to interweave the pictures of homes threatened by extrusion, evacuated homes and resettled homes with pictures of the lignite mines and power plants, and so to create a hypothetical before-and-after that could be perceived in many different ways. Looking at your other series, it seems that you have quite a rigid conceptual approach to each body of work you undertake. Do you have a method of working which you follow for each series, or does it vary for each different project? Working with Smoke Signals was an unusual situation for me because of its boundaries, both in terms of geography and of the subject. In earlier works I’ve mostly staged pictures or used old pictures placed in new contexts. I use repetition in my work but I’m trying not to repeat myself from one project to another. In general I start out with a concept for each series, but since my working process is slow I tend to change the concept along the way. You have erased the chimney stacks of the lignite power plants so that these smoke signals seem like clouds that have formed in the sky. Is this kind of manipulation something that you use often in your work? When I retouched the chimney stacks my aim was to attract the viewer to something which, at a closer look, would reveal itself to be very different from their first impression. These smoke signals came to serve as a title for the whole series and as warning symbols of what’s going on, despite their cloudy and fluffy appearance. This concept is something that I’ve used in my previous work, not necessarily by digital retouching, but by twisting images, words and perception. In the case of Smoke Signals it was an attempt to make my position visible and at the same time to avoid the work getting labelled as documentary. I have problems categorizing the work as documentary because of the genre’s general claim of truthful representation, however that might be accomplished. +

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Kim Boske I go walking in your landscape

foam magazine #24 / talent

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Kim Boske

Kim Boske was born in 1978 in Hilversum in the Netherlands. She studied between 2001 and 2005 at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague. In recent years she has shown work at Amsterdam’s Centrum voor Fotografie, Foam Fotografiemuseum in Amsterdam, the Nederlands Fotomuseum in Rotterdam, Singapore’s International Photo­graphy Festival, Ron Mandos Rotterdam as well as in New Jersey USA in 2008. In 2009 Kim Boske had an exhibition in Berlin at the Aando Fine Art Gallery and most recently she had an exhibition at the Dutch Culture Centre in Shanghai. Kim Boske is fascinated by the passing of time. Her photographical series are often composed by merging several different shots of the


same subject, with the changing of light and angles. One may say that her work signifies a research into the system of time and space that is hidden behind the façade of the visual world and an attempt to reveal phenomena that are impossible to see or witness with the naked eye. For more information about her work, see I Go Walking in Your Landscape is made possible by Amsterdams Fonds voor de Kunst.

All images © Kim Boske

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‘It is virtually impossible to have an authentic experience with nature’

interview by Marc Feustel

What are your influences, photographic or otherwise? My work is basically an investigation of time and space. That is a very broad subject. Therefore, there are many things which inspire me. I read the work of philosophers, such as Gilles Deleuze and Maurice MerleauPonty. But I am also inspired by someone like Andrew Wiles, the mathematician who solved Fermat’s last theorem. These people help to adjust and sharpen my perspective on the world. They keep my process going and make me notice and be inspired by different things every time, especially within nature. It is interesting that the influences you mentioned are in the fields of philosophy and mathematics rather than visual arts. How does this manifest itself in your artistic process? Do you often start a series of work from an idea or a concept or do you tend to start shooting and then develop ideas from your images? It works both ways. I start from a certain vision, but I always allow room for surprise, intuition and development in my process. If I knew in advance what I was going to create the reason for making it would be gone, because it would already exist in my head. Your work often deals with our representation of nature, for example in still lives or in natural history museums, rather than nature itself. Is the human representation of nature a subject of particular importance in your work? To me it’s more about the way we look at nature. The way we experience nature is influenced by the artificial. It is virtually impossible to have an authentic experience with nature. Nature as we see it around us is already a part of our romantic view of the past. The world around us consists for a large part of simulacra, for which it can be hard to make out their relationship to the original. The series Mapping and I Go Walking in Your Landscape seem to represent a significant departure from your other work where the composition and lighting are very precise and controlled. How did you come up with and develop the approach that you are using in these series? The final result may look different, but the process is just as intensive and precise. My investigation, both in terms of content as well as visually, is concerned with the network of the system of time. This system in all its possible shapes and forms intrigues me: it is rich and layered with meaning even in its conventional form. I see the time system, the great constant of our world, as a structure that is made up of smaller, differentiated structures. The ‘now’ I experience is a complex, differentiated collection of all sorts of connected influences from the past and the present. A web of similarities and minute differences caused by the slightest change of time. Within this web through observation you can create time and space in your mind’s eye. The realization that we find ourselves in this web is an inexhaustible source of inspiration for me. I portray different layers of time by carefully assembling visual fragments of narrative elements to create a structure


of connections and unity, which I translate into an image. I view my work as constructions in which layers upon layers of ideas take on a meaning of their own. That makes the complex possibilities of the ‘now’ tangible. I am searching for harmonious images (or constructions of images) in which you can find disharmony, without having that detract from the unity of story and image. I am concerned with the subtlety of the image in which I offer the viewer time to discover new elements within each layer. As well as my source of inspiration, the time system is also the apparatus I use to show this rich, layered world, which manifests itself in my work in many ways. For instance, in carefully constructed, temporary fragments in which I use narrative elements. I rearrange the passing of time and light, which gives space a different, tangible meaning. This creates a new time situation which can be recognized by the aberration or the perfection of it, such as in the series Stories, Mapping and I Go Walking in Your Landscape. Or by going in search of real situations which have an historically layered quality in themselves, as in the series Decay Can be Very Slow. In both examples I am concerned with the interplay between the passing and dissolving of time. The reason I create the things I do is that I am not satisfied with the world as it presents itself to me at first sight. Through my work I seek to incite the imagination. Looking at these two recent series, there is an impressionistic quality to the images. However, it seems that your approach is quite distant from that of the Im­pressionists. How much was painting, impressionism or otherwise, an in­fluence in these series? It did not play a significant role in the starting point of these two series. But I do understand why my last two series would be associated with Impressionism. I can see how these series evoke the short, thick strokes of Impressionist paintings. I can also see some resemblance to Impressionism in the importance of the passing of time in the work and in the fact that the Impressionists did not paint a scene as others saw it, but rather as they saw and experienced it. But, for instance, in the series Mapping what I investigate is much more about how the physical movement through time and space changes our perspective on the world continuously. By letting go of the individual perspective and bringing together multiple perspectives in one image, a new layered reality comes into existence. The technique that you have used in I Go Walking in Your Landscape leads to images with extremely rich textures. In some images, texture appears to be everything. I’m curious as to how you intend to present these images in the form of prints. Is the printing process important to you, or do you focus more on the making of the image rather than the physical object that is the print? The printing process is crucial for my work. I spend a lot of time on it and a lot of attention. It really adds something to the experience of my work to see the real thing. The right printing and way of exhibiting the work are important to do justice to the story of the image. +

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Ahlam Shibli TraumA The undertaking is not simple – to portray the members of the community of Tulle in France (following the commission of Patrick Faigenbaum

instead a reference to the future and

Johan Attia A Small Mathematic Exercises Book – Applicated in a Nascar Race

the past. The individuals are present-

Attia gives a new spin to found im-

ed with their biographies, whether

ages by a simple trick – which works

former Resistance fighters, refugees

throughout this small artist’s book.

from Algeria in the sixties or French

The racing cars, either in duels, for-

Ed Jones & James Welch Happy Tonite

soldiers who fought in French Indo-

mation or crashes, are one element on

With a green cover that stares as you

photography. I won’t list the names of

china or Algeria. Thus the traumata

the page, the other is a typographical

like a poisonous frog from the Ama-

the photographers but simply say that

of the 20th century are spoken for and

element, a summation of the starting

zonas and a selection of twelve con-

the wide range of positions reflects

intertwined, accompanied by quiet and

numbers of the car, the sum left open.

temporary Chinese photographers

artistic practices we rarely see and

undramatic photographs of the city.

Even for those with a limited interest

this publication from the Archive of

throws colourful neon light onto life

Quite wonderfully, the book manages

in F1 racing and mathematics this pub-

Modern Conflict, London, packs a

and space that usually remain hidden

simultaneously to serve as material for

lication, with it’s enigmatic cover and

punch. Unlike most western best-of

or hypostatic.

study and to evoke feeling.

brute graphic design, is convincing and

collections here is no gallery-based


interest at work here other than the

passion and openness with which the

Archive of Modern Conflict

members of this institution react to

ISBN 978 09 547 0916 7

and in relation to his and Craigie Horsfield’s work) beyond the limited space of photography, which is a mere slice of time, and to make the image

Peuple et Culture Corrèze ISBN 291 012 00 31


ISBN 978 291 91 9101 7


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Text by Sebastian Hau Sebastian Hau has worked ten years for and now opens a specialized Photobook-shop in Paris for the independent exhibition space

Henrik Malmström On Borrowed Time

LE BAL called LE BAL BOOKS. It is situated in the 18. Arr. and focuses on documentary photography and movies.

Henrik Malmström photographed his terminally ill sister up until her death. 7

Pip Erken Remnants of the Recent Past

She suffered from ovarian cancer for

Credits: all images are reproductions of

eight years and the book covers the

book covers, unless numbered.

final two years. It is comforting to see

Credits for the numbered:

and read about the family, across 40

1 © Cuny Janssen / Snoeck

Designed by Teun van der Heijden, this

ruins and banlieus, and his portraits

black-and-white images mostly taken

2 © Tobias Zielony  / Hatje Cantz

independent publication is a condensed

and the situations he finds are sur-

in a clinic, with intermittent impres-

3 © Larry Sultan / Steidl

selection from a long-term project on

prising. His search for a photographic

sions of travel. The relation between

4 © Hannah Modigh / Journal

social change in the Ukraine. Rang-

language in which to depict a country

the photographer and his older sister

5 © Johan Attia

ing between the neutral documentary

makes this is very promising work.

is at the heart of the book, turning it

6 © Ed Jones & James Welch / Archive

mode and a more involved journalistic

into an exceptional document.

clichés when wandering around in


of Modern Conflicts 7 © Pip Erken

style, the young photographer evades ISBN 978 908 15 6271 3

ISBN 978 952 92 6948 8

8 © Henrik Malmström

foam magazine #24 / talent


Where Three Dreams Cross Tracing the ch arac˜teristics

of contem­ porary photog raphy through its historical prece dents, revealin g th e roots of the medium ’s developmen t over the past 150 years, from India, Pak istan and Banglades h.

Subscribe to Foam Magazine and get a free copy of Where Three Dreams Cross. * Go to, select ‘subscription 1 year + present’ and include the promotion code DREAMS in the form.

*Published by Steidl & Partners and available while stock lasts.

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Foam_Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam

Foam exhibits all genres of photography: fine art, documentary, applied, historical and contemporary, and is a museum with international allure. Along with large exhibitions of established world-famous photographers, Foam exhibits emerging young talent in smaller, shorter shows. Keizersgracht 609 1017 DS Amsterdam tel +31 20 5516500 Open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Foam is supported by the VandenEnde Foundation, De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek and the BankGiro Loterij

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Foam_Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam


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Foam_Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam

Johan van der Keuken ~ Visual Narratives


24 September – 8 December 2010

One of best known photos by Johan van der Keuken (1938-2001) is a dance scene on the Ile Saint-Louis in Paris, taken during the ‘Quatorze Juillet’ (Bastille Day) celebration in 1958 and first published in the book Paris Mortel (1964). Another 32 negatives were found in Van der Keuken’s archives, taken on the same day at the same spot. These never-beforepublished photos form the basis of the exhibition Johan van der Keuken – Visual Narratives. The series shows the story of how the well-known photo came to be created and elucidates Van der Keuken’s perception and way of working. The compilers of the exhi­bition (Noshka van der Lely and Willem van Zoetendaal) have also selected a number of Van der Keuken’s other series, some of which have never previously been exhibited. Van der Keuken’s films will be shown. ‘The young photographer strolls through the city; it is 14 July, the most important holiday of the year in Paris. He walks along the Seine and happens upon a small square where a group of people have gathered. A stage set up for the musicians provides the perfect vantage point for photographing the people dancing. We see a variety of people of different ages and backgrounds come together, attracted by the music. They are dressed in the fashions of the day; they have come to celebrate. If we look at the photos chronologically, we first see the people coming into view: young women with flowered skirts and scarves in their hair, older married couples, men from northern Africa, small children with their parents. The people assemble around the dance floor, the music starts. People start talking to each other, minor characters take on leading roles, a man with a ladder walks through the scene, a car comes around the corner. Then people begin to dance, while some look on from the sidelines. We see friends dancing with each other, older couples and children too. New groups form from people just passing by.’ – Noshka van der Lely in Johan van der Keuken – Quatorze Juillet


By showing a carefully considered selection of images from that day, viewers are given insight into the way the photographer worked and how he ultimately chose that single well-known image. As a special touch, Foam’s historic Fodorzaal will be adapted to recreate the atmosphere of a dancehall, where Van der Keuken’s images will appear to dance around the visitors. From the beginning of his career, Johan van der Keuken – then principally a photographer – was interested in making movement visible in still images. He experimented with series of photos, which he linked to create an image-story. He coupled out-of-focus shots of movement with stationary, sharply focused images and found how a photo montage could speed up the movement contained in the images or give them another meaning. Johan van der Keuken - Quatorze Juillet has been published to accompany the exhibition. The Japanese-style bound book which gave rise to the exhibition includes never-before-published photos from the photo­grapher  / filmmaker’s early period. +

All images from the series Quatorze Juillet, Paris, 1958 © Johan van der Keuken The exhibition has been made possible by Pixum. Further thanks to Fotovaklaboratorium De Verbeelding, Purmerend. Foam is sponsored by the VandenEnde Foundation, the BankGiro Loterij and De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek.

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Foam_Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam


foam magazine #24 / talent

Foam_Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam


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Foam_Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam


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Foam_Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam


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Foam_Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam


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Foam_Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam


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Foam_Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam


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Foam_Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam


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Foam_Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam

27 August – 10 October 2010

Foam_Paul Huf Award 2010: Alexander Gronsky

Bullets, 2009 © Eva Maria Rødbro

27 August – 3 November 2010

Foam_3h: Eva Marie Rødbro ~ Lone Stars

On 27 August an exhibition opens by the Russian photographer Alexander Gronsky (1980), winner of the Paul Huf Award 2010, the photo­graphy prize awarded annually by Foam to an international talent under the age of 35. The prize includes an exhibition in Foam. Gronsky was awarded the prize for a post-Soviet landscape work he made between 2007 and 2010. The exhibition features work from the series Less Than One and The Edge. Less Than One deals with the regions in the great expanse of Russia where the population averages less than one person per square kilometre. The series shows the signs of human presence in the omnipresent, monotonous Russian landscape. For The Edge Gronsky stayed closer to home. He depicts the outskirts of Moscow, exploring both the periphery of the city and the limits of photography. All the photos were made during the long winter months and are dominated by the whiteness of the snow, making them seem more graphic and abstract.

For the exhibition Lone Stars Danish photographer Eva Marie Rødbro (1980) travelled to Texas to photograph and film youngsters and their daily lives. Rødbro captures these young adults in a stage between childhood and adulthood, busy visiting each other and killing time while searching for intimacy and identity. Rødbro shows their restlessness and uncertainty. The series Lone Stars is a patchwork of portraits, landscapes and stills, made in a snapshot style that has an association with personal pictures and family albums. The exhibition in Foam consists of a video work and about 45 photographs.

The Edge, Moscow Boundaries, Russia, 2009 © Alexander Gronsky


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Foam_Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam

1 October – 21 November 2010

Jim Goldberg ~ Open See Open See is the most recent project by Magnum photographer Jim Goldberg (USA, 1953), whose work is characterized by a strong engagement with individuals on the fringes of society. Goldberg explores complex social problems in his work and often uses text as a fundamental element within the photo. Open See documents the experiences of people who have left their homelands ravaged by the violence of war and severe social and economic problems in the hope of building a better life in Europe. Here, the ‘New Europeans’, originating from Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East, often have to undergo further violence and cruelties while clinging to the hope of a brighter future. The title Open See refers to the absence of borders on the open sea, in contrast to the national borders that still divide Europe despite its so-called unification. Goldberg homes in on the many aspects of a complex story by Polaroids, videos, diary fragments, objects, and medium and largeformat photos. Many of the photos are described, coloured-in or scratched by the person portrayed in them. The images and words form a story about the people depicted that is as intimate as it is compelling. The portraits are alternated with landscape photos of the migrants’ countries of origin.

Alex Greece 2003 © Jim Goldberg courtesy Magnum Photos


Smoking Girls, Izmir, 2009 © Ahmet Polat

15 October – 8 December 2010

Ahmet Polat Foam shows the most recent project by photographer Ahmet Polat (Netherlands, 1978). The new generation of Turks often find themselves in between two worlds: tradition versus modernity, religion versus individualism, maintaining the status quo versus regeneration. While many Turkish families lead a traditional life, they feel the pull of a more individualistic and Western lifestyle. The complex political debate on EU membership places pressure on that young country to conform to constantly changing Western values. As the son of a Dutch mother and a Turkish father, Polat recognizes these issues and decided to document the process going on within his own generation. He focuses on contemporary youth in Turkey and sketches a photographic image of a generation in search of its own identity and place within European history. Polat has lived, worked and travelled in Turkey for the last five years. Because the country and the subject matter are so closely connected with his own history, he depicts his subject from within rather than from the outside, resulting in a personal document that brings today’s young generation of Turks closer to us.

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Colophon Foam Magazine International Photography Magazine Issue #24, Fall 2010 September 2010

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The production of Foam Magazine has been made ­possible thanks to the generous support of Drukkerij Slinger, Binderij Hexspoor and Antalis.

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