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The Photography Biannual

T Th he e P Ph ho ot to og gr ra ap ph hy y B Bi ai an n nu ua al l I I SS SS UE UE 22 53 -- SS PP rRING i n g 22 00 00 98


The FOTO8 Award & Summer SHOW 2009 A PHOTOGRAPHIC EXHIBITION AWARD AND London 17 july – 31 August

PRINT FAIR OPEN TO ALL PHOTOGRAPHERS

have your photographs exhibited in London’s prestigious HOST Gallery, seen and judged by respected industry professionals from the photography, arts and media worlds, with a chance to win £1500 IN the SECOND Annual Foto8 Award for Best in Show.

Over 150 prints selected from all entries will be curated by the Foto8 team. The work will be exhibited for public viewing, voting and Purchasing. FOR more information on the summer show and for guidelines on how to enter your work, please go to www.foto8.com/summershow

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ISSUE 25 SOIL Photographer: David Gray

Chances are as you sit down to read this new issue of 8 that you’re at home, or maybe on your way to or from there. Even the least nationalistic among us are intrinsically attached to an idea of “home” – whether a house, a city or a country – a feeling that only becomes active when that safe place becomes threatened. Among the most compelling news stories over this past year has been the mushrooming of stabbings among London’s teenage population. Subsequent talk of “gangs” reveals a lack of understanding of a strata of society that can only exacerbate the problem. Adam Patterson has not just photographed young men like Vipoh but has forged a unique collaboration, inviting him to write across the photographs, making them his. Vipoh’s loyalty to his home turf of Brixton’s Loughborough Estate is a contributing factor to the stab wounds that puncture his arms. The contested soil of Chongqing in China, claimed by the insatiable Three Gorges Dam, is the subject for Muge, a photographer from the area. Also documenting home soil, Tehranbased photographer Peyman Hooshmandzadeh focuses on the kitsch iconography in Iranian homes. Reinaldo Loureiro also returned home, to witness the more literal soil erosion of southern Spain, a landscape dominated by greenhouses. We preview Observer foreign editor’s Peter Beaumont’s first book The Secret Life of War, in which he counts the cost of his time on foreign soil. Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, an Iraqi and Guardian writer, writes from Afghanistan, where his access to Taliban fighters is unprecedented. For the first time, we publish two poems by Alexander Theroux, who responded to the theme of soil in a surprisingly sensuous way; photography as fiction with David Gray’s Vampire; and a special insert featuring archive photographs from séances in Canada. Over the coming season, we are looking forward to the New York Photo Festival, in which Foto8 is curating a show and to our own Summer Show extravaganza at HOST. In the meantime, keep up to date with us on our website. The Editors


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contents 09 M OMENTS

New York Photo Festival 2009

16 S POTLIGHT Errata Editions The Secret Life of War A Shimmer of Possibility Photography for Everyone

25 W ORK IN PROGRESS Simon Roberts

34 I NTERVIEW Geert van Kesteren

40 O FF THE PAGE Kannapolis, NC

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COLUMNS 56 B INGE BRITAIN Tim Minogue

70 O N THIS SOIL John O’Farrell

89 P OEMS

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Alexander Theroux

132 MEDIA COLUMN Sarah Hilary 134 B ODY IMAGE COLUMN Jonathan Kaplan

136 F OREIGN AFFAIRS COLUMN Ghaith Abdul-Ahad

FEATURES 42 A NOTHER LOST CHILD Adam Patterson

58 L ODZ NOW Cédric Gerbehaye

72 ‘ ALI ‘ALI ‘ALI Peyman Hooshmandzadeh

82 O UT OF SEASON Reinaldo Loureiro

90 S TRANDED OBJECTS Muge

104 E RASURE Chloe Sells

114 F LAMMARION Thomas Glendenning Hamilton Susan MacWilliam

116 N ORTH EAST SIDE Amber/Side Archive

124 H OST PORTFOLIO Aaron Schuman

138 F ICTION Vampire by David Gray

Reviews

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146 B OOK SPOTLIGHT Here Comes Everybody

154 B OOK REVIEWS Beyond History Living with War Avenue Patrice Lumumba Transit Tehran Tiny Vices Looking In The Last Days of Shishmaref In a Window of Prestes Maia Anna Fox Commonsensual

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164 E XHIBITION REVIEWS Videofile Index Episode III Stranger than Fiction

178 O N MY SHELF Michael Nyman

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Magazine Contributors

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad Ghaith Abdul-Ahad is an Iraqi journalist who writes for the Guardian and is also a contributor photographer for Getty Images. He photographed and wrote from behind the insurgent lines in Falluja and among the Shia militia in Najaf as well as covering the daily violence in Baghdad, Iraqi elections and investigating jihadi networks in Syria and Jordan. Peyman Hooshmandzadeh Peyman Hooshmandzadeh is an artist, photographer and writer whose images have been widely published in Iranian newspapers and news agencies including Reuters and Panos. The photo editor of Goonagoon newspaper, he is one of the founders of 135 PHOTOS agency in Tehran. His fiction and short story collections have been published in various Iranian publications. Muge Muge, born in Chongqing Province, China in 1979, has been working as a freelance photo-editor and photographer in Chengdu since 2004. His work has been exhibited throughout China and also in Japan, Russia, the UK and Germany. His book, Muge, was published this year by Coo Photo. Muge has worked in the Three Gorges area since 2005, and continues to document the disappearance of historical sites along the Yangtze River. Chloe Sells Chloe Sells was born in Aspen, Colorado and began photographing in 1993. After graduating from Rhode Island School of Design, Sells worked with Terri Weifenbach, John Gossage, Donald Sultan and Ann Lauterbach in Aspen. She was personal assistant to Hunter S Thompson for two years preceding his death. Sells currently lives between Los Angeles and Maun, Botswana.

FOTO8.COM East Side: Vancouver, BC, Claire Martin

Crossing the Gulf of Aden, Sergi Camara

Foto8.com continues to be a hub of information and comment. There are now over 60 inspiring bodies of work, the Stories of the Week, available in the site archive. In the bookshop a new book is sourced nearly every week, making it an incredible resource for photography book lovers and collectors. We welcome a new blogger, the Afghan Hound, reporting on living in Afghanistan amidst violence and horrible weather. Visit Foto8.com regularly for news, views, resources and the weekly photo story. Join our growing community and take advantage of member discounts on gallery talks, monthly portfolio reviews and special offers in the bookshop.

PHOTO STORIES

2009 FESTIVAL REPORTS

East Side: Vancouver, BC

NYPH 09

Claire Martin

New York, USA

Haiti: Hunger and Rage

PHOTO ESPAÑA

Jan Sochor

Madrid, Spain

Longbow House, Hoxton

les rencontres d’Arles

Michael Donald

Arles, France

American Detail: 1988-2007 Lou Siroy

COMMENTARIES

The Cidermen

AFGHAN HOUND

Anastasia Taylor-Lind

Our man in Afghanistan on the trials and tribulations of living in Kabul

Crossing the Gulf of Aden Sergi Camara

SHORT FILMS Still human still here Anna Stevens and Abbie Traylor-Smith

GUY’S BLOG Guy Lane’s twice-monthly interview or review on what’s new in photography

COMPETITIONS FOTO8 SUMMER SHOW 2009 Entry deadline 1 June

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Where can you find some of the world’s best fine art and commercial photographers’ stock imagery?

Unit 3E1 Zetland House 5-25 Scrutton Street London EC2A 4HJ t + 44 207 729 9467 f + 44 207 033 9285 e london@gallerystock.com

www.gallerystock.com/london Marching Band and Lenin, Ulyanovsk © Simon Roberts

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Image: Greenville, Sinoe County, Monrovia. 2005. © Tim Hetherington

LONG STORY BIT BY BIT: LIBERIA RETOLD PUBLICATION INFORMATION ISBN 978-1-884167-73-7 June 1 Publication Date Umbrage Editions www.umbragebooks.com EXHIBITION May 7–June 26, 2009 Umbrage Gallery www.umbragegallery.com

By Tim Hetherington LONG STORY BIT BY BIT entwines documentary photography, oral testimony, and history to map out the dynamics of power and corruption in the small west African state of Liberia. Author TIM HETHERINGTON brings a unique perspective to this story—initially as the only photographer to live with rebels during the 2003 civil war, thereafter as a resident in the capital Monrovia, and finally as an investigator for the UN Security Council. LONG STORY BIT BY BIT presents the complexities of war, politics and greed as an engaging and comprehensive tale.

111 Front St., Suite 208 | Brooklyn, New York 11201 | Telephone 212.796.2707 | Fax 212.796.2708 | info@umbragebooks.com


Moments New york photo festival 2009

Sleeping Soldier by Tim Hetherington, from Home for Good

The second annual New York Photo Festival takes place from 13 May 2009 for four days in Brooklyn. It brings together the work of four internationally renowned curators: William A Ewing, Chris Boot, Jody Quon and Jon Levy. Well that’s what the press release states... to be brutally honest this festival is my first opportunity to become an internationally renowned somebody. I can’t wait. Between the fantasies I, and the team at Foto8, have dreamed up and the reality of installing our vision in the Dumbo Arts Centre in the heart of the festival, I am already juggling feelings of “man, this is going to be great” with “what the hell have we let ourselves in for”. You see it’s not the enthusiasm or ideas that are hard to come by for us, but the time and energy (and funding) we need to see them through to a successful conclusion. Following on from its debut last year, NYPH09 will strive to blaze a trail and

carve out its fledgling reputation in the realm of photography festivals across the world. Likewise I will emerge from my safe zone in Honduras Street, London, where we make this magazine and put on shows at HOST Gallery, to blaze a trail for ourselves and photojournalism. The list is impressive and the devotion of festival founders Daniel Power and Frank Evers to make NYPH a mix of different views and tastes in photography is inspiring. And so to the plate I step. With Home for Good I will offer a glimpse into how I see photography and how it works for me. If I return to the dugout having made at least first base then perhaps next year my name will feature in alphabetical order in the lineup. Jon Levy

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WILLIAM A EWING I have been in the photography field now for 37 years, and the more I stay with it and bounce around with it, the more I appreciate the craziness and diversity of what is going on. I wanted to say to festival visitors, “Look what I’ve found recently”. But, in truth, there are also things I’ve wanted to show for a considerable length of time. So I decided I wouldn’t force individual work into themes, or try for a single vision of my own this time, but simply propose work I liked for all kinds of reasons and let the chips fall where they may.

Cambridge, 1972, by Jacob Holdt, from All over the place!, curated by William A Ewing

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JODY QUON

CHRIS BOOT

I have always been drawn to portraits of women in art. This show became the excuse to curate an interesting and varied representation of women – women that I respond to, while being able to tap into a modernity that easily allows for the classical to the more avant-garde approach to coexist in one cohesive show. My hope is that the viewer will have an emotional even if private response to these women. There is a universal beauty that I hope comes across in this assemblage of portraits.

What I’ve done in publishing stems from my interest in photography... and it’s the same interests driving my choice for the festival. Stefan Ruiz is a photographer I published and he’s part of the show. Ideally, I would have done an installation show with 20 photographers, but logistically it wasn’t possible. So, I’ve got an exhibition of Stefan’s San Francisco Berlin series, an installation by Christopher Clary and some interesting new work to screen. Plus, I’ve scheduled four hours of discussions. I’m thinking of my contribution as more of an event and debate, than an exhibition.

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Red Head (top), 1967, by Carlos Ranc, from I am not sure I know what kind of a girl I am, curated by Jody Quon. Courtesy of the artist and Nina Menocal gallery Charles (left), by Stefan Ruiz, from San Francisco Berlin curated by Chris Boot from his exhibition Gay Men Play


Moments

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Page from Lorraine Grupe's (pictured right) album of photographs sent to the troops during the Second World War, from Home for Good

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JON LEVY Home for Good will explore the idea that storytelling begins at home. Among the most compelling stories at this moment in history are those from the frontline of war, of the migrant experience and of personal security in uncertain financial times. We will be employing documentary photography in its many forms – the family album, first day cover, film stills, portraits, magazine layouts and even as the basis for fiction – as the most potent method of transmission (in the work of Venetia Dearden, David Gray, Lorraine Grupe, Tim Hetherington, Chris Killip, Seba Kurtis, Louie Palu and Simon Roberts). If it succeeds, the show will allow a space for contemplating some of the issues we face collectively, before you head back, safely, we hope, to wherever you call home.

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Spotlight Errata Editions

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In his fêted 1931 essay for Hound & Horn, “The Reappearance of Photography”, Walker Evans praised one of his influences, Eugène Atget: “His general note is lyrical understanding of the street, trained observation of it, special feeling for patina, eye for revealing detail, over all of which is thrown a poetry which is not ‘the poetry of the street’ or ‘the poetry of Paris,’ but the projection of Atget’s person.” Evans goes on, however, to disparage Photographe de Paris, the posthumously published book of Atget’s work produced by Erhard Weyhe with the cooperation of Berenice Abbott and Julien Levy: “The published reproductions are extremely disappointing. They and the typography and the binding make the book look like a pirated edition of some other publication.” There is now a new resource through which to consider Photographe de Paris and Evans’ claims. The original was produced in a run of only 1,000 copies in each of three languages, but the new

imprint Errata Editions has made the book accessible again as part of its series Books on Books. As it happens, Walker Evans’ seminal American Photographs (which reveals Atget’s influence) is addressed in this series as well. Chris Killip’s In Flagrante and Sophie Ristelhueber’s Fait are the two other titles in the first release. The project was conceived by photographer Jeff Ladd, known for his widely read photobook blog 5B4, and was realised by Ladd with photo-editor Valerie Sonnenthal and photographer and editor Ed Grazda. The aim of this project is to draw attention to the creative tradition of photography bookmaking by returning significant out-of-print books to the public view. Each year the press will release four volumes each devoted to a single important photography book in its first edition. Errata’s publications are not reprints, reissues, or facsimiles. They are studies, not of the photographs but of the books themselves. While each includes a full


Spotlight

reproduction of the book, it’s presented at a scale and in a manner that makes it impossible for the reader not to see how the book informs the interpretation of the images. The entire book is scanned and displayed to the edges of the physical book. The original text accompanying the books is reprinted and, if necessary, translated to English. Each Errata edition also features a new essay that addresses the book itself as an artifact. Errata has produced these books in order to make these classics available to new generations of photographers. When a great book goes out of print, or when a book becomes collectable and its high price removes it from the reach

Clockwise from left: Books on Books 1: Eugene Atget, Photographe de Paris; Books on Books 4: Chris Killip, In Flagrante; Books on Books 2: Walker Evans, American Photographs

of students, a resource is lost. “There’s a relationship that you have with a book that I want to continue to respect,” notes Ladd. “Looking at a show in a museum is different than looking at a book. Looking at work on a computer is different from looking at a book, where you can look at your own time, at your own pace, at your own comfort.” While each book stands alone, Errata’s selection of these four books describes an arc through the history of photography. A theme runs through the set: each of the photographers exploits the vulnerable contradictions of the documentary idea of their respective times to create shaped, subjective narratives through their books (though this was done for Atget). And there is an almost direct thread as well: from Atget, who was introduced to Berenice Abbott through Man Ray, to Evans who admired Atget, to Killip, whose book follows in tone from Evans (via Robert Frank), to Ristelhueber, whose book of traces of ground damaged by war refers directly to a Man Ray photograph of Marcel Duchamp’s “Bride Stripped Bare…” collecting dust. But the lesson that these Books on Books offer is as much about the history of photography as it is about appreciating a good book. Hill’s essay in Books on Books 2: Walker Evans, American Photographs includes this beautiful passage which perhaps illuminates Evans’ perception that a book of Atget’s photographs produced by someone else could never truly belong to Atget: “Evans over-reaching into [American Photographs’] production came from a belief that only the control and orchestration of the smallest details could produce a powerful whole. This intuition came partly from his early experience as a page in the map room of the New York Public Library. The job allowed him first hand examination of the finest of fine books – the scent of leather bindings, the touch of handmade paper, the implications and subtext of elegant typography, the weight of words and their visual balance with illustrations – all of the sensuous joys offered by a fine book.” Leo Hsu For more information see www.errataeditions.com

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Spotlight peter beaumont the secret life of war

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Foreign Affairs Editor of the Observer Peter Beaumont has reported from the world’s conflict zones for the past 20 years. His first book The Secret Life of War reveals an extraordinary addition to the canon of “war literature” with its forensic examination of what war does to those it affects Max Houghton: Was there anything in your background or personal make-up that has driven you towards a life spent in the world’s most dangerous places? Peter Beaumont: I’ve asked myself the same question. The fact that I ended up covering conflicts was at the beginning something of an accident. It was during the Bosnian War and I was reading stuff by Maggie O’Kane and Ed Vulliamy in particular. I think I realised there was something more to journalism, a possibility for passion and anger. And I wanted to see where this writing came from. This dark place. I went once and after that I pestered my editors to let me go. The strange thing is that it unlocked something different in me – not the polemical anger of some of my colleagues – but an almost anthropological fascination. Of course it makes me angry, but each time I visited a conflict I came back with so many questions. The book has been an attempt to answer them in a large part. MH: You write of the personal cost of this choice, in particular time spent away from your children as they grow up. You also state how often you have intended to give up war reporting… but have yet to do so. Is it too soon to say whether this book will have the necessary cathartic effect; that you will no longer be compelled to board the plane? PB: I thought it would be cathartic but it hasn’t been. On finishing it I became depressed. I woke up one morning and I couldn’t get on a plane. Which is not the same thing as choosing not to. It was a crisis, however, that at least allowed me to ask some of the right questions. I went out to Gaza during the aftermath of Israeli assault at the beginning of the year and for the first time didn’t feel as though not being there at the start was some kind of failure. Having written about and confronted the idea of my identity being bound up with the idea of being a war reporter, I now feel I can move on to other kinds of writing. Perhaps something that comes more from the imagination.

MH: I was struck by your use of metaphor – take the young junkies inhabiting the ruins of Kabul, a kind of no-man’s-land within a no-man’s-land. But given you are a photographer as well as a writer, I would have liked to have seen some of your images on the pages. PB: We talked about using photographs early on. But the book I wanted to write was a literary one. I feel it is very difficult to do both things successfully together. I wanted the writing... to stand on its own. It had to come alive through the writing alone because a lot of what I wanted to say was about the inner life of conflict. I wanted to stretch the depiction of conflict beyond the absolutely observational. Beyond saying I felt this, saw that… I wanted it to be dreamlike, adrenaline infused, uncertain… because that, for me at least, is what fear and exhilaration feel like. MH: You mention a quite a few photographers, including Ron Haviv and Kai Wiedenhofer, and I know you are interested in how war is photographed. Such imagery is criticised more than any other genre of photography, almost rendering it akin to paparazzi. PB: There was a moment in the war in Lebanon in 2006, right down at the border with Israel, where I came across a family packing up their belongings to flee. I was conscious that I was following the refugee story backwards from where people were sheltering to that moment of when they decided to run. I knew I wanted to see that moment. The woman burst into tears and both myself and the other photographer I was with immediately started shooting this weeping woman. People think it is horrible and it is. If you document the awful, you cannot escape charges of a certain kind of voyeurism. Because you are concentrating on horrible things. But in the end – and I’m convinced of this – what is worst of all is the things that happen unrecorded and unchallenged. Then they become things that truly happen in darkness. What I have real difficulty with is the mob scenes where suddenly you will have 20 or 30 journalists crowding around a family, shooting, shouting questions. That does feel like a paparazzi moment. And it feels lazy and degraded too. What I admire about Kai in particular is the way that he ploughs


Spotlight

his own furrow and his incredible persistence – being there before anyone else and still there long after. Which is why his pictures are so intimate. MH: Tim Page has given your book a ringing endorsement. Was his memoir or his own immortalisation by Michael Herr in Dispatches particularly influential? Are there other writers who have brought to life what you call the “texture” of war? PB: I tried not to re-read any of the books that inspired me before I wrote The Secret Life of War. I do owe a substantial debt to Dispatches. It made me realise that you do not need to be tied absolutely to a linear narrative and that war has its own character you can approach episodically, presenting it like leaves from a scrapbook. I mention in the book the novelist and journalist Vasily Grossman’s war diaries from the Second World War. I also love Ryszard Kapucinski’s Another Day of Life, set at the beginning of the Angolan war. Finally there is a book I must have read four or five times, and that is Studs Terkel’s oral history of the Second World War. His skill as an interviewer is

allowing people to speak, the possessor of a fastidious patience. MH: To what extent does it frustrate you that your research and writing, and even your personal risk, though it may help people who live comfortable lives to understand the nature of war, cannot ultimately help those for whom daily life is a warzone? PB: I’m not sure frustration is the right word. I think there is a kind of guilt. The knowledge that you always have a way of copping out. But does that make the journalism worse? The ability to connect to a different peacetime reality permits you to keep a sense of what has been lost. And I think you operate on the possibility of the hope of change. And – despite all evidence to the contrary – I am an optimist. I believe in that old saw about speaking “truth to power”. Flawed as what we do essentially is, I do believe that a bad witness is a million times better than no witness at all. Max Houghton

A family flees Lebanon during the 2006 war, Peter Beaumont

The Secret Life of War is published by Harvill Secker. www.randomhouse.co.uk 19


Spotlight paul graham A shimmer of possibility

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A good photograph tells you that everything that’s really going on is invisible – from “Watching the Spring Festival” by Stephen Burt The first exhibition I saw that indelibly altered how I perceived photography and its possibilities was Hamish Fulton’s debut exhibition in London – in 1969, from memory. Fulton’s photographs (mainly of his travels in the US) were strategically placed to respond to the room they were in. It was a revelation, as it was such a break from conventional single line rigidity. In Fulton’s installation his photographs achieved a sculptural presence taking command of the space. Paul Graham’s current exhibition, A Shimmer of Possibility at MoMA in New York has, in different ways, profoundly affected me again, by pushing forward the possibilities for photographic presentation. Graham’s exhibition is based on his 2007 publication of 12 separate slim volumes, published as an entity and bearing the same cautious title. The photographs made between 2004-06 are from a variety of locations in the United States. The published volumes are somewhat hampered by the overbearing presentation; artfully coloured bindings coupled with an excess of blank white pages serve to distance the work and seem at odds with the content. As a body of work, it is uneven and rather fraught with signalled intent, but I was intrigued by much of its content and by the basic fact that it was a work like no other. The 12 volumes have approximately 32 serialised moments and only nine are presented in this exhibition. Graham’s edited presentation is succinct and the scaled-up work benefits from the judicious breathing space between the differing sequences of images. The varying sizes and juxtapositions reflect their former presentation in the individual books but in this new setting the retelling is more compelling. There is also a very unexpected contradiction in that the work has a greater feeling of intimacy, despite the largeness of the room, testimony to Graham’s deft and careful handling. He is not only photographing at a telling and measured distance in relationship to his subject (which in turn serves to reflect his respect for the people he portrays); the exhibition’s

presentation echoes this distance and sense of closeness through its formal arrangement, which in turn allows for, and even nurtures, contemplation. These colour photographs are openeyed examinations of other people’s lives; specific quotidian moments taken over brief passages of time, and in all but one case are presented as a series around one subject of four to eight individual photographs of differing sizes. The work is challenging in that it largely abandons the notion of a defining decisive moment in favour of uncertainty and doubt. Graham’s riffs on imagery, using varying distances and multiple viewpoints when describing the same scene, confound the possibility of a single reading and in doing so help a vert the camera’s power to colonise. These photographs are of strangers. Many depicted here are people of colour. The majority come from what Americans so chillingly call the underclass (or in some cases, the working poor) presented here living out their lives within the impoverished urban banality that surrounds them. In order to survive this landscape you would need, in some way, to distance this reality from your thoughts. Money or education could provide an escape, but without either the task is just one of survival. As in so much of urban America there is not much sense of community here. The concentration on isolated individuals serves to emphasise the gulf that now separates us all from each other. The specific details in these images remind us how class, race, education and money have all played their part in this separation. Graham is not wearing his heart on his sleeve, but these issues are clearly and firmly on the agenda. In this brief review I describe only two of the presented scenarios. In one surprisingly confrontational series Graham photographed up close, a middle-aged African American woman in a plaid shirt sits in what appears to be a bus shelter. She is eating a take-out meal, perhaps a pig’s foot or hock, from a polystyrene container. This meal is balanced on a plastic carrier bag, which acts as a napkin to protect her white skirt. Her hair is a strange artificially orange colour. On the ground in front of her are other previously discarded containers. In this first and largest image she is intent on eating and takes no


Spotlight

notice of Graham’s camera. The next image is solely of her food and, by now, greasy hands. Two similar, smaller photographs follow, taken from very slightly different angles, looking down at the debris-strewn ground. The final image shows the woman as she inhales hard on a cigarette. These brief unscripted moments of her immediate circumstances bring a paradoxical sense of separation and distance, contradicting the closeness of the images, making it, for me, part of an overwhelming sense of estrangement. If this is the status quo, then I want to change it. In a corner of the gallery Graham juxtaposes two unconnected sets of images very differently from the printed volume. One series shows a somewhat overweight, late middle-aged man in a short-sleeved shirt, smoking a cigarette by a wall on a sunny day. The other is taken at night of a rather dishevelled man in his 30s with long dark hair and a beard holding flowers; it’s a biblical look. The prints of the younger man are dark, precariously balanced on the edge of readability. We see him up close twice,

once looking down, then looking up. He has a rather kindly face. This is followed by two small close-up images of only the flowers, one more focused than the other, but both are beautiful. The final photograph is a little more revealing, a dimly lit close-up of his hands. In his left hand he loosely holds most of the flowers. His right hand, empty and clenched, turns upwards and just visible in the darkness is the scarring on his upturned wrist. He has been hawking flowers on a badly lit street, two blue irises and six to eight long-stemmed red roses. It’s hard to tell quite how many, but it isn’t 12. The other older man is intently going through the motions of smoking a cigarette. He is unshaven and alone and seems, in different frames, both distracted and lost in his thoughts. He wears a wedding ring and because of the urgent way that he is smoking could be on a work break. He looks familiar, like so many other older men near the end of their working lives. Are these images a reminder of an inherent truth, that a photograph of a person is, inevitably, a

chronicle of a death foretold? In the original volume Graham intermixes these two sets of images as a juxtaposition of tensions and differences. In the exhibition they are together and overlapping, one set hanging over the other. This more restrained intermingling utilising the corner of the room creates an impossible crossing of paths of two unfathomable stories. Their depicted moments gently unfurl like images flickering on a screen. I wanted to reach out and touch them, but both are outside my reach. The photographs in this exhibition unexpectedly reverberate back to what was good about Robert Frank. How Frank, some 50 years ago, lifted up an unedifying stone and found a way to look squarely at America. These Paul Graham photographs of now are hardly reassuring, but in this delivery have achieved a telling relevance, which needs to be seen. Chris Killip A Shimmer of Possibility is on at MoMA until 18 May. www.moma.org 21


Spotlight Photography For everyone

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“The art that I live with has a history of its own,” observes Jen Bekman, owner of the Jen Bekman Gallery and the 20x200 online print sale project. “It connects me to something external, the body of work that it’s part of. But it’s also a personal marker for me… A work has a whole life of its own, and it allows you to have a personal relationship with it.” Bekman’s mission is to encourage people to collect art by making editioned prints affordable and easy to buy. 20x200, based in New York, has been a runaway success: since launching in late 2007, releases have included works by wellknown artists such as the Starn twins, Rachel Papo, and Bert Teunissen, and by lesser-known photographers whose work Bekman has encountered in her travels. For each release, 20x200 offers 200 artistapproved 8 x 10in prints, priced at $20 each; 20 16 x 20in prints, $200 each; and two 30 x 40in prints, $2000 each.

Notifications of new editions are made by email every Tuesday (works on paper) and Wednesday (photography). Some releases are so popular that editions sell out before the entire mailing list has received the announcement. Similar projects have emerged in Europe. jumpgallery is a London-based photo collective. The group hung a show, 7, in November 2008 at the Ada Street Gallery, featuring one large print by each of seven photographers. The images in the show are offered online (70 signed 8 x 10in at £35; seven 20 x 24in signed prints at £350; and one 40 x 50in at £2000). Photographer Paul Calver says that 7 is “all about making art affordable and open to all, while also trying to avoid a mass-produced feel.” Troika Editions is a new project by Bridget Coaker and Michael Walter. Like Calver, Coaker recognised that an audience for contemporary photography


Spotlight

Stefan Ruiz, La Paz, Bolivia (left) and Rachel Papo, Waiting for Hand Grenade Practice, Southern Israel (top). Both from 20x200 For more information on these initiatives, see www.20x200.com www.seven.jumpgallery.com www.troikaeditions.co.uk www.contacteditions.co.uk www.photogaleria.com

exists that does not know how to access work, and is intimidated by galleries and pricing. Coaker has already developed a strong roster of photographers whose work she will be offering in editions. Three different images will be offered each week (300 8 x 10in at £35; 30 20 x 24in at £350; three 40 x 48in at £3500); the site launches in April. Emily Graham and Anna Stevens conceived of Contact Editions as a way of bringing the 20x200 model to the UK. But they intend to emphasise the work of photography students and recent graduates (though they will include the work of the occasional more established photographer). It launches mid-May, in time for the degree shows, and will offer an edition of 100 11 x 14in prints for £30 each on a fortnightly schedule. Photogaleria is a 10-year-old virtual gallery that is opening a physical gallery in Barcelona in April, and features

both classic and contemporary work by Spanish photographers. While the prices and sizes of the Photocoleccion and Serie Limitada editions vary, the gallery offers a popular 13 x 18cm Photoregalo edition of 1000 prints at Eur75. There are notable differences between these projects: 20x200’s editions may exist in parallel to an artist’s other editions. The jumpgallery prints and the Troika Editions are closed editions, never to be editioned again. The editioning of Photogaleria prints vary by artist. But the common purpose of all of these projects is to make photography available, and to allow those new to collecting to begin with ease. “People sometimes can’t believe that the work can be so good because it’s so inexpensive,” says Bekman. “But it was very clear to me from the start that I could do something that was affordable.” Leo Hsu 23


work in progress

work in progress Simon Roberts we english

After a year spent travelling around Russia, Simon Roberts returned to England with some 5000 photographs and no publishing deal. While we now know that the work was quickly picked up by publisher Chris Boot and would go to on to achieve critical acclaim as Motherland, at the time it was a risk, one funded entirely by Roberts. Four years on, and Roberts has completed another tour of a country, this time: his own homeland, England, which meant he could squeeze the on-the-road part of the project inside five months. He was able to approach the project from the relatively comfortable position of knowing he had a publisher – Boot again – and when we meet he is deep into the editing stage, looking not just for the best images, but the ones that fit into a precise idea of the English at play. “I’m a safe bet, now,” says Roberts.

“Motherland was a success – it’s been very well received and exhibited widely. Chris really likes the new work; he knows there is an audience for it and that there’s a gap. It’s in a tradition of people like Tony Ray-Jones, Martin Parr and John Davies, whose books he also published, but there hasn’t been anything done like this for a long time. Also the fact that the work is quite beautiful, quite romantic…” Roberts’ take on contemporary England is indeed beautiful and romantic, a view that focuses on green and pleasant land, literally overlooking housing estates where unemployment is taking its toll, or scrubby wastelands littered with syringes. His response to this implied criticism is sanguine and impressively pragmatic: “Someone who has lost his job isn’t going to stop fishing if he fishes every 25


Blackpool (previous page), Lancashire, 25 July 2008 Brighton Beach (right), East Sussex, 25 August 2007 Photographing from roof of motorhome (bottom), Cleator Moor, Cumbria, 21 August 2008

weekend. In fact he might fish more. What he does, how and where he spends his leisure time is still important. People’s view of where they live and what they do isn’t going to change necessarily. In fact I would say it’s going to become more important. This isn’t a political statement. I’m talking about England in 2008, and of course, 2008 wasn’t as bleak as 2009 looks like it’s going to be. I’m more worried about whether people are going to have money to spend on a photography book!” If Motherland is anything to go by, they will. His first book, with a print run of 4,000, has all but sold out. And despite/because of his concerns for the economy, Roberts has strategies in place to make sure his new work sells too. The run-up to producing the work has been enviably publicised: the project was launched on BBC news online on St George’s Day. How did he pull that off (I ask on behalf of the 4,892 other photographers whose work didn’t get that kind of inauguration!)? “I know the picture editor of the BBC news website, which is the second most popular website in terms of traffic,” he says. “Culturally it’s got a diverse readership, and the web angle was important because I needed people to post ideas on my website. You can’t post your idea to a print magazine; whereas you can if you have a link on a website 26

which has seven million people reading it every day.” While he was on tour, the Times published a weekly dispatch, taken on a digital camera, with an invitation to readers to suggest a location or event that Roberts could travel to the following week. Underpinning all this is the We English website, which played a key role with regard to representation. Roberts was concerned to make a work that was relevant to the people he wished to portray, that included at least a few of the country’s quirkier customs – from the Mad Maldon Mud Race to pigeonracing – and that would take him away from the tourist trail, deep into the hills, valleys and sand dunes of England. The dedicated website itself then becomes a kind of living archive, a trail of ideas and inspiration, saved for electronic posterity. Interactive resources are also beloved of funding bodies, and crucially the website has played a central role in what Roberts calls “audience-building”. Some 3,000 people now subscribe to his newsletter, and if just 10 per cent of those people buy the book… that’s a pretty good start for a photography title. Listening to Roberts, I tell him he could provide a masterclass in marketing and PR as well as photography (he was due to present a Masterclass at Derby’s Format Festival this April). “Marketing is seen as such a dirty


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Tandridge Golf Course (top), Oxted, Surrey, 6 April 2008 Mad Maldon Mud Race (above), Maldon, Essex, 31 December 2007 A page from Roberts’ scrap book (above right)

word. At the end of the day, photography books don’t sell widely. After serialisation rights, the initial flurry, it can easily go off the radar so you have to push these things constantly otherwise, what’s the point in doing it?” The body of work that will comprise We English is not just being prepared for the published page. Roberts has conceived the work very much as an exhibition from the outset. Funding is an essential component in the creation of a body of work like this; no one paid for Roberts to live in a motorhome at random locations around England for the whole summer. Roberts is again highly motivated to make sure his funding bid is successful. After all, he has a wife and two small children to support and a mortgage to pay. For this work, his “good relationship” with the Arts Council lead to a £10,000 grant towards certain parts of the project’s production and exhibiting, and he was also the recipient of the first bursary granted by the National Media Museum, worth £7,000. This latter was achieved by a shrewd understanding of Bradford’s priorities: “They have a rich archive in their collection of Tony Ray-Jones and Bill Brandt, so for them it’s interesting as part of giving the grant, they also get some prints from the final project. So they get an updated, more contemporary work on England for their collection. 27


Henry in the hedge (top), Oxted, Surrey, 18 September 2007 Caravan park (right) with view of Butlins, Skegness, Lincolnshire, 19 August 2007


work in progress

A preserved Titan 2 nuclear missile launch complex (above), which was in use until 1980. The red box, with dual key access, contained the launch codes. Vandenberg Air Force Base, California

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Skegness beach (right), Lincolnshire, 19 August 2007 Victory Day picnic (bottom) in Ekaterinaburg, Russia, 9 May 2005, from Motherland

“Before I applied for the grant, I spent time in their archive, to look at the original Ray-Jones prints. What’s fascinating is that they’ve got all his diaries and notes for the England project. In 1965 he’s talking about how difficult he is finding the editorial market. Reading this some 40 years later, you think nothing’s really changed.” Fortuitously for Roberts, a Bradford panel member who particularly liked his work was also a judge for the John Kobal Foundation and invited him to apply for a grant to secure ad hoc funding – another successful bid. With the money in the bank, it is then a much more reasonable proposition for Roberts to say to his wife Sarah, then pregnant with their second child, let’s go and live in a motor home for five months… Looking back, there were a few clues in Motherland to suggest the form the next work might take. The scene of a Sunday picnic in Ekaterinaburg pulls the viewer first to a bunch of balloons pinned to a tree, then over there to a campfire, here, to someone playing a guitar, someone else singing and in this way the image pushes the limits of what an 80mm lens can achieve. Such an image announces itself as a tableau, a site where a compressed narrative can bloom across the frame, where the eye has to scan repeatedly up, down and across the image to take in detail (in a 30

way it doesn’t need to, for example in the memorably beautiful image of the frozen warship on the Kola Peninsula). Roberts has now taken this technique a step further, changing to a 5x4 camera, an instrument whose very presence provided a strict framework he savoured. Making a conscious decision to move away from the individuals he had photographed across Russia, he found himself drawn to the idea of the collective; of how people interact with the landscape; of how the English spend their leisure time. To achieve this he decided people should occupy no more than one third of the frame, a decision which has lead to some harsh editing. A pair of legs sticking out of a very Englishlooking hedge, for example, is unlikely to make the final edit, yet it is a great shot, surreally humorous and persistently intriguing. Another image likely to be rejected is one from Blackpool, redolent of the great American photographers, such as Stephen Shore and Joel Sternfeld in terms of colour and aesthetic – it doesn’t fit closely enough with his chosen theme of “leisure”. A strikingly English image, with a swan gliding down a man-made waterway in the foreground (in fact it’s a drainage ditch common to Lincolnshire) and a fairground ride in the background (it’s actually Butlins at Skegness) may yet not make the edit because there are


work in progress

Holkham Beach (top), Norfolk, 17 February 2008 Enjoying the Ice (right), 1630-34, by Hendrick Avercamp

no people in it. On seeing a fantastic image of bodies peopling a seascape, I ask if this is “out” because it looks like a Massimo Vitali? “Absolutely! Vitali owns this territory and besides there is nothing in the image to say it’s England; you can’t see the coastline.” An underlying theme that unites many of the images thus far selected for inclusion presents itself as boundaries, often natural ones, that occur in the landscape: between sea and sky, land and sea, path and field. Many of the most memorable shots incorporate coastal scenes, yet I wonder how much of this statement is weighed down with personal memory and in so doing realise this is a huge part of the work’s charm. Woolacombe beach, in Devon, where I spent a holiday as a five-yearold, provides now, as then, a perfect sandy playground. Holkham beach, here swathed in soft dusky sunlight, in Norfolk, brings together a game of cricket as well as a mother chastising her child for unfair play and an endless trail of people meandering down to the sea. The beach is Sarah Roberts’ favourite place, and so the annual family visit there takes on a sense of pilgrimage. A snowy scene plays out on a golf course, near Roberts’ parents’ home in Oxted, Surrey. In this one image there is a sense of the Englishness of

manufactured landscapes, a painterly quality that Roberts frequently brings to each frame and the personal association (the young Roberts would toboggan there as a child). We can already see how the book, or indeed the exhibition, will hold the observer in its thrall from a number of possible perspectives. Roberts is far from complacent, however. He likens his working patterns to those of a juggler; always trying to keep many balls in the air. Currently, as well as scanning and editing the England work, Roberts is undertaking a lecture series about Motherland for the Royal Photographic Society (“It’s a revenue stream”). Yet he is also looking ahead to try to fundraise for his new project, which will be, intriguingly, a portrait of the city of Bethlehem. “It’s an enormous amount of work, incredibly time consuming, and this is one of things young photographers don’t realise – 20 per cent of your time is taking pictures and 80 per cent is banging your head against a wall trying to make things happen.” The resulting images show no sign of that struggle, depicting instead the peculiarly English outlook: “keep calm and carry on”. Max Houghton We English will be published by Chris Boot in October. www.we-english.co.uk 31


work in progress

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First day of the football season (top), Sunderland, Tyne & Wear, 16 August 2008 Long Mynd (left), Church Stretton, Shropshire, 8 July 2008


Interview Mark Durden with geert van kesteren For the first in a new series of interviews on photography, film and politics, Mark Durden talks to the Dutch photojournalist Geert van Kesteren about his books Why Mister, Why?, 2004 and Baghdad Calling, 2008

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Mark Durden: How did Why Mister, Why? begin? Geert van Kesteren: I think it started right after the war when a CIA interrogator told me about abuses of Iraqi detainees in prison. “I would not cage my own dog like that”, he told me. I was surprised and thought: hey, the US wants to get rid of Saddam and then bring democracy to Iraq and this guy is telling me that the Bush government deliberately denies human rights and the Geneva Convention. How can one establish democracy and not act according to it? How is this going to work? MD: Tell us something about the format of the book. GvK: Well, I wanted a photobook that would be read for its content and meaning. Editor Edie Peters and designers Mevis and Van Deursen helped me to realise this. We decided to make a book with a “magazine-feel”. The book is thick and has more than 200 doublepage spread images – war’s too complex

to explain in just a few photographs. The images were printed on very thin paper and the sides of the papers are roughly cut, like newspaper edges, to give it that feel of urgency. I had about 12 photo stories that defined that period of time (2003-04) in Iraq that was the aftermath of the war and the interlude of civil war: US soldiers raiding houses – searching for WMD, Saddam and insurgents; the unearthing of mass graves; the Shia celebration of Ashura in Karbala; a bomb blast at UN Headquarters; Saddam’s arrest; Baghdad nightlife, etc. On the job I had kept a diary and used these notes to write small stories; extended captions to the images in the series. The text is bilingual, English and Arabic, and for several reasons: most importantly, I wanted the Arab world to know what I wrote – the opposite attitude to the American army unit I was embedded within Samarra. They were in Iraq for 10 months without a translator, without understanding Arabic culture. The Iraqis in Samarra could not speak English in return. On the door of


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an improvised lavatory at the army base was written “WHY MISTER WHY?” The soldiers used this expression (which the Iraqis meant so seriously) as a taunt: “Dude give me a cigarette”, “Why mister, why?”. MD: Some of the pictures seem to suggest you were embedded as a photographer, showing you photographing right beside US soldiers. This is especially powerful when you show them searching homes and forcefully suppressing Iraqis, a soldier’s boot on the head of an Iraqi, for example. GvK: I was a non-embedded photographer in Iraq! I did a 10-day embed in Tikrit, a three-day embed in Karbala, two weeks in Samarra, one day in Baghdad and four days in Balad, all on assignment for Newsweek. For the other five and a half months I worked by being not embedded. It took me a lot of patience and timing to get close to the (right) soldiers. I asked how they won the “hearts and

Tikrit, Iraq, 4 August 2004 (left) Kurdistan, Iraq, 2006 (above)

minds” of the Iraqis and they replied “Iraqis will never like you, so they better fear you.” I asked how they made Iraqis fear them, they said “come along with us, we will show you.” One of my images shows a soldier kicking his boot in the back of an Iraqi lying on the floor. It was published in Newsweek and when I came back for another embed with the same unit that soldier said: “Great man, I will tell all the girls back home ‘My boot was in Newsweek’.” I always gave my images on a DVD to the soldiers when I left the base. I never left an image out and never got bad comments. When I finally left this unit the captain, its commanding officer, said, “Hey G-man, we did nothing wrong, did we?” MD: There are pictures when you show the soldiers in a more human light. There’s one picture in particular which shows young soldiers being warned of

what they might expect – and we sense their youth and vulnerability here. GvK: A chaplain gave “Combat Stress Control instructions” to three newly arrived young soldiers. One of the things he warned them against was masturbation and he told them not to visit the three gypsy-looking ladies who were hanging around the base! These kids look up, very scared, but it was not only that – they were flabbergasted by the chaplain’s speech. In another photograph you see a young, smiling girl in shorts and sneakers at an army base: Melanie, a gunner on a Humvee. She dropped out of school, her mother – who had an American flag made of Christmas lights in her living room – told her she could work behind a till or join the Army. She told me: “I used to be a cheerleader and my favourite colour is pink. Now I love guns, the bigger the better.” MD: There are some photos that show you are not embedded – there’s one where a masked insurgent shows his 35


The appearance of objectivity is tricky. Every choice influences the meaning of the image – it’s a manipulative medium weapon to you and others where people show you their guns. GvK: When I worked in Iraq as a nonembedded, independent photographer, I focused on the culture clash between the Americans and Iraqis. Most Iraqis welcomed me as their brother, but some hated any foreigner, especially Americans, to the core. The insurgent’s image was not too important for the book. The culture clash is. Before I photographed him I showed him a magazine that featured an image of insurgents in Fallujah, he said “very good!” But when he turned the pages he saw a large photograph of five supermodels in bikinis, including Tyra Banks wearing a Wonderbra! Again the man said, “very good!” and laughed. MD: Has traditional photojournalism lost its importance and power? Is your recourse to the book and gallery part of a tradition of photojournalists turning to other modes, dissatisfied by the constraints of the print media? GvK: Not at all, photojournalism is alive [but] today we have so many outlets: the internet, books, museums and galleries and, yes, printed media (with a decreasing budget). Philip Jones Griffiths told me: “I think any photographer who believes in the media is lost”, and I am afraid he is right. Working and publishing in the media is exciting – you reach so many people – but in the end you are just another photographer working for an enormous organisation whose main business is selling “attention”. I work by the ethical and moral ethos of photojournalism, but not to make it a lubricant for the media – all they want is that news can be easily consumed and sold. Many modern conflicts are fought out in the media, both sides of the conflict – established powers and undermining powers – use the news, or create it, to achieve their goals. The time and attention they can give to a subject 36

is limited. For more in-depth reporting, you need slower outlets such as the book. That is a frustrating position to be in. As a photojournalist you are an autonomous unit observing the world from the shadow of the happening, with an open eye and often a promise to give voice to the people who gave you such an intimate look at a difficult time in their lives. The independence of the photojournalist makes it possible to look under the surface of news. The photographer alone is fully responsible for his reportage. It’s a very personal way of looking at the world. In my books and exhibitions I have complete freedom to express that significant obligation, though the media gives me the possibility to be there and have a look and another outlet. MD: In terms of photojournalism, your pictures fulfil the dictum of closeness. But at the same time your view is restricted. We get a sense of the life on the streets in Baghdad, but we can never get close to the experience of those civilians. In many ways the strategy you adopt in Baghdad Calling – appropriating mobile phone images and digital photos – makes up for this. GvK: Robert Capa was right: “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.” Photojournalism is recording the human condition at a significant moment of history and that is all about access, about being there when it happens. For a foreigner I think I was very close to the Iraqi individual in the period that I made Why Mister, Why? but as insurgency and civil war exploded in 2005-07 it became impossible to have the same close access to the civilians. Over 200 journalists have been killed in five years. From 2005-07 many areas in Iraq were ethnically cleansed, about a hundred militias were in charge. It was a story I had no access to, except to the refugees. There are 4.5 million people who fled the violence. When I

made Baghdad Calling I spoke at length with many refugees of different ethnic and religious backgrounds about the horrors that had befallen them… These interviews, personal accounts, did not in any way square up with my photography. It missed what I see as the cornerstone of my photojournalism: the laying bare of the essence of a situation and making that visual through the perspective of the individual. I got frustrated with the content of the pictures; they show the daily life of the refugees, but what does that give us? In early 2007 I spoke with a group of doctors in Amman, Jordan. One of them showed an image taken using a mobile phone, a portrait of their wounded friend just before he died. That image echoed the stories I had recorded during the many extensive interviews. I asked around and most refugees received digital images over the internet from friends and family that stayed behind. It made me realise that mobile phone images were of great importance to Iraqis, living within or outside their fatherland. In addition, I noticed that refugees use their mobile phones as family albums and newspapers. Against this background I decided to let the pictures of ordinary, non-professional photographers tell the story this time, in a new book, Baghdad Calling. MD: Photojournalism can involve quite formulaic permutations of stock gestures that are there to elicit sympathy from viewers. At the same time, I’m thinking of the way the images that have come to dominate the representation of Iraq are those amateur trophy pictures of torture and abuse in Abu Ghraib… GvK: The media often communicates with just one image. Since the Middle Ages art has a tradition to communicate through iconography. Not only the artist but also propagandists and the audience understands this kind of language. The prisoner in the snapshot image from Abu


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Mobile phone pictures collected from Iraqi refugees for Baghdad Calling

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Ghraib stands with his arms spread, like Jesus on the cross… Good photojournalism is not created to make beautiful artistic images, it’s made because you want to give attention to something important that did not get (enough) attention. The saying that a picture is worth a thousand words – well, that rings true, but you have to bear in mind that those thousand words are not one-dimensional and often paradoxical. Sometimes a photographer shoots an image that gives a moment of clarity in our world of chaos. An image that touches us on a deep human level, an image that connects people. But that image can never give a definite explanation or judgment, I think. The appearance of objectivity in photojournalism is a very tricky manipulation. It suggests that you were the eyewitness of a happening, but in fact, every choice made in the moment of recording, the crop, montage, influences the meaning of the image and that is why it is a manipulative medium. As a photojournalist you need to be very sound and careful. 38

I like to travel to troubled places with an investigative mind, a sharp eye and original analyses that raise more questions than they will give answers. It is seldom that I can show all that in just one image. I feel I can do that better in a sequence, a story of images. Design and art supports these thoughts in my books and exhibitions; supports the power of photography, the written language, the fantasy and knowledge of the reader and the witness and happening of the story. Working for Newsweek and Stern I saw most of my work lost after a week (readers throw it away) or kept in a drawer of the foreign editor, but good reportage in 30 years time is still relevant and valuable. If it is wrapped in a functional, innovative design no one will throw it away with the garbage. Kate Bush, curator at the Barbican in London, called me an artist – but I am not very sure. An artist creates their own world, without restrictions, without responsibility. A photojournalist does not have that kind of freedom, you always have to take responsibility.

Clockwise from top left: American soldiers listen to Combat Stress Control instructions, Baghdad, 23 December 2003 Samarra, 18 January 2004 American soldiers Melanie Fink and Corrie Jones, Karbala, 11 March 2004 Samarra, 18 January 2004

MD: Your use of cellphone pictures in Baghdad Calling acknowledges the power of citizen photography. Many of these pictures are marked by the horrific situations they are taken in. GvK: I am very concerned about the respect for the media. Our access is limited; often we are targets of violence, hatred. My use of citizen mobile phone images for this book was radical, but I believe this was the only way to tell the story. We, the media, had no access to the story. The citizens of Iraq had access – unfortunately for them – every day. I did not know that citizen journalism was so alive, but when I found out I


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was fascinated. We collected the images for about a year and every time images came in, we were surprised how much what they showed confirmed what I had been told by the refugees. Images of areas without electricity, executed people lying in the dirt, blindfolded and handcuffed, explosions, but also modern people in front of a car or posters of Angelina Jolie and Shakira, Muslims and Christians who celebrated a wedding together, despite the danger of being caught, even a Muslim family that celebrated Christmas! I found the most fascinating aspect that these images were taken and sent to inform the refugees about life at home, a very personal new way of communication. Too often politicians talk about “collateral damage” or “the death toll”: they try to dehumanise war as much as possible. The less they talk about people the less responsibility they have to take for their actions. The truth is that they are talking about human beings, people who have a family, a home and desires, just like you, to grow up peacefully. An American senior CIA agent told me: “We

have pilots who shot babies, now tell me, what the fuck does that have to do with the objectives of this war?” To show the “family photo” is not a tactic, but essential. My own images take a very modest place in the book. They help us to get a sense of the life and situation of the refugees and at the same time show where I was positioned in all this, it reminding us that the other pictures in the book are showing something I cannot photograph. I hope the personal stories and the mobile phone images can give you something to relate to and make you interested. I hope the innovative design helps you to turn those pages and look and read and understand. MD: It’s almost as if Baghdad Calling starts to access those private spaces and realms that are shown being turned over by the soldiers in Why Mister, Why? Take the picture where troops are seen looking through a family album in their searches for photos they can use to interrogate the men they had arrested in a raid on a hotel in Samarra. Baghdad

Clockwise from top left: Khulafa Street market in downtown Baghdad, 30 May 2003 Damascus, Syria, 2007 Samarra, 2 January 2004 Mobile phone image of a wounded doctor. Amman, Jordan, 2007

Calling takes us into the space of such a photo album. GvK: You get the picture! Even though they are different books, dealing with different chapters in Iraq’s recent history, they are related and have the same appeal and meaning. It gives prominence to the story of the individual (from soldier to civilian) who deals with the consequence of war. Zeinab, a refugee in Amman, recently told me: “Please let the world know we are human beings, that we are just like them. We had a life in Iraq. It might not have been perfect and not according to Western standards, but we had a life and we want it back.” 39


Off the Page Kannapolis, NC

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A young girl runs across the screen from right to left. The camera follows her. It’s a small, simple moment in a silent 16mm film comprised of small, simple moments shared with ordinary people. An innocuous 16th of a second, there and gone. A girl escapes the camera’s gaze; a man in overalls walks down the street toward a factory; a child rides his bicycle in a circle. Photography, be it with the photojournalist’s Leica, or the 16 framesper-second shot with H Lee Waters’ CineKodak Special with two lens turret in 1941, is the pursuit of capturing light on film. Of bringing something back that’s worth seeing again. It’s the resurrection of right now, a little later. In the late 1930s and early ’40s, while the United States was gripped by an economic depression that’s largely remembered from images that still photographers made while documenting the experiences of the rural poor, H Lee Waters took to the back-roads of the South to see what regular folks looked like on film and on the silver screen.

The owner of a successful portrait studio in Lexington, North Carolina, Waters’ business was slowed by the Depression, so he travelled as a filmmaker and entrepreneur with a simple idea: people want to see themselves onscreen, and they’re willing to pay a few nickels for the chance. While filming, he’d hand out cards that said, “You’re In The Movies – See Yourself As Others See You”, and he’d return a few weeks later and hold a screening of the finished film. What Waters managed to capture is an incredible visual cross-section of rural American life at the end of the Depression, including Kannapolis, North Carolina, a struggling mill town in the segregated South. Waters’ Movies of Local People weren’t necessarily intended to be historical documentaries, destined for the archives of Duke University, or their place in the National Film Registry. Waters saw himself (and adorned his car with signage to prove it) as a “Maker of Hometown Movies” at a time when


off the page

moving pictures had unequalled power and allure. Watching Kannapolis, NC, Waters’ 16mm, three-reel portrait of the small town northeast of Charlotte, you see the South unfiltered, as it was lived, in public, on the street. Women go shopping, holding hands. Salesmen smile in front of their stores. It’s a democratic vision, a one-for-all, all-forone approach. An attempt at a portrait of a town by filming every single person walking down the street. In creating this portrait, Waters reveals the South’s most obvious inequity, segregation. Accordingly, Waters’ film is as segregated as its subject. The third reel begins with the white side of town, the smiling school kids and serious factory workers, the formal school portraits and sand lot ball players. And then suddenly, it’s as if you’re watching a different film, from an entirely different place. When Waters crosses over to the black side of town, the scenes come alive with added resonance. Instead of seeing a shop owner, you see a man washing the shop’s windows. Instead of a parade of shiny cars down Main Street, there’s a man driving a weary-looking carriage horse. You see the car mechanics and clothes-washers, cooks and bricklayers, each and all rendered in Waters’ highsilver film stock with a clarity as striking and as memorable as the WPA-era prints of Dorothea Lange, Berenice Abbott or Walker Evans. Quite literally, it’s the Depression, alive and on its feet, and blinking back at you. Waters’ ultimate goal, to fill the seats at a screening at the local movie theatre, didn’t lend itself to the most artful editing. Faces flash on screen and quickly disappear, just long enough to be recognised. The edits are so economical, you wonder how much film was cut, or if Waters’ “mash the button” approach controlled the film completely, in camera, with lightning-quick jump-starts and stops. Either way, the screenings of Movies of Local People (of which Kannapolis, NC was just one stop along the route) were apparently raucous

affairs, with people yelling out names of friends and family they recognised on screen. A home movie for the entire town. Remarkably, the filmmaker’s vision shines through. Waters’ up-close portraits are particularly revealing, and he seems to capture people in quintessential gestures with the skill of a street photographer who has a sixth sense for being in the right place at the right time. The girl sprinting across the front lawn to avoid his camera was walking down the street toward Waters, unaware, until she realised she was being filmed, at which point she hid her face, leapt barefoot into the grass, and flashed Waters and his camera her shy smile. It’s in marked contrast to the scene that precedes it, of young boys gleefully dancing on a front porch to an unheard tune, twirling their toy guns, hamming it up. The camera shows only what its subjects choose to reveal. In some ways, Waters’ effort echoes August Sander’s People of the 20th Century. Where Sander was a pure photographer, Waters was a photographer trying to earn some money and turned to cinema, but in making his movies, he spared little expense. His camera and film stock were first rate, yielding images that feel incredibly alive, thanks to a painstaking restoration funded by the library at Duke University, which holds possession of Waters’ archives, containing film shot in over 118 communities across North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee. Which is what makes this still image so potent. Here’s a single frame of film, just enough unlike the one that preceded or followed it, a singular flash of life taken in the front yard of a house in North Carolina. A shy girl on the run from an unfamiliar man with a camera. Nearly every frame of Waters’ film is about that very moment, the recognition when the subject realises there’s a man standing in front of them with a movie camera, and they’re either going to react, or choose not to react, and in taking the latter path, they’re still reacting.

It’s fascinating to watch, in quick take after quick take. The recognition in the eyes of those on the street that they’re being seen, and in that recognition, a resolution, for both cameraman and subject. In the late ’30s and early ’40s, hand-held movie cameras were hardly ubiquitous, and there was less awareness about the hazards of staring into them. Still, some hide their faces while others stare straight back. It’s proof positive that the minute you take out a camera, you change the world; a room without a camera is never the same as the room once the camera comes out of its bag. Waters’ comfortability with both the camera and the reactions of those he films creates a truly open, agenda-less record of Southern life. Interspersed with commercials from local business (he filmed, edited and sold the airtime for those, too) Waters’ films say more about a photographer who, when facing a harsh economic climate, acquired a new skill and set to work, turning it into a profitable business. While his wife ran the studio in Lexington, Waters filmed the straight facts of the changing world around him, and in doing so, created something that’s nearly impossible to perfect; an artful rendering of banality – people as they are, plain as day. Michael David Murphy Excerpts of Kannapolis, NC can be seen at http://tinyurl.com/cmgc93. Michael David Murphy is a photographer and writer in Atlanta, Georgia

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another LOST CHILD PHOTOGRAphy Adam Patterson interview Max Houghton 42


It’s important to have a name on the street. What I’m thinking back in the day if I wasn’t who I am now and didn’t do what I did I would have been one of those 2007/2008 children who died… I could have been one of those kids that got killed you know. I got stabbed. On a bright day like this in front of everyone – if I wasn’t really that known they could have just

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like – oh, let’s kill him then and that’s it. After the stab, phone calls start going around, they’re trying to find the hospital I was in to say we are sorry. They was telling my cousin – we got the wrong person – we never knew he was that Vipoh.


I don’t really blame the media for what they say because it does really happen but […] it’s not just black boys, people need to understand […] the government see the black boys doing the worst, but if they see behind it there is more white people that do worse than black people. I’ve been close with this for all this long, because where I’m from, we see white men telling lies. I can say I was born into a family, I was brought up in a family that say white people are racist but I can’t believe that. I have to see it myself.

Vipoh (page 42) shows his scars. In 2007 he was attacked by a rival group with dogs and hammers Vipoh and the Loughborough Soldiers (left, above and bottom) hang out in the estate while others (above) shoot a music video A member of Organised Criminals (bottom left) after a recent spat with the Peckham Boys

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The controlled destruction (previous pages, left), 27 seconds from launch, of an ALV-X1 rocket carying NASA experiments and classified US Navy satellites. Wallops Island Flight Facility,

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Personally I like white people and I always tell my friends that you need to understand why white people act like this, you know, ’cos of the way we act I’m not gonna lie to you. Most of the time I need Adam. I call him all the time.

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This world, we’re living in a dark world. When you got money is when you see light. I can’t do what I want to do. I can’t just go out and say I’m going to go on holiday, because there is not money, you know, there’s not money. I’m still in the same block; I don’t know what I want, I don’t know where I’m heading. It’s like I’m lost in the jungle, I’m lost in the dark, I can’t see no light, I can’t see no dough.


When I was in the game, like this gang thing, I was getting money easily but when I came out you know like how hard it is for me to get money. I don’t really get any, sometime a week I don’t even get £20.

Vipoh and friends (above, far left) play video games in his home Code 7 music studio (above left) Vipoh visits a friend in hospital (below left) after he was stabbed A police search (above) and other Loughborough Soldiers Frank (below)


Bucky, a member of a different group in the Brixton area, visits a shrine for his friend Fatz that was erected after his murder near Acre Lane, Brixton in 2006

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All I think is I wanna be a star so I’m thinking, I’m gonna be a star so I have to do what star people do. I can’t stay behind. I don’t want to be broken. I will do anything to make myself look good.

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There is still more pain in me. If I don’t put it on a record I will put it in a book. I want someone to know how I’m feeling because I’ve been through a lot and I’m still struggling and I don’t want to go the wrong way because then the media will talk bad. So I’m gonna go the right way. So when Adam made this book, I feel relaxed! I actually feel like it was my birthday! I can’t wait to show my grandparents that.


It wasn’t a story, it was life as well, you know. Real life is not a story because a story is what you hearing or saying. My own was real you know. Real what I live not what someone was living, this is what I was living and what somebody close to me was living – that’s all. Do you see? It was like that.

A drawing by school children (top left) displayed as part of an antiviolence campaign at Code 7 Vipoh and friends (above) play football outside of his home Vipoh’s sister, Lydie (bottom left) dresses her son in preparation for her aunt’s wedding in Paris Tattoos and insignia (below)

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Adam Patterson met Jean Claude Dagrou – aka Vipoh – in September 2008. They became very close when Jean Claude invited his new photographer friend to accompany him to his aunt’s wedding in Paris. It was the start of a collaborative relationship; for Adam, he had found a way into a London scene, one that was only covered negatively in the press whenever there was a teenage stabbing. As a white boy from Northern Ireland, studying for a post-graduate degree in photography, he knew he couldn’t be the sole narrator of the story. For Jean Claude – an aspiring rapper, whose hero is 50 Cent – what matters is getting his “name up there”.

Vipoh updating his Facebook page after his aunt’s wedding in Paris

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binge britain Tim Minogue

When politicians or journalists want to decry the scenes of mayhem which take place late at night in the high streets of “Binge Britain”, they compare them to William Hogarth’s nightmarish engraving Gin Lane, published in 1751, about the London poor addicted to cheap, strong spirits. At its centre is a bare-breasted young mother, drunkenly taking snuff and oblivious to the fact that her baby is falling down the steps of a basement dive, over the door of which is a notice promising: “Drunk for a penny. Dead drunk for twopence.” In the background are fighting cripples, gin-swilling children, a barber hanging himself, a lunatic carrying a baby’s body impaled on a spike and a small child wailing as its mother’s corpse is slung into a coffin. As a morality tale of an underclass without hope it beats anything the Daily Mail has to offer today. Less well-known is its companion print, Beer Street, which depicts well-fed, well-dressed tradesmen and women – butcher, blacksmith, housemaid, fishmonger – taking a break from their honest labours with pints of foaming ale. Gin Lane and Beer Street evoke two extremes of the British relationship with alcohol, and the way we still think about drink. In the early years of the 21st century, anxiety has been to the fore. Here is an account in the Guardian of an evening in Reading, Berkshire, in November 2004: “A man sits outside in 56

the road, blinded by blood pouring from a wound. He’s been drinking since noon and has fallen on his head. ‘Fuck off. Fuck right off,’ Matt bellows, lunging at the paramedic. ‘I’m not going to the fucking hospital.’ Outside a couple are snogging on the quayside until he vomits in her face... Tina (eight pints) masks Tracy (six Bacardi Breezers) who squats in an alley for an emergency piss...” Another author describes Carlisle at closing time: “Men fought like beasts; fierce fights raged round the doors of public houses. The diminished police force was unable to cope with the situation. Almost every alley was littered with prostrate drunken men. The main thoroughfare... was Bedlam and the returning trains... with their living freight of cursing, vomiting, filthymannered men, are memories that cause one to shudder.” Apart from the absence of Tina and Tracy and their Bacardi Breezers, this is a familiar blood-and-vomit spattered snapshot of a city centre at chucking out time. But it was written in 1916. Tina and Tracy, or rather their greatgrandmothers, might have felt on familiar territory a decade later, accompanying pub reform campaigner Ernest Selley as he joined the workers out on the lash in the 1920s: “Nothing I saw reminded me so strongly of Hogarth’s pictures. The women were the most degraded I have ever met. They

were noisily obscene. One woman illustrated filthy tales about herself by bodily motions. The tales provoked uproarious laughter... One Saturday I saw kissing and mauling going on and saw a man squirting whisky out of his mouth into a woman’s mouth...” In any century over the past 1,000 years one can find observers writing in shocked tones about the drunken excesses of the British. Gladstone’s Home Secretary, Sir William Harcourt (18271904), thundered about “this corroding mischief which is eating into the vitals of the people”. In 1830, a few weeks after the Beer Act was passed, relaxing restrictions on sales, Rev Sydney Smith, who supported the measure, changed his mind because “everyone is drunk. The sovereign people are in a beastly state” In 1583 the Puritan writer Philip Stubbes, in his Anatomy of Abuses, anticipated Carlisle on a Saturday night by more than 300 years: “How they stutter and stammer, stagger and reel to and fro, like madmen, some vomiting, spewing and disgorging their filthy stomachs, othersome pissing under the board as they sit...” According to the (not necessarily reliable) Norman historian William of Malmesbury (1095-1143) one of the main reasons the English army lost the Battle of Hastings in 1066 was that they had been on the piss the night before. And as long ago as the 8th century, Saxon


The reason the English army lost the Battle of Hastings was that they had been on the piss the night before – allegedly

England’s habitual “vice of drunkenness” was identified by the missionary St Boniface of Crediton as “an evil peculiar to pagans and to our race”. Boniface’s complaint, in a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, that “neither the Franks nor the Gauls nor the Lombards nor the Romans nor the Greeks commit it” is echoed nearly 13 centuries later by commentators who wonder why the British cannot adopt more “Mediterranean” drinking habits – the “café society” which was supposed to have developed after the relaxation of licensing hours in 2005 having so far failed to materialise. For more than a millennium Britons have been getting drunk – fighting, fucking, vomiting and pissing in public. And for more than 1,000 years social reformers have been gripped by moral panics about what can be done. History appears to show that consumption goes down when opening hours are restricted and prices go up – the opposite of what’s happening at the moment. Some academics who have studied these matters believe that there is a sort of tide of drunkenness that comes in and out over a period of about 90 years – see Norway’s Skog, right – and that after long periods inebriation we collectively wake up, take a cold shower and mend our ways for a while, until the whole unedifying cycle begins again. Perhaps that tide is about to turn.

Not waving but drowning The “long waves” theory was put forward by a Norwegian social scientist, Ole-Jorgen Skog, in a paper in 1986. Skog studied records of alcohol consumption in Norway and Britain and found a curious thing. By applying mathematical “spectral analysis” to these records he discovered that the amount of alcohol consumed in a society appears to rise and fall slowly, over periods of 90 to 100 years, in a series of waves, like a tide going in and out. Although major events such as wars, recessions and attempts by governments to manipulate the price of booze have noticeable short term effects, they do not, over many years, alter the long-term rise and fall of the wave. Skog noted that alcohol consumption was very high in many European societies during the first decades of the 19th century and declined in the middle years of the century, before rising again. Britain was awash with booze in the years immediately preceding the First World War, with average consumption higher than today. Restrictions on licensing hours and price rises during and after the war then saw more moderate habits prevail until after the

Second World War, since when the tide has been inexorably rising again. As Skog writes: “There has been some speculation... that long waves of increasing and decreasing consumption may have been recurrent phenomena throughout history.” External factors such as prosperity, depression or war may cause ripples on the surface of the wave, but do not stop it. Skog cannot explain it, although he believes that the power of the wave is driven “within the drinking culture itself” which “seems to develop according to its own inner rules”. When people en masse start to drink wine rather than water with meals, or drink beer on weekdays as well as than weekends, nobody is forcing them. “These changes,” says Skog, “should be understood in terms of the actions and interactions of the people who actually do the drinking, and not only in terms of external influences.” Ah, people. It seems that however politicians and leader-writers wring their hands over whether opening hours are too long or drink too cheap, however draconian drink-driving laws become, however many lectures we hear about how many “units” are too many, Britons will carry on drinking. Until collectively, mysteriously, we decide to stop. Tim Minogue writes for Private Eye

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ŁÓDZ PHOTOGRAphy Cedric gerbehaye TExt Guy Lane

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Wlodzimierz Warzycha (facing page, top left), 54, was given an apartment in a ‘familoki’ on Ogrodowa Street. The ‘familoki’ are houses built 140 years ago for the workers of Izrael Poznanski’s textile factory Damian (top right), 18, a seminarian and choir-boy at Saint Joseph Church Sebastian (bottom right), an assembly-line worker at Indesit, an Italian electrical appliances company. The factory is on the site of on an old textiles works Piotr (bottom left), 17, a student from Lodz Tomasz (left), 27, halfUkrainian, half-Polish, works in a piercing studio in Lodz’s main street, the Piotrkowska Ola (opening spread), 21, a law student and model from Pabianice

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A suit showroom at the Impis company in Tuszyn, near L贸dz

Suit showroom at the Impis company in Tuszyn, near Lodz Roadworks on Zachodnia Street

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The work of Belgian photojournalist Cédric Gerbehaye will be familiar to many for his award-winning Congo in Limbo series. Conflict and its consequences provided the subtext, as they have for previous projects in Iraq, Kurdistan, Palestine and Israel. For the first time, Gerbehaye accepted a European commission – to photograph development and transformation in the Polish city of Lodz (pronounced wooj). Even the experience of being commissioned was unusual for him. “Because it was exceptional for me to do an assignment I found myself 64

thinking, OK do they want me to work and produce something that they want to see? Or do they want me to work as I would have worked there alone – my personal view of the city?” Whatever the brief, Gerbehaye’s photographs appear to savour the city’s past as much they do any signs of modernisation. Movie reel canisters are piled high in Lodz’s renowned Film School; and the students work with cameras that recall the heyday of Wajda, Polanski and Kieslowksi. The picture of a showroom boasting racks of suits is a nod to an earlier era

The cinematographic archives of the Lodz Film School (top), famous for alumni Roman Polanski, Andrzej Wajda, Krzysztof Zanussi and Krzysztof Kieslowski Tutorial sessions (top right) for students at the Lodz Film School Radegast Memorial (bottom right), the train station from which the Jews of Lodz were deported. This anonymous photograph was reproduced from a glass plate negative found in Zdunska Wola


when the city was textile capital of the Russian empire. A more searing history also endures. The memorial at Radegast station commemorates the 200,000 Jews transported to concentration camps from the city’s ghetto. Says Gerbehaye, “It’s very noticeable there – in the graffiti, for example – that everywhere Jewish symbols are used as insults. Supporters of the two main football teams abuse each other by calling each other Jews.” Elsewhere the business of modernisation continues apace. Road works and tanning salons promise improvements of sorts. Just enough,

perhaps, to persuade the young to stay – while Gerbehaye was there the city ran a poster campaign “asking the youths to remain in Lodz. Billboard advertisements featured a young boy and girl saying ‘I’m young, I’m working, I’m living in Lodz. It’s still possible to be young and live a life here in Lodz’.” In the event, the exhibition of this work, part of a group show funded by the European Commission, was not exhibited in Lodz. The President of the city clearly felt that Gerbehaye’s photographs did not reflect the transformation as he would have liked. 65


Indesit assembly-line workers (top) about to begin their shifts Cafeteria terrace at Manufaktura (above). Converted by a French company into a huge shopping and entertainment centre, the former textile factory of Izrael Poznanski is now a popular meeting place for the people of Lodz Roadworks on Zachodnia Street (right)

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A tanning bed in one of the many solariums in the city, a fashionable practice amongst Polish women


on this soil JOhn O’farrell

Around 90 years ago, someone asked Lenin to define Communism. He answered with a formula: Communism = The Soviets + the electrification of the country. At about the same time, a young Irish civil engineer named Thomas McLaughlin was completing his PhD and he too, had a dream: “No sincere student could have lived through the whole period of intense national enthusiasm without feeling a passionate desire to do all in his power to assist in national reconstruction, in the building up of the country by development from within. It was with this intense feeling I began my career abroad, and the ideal never for a moment left me until it brought me home again to see the Shannon Scheme realised. It was little credit to me – I could know no mental peace, no sense of self-fulfilment until my mission in life, as it had then become to me, was realised.” Within 10 years, his mission had been realised, and the backward and rural west of the Irish Free State had tamed the broad majestic Shannon, the largest river in Ireland. Instead of being a source of flooding for half the arable land in an economy dependent upon agriculture, it had been transformed into the source of the electrical power to change forever the darkest and poorest corners of Ireland. “My country, of which I was so 70

intensely proud, must not lag behind other lands. The people in our remote villages must have the comforts which villagers in other lands enjoyed.” The dam at Ardnacrusha, just north of Limerick, became a calling card for the modernisation of Ireland as much as Lenin’s plans to tame and utilise the raw natural power of the Volga and the Don. The project was completed in 1932, the same year that Chiang Kai-Shek first envisioned the same for the mighty Yangtze river, a project only completed with the Three Gorges Dam in 2008, finished with the ruthlessness we associate with its overseer, Li Peng. Also in 1932, the depressionhammered USA elected Franklin Delano Roosevelt as President, who was fired up with the same zeal for vast public works projects which provided jobs for the hungry millions and electric light for the dark ends of the street. The grandest of his schemes was for the Columbia river, with the Grand Coulee Dam. This was the most productive hydroelectric power station in the world – a title now owned by the Three Gorges Dam. But these monuments to modernity and national pride added much more than megawatts. They preached a belief that monuments could be functional as well as symbolic. The legacy of their creators would be warmth and light, rather than statues and ballads. But they did that too. Some of America’s greatest

photographers were commissioned to chronicle the story of the New Deal. Popular song was used too. Woody Guthrie was hired to go on site and live among the workers constructing the Grand Coulee, singing in the evenings and writing during the day. Uncle Sam took up the challenge in the year of ’thirty-three, For the farmer and the factory and all of you and me, He said, “Roll along, Columbia, you can ramble to the sea, But river, while you’re rambling, you can do some work for me.” At Ardnacrusha, the fiercely nationalist artist Sean Keating was inspired to paint the progress of the Shannon scheme, and later sold many of his paintings to the state electricity board, but his most inspired composition, Nights Candles Are Burnt Out, was snapped up by the auld enemy, in the shape of Oldham Art Gallery. This deeply ambivalent painting sets the high and huge wall of the dam as the background of the scene with the foreground occupied by the tropes of a country in the chaos of national rebirth. Keating and his family are depicted pointing towards the future in the shape of the turbines, an armed IRA man cocks a snook at the besuited engineer, the labourers are exhausted and drunk, a priest quietly concentrates on his Bible


The labourers are exhausted and drunk, a priest quietly concentrates on his Bible and a skeleton in peasant’s garb hangs from a steel crane

and a skeleton in peasant’s garb hangs from a steel crane. The story being told was of the Irish version of the Soviet “New Man”, “a new type of Irishman, alert to apply to his own purpose every modern discovery and every improved method, yet cherishing at the same time the ideals of the legendary past and drawing his mental sustenance from Gaelic culture,” as Keating told the New York Times in 1930. He continued, using language which could have been easily transferred to the USSR then, or the PRC now: “Hitherto, it has been only in politics that Irishmen have been revolutionaries; in everything else they are the most resolute and unbending conservatives in Europe. It may be that Gaelic, backed by electrical power, will provide an explosive mixture strong enough to smash the old moulds and radically transform Irish mentality.” Within a few years, the events of the Second World War would shatter the love-in between romantic nationalism and modernisation. At that time, the absence of the individual human being from the symbols of state was noted and then parodied by WH Auden, in his poem “The Unknown Citizen”, who: …was fully sensible to the advantages of the Instalment plan And had everything necessary to the Modern Man,

A phonograph, a radio, a car and a frigidaire. Our researchers into Public Opinion are content That he held the proper opinions for the time of year; When there was peace, he was for peace; when there was war, he went. The poem ends with a couplet which would never have occurred to Sean Keating, or for that matter, Lenin in 1920 or Li Peng today: Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd: Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard. The totalitarian mindset degenerated from progress-by-the-scruff-of-the-neck to the liquidation of truculent reactionaries to grim personality cults around dour mediocrities such as Hoxha, Honecker and Ceaucescu. Spectacle and monuments were reversed under these placemen, with the roles of audience and performers switched. It was noted about Ceaucescu in particular that the great games involving thousands of tightly choreographed subjects were for the enjoyment of one person only – the Genius of the Carpathians at his podium. While Ceaucescu will be remembered for his vast palace which submerged

Bucharest, the echt memorial to one person has to be Baghdad’s Victory Arch. “Two huge forearms emerge from the ground clashing two swords overhead. The arms which, even swordless are higher than the Arc de Triomphe, are enlarged casts of Saddam Hussein’s arms, showing every bump and follicle.” Saddam’s nemesis, George W Bush, has no such memorial. His presidency will be remembered for collapsing structures, not vanity arches or functional legacies. Aside from the Twin Towers, it will be known for rotting bridges and levees – the neglected legacy of FDR’s New Deal. The inundation of New Orleans was the physical outcome of three decades of the catchphrase popularised by Ronald Reagan: “Government is not the solution to our problems – government is the problem.” That time has now passed. America’s infrastructure is the key problem for the Obama administration, and fixing it is part of the solution to the wilful neglect of neoliberalism’s disgraced devotees. We can now be on the cusp of an age for large state-led programmes to fix the roads and build the dams for the age of broadband, mass migration, climate change and peak oil. Existentially, the challenges are the same. Our legacy is unbuilt, yet. John O’Farrell is Communications Officer with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions 71


窶連li 窶連li 窶連li PHOTOGRAphy Peyman HooshmanDzadeh TExt Malu Halasa

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The striking components of Peyman Hooshmandzadeh’s project Time – ordinary household clocks and religious posters – are shoush, an adjective that describes the vibe of downtown Tehran, home to vegetable sellers, coffee houses and the working poor: the indigent and Ghorbatis – gypsies. Both the clocks and posters are mass produced and widely available in the bazaar, where the Iranian artist, photojournalist and writer Hooshmandzadeh made the selection for his photographs. In many posters, the dominant figure is Imam Husayn, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, whose martyrdom during the Battle of Karbala in 680 is celebrated every year on Ashura. His popular visage is immediately recognisable to all Iranians, but these garish street posters

are not displayed in the homes and private spaces of the truly religious who live under the more solemn watchfulness of Ayatollah Khomeini or Supreme Leader Khamenei. The street posters spruce up houses and cafés where vivid colours and islands in sun-kissed landscapes are in short supply. The religious iconography continues in the household clocks with faces showing famous mosques and Islamic blessings. The photographs in Hooshmandzadeh’s series may draw on a tradition of calligraphy, carpets and textiles, but they are not decorative. Beneath their flamboyant brilliance lurk caveats. In Iran, the dove symbolises innocence, as the clock repeats the name of Husayn’s father, the Shias’ murdered first Imam – ’Ali, ’Ali, ’Ali – like the

seconds in a minute. Innocence is always short-lived. Another emblem, the rose has become a popular graphic motif from South Lebanon to the Gaza Strip. It is a metaphor for martyrdom or sacrifice, the lesson of Karbala, a blood feud between Shia and Sunni that simmers to this day. Between brief innocence and death, Iranians contemplate the timeless unknown with great verve. Hooshmandzadeh who has authored several anthologies of short, short stories – vignettes made up in a few words or observations – included the following prayer in one photograph: “My God, I have in my humble heart something that you don’t have in your big palace. I have you, but you don’t have anyone greater than yourself. I am the one who is rich with God and not alone.” 73


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out of season PHOTOGRAphy Reinaldo loureiro TExt guy lane


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They cross one sea to reach another. Untold, uncounted numbers of migrant labourers make the perilous journey – from Morocco, Gambia, Senegal and beyond – to reach the shores of Almeria in southeastern Spain. Behind them lies the Mediterranean; ahead of them, stretching over nearly 150 square miles, is a shimmering and rippling sea of plastic: giant polytheneroofed greenhouses that sheathe the province’s coastal plain. Others come from Central and Southern America, 84

or Eastern Europe, to live and work in Europe’s largest market garden. Neither the annual 2.7 billion tonnes of produce nor the turnover of Eur1.2 billion have ameliorated the desperate conditions endured by those who work under the plastic sky. Clashes and strikes persist between growers and immigrants. As late as the mid-1970s Almeria’s campo was home to an unremarkable mix of urban development and open field farming. But it gradually became apparent that the region’s benign

climate, and the shelter provided by the Sierra de Gador mountains to the north, were particularly well suited for the cultivation of early and out-of-season vegetables that could be sold at premium prices. Grapes grown on wire trellis systems were replaced by incubated avocados, iceberg lettuces, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and strawberries. Sound familiar? Tesco, Waitrose and Sainsbury’s are eager traders; Britain, France and Germany provide the three biggest export markets.


Now the magnitude of agribusiness’ voracious spread is visible from space. Satellite photographs show a terrain that glistens silver, and even begins to creep from the plains into the fertile valleys of neighbouring La Alpujarra. Such is the scale of unchecked development that scientists believe the plastic roofs reflect so much sunlight back into the atmosphere that the greenhouses are, locally, slowing the effects of global warming. Other greenhouse effects are less fortuitous – mountainsides and

riverbeds are destroyed for convenience; a slick of plastic litter, much of it potentially toxic, is rising; and medical and public opinion is concerned that the 40kg of pesticides dousing every hectare of land are already resulting in serious health problems, including an increased risk of cancers and health complications for locals and labourers.

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Poems Alexander theroux

A Woman Who Wore Panties The Color of A Glacier ♦ I touched a glacier once in Portage, Alaska, fluid in its turquoise as panties on a girl, its aqua color a cross between the UN flag, a Tiffany box, the frailty of a robin’s egg, and the glass of a bank window that the sun hits just right in the way echoing ripples

Sipapu ♦ An Indian badly needs a hole as faith of course requires needful flight, the soul to rise and ever rise. A hole that’s bored of hope becomes an epistemology of roundness and of circles, recapitulating what it can of skies. Cenotes are sinkholes, kill-hole pots. The Maya held that water covered openings into other unwet worthier worlds. Leaving home defamiliarizes us with exactly what we need by exploration to see what has to be sought. Riverless Yucatan has neither lakes, but a soul needing puddles to argue holes prays, as an Indian’s faith unfurls.

of bluish-green run sideways in stuttering scintillant shimmers. I see bluish ice-mint in an image of a girl pulling on her panties with a smart snap, almost like an ice-sound cracking for attention as any mirror might when someone saucy strikes a pose she likes. Ice, shiny and gemsharp, is no less lovely for its cold than soft surrendering warmth in causing it to drip must make it tremble first, and shudder, then with wetness flow. Sheen polishes! I turn to seawater myself, watching how a shape maneuvers into silk in the lascivious way water whirls around a glacier, tightening what it surrounds the way elastic on a taut girl’s panties makes warm flesh kissing tightness hug as any flesh in fabric, soft and saucy, acting now together, simmers and is snug. I touched a woman once in Portage, Alaska who in silk panties as fluid as turquoise

Alexander Theroux’s recent novel Laura Warholic: Or, The Sexual Intellectual is published by Fantagraphics

surrendered warmth to show me how a color like a glacier, wet, can also make a noise.


stranded objects PHOTOGRAphy Muge TExt max houghton

Some of the world’s most memorable photographs capture a moment of change: a defining moment that marks the end of an era – when the Berlin wall came down, or the statue of Saddam in Baghdad; or the beginning of a new one – the flag on the Moon. When, as is usually the situation, such transformations do not happen overnight, the need to document change remains. The achievement of Muge, a young Chinese photographer from Chongqing who I recently met, is that he has captured a uniquely melancholy mood of transience and loss as his 90

homeland by the Yangtze River slowly succumbs to the insatiable demands of the Three Gorges Dam. The dam will eventually displace as many as five million people. Some of them are pictured here, cycling, walking, watching, waiting. Through the subtle poetry of these photographs, the symbiosis of man and land materialises in black and white. Haunted by the future’s ghost, the spectre of “progress”, each boat, each flower, each body becomes a stranded object, its continued existence only assured by the confines of the photographic frame.


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Erasure PHOTOGRAphy Chloe Sells TExt Guy Lane

Visitors to Rwanda’s Hotel des Mille Collines can enjoy jazz in the bar, internet access in the bedrooms, and floodlit tennis at night. But four-star luxury and executive suites cannot occlude the past which made the building famous worldwide – as a bolt-hole for more than a thousand Tutsi refugees during the genocide of 1994. In one of the multiple exposures by American photographer Chloe Sells an interior view of the hotel merges with a second image – of trees, bushes, sky and cloud. Ambiguity and uncertainty predominate. The leaves of a potted plant in the lobby, and the foliage of the Rwandan countryside, coalesce into an image that is studiedly layered and carefully indeterminate.

In other pictures ghostly or ill-defined people occupy unresolved landscapes; light leaks shroud scenes with accidental colour casts; figures and backgrounds dissolve in vistas deprived of focus. Elsewhere, seemingly innocuous views are rendered with clarity and detail: a bend in a river, or a view over Lake Kivu. But as Sells points out, armies congregate across the water, and the rivers once flowed with bodies. In their inconsistencies and abrupt shifts in register her photographs testify to the difficulties of picture-making in a terrain where appearances can belie, or threaten to erase, history. “You can photograph a river without the bodies…but it’s still the place where those things happened.”


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Camille Flammarion was a French astronomer who died on 3 June 1925 at the age of 83. His surname, Flammarion, is also the word that surfaced in the first documented teleplasmic materialisation of text on 10 June 1931, during a séance in Winnipeg, Canada. The Flammarion image and others pictured here were rediscovered by artist Susan MacWilliam while completing a residency at the University of Manitoba, searching for documents of psychic research from the early 1900s. The image was just a single photograph out of 40 boxes worth, all annotated with dates, names of those present and the details of each event. She had uncovered the Thomas Glendenning Hamilton archive and his life’s work of documenting the paranormal. Hamilton conducted such séances in his home between 1918 and 1935. The group present would sit in a circle. One wall was adorned with more than a dozen cameras, some stereoscopic, stacked high with the shutters open. Channelling the spirits took place in the dark, so the film would only be exposed when the flash went off. Predictions were made before the start as to what would occur in the séance cabinet – the wooden structure in

which the spirits presented themselves.The ringleader, Walter, through whom the spirits would speak, took on the role of a choreographer, signalling the moment to set off the flash. As observed in the photographs, ectoplasm – a peculiar cottony substance – often emerged from the mouths of one of the sitters. Teleplasmic forms would appear, chairs would fly across the room and people went into deep trances. Captivated by such paranormal activity, and by the uncanny nature of the photographic archive, MacWilliam devleoped her video work, F-L-A-M-M-A-R-I-O-N which will be exhibited in the Venice Biennale 2009, taking the word “flammarion” as its starting point. In the video, Dr William Roll, a renowned poltergeist investigator, and Ciaran Carson, an Irish poet, “perform” for the camera with recitations and responses to the textual teleplasm. This use of choreographed images and words invokes the character of Walter, while the work itself acts like a medium, bringing the past into the present. All images courtesy of Hamilton Family fonds, University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections (PC 12, A.79-41). Susan MacWilliam’s book Remote Viewing will be published by Black Dog Publishing in June.


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Whitley bay, 1978, Marketta Luscacova (far left) – from a project on beaches in the region Summer 2004, Seaham, Co. Durham, Karen Robinson – from a project documenting teenage girls and young women

Historically, the prototype for a large number of photographers working over a long period of time on one subject, is the Farm Security Administration work of the 1940s. Another such collection, which like the FSA work is still together is that of Amber/Side Gallery, though it has not yet seeped into public consciousness in the same way. Yet, Amber has been supporting the photographic and film documentation of the North East of England for 40 years this August and maintains an extensive archive of that work. Amber is based in Newcastle and developed out of the idealism and enthusiasm of filmmaker Murray Martin. Martin’s principles were simple to state, though hard to follow in practice, but he managed to do so throughout his life. Rooted in socialism and the thinking of philosopher R G Collingwood in particular, who held that artists had a duty to address the immediate issues of the society and community to which they belonged, Martin formed a collective for photographers living and working in the North East. Their common purpose was to document the people and landscape of the region: a record of the region, for the region.

They opened Side Gallery, one of the first galleries in Britain devoted solely to photography, in 1977 and, stimulated by Chris Killip, who was later to run the gallery in its early days, started funding and supporting photographers to work in the region in an initiative that continues to this day – an initiative that puts many other organisations with larger budgets to shame. Often the money for photography was taken from Amber’s filmmaking budget, for Martin felt the documentation of the region was a total process and that film and photography naturally overlapped. Amber has now supported more than 60 photographers to work in the region, a huge number really. Not all the work is great but most of it is good, by any standard of the documentary canon. It is work that has been made both by well-known and lesser-known photographers, some of whom are, or were, members of the collective, though most of whom were not. In exchange for the support received, the photographers agreed to donate a body of prints from the supported work to the collection on the understanding they were to be kept together, as part of the larger record, and not to be sold on for profit. Apart

from the overall quality of the work, it is the completeness of the collection that makes it remarkable and important. The fact that this work spans 40 years gives it a consistent anchorage as history. The pictures I have selected from the archive for reproduction here are not intended to educate everyone in Amber’s history, but to give a taster of what lies in the archive and help waken people to this underrated collection of photographs. I have no doubt that, eventually, despite the indifference of the photographic establishment, this collection will be nationally valued and the visionary power of Amber’s creator, Murray Martin, who died in 2007, will be properly recognised and he will take his place, alongside people like Sue Davies and Bill Jay, as one of the important figures in the history of contemporary British photography. Chris Steele-Perkins For more information see www.amber-online.com

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David McArdle with daughters Kadie and Robin and Ty-dog, 2008, Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen (founder member of Amber) – from her project Byker Revisited, returning to an area she lived in and documented in the 1970s

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From Coke to Coke, 1989, Peter Fryer – documenting the closure of Derwenthaugh Coke Works

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Dawdon, 1983, John Davis (top). Davies worked with Side on a number of projects documenting the landscape of the area Youth unemployment in Elswick, 1982, Tish Murtha (top right) Colliery band marching through Wheatley Hill on Durham Miners’ Gala Day, 2001, Richard Grassic (right) – from his project Post Industrial which followed the lives of four ex-miners and their families. Grassic was a member of Amber at the time this work was done and has since retired

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King Edward Bridge, Gateshead, 1976, Graham Smith. Smith was a founding member of Amber but resigned after a few years. He, along with Chirs Killip and Murray Martin helped define the direction of the Side gallery

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Steel Works, 1989, Julian Germain – from a project looking at the town of Consett years after the closure of the steelworks

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Portfolio Aaron Schuman Once Upon a Time in the West was photographed on the eroding sets and locations of Sergio Leone’s celebrated 1960s “Spaghetti Westerns”, deep in the Almerian deserts of southern Spain. For several years Schuman has pursued work concerned with the propagation of American myths abroad. He recently became fascinated by the notion that a fundamental American archetype – the Wild West, and its associations with freedom, independence, rebelliousness, brutality, morality, honour and so on – had been transposed by an Italian film director onto the landscape of Franco’s Spain, and subsequently came to define this “quintessentially American” genre in itself. Schuman has been particularly 124

interested in exploring these remnants and what they say about America today. Aaron Schuman is an American photographer, editor and writer based in the United Kingdom. He has exhibited his photographic work and published his written work internationally. Schuman is currently a Research Fellow and Senior Lecturer at the Arts Institute at Bournemouth, a lecturer at the University of Brighton and the founder and editor of online photography journal, SeeSaw. Aaron Schuman is represented by HOST Gallery in London. His signed, edition prints are available for purchase (30x24” digital C-type print from an edition of 12 at £800). Once Upon a Time in the West will be on at HOST from 14 April – 9 May. www.hostgallery.co.uk


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Columns fiction BOOK SPOTLIGHT BOOK Reviews Exhibition Reviews Listings On my shelf


MEDIA Column

A Perspex Crucifix Looking through a family album I find this image and wonder why it’s not in a frame. It’s such a happy portrait. Isn’t it? I ask my grandmother, captured on the right in the picture, but she can’t look at it. Over a period of years I find out enough to know why. The photograph tells a lie. The lie it tells is “all is well”. Like any good lie it contains a grain of truth: the couple are in love; their child is discontented. She is dressed in white and wears a crucifix around her neck but the scrubland setting does not resemble any green or pleasant land. It is northwest Borneo under Japanese rule. The child is my mother, seated on my grandmother’s lap. The man whose face is only glimpsed is my grandfather. I never knew him. The photograph was taken in the spring of 1944, two years after the Japanese invaded, taking prisoner the men, women and children of “unfriendly nations”, Chinese, Dutch, British and Australians among them, to be interned in camps on the third largest island in the world. By 1944 many of those interned had died; more were dying. Domei News, then Japan’s only news agency, dispatched reporters to the frontline in Asia and the Pacific. They sent home almost daily The Domei Photo News, which was distributed to schools, factories, shops and public places. Domei News photographers were tasked with presenting a picture of prisoners of war that would appease the Empire’s allies and organisations like the Red Cross. This is one of the photographs they took. My mother’s expression betrays the lie that all is well. Ironically, since the man 132

in charge of their internment, Lt Col Suga, took trouble to indulge the children, by throwing tea parties, taking them for spins in his smart car and handing out sweets, he might have expected indulgence in return, a smiling face for the camera. My mother, together with her fellows, enjoyed piggyback rides from Suga’s guards, men more generally occupied with the disciplining of subordinates and prisoners. I imagine the photographer worked hard to win a smile from my mother. Her unhappy expression is a small victory against the casual cruelty of the propagandists. Within a year of this photograph being taken she would be gravely ill with pneumonia and her father would be dead. No one in the photograph wears his or her own clothes. The white shirt, flowered dress and child’s pinafore were loaned by the Japanese and returned at the end of the shoot. My grandmother was made to wash the make-up from her face before taking my mother back to the women’s camp, where no new clothes or make-up had been seen in four years. As one internee put it: “My last towel has now disintegrated, so after washing I am obliged to shake myself like a dog until dry.” In the photograph my mother is wearing a crucifix, translucent – but plastic seems unlikely for the time. I ask, and am shown the crucifix, told how it was carved from the Perspex windshield of a military aircraft. The men in the camp carved playing pieces for board games from the same Perspex, some of which survive in an archive at the

Australian War Memorial Museum in Canberra. I have my mother’s crucifix to hand as I write this. It is small, light, pleasingly tactile. But I know a stranger finding it in a house clearance would think it worthless and throw it away. The same stranger might linger over the heart-shaped pendant, also carved from Perspex by the Roman Catholic sisters in the camp who placed tiny pictures of my mother’s parents, no bigger than a thumbnail, into the hollowed centre of the necklace. Other memorabilia survive. A tin from which the children ate their meals. Toys stuffed with rags and sand, given as presents during Christmases in the camp. A book whose margins are full of appointments pencilled in by my grandmother, who was hairdresser for the women and children, and lists of cigarettes to be bought or bartered for the smokers in the camp. The dropping of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atom bombs in 1945 ended the war in the Far East. Without this no one in the Domei News photograph, no one in the prison camp, would have survived the orders from the Japanese high command issued in August 1945 to burn the women and children and to bayonet the men. This is the first version I learn of the truth behind the liberation of the camp. But when I study dates I find there was a week between the bombs and the death orders, which were issued after the Japanese emperor’s surrender to the West. It was Suga who saved my mother and the others who survived to be liberated by Australian allies. Suga, who refused to carry out his direct orders to


MEDIA Column

The man in charge took trouble to indulge the children, throwing tea parties, taking them for spins in his smart car. He might have expected her indulgence in return, a smiling face for the camera

kill despite full knowledge of the fact that his family was in Hiroshima when the bombs fell. The Domei News photograph seeks to reassure us that the horror of war is not so bad, but this platitude is belied by my mother’s stare, and by her experience. She was taken from her home and loaded onto a truck with dozens of other children and their mothers, shipped to an island leper colony and then by boat to a prison camp where she saw brutality and disease, knew hunger and witnessed death. She saw men dig their own graves. She saw sons dig graves for their fathers. She was not yet five. Gravely ill with pneumonia in August 1945, she was saved by the dropping of Red Cross medical supplies from allied aircraft. One such drop on 8 September killed a young man who had survived internment without serious illness, the Red Cross crate reducing him as an eyewitness tells it “to a brawn of flesh and bone”. My grandfather, whose face is in shadow in the portrait, risked his life with a group of comrades to spread forbidden news of the war to the other internees, news such as the death of Hitler. Information that kept many prisoners alive and hoping, long enough to survive until liberation. For doing this he was taken to a prison where he died of malaria before he could be executed with his comrades by the Japanese. My grandmother survived internment and returned to the UK where she trained as a teacher at Bletchley Park, the place where the Enigma Code was cracked. Returning expatriates en masse

were discouraged from speaking about the horrors of their captivity for the good of morale in post-war Britain. Many never spoke of it. My mother remembers very little of her four years as a prisoner of the Japanese, just snatches here and there. Being taught to write using a stick in the sand. The taste of a tiny piece of bread and butter airdropped by the Red Cross. She remembers Suga’s sweets. Suga, in defeat, was left alone with a knife long enough to commit suicide, considered an honourable death under the circumstances. The Domei News Agency was disbanded in 1945. It had served its purpose. Hundreds of

photographs had convinced millions of people that all was well. I show the photograph to a friend, saying nothing of its provenance. “What a lovely family!” she says. “How happy they look! Oh, except the little girl. She’s sulking, is she?” Sarah Hilary is an award-winning writer whose fiction appears in Smokelong Quarterly, The Best of Every Day Fiction and MO: Crimes of Practice. She was born in Knutsford, Cheshire not far from the Welsh village where her grandmother and mother settled following their return from Borneo. www.sarah-crawl-space.blogspot.com 133


foreign Affairs column

war stories The Fighters

Take off your shoes, duck your head and enter the mud-walled room. A shudder will run through your body, your eyes will be fogged by images of silk turbans, extravagant beards and eyes deep as the black kohl bordering them. Your brain will try to comprehend the world you have stepped into, only the cold black metal of guns scattered around the room will bring you back to the real world. Under a window, Qomendan Hemmet sat cross legged. His shoulder, sunk in an old military jacket, rested against the wall and a long radio antenna stuck out of his pocket. He had a thick moustache and a neat, well-groomed beard. His fixated eyes were lost somewhere in the middle of the room. The small beads decorating his purple cap glittered and danced in the light. Next to him sat his deputy wrapped in a big blanket, silent and sleepy. Around the room sat the other men, faces contorted by years of fighting and poverty, dressed in shalwar kameez and magazine pouches. Radios crackled, phones rang non-stop, and more fighters came, drunk tea and left with orders. The Qomendan declared that his town, Salar – a small plain of orchards surrounded by the deserts and high mountains – is the “new Falluja”. I didn’t know if the Falluja analogy was courtesy of me being an Iraqi or because like the town of Falluja, Salar is in the middle of a bloody insurgency and surrounded by thousands of US troops. “The Americans and the Afghan army control the highway and five metres on each side. The rest is our territory.” 134

Salar district in Wardak Province, is 60 km south of Kabul. The QandaharKabul road that passes through this district is a major supply line for US and NATO troops. The road is a deja-vu of the Iraqi Falluja road, littered with IED holes and carcasses of burned NATO supply trucks and containers, piles of charred plastic bottles strewn out on the sides of the street. A day earlier, I stood with a dozen Afghan men watching the Qomendan and his men in action. A man straining his eyes to watch had declared in an authoritative voice, janghi – war. The sky echoed his declaration with thuds and explosions. Trucks packed with rocket launchers and militiamen, hired to provide security for the supply convoys, sped away leaving a cloud of dust. Down the road three American armoured trucks filled the air with the crackle of their heavy machine guns. As the sun sunk deep into the horizon the shooting became more intermittent. The whoosh of a very low-flying, dark grey F-16, declared the end – leaving behind two columns of smoke in the horizon. The road to Hemmet’s compound is a dirt track passing between high mud walls and orchards shaded by thin apple trees. In the distance, the fortification of an Afghan Army and police post. “Yesterday I had only 18 fighters,” the Qomendan said, his eyes still fixated. “You saw how many mercenaries and Americans were there. With the blessing of Allah, the fighting is evolving. When I started in this area three years ago I had six fighters, one RPG and two machine guns like these.” He pointed at the BKC

guns that lay idly on the floor. “Now I have more than 500 fighters, 30 machine guns and hundreds of RPGs. The Americans have installed hundreds of Afghan policemen. They patrol the street all the time, but they can’t control it.” Qomendan Hemmet is an old veteran of the Taliban, who started fighting when he was 17 in the Shumali Plains north of Kabul against the Northern Alliance forces in the mid-90s. He went into hiding after the fall of the Taliban and became the commander of the Salar district after the death of the previous commander three years ago. “When we fought against the Northern Alliance we fought face to face but whatever the reason it was a civil war. This war is more difficult, the enemy controls the skies and they have lots of weapons. Sometimes I am scared. Every human being gets scared but we yearn for fighting the Kafirs. It’s a joyful thing.” His lieutenants sat around the room – one spoke perfect Arabic with a thick Saudi accent that he acquired from “fighting alongside the Arab brothers.” His Kalashnikov decorated with green and red tape, was laid on the floor between us. I pointed out that the police checkpoint was actually visible from the roof of the Qomendan compound and if we can see them surely they can see us. “My brother,” he said “those police and army they are like the blind. They don’t see anything.”

The Dancers

The room was dark and cold. A sheet of plastic shivered on small window and tried to stop the chilling draught. It


foreign affairs column

I pointed out that the police checkpoint was visible from the roof of the compound and if we can see them surely they can see us. “My brother,” he said “those police and army they are like the blind. They don’t see anything”

failed. The cold Afghan wind came in, danced around us and left. The men sat silently wrapped in their blankets and drank their tea. Their eyes half closed, they waited for the few red charcoals on a metal plate in the middle of the room to radiate heat and break the heavy cloud of silence that lingered in the air along with the strong smell of hashish. A one-eyed musician opened a bundle of cloth and produced a sitar and started playing a sad tune, but an Azeri man with a long hooked nose and protruding cheekbones grabbed it from him and started humming his own tune. His voice, deep, slow and almost moaning, sunk into a long song about the prophet and then, suddenly and with his fingers tapping the sitar’s wooden belly, the song, the theme and the mood in the room changed in an instant. A belly dancer entered the room dressed in a long red skirt and a red shirt, a scarf covering the face. Dozens of

clinging beads and bells danced with her lean, almost muscular body. Stretching her arms wide open, she stomped her feet and walked-danced from one end of the room to the other. The Azeri man sang loudly and she twisted and sang with him. Shaking her bells and twisting faster she dropped her scarf revealing a handsome face with traces of moustache and a beard. He was a batcha bazi, or a “boy for play”. The practice of taking children as young as 12, and making them dance in public and in private parties – transforming them into a geisha for rich and powerful Afghans – is back and thriving in the north. The host that night was a former Afghan Taliban commander who had switched sides and allied himself with the government in recent years. When it was Mustafa’s, another bacha bazi, turn to dance he just stood in the middle of the room and started taking

off his sweater while his handler opened a small bundle of clothes and produced his dancing clothes. The handler invited another man to have the “honour” of wrapping leather straps around the boy’s hand and feet. His shadows danced on the walls and his deep brown eyes stayed motionless. In a side room another boy was getting dressed. Ahmadi had thick, long hair and smoked a cigarette nervously. As his owner dressed him he stood on a table, his thin boyish arms stretched out while men giggled and laughed. One of them brought the boy’s face down and combed his long hair down his face and parted it to one side. Ahmadi puffed his smoke in the man’s face, stepped down and entered the mud room to perform his own dance. Ghaith Abdul-Ahad is a writer and photographer for the Guardian. Photographs by Ghaith Abdul-Ahad 135


Body image column

an index of dirt All wars are dirty. If you are a photojournalist in the field you are close enough to the blood and stink, perhaps fairly stunk up yourself with sweat and fear and no water to wash. You can cover a Hamas rocket landing in an Israeli homestead and say: this is horror, these are war crimes. Perhaps you are reporting from the other side. Loaded in a taxi, piled on a donkey cart, rushed in someone’s arms, the casualties come to a hospital with minimal resources where death is often the outcome, their passing unrecorded – or if recorded, not widely seen. During the recent Israeli offensive on Gaza I was travelling in a Muslim country where live footage from Arab networks streamed constantly on every café TV screen. People watched horrified, nauseated, weeping as the bodies of babies and mothers were revealed bloody in the rubble. Calls to friends in the US revealed no equivalent distress. These images generally didn’t make mainstream western media. The power of the image is made clear by the furore surrounding the publication in August last year of a surgical reference book, War Surgery in Afghanistan and Iraq: A Series of Cases 2003-2007 by the Office of the Surgeon General, United States Army. Provoking reactions political, medical and military, the outcry about its visceral content circulated well before the volume received public exposure. Military censors tried to have the book refused an ISBN number, which would have prevented it being generally available. The reason for this approach, according to a retired US Army Surgeon General 136

quoted in the New York Times, was a concern among the military command that the graphic images “could be spun politically to show the horrors of war”. Horrors abound; high-velocity gunshot wounds, amputations by blast, injuries from body fragments of other victims dismembered in explosions. Cases are illustrated in vivid detail – digital camera records from the battlefield, “casevac” (casualty evacuation) helicopter and operating table. The book’s publication coincided with complaints by US news photographers that they were being refused access to combat operations for depicting American casualties. The wounded include “host nation ationals”; children shot at roadblocks or blown up by IEDs, pregnant women. Evidence of America’s hunger for veracity may be seen by the book’s ranking at number 67 on the Amazon bestseller list. There is also its tangential appeal as a piece of art, for there has never been a surgical reference work like it. Through the text are photographs of stark beauty, most by Pulitzer recipient David Leeson: portraits of soldiers, helicopters at dawn, a Humvee aflame on a bleak highway. A scan of a shattered pelvis is placed beside a belt of bronze bullets. The myth of surgical omnipotence is dispelled; the first case report describes a badly injured man being subjected to complex surgery in a forward hospital that occupies the entire surgical team for hours and empties the blood bank, only for him to die in the evacuation helicopter. These things happen in war; people die in pitiful ways. A minority get the benefit of the latest medical advances,

the finest surgical care, limitless effort to try to pull them through. But for most there will be no evacuation helicopters, no high-tech intervention. All war is dirty, but not equally so for all those involved. So can you measure how bad it is? Is there a scale to assess the dirt? There are so-called “Laws of War”, articles of international humanitarian law laid down in the Geneva Convention and its Additional Protocols. These forbid the targeting of civilians, and the violation of these laws may be evident by showing that a conflict had lots of noncombatants killed. But war has much wider effects on populations: increased death and suffering from direct violence but also from disease, malnutrition, damage to medical facilities, food supplies and shelter. Communities are disrupted, families separated. Like measles rates or maternal mortality, these are indicators of the state of public health. Analytic tools to measure the health of a populace are proved and tested. Now two academics – Madelyn Hsiao-Rei Hicks, of the Health Service and Population Research Department, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, and Michael Spagat, from the Department of Economics, Royal Holloway College, University of London – have applied these public health principles to the outcomes of armed conflict, creating the “Dirty War Index”. A “dirty” war outcome – civilian death or child injury – can be identified and a simple equation applied: how often did this occur; in this war; from a specific weapon; by this combatant group? The


Body image column

figure obtained is a percentage of how much the particular law of war is being violated. The best achievable Index is zero, indicating that no such cases arose; the worst – 100 per cent, suggesting every incident was “dirty”. Sometimes civilian deaths cannot be avoided but are the collateral consequences of accepted means of warfare such as civilian casualties from bombing of claimed military targets. Some acts – torture, rape, the intentional killing of civilians – are always prohibited, but the occasional case, however deplorable, might be the act of poorly trained, undisciplined soldiery rather than deliberate policy. However, a pattern of committing such violations may suggest a policy of tolerance or of systematic, intentional harm to non-combatants. The targeting of infrastructure necessary for survival – water, food, medical services – provides further Dirty War Indices. Civilian deaths from indiscriminate shelling can be compared to murder by targeted means – handguns and machetes – to identify an atrocity index; high numbers of noncombatants killed with relatively fewer injured might indicate a programme of genocide. The DWI provides a quantifiable measure of the likelihood of war crimes that could assist in the prosecution of political and military leaders. On a similar statistical basis, US Secretary of State Colin Powell was able to assert in 2006 that the Sudanese government was guilty of genocide in its policy in Darfur. Most combatant forces wish to show

All war is dirty – but not equally so for all those involved. So can you measure how bad it is, is there a scale to assess the dirt?

themselves as morally clean while condemning the enemy’s tactics and motives. Both sides will try to manipulate the reporting of outcomes: control of media coverage or access are obvious ways in which this is done. But the Dirty War Index deals in hard fact: the outcomes of conflict. Rates of death and suffering emerge in the end, from Srebrenica, from Rwanda, from Auschwitz and Iraq. At the International Criminal Court in the Hague – humanity’s first attempt to create a permanent forum to hold individuals accountable for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide – an investigation is under way into the murder of civilians by paramilitaries in Colombia’s civil conflict. The court is currently preparing indictments against or conducting trials of Congolese warlords, leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda and ex-Chadian leader Hassan Habre. Journalists bear witness, and the evidence of their reports is sometimes called upon in international courts; describing concentration camps for Bosnian Muslims or the atrocities carried out by Charles Taylor’s forces in Liberia. For a photographer in a war zone, every observation is valuable; phosphorus airbursts, the devastation of a suicidebomb on a bus. The next time they lift that camera it is no longer an impartial act. They may have become a witness for the prosecution. Jonathan Kaplan’s books The Dressing Station and Contact Wounds are published by Picador 137


Fiction

VAMPIRE


Fiction

I

II

III

The birds are like us, they yearn for spring. Today they sound a little agitated, their songs are punctuated with minor notes.

When night comes and the shadows start their dance the demons in my blood awaken; streaming through my veins like a shoal of poisonous fish. By morning, another piece of me has been colonised, another piece of me will belong to them.

Here, democracy is a child; at best, a gangling adolescent. It takes a longer time to unlearn the old ways than it does to learn new ones.

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Fiction

IV His dad paid someone he met to connect them to the mains. Of course, it’s illegal but in the shanties it means real lights, hot water and maybe a satellite TV if you’re lucky. Poor Mihai was just too curious. He had always liked to dismantle things, to see how they worked: toy cars, calculators, the

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old fridge we found on the rubbish tip, he even cut open a dead rook once just to see. Anyhow, he stuck a screwdriver into the connector box and that was it. Dead in a second. Like being struck by lightning. 30,000 volts fired in to him through the tips of his fingers. His bare feet were too dry to act as an earth

and so the electricity stayed in him, whizzed around, cooked him like a blood sausage. When the circuit finally shorted and his dad went to investigate, Mihai had already been dead for a minute or so. Nicu reckons the out-house smelt of roast pork and burnt hair.


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Fiction

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Fiction

V The morning of the funeral, the sun rose reluctantly, sanguine, like a giant egg-yolk blighted with a spot of blood. Mother is a wreck. I think she might have sworn at the Patriarch. I still haven’t been able to cry but she hasn’t

stopped wailing for 32 hours, her eyes have almost imploded, she looks like a zombie. They’ll have to do all they can to stop her jumping in the grave with the casket. Dad’s gone off somewhere; no one has seen him since last night.

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Fiction

VI

VII

The palinca has transformed my grandfather into a wise-man. Three times in as many minutes he tells us it is important that we do not forgot how to smile. He says smiles are like the sun and rain; without them, nothing can grow.

And death was just another door. Nicu placed his brother’s stuff carefully into an old Saltza cracker tin and stashed them next to his new shoes on the bottom shelf of the wardrobe. Not much to show for 12 years of life really: a tarnished silver crucifix, a pen-knife, a tatty A5 scrapbook

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dedicated to Gheorghe Hagi, a single tattered American dollar, a soviet-type lead soldier, two pieces of pyrite and a small collection of lapwing’s feathers. His father still hasn’t come home since the funeral. He’s on another bender, homebrew vodka and painkillers, the usual. I hope they work.


Fiction

All photography by David Gray. Text by Paul Summers. David Gray’s book Vampire, complete with numbered, signed print, is available at www.foto8.com 145


BOOK Spotlight

here comes everybody Here Comes Everybody, that seductive Joycean title indicative of the intense poetry of frozen motion as captured by the eye of Chris Killip, is already responsible for a rolling wave of excitement in the photography publishing world. Not only does the author of the seminal In Flagrante publish rarely, he has never before published works in colour. Alongside a collection of black and white photographs taken in Ireland between 1995 and 2005, Killip presents images from the same region, shot in colour. But this is not the saturated colour of Martin Parr or the naturalistic yet politically potent hues of a Paul Graham. It is colour photography so exquisitely rendered that it might be hand-painted onto a flushed cheek or a weathered window frame. Many of the photographs depict pilgrimages, the famous ones to Croagh Patrick and the less well known, to Mamean, and there is an abiding sense that the book itself is a journey to a sacred place. In the same way that Killip insisted that the now celebrated images of northern England devastated by Thatcher’s programme of deindustrialisation that constituted In Flagrante could only ever be about himself, so this body of work is deeply personal. Historically, Killip had resisted photographing Ireland: firstly, the mother of his son hailed from there; and also because his good friend Josef Koudelka (who had introduced him to his future partner) had photographed the country. He didn’t feel it was his territory. When he was eventually invited 146

to run a workshop in the Aran Islands, off Galway, in 1991 he succumbed to temptation, returning two years later to commence the project. At this time, his mother, calmly announced that her son was of course one quarter Irish… The effect of presenting the black and white photographs to the left and the colour to the right is a curious one. It is as though time has taken on that circular quality, alluded to by Proust, yet suddenly an event will burst forth, animated, into a kind of continuous vibrant present but then as the page is turned will slip back into the ever open archive, only to reappear in a different form on the next right hand page. Looking at the images, the distinctions

between man and nature blur, as bodies become waves and faces metamorphose into craggy rocks. Killip has achieved another groundbreaking work that will become a touchstone for contemporary discussions about stillness and time that permeate not just photographic but philosophical discourse. Max Houghton Here Comes Everybody is published by Thames and Hudson. An exhibition of Chris Killip’s work will be on at Madison Gallery, London from 23 April 2009


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Book Review

Beyond History Vincent Delbrouk Published by Bold Publishing www.beyondhistory.be Eur39.50 (210pp Hardback)

Havana: a city with which we are all surprisingly well-acquainted, despite many of us never having embarked on Cuban soil. Sun-baked turquoise walls, crumbling in an aesthetically pleasing way; iconic old Mercedes, unceremoniously parked; cool-looking people bearing a passing resemblance to the omnipresent figure of Ché. The legacy of photography permits us this knowledge. Photographers are shooting “stock” pictures, for the entirely valid reason of earning a living. Such travel brochure images offer up a fantasy, and a safe one at that. A protective coating of gloss saturates the pictured city, rubbing off sharp corners, domesticating the exotic for extreme viewing comfort. Belgian-born Vincent Delbrouck 154

– alias VD – offers a different perspective with his raw, sweaty vision of Centro Habana, a kind of autobiography from the years he lived there with Cuban friends. Beyond History has a scrapbook aesthetic, in which Polaroids, handwritten letters, transcripts of emails, passages from books with key phrases underlined, jostle for space and attention with photographic portraits, mostly of young Cubans. Some of the photographs have been written on and over, and the effect is both absorbing and unsettling. In eschewing the conventions of both a family album and a photo book, the reader is invited to contemplate this territory on different terms, negotiating between the very private sphere and that of a shared, more public space. Such a tactic works well given what VD is seeking to create: that most elusive state, authenticity. His disregard for the traditional separation between text and image reminds us of the difficulties that underpin representation of any kind. The written incursions onto the photographs obfuscate any attempt to anchor meaning, instead creating, or perhaps revealing a chaotic reading experience. These are lives – like all lives – about which one cannot say as a generalisation: “they live like this.” The book is divided into 10 chapters, or visual poems, in the words of the author, which seem fairly arbitrary. A more persistent structure to the book is that of the ongoing dialogue with Cuban author Pedro Juan Gutiérrez, a master of “dirty realism”, which instantly sounds like a word-perfect description of VD’s oeuvre, his pictures thick with a sweaty

sensuality. Shoulder straps, vest tops, bare torsos, breasts and buttocks are the currency here, revealing that particularly exuberant body confidence absent from British culture. Also assiduously observed is a series of domestic objects and effects – from the circular metal chair with its two mismatched, battered cushions, to an open fridge, two large hunks of polythene-encased meat and a metal flagon crammed into its icebox. The fridge’s yellowing plastic and rusty shelves seem to contain nothing more than shabby water containers and a stray beer. It’s in urgent need of defrosting, but you suspect its owners would rather spend Saturday morning in bed than servicing their whitegoods. And it’s this too-sexy-to-care attitude that has so seduced this book’s author. In the chapter Sea Memories, an exquisite series of pictures flows from an untranslated page from a French novel. A young headscarfed woman in a skyblue vest top looks bored. A manyfingered cactus dominates the next page. A Polaroid of hot young guys on the beach, posing for the camera, follows. Then – and this is exactly when VD’s inclusive vision works its magic – comes a picture of a terrapin in a filthy, broken bowl. This is poetry and antipoetry (the facing page carries a poem by Gutiérrez called “Material Antipoético” – translation in the back). Everything that a consumer-driven society obsessed by perfection would find depressing and cheap and ugly and sad is made beautiful in its unbeauty. This is VD’s great achievement and his great love. Max Houghton


Book Review

Living with War – portraits Judith Joy Ross Published by Steidl www.steidlville.com £27.50 (164pp Hardback)

I once came across a recording of the folk singer John Prine, that tender but sharp witness to the troubled but trying, poor American soul. He was relating to an audience on a quiet day in Washington when, killing time before a show, he went with a friend to find the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. He describes taking the index in hand and, hardly believing the extent of the directory that listed the 58,260 fallen, the friends searched until they found reference to someone they had both known and lost in the conflict. This personal thread, amid the numerous pages of the fallen and ordinary, this brief but important significance, perhaps chimes with the moment that Judith Ross chose to relate in her photographs of similar visitors in 1983. At the same memorial, she photographed with her 10x8 camera

across the first two years of its opening, making the four-hour drive from her small Pennsylvanian town to work there. Ross began a chapter of work that she must have felt moved to do. While maintaining a formal integrity that is consistent with her earlier portraits, her new subject moved beyond those in safe and rural childhoods, who felt an absolute belonging to the America stretching out ahead of them. Under the grey, flat light from which Ross has so often come to build the portraits in this handsome and affecting book, Maya Lin’s solemn construction could never have felt like anyone’s home. Ross’ work is an important extension of a lineage in American portrait photography that moves on from Diane Arbus’ interest in the discordant exotic. Yet perhaps her work more closely acknowledges the quieter America that Chauncey Hare was drawn to in the 1970s – those citizens who people the industries and unremarkable communities and who, when the time inevitably comes, see their children leave to fight the filthy wars. Judith Ross has moved along this trajectory, continuing her consideration of the impact of conflict in 1990 when she photographed reservist soldiers, on Red Alert and waiting for mobilisation to the Gulf War and its inevitable consequences. The emotional register Ross finds in her subject is extended through the precise detail in the resulting negative. It’s in the working procedure that the camera demands and in the acceptance Ross has for the manner in which her subjects hold themselves in front of

her lens. The large format camera meant that she could work in a manner that has paced photography’s many seasons. Isolated by a process that turns backgrounds into shallow pools of shade or shadow, winter light occludes young protesters’ faces, sharpening eyes until they are glass-like, shining and distant. Thinking about the 10x8 camera might bring suggestions of precision, of accuracy, yet there is something successfully loose about Ross’s pictures. There is detail, the shallow depth of focus rendering faces ever more urgently as the book progresses, isolating hair that blows across cheeks on these bright yet never comfortable days. But there is also an openness. Hands sometimes drift out of the frame, the cloth slogans, ribbons and tags pinned onto jackets drift to nothing, their messages dulled. It’s this looseness, the dependence on a few simple elements in the frame that contributes significantly to the aura in Ross’ work. Further refined by the printing-out process, that allows print detail to emerge slowly to daylight before being warm-toned, they rely on very little. The pictures are occasionally confounding in their depth, beautifully clear studies that betray the potential of photography. While making particular the resonance of war, these pictures seem to do more. Perhaps like Prine’s “Sam Stone” – which details the longterm consequences of those affected by Vietnam with such aching detail – they speak of the long term, of the impact on lives that more common histories rarely – or adequately – choose to note. Ken Grant 155


Book Review

Avenue Patrice Lumumba Guy Tillim Published by Prestel www.prestel.com £35 (128pp Hardback)

Civic planning, the physical manifestation of colonial government, has left its mark over much of Africa. In Avenue Patrice Lumumba, South African photographer Guy Tillim’s large colour tableaux record the crumbling architecture and once grand tree-lined streets constructed by European powers in the Congo, Mozambique and Angola. Co-published by the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology and Prestel, and featuring short texts from Robert Gardner and Tillim himself, this mainly pictorial book examines the hybrid landscape produced by the intermingling of these surviving structures with local culture. Referring to principal streets often lined with trees, the French avenue 156

perhaps most strongly evokes the grand town-planning of the 18th and 19th centuries. As European states engaged in huge building projects sweeping away the ramshackle medieval streets, Africa in the 20th century provided the space for colonial governments to implement grand architectural schemes without restraint. So the civic spaces in Tillim’s pictures are familiar, even though the ornamental planting schemes are now overgrown by creepers, the statuary mainly prostrate, and the playgrounds empty and rusting in the sun. Central to colonial town planning were the municipal buildings: office blocks, centres of education and huge hotels. Their clean lines and curving concrete once defined by the bright African sun are depicted here stained and worn. Improvised washing lines hang everywhere: over a dried-up swimming pool, between chimneys, flapping from balconies, the grandeur of the architecture usurped by practical domesticity. As well as the architectural forms, Tillim photographs their half empty interiors. His pictures seem mostly about absence: strong light shines through uncovered windows onto basic furnishings, the spaces – a grand stairwell or an empty office, appear remnants of a time past. At times, people are pictured moving through these buildings: students in a schoolyard, office workers at their desks. However, they rarely engage the camera. These remain portraits of the structures. Unlike in Europe, Africa provided the space permitting members of colonial society to live in the manner of the upper

classes in their native countries. Along with colonial building programmes had come institutionalised segregation of the native populace. However, in the wake of independence, grand streets and squares all over the continent took on new identities. In an assertion of the rights of the native African, many were renamed after Patrice Lumumba, first Prime Minister of the Congo Republic. On independence, Lumumba had famously articulated his people’s anger against colonial power in 1960 in a speech to King Baudouin of Belgium: “All the time our lands were being despoiled in the name of texts claiming to be legal, which, only, however, recognised the right of the strongest… in the towns there were magnificent houses for the whites and ramshackle straw huts for the blacks.” Lumumba’s government was only to survive for 10 weeks – and the deposed Lumumba was arrested and killed a few months later – but his words remain hugely significant within the history of this era. Avenue Patrice Lumumba illustrates how the colonial endeavour is gradually becoming the past, its figureheads felled, its intervention in the African landscape, crumbling and reclaimed by the local populace. That these buildings, though mostly empty, still remain, is for Tillim a reminder of Africa’s continued struggle to shrug off its still recent history. However, by concentrating on their absorption and reuse, he creates a simple yet effective commentary on the reassertion of African identity in a continent in flux. Sophie Wright


Book Review

Transit Tehran Published by Garnet www.garnetpublishing.co.uk £24.99 (240pp Softback)

Early, historical references to Tehran describe an arcadia of tranquil gardens and bountiful orchards and, more surprisingly, networks of secret tunnels where thieves stashed their loot. Today, remnants of those ancient and semi-mythical times are occasionally unearthed as areas of the city are bulldozed in preparation for modern urban developments that spring up to cope with the ever-expanding population of what is now a megacity of over 12 million people. This vast metropolis and its contemporary cultural life is the subject of Transit Tehran, a book that brings together the work of journalists, photographers and artists who live and work in the city. They lead us into the city’s contrasting public and private spaces, its polluted streets, shady parks,

slums, brothels, teahouses, seminaries – and even the successive graves of soldiers killed in the Iran-Iraq war. Through their words and images we encounter a diverse cast of prostitutes, transsexuals, thugs, junkies, clerics, intellectuals, lovers, soldiers and martyrs. The contributors to this book are Tehran’s own people, those whose lives and identities have been shaped by the city and who in turn play an active role in the city’s ongoing cultural transitions. Photographer Omid Salehi’s study of the daily life of an Islamic cleric and his followers was born out of fascination with these revered men whose cloistered world exists in parallel to his own non-religious life. Not without some scepticism, he entered this world to create what is ultimately an illuminating picture of tranquillity and devotion. Javad Montazeri returns to the beach where he spent his childhood summers before the Islamic Revolution. In those days women were free to wear swimsuits. Now they play in the waves with their children wearing full-length black chadors. Montazeri surreptitiously photographs these scenes using his own seven-year-old daughter as his cover. In two summers time she will herself have to adopt the strict dress code. In Abbas Kowsari’s photos of a female police squad on their graduation parade the chador is teamed with semi-automatic rifles. Images of Islamic women wielding guns – their covered faces abruptly drawing associations with masked assassins – are always striking. The accompanying text by Samaneh Ghadarkhan reveals the shifting rules

governing female involvement in public life. The artists in this book work in the context of an authoritarian regime that isn’t shy about censorship. Even when not overtly political, the very nature of their creative inquiries can be deemed a threat to the “psychological security of the society”. Some – like the darkly comic political cartoonist Ardeshir Mohassess – have been forced to work in exile; others find themselves dragged into court and even imprisoned. Khosrow Hassanzadeh uses the aesthetics of propaganda painting to celebrate the “everyday martyrs” in his community. These garish portraits are underpinned by a deep sense of irony and compassion for the people he feels have been let down by the Revolution. Hassanzadeh was once a loyal soldier of the Revolution and later a painter of martyrs for Khomeini’s Basij paramilitary force. That he “didn’t tell the government he was a painter”, withholding his talents from a regime with which he had become disillusioned, was itself a subtle act of political defiance. Edited by Malu Halasa and Maziar Bahari – prominent journalists who work for both the Iranian and Western press – Transit Tehran is perfectly pitched to a Western audience without compromising on quality or depth. Unearthing complex ideas and moments of pathos and humour, it provides an insight beyond the stereotypes of either exotic Persia or rogue Islamic state. As Western leaders debate whether they should “talk to Tehran”, this book allows Tehran talk to us, in myriad rich and compelling voices. Ruby Russell 157


Book Review

Tinyvices vol. 1-5 Kenneth Cappello, Allan Macintyre, Jason Nocito, Robin Schwartz and Jamie Warren Published by Aperture www.aperture.org $29.95 ea (96pp Softback)

The photography world is currently experiencing an influx of a certain type of photographer. Hundreds of them are emulating a Vice-inspired, Terry Richardson style of work – photographs featuring, on the whole, sweaty scenes from nightclubs and bars, drugs, penises, dirty pants and puke – we could call it the “fucked-up” aesthetic. Included in this is the Ryan McGinley model of photographing daily life, in all its banalities. The style, which can only really be defined as a lack of style, is instantaneously recognisable. The market for such work is growing, with countless magazines, collectives and curators perpetuating the drive. One such notable, and hugely popular website, Tiny Vices, was set up by New York curator Tim Barber. Bringing this type of imagery into 158

the book publishing realm solidifies its conquest of the industry. The Tiny Vices Vol. 1-5, published by Aperture, does, however, bring more into the mix. The five bodies of work offer a range of approaches and subject matter, perhaps why they were chosen to represent the work that Tiny Vices has to offer, while leaving the real dirt for the internet. The gem of the lot is Robin Schwartz’s Amelia’s World. Amelia, Robin’s daughter, is pictured in each frame with an animal, either cradling or feeding some creature or having one in the background as she plays in her room. Her preoccupied, thoughtful expressions, usually not aimed at the camera, reveal something else at play here, a sort of indifference towards her pets and the camera. In most of the images we see Amelia with her rather disturbing hairless cat, in others posing with deer, elephants, kangaroos and monkeys. Without descriptive caption information, we can only assume that this family have gained some sort of privileged access to zoos and animal sanctuaries. Overall, the small publication is a strange glimpse into the mind of a child and her relationship with nature. One other volume of note is Allan Macintyre’s Recent Events. The black and white studies in structural landscapes are almost scientific in approach, while the faces emerging from his images of volcanic trees in Hawaii are monstrous and alien. The captions, which are listed in the back, seem to link the work back within the realm of documentary photography, while firmly situated within a more formal landscape tradition

– definitely a refreshing inclusion in the series, but feeling like part of another era of photography. The work of Jamie Warren, in Don’t You Feel Better, brings us back to the type of aesthetic mentioned earlier. Tipped as the next big thing within photography, Warren takes herself as the subject of all her photos, whether it be having just cooked a questionable-looking casserole, in fancy dress with bright-blue face paint, or slyly hidden among a group of plush toys. Her photographs reveal a particular type of lifestyle, dominated by the quest for the bizarre in the banal. The images do lead to a smirk now and again while seeming to mock the narcissism of the Facebook generation. The more abstract work of Jason Nocito, in Loads, concentrates on a dynamic, magazine-y layout – each image demanding concentration. There is pretty much nothing he doesn’t shoot – expect people’s faces, which almost always appear in shadows or turned away from the lens. The final volume, Kenneth Cappello’s Acid Drop is comprised of photos he had taken during early adolescence of himself and his pals testing out skateboarding tricks on their shared half-pipe. The five volumes make an attractive set and rely heavily on each other to make their publishing seem substantial. Even if photography starts heading in another direction, to have these as a document of a trend in the industry is in itself a valuable venture. Lauren Heinz


Book Review

Looking In: Robert Frank’s The Americans Sarah Greenough, Robert Frank Published by Steidl www.steidlville.com £28 (396pp Softback)

In October 1955 Robert Frank left New York City in a Ford Business Coupe and headed south to Miami Beach, before cutting west to St Petersburg, and on through Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. The journey was the first major road trip of the project that resulted 10,000 miles later in The Americans. Frank would drive to Memphis, New Orleans, Las Vegas and up the coast to San Francisco; before returning to the East Coast through Salt Lake City, Chicago and Indianapolis. But only one month into the journey, he was arrested and jailed by Arkansas police. Frank’s crime, it seems, was foreignness. They queried the foreign names he had given his children, Pablo and Andrea; they were suspicious of his foreign-sounding contact, Alexey Brodovitch. They threatened violence and asked if he was a Communist, before

fingerprinting him and insisting that he sign his name under the heading “Criminal”. When he had first arrived in New York eight years earlier he had written to his parents in Zurich, “Never before have I experienced so much in one week as here. I feel as if I’m in a film.” In that same letter home he had added: “There is only one thing you should not do, criticise anything.” The episode is detailed in Sarah Greenough’s monumental Looking In: Robert Frank’s “The Americans” (Expanded Edition) – an exhaustive publication marking the 50th anniversary of one of photography’s most famous and controversial books. Greenough’s volume draws on vintage contact sheets, work prints, letters, manuscripts and interviews to compile a rich and meticulous examination of Frank’s project. Her own chapters outline both the photographer’s early career and the book’s anointed afterlife, while contributor essays cover his relationships with supporter Edward Steichen, friend and mentor Walker Evans, publisher Robert Delpire, and collaborator Jack Kerouac. In 500-plus pages variant crops are comprehensively illustrated; modified sequences are thoroughly explained; itineraries are painstakingly mapped. The whole has been made possible, we are told, by the support and co-operation of (the not-always-co-operative) Frank himself – the irony being that his original hope, he wrote, was to produce a work, “the visual impact of which should be such as will nullify explanation”. Judging by the amount of comment and interpretation The Americans has

since generated, it could be argued that the book has emphatically failed to do any such thing. Initially many of the work’s critics reacted with vitriol, branding it “A Degradation of a Nation!”, “a slashing and bitter attack on some US institutions” and a “wart-covered picture of America”. The photographer was no better: “a joyless man who hates the country of his adoption”. But the emergence of an enduring, now orthodox, re-assessment was evident even by 1967 when one curator wrote to the publishers requesting they reprint the title, describing it as “the most significant book in the history of photography”. As well as providing an authoritative account of many such developments, Looking In collates a full set of chinagraphed contact sheets to accompany the frames in The Americans. Some caution is needed as Frank – cultivating spontaneity, immediacy and intuition – would snip away unwanted negatives on the hoof. Nevertheless, what remains constitutes an unparalleled insight into his working methods and editorial decisions. Some sleights of hand are laid bare: the shot of a New York cowboy seemingly lost in concentration now looks complicit, not stolen; and the repeated compositional effacements and decapitations appear even more pronounced and calculated. In the main though, the impression is of an offhand restlessness, haste and impatience. That said, there are at least 14 frames of the famous elevator girl from Miami – the one who caught Kerouac’s eye. Not even Frank could move far in a lift. Guy Lane 159


Book Review

The Last Days of Shishmaref Dana Lixenberg Published by Episode www.episode-publishers.nl Eur37.50 (208pp Softback)

These are difficult times for the Inupiaq. The elders who once told children about their land, how it rose from the sea and became their home, now try to come to terms with the realisation that their way of life is facing an abrupt and untameable inversion. Situated on an island just off the Alaskan coast, where the Bering and Chukchi Sea meet, the village community of Shishmaref may be lost to the tides by the year 2020. A land that has been drawn from and intimately understood by its inhabitants for centuries is now being aggressively clawed back into a sea that freezes later as each year passes. The storm tides work their attrition over longer and less distinct seasons, battering homes 160

and destabilising the lives of over 600 people. The villagers, who Al Gore has referred to as the world’s first climate change refugees, are unable to finance relocation measures themselves and wait on the government for intervention. Conscious of this hiatus, Dana Lixenberg, on the invitation of filmmaker Jan Louter, photographed among the families and homes of this troubled community over the summer and winter of 2007. Employing a large format process, Lixenberg has worked fluently, in a manner that has become increasingly central to photographers who are developing a fresh sensibility around new documentary work. Like her young Dutch contemporary, Rob Hornstra, or the more familiar Alec Soth, her work is accomplished and detailed, building – through its portraiture, interior details and the careful noting of the land and its seasonal shifts – a refined, substantial understanding of a community that sits at the edge of the US in every sense. The landscape and architecture Lixenberg shows is austere and functional by turn. Housing and workspaces are built on abrasive surfaces of rock and amid browning, lightstarved grasses. Often lost to snow drifts and low light throughout the year, the terrain nevertheless imposes itself, its earthen colours dominating the book for sustained passages. In the dull blue-grey light of a June night sky, children play Eskimo Baseball under the insulated webbing of power-lines. Elsewhere, a mother lifts her baby daughter onto her shoulder. Against a muddy background obscured by simple pale buildings and

hanging silver sea-mist, such details seem small yet poignant interventions. In a book abundant with unpeopled interior studies, gaffer-taped paper pictures of nature scenes and unicornled mythical fantasies regularly interrupt pale and scuffed walls, hinting towards the ideal, towards escape. Sun-bleached family pictures take their place among obituary photographs and ageing portraits, while school pictures speak of the universal etiquettes of adolescence and the life patterns of a wider contemporary world. Indeed wider America is still there to be seen. It’s there in the young people, who Lixenberg has photographed beautifully. Her portraiture is assured and consistent. Young mother Nora Iyatunguk looks softly past the camera, into the space that photography conspires to define as a space of contemplation. Kids listen to Tupac and wear the clothes and attitudes of their wider American contemporaries, yet they are locked into an almost inaccessible region and bound by the sustenance and rituals that the land and sea have shaped over many generations. Looking at these pictures, it’s easy to sense the concerns that must preoccupy each life in Shishmaref and wonder how this community will continue as it eventually, inevitably relocates itself. As each section of this book closes, the sea laps against the land, appearing vivid, daunting and persistent. It becomes clear that it will explode again, working itself into the autumn storms that will surge and trespass, making these concerns ever more desperate. Ken Grant


Book Review

In a Window of Prestes Maia 911 Building Julio Bittencourt Published by Dewi Lewis www.dewilewispublishing.com £19.99 (80pp Hardback)

Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best. In a Window In Prestes Maia 911, a project by young Brazilian photographer Julio Bittencourt, has proven this adage, by already winning several awards: the Leica Oskar Barnack 2007 (Germany), Aperture Portfolio Prize 2007 (USA), and Fundacio Conrado Wessel de Arte 2006 (Brazil), the first of these resulting in its publication as a book by Dewi Lewis. In this group portrait of the residents of one of São Paolo’s biggest squats, Bittencourt uses apartment windows as compositional boundaries within which to frame and emphasise the diversity of this unique community. In March 2006 the residents of Prestes Maia 911, a 22-storey tower block, were told that they were to be evicted within 28 days. The building had been left to fall into disrepair by its landlord, and despite appearing to stand empty for over a decade, was inhabited by some 1,630 people. Previously homeless, these included 468 families and 315

children, who had moved into the tower block in 2002 with the support of a local action group. A derelict building that had once been riddled with drug users was subsequently turned into a vibrant community which although still impoverished included educational facilities and workshops. Bittencourt gives his project its structure by photographing some of the individuals and families that make up this improvised community using a compositional device, which repeated as it is throughout the book, helps highlight the differences between his sitters. Framing his subjects in the windows of their apartments looking out at the photographer, he has intervened to recreate a common experience of the city – that of catching glimpses into the private lives of our close neighbours between blinds and curtains. But we are invited in: the camera lens does not intrude, rather the photographer chooses to collaborate with his subjects. Bittencourt’s project coincides with a time when the density of the world’s urban population has officially outstripped that of the rural. Pressure on facilities and accommodation from economic migration have long been an issue in the world’s capital cities, and in São Paolo and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, the favelas are spread across large areas of public land, often butting up against the most wealthy areas. By picturing the residents of this high-rise slum, separately composed into their living units, Bittencourt breaks up the homogeneity of their socio-economic circumstances. Rather than representing

them as poor or dispossessed, these scenes are intended on distilling their humanity. And through the rigour of photographing within the strict limitation he has imposed, Bittencourt builds up the texture of this community. The exterior walls of Prestes Maia 911 – dark, grainy and graffiti’d concrete – are reproduced in black and white, emphasising their drabness. Most of the windows are also in a state of disrepair – many having lost their glass are boarded over with scrap metal or wood. However, within these window frames glow little tableaux of domesticity, which the photographer has chosen to pick out in colour. Through an opening behind a board a young girl, flanked by her parents, emerges from a darkened interior. In another, a woman stands behind washing, combing her hair with a bright pink plastic comb. Improvised curtains of various kinds provide their inhabitants with warmth and privacy. The urge to decorate and improve is signified by the plants and flowers sitting in cans on some windowsills. The strength of this work is cumulative in its nature. Within his images Bittencourt has recorded not just a community but most of the stages of human development – from single men and women, to couples, young and old, to the pregnant woman and her partner, and the mothers and fathers with their children. The simplicity and repetition of the composition serves to emphasise the individuality of the people living within this tower block and in so doing, the richness of this threatened community. Sophie Wright 161


Book Review

Anna fox: photographs 1983-2007 Anna Fox Published by Photoworks www.photoworksuk.org £24.99 (288pp Hardback)

As much as Anna Fox’s work – intelligently and beautifully presented in this Photoworks monograph – draws from a British colour documentary photographic tradition allied with her former tutors, Martin Parr and Paul Graham, there are substantial differences of generation, class and gender. And then there is the question of subjectivity and documentary. Parr and Graham’s work maintained the detachment typical of the documentary tradition– nothing so raw and frank as Fox’s Cockroach Diary, 1996, a small book made in reaction to her London home’s infestation of cockroaches and its damaging effect on the relationships between those in the household. In her first major series, Work Stations, 1987-88, she offers an unflattering and critical view of office life under Thatcherism, the pictures’ 162

awkward, fractured compositions reiterate the social discord of the people photographed. One photo showing the gusto with which one suited male shovels his breakfast into his mouth succinctly symbolises the greed of such a culture. In her next series, Friendly Fire, 1989-94, she draws attention to the bullish behaviour of yuppies in their leisure time, picturing the spectacle of paintball war games. In the pictures of her London home, 41 Hewitt Rd, 1996-1999, the disorder seems to serve as a corollary of the state of the social relations of its inhabitants. One photograph in Friendly Fire shows a full figure cutout photo portrait of Margaret Thatcher, a target dripping in paint, set against a backdrop of trees in winter. The picture could serve as an apposite icon of Fox’s own rage and anger towards Conservatism. And this may well explain the severity and cruelty of her depiction of women’s lives in her grandmother’s village in West Sussex – The Village, 1991-3 – where through harsh flash-light and cropping, many of the women appear graceless and predatory, mouths open and hands grabbing. In Country Girls, 1996-2001, a collaboration with the musician and long-time friend, Alison Goldfrapp, we shift from pictures parodying portraits of the country woman, to a gothic series in which the country girl is portrayed as victim, with Goldfrapp positioned and photographed like a mannequin or corpse, face down in the back of a truck or in the mud. In Cockroach Diary and the bookwork, My Mother’s Cupboards and My Father’s

Words, 1999, Fox is most explicit about dysfunctional family relationships. In the latter, meticulous photographs of ordered objects in cupboards speak of a bourgeois order and polite front, a façade that is rudely shattered by transcriptions of the language of abuse directed at the women in the household by the father, as he succumbs to illness. In Cockroach Diary the insects serve as a powerful abject symbol for all the anxieties, fears and conflicts that erupt among the members of the household, a social discord openly revealed through pages of the diary Fox kept at the time, a facsimile copy of which forms part of the book. While a lot of emphasis is given to social discord and disharmony by the photographs in this book, there are still important points of affirmation and affiliation. Her pictures of the aftermath of raves in rural Hampshire, Afterwards, 1983-1996, showing the sated and wasted bodies of revellers, collapsed amid all the debris left after the parties are over, convey a sense of reverie and loss. But they also point to a very different culture within village life. And it is with such a culture that Fox identifies: a culture splendidly celebrated in the longstanding series of portraits she has made, and is still making, of her outlandish village friend, Linda Lunus, Pictures of Linda, 1983-, a durational documentary that pays tribute to one woman’s changing flamboyant styles and looks over the years, a portraiture in which one can sense an enduring friendship and a close collaboration. Mark Durden


Book Review

commonsensual: The work of rut blees luxemburg Published by Blackdog www.blackdogonline.com £29.95 (208pp Hardback)

Geographer-essayist Rebecca Solnit once observed that “the world seems to be made more and more of stuff we’re not supposed to look at… These spaces tend to be grey, the grey of unpainted cement, asphalt, steel and accumulated grime; and they tend to be either abandoned or frequented by people who are also discards, a kind of subterranean realm hauled to the surface.” Her immediate subject was Los Angeles, but her comments apply equally well to the city spaces that provide the content for the photographs of Rut Blees Luxemburg. Urban areas, that is, in which chain-link fences and stairwells, gutters, tower blocks, underpasses and tail-lights form typical iconographical components. Commonsensual surveys more than 10 years of her work, often eschewing a strict chronological ordering in favour of sequences and alignments suggesting new continuities and points of contact between disparate projects. Vertiginous Exhilaration – a startlingly disorienting view earthwards from the 14th floor of a tower block from 1995, for example,

is succeeded by an unmistakably street-level cracked paving slab and puddle from 2007. A chapter entitled Memory Wall Paper assembles a group of wall surfaces – painted, graffiti’d, cracked, peeling – in diverse locations photographed over an eight-year period. The remarkable consistency of Luxemburg’s interests facilitates – invites even – a retrospective remixing of her output. The cityscapes are always photographed under the same conditions: at night using available light and correspondingly long exposures (of up to 20 minutes). Under these circumstances individuals, traffic and human nightlife are usually absent. A further degree of unity is conferred by the pale amber washes that cover many of her subjects: throughout the collection the high contrasts and unearthly pallor of sodium street lighting illuminate the unpeopled compositions of concrete, tarmac, water and brick. The street lights are on, but nobody’s home. There is coherence too in the places and spaces to which she returns. She is drawn to the city’s nondescript transitional crannies: anonymous corners where commerce, retail and the “sights” wither, to be supplanted by empty playgrounds and deserted multi-storeys. Luxemburg’s preferred means of reconnaissance is the random night-time walk: “I wander, but I go to places that are attractive to me.” But her meanderings are a markedly different way of experiencing the city from those of, say, the Baudelairian flâneur. She has no use for sites of public display, gratification and consumption, and

would perhaps agree with another 19th century urban wanderer, Victor Hugo, when he wrote, “To wander in a kind of reverie, to take a stroll as they call it, is a good way for a philosopher to spend his time; particularly in that kind of bastard countryside, somewhat ugly but bizarre, made up of two different natures, which surrounds certain great cities.” A more recent precursor to her project, again in search of the city’s “different natures”, is the dérive – the unguided journeying through what Guy Debord described as the “eclectic melange of… decayed elements which cover the most industrially advanced zones.” Luxemburg too seeks out the unexpected juxtapositioning of the incongruous: in The Retreat a “wild” rocky outcrop acts as a foil to the sleek modernist architecture beyond; in Faust 2, the classical robes and coiled serpent of a statue contrast with high-rise flats; and in Corporate Leisure, a caged and floodlit rooftop tennis court is bordered by its nemesis – in the form of office blocks – the workplace. “I want to suggest possibility,” Luxemburg has said, “to allow desire to enter the overlooked spaces of the city. Participation is possible in these areas… they are not controlled places, they could be so much more; sites for other things to happen. I walk the city at night, looking for the places where these contradictions are clear.” Commonsensual is the fullest survey of Luxemburg’s photography and, as such, her most complete and compelling account of those contradictions. Guy Lane 163


Exhibition Review

Videofile Michael Nyman De La Warr Pavillion 24 January – 15 March 2009 www.dlwp.com

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It’s an exciting moment when one of the world’s greatest contemporary composers reveals his other abiding passion to be photography and film. Equally exciting, then, that in his first visual exhibition Michael Nyman should choose to incorporate both his music and location sound with his “videoscapes”. Because music is so obviously what Nyman does, it’s something that could easily be overlooked in this stimulating space on Bexhill beach. The relations between music and image are not well understood or theorised and while Barthes is the obvious point of reference here (with Image Music Text) or perhaps the Philip Glass Qatsi series, I felt ill-equipped to describe the effects of this unique interdisciplinary venture, other than to say, resoundingly, it works! For Barthes, music leads directly back to the body, freeing it from the system of signs to which the writer or photographer is beholden. He also uses the structure of music as an analogy for consideration of a text; for Nyman, who coined the term “minimalist” in relation to music, we might usefully consider his visual work in this way. In a gallery full of neat screens with headphones, Tuning for the Tune stands out as a study of a street musician in Lisbon, allowing the viewer to observe him as he tunes his defiantly home-made guitar. In one long take, the camera does not stray from the man’s fingers. The assumption is that the man will sing and play guitar, but once the painstaking tuning process is over, we understand the guitar is a minor player in a

twohander, the leading role awarded to the human voice whistling. Here the idea that music leads straight to the body makes sense; this is an exquisite climax, a moment of Barthesian jouissance. The first piece of work encountered in the gallery is Love Train. In this exquisitely observed film, the camera focuses for 10 full minutes on the couplings or buffers between the carriages of a moving train. Bound together, yet always on the verge of missing the embrace offered by the other, it’s impossible not to think of this work as a bittersweet meditation on human relationships. These two works and others in the show – the metal bangers in the Iranian square, the giant turbines and dwarfing machinery of Tea Factory – are in essence documentary, or, more specifically, adhere to an aesthetic of surveillance. Witness I and II, however, operate in a different realm. Here Nyman has purposely sought the artistic by way of the invisible to create a testament to gypsies and Jews, interned at Nazi concentration camps. Nyman works with existing fabrics and textures from the environment through which he fades out faces. Elsewhere, a brief work featuring the model Milla Jovovich is a misjudgment, and the photographic montages seem like an afterthought. On the whole, Nyman has created a compelling body of work, which in relation to music and image working together, sets the bar almost unfeasibly high. Max Houghton


Exhibition Review

index Sean Snyder Institute of Contemporary Arts 12 February – 19 April 2009 www.ica.org.uk

Sean Snyder’s Index at the ICA is the first showing of a work in progress through which the artist is exploring and transforming his own vast archive of material relating to war, propaganda and the dissemination of political ideas. The first part of the show is a glimpse into his working practices and his exploration of data as raw material to be reproduced, edited, manipulated, corrupted or destroyed. Snyder reveals elements of his archive and their various forms from physical matter to abstract ideas. At one end of the spectrum close-ups of the grooves and textures of analogue data sources make for abstract photographs resembling some kind of interference malfunction like snow on a television screen; some are on whiteboards recalling evidence in a criminal investigation. Clinical photographs of the material forms in which data is stored – CDs, paper files, electronic hard drives – again hint at the idea of evidence. As we reach the level in which the content of the data comes into play, Snyder plays with importance of context, or the lack of it. Seemingly random collections of images are captioned only with ambiguous files names; in a Soviet propaganda film on educational art exhibitions in the Ukraine, the makers’ methods and intentions are obvious if somewhat crude, while a piece of film of Soviet soldiers in Afghanistan was produced for reasons that can now only be guessed. Intriguing as these dislocated scraps of data are, the bulk of the show does more to reveal the obsessive nature of Snyder’s

processes than infect us with his passion. Moving on to, Casio, Seiko, Sheraton, Toyota, Mars, however, the austere, monotone feel of the show gives way to a fast-paced edit of photography and footage from the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Here we are presented with a vision of information being processed and packaged into palatable forms for mass consumption and traded on a global market. With the previous works fresh in our minds, we cannot fail to be sensitised to the complex process of research and editing that has gone into the making of this film. With its voiceover and charged subject matter you could almost, in another context, take this as a piece of political commentary. But the sequence that Snyder has constructed seems to follow the almost organic flow of the data itself. Textbook photojournalism is deconstructed. Brands involved in the production of images of war or represented in them are reeled off, and a trail of dossiers, articles, advertisements and official statements is followed along paths that refuse to differentiate between content, form and context. Trying to keep up with the barrage of information and its complex implications in this final film, suddenly the rest of the show doesn’t seem so bland. It not only allows for a more reflective space, but contributes a powerful argument that in abandoning the need for explicit conclusions in favour of exploration, conceptual art can make an important contribution to the contemporary debate around the war of images. Ruby Russell 165


Exhibition Review

Episode III Renzo Martens Wilkinson 16 January – 22 February 2009 www.wilkinsongallery.com

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Video artist Renzo Martens is not one to shy away from controversy, even if it means pissing off his fellow colleagues. In his most recent work, Episode III, Martens looks at the industry of poverty in Africa, taking Congo as his main character, along with himself. (His first, Episode I, was a journey to Chechnya in which he asked the war-ravaged people: “Enough about you – what do you think about me?”. Mysteriously, Episode II seems to be absent). As Martens treks through the jungle, complete with a posse of porters to carry his large trunks, he holds his camera out in front of himself, looking in. We see his expressions and hear his voice throughout the 88 minute-long film. The film opens with Martens talking to a plantation worker. The usual questions are asked: “How much do you earn a day? For how many hours work?” And the answers are what you would expect: he works 12 to 15 hour days for a pittance to try and feed his family of four. The film continues in this manner, “exposing” extreme poverty and degradation. It is when Martens begins to question the media and NGOs operating in Congo, that his agenda comes to the fore. Happening upon a small village, Martens discovers a hut used by a group of photographers as a studio and office space. They tell him that they try and make a living out of photographing birthday parties and weddings, for about $10 a month. With this knowledge, Martens takes it upon himself to try and educate them in the ways of the press photographer, who, he explains can make somewhere in the region of $1000

a month. But, there is a catch – the press photographers’ pictures are of conflict and misery. He takes the photographers to hospitals and teaches them to target the “best” subjects, mostly dying children and their grieving mothers. He then takes them to the rather odious-looking boss at MSF where, after a lot of back-stepping, they are told their pictures aren’t good enough. Ultimately the venture is a doomed one and, we can only guess, that is exactly what Martens had imagined would happen, or had planned, in order to make his point: there’s no way out of this vicious cycle so you may as well try and enjoy your poverty. And, to initiate the celebration, he reveals what has been lugged around by his porters in the large trunks, a neon sign spelling out “Enjoy Poverty”. It is lit up with a generator and villagers are encouraged to dance around it into the night. While flawed in a number of his approaches and also plain weird at times (singing Neil Young while walking through the jungle in a very Apocalypse Now moment) Martens does raise some valid points and the end product is just downright depressing. What is unclear throughout the film is Martens’ motives and sincerity. While obviously dedicated to bringing up unspoken issues, is this a work of art, created for his own selfish purposes? Or does he genuinely believe in his newly formed mantra? Taking into account his choice of audience to pursue by screening the work in the exceedingly trendy, concrete interior of an upmarket gallery, I know what I think. Lauren Heinz


Exhibition Review

Stranger Than fiction Kate Peters Format Festival 6 March – 5 April 2009 www.formatfestival.com

From 1867 to 1869, Timothy O’Sullivan was commissioned as the official photographer for the Geological Exploration of the 40th Parallel, a government funded survey of uncharted territories in the American West, to investigate the region’s mining prospects and attract settlers westward. His exacting documentation of unspoilt landscapes set a powerful precedent for how America, both country and concept, would and should be photographed. The American West has of course been thoroughly settled, its natural resources fully exploited, and its topography entirely transformed since then. Yet to this day, countless photographers traverse this strange landscape, mining it not for minerals or prophecies of a utopian future, but for open narratives and suggestive moods. “Santa Barbara is a paradise; Disneyland is a paradise; the US is a paradise,” wrote Jean Baudrillard, “Mournful, monotonous, and superficial though it may be, it is a paradise.” At the recent Format Festival, much of the work centred around explorations of Baudrillard’s “paradise”. The secret of this shared fascination lay in the festival’s theme, Photocinema. As one of the country’s most influential exports, American cinema has followed O’Sullivan’s example and, perhaps more so than photography, served to define the country’s mythology and perpetuate its cultural ideologies throughout the 20th century. Perceptions of America are now principally defined by filmic fictions rather than fundamental facts. Among the most successful

investigations into this “unreal reality” – or “real unreality” – of contemporary America was Stranger Than Fiction by British photographer, Kate Peters. Although Peters’ photographs are as exacting as O’Sullivan’s – in that they are unconstructed, “direct” responses to the American landscapes she encountered – they also play upon the century and a half’s worth of photographic and cinematic templates embedded within visual culture. A lone police car traversing a winding road through an idyllic mountainscape addresses traditional themes of natural grandeur and expansionism into the “Wild West”, but also triggers comparisons with Ansel Adams’ Snake River twisting towards the Grand Tetons or Joel Sternfeld’s Exhausted Renegade Elephant being cooled by the local sheriff in American Prospects. A view of a bear stalking the otherwise generic Mountain Motel recalls the sign-infested works of Lee Friedlander, or Stephen Shore’s Uncommon Places, whilst also inferring the foreboding of Hitchcock’s Psycho or David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. Viewed through Peters’ lens, these anonymous places become transformed into loaded locations – film sets awaiting the arrival of the crew, or establishing shots, setting the stage for a climactic scene. Furthermore, as both the images and the series title suggests, Peters sees this country as one where stories are now firmly rooted within the landscape, often obscuring if not entirely superseding its reality. It is within such fabrications that the truth of America can be found. Aaron Schuman 167


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panos pictures tel +44 20 7253 1424 email pics@panos.co.uk web www.panos.co.uk A former West German army depot photographed 20 years after the end of the Cold War. Š MARTIN ROEMERS

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CLOSING DATE 24 JULY 2009 FIRST PRIZE: £12,000 Visit www.npg.org.uk/photoprize from 4 May – 6 July 2009 to enter online or to obtain an entry form by post send an A5 S.A.E to: Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2009 National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place, London WC2H 0HE T. 0870 112 6772 E. photoprize@npg.org.uk Sponsored by

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students And degree shows

School of the

International Center of Photography 2009–2010 FULL-TIME PROGRAMS ICP-Bard MFA Program in Advanced Photographic Studies Nayland Blake, Chair General Studies in Photography Marina Berio, Acting Chair Documentary Photography and Photojournalism Alison Morley, Chair Apply now for rolling admissions

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ICP-Bard MFA Thesis Exhibition Opening: Friday April 10, 6–9 pm April 10–June 7 General Studies in Photography Documentary Photography and Photojournalism Opening: Friday June 26, 6–9 pm June 26–August 16

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2009 ICP EDUCATION GALLERY EXHIBITION CALENDAR

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Students and degree shows

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Seba Kurtis / New Works 8 June – 4 July

Church, Guadalupe


On my Shelf

sources of inspiration Michael Nyman I’ve included a book I haven’t yet read in my selection: Rhetorics of Surveillance from Bentham to Big Brother, edited by Levin, Frohne and Weibel. I bought it in art video institute in Karlsruhe, Germany. It’s so heavy – 656 pages – I can barely lift it. When I’m touring [20 concerts in the spring], I shall take it on the road and devour it. The subject of surveillance interests me because we live in an overcontrolled society. I became embroiled in the debate recently when I was on holiday in Mexico, reading the Guardian online about my local gastropub in Islington, The Draper’s Arms, which was being forced to observe its own punters via surveillance cameras. I was feeling so free in Mexico City, which is supposed to be one of the most dangerous cities in the world, and here was the fucking government controlling our lives to no particular purpose. I suggested everyone should wear Mexican wrestling masks, and found myself on the front page of the Islington Tribune! Unfortunately the government used events like 9/11 and 7/7 as an excuse to snoop and spy, using “security’’ and “safety from crime’’ as a reason to do what? Sell information collected from our emails to commercial companies? We are governed by kneejerk fuckwits, intellectual pygmies who don’t even know what to do with their hoard; they’re not even as intelligent as Stalin. Yet politicians are allowed to keep their

secrets secret. So I am very keen to read this book, which draws on Bentham’s ideas of the Panopticon as a surveillance technique and has chapters by Zizek and Foucault as well as artists. In publishing Sublime [Nyman's photobook with accompanying music] I need to think about whether I have the right to expose this information about people in a photograph. Painting and Experience in Fifteenth Century Italy is a brilliant book by Michael Baxandall about early Renaissance art, but it’s not a work of art history, it’s about patronage and the ways in which an artwork may be commissioned. In 1985 my painter friend Paul Richards and I made a short artists’ video for the new Channel 4, and part of the text for it was taken by me from this book. There was a sermon from 1492 by a Dominican monk which expressed how our feelings are aroused more by things seen than by things heard; that images are important to us because of our inability to remember. As a composer that was interesting because I think I have made some memorable sound images. My copy of Ahead of the Game: Four Versions of Avant Garde by Calvin Tomkins is inscribed “Michael Nyman 25 January 1968’’. It was this book and its attention to artists such as Duchamp, John Cage, Rauschenberg and John Tinguely (whom no one seems to rate any more) that inscribed my first interest in avant garde music and art. It led me to write Experimental Music over a four year period, 1970-74. I had coined the term “minimal music” in October 1968 when I was working as a music critic, a term that has stuck. I bear the scars both as a composer and a writer! Though I had been training to be a musician since I was eight years old, I would say my interest in visual art became apparent in the early 1960s when I was hanging out with Peter Greenaway and we would watch Goddard, Fellini, Visconti together. Cage, Duchamp, photography and found objects offered an alternative to how I appear as a composer. Heber Springs Portraits came to me in a totally bizarre way. I was with a girlfriend in Santa Fe, and we were looking for a bookshop which wasn’t there. So we went into a shop next door to the missing bookshop, which sold Indian artefacts. A rather haughty

woman was watching us, sure we weren’t going to buy anything, when I saw a pile of photo books. They were by Toba Tucker (the woman who was watching us) and she had created them from the work of a small-time Arkansas photographer called Mike Disfarmer, who had photographed Heber Springs in the 1940s and ’50s. Toba Tucker had gone back in the 1990s to interview Disfarmer’s subjects and rephotograph them, creating a work of oral history as well as photography. So all because of a missing bookshop, I discovered the work of Mike Disfarmer, and went on to become part of the Disfarmer industry, buying a set of new prints. And now I would like to make an opera or a stage production, using the character of Disfarmer – so fascinating because of the way in which he recreated himself, changing his name in that way – and also the character of Miroslav Tichy, a photographer whose life project was the surveillance of women in the town of Brno. The two men were opposites in a way: Disfarmer, a product of capitalist America, loathed his fellow citizens, and used his clean backdrop to photograph dispassionately. Tichy lived under Communist rule in Czechoslovakia, where he was himself under constant surveillance, before ending up in a lunatic asylum. I think it could make an interesting operatic work. My final choice is the work of Enrique Metinides, who I met recently in Mexico thanks to Tricia Ziff. I discovered his work in The Photographers’ Gallery and was fascinated by his observation of people observing traffic catastrophes. Now I can’t find the catalogue from the exhibition and I must have it; I need it! He has a huge collection of toys – ambulances, nurses, fire engines and the like – that he is now incorporating into his photographic work. He is positioning the toys in front of his photographs, replicating the scene in the image and rephotographing the two worlds to create a single new world from his toy world and the “real” world. I feel another opera coming on… An exhibition of Michael Nyman’s photography and short films will be on at Sketch, London from 25 April – 13 June. Michael Nyman was talking to Max Houghton


The FOTO8 Award & Summer SHOW 2009 A PHOTOGRAPHIC EXHIBITION AWARD AND London 17 july – 31 August

PRINT FAIR OPEN TO ALL PHOTOGRAPHERS

have your photographs exhibited in London’s prestigious HOST Gallery, seen and judged by respected industry professionals from the photography, arts and media worlds, with a chance to win £1500 IN the SECOND Annual Foto8 Award for Best in Show.

Over 150 prints selected from all entries will be curated by the Foto8 team. The work will be exhibited for public viewing, voting and Purchasing. FOR more information on the summer show and for guidelines on how to enter your work, please go to www.foto8.com/summershow

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Issue 25  

Issue 25: Soil