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winter 2008 / #17

www.foammagazine.nl

Samuel Fosso Franziska von Stenglin Bill Sullivan De Wilde, Stark & Bolander Koos Breukel Schels & Lakotta

NL/IT €12,50 • E €14 • AUT €16 DE €20 • Dkk 150 • PTE CONT €14


foam magazine #17 / portrait?

editorial / contents

Editorial

Contents

Marloes Krijnen, director Foam_Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam

The portrait occupies an eminent position in the history of photography. Few genres in art display such a rich diversity as the photographic portrait. The human face has fascinated photographers since the beginnings of photo­ graphy, and that fascination has endured up to today. Even so, reaching a consensus on how to define a portrait is difficult, let alone determining what makes a good portrait. Is it essential, for example, for a photographer to con­ centrate on the face? Is the human presence even necessary in order to ­create a portrait of someone? And what about the often complicated ­relationship between photographer and subject? What does a portrait say about the maker of the image and what does it say about the subject? What is the future of the photographic portrait? In this issue of Foam Magazine, the international photography ­magazine published by Foam_Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam and communications agency Vandejong, attention is focused on recent work that offers unique interpretations of the idea of the photographic portrait. Under the title ­‘Portrait?’ we present six portfolios of photographic work that together can be regarded as a study of possibilities of giving a new direction to the ­classic portrait. It is not a confirmation or continuation of established forms of ­portrait photography, but an implicit questioning of the genre in which the furthest ends of the spectrum are consciously sought. No well-trodden paths, but an open, critical and, we hope, inspiring approach to the photo­ graphic portrait. Samuel Fosso transforms himself in his latest series of staged selfportraits into several of the most important icons of recent African history. Walter Schels and Beate Lakotta continue the age-old tradition of the post mortem in an intriguing way in their series Life Before Death in which they show portraits of people just before and after their deaths. A shoebox full of old family photos was the trigger for Franziska von Stenglin’s series of diptychs in which she complements and confronts the old photos with her own work. The Swedish artists De Wilde, Bolander and Stark likewise ­attempt to sketch a retrospective image of someone who is no longer among us. A painstaking and thorough inventory of all the objects a woman left behind on her death becomes a staggering archive that functions as a monument and an indirect portrait. The American conceptual artist and photographer Bill Sullivan photographs in a strictly methodical manner groups of people standing in an elevator. As the lift doors close, the frame changes and with it the image of those present. And finally there is a portfolio of Koos Breukel, compiled of portraits of his fellow photographers made over several years. The complex and intriguing interplay between object and subject is brought into sharp focus. This issue of Foam Magazine contains, as always, an interview with a prominent figure from the world of photography. Mariko Takeuchi is a ­curator from Japan who was responsible for the Statement during ParisPhoto last November in which attention was focussed on the youngest generation of Japanese photographers. And we are very proud of this issue’s contributors to On My Mind, our regular feature in which people from the world of art and culture talk about a photo which has captured their interest recently. And also in this issue information on Foam_Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam’s ­exhibition programme and a short book section.

On My Mind... images selected by Fred Ritchin ~ Roman Buxbaum ~ Alain de Botton ~ Laurel Ptak ~ Nicci Gerard ~ Sean French Pages 016 - 021

Interview with Mariko Takeuchi Focus on contemporary Japanese photography by Ferdinand Brueggemann photographs by Koos Breukel

Pages 022 - 026

Portrait?

Theme introduction Questioning the Portrait by Marcel Feil

Pages 027 - 034

portfolio: Samuel Fosso ~ African Spirits text by Olu Oguibe

Pages 035 - 054

portfolio: Franziska von Stenglin ~ Uncle Bobbel, Aunt Muck and the Wood Goose text by Laura Noble

Pages 055 - 074

portfolio: Bill Sullivan ~ Stop Down text by Sarah Baxter

Pages 075 - 094

portfolio: Nanna De Wilde, Kristina Stark & Terese Bolander ~ Jenny *1910 †2006 text by Camilla Larsson

Pages 095 - 114

portfolio: Koos Breukel ~ Here and Now text by Han Schoonhoven

Pages 115 - 134

portfolio: Walter Schels & Beate Lakotta ~ Life Before Death text by Aaron Schuman Pages 135 - 154

Photobooks by Sebastian Hau

Pages 156 - 159

~ Foam_Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam Richard Avedon ~ Photographs 1946 - 2004 Foam Exhibition Programme

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Pages 164 - 176


Samuel Fosso ~ African Spirits In his most recent series, African Spirits, Samuel Fosso transforms himself into some of the most important icons in Africa’s modern history, from the founders of the continent’s modern nation states, such as Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Leopold Sedar Senghor of Senegal, to recent liberation icons like Nelson Mandela.

Franziska von Stenglin ~ Uncle Bobbel, Aunt Muck and the Wood Goose Franziska von Stenglin series Uncle Bobble, Aunt Muck and the Wood Goose, investigates her aristocratic heritage by contrasting vintage ­family portraits with contemporary photographs.

805. Glass tins. H 18. Contents: leaves

806. Plastic pots. H 9-13

815. Creamer. H 6.5

900. Plastic flowers. Candlestick holders. W 8.5-10

904. Plastic bag. Contents: butter packaging. Contents: 3 metal lids, 30 plastic lids

906. Present string. H 5.5

818. Glasses. H 6.5

821. Figurine. H 19

826. Decoration object in glass. H 19.5

907. Plastic bag. Contents: steel wire

913. Cheese slicer. L 20.5

928. Enamel jugs. H 7.5, 9.5

829. 18 Plastic pockets. Contents: newspapers cuttings.

831. Empty photo album. 23 x 22.5

838. Porcelain bowl and creamer. H 4-5

939. Dish rack. Contents: hay

950. Porcelain plates. D 17-19

961. Shelf paper. L 60

845. Christmas tree stand. H 18

858. Coffee cups. H 5.5

859. Cigarette packages. H 7.5

967. Plastic ribbon. 13 rolls. D 4-10

979. 11 letters for Jenny

981. Postcards addressed to Jenny

890. Incense. L 32

895. Wood figurines. L 4-6.5

898. Foil forms. D 7

985. Bow.

989. Dices. H 2.5-5

991. Watch strap, leather. D 22

Bill Sullivan ~ Stop Down

De Wilde, Stark & Bolander ~ Jenny *1910 †2006

For Stop Down Sullivan positioned himself, across a year, 2004, facing the doors of an elevator, always in the same place and situation. The viewer is confronted with large-scale strangers, group portraits in which people are sometimes individualized.

Kristina Stark, Nanna de Wilde and Terese Bolander bought all the ­belongings of a deceased person whom they did not know personally. The aim of this ongoing project Jenny *1910 †2006, is to make a portrait and to investigate how much it is possible to learn about a person through her material legacy.

Wolfgang Kotzahn age: 57

born: 19 January 1947

first portrait taken: 15 January 2004 died: 4 February 2004

There are colourful tulips brightening up the night table. The nurse has prepared a tray with champagne glasses and a cake.

It’s Wolfgang Kotzahn’s birthday today.

‘I’ll be 57 today. I never thought of myself growing old, but nor did I ever think I’d

as a real shock. I had never contemplated

death at all, only life,’ says Herr Kotzahn.

‘I’m surprised that I have come to terms

with it fairly easily. Now I’m lying here

waiting to die. But each day that I have I savour, experiencing life to the full. I never

die when I was still so young. But death

paid any attention to clouds before. Now

Six months ago the reclusive accoun­

perspective: every cloud outside my

strikes at any age.’

tant had been stunned by the diagnosis: bronchial carcinoma, inoperable. ‘It came

I see everything from a totally different window, every flower in the vase. Suddenly, everything matters.’

Koos Breukel ~ Here and Now

Walter Schels & Beate Lakotta ~ Life Before Death

Portraying fellow photographers can be simple or complex – it all ­depends on the way the photographer being photographed responds to the ­photographer taking the picture. In the series Here and Now – ­especially compiled for Foam Magazine – Koos Breukel has gathered a few of his best portraits of his peers.

In collaboration with his partner Beate Lakotta, Walter Schels spent more than a year exploring the lives and deaths of twenty-six terminally ill individuals in various hospices across northern Germany. The resulting body of work Life before Death consists of two photographic portraits of each subject – one made whilst they were alive and another made shortly after their death – accompanied by Lakotta’s short, deftly written texts.

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foam magazine #17 / portrait? Six well-known figures from the cultural world selected an image that has recently been on their minds...

On My Mind...

Fred Ritchin This represents the photograph that millions have been waiting for but have never seen. When the USA invaded Iraq, a sovereign country, we were told that it was because of its weapons of mass destruction. They were never found. We never saw the photograph. We were told that US soldiers would be greeted as liberators. This picture too we never saw. Then we were told that the invasion was necessary because of the ­presence of an Al Qaeda terrorist network. But when the USA invaded, Al Qaeda was not there either. So this empty rectangle is a very sad photo­graph for me. It is a photograph of nothing, but that nothing has turned into something with enormously tragic consequences. +

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Fred Ritchin’s new book, After Photography, has just been published by W. W. Norton in the United States. He is the director of PixelPress.org and Professor of Photography & Imaging at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Fred Ritchin has previously worked as the picture editor of The New York Times Magazine and as the executive editor of Camera Arts Magazine. He was also the founding director of the Photojournalism and Documentary Photography Program at the International Center of Photography.


foam magazine #17 / portrait? On My Mind...

© Roman Buxbaum, 1961

Roman Buxbaum This is a photo I took when I was six with my uncle’s friend, the photo­ grapher Miroslav Tichý. Mirek was teaching me photography and made a camera for me from a cardboard shoebox. We made a hole with a pin, in the bathroom in the dark we put a piece of photographic paper in the box and Miroslav sent me into town to take a picture. This picture ­survived all the moves that life had waiting for me; the Soviet occu­pation, the ­exile in Switzerland and our return to freedom in the Czech ­Republic. Many years later it remains a lifelong thread between me and Miroslav Tichý that has never been broken. +

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Dr. Roman Buxbaum (Prague, 1956), is a psychiatrist and the founder of the Tichý-Ocean Foundation, which is actively working for the preservation and presentation of the works of Miroslav Tichý.


foam magazine #17 / portrait? On My Mind...

River Thames Ship Spotters, 2008 © Richard Baker

Alain de Botton This is one of the many large ships that sail into the Thames every day to deliver their cargo. I have spent the last two years looking at cargo, ­factories, offices, railway yards and logistics centers for a book I’ve ­written about the modern world of work. I wanted to bring out the ­drama, beauty­and strangeness of the places that lie behind our con­ sumer goods. We can now buy more than ever before, but our ­knowledge of where our ­products have come from is ever more limited, leading to a sense of ­alienation and guilt. So I wanted to go backwards in the ­logistical chain, back to the warehouses and shipping routes and iron ore mines in the Australian desert. This task often felt strange, but I gained courage from knowing that there are lots of people out there similarly excited and ­interested in the landscapes of industrial modern­

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ity. Every day on the Thames you can see ship-spotters, almost always men, who come to the banks of the river with cameras and binoculars, in order to observe the passage of ships and write down registration details. They may not be ­responding to the ships in the most imagina­ tive way, but at least they are opening their eyes to the wonders of the contemporary world.  + Alain de Botton is a British writer of essayistic books, which refer both to his own experiences and ideas - and those of artists, philosophers and thinkers. It’s a style of writing that has been termed a ‘philosophy of everyday life.’ Alain de Botton’s new book, The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, is published in Dutch by Atlas in December 2008.


foam magazine #17 / portrait? On My Mind...

Landscape 5/15/05, 2005 © Petra Cortright

Laurel Ptak Looking at this image feels to me rather like speeding through the ­history of art inside a time-machine, moving from the most sublime of ­romantic landscape painting to the oversaturated realist detail of a nineteenth-century photograph of the American West, to the irrever­ ent glee found in Dadaist photomontage, to the cool irony of pop ­culture as re-appropriated in the later decades of the twentieth century, to the proto-­digital manipulation of the Egyptian pyramids on National ­Geographic’s cover in the early 1980s, to the most brilliant of internet art practices happening today. Anyone who’s ever looked at my blog knows that I’m obsessed with images that challenge or expand our notion of what a photograph can be. Made from a set of computer desktop backgrounds found online, Petra

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Cortright confesses that Landscape 5/15/05 was created in no time at all, maybe 20 minutes, with just a little cutting and pasting and use of Photo­ shop’s clone tool. This detail about the work amazes me g­iven its jawdropping­visual sophistication. I’m particularly infatuated with its ability to bounce between digital space, real space, and photographic­space all in one image - calling our attention to the bizarre conventions of each. + Laurel Ptak is an independent curator based in New York City. She is founder of the popular blog about contemporary photography iheartphotograph.com. She frequently lectures, teaches, and writes about photographs, the internet, and image culture, as well as curates many ‘offline’ exhibitions based on her blog. She is also Aperture Foundation’s Educational Programs Manager.


foam magazine #17 / portrait? On My Mind...

The Berlin Wall, 1962 © Henri Cartier-Bresson/ Magnum Photos/HH

Nicci Gerrard I love the way that Henri Cartier-Bresson takes a fragile moment – the wobble of a bicycle, a figure crossing the street, a couple exchanging a kiss in a café – and confers his extraordinary artistry and geometry on it, without ever making it seem artificial; the way he sees shapes, pat­ terns, the fall of light on ruined squares and empty landscapes. He gives a heroic quality to life without removing its intimacy. I don’t have a fa­ vourite Cartier-Bresson (or at least, every one I look at becomes for that moment my favourite) and so I nearly chose his captivating On the banks of the Marne (France, 1938) simply because the two men and two women­ who are sitting by the river and eating a very French picnic – as we look, wine is glugging into a glass – makes me feel so very cheerful, and ­because the photograph has a painterly feel to it, it’s a bit like Georges Seurat’s La Grande Jatte. But in the end I’m choosing The Berlin Wall

020

(Germany, 1962). The wall runs in a dogmatically straight line, slicing the photograph in two; on its top is the barbed wire; beyond that, just a few feet away, are the houses of West Germany. And on the nearside of the photograph four children are playing on the cracked and rutted pavings, their figures soft and mobile amid the grim grey architecture. It’s a freezeframe, the time arrested: a small girl walks towards us from the distance, a small boy squats, gazing intently at something we can’t make out; another boy stands, legs apart in his baggy shorts, with his jugged ears large under his cropped hair; a girl reaches up to climb the wall, the muscles in her bare legs taut – in her billowing dress, she looks like a ballet dancer. Photos always remind you of the time that has gone: the four children would be old by now, or dead; the world it evokes has passed. It’s such a tender, beautiful and poignant image. +


foam magazine #17 / portrait? On My Mind...

August Sander, Pastrycook, 1928 © Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur - August Sander Archiv, Cologne; Pictoright, Amsterdam, 2008

Sean French I could choose almost any picture from August Sander’s great photo­ graphic project, People of the 20th Century. In the late 1920s, he photo­ graphed Germans from every part of society: artists, madmen, workers, housewives, vagrants, circus performers, all posing with dignity. One favourite is called Pastrycook, 1928. He is posing proudly in his kitchen, his bald head is almost as large and as round as the metal mixing bowl he is holding. He’s not really working, of course, and that is part of the picture’s great charm. I like to think that he has come in on his day off, when the kitchen is empty. He has put his specially cleaned workcoat on over his best suit and his black shoes which have been polished so they are almost as shiny as his head. As with all the photographs in the collection, there is an extra level of suspense: we know what is going to happen, and the subjects don’t.

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Looking at the students, the union members, the gardeners, the lawyers and, yes, the pastrycook, you can’t help wondering what happened to them. Which side were they on? Did they end up in a concentration camp? As a guard or an inmate? I sometimes think that the greatest photo­ graphs are of the most interesting thing in the world: the human face. And these faces are trapped in history. + Nicci French is the pseudonym for the writing partnership of Nicci Gerrard and Sean French, who write psychological thrillers together. They were married in 1990 and have written many novels together.


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interview

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foam magazine #17 / portrait?

interview

Mariko Takeuchi Focus on contemporary Japanese photography interview by Ferdinand Brueggemann portraits by Koos Breukel The 2008 edition of Paris Photo – one of the world’s most important fairs for still photography – took place in the Carousel du Louvre in midNovember. This year Japan was a Guest of Honour, an exceptional ­opportunity to present an overview of Japanese photography. Photo­ graphy has been a major feature of Japanese culture since its introduction­in 1848, attracting wide international attention in the 1990s and growing world interest ever since. We asked Ferdinand Brueggemann, Director of Galerie Priska ­Pasquer in Cologne and passionate founder of the photo blog JapanPhoto.info to discuss the current state of Japanese photography with the Guest Curator of the show, Mariko Takeuchi. After decades of practically ignoring Japanese photography, why do you think the Western art world is suddenly developing a strong interest in learning about it? I don’t think it has been so sudden. It seems that interest in Japanese photography in the Western countries grew in the1990s especially, with a focus on individual artists like Nobuyoshi Araki, Hiroshi Sugimoto and Daido Moriyama. Then curators, collectors and researchers gradually became aware of the richness of Japanese photography and turned more attention to their background – this seems to coincide with the growing interest in Japanese culture and subculture in general. The exhibition History of Japanese Photography at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, in 2003 was a monumental event. And now we have Japan as guest of honour at the Paris Photo fair. But the 1970s saw two major exhibitions of Japanese photography; in 1974 New Japanese Photography at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, curated by John Szarkowski and Shoji Yamagishi, then Japan: A Self-Portrait at the International Center of Photography in 1979. These two exhibitions, taken together, introduced virtually every leading ­Japanese photographer of that time. Nonetheless these seminal ­exhibitions did not have any impact on the Western photography scene. I wouldn’t say there was no impact. But it’s true to some extent. ­Perhaps these exhibitions were too early; both were ahead of their time for two reasons.

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When we think about the success of Japanese photography in the West since the 1990s, we have to be aware of the cultural and historical ­context. In the 1970s very few people knew about Japanese culture. ­People were not ready and there were still very few galleries and ­museums seriously devoted to photography, and research and photo­ graphy education were still in their infancy. I would say that the Western photography culture had to become more mature to accept Japanese photography. It’s also very interesting to see that the huge interest in Japanese photography now somehow coincides with a radical change in the photographic medium, mainly due to the development of digital technology since one of the characteris­ tics of modern and contemporary Japanese photography is, in my ­opinion, that it often questions the nature of photo­graphy itself. Do you think that Japanese photography has a different character to Western photography, especially when compared to major trends in the USA and in Europe over the last two or three decades? I don’t think that Japanese photography in general has a defined char­ acteristic or a certain style which distinguishes it from Western photo­ graphy. Rather I would say that Japanese photography has an amazing diversity; Japanese photography is not easy to understand by examin­ ing style. This is partly because there is neither a strong art market nor schools that push a style or trend as in Western countries. For one thing, photography is, unlike other art forms, difficult to explain in terms of some particular style or other. Japanese photography has also had a close relationship with the development of domestic camera companies like Nikon or Canon. This has led in general to a strong interest in the technology of the medium rather than in producing art. These conditions encouraged Japanese photographers to develop the potentialities of photography in various ways. In the New Japanese Photography exhibition catalogue John Szarkowski gave a definition of Japanese photography of the late 1960s and early 1970s which is probably still the most quoted definition to this day. He wrote that the ‘quality most central to recent Japanese photography is its concern for the description of immediate experience’ [emphasis


foam magazine #17 / portrait?

interview

~ ‘Japanese photography is not easy to understand by ­examining style’ ~ ­ dded] and that many pictures are not a comment on experience, but a ‘an apparent surrogate for experience itself’. I still see this quality of immediate experience today in the works of certain photographers like in the claustrophobic street scenes of ­Osamu Kanemura or the poetic colour photographs by Rinko Kawauchi and Mikiko Hara. Immediate experience remains a valid characterization and you are right that it applies to artists like Rinko Kawauchi and Mikiko Hara. But at the same time we have Naoya Hatakeyama whose work is an intellectual exploration while Yuki Onodera’s and Hiroshi Sugimoto’s works are more about imagination or the imaginary. And we also have artists like Ken ­Kitano or Tomoko Sawada whose work amounts to a manipulative ­reflection on identity. The photographers you mentioned have highly diverse concepts and ­topics. Can you identify any major trends in current Japanese photography? I don’t think that pointing out major trends would make much sense here because it seems too easy to me. I would like to say that there are many photographers in Japan whose works shift borders or boundaries at a ­social or mental level in various ways. Ryudai Takano, for example, deals with the ambiguity of sexuality and Ken Kitano reflects the on relationship between ‘me’ and ‘us’ by overlapping portraits of members of a specific group. In the context of photography as a tool for reflecting our society and our life, ­Asako Narahashi’s series half awake and half asleep in the water is in some ways symbolic. Her work, made by floating in the sea with a camera, gives the impression that we are looking at our world from the outside, shaking the reality and stability we take for granted in e ­ veryday life. We have named several women artists already like Rinko Kawauchi, ­Tomoko Sawada and Asako Narahashi. But if you look back at the ­history of Japanese photography there were almost no female photographers until the mid-1990s. Only a few earlier women artists come to mind, like Miyako Ishiuchi and Michiko Kon. This seems to have changed ­completely; today I have the impression that Japanese women photo­ graphers are overtaking their male colleagues in numbers and in the levels of their success. When we talk about women photographers, we should be aware of the socio-economic context of Japanese society. From the late 1980s the consciousness of women’s social rights grew stronger than ever, espe­ cially with the revision of the Equal Employment Opportunity Law of 1985 which encouraged many women to search for new roles in society ­besides being housewives and working only in low-paid jobs. The young generation of women grew up with new ideas about their roles in ­society. And we should also think about the technical background. The develop­ ment of easier-to-use cameras was a huge step which made it much easier for non-professional photographers to produce better images. Being freed from the necessity of concentrating on the technical side of photography has appealed very much to young women since the 1990s. And there is also an institutional reason: museums, galleries and photo­

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graphy award exhibitions like Hitotsuboten or New Cosmos of Photo­ graphy became very popular among young people. All of this together led to a boom in female photography. Could you explain how institutions and awards gave a boost to women photographers? Before the museums and galleries emerged in the 1980s and 1990s the main tools for the promotion of photography were the traditional ­Japanese photo magazines like Asahi Camera or Camera Mainichi which were key to the Japanese photography scene for decades. These maga­ zines were macho places, I would say. Compared to them, the new ­institutions and awards are much more open to female photographers. Speaking of institutions and galleries I would like to ask you about Rinko Kawauchi. She is highly successful in the West, with many solo shows in Europe, in the USA and even in Latin America, but so far she has had only one solo exhibition in a Japanese museum, and that was in the countryside a long way out of Tokyo. Do you have an explanation for this gap? Perhaps it’s not appropriate to judge an artist’s success only by his or her solo exhibitions in Japanese museums. Nevertheless it is still not easy for Japanese photographers to be recognized and promoted by ­Japanese museums. For example, Yutaka Takanashi, who played a lead­ ing role from around the Provoke Era at the end of the 1960s will have his first museum-scale solo exhibition at the National Museum of ­Modern Art, Tokyo next January. As you know, even though there are ­several museums which collect and exhibit photographs, it is still not easy for a photographer to get a solo show in a museum. In spite of that, Rinko Kawauchi, for example, is amazingly successful in Japan. Her photo­books are very popular. The common way to success for photo­ graphers in Japan today is first to publish a photobook. Talking about photobooks I would like to come back to John Szarkowski’s show in 1974. In the exhibition catalogue Shoji Yamagishi, the Japanese co-curator, made the very important observation that the photobook is the most important tool for Japanese photographers to communicate their work. He gave three reasons for this: the aesthetics of the book, the shortage of exhibition venues and a non-existing art market. ‘­Japanese photographers have only a limited opportunity to present their original prints to the public and no opportunity to sell their pictures to public or private collections. [...] Japanese photo­graphers usually complete a project in book form.’ Is Yamagishi’s observation that the photobook is the most important medium for a photographer still valid? Yes! Even though the situation has changed with more galleries and ­museums which encourage young photographers to exhibit their works and to become more aware of how to install their works on the wall, it is still clear that the photobook is the most important medium for most Japanese photographers. Many photographers consider the book as ­being the final format of their projects. There are several reasons for this. The main reason is that books and magazines have been central to the photography scene for decades while the market was and is still very weak in Japan. If photographers wanted to show their works, they had no other means than to publish them in magazines or in book form. In this situation, many Japanese ­photographers naturally became keen on the reproductive nature of photo­graphy. The downside of the precedence of photobooks is that most artists have to publish them at their own expense. And also, historically speaking, in the Edo Era (1603 to 1868) woodblock prints of Ukiyo-e were highly popular with the public. This might not be related directly to photo­ books, but there seems to be some historical parallel with the popularity­ of photobooks in Japan. >


foam magazine #17 / portrait?

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foam magazine #17 / portrait?

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can communicate with each other. Hitotsuboten for example throws the ­final selection meeting open to the public, with artists’ presentations and ­discussion among judges in front of the audience. New Cosmos of Photo­graphy has award exhibitions and offers lectures. This did not hap­ pen before these awards were established. Does this communication space apply to the photobook as well? And are photobooks only of interest to photography scene insiders, like in Germany, where you find photobooks only in specialized book stores? Generally speaking, photobooks as artist’s books are not available in many bookstores, other than a few popular ones like Umeme by Kayo Ume.

As you said, the number of galleries has increased and a quick look at the art guide Tokyo Art Beat confirms this; it lists 101 photography ­exhibitions open today. That’s a remarkable number. But why are ­galleries in Japan still only of minor importance in the career of a ­Japanese photographer? It’s true that it’s not normal for most Japanese photographers to start their career with gallery exhibitions. There are many talented photo­ graphers who are not represented by a gallery in Japan. The main ­reason is that Japan has its own peculiar gallery system. There are many galleries­, but most are rental galleries; they are rented by artists to show their works and do not work continuously with artists. There are compa­ ny-managed galleries such as Nikon Salon or Canon Salon which are non-commercial galleries open to both professional and amateur photo­ graphers, and while the number of commercial galleries which operate similarly to European or American galleries is increasing they are still not yet dominant in Japan. Could you please name some recent photography books you find ­interesting? Masafumi Sanai recently started his own label Taisho (contrast) and he publishes what he really wants to show in his own way. This summer he published Trouble in Mind. Other must-see books are for example ­Canary by Lieko Shiga and I am by Atsushi Okada. As a guest curator for the Paris Photo fair, I find it very important to have introduced these and other photographers outside Japan. Since many of the photographers are not represented by galleries and since the book is their main medium, we invited five Japanese publishers to the central exhibition at Paris Photo to present their programme. How who does a young unknown photographer find a book publisher? Many photographers send their photographs to magazines. They show their works to small publishers, like Sokyusha or Akaaka, though it isn’t easy either to find a publisher or for a publisher to finance a book. Do awards like the Hitotsuboten (3.3 sqm, the size of the space given to each photographer at the award exhibition) and New Cosmos of Photo­ graphy promote the career of a Japanese photographer? Yes, since the early 90s these two awards for young photographers have become important in the photography scene in Japan. On the basis of the social, cultural, technical and institutional background as we have discussed, young people find these awards exciting and many young people enter the competitions. Winning an award does not guarantee success in a country with such a small art market. Actually, I have seen many young photographers who have won the prize who did not succeed afterwards, but there have been some very successful photographers who have achieved recognition through these awards such as Yuki ­Onodera, Rika Noguchi and Tomoko Sawada. These awards are ­important for ­another reason. Since the early 1990s they have provided a space where the young generation can see works by their peers and where they

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Could you please explain about Kayo Ume’s book Umeme? The book by Kayo Ume describes witty or slightly perfidious moments that you come across by chance in ordinary life. Over 100,000 copies have been sold. To understand why Kayo Ume’s book is so amazingly popular, we have to be aware of the amateur photo culture in Japan. We have a huge number of older and younger amateur photographers. Ume’s ­humorous and slightly ironic work embodies the most popular aspect of Japan’s photo culture in her visual style and her motifs. For the audience Umeme is not seen as art, but rather as something to share and to ­enjoy. There’s a certain amateurish aspect to Japanese photo culture. We have talked about how young photographers became attracted to the medium. How important are art academies and photo colleges? There are no specific schools or colleges that are recognized in Japan as offering an outstanding education. On the contrary, many photo­graphy schools and colleges have recently been facing a fall in student ­numbers. One reason is the drop in population due to the low birth rate. But in fact there are more and more young people who are interested in photo­ graphy. The recent technical developments and the popularity of the ­medium encourage increasing numbers of young people to work with photography more freely than ever. Some who want to become photo­ graphers do not deem it necessary to attend a photography college or a university. Others cannot find an appropriate school which meets their demands. Often the schools focus too much on teaching the technical side of photography and do not pay much attention to the intellectual and cultural potential of the photographic medium. In my opinion it is important for the future of Japanese photography that photography ­education be reformed. This is why I am currently spending six months as a research fellow in New York. I am researching photography educa­ tion in the USA with a view to developing a new approach to teaching photography in Japan; an approach which includes the appreciative ­aspect in photography education: how to look at and discuss photo­ graphs on different levels. The Japanese are said to be not very good at debate in general, but I think we should make more efforts to develop dialogue and discussion around photography at the photography ­colleges and universities in Japan. I’m sure it’s important for photographers, ­curators and everyone living in this visual society. + Born in 1972, Tokyo, Mariko Takeuchi has curated exhibitions including ‘Charles Fréger: Rikishi’ (Art Gallery of Yokohama Museum; A.R.T. Tokyo, 2005). She has written numerous texts for catalogues and photography books including ‘Ryudai Takano: 1936-1996’ (Sokyu-sha, 2006) and ‘Ryuichiro Suzuki: Odyssey’ (Heibonsha, 2007). She is a regular contributor and photography critic for various magazines such as Asahi Camera and Studio Voice. She is also in charge of the Japanese photography section and writing for ‘The Oxford Companion to the Photograph’ (Oxford Univ. Press, 2005). She is a part-time lecturer of Waseda University, and a guest researcher of the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. Ferdinand Brueggemann is a photo historian and director of Galerie Priska Pasquer, Cologne.


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~ Questioning the Portrait ~

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by Marcel Feil ~ curator Foam_Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam

People are readers of faces. We are readers of faces. We do it wherever and whenever we see a fellow human being. Quickly and usually unconsciously we register the facial expressions of the people around us and evaluate what these tell us and how this information can help us determine how we should behave in order to react adequately to a certain ­situation. Throughout evolution humans, socially curious animals by ­definition, have become accustomed, or better still, programmed, to ­register the limitless palette of facial expressions, to recognise them and to react to them. It was often a question of survival. Are the intentions good or evil, is he a friend or foe, a strong or weak member of the race? It is a process of assessment that takes places instinctively and is seldom unidirectional. Nine times out of ten looking also means ­being looked at. Through the awareness of the presence of another and through the searching looks that constantly dart back and forth, the ­human face has developed into an extraordinarily rich and complex ­instrument whose functions range from the organic to the emotional. The possibilities of the face may even go beyond anything words can express. We can never be rid of our face. We always take it with us and always lay ourselves bare to the critical look of another. The face is never ­passive, even when seemingly at rest. In a certain sense our face has its own will that manifests itself particularly at the moments when we are not consciously and thus actively occupied with our expressions. But there are countless moments when we are occupied with it, when we are actors and control our facial expressions, wanting to impress, mask, entice or flatter. This has a direct influence on the relationship between the looker and the looked at. To what extent can we trust a face? Are we being manipulated? What is the real meaning of what we see? If, in all its complexity, there is one thing that should not be ­simplified too quickly, then it is the meaning of someone’s physiognomonical expression. This is seldom unambiguous; in fact it is usually too complex to comprehend completely. This is partly because a face never stays still and can change expression in the blink of an eye. It is an endless display of improvisations, ad hoc reactions, cunning ambushes or uncontrolled reflexes.

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No wonder the human face, the ultimate ambassador of its carrier and as present as it is elusive, continues to fascinate us. And this fascination is age-old. The question of how to do justice to the immanent and complex character of someone’s face in a single, static image has occupied countless artists. Whereas a painter can reach a synthesis based on several sittings, the portrait photographer has to achieve the same thing in a fraction of a second, a snapshot detached from time and place. Despite the possibility of taking multiple pictures, the question remains how to make a satisfactory portrait. Here it is worth noting the origin of the word ‘portrait’, namely the Latin word portrahere, which means ‘to draw’ or ‘trace’, almost in the sense of ‘to draw a map’ – as if a blueprint can be made in which there is talk of a penetrating gaze that exposes things and separates ­decorum from being. The relationship and interaction between portraitist and subject are essential in this. Many portraits are the result of a subtle and diplomatic game between the two, in which each party usually has a hidden agenda and navigates between revealing and concealing. Power relationships play a significant role in this. For centuries that relationship was clear and the power lay predominantly with the party that wished to be portrayed and gave the commission. Commissioning a portrait was reserved for the upper, ruling class and the portrait’s ­primary function was to express this social position and thus confirm and strengthen it. The maker had a subordinate, executive task. The ­portraits of Roman emperors, for example, despite a recognisable ­individual physiognomy that makes identification possible, are ­primarily portraits of imperial power. Looking at the official portraits of current rulers, whether an American president or a British queen, in essence nothing has changed. All the symbols, whether an eagle or the stars and stripes, or a crown and ermine cloak, are dug out in order to be recorded in a carefully controlled mise-en-scene. In such portraits, decorum is of the essence and nothing is hypothetical. Although a photo is made in a fraction of a second, the subject has control of that moment, as do ­well-trained actors, commercial models and many politicians. > All images: © Anuschka Blommers & Niels Schumm, for Re-Magazine #6, The Information Trashcan, Spring 2001, courtesy Torch Gallery, Amsterdam


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~ ‘We can never be rid of our face. We always take it with us and always lay ourselves bare to the critical look of another.’ ~ These are the exceptions to the rule. Even if an average subject is ­conscious of the fact that he is being photographed, there is usually no certainty about the way he looked at the moment the photo is printed. What does that one photo, that single snapshot without any further ­context, teach us about the person represented? What does it say about a person’s being? Is it perhaps too pretentious to speak of something like a being, the core of someone’s personality? Do we not primarily see the exterior, the surface that at the moment of the shot is often strongly­ influenced by the tête-à-tête with the photographer? This registering of the exterior is often sufficient, for example in strictly functional portraits such as photos for identity cards, passport photos or so-called mug shots taken by police photographers. With other forms of functional ­portrait photography, such as the ubiquitous wedding photos, family ­portraits or children’s photos, the desire to record more than just the ­exterior is already greater. Many people actually require something more before they can accept that a picture is a satisfactory portrait. But the attribution of such abilities to the photographic medium has been a point of discussion since the early years of photography. Richard Avedon, perhaps the most famous portrait photographer of the 20 th century, stated frankly that ‘my photographs don’t go below the ­surface. They don’t go below anything. They’re readings of the surface. I have great confidence in surfaces. A good one is full of clues.’ For ­Avedon, the exterior, the surface was rich enough in hints of something else, of something that was itself not visible, but legible traces of which could still be found on the face. For this reason, Avedon had little interest in photographing young people (‘Youth never moved me. I seldom see ­anything beautiful in a young face.’). For Avedon, obsessed with the ­human face, the surface, the skin, had to have lived. It had to bear ­traces of a personality coloured by a full life and relinquish some of this to the viewer. Something that could no longer be hidden because it coincided, as it were, with the surface. By saying this, Avedon also indicates the importance of the viewer in the interpretation and expression of an image and the ability of the public, by carefully reading what is visible, to touch upon things that are not visible in the photo. Even though a greater contrast is hardly ­thinkable than that between the objective portraits by Thomas Ruff and Avedon’s expressive work, an unexpected similarity lies between the two artists. Ruff too acknowledged openly the ability of the viewer to load photo­ graphy with meaning. In fact, he is convinced that the viewer ultimately sees only what already lies concealed within him. In his portraits, Ruff thus also seems to make himself as absent as possible. By consciously keeping his portraits as neutral he can and, as their maker, by focusing purely on achieving an objective registration he actually extends his hand generously to the viewer in order to give him a presence.

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The big difference between the two can be found in the nature and extent of their direction. For Avedon, making a portrait was in several ­respects a performance; the subject always knew that he was going to be photographed and that later, once the photo had been taken and published, there would be viewers. The simple fact that making a portrait is inextricably linked to the realisation that there are anonymous viewers on whom no influence whatsoever can be exercised, usually results in the person in front of the camera assuming a certain pose. The little ­influence that the sitter has finds an interpretation, for example via ­undisguised vanity, insecurity or even temerity, in his or her posture. For Avedon, this form of posing, of performing, did no harm to the quality of the portrait, in fact it could actually contribute to revealing an important aspect of a person’s self-image. This was regardless of the fact that ­Avedon did not hesitate to actively apply himself in order to allow ­people to do exactly what they had envisaged. In certain cases this could even take on such proportions that nothing was left to chance. During the making of the monumental group portrait of the poet Allan Ginsberg’s family, everything, down to the last detail, was determined in advance: sketches were made, Polaroids taken, the ground was marked with chalk to indicate who should stand where, every member of the extended ­family was assigned a pose, texture, light, expression and every part of the set was totally under control. It was completely clear to Avedon who was in charge, who the final author of the work was – in spite of every meeting and every interaction with those in front of his camera. Most portraits are not made by a photographer who has to be asked in ­advance out of pity (as Henry Kissinger did before a session with Richard Avedon), but by ordinary people who do not even dare to call themselves amateur photographers. With the explosive spread of the camera and the progressive democratisation of the image, the photo album is no longer the preserve of a privileged class. Just about any mortal can compile one. Even though the photo album, as result of digitalisation, is in danger of becoming a relic of days gone by, most people still have a book of photos from the past, of holiday snaps, with children’s photos, school and family portraits. They are reservoirs of melancholy, physical memories of a time that is already far behind us, but one that can be relived through these photos. After a photo was taken, in less than a second, time ticked mercilessly and irrevocably on. What remained was a frozen snapshot to which countless memories cling that extend much further than the thing ­portrayed. The small children are now grown up, parents are old or have passed away. Photography, and certainly portrait photography, is the ­ultimate proof of our mortality and, as a result, as much a symbol of ­vanity as a memento mori. I think that Avedon, mentioned earlier, was ultimately­ fascinated by death, and in his work navigated consciously between the glamour of fashion photography and the merciless unmasking of celeb­ rities in his ‘free’ work. Ultimately, all is vanity. But to go back to the old, familiar family album. Perhaps an album that is assembled over so many years gives a richer and more realistic portrait of a person, of a family, of a certain place or period than a single photo – through its limited, focused theme, the safety of a protected ­private environment in which it has been made and the often faithful continuation once it has been started. It is a portrait that is not made, but comes into existence, grows naturally, without any predetermined goal or ambitious pretension. Scepticism about the possibilities of the single image that constitutes a portrait, advances in the psychological and social sciences, our increasingly complex and fast-changing world and above all the immense influence of the digitalisation of the image and an awareness of the ­limitations of photography, have resulted in numerous new strategies for achieving a credible photographic portrait. Rather than one image in which everything has to be contained, often, just as in a photo album,


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the aim is a multitude of images, an inquiring look that explores a ­subject and slowly envelops it. There is more room here for interpretation by the viewer, for a searching look and the construction of all sorts of connections between the bits of material presented. This is epitomised by the immense archive that has been compiled by the Swedish artists Nanna De Wilde, Kristina Stark and Terese Bolander. Under the title Jenny *1910 †2006 they have systematically and exhaustively recorded all the ­objects they came across in the house of a woman who had passed away s­hortly before. In an objective, almost scientific manner they have formed an image bank of thousands of relatively worthless objects, out of which an image slowly emerges of the absent leading lady. It is an indirect ­portrait, a detour, based on the notion that something of someone’s ­personality can be found in his or her immediate environment. It is a ­variation on the Dutch saying: ‘Show me your bookcase and I will tell you who you are’. But the variations are legendary. The Dutch photographer Cuny Janssen makes portraits of children in their daily environment and ­combines these with richly detailed photos of the natural world that ­surrounds them. Others, such as Jim Goldberg, combine portraits with (handwritten) texts. For his well-known project Raised by Wolves ­Goldberg followed the lives of several street children in the United States with his camera. One of the children portrayed wrote in a letter to ­Goldberg: ‘You show us as we are, and let us tell our own story. Young people are only going to listen when society lets them speak. Make sure that your work tells the real stories.’

The classic portrait will continue to exist, both as a functional record and as an artistic representation of the complex relationship between the looker and the looked at. Man, the social animal, is too intrigued by the game of coding and decoding, the interaction between people, to ­ignore a direct representation of a fellow human. The classic portrait is also too rich for this. If only because the Self is chiefly expressed in the meeting with the Other. In this sense, every portrait functions as a ­mirror for the maker, and is a constant reminder and confirmation of the ­impossibility of really expressing the inner human being and therefore ourselves. Because each time you have the feeling that you have caught a glimpse of an essence, it once more escapes a definitive expression. This simultaneous revealing and concealing, in which ultimately the ­feeling remains that the essence of the other stays just out of sight, ­invisible to the camera, tangible, yet never within reach of the viewer, is perhaps the essence of a good portrait and, as a result, a constant source of fascination and study, just like life itself. +

Anuschka Blommers (1969) and Niels Schumm (1969) have been collaborating since their graduation from the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam in 1996. In 1998 they recieved the Best Young Fashion Photography Award at the 13th Festival International de Mode et de Photographie in Hyères. They have worked for a wide variety of international magazines, including Another Magazine, Dutch, W Magazine, Purple Fashion, Selfservice, Italian/Japanese/British Vogue, i-D, Dazed & Confused, Visionaire, +81, Le Figaro and The New York Times. They have shown their work in venues such as the Groninger Museum, Groningen, Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt, Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris, Deichtorhallen Hamburg, ICA, Boston and Colette, Paris. The book Anita and 124 other portraits by Anuschka Blommers & Niels Schumm – an overview with portraits of actress Chloé Sevigny, friends, mothers and potatoes, ­ordered alphabetically by name of the model or the object photographed - was published in 2006 by Valiz, Amsterdam.

Blommers/Schumm gained their reputation with their hyper-aesthetic still life

and portrait photography. They play with the conventions of both fashion and photo­ graphy and refuse to treat fashion as a fixed format. They usually photograph their models – often ‘normal’ people – in setting such as living rooms or bedrooms or against sober, austere backgrounds. Blommers/Schumm often collaborate with Viktor & Rolf, and also with editor/designer/publisher Jop van Bennekom for his magazines BUTT, Fantastic Man and for the late Re-Magazine. The portraits presented here were made especially for Re-Magazine #6.

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Samuel Fosso African Spirits


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Samuel Fosso

Samuel Fosso (Kunmba, Cameroon, 1962) lived in Nigeria as a child, but due to the Biafra war he moved to Bangui in 1972. In 1994, thanks to the research of French photographer Bernard Deschamps, his work was brought to a wider audience and was included in the first Rencontres de la Photographie Africaine in Bamako, Mali, launched by Françoise ­Hugier. His work was exhibited at the Noorderlicht Photofestival in Groningen in 2000, and in 2001 he received the prestigious Dutch Prince Claus Fund Award. In the past years Fosso’s work has been shown in major global venues such as the Centre National de la Photographie in Paris, the ­Photographers’ Gallery and the Barbican Art Gallery in London, the ­Guggenheim Museum in New York, and Tate Modern in London. He was included in the acclaimed Africa Remix exhibition which toured world­ wide between 2004 and 2007, and also in the 26th Sao Paolo Biennale in 2004. His work is in held in many museum collections worldwide, includ­ ing the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; International Center of Photo­ graphy, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Studio Museum, Harlem and the Centre Pompidou, Paris. His work was ­presented at the Rencontre d’Arles festival in the summer of 2008, and

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his latest series African Spirits is on view at Galerie Jean Marc Patras in Paris until March 2009. Fosso still runs his portrait and passport photo­ graphy studio in Bangui, where most of the local community remains unaware of his international success as an artist - a situation Fosso has been keen to maintain. All images: © Samuel Fosso, Autoportraits, African Spirits, 2008, courtesy Jean Marc Patras /Galerie/Paris

Olu Oguibe is Professor of Art and Art History and Associate Director of the Institute for African American Studies at the University of Connecti­ cut. An artist whose work has been exhibited worldwide including most recently in the 52nd Venice Biennale, Oguibe has also curated or co-­ curated major international exhibitions for venues such as Tate Modern, the Venice Biennale, and the municipal museum in Mexico City. He has written for numerous journals and magazines, and is the author of ­several books including The Culture Game.


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Untitled, Autoportraits des années 70 © Samuel Fosso, courtesy Jean Marc ­Patras Galerie, Paris

In The Beginning Was The Self ~ Self-Portraiture­ in ­Samuel Fosso’s Art ­Photography

by Olu Oguibe

As of this writing, no art photographer has worked longer – or spent more time – with images of himself than Bangui studio master Samuel Fosso. What is even more remarkable is that at the rather tender age of fourteen and in the literal heart of Africa, Fosso produced some of the ­images that have placed him in the ranks of great photographers of the past half century. Even Picasso’s paintings at that age, though masterful, have not endured quite as well or commanded such critical ­approval, nor did they fit so seamlessly with the rest of his oeuvre as have Fosso’s early teenage photographs of himself dressed in the zaniest Africa’s urban style and fashion of the 1970s. Those images have now appeared in numerous exhibitions around the world and made their way into ­important collections and art historical literature. And, nearly forty years on, Fosso has stayed with the same methods for his art photography and focused on the same subject, the one subject that he has known longer and understands better than any other: himself. Having left his ancestral home among the Igbo in Eastern Nigeria ­shortly after the Biafra war, Samuel Fosso arrived in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, in 1972 to join his elder brother, a carpenter, and learn a trade. Fosso’s brother was part of an exodus during the ­bitter war that dispersed the Igbo and other former Eastern Nigerians across West and Central Africa, and especially to Equatorial Guinea and the Central African Republic, two of the few countries that extended exceptional generosity toward the beleaguered Biafrans. His education already

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disrupted and effectively terminated even before his teens, the young Fosso needed to find a trade after the war in order to help his family, and his brother’s trade seemed like an acceptable possibility. But when he got to Bangui, Fosso changed his mind about carpentry and instead took up a camera and, with the help of his brother, set up a portrait studio. He remains in the studio portrait business to this day, producing festive and memorial portraits and passport photographs for his clients while ­practicing his art photography on the side. Working with celluloid roll film rather than the wet plate that was still in use in some parts of Africa in the early 1970s, Fosso would occasionally have an urgent need to exhaust a roll of film so he could process it ­quickly to meet client deadlines. To do so, he would dress up in his finest ­body-tight shirts, flared pants and platform shoes, put on his killer dark glasses just like any teenager going out on the town, pose in front of his camera, and fire off whatever film was left on himself, often using the same simple props that he used for his clients. The results he would print and send off to his mother in Nigeria, or use to fill his home albums. The self-portraits thus served two practical purposes: they freed film from camera so he could meet urgent business demands, and they served as the exile’s ­illustrated notes to his mother. In this regard, Fosso’s self-portraits fit quite well within a long tradition of migrant use of photography. During the gold-rush in America, for instance, fortune seekers who left home and families several thousands miles behind, and who did not have the easy means of instant communication that we enjoy today, would put together whatever little they had left in order to pay and sit for a fine studio photograph bound for their loved ones. The ­meticulously crafted photographs that often emphasized their good health and relative prosperity, served to reassure their kin that they were alive and well, and still had reason to look forward to either returning home in due course or being able to have their loved ones join them once they could arrange such a reunion. Though there were exceptions, in many instances the promise that those photographs communicated were false. In most cases the photographs were in themselves emblems of the migrant’s last stand. No matter how precarious or even non-existent their prospects were, they had to look good for the sake of those they left behind, and nothing captured that narrative better than a fine


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Untitled, Autoportraits des années 70 © Samuel Fosso, courtesy Jean Marc Patras Galerie, Paris

­ ortrait photograph. In the old South Africa, migrant miners did the p same, as immortalized in one of the country’s greatest plays, Athol Fugard’s Sizwe Bansi is Dead. Beyond these purposes, there were, of course, other things equally at work in Samuel Fosso’s early self-portraits. There was a teenage image maker’s inevitable fascination with his own image, a clear extension of the Lacanian mirror stage. It is significant that Fosso sent the images to his mother, not only to assuage her worries and reassure her of her son’s well-being, but also to keep her posted on how handsome her son had turned out. ‘To show my handsomeness,’ Fosso has repeatedly noted, ‘was the point.’ In other words, the self-portraits served to keep regular record of the regarded self. Lacan argued that the extended mirror stage was libidinal, and reinforced subjectivity against the background of the absent mother. But it is proper, also, to argue that narcissism is a natural and inevitable part of a healthy adolescence, and it is that narcissism that we find in Fosso’s early self-portraits. The adolescent is obsessed with details of his emerging adulthood, and just as in the mirror stage, this obsession is triggered by the shock of recognition. They are intrigued by their own mental and bodily transformation, which is both affirmative and unsettling, and they are therefore anxious to track that transformation as a way to reckon with it, a way to understand and live with it. It is perhaps the conjunction of this adolescent narcissism and the facility for image making that guaranteed that Fosso’s self-directed gaze would come to define the rest of his work. But, even in those early photographs, Fosso’s staged auto-portraits were already symbolic on a social and historic scale that was larger than mere adolescent self-regard. They were already constructed to capture the spirit of a moment as African societies completed their transition from a unique, pre-colonial milieu to a modern global epoch. The trappings and details of Fosso’s fashionable postures: the dark glasses and face caps, the shaped shirts and bell bottoms, the high platform shoes, all placed them within a new, global popular and urban youth culture. We find the same trappings in urban images of the period from Senegal and Mali and South Africa, and many of the trappings are American in origin, in fact, in many cases, specifically African American although by

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then they had become transnational, popularized by entertainers and movie stars and even deferred to by politicians. In effect, Fosso was every transnational urban African youth of the 1970s. He was every ­Afropolitan, and by constructing those self-portraits in the very selfconscious manner that he did, he was recording an important element in the modern cultural history of his continent. With Fosso’s emergence on the global contemporary art scene in the 1990s, this vehicular role would become central to his art exactly as his status changed from mere commercial studio photographer and hobbyist to internationally acclaimed artist. Interest in his early self-portraits led to inclusion in major exhibitions and demand for new work. He also expanded his technique to color photography. His rapid transition is registered in the series, Fosso Fashion, which echoed the early selfportraits by using the same black and white technique and spare studio setting against which the photographer models a line of different attires from highly sophisticated haute couture to bare loin-wear. In the series we see Fosso as a global metropolitan not of the 1970s but of the 1990s, mature and self-controlled, but also less invested in either the work or his image. As art the series is perhaps the least significant in Fosso’s oeuvre except that it serves as a bridge from the past to the present. In another series in black and white, Memories of A Friend, there is evidence, also, that Fosso was now familiarizing himself with trends in contemporary art photography, especially the work of fellow Nigerian expatriate and British photographer, the late Rotimi Fani-Kayode. In his debut series in colour, The Dream of My Grandfather, Fosso pays tribute to the culture of his ancestry by staging initiation rituals as well as dressing in the different ceremonial outfits of the Afikpo Igbo. In one image, he poses as an Igbo royal, in another as a distinguished noble. In yet another image the artist is a medicine man invoking long ­departed rainforest gods. Perhaps the most beautiful image in the series is that of the artist dressed as an Afikpo warrior, re-­ enacting a war dance in the studio against a large blue studio backdrop. Fosso describes the series as a commentary on Western misrepresentations of Africa’s past, ­especially the myth that African societies had no civilized or advanced institutions. But, beside their proclaimed


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­ olitical message, the ­images also demonstrate what I have described p elsewhere as a postcolonial habit of nostalgia for a past hardly experienced or only vaguely remembered, for something lost even before it is known. What is more ­memorable about the series is that it marks Fosso’s firm transition from mere self-regard as the dandy in the mirror, to surrogate representation. The figure in the images is that of the artist, but he is only an actor playing different ­persona, a model in his own allegorical ­tableaus. He becomes the ­iconography, the vehicle for a different social message, the signifying figure.­ We find Fosso on solid ground again in his TATI series from 1997, a group of images in which he continues his role playing, appearing in one photo­graph as a pirate, in another as living room golfer, and in one of the most colorful photographs in the series, we find him cross-dressing as what he calls ‘La Femme Américaine Libérée’, the liberated American woman. In one of the most explicitly political and elaborately staged images, Fosso, dressed in an attire that crosses a colonial warrant chief with echoes of the late Zairean dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, appears as ‘The Chief (who sold Africa to the colonizers)’. Many of the images in the series remind us of Homi Bhabha’s mimic man, the damaged postcolonial who is left suspended between remnants of his pre-colonial self and illusions of a civilized or sophisticated, that is, Europeanized transfiguration. The images are tongue-in-cheek, powerful, even acerbic, yet beautiful masterpieces of satire. ‘La Femme Américaine Libérée’ reminds us of another famous and not so subtle critique of women’s liberation, the 1970s hit song, ‘Lady’, by Samuel Fosso’s countryman, the late ­singer and iconoclast Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. While Fela’s critique was directed at urban, nouveau-riche African women who challenged the chauvinism of male partners, Fosso’s piece shoots an arrow across the ocean to take aim at American feminism. Remarkably, the liberated lady played by Fosso is dressed in so-called African fabrics, the same print-cloth that fellow expatriate and British artist Yinka Shonibare popularized in the art world in the 1990s. A close reading of ‘La Femme Américaine Libérée’ would require a whole new essay, but there are two things that are important to note here. The first and obvious point is that the image, like a couple of other images in the series, shows the artist in a cross-gendered role, elabo

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rately dressed as a woman with finely executed make-up. More importantly, however, is that this cross-gendered role playing most clearly establishes the continuity between Fosso’s work as a contemporary, metropolitan image maker and the art traditions of his Igbo ancestry. While Fosso’s figure in ‘La Femme Américaine Libérée’ reminds us somewhat of the equally elaborately made-up images of Fulani men from the West African savannah, it also reminds us of the work of Fosso’s contemporary and fellow Igbo expatriate, New York art photographer Ike Ude whose Cover Girl series in the mid-1990s centered around the artist’s own self-portraits with elaborate but fine make-up. Fosso’s and Ude’s work both belong to a tradition of the cross-dressing Agbogho-mmam or Ogoli-na-acho-mma, a prominent figure in Igbo satire through which men dressed and decorated as beautiful women delivered laced commentary on current events and social trends. Fosso’s focus on the beauti­ ful self, though probably quite unconsciously so, and Ude’s well-known dandyism, both derive in large part from this element of Igbo culture. And now in his most recent series, African Spirits, Samuel Fosso delivers perhaps his most powerful work since the boyhood self-portraits. In this series Fosso transforms himself into some of the most important icons in Africa’s modern history, from the founders of the continent’s modern nation states, such as Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Leopold Sedar Senghor of Senegal, to recent liberation icons like Nelson Mandela. In Fosso’s series there are images of Patrice Lumumba, liberator of the Congo, and we even see iconic figures from the African Diaspora, including a re-enactment of The Passion of Muhammad Ali, Carl Fischer’s photo­ graph of the former world champion for George Lois’s controversial cover of Esquire magazine in which Ali appeared as the martyred St. Sebastian, patron saint of athletes. Ali’s refusal to be inducted into the US military in 1968 marked a ground-shifting moment in 20 th century history and earned him a place in the pantheon of great African leaders. In African Spirits the boy photographer who shot images of himself to send to his mother becomes the master artist who inhabits and ­interprets the history of a continent. Yet, in all his references, roles, and ­re-enactments, there is one persistent and overarching presence in Samuel Fosso’s work: the handsome artist himself. +


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Franziska von Stenglin Uncle Bobbel, Aunt Muck and the Wood Goose


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Franziska von Stenglin

Franziska von Stenglin was born in Munich in 1984. She discovered photo­graphy in 2003, when she returned to India, where she had lived as a child. In 2004 Von Stenglin moved to Surrey for a foundation course in Art and Design. She then moved on to London where she studied Fine Art Photography at the London College of Communication. Motivated by her wish to understand how every aspect of the medium works, ­Franziska von Stenglin is currently working in a picture library in New York, and soon she will take on an internship at SZ-Magazin, the weekly magazine of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, in Munich. Franziska von Stenglin is represented by Patrick Heide Contemporary Art in London, where she participated in the group exhibition ­This is Not a Fairy Tale during the fall of 2008.

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Laura Noble is an artist, writer and consultant. She is the author of the book The Art of Collecting Photography, published by AVA Publishing in 2006. She is editor-at-large for Photoicon Magazine and regularly contributes to photographic magazines, including Next Level and Image. She also writes a book review column for London Independent Photography. All images: © Franziska von Stenglin, courtesy Patrick Heide Contemporary Art, London


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Franziska von Stenglin ~ Uncle Bobbel, Aunt Muck and the Wood Goose

by Laura Noble

Traditional portraiture can frequently seem stuffy and uninteresting to those to whom the sitter is unknown. Formal, serious, sullen or stiff ­poses often do little to inspire or reveal any deeper insight into the ­character of the person portrayed. Unlike painting, photography ­captures a scene in a fraction of a second – the click of a shutter can ­unwittingly expose the subtlest of nuances. Gestures, movement, a hint of a smile or glare of the eyes can speak volumes and enliven the image in a multitude of delightfully unexpected ways, opening up the interpretation of the picture. Conversely, as the ultimate democratic medium, domestic photography has ensured that we all have records of family members both living and dead. The instant recognition that comes with the familiar conventions of the family photograph often generates an empathic and warm ­response, even when the family is not our own.

The photographic portrait dates from the inception of the medium in the 19 th century. The accessibility of the photographic portrait has transformed the definition of what a portrait can be. Prior to photography, having one’s painterly portrait captured was the privilege of the rich. Photo­graphy changed that by allowing people from all levels of society to be portrayed, providing evidence of their existence, an unprecedented­ record of their lives. Ordinary people, working men, women and children could be captured in more natural settings, ­reflecting their circumstances­more truthfully. One of the joys of looking back at old photographs is that we can construct stories and narratives, real or imagined, from the clues ­given to us in each image. Clothing, décor, obsolete objects like typewriters and gramophones all provide evidence as to when an image was taken and build a picture that goes beyond the two dimensional into a more tangible setting both physically and emotionally. The photograph as ­object seems more present with old photographs that may be ­damaged, faded, curling, small and square, with rounded corners or scalloped ­edges. They trigger nostalgia and even the faded tones or colours seem fitting, as if the era somehow had always existed in those colours all along. Looking at old albums, we see that family resemblances can sometimes skip one, two or even three generations and appear in the faces of the young like a mirror to the past. Von Stenglin puts up her own mirror to her family with her work, which began after the ­discovery in a drawer of an old shoe box containing 400 photographs and negatives. These pictures were found at a country house in southern Germany­ where her grandmother’s things were stored, a far cry from the castle in Bavaria near the Austrian border where she had grown up and that is now occupied by her sister. The images were taken in the 1930s and 1940s and depict her grandmother’s formative years in rural Bavaria. When looking at these photographs, Von Stenglin’s grandmother told her

Gelbes Zimmer, from the series Residence, 2007 © Franziska von Stenglin

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stories about the family members shown in them. Over the course of those three hours, the title Uncle Bobbel, Aunt Muck and the Wood Goose came to her, when in one of the stories her grandmother ­explained how Uncle Bobbel had fallen in love with Aunt Muck whilst on a wild goose shoot. Coming from an aristocratic German background, her grandmother’s­ upbringing was a privileged one. This glimpse into the past still ­resonates today in the values, moral standards and traditions of Von Stenglin’s own upbringing. The wealth, however, was lost during the war in which her grandmother’s two brothers fought and died as soldiers serving in the Wehrmacht. Now living and working abroad, Von Stenglin can look at these photo­graphs and utilize them with enough detachment to explore her own heritage through her artistic practice. Every family has skeletons in the closet, which often lie untouched for several generations. It ­transpired that her great grandfather was well known for being anti-Nazi and the fact that both his sons were called up, the elder of whom had been killed before the youngest was called to fight in the final days of the war. This was extremely unusual. An archetypal Aryan family – and an aristocratic­ family at that - would normally have been allowed to ensure that an heir was left to continue the family bloodline. The fact that this did not ­happen was seen as a punishment for her great grandfather’s views. Von Stenglin discovered by reading the diaries of her other grandfather’s family in the archive in their castle in Czech Republic that her maternal grandfather had been pro-Nazi at the beginning of the National­ Socialist regime but, by the end, the desperation felt by family was acute. These uncomfortable polarities are present in all of Von Stenglin’s work, as her photographs are placed alongside archival images that comple-

ment and contradict each other in equal measure. Von Stenglin’s relationships with her family were strengthened ­during the making of her archive as her research prompted her to visit locations and family members she had not seen since childhood. The forming and cementing of these relationships are quite visible in the work. Delicacy is needed to put each diptych in place. The editing ­process when pairing up the images was a lengthy one and crucial to the ­success of the project. Although Von Stenglin often has an archival image in mind when she photographs her subjects, choosing the one that fits is crucial to the success of the diptych. Many of the archival images were small contact prints. When ­taking her own photographs Von Stenglin tried various formats and sizes to pair up with the vernacular archive in order to create her numbered diptychs. The realization that the contemporary trend towards large crisp fine art photographs was unsuitable for such a personal project and would overshadow the family snapshots determined the final presentation of her work. One has to step close to engage with and thus initiate a more ­personal response to them. The large mounts and dark wooden frames give a sense of longevity to the work. Ranging from large and medium format to 35mm, the negatives are often undusted, dodged or fogged to increase the aged appearance for a less jarring visual aesthetic. She does not retouch her work in any way, in contrast to the way most fine art photographers refine their images. Von Stenglin’s lack of any drive for perfection imbues her work with a refreshing sincerity and warmth. As a result, her diptychs pivot between the past and the future, creating an archive in the past tense for posterity. When taking her photographs Von Stenglin often has an image from the archive in mind as a potential pair to her own. She becomes the ­conduit, linking the past with her own ideas and experiences, both ­inherited and newly created. >

Wandteppich, from the series Residence, 2007 © Franziska von Stenglin

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In Diptych 14 we see a view of an attic with a uniform illuminated by the light through a skylight alongside a torn photograph of Von ­Stenglin’s grandfather. The roof line in the attic is echoed by the tear in the family portrait. It is notable that the uniform hanging on the door of the wardrobe is in fact a Maltese Knight’s uniform owned by Von ­Stenglin’s great grandfather, not the one worn by her grandfather. These thread-like ­visual links invite comparison but do not dictate to the ­viewer, who is encouraged to draw her or his own narrative links and possibilities. The exhibition The Photographer’s Eye, mounted by John Szarkowski at MoMA in 1964 famously included vernacular photography, dividing the critics, some of whom saw it as undermining the traditions of ­canonical photography. Today anonymous archives and images are ­appreciated for many historical, stylistic, sociological and aesthetic ­reasons. Museums, galleries and dealers exhibit and produce catalogues and sell vernacular photographs to a growing audience that appreciates their intrinsic value beyond classical notions of artistic worth. Von Stenglin’s understanding of the social nature of the aristocracy­ as it relates to her own life is reflected by the skillful way in which she captures the gestures of the rich, which are more easily demonstrated than described. She is an anthropologist digging beneath the layers of her own kin, yielding a rich tapestry of variables to be dissected, studied­ and examined. In another of Von Stenglin’s photographs we see the ­nonchalant confidence of a man in a tuxedo who looks over his left ­shoulder as a waitress hovers behind him with a soup bowl. In the ­archival image to the left, two men and a woman stand on a lawn, ­tennis racquets in hand, personifying the bourgeois lifestyle of the ruling

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classes­. The self-assurance and level of sophistication portrayed is ­reminiscent of the idealistic lifestyles of Jacques Henri Lartigue’s photo­ graphs of the same era. At first glance, Von Stenglin’s photograph could have been taken in the 1980s. The obvious dust marks and miss-­ alignment add to this illusion. Repetition is an important aspect of vernacular photography as it accurately represents the overall mundanity of human experience. ­Although we would all perhaps hope that our lives appear dynamic and exciting to others, the reality is often banal. Daily routine and repetition are common. Von Stenglin’s pictures of the grandeur of her family’s past serve to reveal the present less glamorous side to life as buildings fall into disrepair but still hold visual clues to their former glory. Cryptic imagery is a common occurrence in and part of the enduring appeal of vernacular photography, presenting quizzical images of people doing things that are out of the ordinary and recording them for posterity. One such image in Von Stenglin’s archive depicts a girl posing in a backwards crab position. It would be easy to fail to notice the ­setting were it not that the image alongside it features uncanny similarities. The picture of an opulent banquet room with ornate painted ceilings shows white painted panelling and parquet floors. Whether or not they are the same room is unimportant; the visual connection acts as a catalyst. In this way Von Stenglin prompts the notion of her own archive as a progressive organic entity, which itself may be the inspiration for another archive some time in the future. +


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Bill Sullivan Stop Down


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Bill Sullivan

List of works (in order of appearance): Down 12323, July 2004 Down 12322, July 2004 Down 12321, July 2004 Down 10345, June 2004 Down 10344, June 2004 Down 10343, June 2004 Down 10124, June 2004 Down 10134, June 2004 Down 11922, June 2004 Down 10924, June 2004 Down 10934, June 2004 Down 10922, June 2004 Down 7124, February 2004 Down 7123, February 2004 Down 7122, February 2004 Down 3409, February 2004

Bill Sullivan (1964) lives and works in New York City. In 1988 he graduated from Georgetown University in Washington DC in English Literature and Painting. He has been an artist and a portrait painter for the past 15 years. He worked for much of the time on a large conceptual project ­entitled Das Blaue Auto which chronicled the evolution of a fictional Lost European Art movement. He took up photography with a focus on street photography in 2002 and in 2003 he wrote a long essay on the artist Luc Delahaye. He began to fuse his conceptual concerns with his work as professional portrait painter, culminating in the major project ­3 Situations­, completed in 2007, which explored how the use of framing in ­specific ­situations can reveal that the grammar of portraiture is a natural ­feature of the world. Sullivan’s work has been exhibited at the Brancolini ­Grimaldi

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Gallery in Rome, and art fairs including Paris Photo (2002) and Art Basel in Miami (2007). Sullivan has participated in group exhibitions, at the ­Australian ­Centre for Photography in Sydney, for example, during the summer of 2008. In 2009 he will have a solo exhibition at The Sasha Wolf Gallery in New York. All images: © Bill Sullivan, courtesy Brancolini Grimaldi, Arte Contemporanea­, Rome

Sarah Baxter is a French and British freelance journalist, specializing in photography for the past ten years. She is currently contributing ­regular interviews for Eyemazing Magazine and makes video portraits of photo­ graphers for the German website Fototv.


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Stop Down, installation view.

Bill Sullivan ~ Stop Down

by Sarah Baxter

American conceptual artist and photographer Bill Sullivan has created a series of photographic works shot in New York City, aptly entitled 3 Situations, comprising as they do three very specific circumstances within the city. The first situation was shot in Times Square at night, capturing portraits of people posing for street artists, thus called The Times Square Portraits, or Time Port. The second is called More Turns or The Subway Turnstile Pictures, capturing dozens of individual New Yorkers as they push through a particular turnstile in the New York subway. The third and most recent situation, the one we will discuss here, is Stop Down, differing only slightly from the previous one, in that the subjects are photographed in elevators as the doors open to reveal groups of individuals. Whether individually or in groups, the 3 Situations do remain strongly connected to a certain idea of portrait photography, as well as a study of the Manhattan species.

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To achieve his Situations Sullivan follows a very strict methodology, which he calls Situational Photography. He has devised seven self-­ imposed guidelines, which he has followed for all 3 Situations: 1. The image or photograph must be candid; 2. The context of the situation must be clearly established; 3. The background to every subject in a series must be identical; 4. The photographer must always be visible to the subject(s) in the photograph; 5. The moments the images are to be taken must be defined before the pictures are taken; 6. Secondary image(s) can be attached to the primary image if needed to clarify an established context; 7. The camera should not be visible in the situation unless its presence is integral to that scenario.   For Stop Down Sullivan positioned himself, across a year, facing the doors of an elevator, always in the same place and situation. The changing­ ­seasons were indicated by the clothing of the subjects. Stop Down portrays a wide variety of individuals in an identical situation. All these people – young and old, men, women and children, blondes and brunettes, with packages or groceries, etc. – are all fixed in time, as if posing for a group portrait. He chooses to exhibit his series in stacked sets of three photographs. The upper photo generally has the elevator doors wide open; the middle one has the doors closing, which concentrates on the individual(s) remaining in view; the bottom photograph offers only a glimpse of the last remaining passenger, who seems to gain in importance.


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Turn 9158, More Turns, April 2004 © Bill Sullivan

Whether or not these individuals look at each other, or acknowledge the photographer’s camera, what emerges is a near-perfect harmony, as if every individual is posing for a group portrait of modern city life. Some are seen in profile, others face us or have their backs to us, and yet, in crisp lighting, they all look as if they were posing for a pictureperfect advertisement. The technical conditions are constrainedly precise. The camera is not seen up close, but the photographer is plainly visible though pretending to be otherwise occupied. The distance from his subjects is always ten feet, a physical distancing that seems at odds with the idea of portraiture that would otherwise imply proximity and intimacy. The distance can be emotive as well: the elevator riders are strangers shot from afar, and yet are blown up in large format prints that turn them into imposing presences. Even though these are provoked images, Sullivan is less interested in technique than in the image itself. His photographs suggest both movement and stillness. Movement is suspended; time is stopped, interrupted, caught. A brief moment captured between the inside and the outside. Is it an ­interpretation or a representation? Is it an objective or a subjective vision? Sullivan provides his own interpretation, rather than depiction, of his ­subjects. His original Situational Photography is what sets his work apart. His portraits are not of individuals, or groups of individuals, but rather a vision of them. It’s the photographer’s image, not the image of its given subject. Stop Down is displayed in the exhibition space as a series of three vertically aligned photographs that one reads from top to bottom (doors

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Turn 18008, More Turns, August 2004 © Bill Sullivan

fully open, half-open and nearly closed). If they are not life-size, they sometimes feel like it. The effect is verging on a trompe-l’œil akin to an advertising poster. Viewers are confronted with strangers who often look straight back at them. While in both the previous series (Time Port and More Turns), people were isolated, individualized and separated simply by virtue of the turnstile, for instance, the elevator series has people sometimes so close that they could touch each other. Despite the physical proximity, however, there remains an emotional distance between the subjects. The vertical displays further emphasize the absence of human involvement in the elevator’s mechanical opening and closing. Aside from the vertical displays, Sullivan also makes what he calls details, a series of close-ups lifted from the full shots, which can be seen on his website. Blow-ups, crops, isolated portraits; his details further enhance the sense of individualized portraiture. But can we really talk here of portrait photography, which the critic ­Ernest Lacan described, in 1856, as ‘the very first application in photo­ graphy’? Indeed, portrait photography initially started with works such as Nadar’s glass-plate portraits, which evolved into the card-mounted portraits of the French photographer Disdéri that served as calling cards, contributing to the mass production of photographs. Later still, portrait photography served as objective documentation, before reaching the ever-practical format of ID photos. The Stop Down series is a particular brand of portraiture. When exhibited in installations, it is always as groups of individuals, displayed in full shots, from head to toe. Contemporary portraits, to be sure. >


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In an interesting conversation with Jörg Colberg on the photoblog ­Conscientious Sullivan stated that he was ‘tired of the conventions in which most photographs of people are taken’. He set out to realize a different way of taking portraits: not just the face but also the inner person or not just one person but several. With Stop Down, people’s facial expressions are of surprise, ­asto­nishment, amusement, etc. ‘The elevator mimics the opening and closing of a shutter on a camera, and also how a picture is cropped in a cropping process.’ This goes against the traditional way of making portraits, which are usually static, in an environment that isn’t typically conducive to portraiture (a public setting), and with individuals who pose by accident (not premeditated subjects). Here, people change, but not the setting. They are adapted into an entirely neutral setting rather than the other way round. Does the inspiration behind the 3 Situations series stem from a ­conscious desire to take the portrait photography genre to new levels? Sullivan admits to being inspired by Renaissance painting, as well as several photographers who each adapted specific genres in their own way, such as Massimo Vitali (Beach & Disco), August Sander (The People Who Came to My Door), or Luc Delahaye, a French photographer who invited homeless people to take pictures of themselves in a photo booth (Photomaton), Sullivan concludes that ‘maybe there really is something universal in the faces we wear.’ Sullivan’s work could also be compared to that of Vincent Debanne, a young French photographer who has an iconic and symbolic style, while also exploring zones of transportation such as airports, train stations,

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etc. with his series, such as Station, Defence Troops, Welcome to Children and Dreamworks. Is Sullivan part of a new generation of portraitists who reflect their contemporaries using less traditional approaches? He certainly turns away from the classical portrait techniques that he considers being ­‘theatrical productions designed to create a character or a face.’ As Sullivan’s portraits are often made in public settings, with complete strangers as subjects, should we then talk of street photo­ graphy? Although he considers his work to be somewhere in between, he has also compared his photographic approach to wildlife photography. He sets himself up in a specific location, waits for his subjects, and takes the photograph. Instead of wild animals in the jungle, he captures people in the urban jungle. He admits that he ‘wanted to get as close as ­possible to a complete stranger. It must be a New York thing!’ Born, bred and working in the city, Sullivan is indeed quite the quintessential New Yorker. All three of his situations are typical New York moments, yet have a much larger resonance. The viewer is confronted with large-scale strangers, and in the case of Stop Down, group portraits in which people are sometimes individualized. The effect is powerful, and the strangers grow steadily familiar, conveying an intimacy that is indeed the realm of portrait photography. Finding intimacy in the urban jungle is no small feat, and it is felt like Sullivan’s personal celebration of the city that inspires him. +


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Nanna de Wilde, Kristina Stark & Terese Bolander Jenny *1910 †2006

8. Oven mould. W 15

41. Doll. H 28

43. Hat.

47. Candlestick in plastic bag. H 21

73. Feather. L 32

84. Sketch. L 49 W 31

96. Pillows, cow fur. L 43 W 26

98. Rock crystal lamps. H 21

102. Nylon panties. Size M

117. Glass globe. D 33

120. Plastic package. L 20.5. Contents: plasters and wet nap

129. Fake fur hat


131. Branch. L 63

135. Socks

139. Plastic bag. Contents: parts from a bra

159. Adult diapers

168. Basket wrapped in plastic. Content: basket wrapped in plastic. L 40 H 20

195. Yellow pages, Västerås 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006. Falun, 2000

200. Plastic bag with 14 cones

231. Shoes, leather. Size 38

233. Shoes, leather. Size 3 1/2

282. Toilet bag. W 29. Contents: Name tag, 1 rubber string, 2 rubber bands

286. Toilet bag. W 34. Content: Key (for box or diary)

287. Ironing board. L 53

288. Congratulations card. Plays ‘Love Me Tender’ when opened. ‘1989-04-18. Congratulations! best wishes, Anna’

295. Umbrella

312. Basket with red ribbons. Contents: napkins and empty plastic packaging. L 27


329. Tool for making shoes. W 13 H 17 D 17

346. Plastic packaging. Contents: ribbons. W 18

347. Plastic packaging. W 20

365. Plastic Bag. ‘Big pack – hot dogs’

371. Poster. L 51.5 W 32.5

404. Plastic net

428. Two plastic bags tied together with a ribbon

439. Book. Conversation with Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba

442. Book. Per Glanell, Bridget of Sweden.

457. Pearl plate. 14x14

459. Pot holder. 16x16

460. Cloth. L 115

463 Trivet. 15 x 20

465. Icons. H 4.5

476. Cast-iron pot. D 36


485. Bowl. H 6.5. Contents: sugar

486. Plastic bag. Contents: paper bag with a hand written note: Helge’s hair. Contents: see 486 a

486 a. Hair

492. Colander. L 26

499. Teddy bear. H 16

501. Figurines. Trolls. H 6

505. Painting. W 25.5. Handwritten text on the back. ‘Jenny, 19-23 years, 1938’

514. 5 Glazed ceramic cups. H 5. 8 glazed ceramic dishes. D 12. Signed underneath ‘jenn, -57’

515. Glazed ceramic bowl. H 7.5 Signed: ‘jenn-57’

516. Teapot. H 13. Glazed ceramics. Steel handle

525. Souvenir. Wood and leather. L 19

530. Hat

533. Bicycle bag. H 30

556. Plastic basin. H 16. Content: adult diapers ‘Tena Junior’

564. Book. Denis Lindbohm, The Enchanted World.


566. Book. Denis Lindbohm, The Children of the Fire

578. Toilet plunger. H 46

579. Pencil. L 11

591. Cigarette box. Contents: 15 photographs

607. Cardboard box. H 35. Contents: see 607 a – q

607 a. Paper bag

607 b. Plastic bag. H 35

607 c. Plastic bag

607 d. Plastic bag. Contents: bicycle seat cover

607 e. Toilet seat cover

607 f. Plastic bag.

607 g. Plastic bag. Contents: 12 soles

607 h. Plastic bag. 8 soles, 1 heel, 1 plastic bag

607 i. Plastic bag

607 j. 7 soles


607 k. Arch supports

607 l. Plastic bag. Contents: arch supports

607 m. Plastic bag. 4 soles

607 n. Plastic bag

607 o. Plastic bag

607 p. Plastic bag. Contents: plastic bag

612. Wooden stool. H 44

618. Mirror. H 50

622. Shopping trolley. Content: a piece of cardboard. H 128

641. 31 connected plastic pockets. Contents: Newspaper cuttings and notes.

645. Plastic pocket. Contents: 5 newspaper cuttings.

650. Shoes

659. Butter knife. L 17

660. Plastic handle. L 28

698. Whisk. L 26


700. Spoons. stainless steel. L 20

710. Tong. L 20.5

714. Knife. L 14.5

735. Folding rule. L 20.5

740. Hammer. L 28

768. 12 plastic containers, 11 lids

769. Metal tins. D 10

773. Cardboard boxes. L 13-33

775. 4 paper moulds. L 13-18

777. Cardboard box. L 9. Handwritten text: ‘bought 2/11 2000’

779. Empty coffee tin. H 14.5

789. Eraser. L 4

795. Carpet. L 58

798. Archive folder, cardboard. L 16.5

799. Tape. Sealed


805. Glass tins. H 18. Contents: leaves

806. Plastic pots. H 9-13

815. Creamer. H 6.5

818. Glasses. H 6.5

821. Figurine. H 19

826. Decoration object in glass. H 19.5

829. 18 Plastic pockets. Contents: newspapers cuttings.

831. Empty photo album. 23 x 22.5

838. Porcelain bowl and creamer. H 4-5

845. Christmas tree stand. H 18

858. Coffee cups. H 5.5

859. Cigarette packages. H 7.5

890. Incense. L 32

895. Wood figurines. L 4-6.5

898. Foil forms. D 7


900. Plastic flowers. Candlestick holders. W 8.5-10

904. Plastic bag. Contents: butter packaging. Contents: 3 metal lids, 30 plastic lids

906. Present string. H 5.5

907. Plastic bag. Contents: steel wire

913. Cheese slicer. L 20.5

928. Enamel jugs. H 7.5, 9.5

939. Dish rack. Contents: hay

950. Porcelain plates. D 17-19

961. Shelf paper. L 60

967. Plastic ribbon. 13 rolls. D 4-10

979. 11 letters for Jenny

981. Postcards addressed to Jenny

985. Bow.

989. Dices. H 2.5-5

991. Watch strap, leather. D 22


995. Chocolate box. Contents: drawing pins

1001. 2 Christmas cards

1002. Death notice with handwritten date: ‘22/7-99’

1005. 9 connected plastic folders. Contents: Newspaper cuttings

1007. Tape: Self hypnosis

1018. Almanack 1995

1024. Book. Sten Lindgren: A Dialogue with a Cosmic Culture

1042. Souvenir with pressed flowers

1044. Plastic bag. Contents: Plastic bag with 18 bulbs for an electric candlestick

1047. Ocarina. H 6.5

1056. Box. L 7. Contents: Cotton and pendant

1058. Keys to the laundry room

1059. Box. W 4. Contents: Brooch

1066. Envelope addressed to Jenny’s mother. Contents: 1 Christmas card

1076. Notes on cross-ruled paper


1084. Letter to Jenny

1090. Death notice. Date written with a ballpoint pen: ‘7/6 2002’

1093 Notes on cross-ruled paper

1094. Notes on cross-ruled paper

1098. Plastic strawberry. W 4

1102. Plastic hair pin. L 8

1105. Pillow and pillow case. W 54

1107. Rag carpet. L 121

1131. Foam rubber. H 28.5

1133. Seat cushion

1149. Rag carpet. L 149

1188. Ball of plastic string

1191. Zipper. L 66

1218. 10 pieces of fabric

1221. 3 pieces of fabric


1223. Unfinished dress

1224. Piece of a pelmet. W 190. 2 curtain ribbons

1239. Pencil case in leather. W 20

1243. Pillow with pillow case. W 61

1246. Pillow. W 32

1247. Blanket. L 196 W 161

1248. Pillow with pillow case. W 85

1251. Wallpaper. W 55

1254. Crocheted cap

1255. Toilet bag. W 25

1267. Portable hanging wardrobe. L 150

1379. Leather armchair. H 98 W 77

1380. Leather footstool. H 40 W 50

1401. Oilcloth. W 90

1421. Adult diapers and mattress protectors


1432. Table. H 68

1433. Sticks. L 84, 82, 90, 82

1438. Chair. H 86

1440. Chair with cushion. H 84

1443. Fan, plastic and string. W 46

1475. Comb, plastic. W 15

1477. Mirror. Dia 7

1492. Book. Daniel Cohen, Mysterious Places

1502. Study book, Sk책ne

1511. Drawing pad. W 19.5

1543. Skirt. Homemade. Hanger

1573. Apron. Homemade. Hanger

1603. Shirt dress. Size L. Hanger

1613. Blouse. Size 40. Hanger

1670. Book. Bernhard Nordh, The Girl from the Mountain Village


1682. Book. Stig Linnell, Stockholm’s Ghost House

1686. Diary, year 1994

1838. Stone troll. H 5.5

1894. Watch, stainless steel. L 15.5

1897. Piece of jewellery, plastic. L 4.5

1903. Necklace, metal. L 40

1907. Necklace, plastic, glass. L 41

1927. Floor lamp. H 132

1928. Chest of drawers. H 61

1929. Suitcase. H 63

1932. Table wrapped in paper. H 76

1934. Stool. H 43

1936. TV, Philips. 21 inch

1938. Chest of drawers. H 78

1939. Chest of drawers. H 106


1993. Glue. H 13.5

1997. Knitted jumper. Hanger

2003. Cabinet. H 74

2024. Leather bag. B 37

2026. Bag made of cloth. B 41

2064. Skirt

2083. Apron

2085. Skirt

2098. Underskirt. Size 40

2109. Plastic bag. Contents: Twine

2122. 5 terry towels

2123. Jumper. Size S. Hanger

2126. Dress. Size 44

2130. Tunic. Homemade

2137. Tunic. Homemade


2151. Plastic flower in a clay pot. H 33

2174. Shirt. Size S

2177. Vest. Homemade

2187. Dress. Homemade

2190. Dress. Homemade

2221. Vacuum cleaner hose. L 300

2240. Vest

2259. Vest

2283. Jumper

2287. Polo shirt. Size XL.

2296. Fur. L 110

2301. Painting. L 44

2302. Painting. L 50. Signed “V, 1958�

2656. Table. H 73

2761. Nail file. L 11


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Nanna de Wilde, Kristina Stark & Terese Bolander

Portfolio: We abbreviate metric Length, Height, Width, Diameter as L, H, W, Dia.

Kristina Stark (Borås, 1978), Nanna de Wilde (Västerås, 1975) and ­Terese Bolander (Västerås, 1976) all graduated from the Royal University ­College of Fine Arts in Stockholm in 2006. Their first collaborative project is Jenny *1910 †2006, for which they bought all the belongings of a deceased person whom they did not know personally. The aim of this ongoing project is to make a portrait and to ­investigate how much it is possible to learn about a person through her material legacy. They have measured and photographed all the items in her home, item by item. The archive can be seen at www.dodsbo.com and will be exhibited in 2009 at Västmanlands läns Museum in S ­ weden.

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Camilla Larsson is currently curator at Bonniers Konsthall, a new ­venue for contemporary art opened in Stockholm in 2006. She was educated in Art History and Museology and involved in several exhibitions of photo­ graphy and the moving image including Xposeptember Stockholm Photo­ Festival, The Last Image by Miriam Bäckström and Carsten Höller at ­Moderna Museet. She has been published in the Swedish daily press, magazines and exhibition catalogues.

All images: © Nanna de Wilde, Kristina Stark & Terese Bolander


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The Romantic Portrait ~ A collaborative art project fragmentized

by Camilla Larsson

The website for Jenny *1910 †2006, carries statements by the artists themselves: Nanna – ‘I feel sorrow that I will get to know this person only when it is too late’. Terese – ‘First it’s nothing, then there’s something, but in the end there’s nothing’ and Kristina says – ‘It is so obvious that she existed, but also that now she is dead’. Having the advantage of ­following the project from the start, in 2006, I’m still mulling over these comments by the artists, made in the initial phase of setting up the ­collaboration because they so fundamentally describe what’s at stake. This can be seen as a highly romantic struggle to rebuild a world into a coherent whole. It’s not the first time in history and surely not the last. Several artists have been unable to resist the temptation of using the belongings of a deceased person in their art works. Sometimes they do

Jenny’s horoscope

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so by exhibiting an archive, as the French artist Christian Boltanski did in his Inventory of Objects Which Belonged to a Woman of Bois-Colombes from 1974 which was given the form of an artist’s book. Miriam ­Bäckström from Sweden made the photo series Dödsbo [Estate of a deceased ­person] in 2006, picturing the complete contents of homes. Jenny *1910 †2006 is an attempt by the artists Nanna de Wilde, ­Terese Bolander and Kristina Stark to create an archive, as a monument to the deceased woman, with the help of the material belongings she left to posterity. They have chosen to document all her things, making them visible and comprehensible as an archive on a website. Nearing the completion of this joint work they have been making individual use of the outcome of this process, by making artworks based on Jenny’s belongings. In late 2009 every part of this multilayered project will be ­exhibited, and years of collaboration will soon come to fruition. Here I will concentrate on the archive phase of the project. In building up this archive of photos De Wilde, Bolander and Stark want to see if they can get to know the deceased person. They ask ­themselves what kind of knowledge the series of photos will give us. A moral dilemma struck them during the process. Is it right to use a ­person’s belongings like this? Should we use them at all? Discussions of the idea of the objective gaze, the idea that unquestionable truth is channelled through the medium of photography and that there is a moral dilemma in using photos of a person or of things which used to belong to someone and exposing them to outsiders. The artists’ attempt to reconstruct a person’s life found methods other than photo documentation. Like


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three Don Quixote characters, De Wilde, Bolander and Stark are trying to make the inevitably broken picture of Jenny whole and full. Finding several books on spiritism, healing and religion among her property for example, they attended a séance. Using Jenny’s own interests, they hoped that her spirit would give them a sign, which reminds me of the dubious relationship between early 20 th century photography and ­spiritualists using photography to try to capture the materialization of spirits, an activity said to include the killing of children in an attempt to capture an image of the spirit leaving a dying body. The artist trio also had Jenny’s horoscope cast, and they asked a doctor to make a diagnostic statement on the basis of the medicines she had used. Furthermore, an ethnologist analysed her material belongings. The viewer follows the

Jenny’s medicines

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artistic process, motivated by a desire to illuminate Jenny from as many sides as possible with assistance from several disciplines. In the end I guess the portrait will be described as a highly romantic attempt in a post-modern world. And why is that? The core of the project is its ambivalent character. I spent so much time trying to reflect deeply on the actual result, the photo archive and what it says about Jenny and the period she lived in. While looking at the online archive, I realize the ambiguity of the project. Embracing the ­futility of their own aim – to create a whole picture of Jenny – the artists started to use the material in a freer way, making independent art works out of the material. The result can be seen as hyperlinks on the website, as for example the surreal adaptation of the pine cones. It is fun! It is a game although carried out in a sensitive and ardent way. Here I come back to the statements of the artists again, where they laconically tell us about their fruitless attempt at portraying a dead ­person, but still trying to carry it through. Challenging the very idea of the portrait as a manifestation of the inner truth of the person, they are acting out the irony of this attempt. What is left then but a fragmented and evasive portrait? Interestingly enough this fragmenting is emphasized by the selection of photos on display in these pages. What we see is only a fraction of the total number of photos, but even if we could see them all online, what more would we learn about Jenny? My conclusion is that Jenny *1910 †2006 is a symptom of the postmodern state of mind, but processed through a new-born romantic urge that De Wilde, Bolander and Stark are choosing to formulate in a docu-


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mentary photo style. They paradoxically imitate and repeat in order to create stability. The repetition of the belongings points to what Sigmund Freud said about the death principle. It is present in life as repetition; through the healing process of repetition a trauma can be given meaning. He also argues that the memory is not a static archive (!) but a ­dynamic reconstruction built up by individual experiences. The artists have decided to document all the belongings in a stiff, objective manner and to repeat the gesture endlessly. I would suggest that this process is a way of confronting their own death angst. The urge is to overcome the state of mind where all that is solid has been told to melt into air, as the American Marxist Marshall Berman formulated it, and to repair the ­traumatic loss of reality in reality. This is said to be a reaction to the ­trauma of modernity, but as in Freud’s term, afterwards. Shouldn’t one then at least be able to portray an already-ended life, to get in touch with life by facing death? I see the art project as a means of creating a state of passion in this otherwise detached world and at the same time ­accepting the inescapable failure of this attempt.  +

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Koos Breukel Here and Now


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Koos Breukel

List of works (in order of appearance): G.P Fieret, 2005 DaidoōMoriyama, 2005 Inez van Lamsweerde, 1992 Pieter Hugo, 2008 Ed van der Elsken, 1990 Taryn Simon, 2007 Malick Sidibé, 2008 Robert Frank, 1995

Koos Breukel (The Hague, 1962) studied at the Royal Academy of Arts in The Hague from 1982 to1986, after which he began working as a freelance photographer based in Amsterdam. He specialized in portrait photo­graphy and his work was soon being published in magazines and newspapers in the Netherlands. He had his first solo exhibition at the Noorderlicht Festival in Groningen in 1991. In 1994 he published his first monograph, The Wretched Skin. The book Hyde, with photographs of his good friend Michael Matthews who was terminally ill, was published in 1997, to be followed in 2001 by Photo Studio, and Cosmetic View in 2006, all published by Basalt/Van Zoetendaal Collections. For his exhibition Among Photographers at the Museum of Photography in The Hague in 2007, Breukel combined portraits of 58 photo­graphers with one or more photos from the oeuvre of each of them. Koos Breukel has held solo ­exhibitions at the Nederlands Foto Instituut in ­Rotterdam, Museum­ De Hallen in Haarlem, the Kunsthal in Rotterdam, Pori Art Museum in

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­ inland and Bergen Kunstmuseum in Norway, plus other venues. He has F participated in many group shows in institutions worldwide, including ­Ropongi Louis Vuitton, Tokyo; Kumho Museum of Art, Seoul; Institut ­Néerlandais, Paris and Maison Européene de la ­Photographie, Paris. ­Koos Breukel is represented by Van Zoetendaal C ­ ollections in Amsterdam. All images: © Koos Breukel, courtesy Van Zoetendaal Collections

Han Schoonhoven (1956) has been writing on photography since 1986 for magazines and publications including Dutch Eyes. A Critical History of Photography in the Netherlands and the lexicon Geschiedenis van de Nederlandse fotografie (History of Dutch Photography). In the period 1996-2002 he was director of Fotogalerie 21/2 x 41/2, where he ­organized a solo show of Koos Breukel’s work in 1998. He is currently editor of the Dutch photography website www.photoq.nl.


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Cosmetic View, 2006 © Koos Breukel, courtesy Van Zoetendaal Collections, Amsterdam

Koos Breukel ~ From street punk to ­celebrated portrait ­photographer

by Han Schoonhoven

The scrawled wall of a prison cell. The dark entrance to the Schiphol tunnel. A mother with her son in a small room, staring at the place where he entered the world. I saw Koos Breukel’s first photographs fifteen years ago in the newly opened Netherlands Architecture Institute in Rotterdam. Breukel’s expressions of the meaning of architecture in his youth instantly made me forget the work of the five other exhibitors. It must have been the directness, the honesty and yes, the humanity of his photos. Koos’ mother, a passionate amateur photographer, gave him a ­camera when he turned sixteen. At that time Breukel was riding around on noisy, souped-up scooters and looking for trouble with his mates. Mum hoped to shift his attention to something more productive, so she wouldn’t have to keep hauling him back from the police station. And sure enough, it worked. The young Breukel quickly became fascinated by the possibilities of the medium. Unsure of himself in his role as photographer, initially­he concentrated mostly on landscapes. He took photos of the moon with his brother’s­telephoto lens. After his curiosity overtook his shyness, he began to take portraits of people: family, friends, the girl he had a crush on.

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Between the age of twenty and twenty-four, Breukel followed a reputable­ training course at a technical school for photography in The Hague. He began to study the work of great photographers. The work of August Sander, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon and especially Robert Frank ­stimulated him to develop his own idiom in portrait photography. He didn’t allow himself to become discouraged by remarks from his teachers such as: ‘What are you going to do with those portraits? Wouldn’t you be ­better off shooting fashion?’ He graduated in 1986 and established himself as a freelance photographer in Amsterdam. Breukel was soon taking pictures for magazines like Oor (the Netherlands’ leading music magazine) and Quote (a hip monthly magazine on wealth and business). Breukel turned out to have a talent for catching egocentric managers and MPs out of character. One director of a mail ­order company kept him waiting for quite a while. His secretary had let Breukel and his assistant into the director’s stylish office to set up their lights and get everything ready. Boredom can inspire recalcitrance and after fifteen minutes of waiting Breukel thought of a way to turn the ­situation around. He and his assistant dragged an imposing desk into the hallway, so that it would be impossible for the director to hide behind it. A former minister of finance was to be photographed for Quote. First Breukel phoned the journalist, who had just finished his interview with the man. The journalist called him ‘Mr Nit-picky’. When Breukel stood before him a little later and looked through the viewfinder he told his model: ‘It looks great, only there’s just a bit of dandruff on your glasses’. Upon which the former minister took out a pristine handkerchief and ­began intensely polishing his glasses. Breukel snapped the shutter and the result was given a prominent place in the magazine. A few times things went badly wrong between Breukel and his ­subject. During a session with Hans Wiegel (former vice-premier and later commissioner to the queen) Breukel became so irritated by the


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Cosmetic View, 2006 © Koos Breukel, courtesy Van Zoetendaal Collections, Amsterdam

constant grumbling and moodiness of the former statesman that he pulled his cigar out of his mouth. That was going too far for Wiegel, and Breukel and his assistant were sent away. One could view this episode as homage to Yousuf Karsh, one of the greatest photographers of the last century. Karsh shot a memorable portrait of an angry Winston Churchill, a few seconds after he snatched away his cigar, while saying: ‘Forgive me Sir’. At the end of the 1980s and beginning of the 1990s Breukel ­travelled through a great number of countries. With a middle format camera, he took hard-hitting shots of street life in countries such as Portugal, ­Turkey, Egypt and India. In Koog aan de Zaan, a town near Amsterdam, he ­frequented a cultural centre, where he took portraits of musicians, ­writers and other artists. In 1994 he placed the best images from his first seven years as a professional photographer in his first monograph: The Wretched Skin. It is a lively manifesto, a statement of his principles, in which Breukel relates his photographic virtuosity to compassion for ­humanity. The book mostly consists of photos taken for himself, on his own initiative, rather than on assignment. The Wretched Skin includes the portrait of Ed van der Elsken. The work of this photographer, the vitality and zest for living it exudes, was a ­major source of inspiration for the young Breukel. He had wanted to take his portrait for a long time and in the spring of 1990 decided to look up Van der Elsken at his residence in Edam. There was no one home in the splendidly situated farmhouse. Breukel waited in his van and after a considerable time, a car approached. With two cameras swinging from his neck, Breukel ran from the dyke where he was parked. Van der ­Elsken watched the scene amusedly; he had no reservations about cooperating on the expressive portrait. In the 1990s Koos Breukel was confronted with three personal ­tragedies. Because life and work form an inseparable unit in his ­practice

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of photography, these events became part of his oeuvre, as with the photo­of the Schiphol tunnel, where he was involved in a serious traffic ­accident. But even more so with portraits Breukel shot of two friends, poet-performer Michael Matthews and photographer Eric Hamelink. Matthews had HIV and when the illness began to manifest, he asked Breukel to record the process. Matthews considered this photo series as an inevitable final performance. It was a personal assignment Breukel could not refuse. Breukel and Hamelink, who became friends during their studies, had photographed each other hundreds of times: they shared a studio during their first years of working as professional photographers and following the purchase of a new camera, lamp or film a few quick practice shots had to be taken. They decided to keep on photographing each other after Eric told Koos that doctors had determined that he been struck with an acute form of cancer. Around 1993 or 1994 the nature of Breukel’s photography underwent a major change. The gesture disappeared and gave way to concentrated form. The images have a stillness about them. The development has both human and technical aspects. Breukel started to work with large format cameras. The 20x25 centimetre negative makes extremely detailed reproduction possible, but demands peak concentration by both photographer and model. Breukel doesn’t believe that a model’s ­character is captured in the fraction of a second that the negative is exposed – he is searching for the moment the person on the other side of the lens ­reveals authentic emotion. Portraying fellow photographers can be simple or complex – it all depends on the way the photographer being photographed responds to the photographer taking the picture. Everyone alive has some degree of vanity and nearly all photographers think they know how to make the best portrait. Breukel intuitively knows there are two options: he can win the confidence of the subject or he can react more quickly than his


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­ olleague. At a busy press conference with Richard Avedon, he chose c the second option. During the photo session he was closer than the ­other photographers. Avedon shifted his glasses, looked at him as said: ‘Your flash cable isn’t connected’. ‘Oh, thanks very much,’ answered Breukel, while connecting the cable and releasing the shutter. With his idol ­Robert Frank, Breukel took his time. Frank walked into the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam three-quarters of an hour late for their appointment. He had visited a coffee shop and the Van Gogh Museum. Frank wanted only to talk about Vincent van Gogh’s paintings. Breukel listened and gave him a copy of The Wretched Skin. Frank accepted the book and a bit later he allowed himself to be photographed in complete tranquillity. Over the years Breukel has photographed dozens of colleagues. He has sought out some of them himself, well-known photographers who have inspired him, such as Van der Elsken, Avedon, Frank, Dennis ­Hopper and Sally Mann. Others are part of his daily life, an ‘extended family’ of colleagues and students at the Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam, where he taught for ten years – friends, assistants and acquaintances. In the exhibition Among Photographers in 2007 Breukel combined portraits of 58 photographers with one or more photos from their oeuvre. The catalogue is a good illustration of Breukel’s philosophy about the portrait. Through his contacts with The Hague Museum of Photography, which exhibited Among Photographers, and Foam_Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam, in recent years he has been able to shoot portraits of ­famous or promising colleagues who are seldom in the Netherlands and/or ­difficult to approach. Breukel’s shot of bohemian photographer, poet, visual artist and animal lover Gerard Fieret proved to be of such high quality that it was chosen to represent the exhibition. During their ­exhibitions at Foam, Breukel shot portraits of Daido Moriyama, Taryn ­Simon, Pieter Hugo and Malick Sibidé, among others. Sibidé photographed Breukel, his girlfriend, son and daughter in his characteristic

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way in an improvised studio. Then Breukel took a portrait of the legendary Malian photographer. It is an extraordinary photo in Breukel’s ­oeuvre, where smiling models are extremely scarce. During our last conversation Breukel said that he had decided to stop taking on assignments for a while and take a rest. For Breukel rest is always relative: presently he’s working on a series of portraits of ­Lucian Freud. And a small book is to be made of photos of him and his mother. One of the selected images had already been in his wallet for years: a photo of Koos as a baby, being fed by his mother. When his mother saw the photo at the opening of an exhibition, she looked at her son and said: ‘All very well and good, Koosie, but that’s not you – it’s your sister.’ +


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Walter Schels & Beate Lakotta Life Before Death


Walter Wegner age: 81

born: 18th December 1923

first portrait taken: 1st December 2003 died: 13th March 2005

In November 2003 Walter Wegner moved

mas Eve 2004 he plays ‘Silent Night’ for

be a burden to his lady friend at home. He

one of the nurses says to him: ‘You’ve been

into the hospice. He no longer wanted to has brought his electric organ with him, ‘but

it’s hardly­worth me practicing any Christmas carols: I’ll be dead by Christmas.’ But things turn out differently. He’s still there

on New Year’s Eve. ‘I came here to die,’ he says morosely. ‘So why aren’t I dead yet?’

Wegner lives to see the spring, as well

as the following autumn. His partner’s ­visits ­become increasingly rare. On Christ-

the others. On a Monday in March 2005 with us for over a year now. You’ve recov-

ered so well, this is no longer the right place for you. We’re going to have to ask

you to move out soon.’ Wegner flourished in the hospice, he is afraid of the residen-

tial care home. He asks his partner: ‘Can I come home?’ She refuses.

Walter Wegner dies five days after the

conversation with the nurse.


Heiner Schmitz age: 52

born: 26th November 1951

first portrait taken: 19th November 2003 died: 14th December 2003

Heiner Schmitz saw the affected area on

twos, because they don’t want to be alone

­immediately that he didn’t have much time

someone who’s been sentenced to death?

the MRI scan of his brain. He realised left. Schmitz is a fast talker, highly ­articulate, quick-witted, but not without depth. He works in advertising. Everyone has to be on

top form – on the ball. Normally. Heiner’s

friends don’t want him to be sad. They try

to take his mind off things. At the hospice, they watch football with him just like they used to do. Beers, cigarettes, a bit of a party

in the room. The girls from the agency bring him flowers­. Many of them come in

with him. What do you talk about with Some of them even say ‘get well soon’ as they’re leaving. ‘Hope you’re soon back on track, mate!’

‘No one asks me how I feel,’ says

Heiner­ Schmitz. ‘Because they’re all shit scared. I find it really upsetting the way they

desperately avoid the subject, talking about all sorts of other things. Don’t they get it?

I’m going to die! That’s all I think about, every second when I’m on my own.’


Edelgard Clavey age: 67

born: 29th June 1936

first portrait taken: 5th December 2003

died: 4 January 2004, at Helenenstift Hospice, Hamburg th

Edelgard Clavey was an administrative

Death is in control of the ­process, I

clinic. She has lived on her own since her

is wait. I was given my life, I had to live

­a ssistant in the university’s psychiatric

divorce in the early eighties. She doesn’t

have any children. From her teens she has been an active member of the

­P rotestant church. For the past few

weeks she has been bed-bound. ‘Death is a test of one’s maturity. Everyone has to get through it on their own,’ says Frau

Clavey. ‘I want so very much to die. I want to become part of that vast extra­

ordinary light. But dying is hard work.

­cannot influence its course. All I can do it, and now I am giving it back.’

‘I’ve always worked hard, following

a similar path to a nun: poverty, chastity,

obedience. Now, I am no longer able to contribute anything to society and this pains me terribly. I do not want to be a ­financial drain on resources, yet another

living corpse that is only a burden. I want to go, preferably immediately. Always be prepared, just like the boy scouts.’


Wolfgang Kotzahn age: 57

born: 19th January 1947

first portrait taken: 15th January 2004 died: 4th February 2004

There are colourful tulips brightening up

as a real shock. I had never contemplated

tray with champagne glasses and a cake.

‘I’m surprised that I have come to terms

‘I’ll be 57 today. I never thought of ­myself

waiting to die. But each day that I have I

the night table. The nurse has prepared a

It’s Wolfgang Kotzahn’s birthday today. growing old, but nor did I ever think I’d

die when I was still so young. But death strikes at any age.’

Six months ago the reclusive accoun­

tant­ had been stunned by the diagnosis: ­bronchial carcinoma, inoperable. ‘It came

death at all, only life,’ says Herr ­Kotzahn.

with it fairly ­easily. Now I’m ­lying here

savour, experiencing life to the full. I ­never

paid any attention to clouds before. Now I see everything from a totally ­different perspective: every cloud outside my

­window, every flower in the vase. ­Suddenly, everything matters.’


Maria Hai-Anh Tuyet Cao age: 52

born: 26th August 1951

first portrait taken: 5th December 2003 died: 15th February 2004

Maria Hai-Anh Tuyet Cao’s experience of

world ­cannot be far off: her pulmonary

­different had she not absorbed the teach-

and cheerful. ‘Death is nothing,’ says Frau

dying would doubtless have been very

ings of the Supreme Mistress Ching Hai. The Mistress says: ‘All that is beyond this

world is better than our world. It is better

than anything we can or cannot imagine.’

Frau Cao wears the portrait of the

­Mistress round her neck. Under her

­guidance, she has already visited the afterlife in ­meditation. Her call to the next

­alveoli are failing. Yet she appears serene Cao. ‘I embrace death. It is not eternal. ­Afterwards, when we meet God, we

­become beautiful. We are only called back to earth if we are still attached to another

human being in the final seconds.’ HaiAnh Cao prepares for this moment ­every day. She wants to achieve a sense of total detachment at the moment of death.


Beate Taube age: 44

born: 8th March 1959

first portrait taken: 16th January 2004 died: 10th March 2004

‘To be able to have one more summer. To

I won’t be there to support my children. I

time. Not to die now, but rather to have

tell them a hundred times a day how much

go to the sea with my husband one last ­until the autumn’ – this is what Beate Taube

wishes for. For four long years she fought against breast cancer. Now the struggle has come to an end. She knows that she is ­going to die. She has already been to see the grave where she will be buried.

Beate Taube has four children. Leaving

them behind is the worst thing she has to face. The youngest is a girl of seven, the

­oldest her 15-year-old son. ‘I’m so sad that

wanted to be there for them forever. Now I I love them.’

The only thing she is not afraid of,

strangely enough, is death itself. ‘In fact, I imagine that passing from one

realm into another must be quite a beautiful ­e xperience. I think that after I have died the suffering won’t show on my face. If my soul is able to float away, as

I hope it will, I will lie there completely­ at peace.’


Klara Behrens age: 83

born: 2nd December 1920

first portrait taken: 6th February 2004 died: 3rd March 2004

Klara Behrens can tell that she hasn’t got

do when we were children, when we went

that I’ll get better,’ she says. ‘But then

my life over again, I’d do everything

much longer. ‘Sometimes, I do still hope when I’m feeling really nauseous, I don’t

want to carry on living. And I’d only just

bought myself a new fridge-freezer! If I’d only known...’

It is the last day of February, the sun

is shining, the first bluebells are flowering

in the courtyard. ‘What I’d really like to do

is to go outside, down to the River Elbe. To sit down on the stony bank and put my feet in the water. That’s what we used to

to gather wood down by the river. If I had

­differently. I wouldn’t lug any wood around. But I ­wonder if it’s possible to have a

­second chance at life? I don’t think so. ­After all, you only believe what you see. And you can only see what is there. I’m not afraid of death. I’ll just be one of the

­million, billion grains of sand in the desert. The only thing that frightens me is the

process of ­dying. You just don’t know what actually happens.’


foam magazine #17 / portrait?

portfolio text

Walter Schels & Beate Lakotta

Walter Schels (Landshut, Bavaria, 1936) and Beate Lakotta (Kassel, 1965) are a couple who collaborated on the series Life Before Death about ­terminally ill patients. Walter Schels took the photographs and Beate ­Lakotta wrote the texts, which convey the subjects’ thoughts about life and death. The project, made between 2003 and 2004, has been widely­ exhibited and received several awards. It has resulted in a book, Noch Mal Leben vor dem Tod. Walter Schels discovered photography at the age of fourteen, and went on to develop his skills in New York during the 1960s. In the 1970s he worked for fashion magazines and in advertising. Since ­documenting the birth of babies in 1975 as a magazine assignment, he has been ­interested in photographing human life in extreme conditions. Walter Schels is a member of the Freie Akademie der Künste in ­Hamburg and an honorary member of the Association of Freelance ­Photo ­Designers (BFF). He was selected as Hasselblad Master in 2005.

151

Beate Lakotta studied German Literature and political science in ­Heidelberg. Since 1999 she has been on the editorial staff of the science section of the magazine Der Spiegel, contributing features on medicine and psychology. The entire project can be seen at www.noch-mal-leben.de and will be exhibited at Fotoforum West and Westlicht – Schauplatz für ­Fotografie in Austria in Spring and Summer 2009.

All images: © Walter Schels, 2002 – 2005

Aaron Schuman is an American photographer, editor, lecturer and ­writer, based in the UK. He is a Research Fellow and Senior Lecturer at the Arts Institute in Bournemouth, and a Lecturer at the University of Brighton. He is also the founder and editor of the online photography journal, ­SeeSaw Magazine – www.seewsawmagazine.com


foam magazine #17 / portrait?

portfolio text

Suddenly Everything ­Matters ~ Portraits of the dying

by Aaron Schuman

‘We all know we have to die, but we just can’t believe it,’ remarked the photographer Walter Schels at a recent exhibition of his series Life ­Before Death: Portraits of the dying, hosted by London’s Wellcome ­Collection. In collaboration with his partner, the editor and journalist Beate Lakotta, Schels spent more than a year exploring the lives and deaths of twenty-six terminally ill individuals in various hospices across northern Germany. The resulting body of work consists of two photographic portraits of each subject – one made whilst they were alive and another made shortly after their death – accompanied by Lakotta’s short, deftly written texts, which are based on the couple’s interviews and experiences with each individual, and which bring a concise and ­often heartrending context to each image. Notably, to both explore and finally believe in their own transience, Schels and Lakotta turned to people who faced an impending death for insight and took photographs to assist them in translating, contemplating and expressing such ­insight. As Susan Sontag once mused, ‘All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s mortality, ­vulnerability, mutability.’

Newborn Baby, 1979 © Walter Schels

152

Today a photographic project such as Life Before Death may seem like a morbid pursuit, but from its early history the photographic medium has offered distinctive documentation, acknowledgement and commemoration of death and the dead. Many of the earliest daguerreotypes, ­produced during the 1840s and 1850s, were post-mortem portraits commissioned by the families of the deceased, photographed whilst the corpse was on display in the home; in fact photographers often charged significantly more for such images, partly because they required a house call, partly because the end result was so precious to their clients and, like wedding photography today, they were integral to the ceremony of the event. Surprisingly, even today anthropologists have found evidence that this practice continues in parts of the United States, yet such photo­ graphs are rarely displayed or discussed, and are seen as a private ­matter. The historian Philippe Arles has noted that in the course of the twentieth century society has banished death. ‘Everything in town goes on as if nobody died anymore.’ Such attempts at banishing death from everyday life have inevitably continued, if not accelerated, in this new century and Western culture continues to encourage the denial of death,


foam magazine #17 / portrait?

Life Before Death derives in part directly from Schels’ and Lakotta’s own encounters, or absence of encounters, with the dead. Schels points to his own horrific experiences as a child in wartime Germany when his apartment building was bombed; the surviving residents had to collect and bury dismembered bodies of their neighbours, implanting in the young boy a pervasive dread of corpses. Lakotta cites the experience of sitting by her father’s bedside in hospital for a week, and then return­ ing home one night to receive a phone call telling her he had died, after which she never saw his face again. ‘Our personal motivation behind this work was to face our own mortality; we tried to look very closely at that which scares us most,’ she explains. ‘Our wish was to overcome our own fears about death and dying. And maybe that’s a desire that other people share with us.’

portfolio text

increasingly refusing to recognize this inevitability as a natural or ­normal part of our lives. ‘In truth it’s a very modern taboo,’ Lakotta adds, echoing­ Arles’ notions. ‘In former times, people were used to being in contact with the dying and having their loved ones at home when they died. ­Everybody, even small children, experienced what death looks like, how the last breath sounds, how it feels to touch somebody who is dead. We’ve lost contact with death and dying.’ Of course today we still encounter images that either directly or in­ directly present death on a daily basis, though such exposure is gen­ erally ­restricted to scenes of deliberately shocking extremity – gruesome ­evidence of violence, war, crime, famine, rampant disease, and so on – or to pictures of remembrance that signal a disastrously premature end – a school portrait, a family photo, or a grinning snapshot of some­ one relishing a life cut short. Particularly on a personal level we rarely come face to face with death; we tend to avoid it, and if we do happen to view the dead, in a photograph or otherwise, it is generally a deeply ­unwelcome event.

Aesthetically, Schels’ photographic approach is remarkably traditional and reserved in comparison to most contemporary work within the ­medium: straight black-and-white headshots, made in exquisitely sculp­ tural light, generally against a black background, with a deep crispness and tonal clarity that Edward Weston would have admired. It is precisely such restraint in the face of difficult circumstances that bestow Schels’ live and deceased portraits with a unique, tangible and affecting weight, balanced on the border between honesty and tenderness. Rather than romanticizing or confronting us with a stark reality these images invite the viewer to engage directly with death on a deeply personalized basis, and at the same time allow just enough emotional distance and perspec­ tive for more abstract ruminations on mortality in general. The photographer Thomas Ruff once argued that ‘Photography can only reproduce the surface of things,’ and famously illustrated the point through his intentionally ambiguous or neutralized headshots which are often misinterpreted as a confirmation of the futility of photography. Yet Ruff’s argument was far more complex than a simple negation of his own medium; it was a candid acknowledgement of the overriding authority of the viewer within photography, and a bold surrender to the power of

Heinz Rühmann, Actor, 80 years, 1982 © Walter Schels

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foam magazine #17 / portrait?

portfolio text

the audience. ‘What people see, eventually, is only what’s already inside them,’ Ruff explained, or as Schels himself has said of Life Before Death, ‘This work recalls a knowledge we just don’t want to realize.’ What is ultimately so effective about these works is that, despite the ­initial terror and subsequent sadness they may inspire, the project presents us with deaths which were expected, imminent, and much as we might not like to admit it, rather ordinary. Although Lakotta’s texts poignantly ­convey the tragic personal circumstances of each subject, such stories are ­neither rare nor exceptional. The fates that befell these individuals – ­cancer, heart disease, the failings of old age – are common, and even though we may hate to dwell on it, they take the lives of thou­ sands every day and are likely to take our own. Furthermore, like ­Lakotta’s carefully ­edited words, Schels’ intimate live portraits respectfully reveal hope, fear, ­exhaustion, pride and dignity, captivating our attention through an ­acutely observed sense of shared humanity, rather than through what could be, in the hands of a lesser photographer, a crass exploitation of either the subject’s suffering or the viewer’s own pity and compassion.

154

Interestingly­, in the death images, the subjects inevitably lack any facial expression and consequently read more like still-lifes. As with the photo­ graphic ­image, the faces themselves have been transformed into ­inviting yet ­resolutely ambiguous representations; they are now simply, as Ruff puts it, reproductions of the ‘surface of things’, which are as dependent on the viewer’s internal perspective as they are on the actual experiences­ of ­either the photographer or the subject. Of course such perspectives change from viewer to viewer and throughout the course of each indi­ vidual’s own lifetime – as does one’s relationship to mortality – and ­perhaps this is precisely why such direct encounters, even with the ­surface of death, really do matter. Perhaps, as Sontag proposed, both the photograph and the act of photographing offer an ideal perspective on, representation of and reminder of the experience of dying itself. As one of Life Before Death’s most striking subjects, Wolfgang Kotzahn, so elegantly stated just days before his own passing, ‘I’m lying here ­waiting to die… [and] now I see everything from a totally different perspective: every cloud outside my window, every flower in the vase. Suddenly, ­everything ­matters.’ +


foam magazine #17 / portrait?

paper selection

Foam Magazine’s choice of paper from ModoVanGelder Amsterdam

Samuel Fosso is printed on Novatech Satin 150 g/m2

Franziska von Stenglin is printed on PhoeniXmotion Xenon 135 g/m2

coated fine paper and board, FSC- and EU Flower-certified

coated fine paper and board, FSC-certified

805. Glass tins. H 18. Contents: leaves

806. Plastic pots. H 9-13

815. Creamer. H 6.5

900. Plastic flowers. Candlestick holders. W 8.5-10

904. Plastic bag. Contents: butter packaging. Contents: 3 metal lids, 30 plastic lids

906. Present string. H 5.5

818. Glasses. H 6.5

821. Figurine. H 19

826. Decoration object in glass. H 19.5

907. Plastic bag. Contents: steel wire

913. Cheese slicer. L 20.5

928. Enamel jugs. H 7.5, 9.5

829. 18 Plastic pockets. Contents: newspapers cuttings.

831. Empty photo album. 23 x 22.5

838. Porcelain bowl and creamer. H 4-5

939. Dish rack. Contents: hay

950. Porcelain plates. D 17-19

961. Shelf paper. L 60

845. Christmas tree stand. H 18

858. Coffee cups. H 5.5

859. Cigarette packages. H 7.5

967. Plastic ribbon. 13 rolls. D 4-10

979. 11 letters for Jenny

981. Postcards addressed to Jenny

890. Incense. L 32

895. Wood figurines. L 4-6.5

898. Foil forms. D 7

985. Bow.

989. Dices. H 2.5-5

991. Watch strap, leather. D 22

Bill Sullivan is printed on Novatech Gloss 150 g/m2

De Wilde, Stark & Bolander are printed on Eurobulk 135 g/m2

coated fine paper and board, FSC- and EU Flower-certified

matt coated paper and board with 1.1 bulk, PEFC-certified

Wolfgang Kotzahn age: 57

born: 19 January 1947

first portrait taken: 15 January 2004 died: 4 February 2004

There are colourful tulips brightening up the night table. The nurse has prepared a tray with champagne glasses and a cake.

It’s Wolfgang Kotzahn’s birthday today.

‘I’ll be 57 today. I never thought of myself growing old, but nor did I ever think I’d

as a real shock. I had never contemplated

death at all, only life,’ says Herr Kotzahn.

‘I’m surprised that I have come to terms

with it fairly easily. Now I’m lying here

waiting to die. But each day that I have I savour, experiencing life to the full. I never

die when I was still so young. But death

paid any attention to clouds before. Now

Six months ago the reclusive accoun­

perspective: every cloud outside my

strikes at any age.’

tant had been stunned by the diagnosis: bronchial carcinoma, inoperable. ‘It came

I see everything from a totally different window, every flower in the vase. Suddenly, everything matters.’

Koos Breukel is printed on Novatech Satin 150 g/m2

Schels & Lakotta are printed on Novatech Matt 135 g/m2

coated fine paper and board, FSC- and EU Flower-certified

coated fine paper and board, FSC- and EU Flower-certified

The paper used in this magazine was supplied by Amsterdam paper merchant ModoVanGelder. For more information please call +31 20 5605333 or email marketing@modovangelder.nl

155

a company of


foam magazine #17 / portrait?

1

books

Paul Fusco RFK RFK is not a reprint but an extended ­version of RFK Funeral Train, a hard-tofind collector’s item. I have nothing to say about the totally unnecessary photos that have been added of the funeral itself and will instead delve into the series, the journey from New York to Washington on the train that carried the body of ­Robert Kennedy and the photos Paul Fusco took

Stefania Gurdowa Negatives are To Be Stored

of the people standing alongside the tracks to commemorate or just witness the event. Every one of the nearly­ one

These are images from the archive of a

hundred images is worth looking at.

Polish small-town portrait photo­grapher.

­Forty years later, our interest is still a

Stefania Gurdowa had her own studio

product of our fascination with the past.

between 1923 and 1937 and the selection

We are the onlookers now, though

presented here is `­astonishing in the

­perhaps this isn’t entirely true. These

­serene and precise workmanship of the

­images have not aged and we immedi-

portraits. We know nothing about the

ately feel their necessity. They could only

people, nor is there an overall concept in

have been taken by a gifted photo­

the style of August Sander. It is simply

grapher, one who cared about what he

the straight photographic quality at work that captures the eye. The sitters don’t

was doing, yet they are not masterpieces. 2

They are restricted by the movement of

long-dead, but instead confront the

Lucia Nimcova Unofficial

camera­with a remarkable presence that

Lucia Nimcova has made a small selec-

Nimcova started portraying the same

which he would spot an image and turn

is the mystery of Gurdowa’s work. The

tion of images that were taken in the

people again, sometimes bringing them

his camera to take the picture. In this

book is excellently produced, designed

1980s in her hometown in Slovakia by

back to the old settings, town halls and

­Fusco succeeded, relentlessly, during the

and printed and three historical texts

a commissioned photographer and has

schools, sometimes just photographing

eight-hour journey. He cared, as he writes,

­provide a framework that guards against

assembled them in one small volume

life in the city today. These recent images­

about the people and their lost hopes, just

simple exploitation of the archive. The

while a second volume holds her own

are humorous and emotional responses

as he had cared about Robert Kennedy.

makers of the book come from cultural

images and portraits from today. The

to the found photos of the first little

But independently of any interest­ in

institutions and a collective of documen-

black-and-white pictures from the 1980s

book. The books come as a boxed set

American history it is the conceptual lim-

tary photo­graphers; the confident man-

are mostly of official gatherings and are

and are nicely produced. I would go so

its of the project and the vivid quality of

ner in which they have produced their

interrogated as to their historic­ value

far as to say this project has a distinct

the images that came out of it that make

discovery is noteworthy.

and their ability to tell the truth not by

Dutch charm.

this a historically significant series.

emanate a feeling of the long-gone, or

the train, the rolls of film the photo­ grapher carried along, and the speed at

a historian, but by someone who

Imago Mundi, 2008

­appears in them and who cares about

Zoneattive, 2008

Aperture, 2008

ISBN 9788392591443

what they can tell about the past. Lucia

No ISBN

ISBN 978597110792

156


foam magazine #17 / portrait?

books

3

Jens Olof Lasthein White Sea Black Sea While his first book from Journal Publishing passed by largely un­ noticed before being listed in the Parr/Badger Volume 2, this second book will come to widespread ­attention quickly. Lasthein is a highly talented­ photographer and his panoramic­views of the eastern border towns and their inhabitants are never ­simply about showing off his technique. The border between Europe and the east and the societies­ and countries on the ­other side have been attracting him for more than twenty years, and his power of ­observation and the virtuosity with which he moves his ­camera ­provide rich images and stories. Listed among the people to whom he ­extends his thanks at the end of the book are Bertien van Manen, ­Anders Petersen and Lars Tunbjörk, and ­although it would not be helpful to compare them to Lasthein, it is worth mentioning that he does not fall short of his peers.

Mathilde ter Heijne if it’s me, it’s not me Strictly speaking this is not a photobook. I chanced upon it and it has fascinated me ever since. Ter Heijne’s methods ­result in sculptures, postcards, videos and comic strips. Hatje Cantz has ­produced a monograph that lies somewhere between a catalogue, a text book

Susan Meiselas Nicaragua

with long discussions about Simone Weil or matriarchies in China and a

This is the long-awaited reprint of the

tions that complete the book, it is mov-

photo­book. A combination of question-

­famous book Nicaragua, with the images­

ing and unsettling. This was a ­revolution

ing and disputing, the concepts and ­ideas

Susan Meiselas took between June 1978

that Europe didn’t much care about,

at play and the seriousness of the artist

and July 1979 of the Sandinista revolu-

and a historic event that was at the

– all of these are presented convincingly.

tion against the Somoza dictatorship.

­periphery of everybody’s attention. The

I remember the Cindy Sherman quote

The book starts with impressions from

manner in which Meiselas documented

‘my work was never intended to be

a country in turmoil, of a subdued and

the hardships and the ultimate victory

­feminist’ – and realize that it’s precisely

poor people, of the infamous National

of the Sandinistas make this a very

the fact that Ter Heijne’s work is decid-

Guard, before quickly moving on to

­special book. It is well-produced and

edly feminist, using strategies similar to

­graffiti, demonstrations and then the

they have added a booklet ­featuring an

Sherman’s, that makes it so fascinating.

­revolution, the war in the streets. There

interview with the author and a DVD

Once in a while a book with lots of texts

is a heroic side to this story as well as

of a film Meiselas later ­produced about

and difficult ideas comes along and

there are gruesome and shocking images­

Nicaragua.

keeps the brain awake.

of the dead and tortured. As an ­account

Dewi Lewis, 2008

of the victory of the oppressed, together

Aperture, 2008

Hatje Cantz, 2008

ISBN 9781904587606

with the chronology, quotes and cap-

ISBN 9781597110716

ISBN 9783775722506

157


foam magazine #17 / portrait?

books

5

4

Joshua Lutz Meadowlands Meadowlands is the name of an exten-

Onaka Koji The Dog in France

sive area a few miles from Manhattan.

Onaka Koji is among those Japanese

The region depicted seems to be restless

photographers from the new generation

and yet laid-back, the suburbs next to a

who is waiting to be discovered outside

Moloch. Thus a gardener working next

Japan, and with any luck the reprint of

to a petrol station is a Sikh, and a body

Slowboat by Schaden.com will bring that

lying in a pool could be a corpse or a

about. At the beginning of the 1990s Koji

mannequin. Lutz is a graduate of ICP

went for a short trip to France, to flee

and Bard College; his photography com-

personal problems in Tokyo. He did not

bines a straight documentary approach

speak French at the time, nor did he have

with one that is open to anecdote and

any plans about what to do. The series

stories. Or rather, going through the

that emerged from this experience is

book, there’s no longer any difference

sentimental and melancholic in a way

between fiction à la DiCorcia, atmos-

that reminds me of Laurence Sterne or

phere à la Todd Hido or portraits à la

Robert Frost. Not that the images are

Sternfeld. The book comes in a very

­literary, but the mood the traveller seeks

large format and is enticing to look at,

6

is solitary and sensitive. In later works

inquisitive graphic-novel reader. This

Michael Subotzky Beaufort West

­series, which was started ten years ago,

Beaufort West is a small town on a high-

book, because of the scope of Subotzky’s

beautiful­, even inevitable. His images are

has been edited down to 50 images and

way in South Africa. The first ­image in

vision, his unflinching interest and the

dense, palpable, though neither over-

I feel the editors took care to choose

the book shows one particularity straight

empathy with which he portrays the

whelming nor particularly artistic. He is

­images that are on a par with those of

away and refers to the main theme, the

lives of those about whom nobody cares

not unduly concerned with his personal

Alec Soth or other contemporary photo­

prison right in the middle of the town.

or who have been left behind by progress

problems, and a picture of his drab ­hotel

graphers. I am not sure it helps bring out

By documenting the life of its guards

and ­society. The images are a compelling

room does not result in navel-gazing. His

the ­specific qualities of the work. On the

and inmates, ­Subotzky runs counter to

and disturbing mix of story-telling and

sentimental style never errs from the

other hand, the book has been hailed by

the inclusion/exclusion theme that is still

self-contained tableaux. And some of the

documentary approach he has learned

Vince ­Aletti as taking the new topo-

at work in South African society.

people portrayed respond to the camera

from his elders (his first exhibition was

graphics to another level, which is prob-

Subotzky’s­ images include a robbery

with an awakening openness that few

with the Camp group in Tokyo). This is

ably enough to make it a must-have.

about to happen, of a man and a woman

photographers are able to capture.

a small and extremely appealing book.

especially for the curious urbanist or the

Koji evades those dangers and today his photos have become simple and

having sex in the back of a truck, ­people

Powerhouse, 2008

getting drunk as well as quiet portraits

Chris Boot, 2008

Sokyu-sha, 2008

ISBN 2008060691

of prisoners. This is an overwhelming

ISBN 9781905712113

No ISBN

158


foam magazine #17 / portrait?

books

7

G A B R I E L E

B A S I L I C O

R O M A

2 0 0 7

Baldini Castoldi Dalai editore

Gabriele Basilico Roma 2007 Gabriele Basilico is close to being the photographer who has published the most books, and last year he came out with one that represents all his previous publications which now number almost seventy. Marco Delogu invited Basilico to Rome and he worked his way along the Tiber from north to south. The colour images were taken in October and ­November and they emit a strong sense of the histories of painting and architecture. The feeling of classicism stems from both the subject matter (Rome), its buildings and the way the city was built, and from a heightened awareness of romantic­ and classic paintings, which are the ­membrane through which Basilico

Text by Sebastian Hau

Basilico has become classical. He has

J.H. Engström CDG

­retained his keen eye for space and city

When J.H Engström was commissioned

the sun may sometimes shine, but mostly­

also writes for the German website

planning, but reacts to the charms of the

to photograph the Charles de Gaulle

only glows dully in a greyish light, one is

www.fotokritik.de)

way this city presents itself. His historical

­Airport outside Paris, I don’t think his

captivated.

method of looking very closely at the

­clients were particularly happy with the

way the city was built results in some

results. He mainly photographed the car

movie-like atmosphere Engström creates

All images are reprodutions of book

rather picturesque images. I have to say

parks and the scrub outside the airport,

turn this collection into a self-assured

covers, unless numbered. Credits for

that the Rome commissions – a series of

as ­William Eggleston did with his ­Election

statement about what a photobook can

the numbered photos:

commissions initiated by Rome’s

Eve portfolio. And Engström’s way of

be. The book ends with eight video stills

­FotoGrafia festival – up to now, whether

printing his pictures in a highly desatu-

from what appears to be a CCTV footage

by Anders Petersen or Martin Parr, have

rated yet dark manner, sometimes on

of a man and woman meeting and

been somewhat disappointing, and I’m

­older ­paper, gives them a Laudanum-­

­embracing happily, which stand out

not sure Campagna Romana by Joel

influenced look that may have not made

against the strong unemotional current

Sternfeld is entirely ­satisfactory ­either.

them ­entirely happy either. But Engström

that dominates the book.

Perhaps Rome is just visually dead.

has a large circle of fans who wait expect-

­observes the city. That is not to say that

(Sebastian Hau works in a photobookshop, Schaden.com, in a Cologne. He

The book’s design by GUN and the

Zoneattive 3 © Jens Olof Lasthein, courtesy Dewi Lewis 4 © Joshua Lutz, courtesy Powerhouse 6 © Michael Subotzky, courtesy Chris

Baldini Castoldi Dalai, 2008

­holding this book in your hands, with no

Steidl/GUN, 2008

No ISBN

text, just images from a world in which

ISBN 9783865215383

159

1, 2 © Lucia Nimcova, courtesy

5 © Onaka Koji, courtesy Sokyu-sha

antly for every new book he makes. And

Credits:

Boot 7 © J.H. Engström, courtesy Steidl/GUN


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164


foam magazine #17 / portrait?

Foam_Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam

Richard Avedon ~ Photographs 1946 – 2004 ~

13 February - 13 May 2009

Foam_Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam presents the first retrospect­ ive of Richard Avedon since his death in 2004. Avedon was a legend in his own lifetime, and remains one of the leading photographers of the latter half of the twentieth century. He enjoyed a star status that ­never left him. It was as a revolutionary fashion photographer that Avedon made his name in the 1950s. He was also a major innovator in modern portrait photography. Rather than portray famous figures in conven­ tional poses, Avedon’s powerful, subjective images penetrated the personality of his subject. The exhibition features over 200 works and demonstrates the range of Avedon’s unique vision: from the glamour of the Parisian fashion world of the early 1950s, the many portraits of public figures, his ten-metre-long work The Factory, a selection from his famous In the American West series, to photos taken shortly before his death in 2004. The exhibition is arranged more or less in chronological order, with major­works selected from successive periods, from large projects or from groups of photos in which Avedon focused on a specific subject or event. The earliest works in the show date from shortly after the ­Second World War, when Avedon visited Rome and Sicily. This work has rarely been exhibited before. After his celebrated fashion photos from

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Paris in the 1950s, the emphasis shifts to Avedon’s fascination with the human face. His portraits of famous artists such as Charlie Chaplin, Louis Armstrong, Marilyn Monroe, Alberto Giacometti and Marcel ­Duchamp are invariably at odds with the conventional image of stars of the time. Set against a white background, isolated from their ­surroundings, they reveal Avedon’s subjective and often ruthless vision of his subject. In the 1960s, Avedon’s work focused increasingly on ­social issues, with portraits of activists and student leaders. In his monumental work, The Factory, Avedon portrayed the artist Andy Warhol and his entourage. No less than 56 photos from The Family are featured, taken in 1976 for Rolling Stone magazine, in which he published portraits of some of the most powerful figures in the United States at that time. Avedon’s well-known portraits of Samuel Beckett, Francis Bacon, William Burroughs, John Ford and Jean Renoir are also shown in the exhibition. Following a selection of highlights from his In the American West project, the show ends with works made in Avedon’s final years, before his death in 2004. + The exhibition ‘Richard Avedon. Photographs 1946 – 2004’ has been organized by the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark, in collaboration with Foam and The Richard Avedon Foundation.


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Foam_Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam

Dovima with Elephants, evening dress by Dior, Cirque d’Hiver, Paris, August 1955 Š 2008 The Richard Avedon Foundation

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Foam_Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam

Homage to Munkacsi. Carmen, coat by Cardin, Place François-Premier, Paris, August 1957 Š 2008 The Richard Avedon Foundation

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Foam_Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam

Marilyn Monroe, actress, New York, May 6, 1957 Š 2008 The Richard Avedon Foundation

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Alberto Giacometti, sculptor, Paris, March 6, 1958 Š 2008 The Richard Avedon Foundation

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John Ford, director, Bel Air, California, April 11, 1972 Š 2008 The Richard Avedon Foundation

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Truman Capote, writer, New York, December 18, 1974 Š 2008 The Richard Avedon Foundation

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Foam_Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam

James Kimberlin, drifter, State Road 18, Hobbs, New Mexico, October 7, 1980 Š 2008 The Richard Avedon Foundation

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Billy Mudd, trucker, Alto, Texas, May 7, 1981 Š 2008 The Richard Avedon Foundation

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Foam_Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam

24 October – 10 December 2008

Erik van der Weijde ~ Siedlung For the series Siedlung, German for ‘settlement’, Van der Weijde photographed 220 detached houses in southern Germany. In Nazi Germany in the 1930s, the National Socialist Party (NSDAP) set up a huge ­construction programme to provide Siedlung houses for workers who agreed to become party members. This Siedlung policy proved a highly successful propaganda tool and helped win the loyalty of the working class to the Nazi state as well as providing the Lebensraum, or living space that played such a key role in Nazi thinking. Van der Weijde is fascinated by the ambiguity of his subject: thus while the Third Reich stood for destruction it also promoted construction. A compulsory garden, for example, enveloped each house in an idyllic setting, yet was also designed as a source of homegrown food in wartime. In a sense, these Siedlungen represent the positive remnants of the Third Reich, although they are forever associated with their original residents: Nazi party members with a certificate from their doctor to say they were fertile and racially pure. Many of these low-cost working-class houses are today prized and sought-after properties.

Say Something © Monika Bielskyte, from a Place To Wash The Heart Project Chapter 1, 2008

12 December 2008 - 18 January 2009

Foam 3_h: Monika Bielskyte ~ A Place to Wash the Heart Untitled, 2008 © Erik van der Weijde

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Young Lithuanian artist Monika Bielskyte presents the first part of A Place to Wash the Heart at Foam in the beginning of December 2008. A Place to Wash the Heart is an ongoing project which is shown here in Foam for the first time in a series of projections. In recent years, Bielskyte has travelled around the East, including Cambodia, China, Vietnam and Laos, inspired by the fusion of Eastern and Western philosophy, literature and culture. These are countries with a turbulent past, and a present marked by momentous historical events. Bielskyte looks for a new dimension to this burden of history: the private, individual history of the people who live there. She explores how they relate to the world around them. Her dark, often mysterious images show us a world in which dreams become real, and reality a dream. ­Intimate personal stories become part of history, and merge to form something completely new.


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Foam_Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam

24 October 2008 – 28 January 2009

Helen Levitt ~ In the Street This autumn Foam presents a retrospective of work by the famous American street photographer Helen Levitt (b. New York, 1913). Levitt portrays the dynamics of New York street life from 1930 onwards, paying special attention to the innocent and adventurous world of children at play. In the 1940s, inspired by her friends and mentors Walker Evans and Henri Cartier-Bresson, Levitt took black-and-white photographs of the streets of New York that set the tone for a new documentary style of American photography. Her photos are visual poems in which form, colour and movement play an important part. The exhibition In the Street includes a short series of vintage photos on contact sheets that demonstrate how Levitt moved through the streets as she recorded the choreography of the people around her. Helen Levitt was a pioneer of colour photography. Alongside her familiar black-and-white shots, her famous dye-transfers (colour prints) occupy an important place in the exhibition. 

New York, c.1940 © Helen Levitt. Courtesy Laurence Miller Gallery, New York

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New York, 1988 © Helen Levitt. Courtesy Laurence Miller Gallery, New York


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Foam_Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam

7 November 2008 – 18 January 2009

Kees Scherer ~ Photographic­Explorations Kees Scherer (1920-93), born in Amsterdam, began taking photographs at an early age. When the Second World War ended he immediately started working for newspapers including Het Vrije Volk, Trouw,­ De ­Volkskrant and Het Algemeen Handelsblad, producing a hugely ­impressive body of work. Alongside photo reportages he created images for a large number of photo books. He was one of the founders of World Press Photo in 1955. Scherer travelled to the United States, the Far East, Mexico and Israel as well as to practically every country in Europe. His fascination for the effects of light is an important aspect of his work. The photos in the Foam exhibition are all vintage prints from the archives of the Kees Scherer Photo Archive Foundation.

Elvis, 2006 © Viviane Sassen, courtesy Motive Gallery, Amsterdam

21 November 2008 – 18 January 2009

Viviane Sassen ~ Flamboya

Mountain Way, Capri, Italy, c.1963 © Stichting Fotoarchief Kees ­Scherer / MAI

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Foam presents an extensive survey of recent photos taken by Viviane Sassen while travelling through various parts of Africa. On one level these photos are an attempt by Sassen to recapture her childhood years in ­Africa, yet they also pose implicit fundamental questions about image, bias and the constraints of the photographic medium. Many of the ­portraits that Sassen made in countries like Zambia, Kenya and ­Tanzania were realised in intuitive collaboration with the subject. They are remarkable for their use of colour, for the idiosyncratic use of shade and their slightly surreal atmosphere. Sassen’s work contrasts sharply with ­Western stereotypes of Africa and its inhabitants. The exhibition ­features work for which Viviane Sassen won the 2007 Prix de Rome, together with new and previously unshown work. Many of the photos in Flamboya are portraits of young Africans in which the immediate setting plays an essential role. Remarkably, ­however, it is often impossible to see the subject’s expression: the face and parts of the body are often wrapped in shadow, turning away from the viewer or only the legs and torso are visible. This makes it hard to identify with the subject in the photo. The (in)ability to properly register a person’s identity, the limitations that prevent the viewer forming a real picture and role photography plays in this is a recurring theme in ­Sassen’s work. She plays an intriguing game with perception, undermining our assumptions and stereotypes. +


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Colophon Foam Magazine International Photography Magazine Issue #17, Winter 2008-2009 December 2008

Binding Binderij Hexspoor Ladonxseweg 7 5281 RN Boxtel – NL www.hexspoor.nl

Editorial Advisers Christian Caujolle, art director VU, Paris / Kathy Ryan, photo editor The New York Times Magazine, New York

Paper

Editor-in-chief Marloes Krijnen Editors Marcel Feil / Pjotr de Jong / Marloes Krijnen / Markus Schaden / Tanja Wallroth Managing Editor a.i. Sara Despres / Marcel Feil Magazine Manager Chee Yee Tang Concept, Art Direction & Design Vandejong, Amsterdam – Pjotr de Jong / Marcel de Vries / Hamid Sallali Typography Marcel de Vries & Hamid Sallali Contributing Photographers Samuel Fosso / Franziska von Stenglin / Bill Sullivan / Nanna de Wilde, Kristina Stark & Tersese Bolander / Koos Breukel / Walter Schels Cover photograph Koos Breukel, Pieter Hugo, 2008 © courtesy Van Zoetendaal ­Collections, Amsterdam Contributing Writers Sarah Baxter / Ferdinand Brueggemann / Marcel Feil / ­Sebastian Hau / Beate Lakotta / Camilla Larsson / Laura Noble / Olu Oguibe / Han Schoonhoven / Aaron Schuman Copy editing Pittwater Literary Services, Amsterdam – Rowan Hewison Translation Sam Herman / Cecily Layzell / Iris Maher Lithography & Printing Drukkerij Slinger Strooijonkerstraat 7 1812 PJ Alkmaar – NL www.drukkerijslinger.nl

ModoVanGelder, Amsterdam For this edition the following paper has been selected: Pioneer offset 300 g/m2 Pioneer offset 80 g/m2 Pioneer offset 70 g/m2 Novatech Satin 150 g/m2 PhoeniXmotion Xenon 135 g/m2 Novatech Gloss 150 g/m2 Eurobulk 135 g/m2 Novatech Matt 135 g/m2 The production of Foam Magazine has been made ­possible thanks to the generous support of Drukkerij Slinger, Binderij Hexspoor and ModoVanGelder, Amsterdam.

Editorial Address Foam Magazine Keizersgracht 609 1017 DS Amsterdam - NL T +31 20 5516500 F +31 20 5516501 editors@foammagazine.nl www.foammagazine.nl Advertising Chee Yee Tang Foam Magazine PO Box 92292 1090 AG Amsterdam - NL T +31 20 4622062 F +31 20 4622060 chee@foammagazine.nl Subscriptions Bruil & van de Staaij PO Box 75 7940 AB Meppel - NL T +31 522 261 303 F +31 522 257 827 info@bruil.info www.foammagazine.nl Start your subscription to Foam Magazine (4 issues per year / incl. airmail) The Netherlands e 50 Rest of World e 55 Club_Foam members / students The Netherlands e 40 Rest of World e 44 Order single issues at www.foammagazine.nl The Netherlands: e 13,50 Rest of World: e 15 (incl. airmail) Foam Magazine #1 is out of print

ISSN 1570-4874 ISBN: 978-90-70516-12-3 © photographers, authors, Foam Magazine BV, Amsterdam, 2008. All photographs and illustration material is the copyright property of the photographers and/or their estates, and the publications in which they have been published. Every effort has been made to contact copyright holders. Any copyright holders we have been unable to reach or to whom ­inaccurate acknowledgement has been made are invited to contact the publishers at ­contact@foammagazine.nl All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording or otherwise without prior written permission of the publishers. Although the highest care is taken to make the information contained in Foam Magazine as accurate as possible, neither the publishers nor the authors can accept any responsibility for damage, of any nature, resulting from the use of this information. Distribution The Netherlands Betapress BV, Gilze T + 31 161 457800 Belgium Imapress NV, Turnhout T +32 14 44 25 01 Specialized bookstores and galleries UK Central Books, London T +44 20 8525 8825 www.centralbooks.com International newsstand distribution: Johnsons International News Via Valparaiso, 4 20144 – Milan, Italy www.johnsons.it T +39 02 43982263 F +39 02 43916430 Supplies the following countries: Austria Morawa Pressevertrieb Ges. Mbh T +43 1 51562 190 Brazil Euromag T + 55 11 36419136 Denmark C2D T +45 3252 5292

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PREVIEW Foam Magazine Issue #17 Portrait?  

Want the full issue? Go to shop.foam.org. In this issue of Foam Magazine, attention is focused on recent work that offers unique interpretat...

PREVIEW Foam Magazine Issue #17 Portrait?  

Want the full issue? Go to shop.foam.org. In this issue of Foam Magazine, attention is focused on recent work that offers unique interpretat...