RPS Journal November-December 2021

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The Journal of The Royal Photographic Society TYLER MITCHELL

The Journal of The Royal Photographic Society November / December 2021 Vol 161 / No 6 rps.org

November / December 2021 Vol 161 / No 6 rps.org

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The RPS Awards 2021 issue Tyler Mitchell, Bruce Davidson, Lola Flash, Alec Soth and more

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Opening shot KEEP IN TOUCH WITH THE RPS

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Contact the editor with your views rpsjournal@thinkpublishing.co.uk

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‘THE AWARDS HONOUR WORK THAT CAN CHALLENGE, MOVE, DELIGHT AND EVEN DISTURB’

ART PRODUCTION BRUCE DAVIDSON HonFRPS / MAGNUM PHOTOS

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It is a secret pleasure each year to find out who the RPS Awards recipients are weeks before they are announced. Then the challenge is to keep the list to ourselves as the RPS Journal team plan and create a special awards issue featuring some of the world’s most innovative image-makers. From scientists to film-makers, artists to photojournalists, the recipients are honoured by the RPS for work that can challenge, move, delight and even disturb the viewer. This year we highlight just some of this year’s impressive recipients, including Alec Soth HonFRPS, whose unique form of portraiture is arrived at by highly personal means; Tyler Mitchell, the first African American to shoot a cover for Vogue; and Zelda Cheatle HonFRPS, the formidable curator and educator, accompanied by her rescue dog, Iris. The Centenary Medal goes to veteran Magnum photographer Bruce Davidson HonFRPS, who began taking pictures at age 10 in Illinois. His love of photography was reignited when he joined the US Army and was posted to Paris, where he met the great Henri Cartier-Bresson, a founder of Magnum Photos. Almost seven decades later, Davidson is still working, but has taken time out to select for us his ‘Best shots’, including work from his Brooklyn Gangs and American Civil Rights projects. Progress Medal recipient Katie Bouman HonFRPS is renowned for two images. The first and most important, produced by Bouman and a team of other scientists, is the visualisation of the black hole at the centre of galaxy M87. You can find the image on page 636. The second, showing a gleeful Bouman as the black hole image first appears on her computer screen, went viral on social media. I can’t see either of these pictures without thinking of the other. The lineup of formidable talent continues, each recipient impressive in their own field – you can find the complete list on page 586. All their work leaves an impression, but the photography of Lola Flash HonFRPS resonates in an unexpected way. Its trick is to pull you in before you even know it is challenging your assumptions about gender, sexuality and race. “Now I can see the light – people are seeing me,” Flash says with characteristic humility after three decades on the frontline as a visual activist. We have much to be thankful for.

KATHLEEN MORGAN Editor ‘Selma, Alabama, USA, 1965’ by Bruce Davidson HonFRPS/Magnum Photos NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2021

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WELCOME


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The RPS Awards 2021 issue 628 608

OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION TO PHOTOGRAPHY

HONORARY FELLOWSHIP

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Groundbreaking personal photographer Alec Soth HonFRPS emerges from lockdown to speak – and not speak – about work in progress

As enthusiastic about photography as ever, Zelda Cheatle HonFRPS looks forward to projects as author, editor and curator

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Recipient of the RPS Cententary Medal 2021, Bruce Davidson HonFRPS guides us through some of the many memorable images from his wide-ranging career

Activist and artist Lola Flash HonFRPS welcomes the increasing recognition for her life’s work celebrating gender fluidity and change

The work of scientist Dr Katie Bouman HonFRPS often touches on the visual – especially when it comes to world first images of black holes

BEST SHOTS

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HONORARY FELLOWSHIP

PROGRESS MEDAL

BRUCE DAVIDSON HonFRPS; ALEC SOTH HonFRPS; LOLA FLASH HonFRPS; TOM HUNTER HonFRPS; EVENT HORIZON TELESCOPE COLLABORATION ET AL

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As a curator and organiser, Azu Nwagbogu has reframed photographic representations of Africa

Read the full text of this important address delivered by RPS President and Chair of Trustees Simon Hill HonFRPS to the 2021 RPS Annual General Meeting

AWARD FOR PHOTOGRAPHIC CURATORSHIP

PRESIDENT’S ADDRESS

Cover story EDITORIAL, ADVERTISING AND FASHION AWARD

Tyler Mitchell’s radical portraits of Beyoncé and Kamala Harris are part of his photographic project bringing into being a ‘Black utopia’

OMAR VICTOR DIOP; MARK REEVES ARPS; ANDREW HAUGEN ARPS; TYLER MITCHELL

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RPS INTERNAL AWARDS

We speak to the recipients of this year’s Members’ Award and Fenton Medals, recognising significant contributions to the Society NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2021

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Staff List VERSION REPRO OP

THE ROYAL PHOTOGRAPHIC SOCIETY RPS House, 337 Paintworks, Arnos Vale, Bristol BS4 3AR, UK rps.org frontofhouse@rps.org +44 (0)117 316 4450 Incorporated by Royal Charter

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Patron HRH The Duchess of Cambridge

Editor Kathleen Morgan rpsjournal@thinkpublishing.co.uk 0141 375 0509

President and Chair of Trustees Simon Hill HonFRPS

Contributing Editor Rachel Segal Hamilton

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Treasurer Position vacant

Designers John Pender, Tim Benton, Alistair McGown

Trustees Nicola Bolton ARPS, Gavin Bowyer ARPS, Sarah J Dow ARPS, Andy Golding ASICI FRPS, Mervyn Mitchell ARPS, Dr Peter Walmsley LRPS

Managing Editor Andrew Littlefield

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Editorial Assistant Jennifer Constable

Directors Development: Tracy Marshall-Grant Finance and HR: Nikki McCoy Programmes: Dr Michael Pritchard FRPS

Advertising Sales Elizabeth Courtney elizabeth.courtney@thinkpublishing.co.uk 0203 771 7208

Published on behalf of The Royal Photographic Society by Think, 20 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JW thinkpublishing.co.uk

Client Engagement Director Rachel Walder

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Chief Executive Officer Evan Dawson

Circulation 10,604 (Jan-Dec 2020) ABC ISSN: 1468-8670

The Journal of The Royal Photographic Society

November / December 2021

Vol 161 / No 6

© 2021 The Royal Photographic Society. All rights reserved. The ‘RPS’ logo is a registered and protected trademark. Every reasonable endeavour has been made to find and contact the copyright owners of the works included in this publication. However, if you believe a copyright work has been included without your permission, please contact the publisher. Views of contributors and advertisers do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Royal Photographic Society or those of the publisher. All material correct at time of going to press.

CONTRIBUTORS

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Graeme Green (page 588)

Simon Bainbridge (page 608)

Gemma Padley (page 618)

A photographer and journalist for media outlets including the BBC, the Guardian and the Sunday Times, Green is also founder of conservation initiative the New Big 5 project

Editor of the British Journal of Photography for 17 years, Bainbridge received the 2019 RPS Award for Photographic Publishing and is the author of the book Magnum Artists

Padley is an editor, journalist and author who specialises in photography. She works with clients including Getty Images, Magnum Photos and the BBC

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Nursery meltdown

BY JENNIFER HAYES/WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR PRODUCTION CLIENT

This image of nature at its most raw captivated the selectors of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021 competition. Taken by USA-based Jennifer Hayes, the photograph won in a new competition category, ‘Oceans – The Bigger Picture’. Hayes searched by helicopter for hours to find this fractured sea ice, used as a birthing platform by harp seals. “It was a pulse of life that took your breath away,” she says. Every autumn, harp seals migrate south from the Arctic to their breeding grounds, with birthing delayed until the sea ice forms. Seals depend on the ice, which means that future population numbers are likely to be affected by climate change. Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, London. The Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021 exhibition is at the Natural History Museum, London, 15 October 2021-5 June 2022. Find more winners in the November Journal Extra. nhm.ac.uk 566

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Big Picture

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In focus NEWS, VIEWS AND EXHIBITIONS

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INSIDE A KITBAG FIT FOR THE GARDEN

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MEET THE 2021 RPS BURSARY WINNERS

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A PHOTOGRAPHIC JOURNEY TO XIAPU

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‘Han Song-i’ by Tim Franco

‘Kim Cheol-woong’ by Tim Franco

LIVES IN TRANSITION

The winners of this year’s RPS International Photography Exhibition have focused on intensely personal visual stories, writes Rachel Segal Hamilton It is the world’s longest-running photography exhibition, but each year brings something fresh. The awardwinners of the 163rd edition of the RPS International Photography Exhibition (IPE) have now been named. French-Polish photographer Tim Franco will receive the IPE Award, while

the Under 30s Award goes to US-based South Korean photographer KyeongJun Yang. The RPS will announce the photographers selected for the IPE 163 touring exhibition on 2 December. Unperson – Portraits of North Korean Defectors, Tim Franco’s winning portrait series, focuses on individuals remaking

their lives after defecting from North Korea. To reflect his subjects’ sense of transition, he produced the images using “an analogue material that is not supposed to exist – the negative of a polaroid revealed through a series of chemical purifications, resulting often in something uncertain.” NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2021

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In Focus Opener

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In Focus IPE 163

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‘Lee Ga-yeon’ by Tim Franco

‘Noh Cheol-min’ by Tim Franco

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Franco’s work was chosen from more than 4,000 entries. “I am really humbled,” he said of his win, “especially after seeing all the amazing work that was submitted this year.” KyeongJun Yang moved to America at the age of 18 to study journalism and philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin. His highly personal project, Men Don’t Cry, explores the relationship between masculinity and emotion by focusing on his own father. “When dad was a kid, he held his tears … After he had a family, he didn’t cry to protect his wife and sons from this harsh world,” Yang writes. “Now I see dad’s tears that nobody had noticed filling up inside of him.” On winning the award, he added: “I am honoured and thankful to everyone who appreciates my dad’s story.” See the winning images, alongside other selected work, at IPE 163, RPS Gallery, Bristol from April 2022, before the exhibition tours. The open call for IPE 164 launches in February 2022. rps.org/ipe163 570

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‘Hug’, one of four awarded images by KyeongJun Yang

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From my kitbag Canon 5D MK IV, Canon 100mm macro lens, extension tubes, homemade lightbox, off-camera flash

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Sebastião Salgado HonFRPS has received the Figaro Magazine Lifetime Achievement Visa d’or Award at the Visa pour l’image photojournalism festival. The Brazilian photographer is renowned for projects which illuminate current issues through epic black-andwhite imagery.

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Picture Post, Britain’s bestselling magazine during the 1940s and early 1950s, pioneered a representation of everyday life that shaped the work of the next generation of photographers. Discover a new film exploring the impact of Picture Post.

Claire Carter reveals the equipment used to create her winning International Garden Photographer of the Year image

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What makes a great macro image? As in all photography, it isn’t only an interesting subject but the use of light and shadow to reveal texture and form. Working at a macro level is like photographing in a forest where you’re faced with too much

SALGADO HONORED

POSTWAR PICTURES

IN THE BAG

How did you shoot your winning image in the IGPOTY Macro Art category? Skeleton leaves can be bought in craft shops or made by putting sturdy leaves in a bleach solution. I find ones that have already started to decay work best. They will be white when ready, as in the kit image, but can be dyed with food colouring. To get enough magnification to reveal the intricate vascular structures in the leaves, I used extension tubes on a macro lens. I then had to work out how to totally burn out the background, leaving just the detail in the leaves. With subjects that will sit vertically I use a white diffuser in front of a window and overexpose to make the whites pure white, but these leaves had to be laid f lat so I created a lightbox using glass covered with tracing paper to diffuse and spread the light. It was then a case of putting the f lash in the box under the composition and adjusting the f lash output until I got the desired result. Too much light will burn out the subject so it was a case of trial and error.

Short cuts

picturestoriesfilm.com

RHS COMPETITION

‘Skeleton leaves’ by Claire Carter

detail. The most successful images simplify the scene, using focus, blur and light to direct the viewer to points of interest. You run photography workshops in botanical and macro photography, among other genres. Share some advice you give your students I belong to the Heath Robinson school of photography and encourage students to resist rushing out and buying expensive equipment and look for solutions closer to home. An ironing board makes a great height-adjustable work surface; a colander with a torch replaces a honeycomb snoot. Think outside the box – or in the case of this image, use the box. carterart.co.uk igpoty.com

Two RPS Associates are among the winners of the RHS Botanical Art & Photography Show 2021. Steve Le Grys ARPS won a Silver award for his series of collodion ambrotype plates The Overlooked Beauty of our Hedgerows, as did Roger Crocombe ARPS for his portfolio Woodland Impressions. rhs.org.uk

‘Teasel dipsacus fullonum’ by Steve Le Grys ARPS

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In Focus In the Bag

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What to see

Catch these exhibitions online and in person

SOCIAL WORKS II Gagosian Gallery, London Until 18 December

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This cross-media exhibition includes work by the Georgia-based photographer Tyler Mitchell; sculptures by artist David Adjaye, created using West African architectural techniques; mixedmedia collage from Lubaina Himid, and ‘cartographic paintings’ by Rick Lowe. See page 590 for an interview with Tyler Mitchell.

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‘Georgia hillside (redlining)’, 2021, by Tyler Mitchell, recipient of the RPS Award for Editorial, Advertising and Fashion 2021

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PHOTO VOGUE FESTIVAL Online 18 November 2021 to 18 November 2022

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Reframing History is the theme for the 10th edition of the festival, with a focus on underrepresented stories. The 35 photographers featured draw on the opulence of period costume and historical portraiture.

TAYLOR WESSING PORTRAIT PRIZE Cromwell Place arts hub, London 10 November 2021 to 2 January 2022

DAVID PRICHARD; RINKO KAWAUCHI; KIKI XUE; DEBORAH ROBERTS

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DEBORAH ROBERTS: A LOOK INSIDE Bluecoat Gallery, Liverpool Until 23 January 2022

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With the National Portrait Gallery, London, closed for major redevelopment until 2023, this year’s exhibition is at a new venue. As ever, the shortlist represents an array of approaches to contemporary portraiture. The winner will be announced digitally on 8 November.

V&A, London 6 November 2021 to 6 November 2022

Ahead of phase two of the V&A Photography Centre opening next year, bringing a further four galleries, this show highlights recent contemporary acquisitions by Honorary Fellows Rinko Kawauchi, Zanele Muholi and others.

“With collage I can create a more expansive and inclusive view of the Black cultural experience,” says Texas-based photomontage artist Deborah Roberts. Her first solo show in the UK reflects on how the identity of Black children is constructed amid social pressures.

npg.org.uk

vam.ac.uk

thebluecoat.org.uk

KNOWN AND STRANGE: PHOTOGRAPHS FROM THE COLLECTION

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photovoguefestival. vogue.it

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What To See

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‘Blocked’ by Alejandro Prieto

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‘Cosplayers’ by Cao Fei

From the series Drummies by Alice Mann

Alejandro Prieto

Cao Fei

Alice Mann

Acacia Johnson

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MULTIMEDIA ARTIST

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Prieto’s image of a roadrunner at the border wall built between Mexico and the USA won him overall title in Bird Photographer of the Year 2021. The photograph asks the viewer to consider the consequences of human politics for wild creatures and their habitats. 574

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The Chinese artist’s first UK show – the immersive 2020 Serpentine exhibition Blueprints – attracted the prestigious Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2021. Fei’s work considers the impact of new technology via still imagery, film, digital media, installation and sculpture.

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In 2017, Mann received the RPS Joan Wakelin Bursary, which she used to produce a long-term project about the empowering experiences of young drum majorettes in her home country of South Africa. This month Drummies is being published as a photobook by Gost.

Since being awarded a 2014 Fulbright grant to spend winter on Baffin Island, Johnson has specialised in documenting the Arctic and Antarctica. Now she has won the €8,000 Canon Female Photojournalist grant to continue her work in some of Earth’s most extreme environments.

NIC SEDENQUIST; MYRZIK AND JARISCH; JOSEPH LYNN

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FIVE HEAD TURNERS TO WATCH


Head turners, 1 From the series Sea lce Stories by Acacia Johnson

Heather Agyepong ARTIST

Agyepong has been named Photo London X Nikon Emerging Photographer of the Year 2021 – not long after being named a Foam Talent 2021. Recently exhibited at Bristol Photo Festival, her work reimagines historical portraiture through a postcolonial lens, blending image and performance.

‘The body remembers’ by Heather Agyepong

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‘Sinking Sundarban’ from the ongoing series Deadly Fossil Fuel by Supratim Bhattacharjee

‘IT IS OUR TIME TO ACT’ A trio of talented image-makers have been awarded RPS bursaries that will help them explore issues close to their hearts Soil degradation, water pollution and deadly fossil fuel mines are among the issues to be highlighted by three talented image-makers who will receive this year’s RPS bursaries. Joanna Vestey, recipient of the TPA/ RPS Environmental Bursary, is to focus on people and projects that are finding new ways to prevent humanity damaging the environment. The Oxford-based photographer receives £3,000 from the bursary, run by the RPS in partnership with The Photographic Angle. “What is clear is that it is our time to act, to look to new technologies and new support structures, and to find radical solutions that will enable us to progress

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in more harmonious ways with our environment,” Vestey states. The Joan Wakelin Bursary for documentary photography goes to Supratim Bhattacharjee, who lives in Kolkata. The other shortlisted candidates for the £2,000 bursary, run in collaboration with the Guardian, were Ke Liu, Booker Skelding and Kirsty Wilson. Bhattacharjee’s new work will build on his long-term commitment to raising awareness around the climate emergency in India. Deadly Fossil Fuel focuses on the dire working conditions in Jharia, one of Jharkhand’s biggest coal mines, where miners – some of them children – are

exposed to toxic gases and gruelling hours for less than $2 a day. The Postgraduate Bursary is awarded to Jimmi Ho, who is based between Hong Kong and the UK. He will use the £3,500 funding to continue his poetic black-and-white project So Close and Yet So Far Away. The series, writes Ho, explores “the relationship between history and identity” by documenting “the Hong Kong border and Hong Kong immigrants in the UK”. joannavestey.com supratimbhattacharjee.com jimmi-ho.com


A new RPS role

PORTRAIT OF TRACY MARSHALL-GRANT BY KEN GRANT

‘Margi Cooper, front desk receptionist at Lewis’s, Liverpool,’ September 2021, by Joanna Vestey

From the series So Close and Yet So Far Away by Jimmi Ho

A prolific arts leader has joined the RPS as its first Director of Development. Tracy Marshall-Grant brings with her a wealth of experience in the world of photography, including her roles as director of Bristol Photo Festival and founding director of Northern Narratives. She also coordinated the IWM London exhibition Generations: Portraits of Holocaust Survivors, touring to RPS Gallery in January 2022. “It’s an exciting time to be joining the RPS,” says Marshall-Grant. “The Photography for Everyone five-year strategy will continue to increase the reach and impact of the organisation in Britain and internationally.” Evan Dawson, CEO of the RPS, adds: “This post is all about ambition. We will create new opportunities for members, and grow our worldwide community. We hope to raise funds to support programmes such as the UK’s first Photographer Laureate, and photographic wellbeing projects for people living with dementia or autism.”

Tracy Marshall-Grant

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In Focus - Bursaries

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Bookshelf VERSION

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EIKOH HOSOE Yasufumi Nakamori (Ed) MACK (£55)

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A photographer’s relationship to their subject can begin and end with the click of a shutter. For Eikoh Hosoe HonFRPS, however, that relationship is a spark that can ignite unanticipated artistic possibilities. The pioneering Japanese photographer, awarded the RPS Centenary Medal in 2003, regularly teamed up with other artists of the post-war period, such as the avant-garde dancers Tatsumi Hijikata and Yoshito Ohno or the novelist Yukio Mishima, to create his images. Hosoe saw photography as a creative language in dialogue with other creative languages. Dr Yasufumi Nakamori, senior curator of international art at the Tate, writes in his introduction to this major new book of Hosoe’s work: “The resulting photographs, created with Hosoe’s eyes and body in synchrony with those

of his subject, would transcend the subject’s presence and movement to become an artistic expression of the time and space shared by the two, often testifying to the trance-like state they created together.” Today we talk about the merging of documentary and fiction or performance in photography as a contemporary practice, but in the 1950s Hosoe was already developing an approach he dubbed “semi-documentary”, or “subjective documentary”. His intense, high-contrast black-and-white images had an immense influence on the wider photographic scene. Over his seven decadestrong career Hosoe has also helped to launch galleries, including what is now the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum, and set up several photographic collectives and educational workshops.

‘Near Ishikawadai, Tokyo, 1971’ by Eikoh Hosoe HonFRPS

This publication, which features Hosoe’s work alongside critical texts from the post-1945 period, reveals his pivotal role in establishing photography as a fine art in his homeland and beyond. Rachel Segal Hamilton

AS WE RISE: PHOTOGRAPHY FROM THE BLACK ATLANTIC

OUR OWN SELVES

SOMERSAULT

The Wedge Collection Aperture (£40)

Nadine Ijewere Prestel (£39.99)

Raymond Meeks MACK (£35)

This book brings together 100 images by Black photographers from Canada, the Caribbean, the UK, the United States, South America and the African continent. In his introduction, Mark Sealy HonFRPS describes the Wedge Collection, from which these works are drawn, as “a dynamic photographic treasure trove where the image of the Black subject is allowed to shine ...”

In 2018, this trailblazing young fashion photographer became the first Black woman to shoot a cover for Vogue. Her first monograph presents commercial shoots for Stella McCartney, Dior and Hermes alongside personal work made in Jamaica and Nigeria. Through a mesmerising use of colour and light, these images display beauty too long absent from the pages of magazines.

The American photographer’s previous book, the acclaimed ciprian honey cathedral, took a poetic look at the domestic space. In this follow-up Meeks contemplates his nearly adult daughter’s imminent departure from the family home through portraits and landscapes – a way of exploring our ever-shifting relationship with the places where we grow up, and the people that make us who we are.

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By Callie Chee

Xiapu

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‘Crab cages on the mudflat of Xiapu’ by Callie Chee

A competition-winning picture sent this adventurous image-maker off on a photographic journey There’s a local saying: “You need to visit Xiapu at least four times to capture all it has to offer.” Photographer Callie Chee has so far made five trips to Xiapu, having first discovered the picturesque fishing town in southern China after sighting it in another photographer’s winning competition image. “I packed my bags and went,” says Chee, who has herself received a number of accolades, including first prize in the Botanical category, Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year 2021. She describes her “first view of Xiapu’s grandiosity – staring out at the ocean covered with bamboo poles in every direction. Old forests, mountains

and traditional ways of aquaculture rendered the seascape a piece of art.” As a location, says Chee, “Xiapu offers epic opportunities for a multitude of photographic genres.” It can be challenging terrain, though, as it is built on a mudflat. “It’s all about timing,” says Chee. “The scene can change quickly and you only have a small opportunity to shoot it before it disappears.” She leads photo tours to the area but these were paused in line with Covid-19 restrictions. “When the border opens up,” she says, “I plan to resume them and share this magical location with other photographers.”

‘Fisherman meandering through the mangrove swamp, Xiapu’

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‘Seaweed harvest season in full swing’

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My Place

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Story 3, 1

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Wake up call

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Brazil-born filmmaker influenced by comics wins the Depict Award

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‘Sunrise outside Tonbridge Golf Centre’ by Sean

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TURNING POINT

Photography project unlocks experiences of homelessness

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People who had been affected by homelessness are putting their experiences in the frame in an innovative project backed by the RPS. Our Lens on Life was staged by Look Ahead, a charitable housing association that runs homelessness services in west Kent on behalf of Kent County Council, in partnership with the Society. Benedict Brain ARPS led the workshops, which were delivered online via Zoom during summer 2021. “We looked at some of the basics of imagemaking within the limitations of single-use cameras and had conversations around composition, light and timing,” Brain says. “We also explored ideas around narrative and storytelling using photographs, and discovered ways in which photography can be used as a form of expression to comment on the world. “The participants were really engaged with this. Some of the work they produced carried real resonance and in context was frankly exceptional.” Together they explored the work of wellknown photographers such as Richard Billingham, Nan Goldin HonFRPS, Saul Leiter, Paul Nash, Lewis Baltz, Robert Adams, Duane Michals and

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Rinko Kawauchi, before heading out with their £20 single-use cameras to document their own lives. For one participant, Chris, this opportunity has come at a turning point. “When I was sleeping rough I lived in fear of getting hurt,” he says, “but now I feel safe and able to move on and do other things, which is why I loved taking part in the photography project. “I like taking photographs because it makes you look at things in a different way and a photo is a moment in time that you can’t get back.” The Our Lens on Life images were shown at Royal Victoria Place in Tunbridge Wells. lookahead.org.uk

‘Blurred picture’ by Marnie

Winners have been announced for the annual Depict super-short film competition supported by the Royal Photographic Society. Part of the Encounters Film Festival at Watershed, Bristol, the contest rewards 90-second short films. The Depict Award went to Brazilborn, London-based filmmaker Tiago Teixeira for his horror-inspired film about a sleeping boy. “Wake Up is based on a comic strip by Laerte Coutinho, one of the greatest Brazilian artists working today,” says Teixeira. “I always thought about how this comic strip would work perfectly in film, and thanks to my cast and crew I was very happy with the results.” The Royal Photographic Society Cinematography Award 2021 was presented in an online ceremony by artist and filmmaker Ravi Deepres to Moein Rooholamini from Iran for Leo. The film uses one shot to reveal multiple plot twists in a short space of time. Rooholamini said he was particularly honoured to receive this award as photography and cinematography have always been key to his work. Rooholamini receives a £1,000 prize and Teixeira £1,500, along with a Shooting People membership. depict.org/2021

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Five questions, 1

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Five questions 1

What makes you get up in the morning?

My three rescue dogs.

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What’s been your toughest moment behind the lens?

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During the making of Blood Speaks: A Ritual of Exile, while photographing a young girl who had stepped into a man’s threshold while menstruating. She was then publicly humiliated and beaten up in my presence [alongside] a colleague and some 30 other people. We had to intervene by drawing attention to ourselves as travellers asking for help, which dissipated the focus on the girl without appearing to be making a judgement about right or wrong. Often doing that is worse because it leads the victim to more damage afterwards. But it was very tough to watch and photograph.

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Where would you most like to be photographing right now?

Iceland – the place has a lot of magic.

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Which image makes you most proud?

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What’s next?

There are many, but any of the images from Blood Speaks really. It raised over £2m to help women in danger and in need of sanitation rights and also changed a law to criminalise menstrual exile. Eruptions, my exhibition at Side Gallery, Newcastle. It’s an overview of my major work from the past decade – Blood Speaks, Centralia and To Conquer Her Land. It’s the first time these three projects have been shown together, which will be interesting. It will be a really immersive installation of photography, film and VR.

‘Untitled’ from the series Blood Speaks: A Ritual of Exile, 2013-18

Poulomi Basu: Eruptions is at Side Gallery, Newcastle, until 6 February 2022. Poulomi Basu: Fireflies is at Autograph, London, 4 March28 May 2022. poulomibasu.com

“Blood Speaks raised over £2m to help women in need of sanitation rights” ‘Untitled’ from the series Centralia, 2010-20

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PORTRAIT OF POULOMI BASU BY MARIA LAX

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Poulomi Basu received the RPS Hood Medal 2020 for her series Blood Speaks

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‘Untitled (Butterfly), 2019’ by Tyler Mitchell

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“Through photography I am brought from the outside to the inside. It’s about entering a world”

“There’s the same number of photographers making really interesting work as there has always been”

ZELDA CHEATLE

BRUCE DAVIDSON

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“I reach a point and I have to kind of start over or come to terms with why I wanted to do this in the first place”

“I thought, ‘This is amazing, I’m looking at the first image we have taken of a black hole’”

ALEC SOTH

KATIE BOUMAN

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“My models have a very assured stance and the way they look out into the audience is proud but not aggressive”

“That’s what I’m excited about – new institutions for the new generation”

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“There’s a pantheon of artists I’m working in the wake of. I’m part of a lineage” TYLER MITCHELL

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The 2021 Royal Photographic Society Awards

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Congratulations to all this year’s recipients, from scientists to publishers, academics to artists PROGRESS MEDAL AND HONORARY FELLOWSHIP

For scientific or technological advancement of photography Katie Bouman CENTENARY MEDAL AND HONORARY FELLOWSHIP

For a sustained, significant contribution to the art of photography Bruce Davidson OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION TO PHOTOGRAPHY AND HONORARY FELLOWSHIP

For sustained, outstanding and influential advancement of photography Zelda Cheatle HONORARY FELLOWSHIPS

Awarded to distinguished individuals who have an intimate 586

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connection with the science or fine art of – or application of – photography Vanley Burke, VALIE EXPORT, Lola Flash, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Dana Lixenberg, Alec Soth, Mitra Tabrizian LUMIÈRE AWARD

For major achievement in the field of cinematography, video or animation Phoebe Boswell COMBINED ROYAL COLLEGES MEDAL

For contributions to Medical Photography Douglas Anderson AWARD FOR EDITORIAL, ADVERTISING AND FASHION PHOTOGRAPHY

For outstanding achievement

and excellence in these fields Tyler Mitchell AWARD FOR PHOTOGRAPHIC CURATORSHIP

For excellence in the field of photographic curatorship, through exhibitions and associated events and publications Azu Nwagbogu AWARD FOR CINEMATIC PRODUCTION

For outstanding achievement in the production, direction or development of film for cinema, television, online or new media Ava DuVernay AWARD FOR PHOTOGRAPHIC EDUCATION

For outstanding achievement


Roll call, 1 Clockwise from top left ‘Ute’s books, Odessa’, from the series I Know How Furiously Your Heart Is Beating, 2019, by Alec Soth HonFRPS; ‘Cancer patient, Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham’ by Peter Hayes FRPS; ‘No 2, 916 series’ by Kym Cox ARPS; ‘Fancy That’ couture feature, American Vogue, 2019, by Tyler Mitchell

in this field Esther Teichmann HOOD MEDAL

For a body of work promoting or raising awareness of current issues Dexter McLean J DUDLEY JOHNSTON AWARD

For major achievement in photographic criticism or photographic history Helen Ennis

PHOTOGRAPHIC PUBLISHING AWARD

For outstanding achievement in the field of photographic publishing in its broadest sense Gerhard Steidl AWARD FOR SCIENTIFIC IMAGING

For a body of scientific

imaging which promotes public knowledge and understanding Kym Cox SELWYN AWARD

Recognising successful sciencebased imaging work made by a researcher in the early stage of their career Caroline Erolin VIC ODDEN AWARD

Sheila Haycox

THE PHOTOGRAPHIC ANGLE/ RPS ENVIRONMENTAL BURSARY

To support a photographic project that will promote environmental awareness Joanna Vestey RPS POSTGRADUATE BURSARY

For achievement in the art of photography for those aged 35 or under Silvia Rosi FENTON MEDALS

MEMBERS’ AWARD

For a postgraduate student on a course – or undertaking research – in photography Jimmi Ho

For outstanding contributions to the work of the RPS Mary P Crowther, Peter Hayes, Mark Reeves, Stewart Wall, Rex Waygood

JOAN WAKELIN BURSARY

For the production of a photographic essay on a social documentary issue Supratim Bhattacharjee

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He is transforming how Black culture is portrayed, from the art world to the cover of Vogue. Meet Tyler Mitchell, recipient of the RPS Award for Editorial, Advertising and Fashion Photography WORDS: GRAEME GREEN IMAGES: TYLER MITCHELL

‘Krisha, Djeneba, Rose and Enomha’ for JW Anderson, 2019

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“A strong photographer will carry their interests with them wherever they bring their camera,” says American photographer Tyler Mitchell. “I’ve had the great fortune of being able to bring my camera to amazing places and I want to keep those conceptual interests with me as I keep shooting.” The ‘amazing’ situations Mitchell, still only 26, has taken his camera into vary wildly, from photo studios where he has photographed the likes of Beyoncé and American Vice President Kamala Harris for Vogue magazine – both historic ‘firsts’ – to young men hanging out in London’s Walthamstow Marshes and families relaxing in his home state of Georgia. The concept that links his work, though, is a thoughtful reconfiguring of how Black bodies and Black lives are presented. Mitchell has suggested he is creating a ‘Black utopia’ – images of Black people at leisure, resting, interacting, moments of joy, intimacy and playfulness, but always taken with a serious intent. A photo of young Black men flying kites may not seem radical until you consider how rarely you see that kind of representation in images in the mainstream media. Concepts like leisure, family life and intimacy have historically been kept by editors, advertisers and other ‘cultural gatekeepers’ as the reserved spaces of white people, Mitchell argues. “I’d describe the work I do as its own self-enclosed world. It’s about freedoms I’d like to see for Black people in these images. I’m creating the things I want to see, what I want to live in, what I want to be … “It’s become an amazing, important conversation that the fashion world and art world is having around the historical lack in the mainstream of these types of images. I’m making the work that’s important to me and in response to a lot of different factors culturally, and then the art world and fashion world is also having a conversation around what images we have not seen a lot of and what we would like to see more of. That’s where my work exists, at that intersection.” Born in Atlanta, Georgia, but now living and working in Brooklyn, New York, Mitchell was one of the photographers championed by art critic and New York Times writer Antwaun Sargent in his groundbreaking 2019 book and exhibition The New Black Vanguard. He has had solo

“I’d look at thousands of images a day. My visual literacy from an early age was super-high”

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‘Harry Styles’, for Vogue

exhibitions at Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam and the International Center of Photography in New York City, and been part of several group exhibitions, including Sargent’s current Social Works II at the Gagosian in London. Mitchell is now the recipient of the RPS Award for Editorial, Advertising and Fashion Photography 2021. “It’s a huge honour,” he says. “There’s an expanding conversation around the role of editorial photography, which is why this acknowledgment by the RPS is such a huge deal to me. There’s a real conversation around the authorship of editorial images, ideas of representation, ideas of beauty … “This was happening far, far, far before the events of last year, with the pandemic and social justice reckoning and racial reckoning worldwide. It was happening in the 1950s and 1960s with the photography of Gordon Parks and Roy DeCarava, in the 1970s and 1980s around the Black Power movement, and with Kwame Brathwaite’s Black Is Beautiful work. So I attribute my success to my work ethic, rigour and focus. But there’s a pantheon of artists I’m working in the wake of, and I also attribute it to them. I’m part of a lineage.” Mitchell grew up obsessed with images. “My first exposure to creative photography had me completely enthralled,” he recalls. “I got so


‘All American family portrait’, 2019

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“I started thinking, ‘How do I use this art form to speak about my own personal experience?’”

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obsessed with Tumblr pages, I’d look at thousands of images a day. My visual literacy from an early age was super-high.” But photographing Beyoncé and Kamala Harris is still a big leap from making skateboarding videos, which is where Mitchell’s early interests lay. “I was enthralled with the world of skateboarding, and intrigued and in love with the art form of filming skateboarding, how that could be creative and edit a montage together, and the elements of camaraderie and community.” While studying film at NYU, he had one of several ‘awakenings’. “I went to Havana, Cuba, for a little over a month,” he says. “I found a place that awakened me aesthetically: the colours of the walls, this beautiful crumbling architecture, mixed with Brown and Black people, and the light. Something about the visual language of that city, the way people move, the way buildings were structured, piqued my interests. I wanted to go down the path of photography, over videography, and then things avalanched from there. I came back to America and started thinking, “How do I use this art form to speak about my own personal experience?” The early rumblings of that avalanche included photographing young gun control activists for Teen Vogue. He also shot film director Spike Lee for an Office magazine cover. “Spike’s a legend,” Mitchell says. “The other side of me is a film-maker. I went to film school at NYU. That was my first medium, my first love. Sometimes my role is to take the backseat and capture people as they are. Spike was always going to come through in the way he wanted to present himself, a man of his age and that level of confidence.” But the earth really moved when, aged 23, Mitchell got the call to photograph Beyoncé for American Vogue’s September 2018 cover, the first Black photographer to shoot a cover in the

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magazine’s 128-year history. Beyoncé, also the first woman of colour to appear on an American Vogue cover, chose Mitchell for the shoot. His image of her is now on display at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington. “It was an amazing assignment,” says Mitchell. “I felt very proud and excited. I felt very ready. I felt uniquely positioned in all my interests to do such a thing. Of course, I’m a huge fan of Beyoncé. The opportunity to photograph a woman who’s been seen by so many iconic photographers over time, but who has also taken on so many different kinds of images over decades, the opportunity to contribute to that canon and to her as a creative force and to bring my own perspective to that, is huge.” How does a photographer approach a major shoot like that? “I honestly tried to focus more on what I do as a photographer and what I bring to the table as Tyler Mitchell, what my personality brings, what my history and upbringing brings,” he says. “There’s a marriage between her and I in those images where there’s a naturalistic regality, whether it’s the flower crown or references to Black portraiture or African portraiture, or her wearing Grace Wales Bonner, a Black British designer who’s a friend of mine … All those references are superpersonal to me and important to her, so we connected in that moment. It was great.” Mitchell went on to shoot other covers, including actress Zendaya for Vogue and Democrat politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for Vanity Fair. His 2021 Vogue cover of Kamala Harris also made history, recording the moment of the first female American VP of colour and very possibly the next president of the United States. “Yes, let’s see,” he smiles at the idea of President Harris (and having the number of the person who controls Air Force One). “I’m extremely happy to see the changes happening in this country in terms of visibility and


‘Boys of Walthamstow, 2018’ from I Can Make You Feel Good

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representation. This country needed a breath of fresh air. I was proud to be able to be part of that ascendance for her and a really special moment where she becomes the first woman of colour vice president.” The cover was met with outrage on social media, though, with some critics arguing the first female VP and first VP of colour should have been portrayed more respectfully (she was wearing Converse trainers), as well as accusations of Vogue skin-lightening the photo. What’s it like to be at the centre of that kind of storm? “I remain proud of the images, truly,” he says. “I’m very, very, very proud of being asked to photograph the vice president. My thing is that I was asked to photograph the vice president. Someone else was not asked. Someone might say, ‘I would’ve done it this way’ or ‘It should’ve been this way’. The way I made those images is the way I make the rest of my body of work and the way I’ll continue to make my body of work. That photo is a true, accurate representation of that moment in time for both of us, so I’m very proud of it.”

Below and opposite ‘Fancy That’ couture feature, American Vogue, April 2019

“There was never any shortage of Black artistic production. Most of that was in song because that was the tool we had – our voice”

Besides magazine covers, Mitchell has worked with companies including Nike, Givenchy, Marc Jacobs and Converse. His work moves between the fashion and art worlds, with his more personal work, including his book I Can Make You Feel Good (2020) and recent New York shows, honing his ideas around portrayals of Black lives. There is change happening in America and worldwide, Mitchell suggests, both in the type of photos Black photographers are taking, but also in terms of editorial decision-making. “Black people built this land. We were brought over and enslaved, but there was no shortage of Black artistic production. Most of that was in song because that was the tool we had – our voice. But there were huge contributions from photography from very early on.” Black photographers existed but weren’t given the exposure they merited, Mitchell argues, or there were limitations set on what sort of images from Black photographers would run in publications. “I find it useful to highlight the long lineage of Black image-makers that have been overlooked in the canon,” he says. “Black people have long understood the power of an image and utilised it when they can, but there have been historic social forces against their access to those tools. There have been image-makers for generations, whether it’s Parks and DeCarava, or some of the earliest photographers, like James Van Der Zee, who was photographing his community in Harlem in the 20s. Since the advent of photography, Black folks have been closely related to the photograph. There just weren’t editors giving light to these works until recently.” Antwaun Sargent’s The New Black Vanguard expanded the conversation further, presenting the work of Mitchell and other Black artists, such as Awol Erizku, Nadine Ijewere, Daniel Obasi and Dana Scruggs, as a form of “visual activism” to “challenge the idea that Blackness is homogenous”. “All of us as a group are thinking through what it means to make fashion images as a Black person in America or of the diaspora,” says Mitchell of being part of this vanguard. “There were also photographers from South Africa, Black British folks … We’re all in our own ways rethinking how to NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2021

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represent ourselves and our experiences in the fashion space, in magazines, and what that looks like, because there’s been so little of it before us. “We’re all pushing at the forefront of creating new languages in fashion. There’s also wide diversity. People in that vanguard have completely different lives, artistic styles and career trajectories. That highlights the sheer swathe of potential in Black artistic production.” As with many other photographers, the Covid-19 pandemic limited Mitchell’s movements and cut him off from family in Georgia. Once able to travel again, he returned to Atlanta and produced images of people in his home state – groups at play, siblings napping peacefully together – which became Dreaming in Real Time, an exhibition at the Gordon Parks Foundation Gallery in Pleasantville, NY. Considering the future, he says 2022 is “wide open, which I like”, adding, “I want to give myself a year to digest those shows and prepare for new art works.” As well as honing his photography’s “precision around the form of making an image, posing and positioning people in images” and thinking more specifically about Black representations, Mitchell’s recent New York shows also pointed him towards

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‘Precious Lee’ for i-D magazine, June 2021

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more diverse ways of working. “I hope there’s an expansion of the medium, of storytelling. The Gordon Parks show was more installation-based and site-specific. I’m interested in film, as a filmmaker, in video art, the way video and photos intersect with sculpture … I’m interested in images as objects, not just digital things to be seen and scrolled past on Instagram, but things to be interacted with in 3D spaces. I hope the work expands in that way.” Mitchell’s long-term future will likely see him return to filmmaking (he is friends with and has photographed British writer-actor Michaela Coel, which would make for quite a collaboration). Although he laughs at the suggestion there might be a future Oscar with his name on it, he is clearly considering a move into feature films. “That’s my hope (to make films),” he says. “There’s so much going on in the photo world for me right now, so I’m in no particular rush. I’m not sitting, hacking away, writing a movie. But I want to do that, for sure. I’m very serious about that.” I Can Make You Feel Good is published by Prestel. See page 573 for more on Social Works II. tylermitchell.co and @tylersphotos


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‘THEY WERE INVISIBLE AND FELT A NEED TO BE SEEN’

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The Magnum veteran Bruce Davidson HonFRPS has documented the marginalised and misunderstood for decades. Now he has been awarded the RPS Centenary Medal 2021 WORDS: RACHEL SEGAL HAMILTON IMAGES: BRUCE DAVIDSON HonFRPS/MAGNUM PHOTOS

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Kathy fixing her hair in a cigarette machine mirror, New York City, 1959 “This was shot in Coney Island as part of my Brooklyn Gangs project. The gang kids would tell me when they would be hanging out under the boardwalk so I knew where to meet them. They had no lightbulbs underneath so I’d bring a 100 watt bulb with me and screw it in. Kathy, the girl fixing her hair in the picture, died young. The boy grew up to become a detective.”

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Couple dancing by a juke box, East 100th Street, New York City, 1966 “There were lots of social clubs on East 100th Street. This was shot in one of them, at nighttime. When I returned 10 or 15 years later to the same community to photograph the positive changes in the area since my first project, a few of the people I’d met previously were still there. One guy – I think it’s the guy in this photograph because he was wearing a beret – hadn’t moved from the same spot on the block in all that time.”

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In the early stages of photographing a Brooklyn street gang, Bruce Davidson received an invitation he couldn’t refuse. Benji, the gang leader, asked if Davidson would like to accompany him up onto a rooftop. “There are all sorts of interesting things up there to photograph, he told me – pigeons, radio antennas,” recalls Davidson. “I was frightened, but I went.” That leap of faith paid off. Davidson spent nearly a year following Benji and his crew, the Jokers, creating a career-defining body of work and cementing a dedication to his photographic subjects that has persisted throughout his career. The veteran of Magnum Photos is best known for the black-and-white documentary images of projects such as Brooklyn Gang, capturing the social landscape of the USA in the 1950s and 1960s. Many of these series focus on marginalised or misunderstood groups – wayward youths, circus workers, civil rights activists, families living in poverty in New York and the southern states. Although Davidson is from outside these communities, his images feel authentic and intimate. There is a sense he is there in the picture without ever appearing in the frame. From the tenements of Harlem to coal mines in Wales, his work is infused with an empathy that comes from embedding himself in the worlds he portrays. “Through photography I am brought from the outside to the inside,” he says over a call from New York. “It’s [about] entering a world. It’s only after a certain number of exposures that you understand what you’re looking at.” Davidson, who is the recipient of the RPS Centenary Medal 2021 and an Honorary Fellowship, still lives in New York, the city with which he is most strongly associated, but his focus extends far beyond. Many of his best-known images were shot in England, Wales and Scotland. Softly spoken, with a warm, sometimes mischievous sense of humour, Davidson has many stories to tell. Now aged 88, he has been taking pictures for six decades and has no plans to stop any time soon. Lately he has been making portraits of people within his neighbourhood who have unexpectedly interesting lives and passions – a waiter at a cafe who is also writing his third novel, for example. The magical quality of photography, the way it can open doors and conjure something unseen, appeals to Davidson. He remembers the moment he discovered this as a child in the suburbs of Chicago amid the hush of a darkroom his friend had set up in his basement.


Miner holding baby in doorway, Wales, 1965 “This is in Ebbw Vale. I’d visited Wales before, in 1956, while in the military. I asked my sergeant, who was Welsh, where he’d send his worst enemy and he said Cwmcarn so I went. On my second trip to Wales the poet Horace Jones introduced me to the coal miners. He had been a coal miner himself and through him I was able to gain the miners’ trust. There’s something about the contrast of the alabaster baby and the miner just up from the mines that I found striking. It was his choice to show himself in this way, as a proud father.”

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‘Damn the Defiant’ Arrest of a demonstrator, Birmingham, Alabama, 1963 “I took this picture at a protest in Birmingham, Alabama, during the five years I spent covering civil rights struggles in the south. Although I’m still an observer here, I’m also somewhat of an activist. I stayed longer and got close to what was happening. Another step and I would have been beaten and thrown in jail.”

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“He screwed in a red light, dipped this paper in what I thought was water but was of course chemicals, and then an image started to appear,” says Davidson. “It was like creation, like the Earth giving way – it was everything.” Hooked, Davidson raced home to ask his mother if he could set up his own darkroom in the basement. By age 15 he had an apprenticeship with a commercial photographer, Al Cox, who took him out on jobs and taught him to make dye-transfer prints. Davidson would continue to hone this craft at university and during military service. As a soldier stationed in Paris he met Henri Cartier-Bresson – “He took me under his wing” – and in 1958 joined Magnum Photos. Paris proved formative. It was there he shot his series The Widow of Montmartre, centred on 92-year-old Mme. Fauché, whose social circle had once included Renoir and Toulouse Lautrec. “I had a scooter and every weekend I would ride up to Montmartre to see her,” he says. “People in Montmartre would say, ‘There she is with her young lover’.” He chuckles. “It was like a love affair in a way. A photographic love affair.” He says this period set in motion “a way of working, of understanding, of changing. I would go into a world and come out differently than when I went in.” Back in the US he worked as a freelance photographer for Life magazine under its contributions editor Ruth Lester. She had spotted his talent while he was still a student and before he received a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship to document American youth. He spent 11 months hanging out with and photographing Benji and the Jokers who, at 17 or 18, were just a little younger than Davidson at the time. “These were kids,” he says. “They were very naive. They hadn’t adventured far outside of their block. They were invisible and they felt a need to be seen. There was nothing for them to do in this neighbourhood except drink beer and rob people.” Continuing the Guggenheim work, Davidson began working with a group of young ‘freedom riders’ – civil rights activists boarding segregated buses from Montgomery, Alabama, to Jackson, Mississippi. He had attended their planning meetings in a pharmacist’s basement, but nothing could prepare him for what he would encounter. 604

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“I would go into a world and come out differently than when I went in”

Mrs Blackman, Selma, Alabama, 1965 “I was introduced to Mrs Blackman through a reporter I met in Atlanta. I never just walk into someone’s life. There has to be an introduction. Mrs Blackman, who lived in Selma, Alabama, had seven or eight children and they all went on to be successful as adults, despite growing up in extreme poverty. They had nothing and they had to walk a long distance to get water. The baby she’s holding in this picture grew up to be an agent helping farmers with insurance.”

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Children looking out their window into the alley, East Harlem, New York City, 1966 “Children often feature in my pictures. Children and old people – although less so now I’m an old-timer myself. This image is from my long-term project photographing the community of East 100th Street in Harlem, New York. It’s really about the space that people lived in there, these old tenements. The picture describes a place and a culture.”

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“It depressed me, the fear and anger,” he says. “That part of Mississippi was very violent.” For a white photographer coming from the north, this was eye-opening. “I didn’t know anything for a year,” he confesses. He was to immerse himself in the civil rights project, spending five years documenting protests, but also racial oppression and poverty across the south. Here, Davidson’s photography took on a new resolve. Although he was still principally an observer, he realised his observations could have a social impact. Ahead of his next project, East 100th Street, he had to gain approval from a local citizens’ committee. Residents of the East Harlem block had been exploited by other photographers eager to capture the grinding poverty they found photogenic. “What was important about my work was that it would be useful for politicians and clergy so that they could show in a picture how spiritually alive this community was and give it a chance,” he says. “My photography served a purpose.”


“I met the Jokers, a gang of young kids in Brooklyn, through their lawyers” The investment that came to the community through his powerful large-format work was evident when he returned 10 years later to capture the ballet schools, tutorial programmes and women’s health clinics that had sprung up in the intervening years. This is not to say he hasn’t shot images on the fly. Working within the 1980s New York underground system for the project Subway he felt like “a hunter”, prowling tunnels with his Leica in pursuit of the shot, getting mugged “one and a half times” – the half when he managed to jump into a train carriage just in time for the doors to shut before his assailant joined him. In general, though, Davidson sticks around. He has remained friends or reconnected with many of his subjects. They include the circus performer Jimmy Armstrong, who appears in the photograph ‘The dwarf’ and to whom he gifted a camera. Or indeed Benji, who reinvented himself as a drugs counsellor and was the subject of Bobby’s Book, a biography by Emily Haas Davidson, the photographer’s wife. For Davidson, a photograph isn’t complete when the shutter clicks. It’s a process with far-reaching consequences for those involved, not least the photographer himself. After all these years behind the lens he is as committed, curious, affable and humble as ever. “I’m still trying to get it right,” he says, his smile obvious even across the miles.

Backseat of a car, New York City, 1959 “I met the Jokers, a gang of young kids in Brooklyn, through their lawyers when I offered to take some pictures of the wounds they’d sustained during a ‘rumble’, which was what they called a gang war. I spent a lot of time hanging out with them. This was on a trip upstate to Bear Mountain. A social worker was driving, I was in the front passenger seat.”

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IN PURSUIT OF FREEDOM An introvert and homebody at heart, Alec Soth found lockdown far more suffocating than expected. The RPS Honorary Fellow needs the big wide world after all, he tells Simon Bainbridge WORDS: SIMON BAINBRIDGE IMAGES: ALEC SOTH HonFRPS

“Creatively, it was a disaster,” admits Alec Soth, reflecting on his experience of the forced isolation wrought by Covid-19, most of it spent at home in Minneapolis, from where he’s speaking today via video link. “If you told me five years ago that there was going to be a pandemic, and there was going to be a lockdown, I would think that I was the guy for it. I’m kind of a homebody. I like being in the studio. I’m an introvert. And yet it just was terrible for me, creatively. “Then, with the opening up of everything, it’s been really good. I remembered that I can actually be a creative person again. And what it’s made me realise is that the essential thing about my work is going out into the world. Even though it’s counter to my personality, it’s required. Otherwise, I become too introspective, too self-indulgent.” A more sympathetic explanation would allude to his bravery. But this sense of contradiction is typical of Soth, and how the 51-year-old photographer thinks and talks about his work. He has described being painfully shy as a youth, and yet the modus operandi he honed as a young photographer involved walking up to strangers, engaging them in

conversation, and then persuading them to take part in a portrait session. It can’t have been easy for him, and that’s perhaps why his photographs of people often have a certain charge, because he’s confronting himself as much as the person in front of his camera. There’s an introspection to all his work, a sense that he is examining some aspect of his own psychology, or current state of mind, or his role and reasoning as a photographer. But it is never overtly stated, never more than a ripple beneath the surface, a barely audible countermelody to the main tune. However subtle, you can’t deny his approach has been extraordinarily successful. If you follow photography, even just casually, you will know about Soth and his work. He was one of the first photographers to emerge at the beginning of the 21st century and achieve almost instant international acclaim, all on the back of his poetic masterpiece Sleeping By The Mississippi (2004), a sequence of lyrical and exquisitely descriptive large-format pictures that follow a meandering path through the heartlands of America. The selfpublished artist’s book he made was seen by the curators of

Opposite ‘Cammy’s view, Salt Lake City’, from the series I Know How Furiously Your Heart Is Beating (2019)

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the 2004 Whitney Biennial, and not only was the work included in the influential show, but his portrait of Charles standing on his roof holding two model airplanes was used for the poster. His rise swiftly followed with the publication of a trade edition of Mississippi by Steidl, welcomed as an instant classic, and representation by Gagosian Gallery, one of the powerhouses of the art world, as well as membership of Magnum Photos. His timing was impeccable, though accidental. He arrived just as photography was finally getting mainstream acceptance in private and public art galleries, and there was a hunger for it. The photobook boom was just beginning. And Soth seemed to have an innate understanding of how to use the internet to draw audiences into his world, though it all seemed quite natural to him, without any sense of contrivance. Even his use of an oldfashioned large-format camera felt modern in its rejection of digital trickery and automation. NIAGARA (2006), his assured follow up, matched equally enigmatic images with discarded love letters conjuring torrid love stories of heartbreak, loneliness and betrayal. And over the next decade Soth ventured into publishing with his own company, Little Brown Mushroom, while working on

“I was trying to make work all that time, trying to find my voice, to use that cliche. And where it came together, for me, was when I relaxed”

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‘Two towels’, from the series NIAGARA (2006)

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Alec Soth, 2 ‘2008_02zl0189’, from the series Broken Manual (2010)

larger scale works such as Broken Manual (2010), which explores the desire to escape civilisation through the guise of a pseudonym, the reclusive Lester B Morrison, and Songbook (2015), his homage to small town community life. There have been more than 50 exhibitions of his work to date, including major survey shows at the Jeu de Paume Paris, Media Space in London, and the Walker Art Center in his hometown. Yet 17 years after making his breakthrough, Soth admits he is often conflicted by his process of making photographs, sometimes embracing the freedom of its simplicity, other times giving in to his misgivings. He is aware he probably overthinks things. And that was always the case. He remembers his early career as failure after failure, unable to live up to his own high expectations. It sounds tortuous. So how did it all start to go right with Mississippi, some 10 years after graduating, having grappled with so much self-doubt? “I was trying to make work all that time, trying to find my voice, to use that cliche, but I think it’s true. NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2021

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‘2008_08zl0047’, from the series Broken Manual (2010)

And where it came together, for me, was when I relaxed. I was just trying so hard. I wanted to make something great, something unique. And then there was a certain point when I realised, ‘No one gives a shit.’ And I’m just going do what I want to do. And that’s when it came together. I thought, ‘I’m not going to illustrate something that’s supposed to be spectacular. And maybe this is kind of a cliche, or maybe this is kind of derivative of this photographer, but whatever, I’m just going to do what I want to do.’ And that lesson of ‘just relaxing’ is the lesson I keep having to teach myself over and over again. Because I’ll tighten up and I’ll start thinking about what people want, or what I’m supposed to do – and that’s the death of it.” Soth is the recipient of an Honorary Fellowship at this year’s virtual RPS Awards, which is the ostensible reason for our conversation. I have been forewarned that he won’t talk about his current work-in-progress, a project that presumably came to an abrupt halt at the beginning of the pandemic, and which he is now able to pursue again. This is a little awkward, as his last work, I Know How Furiously Your Heart Is Beating (2019), published by Mack, appeared to be something of a change of direction, and the story behind it has been well told. However, his reticence might be an opportunity to get a little insight into his working process, so I ask him why he is so secretive. “It sounds kind of pretentious put in those terms,” he replies. “But the reason for it is so that I feel free to change course for as long as I can. I try to preserve that innocence, and I’m kind of crazy about it.” As an illustration of just how seriously he values this freedom, he explains that he asks studio staff not to comment on any negatives that come in. “For as long as I can, I say, ‘Pretend you’re not seeing anything. I don’t want you to say one thing. Don’t say it looks good, or it looks bad, or anything.’ Just so I can keep that innocence. There’s a certain point at which you have to start talking about things, but I take it as far as I can.” This freedom was just as important to him before he found success. His breakthrough project had the working title of From Here To There when he set out. “It had nothing to do with the Mississippi River. The idea was that one picture led to another picture.” Broken Manual evolved multiple times, starting out as a commission for the Atlanta High Museum to make work in the American south. “Originally it was called Black Line Of Woods, and there were no people in the pictures.” He soon realised he didn’t want to be restricted by the geography of the south, or focus purely on landscape, and he ended up expanding it cross country, following some notion of escape through the loners and misfits he decided to structure the project around. “And yes, the very thing that I’m working on now has changed three different times. Which is precisely why I don’t talk about it.” NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2021

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‘Peter’s houseboat, Winona, MN’, from the series Sleeping By The Mississippi (2004)

I wonder whether this protectiveness about what he is up to is really a battle against time and wisdom. An attempt to maintain his sense of curiosity, that precious innocence of youth that first propelled him? Did he regain his taste of that, going back out into the world again after months of lockdown? “You can’t re-fabricate it,” he replies. “But, ideally, when you’re authentically making work in the moment, there’s a real element of that.” Stuck home during lockdown, he clearly wasn’t in the zone. “During that stretch of time I couldn’t access that place, everything was in my head. When I’m making pictures there’s a point at which that falls away and I’m not thinking about [socioeconomic] issues or any of that, I’m just making the picture. For a long stretch, that just didn’t happen. And what is interesting is that when I first went back out to make personal work, I couldn’t do it. I spent five days not taking a single picture. All the stuff in my head, I couldn’t get rid of it. “I had a bit of a breakdown, actually, and then I was like, ‘Screw it. I’m not going to work on this thing I thought about, I’m going to go somewhere 614

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“When I first went back out to make personal work, I couldn’t do it. I spent five days not taking a single picture. All the stuff in my head, I couldn’t get rid of it”


else, and I’m just going to take pictures, I don’t care what it’s about.’ And that was my way back as a photographer again. It’s just letting go. Getting older as an artist is this fascinating thing. You are continuing to find new ways to access that original impulse – that more pure impulse.” So where do his ideas emerge from? He’s not a prolific image-maker, someone who goes out every day with a camera. And, as he’s illustrated, he’s perfectly willing to bend to wherever his curiosity takes him, or even abandon a project altogether and start again. What, then, is the start point? How does he get going at all? “I try to align an idea with where I’m at, I guess, psychologically, or in my life,” he reveals. “But that’s also where I get into trouble. So, if I’m going through a midlife crisis, I want to make work that’s somewhat about that. But if I suddenly overcome that, then it’s a bit of a problem. “Broken Manual was kind of like a midlife crisis project. And then I was in a very different place. I had this real desire to be more social, more in the world. And so then I started collaborating with a writer [Brad Zellar, on Dispatches, a series of publications each related to a specific place, dubbed ‘North American ramblings’], and that felt right for where I was at that time period. I have noticed that a big component of the way I choose projects is the extent to which I’m feeling social or anti-social. This is a core element of why I’m a photographer: I long to be alone, but I need other

Above ‘Mother and daughter’, from the series Sleeping By The Mississippi (2004) Left ‘Charles, Vasa, MN’, from the series Sleeping By The Mississippi (2004)

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people!” He laughs. “I don’t know how to articulate it, but this desire for connection and this desire for separation is kind of embedded in everything that I do. That’s kind of why I do it, I think.” How important is it to be able to succinctly summarise what he’s been doing once it’s ready for public consumption? Is that just something for press and marketing, or is it part of the process for him to understand his work? “That’s a really great question. I am not doing this just for me. I do like to communicate. And I want people to be able to respond to the work, to access it somehow and find a way into it. So being able to verbalise a little bit what it’s about, to help people in, is part of that.” The reason I ask is because he had a particular problem verbalising the thoughts behind his last major project, I Know How Furiously Your Heart Is Beating, and much of the press around its launch had focused on the epiphany and subsequent soul-searching that had preceded it. “Is it about anything at all?” he seemed to wonder out loud in interviews. “Furiously was really atypical for me,” Soth explains, “in that when I started it, I didn’t want it to be a project at all. I really, really wanted to just get back to taking pictures and making portraits and just letting that be everything. But, over time it turned more and more into a project. And, it’s true, I had to find a way to talk about it.” What nearly every interviewer focused on was the backstory, which is hardly surprising. It has been told elsewhere many times, so to retell it here in brief, Soth experienced some sort of mystical awakening while on a trip to Finland, a sudden and overwhelming sense that everything is connected. It changed everything for him. He quit travelling and he stopped photographing people. For 12 months he barely took any photographs at all. But he wasn’t taking a year out. “I was quitting photography,” he reveals, “and I thought it was going to be forever and ever.” Thankfully he changed his mind. But when he returned he was determined it would be different, describing his time away as “a bit of a purification process”, enabling him to “come back to photography with more of a clean slate”. When he began making portraits again he wanted them to feel less “predatory” and more considerate of the people he was photographing. A key picture to the Furiously work is his portrait of Anna Halprin, the late dancer and choreographer who was 97 when he photographed her at her home. Having tried out an experiment with a temporary studio at his San Francisco gallery, he felt that photographing his subjects at home was more important to what he was striving for. They were more relaxed, and their domestic spaces were a portrait in themselves. And the portraits in Furiously are different. They are absent of a collective narrative, other 616

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“I am not doing this just for me. I do like to communicate. And I want people to be able to respond to the work, to access it somehow. So being able to verbalise what it’s about, to help people in, is part of that”

‘Anna, Kentfield, California’, from the series I Know How Furiously Your Heart Is Beating (2019)


Alec Soth, 5 ‘The Arkansas Cajun’s backup bunker’, from the series Broken Manual (2010)

than Soth’s own desire to explore the chemistry of distance and connection. And to my eye, with their frames within frames and defocused foregrounds, they are more playfully sophisticated photographs, stylistically so different from Songbook, with its use of monochrome and hard flash. “Hopefully, when someone encounters the work, some of that [backstory] falls away, and then they’re having much more of a nonverbal experience with it,” says Soth. And since completing the “non-project”, he says he has returned to being the photographer he once was, and back again. “Things get dirty again, and I need to re-purify. And this has happened multiple times, where I’ve had to break things down. I told you about this sort of mental breakdown I had post-pandemic, and that’s just the way I work. I reach a point

and I have to kind of start over or come to terms with why I really wanted to do this in the first place.” The week after our conversation Soth is due to travel to a university to give graduate critiques. He expects he will see the same “tightness” he felt when he was starting out, “that trying too hard”. Dropping that comes with a certain amount of maturity, he says, trying to balance the skills you have acquired with holding on to to some of your naivety. “What’s hard about developing over the years is that you become less naive, you start understanding everything. So finding a new way to not know what you’re doing, and then relax into that – that’s kind of the goal.” alecsoth.com NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2021

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‘NOW I CAN SEE THE LIGHT. PEOPLE ARE SEEING ME’

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The artist and activist Lola Flash HonFRPS has dedicated her life to challenging sexual, racial and cultural stereotypes. Now she finally feels the world is taking notice WORDS: GEMMA PADLEY IMAGES: LOLA FLASH HonFRPS

From the series syzygy, the vision

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“I was always visually curious. I was an only child and had a lot of time to sit and think and look and not be interrupted”

Left ‘Tanya’ from the series Surmise

Above ‘Sloane’ from the series Surmise

It is 7.30am in New York and Lola Flash is feeling thankful. Besides being among renowned image-makers recently awarded an RPS Honorary Fellowship, she excitedly explains her work has just been acquired by MoMA for its permanent collection. What’s more, she had dinner last night with Pen + Brush, a gallery she has been working closely with, who helped arrange a meeting with someone she hopes to photograph. “I feel as though I’ve lived my whole life under a rock, and someone has kicked that rock off,” she says. “Now I can see the light. People are seeing me. Things come when they’re supposed to come. I’m feeling very grateful and gracious.” Now 62, the American artist-activist has been at the forefront of genderqueer visual politics for more than three

decades, using her camera to make work that challenges racial, sexual and gender preconceptions. She has work in the V&A’s permanent collection and has been exhibited at Autograph ABP in London, among other places. Flash knew from an early age she wanted to make pictures. Her mother set up a darkroom for her in the family home while her father took her on trips to Florida where she could let her imagination run wild. “There’s so much colour in Florida I go crazy,” says Flash. “I don’t know if I could actually work in a place like that because I’d always be a deer in the headlights, I’m just so attracted [to colour]. There’s just this almost calling of colours and shapes and forms. I was always visually curious. I was an only child and had a lot of time to sit and think and look and not be interrupted.” NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2021

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‘Nickolai’ from the series [Sur]passing

At that point she had no idea of photography’s potential, she says, “to be a powerful tool to help fight and create justice and equity. That was far away from my ideologies back then. It was really just about capturing – not capturing, that sounds so colonial – but just holding something and being able to document it in a way that I could come back to it.” For a time, she wanted to pursue scientific photography, inspired by seeing images through a microscope that “looked like abstract paintings”. Realising it wasn’t quite the right fit, Flash began using photography to give visibility to LGBTQIA+ communities of colour and celebrate queer legacies. “My photography is fuelled by activism [and has been] forever,” she explains. “It has to do with when I graduated 622

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from college in 1981 – that was the first official year that someone was diagnosed with HIV, although most of us know that it started earlier. By the end of that decade I was in ACT UP [AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power] doing a lot of activism, demonstrating. When I blew out my candles every birthday I’d wish for an end to HIV/AIDS. I’m of the generation that lost a lot of folks.” While she was studying at the Maryland Institute in the late 1970s, a happy accident led Flash to use a cross-colour technique she then employed for the series AIDS Art, exploring the AIDS crisis in New York City. “It was really cool to transform all my friends into crosscolour,” says Flash. “It was a mistake – I didn’t have the right


‘Thato’ from the series [Sur]passing

paper. That ‘mistake’ was something I continued doing for 20 years.” It was fun, she says, “getting away from this binary around colour”. The technique was also a way to conceal her subjects’ identities, many of whom wanted to be anonymous. In 1990, eager to explore new ways of working, Flash moved to the UK to study at the London College of Printing, now the London College of Communication. She stayed for 12 years and considers England a second home. While in London she began the project [sur]passing, comprising largerthan-life colour portraits taken with her 5x4 large format camera. In this work she considers the impact of skin pigmentation on Black identity.

Generally when making portraits Flash asks her models to think about pride, power and someone they admire. “I want my models to have a very assured stance and the way they look out into the audience is … proud but not aggressive,” she says. “It’s a really fine line. I want the people to shine.” Flash has felt the sharp end of racial discrimination – she was arrested in 2008 for what she has described as “walking while Black”. She was unemployed for six months after her teaching licence was suspended. She explores the experience in her image ‘Incarceration’. Our conversation turns to the lack of diversity in museums, both with regard to visitors and the artists whose work is on show (or not). “My attitude towards museums has changed NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2021

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Left ‘Stay afloat – use a rubber’, for GMHA in London, 1993, from the series Aids Art

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“When I continue to see people who look like me being shot, or all the unjust ways people who look like me are treated, there’s just so much inequity”

a lot,” says Flash. “Since the days of walking around museums in London and feeling like I’m the only Black person in there, I’m seeing more and more Black people in museums. “When I was younger a museum was the last place I wanted to be because of [the lack of diversity]. I felt museums weren’t looking at my communities, but I see that changing. Artist Zanele Muholi HonFRPS is probably one of the best people when you think about intersectionality. They have shown their work all over the world. Now, when museums approach me, I’m excited about it.” Since 2019 Flash has been working on syzygy, the vision, a more conceptual self-portrait project rooted in Afrofuturism. “It almost feels like syzygy, the vision is a crystallisation of all the work I’ve been doing,” she says. “Now I’m the vessel. I don’t know if I’ve learned from my models or from my friends 624

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who are in performance art or actors, but I feel as though I’m learning how to emote by the way I’m using my body.” What, I wonder, drives her to keep doing what she does? “Keeping our images out there,” she replies. “It’s something that is very innate, something that’s part of my fabric. When I wake up every day, when I continue to see people who look like me being shot, or all the unjust ways that people who look like me are treated, there’s just so much inequity. “I’m also a teacher, so my students keep me up. I’m working towards helping them understand we can make change, that we can make this world a better place.” Does she feel change is coming? “I definitely see things changing,” she says. “I see laws changing, I see attitudes changing. My friends’ kids and my students are so open, they’re very gender fluid and not into labelling


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“When I was a young girl I didn’t see any reflections of me, even on magazine covers. Now, we have magazines with all kinds of people on their covers”

themselves … It’s coming, but I don’t think I will see a real justice in my lifetime.” During the US lockdown, Flash found time to watch videos of James Baldwin, Audre Lorde and Angela Davis, which helped to “centre myself”, she says. “These struggles are not new, so being able to listen to the people who have already been doing this work helps to remind me that I’m part of an ‘army of lovers’, as we used to say in ACT UP, who are continuing [the fight]. I always think about it as though they’ve passed on the baton and now I’m running with [it].” As long overdue interest in Flash’s work from museums, galleries and the media continues, she is beginning to consider what her own legacy might be. 626

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“To think that someone who looks like me 300 years down the road could walk into a museum and see some of my portraits and think, ‘Oh, I look like that’, or ‘This is by Lola Flash, she looks like me’, to have that kind of a legacy …” She pauses before continuing, “When I was a young girl I didn’t see any reflections of me, even on magazine covers. Now, we have magazines with all kinds of people on their covers. More and more the people who run the magazines are hiring Black people and queer people, and hopefully soon, lesbians. We have to embrace everybody.” lolaflash.com


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Zelda Cheatle HonFRPS and her rescue dog, Iris, September 2021, photographed for the RPS Journal by Harry Borden HonFRPS

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A DIFFERENT TRUTH A curator, educator, editor, gallery founder and more, Zelda Cheatle HonFRPS abides by the mantra ‘just do it’. Meet the irrepressible recipient of the RPS Award for Outstanding Contribution to Photography 2021 WORDS: RACHEL SEGAL HAMILTON PORTRAITS: HARRY BORDEN HonFRPS

When it came to choosing her A-levels, Zelda Cheatle HonFRPS was determined she wanted to study art history, except they didn’t offer it at her school. Instead of settling for an alternative, she simply got hold of the syllabus and taught herself. “I took myself off on all of these sort of investigative journeys,” she remembers. As a teenager growing up in Belfast she was a natural self-starter, learning photography with her parents’ Kodak Box Brownie, seeking out artists and visiting them in their studios to learn more about their practice. “I thought, I’ll just do this myself. And I think that’s kind of how I’ve gone about things for the rest of my life.” As a curator, editor and educator, Cheatle’s impact on photography and photographers has been profound. Since starting out in the 1980s she has overseen the print room of The Photographers’ Gallery (TPG) in London, run her own gallery for more than 16 years, established world-leading collections, taught at numerous institutions, written essays and edited scores of photography books, and led major curatorial events in Russia, China and the Middle East. Invariably, she always has an abundance of projects on the go. At the time of writing she has a new book out, several exhibitions in London and abroad in the planning stages or on the horizon – including one at RPS Gallery in 2022 – and ongoing mentorships with photographers, to name just a few. “I have a very broad interest in photography,” she explains over the phone from her home in London, with Iris, her Spanish Podenco rescue dog, seated contentedly beside her. NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2021

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“I’m as comfortable working with gritty documentary photography as I am with something that is non-descriptive, more interpretive.” The best projects, she says, the most fulfilling ones, are those with a strong collaborative element. An example of this is The Shipping Forecast by Mark Power HonFRPS. At a point when Power was reaching the end of his funding for the project, Cheatle helped him put together a portfolio of prints with which she secured support from five institutions, including the V&A, the Arts Council and the British Council, so that Power could continue the work. Once it was completed, she published it through her gallery’s imprint, Zelda Cheatle Press.

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From the series East of Eden by David George

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“I’m as comfortable working with gritty documentary photography as I am with something more interpretive”


Installation view of the exhibition Mother River by Yan Wang Preston

Cheatle’s latest book, The Photograph That Changed My Life, was inspired by conversations she has had with photographers. “I’ve listened over the years to so many people telling me the stories of how they made their pictures, why they made their pictures, how they began in photography, how they began collecting, what was the first picture they took or the one picture they would try to save if the world was going to end ...” Nonetheless, many of the choices put forward in the book surprised her, pointing more to the subjective, emotional resonance of images than the development of a practice. Keen to “leave it to other people”, she won’t be drawn on her own choice but says there are “pictures seared in my memory too”. A-levels done, Cheatle left Belfast for Brighton where she studied photography under Tom Buckeridge and art history under Stuart Morgan. The studios and knowledgeable technicians were a fantastic resource and she attended some “electrifying” lectures by Morgan about William Eggleston. In general, however, as a photographer she “trod a fairly lonely path”. Applying to study photography as a postgraduate at Goldsmiths, she was even required to submit a portfolio showing sketches. “In 1980, photography wasn’t quite tickety-boo,” says Cheatle, laughing. That resistance to taking photography seriously as fine art, which seems to have faded in 2021 but NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2021

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From the series Soul of the Underground, 2018, by Susan Derges HonFRPS

was so fiercely debated four decades earlier, only spurred Cheatle on. Through an analysis of the work of the Farm Security Administration photographers, of whom many were also painters, her dissertation argued that documentary photography had a longevity to rival art. For the first few years after graduating she worked as a freelance photographer, shooting book covers and stories for the Young Observer, a youth supplement, but when a post came up at TPG, she went for it. “I never thought that I was going to be the greatest photographer that ever walked the Earth,” Cheatle admits, “and I was keen to get a mortgage so having a job, rather than freelancing, was essential.” With its charismatic founder Sue Davies HonFRPS at the helm, TPG was the epicentre of the burgeoning London photography scene. “Everybody walked through the door – Jacques-Henri Lartigue, André Kertész, Bill Brandt, Fay Godwin – and 632

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everybody had such admiration for what Sue and the gallery were doing,” she says. “It was a fabulous, dynamic time to be involved in photography. Sue said, here’s the print room, do what you like. So I did. And it was really, really successful.” It felt, at last, like “people were waking up to the realisation that photography was really exciting and accessible and affordable. It meant something. It meant a lot.” Auctions of photographic prints were gaining a momentum never previously seen; collectors and the wider public too were catching on. In 1989, when the traditionalist Royal Academy staged a landmark exhibition about the history of photography, curated by Daniel Wolf, “People queued down the street. They extended it for months because so many people wanted to see it. It was quite a moment.” The time had come for Cheatle, encouraged by Davies, to go her own way. Zelda Cheatle Gallery opened in 1989 in Cecil Court, London. It was a huge learning curve. Curating,


“People were waking up to the realisation that photography was exciting and accessible and affordable. It meant something. It meant a lot”

hanging shows, cataloguing, the day-to-day running of a gallery was one thing, but Cheatle quickly had to develop new skills in business, accounting and computers – “truly not my thing” – and all this with a one-year-old child. “When I look back in retrospect, it wasn’t ideal because you don’t get any sleep when you have a baby,” she says, laughing, “but the medium itself was 150 years old that year and I thought, well, if I’m ever going to start anything with photography it’s going to be now.” During the nearly 17 years she ran her gallery, Cheatle exhibited many of the leading lights of photography, people such as Eve Arnold, Imogen Cunningham and Robert Frank. But she also made a point of showing work by younger artists, sometimes graduates she had met while teaching photography and printmaking at the Royal Academy. “I was coming across really exceptional people, many of whom I’m still in touch with. It’s nice to see someone at the beginning of their career and be able to follow them.” By 2005 she was ready for a new challenge and closed the gallery to head up the inaugural Photography Fund, building

‘Mildmay social club’ from the series Findings by Tom Hunter HonFRPS

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a new collection of iconic 20th-century fine art photography, which she did until 2012. A growing feeling that she wanted to spread her wings further, to do more international curating, was nagging at her. By chance she met the photographer Yan Wang Preston at a portfolio review in Derby, a catalyst for her to do just this. Preston, then pregnant, had secured three museum shows in China for her epic project Mother River, following the Yangtze River from source to sea, but had minimal experience of curating. “I really liked her and I thought the project was unbelievable,” says Cheatle, who threw herself into a collaboration. When Preston arrived at the first show, with her months-old baby, everything was done. “That was the beginning,” says Cheatle, who in this latest phase of her career has channelled her irrepressible warmth and energy into an array of ambitious curatorial projects around the world. They include Dubai Photo Exhibition, for which she brought together work by 128 artists in 23 countries, liaising across time zones to bring everything to

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‘Suleymaniye Mosque’ from the series Prayer Places by Tom Hunter HonFRPS

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“Today people are much more familiar with the substance of photography. And some of it is utterly disposable”

Zelda Cheatle HonFRPS and Iris, September 2021, by Harry Borden HonFRPS

fruition; the annual Sony World Photography Awards exhibitions at Somerset House, London; the 2016 Art Jameel Photography Award in Saudi Arabia; and a major Cecil Beaton retrospective at the State Hermitage in St Petersburg, Russia, this year. Iris, whom Cheatle adopted three years ago, is a much-loved star of Instagram and comes with her to most places, although Iris avoids private views because she’s not a fan of crowds. Next summer, Squaring the Circles of Confusion: NeoPictorialism in the 21st Century will open at RPS Gallery, Bristol, having being postponed in 2020 due to Covid-19. The idea had been brewing in Cheatle’s mind for some time before she started discussing it with Michael Pritchard FRPS, director of education and public affairs at the RPS. “I thought it was so interesting to see people using all of these 19th-century techniques – daguerreotypes, stereographs – but talking about very 21st-century issues,” she says. What does she think is behind this resurgence of interest in older techniques? “I think it’s subliminal, but people are reacting to the speed of digital and making objects that are unique and much more about interpretation. They’re finding a different truth.”

In the contemporary photography landscape, Cheatle finds plenty to be excited about. She mentions the politically engaged work of younger photographers – such as Aida Silvestri’s recent exhibition Black Men Are Good at Peckham 24 – as well as such artists as Honorary Fellows Tom Hunter, Joy Gregory and Susan Derges. If discussion of photography in the 1980s fixated on whether it was art, it’s now about the consequences of image saturation – 1.4 trillion pictures were shot in 2020 alone. “I think there’s the same number of photographers making really interesting work as there has always been,” Cheatle says. “Today people are much more familiar with the substance of photography. And some of it is utterly disposable. But some of it is eminently valuable, something to keep and to treasure.” Squaring the Circles of Confusion: Neo-Pictorialism in the 21st Century, curated by Zelda Cheatle HonFRPS, is at RPS Gallery, Bristol, July to October 2022. The Photograph That Changed My Life by Zelda Cheatle is published by Art Cinema, £19.95. artcinema.art NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2021

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How does it feel to create the first image of a black hole? Progress Medal recipient Katie Bouman HonFRPS tells Gavin Bell about the moment she and a team of scientists visualised the unseeable IMAGE: EVENT HORIZON TELESCOPE COLLABORATION ET AL

The black hole at the centre of galaxy M87, outlined by emission from hot gas swirling around it under the influence of strong gravity near its event horizon

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The team at the Large Millimeter Telescope (LMT) in Mexico, taking observations of the black hole in 2017

The tension was palpable as a small group of scientists gathered in the Black Hole Initiative (BHI), an interdisciplinary centre at Harvard University, and sat before individual computer screens. They had been working for years on acquiring and analysing complex data gathered from unimaginable reaches of space by a worldwide array of telescopes, and this was the moment to discover if they had found what they were looking for. They activated their computers simultaneously, and images slowly began to appear of a blazing gold ring of super-hot energy and matter swirling around a shadowy void. It was the first time anyone had ever seen a visualisation of a black hole, a place in space where the gravitational field is so strong nothing, even light, can escape it. It was an astonishing achievement in image-making akin to the first photograph of a human being, created by Louis Daguerre in 1838 and showing a blurry figure having his boots shined on the Boulevard du Temple, Paris. 638

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The challenges facing the astronomers had been immeasurably greater because their objective was M87, a supermassive black hole 55 million light years from Earth. Their work depended on crucial algorithms created by, among others, Dr Katie Bouman, at the time a 29-year-old American computer scientist who joined the astronomers to view these first images. “We were incredibly excited,” she declares over a video call from her home in California. “I thought, ‘This is amazing, I’m looking at the first image we have taken of a black hole.’ It seemed too good to be true.” It was clear from the start that Bouman was extremely able. While still a high school student she won top prize at a science fair in her native Indiana with a project analysing human colour perception. A computer science class led to a summer research position at Purdue University, and a brief assignment taking photographs for graduate students, which she soon found a bit boring. “Maybe I don’t have the artistic eye for conventional photography, but I really enjoyed manipulating the images,”


Radio astronomer and EHT data scientist Lindy Blackburn with Dr Katie Bouman at the LMT

“Looking back, I’ve always had this love of imaging the invisible and pulling out hidden information that is not perceptual” she says. “Looking back, I’ve always had this love of imaging the invisible and pulling out hidden information that is not perceptual. There’s so much hidden information in the light scattered around us, and if we understand the physics of how that light is propagating and being affected by its environment then we can use it to pull more out of images.” Bouman joined the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project on black holes in 2013 and attended an introductory talk at an observatory, when she understood almost nothing of what was said. “But I got the sense it was similar to other problems I had worked on, that they had sparse data and were trying to pull out an image. It was a new, cool topic and what could be cooler than working on black holes? I knew when I left the room I really wanted to work on that project.” The main problem facing the scientists was that to produce clear images of M87 would require a telescope the size of the Earth. At such a phenomenal distance in the black depths of space, Bouman says it is like trying to view a grain of sand in New York from California. The best solution was to coordinate

pairs of telescopes around the world and to simultaneously capture slivers of the light that would reach an Earth-sized telescope, but this still left gaps in the data, which is where Bouman’s expertise in algorithms came in. As an analogy, she says observing the black hole with the EHT is like listening to a song being played on a piano with over half its keys broken. “Just as your brain may be able to recognise a song being played on a broken piano if there’s enough functioning keys, we can design algorithms to intelligently fill in the EHT’s missing information and reveal the underlying black hole image.” Which is what Bouman and her colleagues did. When the first images flickered on their computer screens they kept it a closely guarded secret – Bouman didn’t even tell her husband – until months later after the results had been validated by four international EHT teams to confirm they had not been corrupted by human bias or fake data. “I knew that in other science collaborations they would inject fake data occasionally to test that people were doing NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2021

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Katie Bouman reacts as the first image of a black hole appears

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everything properly, and I thought there was a chance they had injected fake data for us to work with,” says Bouman. “The person who gave us the data was sitting in the room at Harvard and he was saying he didn’t do anything, but I was not 100% convinced — it was too good to be true. “When we finally felt comfortable in revealing the recovered images to the rest of the collaboration it was such a good day. We went out to a bar at Harvard Square and had a few beers and karaoke – it was a lot of fun.” The final image released to the public in 2019 was a composite of three images that varied slightly but contained the same basic structure. “We have seen what we thought was unseeable,” declared the astronomer Shep Doeleman, head of the project. A photograph of Bouman beaming excitedly as the first images appeared on her computer went viral online, as a tweet announced that she had “led the creation of a new algorithm to produce the first-ever image of a black hole”. Bouman stood out as a role model for young women working in or aspiring to jobs in male-dominated science fields that have often ignored the contributions of women. Young and with a brilliant mind, she was perfectly cast as a shatterer of glass ceilings. Her fame, however, produced a backlash on social media, with online trolls debunking her contribution and calling her a fraud. “It wasn’t great,” she says. “There was no single method – there were multiple methods that we developed and that was the strength of the work. So it was incorrect to say that an algorithm I developed created the image. It was one piece of it. “I was upset especially because there were so many people in the collaboration who had done so much work on different aspects of the problem, not just on imaging but, for example, in putting the telescopes together and in collecting the data.” 640

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“it was such a good day. We went out to a bar and had a few beers and karaoke”


Bouman at the ALMA interferometric telescope in Chile’s Atacama Desert

Harvard eventually clarified Bouman’s role, saying her work had inspired the methods used to construct the final image. A more positive response came in the hundreds of emails and letters from girls around the world, keen to tell Bouman that her work made them want to pursue professional careers. “To be honest they inspired me,” she says. “I never sought to be a role model but over time I have realised how important it is for girls and women to see other women in roles like this. I think it makes a big difference.” So how does she follow up such an astronomical triumph? For starters, Bouman has taken up the post of assistant professor at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and her work now ranges across many different applications in computational imaging, including medical imaging and

seismic imaging. So while her current focus is on far more than just black holes, she firmly believes that, “actually these problems in imaging are all very connected.” In terms of astronomical imaging, she tells us that “The next big thing is imaging Sagittarius A*, a supermassive black hole in the centre of our own galaxy. Sagittarius A* is a lot closer to us but harder to image because it is much smaller than M87 and so the gas moves around it much faster, making it more of a challenge.” In the unlikely event Bouman ever loses heart, she can find inspiration in the fan letters she keeps in her office for a rainy day. Each one reaffirms the belief that for ambitious young women, the sky is the limit. NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2021

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Right From the series No Touch Am by Osborne Macharia ART PRODUCTION CLIENT

CURATING A NEW AFRICA Awarded the RPS Award for Curatorship 2021, Azu Nwagbogu champions a bold, brave vision of his beloved continent WORDS: GRAEME GREEN

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Right From the series No Touch Am by Osborne Macharia

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Below Azu Nwagbogu by Kadara Enyeasi

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“My mum was very ordered,” says Azu Nwagbogu. “My dad had his messy way, with documents all over the place, papers on the floor. But my mum was interested in archiving and collecting material, documenting achievements, and she always had the most up-to-date camera, always taking pictures. They were two opposite personalities. They lived happily but couldn’t share a bedroom because of their separate ways.” Growing up in Lagos, Nigeria, Nwagbogu credits his mother’s early influence for launching him on his chosen career path as a curator of photography and art. The work Nwagbogu has curated – and helped create – is responsible for challenging preconceived ideas about Africa, Africans and African art. He is founder and director of the internationally renowned LagosPhoto Festival, and of the African Artists’ Foundation (AAF), a non-profit organisation established in 2007 that promotes contemporary African artists and develops talent in Nigeria. In 2008 Nwagbogu launched the annual National Art Competition, which provides a platform for emerging Nigerian artists, and created Art Base Africa, a virtual space to discover contemporary African art. Along the way, he’s worked as head curator for the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa in South Africa, curated private collections for individual collectors and organisations,


“A good curator gets close to the subject matter. It’s about being an inspiring partner for the artist. You can help them get better”

and served as a juror for World Press Photo, Greenpeace and the Wellcome Photography Prize. A busy man, then, which explains why he arrives on Zoom enthusiastic but tired, having worked through most of the night and squeezed in two meetings before our morning call. Nwagbogu now has the RPS Award for Curatorship 2021 to add to his list of achievements. “This award means so much to me,” he says. “When you begin to celebrate that relationship between curators and photographers, people start to read photography in a different way. It’s a credit to the artists and photographers I’ve worked with, and to my approach to curating photography. I don’t make a distinction between what people call art photography or documentary. I’m more interested in the messaging and ideas that the photographer is trying to put forward.” What else does it take to be a successful curator? “The ability to bring in your own style, taste, vision and ideas. You almost need to be an artist. The world today has changed so much and people connect better with stories that feel personal. A good curator gets close to the subject matter. Sometimes we find there are gaps in the research and need to push the photographer to go back, reshoot or do more work. It’s about being an inspiring partner for the artist. You can help them get better.” NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2021

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Below Samuel Fosso exhibition installation, LagosPhoto, 2017

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Nwagbogu is guided by the mantra ‘be fearless but thoughtful’ which sits beneath his profile picture on Twitter. It took fearlessness to launch a photo festival in Lagos in 2010. “The idea of a photo festival in the city was radical at the time we launched,” he recalls. “But we wanted to make sure we had a democratic approach. Since the start, we always engaged large public spaces across the city, and that was a big part of its success.” Nigeria has been through difficult times, including the 2020 riots against police brutality, which Nwagbogu helped photographers to document. Covid-19 has also impacted people’s lives, as well as the LagosPhoto Festival itself, which is expected to return bigger and brighter for its 12th edition in 2022 after being forced online by the pandemic last year. “I’m excited about the work I’ve seen that’s been produced over the last 18 months,” Nwagbogu says. “Photography is unique in its ability to provide markers of our time. We’ve forgotten what it was like in the early days of the crisis. We’ve moved on. People will come to us in 30, 50 or 100 years and want to know how we came through this global pandemic.” Over the years, Nwagbogu has championed African artists such as Joana Choumali, Osborne Macharia, Omar Victor Diop and Lagos-based Stephen Tayo. He has also invited international photographers and artists, such as


“We focused on challenging the trope of Afro-pessimism, the predominant representation of black misery and suffering in the media”

Above Emo de Medeiros exhibition installation, LagosPhoto, 2018

Lorenzo Vitturi and Patrick Willocq, to Nigeria. His work is driven by an interest in authentic African representations, and a desire to shift away from tired cliches. “We focused on challenging the trope of Afro-pessimism, the predominant representation of black misery and suffering in the media,” he explains. “Afro-pessimism is the idea that Africa is a dark hole and nothing can be done. Photography has been implicated because it’s represented Africa as in crisis: disease, deprivation, famine, wars, destitution. The idea from Western photographers that they’re trying to make an intervention has also been aped by African photographers of a certain era, because that’s what got published. The stories on the African continent go beyond all that, and Afro-pessimism diminishes the humanity of African people. If you’re always shown in crisis, it doesn’t show you as fully human: joy, play, family, love …” “Afro-pessimism has become so passé,” he adds. “A lot of photographers around the world realise there’s fatigue with this ‘Africa porn’ and ‘poverty porn’, and that it’s unhelpful and tired and worn. Your story can’t be interesting if it’s the same all the time. We really pushed against that grain. We’ve worked with artists who use photography in diverse ways, NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2021

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“Photography is only exciting when it can make a situation better. It shouldn’t be about shock value. It should be about finding hope”

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‘American Beauty’ from the series [re-] Mixing Hollywood by Antoine Tempé and Omar Victor Diop

such as Viviane Sassen HonFRPS, Maïmouna Guerresi and Adéolá Olágúnjú, to documentary-style photographers such as Kadir van Lohuizen, Gideon Mendel HonFRPS and George Osodi. We found ways to segregate photographers not by race or colour but by the sensibility they subscribe to and their ability to create nuance.” That doesn’t mean photography shouldn’t tackle serious issues in Africa. But Nwagbogu is interested in photographers who show light, not just darkness. “Photography is only exciting when it is able to illuminate and remediate a situation. It shouldn’t be about shock value. It should be about finding hope in images and a story, and creating the possibility of doing something about a situation.” Striking a balance to illuminate urgent subjects is something he relishes. “That’s what’s exciting about the work. Jan Hoek documented mentally ill people on the streets in Ethiopia, and I also shared the work of Robin Hammond, a Zimbabwean who documented mentally ill people being institutionalised and shackled, like slaves. But the tension and excitement lies in the ability to create hope in a story. Sometimes you get work that’s so brutal in its ‘honesty’ and you know the photographer is merely scratching the surface. Everyone knows there’s poverty. But through photography you can get to the root cause, such as why a community is cut off from resources or healthcare. I’m interested in going deeper and finding the room for intervention. That’s where the art and skill of storytelling exists.” Nwagbogu also wants to see an end to photography that romanticises African people. “It should have had its day but there are still photographers presenting Africa in this tired way, exoticising people,” he says. “I’m not sure why people consume this, but it shows how difficult it is to break with clichés and traditional structures that are institutionalised ways to separate people.” African art is ‘hot’ right now, according to Nwagbogu. “There’s a genuine interest from museums and institutions in the art of the continent and presenting a fairer representation of how the world is. Social media and the internet have also enabled artists to showcase their work on their own terms and show their character.” NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2021

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Nwagbogu also sees change happening in African selfportrayals, which, he suggests, have previously been boxed in by outside ideas imposed on African art. “It’s evolving. Photography is super-important because we need to value the way we represent and visualise ourselves as Africans in our continent, and then the way the rest of the world sees us becomes secondary. We can challenge the colonial mentality and also what I call ‘post-colonial cannibalism’, where a lot of curators refuse to work with each other because everyone wants to be ‘the best’, which is a real problem. I love to collaborate. It’s vital in the work we do.” Despite the global impact of the Black Lives Matter movement and vocal support from global institutions, Nwagbogu still sees a lack of diversity and representation in the art world, alongside an “in-built bias” that judges African art as inferior. “Change won’t happen overnight,” he argues. “A lot of institutions are fundamentally not fit for purpose. You can replace the top people with a few black curators or black artists, but the institution will still function in a violent colonial way. It’s not just about the senior positions but the need to destroy and rebuild institutions, not just for black people but humanity. Bias is ingrained in how societies have been structured. We have global problems we need to tackle, and we can’t do that without the knowledge of First Nations

“We need to value the way we represent ourselves as Africans in our continent, then the way the rest of the world sees us becomes secondary”

From Ibeji, a series by Stephen Tayo that focuses on twins in Nigeria

people, indigenous people and previous colonial subjects who have the custodianship that’s important in how we exist.” Race isn’t the only issue. There needs to be more inclusivity with gender and class, he says. “It’s changing. Of course, certain education and social networks give people a huge advantage. But through social media and the internet, a lot of artists are educating themselves and creating communities online, sharpening their skills and ideas, learning from each other. It’s no longer a school of rich posh kids. The doors are opened now to many people. That’s brilliant because one thing I detest is any form of snobbery in representation. It’s cultural anathema.” Nwagbogu hopes the organisations and institutions of the future are free from outdated ways of thinking. “I want to see a new logic in the art world where curators and artists are able to create new institutions for the future that are completely decolonised. Well, you can never be completely decolonised, but fit for purpose. That’s what I’m excited about, new institutions for the new generation. Photography is super-important in Africa because the education system is constantly failing, so if there’s a way the champions of the art world can come back and support the talent and educate the people on the continent, then we have hope for the future.” lagosphotofestival.com, africanartists.org, artbaseafrica.org and on Instagram @azubogu NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2021

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FAITH AND GLORY

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Each year the RPS honours members for their outstanding contribution to the work of the Society. Rachel Segal Hamilton introduces the 2021 Fenton Medal and Members’ Award recipients

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‘Praying’ by Sheila Haycox ARPS

SHEILA HAYCOX ARPS Members’ Award From wildlife to sport, street photography and landscapes, Devon-based Sheila Haycox has explored most genres since she began taking pictures 35 years ago. In 1986 she joined Exmouth Photo Group, later going on to serve as the group’s chair and, for 18 years, as its secretary. Audio visual work has become her main focus over recent years – she has given presentations on this to photo clubs across the country, and served as webmaster for the RPS Audio Visual site as well as the Western Region of the Digital Imaging Group. Who or what has been your biggest photographic inspiration? I wasn’t inspired by any well-known photographer but by members of the first club I joined. It was always my aim to produce photographs that could stand up to their appraisal. 652

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Which photograph or photobook do you most cherish? It’s the photobooks I have made because my children never asked about my photographic hobby. When I showed them the first book I made they were surprised I had even produced it, let alone taken the photos. They looked at every page and didn’t flick through. Is there an image you wish you’d taken? There are always images I wish I’d taken or made – there are such a lot of talented people out there. When were you struck by the power of photography? Photography will always have power, especially those images that affect people in times of crisis. It never fails to move me when someone is talking about their work which can either bring out tears or laughter. I saw John Bolloten give a talk recently at a Welsh Photographic Conference on drug addicts. There was power in all his photos that left me thinking.


STEWART WALL ARPS Fenton Medal Stewart Wall was fascinated to read that Roger Fenton, who gave his name to this award, travelled in a horse-drawn photographic van while documenting the Crimean War in 1855. Wall has had his share of photographic vans, too – including a camper he converted himself and a former school bus that he set up as a mobile studio. Although he has worked with many types of photography since 1978, his work has always centred on people. Encouraged by Michael Pritchard FRPS, the RPS Director of Programmes, Wall started a photography degree in 2015, followed by a master’s and a PGCE, and is now studying for a PhD. As an RPS volunteer he has been a regional organiser and Distinctions assessor, run many workshops and projects, and helped create and chair the Photobook Distinction with Trevor Yerbury FRPS.

Who or what has been your biggest photographic inspiration? Digital photography truly inspired me – it enabled photography to evolve from a niche activity to photography for everyone. Which photograph or photobook do you cherish the most? Minamata: The Story of the Poisoning of a City, and of the People who Choose to Carry the Burden of Courage, by W Eugene Smith, published in 1975. The book leaves me lost for words. I can’t get through it in one go. Is there an image you wish you’d taken? There are many – I would not want to pick out just one. When were you struck by the power of photography? I started my first job as a press photographer in 1978 as a shy boy. Within a year the power of photography had given me the confidence to talk to anyone from a homeless person in the street to Margaret Thatcher, then prime minister.

‘Park Hill flats, Sheffield, 2015’ by Stewart Wall ARPS

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PETER HAYES FRPS Fenton Medal

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A summer job on a Kent building site was the unlikely spark for Peter Hayes’ love of photography. Then aged 14, he spent his earnings on an Olympus film camera, developing his shots in his school’s darkroom. After beginning his career in journalism, Hayes worked in television and then communications, returning to still photography when he joined the RPS in 2010. Achieving his LRPS, ARPS and FRPS in less than a year, he went on to chair the Distinctions Committee and has been pivotal in engaging with members via social media, live talks and roadshows, while bringing more women onto assessment panels. He has also been chair of the Multimedia Panel and the Travel Panel, among other roles.

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Who or what has been your biggest photographic inspiration? Don McCullin HonFRPS. As a journalist I’m drawn to his work’s immediacy and relevance. His range is extraordinary – from war images from Vietnam and Northern Ireland to images of the stark brutality of poverty in London’s East End and, more recently, evocative landscapes of Somerset where he lives.

Which photograph or photobook do you most cherish? Of my own work, I’d choose ‘Waiting’, an image I took as photographer-in-residence at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital and which appeared in IPE 155. The photograph shows a man who’s just received treatment sitting with his wife in the reception area. Just feet away, hundreds of people are rushing past, yet they are quietly dignified, resigned to what’s happening. Is there an image you wish you’d taken? ‘The terror of war’ [also known as ‘The Napalm girl’], the iconic image of Vietnamese children running away from a Napalm attack in their village taken by Nick Ut, who won both the 1973 Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography and the 1973 World Press Photo of the Year. This single photograph helped to end the war and shows the immense impact photography can have on world opinion. When were you struck by the power of photography? When the RPS launched the Hundred Heroines campaign to celebrate the centenary of votes for women in the UK, entries were invited from across the world. The result was extraordinary – there were so many gifted female photographers producing astonishing work.

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‘Waiting’ by Peter Hayes FRPS

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‘Tyrannosaurus’ by Rex Waygood

REX WAYGOOD Fenton Medal When Rex Waygood retired he decided to treat himself to a gift – membership of the RPS. He had already been a member and honorary secretary of a camera club for several years. At the RPS he threw himself into many activities – sitting on the Digital Imaging committee and joining the Imaging Science Group, for which he has written articles and given talks. During the pandemic he joined other volunteers and committee members to deliver online events via Zoom. He is now co-chair of Digital Imaging, together with Deborah Loth. Who or what has been your biggest photographic inspiration? Ted Moore, who took me into his darkroom to teach me how to process 35mm negatives so I could print at 20x16 without grain. This gave me the confidence to produce 20x16 monoprints and started me on my photographic path. I’ve met many inspirational photographers since but without Ted getting me started I probably wouldn’t have met them. Which photograph or photobook do you most cherish? LensWork edited by Brooks Jensen, a beautifully printed

magazine about the art of photography. On the technical side my favourite of the moment is On the Law of Simultaneous Contrast of Colors by M E Chevreul and Dan Margulis, a must-read for anyone interested in our perception of colours and their relationships. Is there an image you wish you’d taken? I was at Calshot looking across the Solent when the QE2 appeared sailing out to sea. While I watched this magnificent vessel, a J-class yacht sailed between me and the QE2. I stood there in awe of this spectacle, enjoying every second. After they had both sailed past I realised I still had my camera around my neck. That is the picture I wish I had taken. When were you struck by the power of photography? When I purchased my first real DSLR in 2003 at considerable expense, I joined a website linked to that camera and posted daily. The quality of the photography was high and the critiquing was superb. Through the site I met photographers around the world. One day I overheard Nora, my wife, telling a friend our lives had changed after the purchase of that first camera because we made so many new friends. That enlargement of our social circle through photography has continued to this day. NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2021

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MARK REEVES ARPS Fenton Medal In 2018 when the IPCC released a report on the threat faced by humanity if global warming was not limited to 1.5 degrees, Mark Reeves decided it was time to act. He tabled a motion at the 2019 RPS AGM calling on the Society to commit to limiting its own carbon emissions. It passed and the Climate Change Working Group, now the RPS Environmental and Social Responsibility Committee, was formed – with Reeves one of its founder-members. Brought up in Fife and based in England, Reeves is a life-long environmentalist who specialises in landscape photography. He was a founder member of the Landscape Group, serving as its web manager and events manager. Who or what has been your biggest photographic inspiration? My biggest inspiration is a painter, J M W Turner. I enjoy creating impressionist photography – using ICM and other in-camera techniques – and Turner was surely the greatest impressionist of all time. His portrayal of light was sublime. 656

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Which photograph or photobook do you most cherish? Cherishing things isn’t something I do but I really cherish experiences. And by far my most wonderful photographic experience has been attending the photo festival at La Gacilly, Brittany. Over several months the festival transforms the winding village streets and wooded park into a huge outdoor gallery, featuring stunning work from around the world. Is there an image you wish you’d taken? I admire the work of Matjaž Krivic, a documentary photographer who works on epic themes like survival, culture and humanity’s impact on the planet. I would love to have taken many of the images in his Plan B series. Although dealing with the existential issue of humanity’s survival in the face of climate change, Krivic produces many beautiful artistic abstracts. When were you struck by the power of photography? Probably when I first saw Nick Ut’s photograph of Phan Thi Kim Phúc fleeing from the Napalm attack on her village during the Vietnam War. If there was ever one image that portrays all that is wrong with war and, particularly, with weapons of mass destruction, this must be it.


MARY P CROWTHER ARPS Fenton Medal Photography lecturer Mary P Crowther has worked in many creative commercial roles over the past three decades but has always been driven by a desire to see others achieve. A champion of photography in the north of England, she took the helm at the RPS Yorkshire Region 10 years ago, establishing a vibrant programme of events. She has served on Regional, Education and Representative committees – co-chairing the latter – as well as helping set up initiatives such as Visual Art North and documenting public artworks around Yorkshire for an RPS collaborative project with Art UK. Who or what has been your biggest photographic inspiration? The Impressions Gallery and the former National Photography Film and Television Museum, both in Bradford, where I’ve been able to access some of the most powerful, diverse and creative photography through exhibitions and archive materials.

Which photograph or photobook do you most cherish? For the pleasure of imagery it’s The Darkness and Light: Photographs by Doris Ulmann. For practical use The Digital Photographer’s Handbook by Tom Ang and The Photographer’s Handbook by John Hedgecoe, which was the first book on photography I received. Is there an image you wish you’d taken? Any of the historical moments of Nelson Mandela during apartheid, especially those by the German-born South African photographer Jürgen Schadeberg. When were you struck by the power of photography? At school, joining a photography club, and having access to a makeshift darkroom. It was always about seeing that image develop in front of you for the first time. More recently, seeing two of Mandy Barker FRPS’s series, Soup and Our Plastic Ocean. Her images of plastic debris suspended in the sea were captivating, delivering a powerful statement and message.

‘Victoria Baths, Manchester’, 2018, by Mary P Crowther ARPS

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THE RPS AWARDS 2021


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Mr Pankaj Chandak, who will give the Combined Royal Colleges Lecture 2021, photographed by Francesco Guidicini

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COMBINED ROYAL COLLEGES LECTURE 2021 Each year the recipient of the Combined Royal Colleges Medal is invited to present a lecture. This year it will be delivered at RPS House, Bristol, and online by Mr Pankaj Chandak, honoured in 2020 for his innovative work using patient-specific 3D printing for complex organ transplantation in children. Mr Chandak is specialist registrar in transplant surgery at Guy’s, Evelina London Children’s Hospital and Great Ormond Street Hospital, and research fellow at King’s College London. Although transplantation is the treatment of choice for end organ failure, the process of paediatric organ transplantation still poses several difficulties. One major

challenge is in implanting an adult-sized organ into the abdomen of a small child who has complex anatomical abnormalities. Mr Chandak will detail the current innovations and patient-specific 3D printing technology used to tackle these organ transplantation challenges, and discuss the wider applications of 3D printing. The Combined Royal Colleges medal was established by the RPS in 1958 in collaboration with the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of Surgeons of England, and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. In 2018 they were joined by the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Royal College of Ophthalmologists.

When: 6.30pm, 7 December 2021 Where: RPS House, Bristol, and online at rps.org/CRC21

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RPS AWARDS TALKS: BRETT ROGERS HonFRPS Tue 16 Nov, 6-9pm The director of The Photographers’ Gallery, London – the UK’s first publicly funded gallery dedicated solely to photography – in a free online conversation with Dr Susan Bright. Online via Zoom

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ALL ABOUT COLOUR – GAMUTS AND THE COLOUR RESPONSE OF CAMERAS Wed 24 Nov, 8-10pm The Imaging Science Group will be holding a free mini e-symposium featuring two lectures by committee members Dr Tony Kaye ASIS FRPS and Dr Alan Hodgson ASIS HonFRPS. The symposium will include a session at the end allowing attendees to ask questions. Online via Zoom

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GOING WILD WITH ANN AND STEVE TOON Sat 4 Dec, 4-5:30pm, £5-8 Join the Nature Group for a talk by award-winning wildlife photographers Steve and Ann Toon as they discuss their working lives as photographers, and their creative approach to producing impactful images. Online via Zoom

‘New Brighton’ by Jonathan Vaines LRPS

THE ART OF BLENDING IN

GO TO rps.org/whatson for the latest updates

Learn creative ways to enhance your images

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While many photographers use blend modes in Photoshop for tasks such as removing halos and changing colours, they can also be used as creative tools. Join Jonathan Vaines LRPS online as he demonstrates innovative ways to process images by adding texture, manipulating light and creating layers. Vaines, who works exclusively in digital, achieved a Licentiate in 2016,

and in 2017 was accepted into the PAGB Masters of Print Hall of Fame. His main focus now is on helping others to achieve creative results. Life in the Blender: A Creative Twist with Jonathan Vaines, 4 December, 4-5pm, via Zoom. Free for Digital Imaging Group members/£3 for non-members. rps.org/digonline27

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TOUCHING THE LIGHT; A TALK BY KEN SCOTT Tue 14 Dec, 8-9:30pm, £2-8 The Landscape Group invite you to join them for a special talk by photographer Ken Scott, who is best known for his mountain landscape and light photography. His career has taken him to Corsica, the Pyrenees, North America and the Alps. Online via Zoom

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ISABEL CURDES – FANTASY CREATIVE Wed 19 Jan 2022, 8-9pm In this free online talk for the Scotland Region, photographer Isabel Curdes will be speaking about how she explores and creates stories with her images, inspired by the ephemeral, mysterious and imperfect beauty of nature and life. Online via Zoom

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Enjoy the results of the bimonthly online members’ competition, themed around ‘Progress’

NEXT COMPETITION

Submit your photography on the theme ‘Street activity’ by 14 November 2021 at exposure.rps.org for the chance to be published in the RPS Journal, and showcased on our social media platforms and website

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WINNER

Exhausting and exhilarating ART

by Joanne Court

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My husband and I love to spend our days in remote countryside. He graciously carries my water so I can manage my Nikon D750 and gear. Staying in the Picos de Europa, Spain, we had set off before dawn the previous day to catch the sunrise from above the clouds,

so on this day we ignored advice to set off early. The old mining track is not far but takes the traveller up four sets of zigzags; a continuous ascent of over 800m. I needed to sit a short while as my first experience of vertigo struck and I felt faint.

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The ascent in the heat of the day was challenging but at the top hikers are rewarded by a pub in the village of Tresviso. Although now connected to the town by road, many locals prefer this shorter route to take their cheeses to market and the village postie uses it daily.


COMMENDED

No infection here by Alexander Ward

THE SELECTOR

Aaron Schuman on ‘Exhausting and exhilarating’ An American artist, photographer, writer and curator based in the UK, Aaron Schuman is programme leader of MA Photography at UWE Bristol “This photograph is a poignant metaphor for the challenges, uphill battles and the ‘long and winding road’ we have collectively traversed in recent years. “It also captures and conveys a remarkable landscape – one marked by expansive geologic time and more recent human endeavour. For me, it’s a

reminder of the unyielding power and sublime vastness of the natural world, and the trial-and-error determination of humanity to survive and progress within it nevertheless. “There is something epic and inspiring seen here – carefully observed, considered and composed without

hyperbole or melodrama – which allows us to encounter and engage with the scene as if we had stumbled upon it ourselves. Yet its potential meanings and long-standing impact are subtly embedded within the frame and every little detail contained within it, there for us to discover and excavate for ourselves.”

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Collaboration and transparency are at the heart of our efforts to build an inclusive and inspiring Royal Photographic Society

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I would have enjoyed talking to you today about the acceleration the pandemic ignited in our communications strategy, our digital expertise, and the huge contribution of so many volunteers, which resulted not only in greater membership satisfaction but also in new members. However, this is not the time, because there is something far more important I need to discuss. This is something that has plagued the RPS for many years yet is vital to the successful continuance and sustainability of the RPS … and that is its governance. The title of my address, ‘To every purpose there is time and judgment’, is taken from a biblical text, Ecclesiastes 8:6, which the folk singer and social activist Pete Seeger used as the inspiration for (and most of the lyrics in) his much-covered Turn! Turn! Turn!, a folk revival song of the late 1950s. Incidentally, this song was taken to number one in the United States by The Byrds and, since Ecclesiastes was written c. 450–200 BCE, it affords the song the distinction of being the number one hit with the oldest lyrics, ever. The word ‘Ecclesiastes’ is a phonetic transliteration of an Ancient Greek word derived from ekklesia (which means ‘assembly’). The cycle of governance of the RPS is punctuated by our own ekklesia – our own assembly – this, our Annual General Meeting. This is the forum in which we review achievements, consider our financial position, identify challenges for the year ahead and confirm the election of new Trustees. Events that took place two years ago, in the run-up to our 2019 Trustee election, forced a re-evaluation of our model of governance. These events have, for the past two years, been the ‘elephant in the room’ at Board of Trustee meetings. I intend to use this, my first President’s Address, to finally set free the elephant so that the new Board can, unencumbered, deliver on its purposes. And so, to the elephant. At our AGM in September 2019 the RPS reached a low point in its delivery of effective governance with the conclusion of an election that, to many, appeared compromised and fundamentally flawed.

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A President Elect and a Treasurer were appointed, each from a field of only one candidate (not the best demonstration of democracy in action); three Trustees were appointed from what appeared, to many, to be a cohort of four candidates campaigning on a single ticket and utilising what was considered to be inappropriate use of RPS media channels; and my own candidature would have been compromised had an entirely unsolicited social media post been missed by the then Chief Operating Officer and not immediately deleted. Such was member dissatisfaction with the 2019 election that an independent inquiry was commissioned to consider the election process and to ensure a more democratic process for future Trustee elections. The inquiry was undertaken by Michael King, a retired solicitor and former partner with our lawyers Stone King LLP. Michael has more than 40 years’ experience of charity law and was a founder member of the Charity Law Association. Michael published his report on 5 January 2020. This became the Society’s Ecclesiastes 8:6 moment and the Board of Trustees had to seize that moment. The King Report presented the Board with the time and the place to change the model of governance at the RPS and prevent a repeat of the shortcomings of the 2019 election by the crafting of a new set of by-laws which would establish a more relevant and transparent model of governance. I would like to thank Janet Haines, Brian Pomeroy and John Miskelly for their work on the Trustee Governance Sub Group both before and after our adoption of the new by-laws. This was a complex process involving extensive consultation with members, further complicated by the fact that the Privy Council and the Law Commission cannot agree on where true authority should be placed. This will be clarified by a bill currently making progress through Parliament but, in the meantime, our new by-laws were ratified by members at an Extraordinary General Meeting on 27 March 2021. I was honoured and privileged to chair this meeting, as President, at such an important moment in the history of the RPS. Our new model of governance ensures that a Nominations Committee will now and in future oversee the formation of our Board of Trustees. Barry Hoffman was briefly co-opted to the Board to begin the formation of the Nominations Committee and I would like to thank Gaynor Davies,


Robert Bolton, Rajen Nandwana and Alastair Taylor for their unwavering commitment to the duty and purposes of the Nominations Committee. Any credit for the integrity of the election that we have just concluded is entirely theirs. The newly elected Board, with the subsequent recruitment of a new Treasurer and four Appointed Trustees, will be required to have the skills and experience to support our senior leadership team, to inspire our staff and to be an asset for our formidable army of member-volunteers as, together, we seek to deliver Photography For Everyone, the RPS Strategic Plan for 2021-2026 which emerged from a strategic review by Trustees. An earlier review of RPS activity had taken place as part of a branding project led by Carol McNiven-Young but the strategy that emerged from the recent and more substantial review was crafted by the senior leadership team in collaboration with Heather Field and other Trustees. The election we have today concluded is the first RPS Trustee election to take place under these new by-laws and it is the first to implement the recommendations of the King Report. I hope you will agree the process we have followed has taken us forward to a more moral, ethical and effective system of electing and appointing Trustees to lead the RPS on the next stage of its journey. This journey

will build on the fantastic work that has been done by our Critical Friends Group – led by Andy Golding and supported by Sarah Dow, Mervyn Mitchell and Avijit Datta. This will include greater equality of opportunity for members and for wider society, increased diversity in the activities that we offer and to whom these activities are offered, and greater inclusion of individuals and groups that expand our traditional and very narrow demographic. I will return briefly to morals and ethics before I finish this address but, before then, I would like to put some numbers to the process that we have followed. Not only are these numbers interesting in themselves but they serve to demonstrate the effectiveness of the Trustee recruitment process our Nominations Committee have designed. When the advertisement was posted for potential Trustee candidates we received more than 50 expressions of interest. However, some of those expressions came from members who, while having in mind the very best interests of the RPS, had perhaps not fully grasped the personal challenges, the political complexities, and the onerous responsibilities of a Trustee role. At an online candidate briefing held on 24 July 2021, I gave an overview of the challenges facing the Board of Trustees and the RPS as a whole. I also outlined how I would like the Board to function during the period of my presidency.

‘Falling beneath’ by Andrew Haugen ARPS

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On these pages Simon Hill HonFRPS chooses three members’ photographs that inspire him

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“Perhaps the greatest benefit of being a member of the RPS is the frequency with which we are exposed to some of the very best examples of modern photography, whether online, through the RPS Journal or in exhibitions. “That benefit is just as valuable to an RPS President as it is to a new or novice member. Membership of the RPS, and involvement in our online and physical events, provides the learning opportunities from which we derive so much. We have plenty to learn from each other through sharing our work and our experiences. “If I needed any encouragement to put ever more effort into working with our Board of Trustees, staff and volunteers, it comes from seeing our members achieve their RPS Distinctions which are the punctuation points in their journey as photographers. The photographs that I have chosen to accompany my President’s Address are some of those that have provided me with the greatest inspiration during my first few months in the office of President.”

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Over the past two years the Board has experienced seven resignations – two Presidents, two Elected Trustees, two Co-opted Trustees and, most recently, our Treasurer John Miskelly, to whom we owe a great debt of thanks for the work he has done on taking control of the financial health of the RPS. To find ways in which we can improve our Trustee experience, we completed a ‘reflective review’ of our processes, achievements and shortcomings. This was very ably led by our CEO, Evan Dawson, with whom I have a rewarding and enjoyable working relationship. The turbulence experienced by the Board and, albeit to a lesser extent, by the RPS between September 2019 and September 2021 is, I suggest, a direct consequence of the flawed election of 2019 and for that reason I shared the insights from this reflective review with our Trustee candidates. Following that candidate briefing, 16 of the original 50 expressions of interest translated into formal applications submitted to the Nominations Committee. This committee operates completely independently of the Board of Trustees. It carried out a skills and experience review of the 16 candidates, evaluating their applications against a matrix of requirements deemed essential to the effective performance of a Board of Trustees and, thus, to the provision of good governance. Nine of the 16 candidates were recommended by the Nominations Committee and seven others were invited to stand as independent candidates. It is important to note that the recommendation of the Nominations Committee is not an indication of the

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personal ability or suitability of one candidate over another, it is simply an indication to the electorate – the members – that, in the opinion of the Nominations Committee, “those recommended candidates possess the skill, experience, independence, knowledge and diversity necessary to provide appropriate governance to the RPS”. All nine recommended candidates (including five existing Trustees, four of whom were on short term co-option) and one ‘independent’ candidate confirmed their intention to stand for election. This gave members a field of ten candidates from which to elect six Trustees. Each of the ten candidates stood on an ‘individual’ ticket and their only promotion was a personal statement published online and in the Candidate Prospectus. In 2019, slightly more than 900 Members (representing 8% of the membership) voted in the election. This year, almost 1,700 members (representing 16% of our slightly lower total membership) voted in the election. I believe this doubling of member engagement is a direct consequence of a more ethical and transparent Trustee recruitment and election process, together with the more effective communication that the RPS is now having with its members.

“Good governance is fundamental to the long-term success of all organisations”


Opposite page From the series A World Apart, They Are The Same by Mark A Phillips FRPS Left ‘Aerial Elly at Fraisthorpe Beach’ by Monty Trent LRPS

The fact that five existing Trustees chose to stand for election (of which three were elected) is perhaps an indication that, despite the turbulence of the recent past, there is confidence in the direction in which the RPS is moving. As President, that is something which gives me immense satisfaction. That another candidate, standing independently of any recommendation of the Nominations Committee, was elected to one of the six Elected Trustee positions demonstrates that we do indeed now have a truly democratic process of Trustee recruitment and election, in which a place on the Board of Trustees is open to all. The new Board must now work with the Nominations Committee to undertake a skills gap analysis that will identify those additional skills that are required on the Board and to thereafter recruit, in addition to a new Treasurer, four Appointed Trustees to provide those specific skills. Earlier in this address, I said I would return to the subject of morals and ethics so, to conclude, I invite you to contemplate how a model of ethical governance may be distilled down to four essential moral principles: ● beneficence (do good) ● nonmaleficence (do not harm) ● autonomy (control by the individual) ● justice (fairness) Good governance is fundamental to the long-term success of all organisations. Charities, like the RPS, are no exception to this rule. Good governance

promotes a culture where all efforts are channelled to fulfilling the charity’s ‘mission’ and the Good Governance Steering Group (a collaboration of UK charity organisations) publishes the Charity Governance Code which has six ‘pillars’ that support an organisational mission. These pillars are: ● leadership ● board effectiveness ● integrity ● openness and accountability ● decision-making, risk and control ● equality, diversity and inclusion Having already had the opportunity of speaking with each of the successful candidates, I know that every member of the new Board of Trustees will subscribe to these six pillars and that, working together as a team, we can deliver the good governance necessary to drive the RPS forward. This will help us to achieve all of which the RPS is capable, for the public benefit of the art and science of photography, and to the personal benefit of every member of our Royal Photographic Society, wherever they are in the world. I am very much looking forward to building on the work of the previous Board, of my predecessor in the office of President, Alan Hodgson, and to working with our new Trustees. I hope you will all support us in delivering an exciting and successful future for the RPS. The President’s Address was delivered by Simon Hill HonFRPS at the 2021 RPS AGM on 25 September 2021. rps.org/about/president-news NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2021

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MEET THE TRUSTEES

A newly elected team is helping shape the Society

NICOLA BOLTON ARPS

GAVIN BOWYER ARPS

SARAH J DOW ARPS

ANDY GOLDING ASICI FRPS

MERVYN MITCHELL ARPS

PETER WALMSLEY LRPS

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Total number of votes: 1,078 Total % of votes: 63.5% Nicola has worked internationally for most of her 33-year business career in the commercial and public sectors. She has ten years’ experience in trustee/non-executive director roles, including for another educational charity with a large membership. A high-energy leader with a reputation for openness and honesty, Nicola is currently a director of three companies.

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Total number of votes: 997 Total % of votes: 58.7% A member of the RPS since 2016, Sarah’s professional background in business and marketing spanned 30 years before she returned to creative photography during a time of personal crisis. She has built a new life as a portrait photographer and become involved in the charity and local governance sectors. Sarah served for a year on an RPS Distinctions panel before joining the Board of Trustees in 2021.

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Total number of votes: 995 Total % of votes: 58.6% Mervyn is a photography educator and co-founder of Nottingham Photographers’ Hub, which seeks to empower marginalised individuals and communities. He is currently working with young people who are not in education, employment or training, and as a sessional photography tutor for Inspire Culture, Learning and Libraries, Nottingham.

Distinctions successes VISUAL ART JUNE 2021 Alan Haden, Worcestershire Anna Levene, Surrey LRPS JULY 2021 Anthony Ashcroft, Perthshire Paul Barker, Berkshire Richard Bircham, Hertfordshire Sue Birtwistle, Hampshire Stephen Boffey, St Albans David Bolton, Fife

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Geoff Carr, South Yorkshire Tine Corfield, Shropshire Joanne Court, Kent Annette Crook, South Yorkshire Janet Downes, Cornwall John Gough, Kent Andrew Haugen, Surrey Sarah Healy, Surrey Michelle Jackson, Derbyshire

Hunter Johnson, Palm Springs USA Paul Kirby, Bristol Paul Major, Hertfordshire Phil Mallin, Warwickshire Bill McCaig, Cheshire Peter Milton, Kent Jon Mullin, Surrey David Nash, Edinburgh Ian Ord, Derbyshire Jenny Owen, South Yorkshire Jason Reid, West Sussex Christopher Russell, Beverley

Total number of votes: 769 Total % of votes: 45.3% Gavin has a medical background as an orthopaedic surgeon in the Army, the NHS and in private practice. Photography has always been important to him both as a means of recording and as a way of establishing persuasive narratives scientifically and educationally. He appreciates the meaning and value of photography, as well as the fun of the hobby. Total number of votes: 811 Total % of votes: 47.8% Andy is an enthusiastic, interactive and questioning teacher of photography. He also works as a higher education advisor and consultant on student support, and has led projects and exhibited work internationally. For the RPS he has worked with Education and Distinctions for 25 years and champions equality, diversity and inclusion. Total number of votes: 789 Total % of votes: 46.5% For the majority of his career Peter has worked in the high technology sector and for central government, often based internationally, including postings to India and Afghanistan. He has a keen interest in travel and was the winner of the ‘Colours of Life’ category in the Travel Photographer of the Year 2021 competition. A first book of Peter’s travel photography is now in production.

Graham Stead, Beachwood USA Peter Stott, Surrey Chunmei Sun, Beijing Robin Taylor-Hunt, Surrey Matthew Thornhill, Cornwall Martin Tomes, West Sussex Andrew Weatherburn, Channel Isles Edmund James Whittaker West, Hampshire Sue Woodbridge, Hampshire

ARPS EXEMPTION AUGUST 2021 Kim Cockitt, Cheshire Booker Skelding, Mid Glamorgan Malcolm Thornton, Australia LRPS EXEMPTION AUGUST 2021 Ka Chun Wong, Hong Kong

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‘Paria 2’ from the series Strange Land by Cody Cobb, overall winner of IPE 162 ART

ANNUAL REPORT DIGEST 2020

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The RPS was founded in 1853 to make the art and science of photography available to everyone. As photography has evolved, so has the Society, and it now has members and groups throughout the world.

During 2020 we introduced our new five-year strategic plan, Photography for Everyone, staged a successful exhibition between Covid-19 lockdowns, and engaged a global audience with online talks and workshops. Here is a taste of our year.

MEMBERSHIP (AS AT DECEMBER 2020)

DISTINCTIONS ASSESSMENTS

EXHIBITIONS

DISTINCTIONS PASSES

10,623

288,940

visitors at five locations

IPE 162 ATTRACTED visitors to RPS Gallery before lockdown in March 2020

2,130

THE RPS JOURNAL of members are reading every issue

90%

179 Licentiates (60% pass rate) 131 Associates (52% pass rate) 24 Fellowships (22% pass rate) TOTAL NET ASSETS OF

RPS WORKSHOPS

159 reached 1,565

675 of which 344 were successful

people (with 80% online)

£6,541,890 TOTAL INCOME

ONLINE TALKS AND EVENTS

£1,672,115 (£1,434,84 in 2019)

More than

TOTAL EXPENDITURE

10,000 people attended

THE DISTINCTIONS TEAM RAN 199 EVENTS REACHING people of which 36% were non-members

8,139

£2,154,431 (£2,753,494 in 2019) Read the full RPS Annual Report 2020 at rps.org/about/governance NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2021

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House ad, 1

ADVERTORIAL VERSION REPRO OP SUBS ART

‘Scylla’, 2021, by Anna Pultar PRODUCTION

PHOTOGRAPHY AS LANGUAGE SHORT COURSE

CLIENT

What does it mean to engage with photographs? How often do we look at photographs without seeing them? How often do we take photographs without understanding what they mean and what they might be saying about us, the world, the medium? Are you curious about what images mean? Do you enjoy thinking about the visual culture that surrounds us? In this short photography course you will study alongside a small peer group, build confidence to deepen ideas, and discover new ways to make, understand and articulate images and meaning. The objective is to help you express photographic ideas confidently through the use of a camera, in conversation, and in writing.

expand your ability to articulate ideas. Your understanding of photographic theory will be applied to – and combined with – your creative and technical skills in order to develop the meaning of your photographs. This will enhance your confidence when it comes to exploring and discussing them. The course is accredited by the CPD Certification Service. What prior skills and knowledge do I need? Bring curiosity and a willingness to experiment, share ideas and engage. You will need basic camera skills and computer literacy so you can access a learning platform and participate in live discussions.

Guided by photographer Dr Ariadne Xenou, you will be introduced to key theoretical approaches to creative photography. You will make images in new ways, and

“This course has changed the way I engage with photography. It made me think differently about the connection between the photographs I see in my everyday life, photography as a cultural practice and art form with a long history, and also my own photography” – former student

Begins: 10 January 2022 Register by: 13 December 2021

Price: £295 Apply: rps.org/oca

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VERSION

THE WALLFLOWER

REPRO OP

His autochromes have stood the test of time – even if this pioneer of colour photography received less recognition than his peers, writes Catlin Langford

SUBS

The RPS Collection has more than 200 autochromes by A contemporary review of the Society of Colour Knowles with subjects including portraits, views of Venice, Photographers 1908 exhibition concludes the “exhibits by … and animal studies taken at London Zoo. His favoured Mr Knowles call for little comment”. theme, though, was nature – particularly flowers. Hugh C Knowles gained scant recognition for his This photograph, ‘Poppies’, was exhibited at the colour photographs in contrast to contemporaries 1912 annual RPS exhibition, evidenced by the such as John Cimon Warburg and Helen Messinger yellow identification sticker on the glass plate. Murdoch. This was despite his dedicated practice It is among many photographs by Knowles and contributions to annual exhibitions by the The RPS Collection is at which reveal his talent, and his significant RPS and Society of Colour Photographers. the V&A Photography Centre, London understanding of colour balance and expression. His photographs were predominately vam.ac.uk Many of his images have been digitised and can autochromes. Inherited wealth meant Knowles be found at vam.ac.uk/collections was able to afford the initially expensive autochrome plates, and was among the first to practise ‘autochromy’ Catlin Langford is the inaugural V&A Curatorial in Britain. He wrote in the 1909 American Annual of Fellow in Photography. Her book Colour Mania: Photography: “I, having fortunately a friend in France, The World in Autochrome will be published almost at once obtained a supply of autochrome plates, by Thames and Hudson/V&A in 2022 and started working and experimenting.”

VISIT

ART PRODUCTION

“Knowles had a significant understanding of colour balance and expression”

CLIENT THE RPS COLLECTION / V&A MUSEUM, LONDON

‘Poppies’ by Hugh C Knowles (1875-1940)

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The collection, 1

THE COLLECTION




Backstory, 1

BACKSTORY VERSION REPRO OP SUBS ART PRODUCTION CLIENT

‘Inmates look out of a cell in the Penal Center of Quezaltepeque’ by Tariq Zaidi

THE GANG’S ALL HERE

Tariq Zaidi describes accessing an off-limits area in an El Salvador jail In 2016 the government in El Salvador introduced a series of ‘extraordinary measures’ to curb gang violence. Tariq Zaidi, lauded for his documentary work on global social justice issues, explains what happened next. “The measures included transferring the leading gang members to maximum security prisons, the holding of judicial proceedings in prisons, restrictions on visitation rights and mandatory participation in rehabilitation and work skills programmes,” he says. Zaidi took this image at the Penal Center of Quezaltepeque for Sin Salida, a book about Salvadoran gang wars. It took him eight months to get access to the country’s prison system and his visit to this prison was carefully choreographed. “I was shown the ‘nicer’ parts of the prison only, but I knew there were sections of the prison under 672

RPS JOURNAL

the extraordinary measures scheme that I wanted to see,” says the photographer, who is currently based in the UK. “Eventually, after a long discussion with the prison director and staff, I was granted three minutes in this area. “The reason given to me was that it was for my own security as there’d been murders inside the prison around the time I was visiting. The photographs I made there reveal much about how the country deals with its gangs. “It is also important to recognise the role prisons play in gang violence. According to former minister of justice and security Rogelio Rivas, incarcerated gang leaders are responsible for ordering 80% of all attacks in El Salvador.” Sin Salida (No Way Out) is published by GOST. tariqzaidi.com

NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2021

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