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Tish Murtha, Youth Unemployment, 1981

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Amber Films, Launch (still), 1973

My interest for photography, working class culture and marginal communities is fairly well documented on this blog. Hence my enthusiasm when learning about the upcoming For Ever Amber exhibition.

The Amber Collective was born in the late 1960s when a group of students at Regent Street Polytechnic in London realized that their education drove them away from their working class background. Resolving to reconnect with their origins and document working class culture in photos and videos, they moved to the North East of England in 1969 and in 1977 opened Side Gallery.

Over the past 45 years, the members of the collective have been documenting the industrial and post-industrial communities living along the river Tyne, the fishermen, the shipbuilders, the people working in the coal and steel industry, but also their families, the unemployed and the marginalized communities. The result is a vast archive of photos and films that present both both artistic and historical value.

In parallel with Amber's own film & photographic production, the collective has also been collecting and presenting to the broad public a series of classic and contemporary international documentary works, presenting similar socially-engaged concerns.

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Jindrich Streit, The Village is a Global World, 1995

Hopefully, i'll get an opportunity to visit the show in Newcastle before it closes. In the meantime, i had a chance to chat with author Graeme Rigby, one of the founding members of the Amber Collective. Here's a transcript with the brief exchange we had over skype:

Hi Graeme! Why is this a good time for an Amber retrospective? Does the timing reflect a particular social moment for example?

There's never a time in this country when an exhibition of this kind isn't relevant!

For Ever Amber is actually part of a programme of works funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council England to redevelop the gallery, do some digitalisation and make the works more accessible to people.

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Amber Films, Shooting Magpies (poster), 2005

The work of the Amber Collective is rooted in social documentary, built around long term engagements with working class and marginalized communities in the North of England. I'm curious about the situation of the working class. How has it evolved over the 45 years of Amber's existence?

That changes constantly. A lot has happened over the last 45 years because in the North East of England (and elsewhere but particularly in the North East of England) many of the industries that shaped the identity of the working class communities have closed. When these industries shut down, people send the message out that these industries are not important, that they should be eradicated.

The sense of their identity has changed considerably. This week, members of the Amber Collective worked in a school in Easington. Children there didn't know anything about coal miners even though there is a miner banner hanging in the school hall. It is interesting and important to help children and others find their sense of identity, even if this is an entirely new identity. But having your sense of identity is important. The nature of these communities have changed. It was quite late before you saw widespread immigration in the North East of England. As a result, many of the communities were still overwhelmingly white working class but that has changed since the 2000s.

Whether they are white working class, or marginalised communities, these are people have a lot in common and their voices are denied by the mainstream.

The early members of Amber came themselves from a very working class background and felt that their education pushed them away from the places where they grew up. Instead, they wanted to celebrate their origins and the people who, so far, had mostly been used as material for jokes in films and on tv.

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Peter Fryer, The Arab Boarding House, South Shields, 2006

What about the cultural value of the work done by Amber photographers? The photos seem to resonate not just with people living in the North East of England but also with the rest of the country and i think i can also say that they are interesting far beyond the UK borders.

We find that the work resonates enormously with people from other countries. When you go to countries like Spain, France or Germany, you find that people immediately connect with these images. People see that the images depict lives and streets that are not so dissimilar from their own. It's actually much more the case in Europe than it is in some parts of the UK.

In this country, especially in the cultural world, there is a resistance to document these marginalized worlds. The UK has a few difficulties with documentary. I'm not talking about the audience but about curators and funding bodies. They show some interest in documenting the 1930s and the 1940s up until the 1980s but they don't seem to be interested in documentaries about the present days.

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Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen, Byker, 1974

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Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen, Byker Revisited, 2008

Konttinen explained to The Guardian why the photo above is her "best shot."

Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen, Byker Revisited, 2008

Do you think that television is doing a better job at representing the working class then?

No, with TV, we've even gone backwards. We are going back to a situation in which the working class is there to provide cheap laughs. But these things come in circles and we need another movement to challenge the current situation.

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Peter Fryer, Peaceable Kingdoms, 1992

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Julian Germaine, Steel Works, Phileas Fogg Snacks, 1989

I was reading a letter published in The Guardian this morning. The street photographer was from Birmingham and he explained that he was often stopped in public and private spaces. Security spots him on CCTV and ask him to stop shooting. I haven't photographed children playing in a public space for many years, and the work of people such as Vivian Maier and Shirley Baker would be impossible these days. It seems to me, from a photographic point of view, that the public space has become privatised, with CCTV everywhere and the lone photographer increasingly unwelcome. Is this something Amber members have noticed as well? Are people still comfortable with being photographed nowadays? Or are they reluctant because of privacy or other concerns?

Yes, when Amber began, street photography was very much a part of what documentary photographers did. But things have changed in a number of ways. Nowadays, people are suspicious that the photographer might be a pedophile for example. Then there is also the issue that part of the public space has been privatized. Almost everyone has a camera phone so, in a way, there is now more street photography than ever. But people are more suspicious than in the past when they see a camera. All of the photographers responded to the challenge in their own way. By negotiating access to people's life, for example, and by making certain that people were genuinely inviting them into their life. If people were not happy with the photo, the photographer would not use it. This in turn enables the photographer to go further and opens up new areas.

In any case, we've lost a significant amount of what is happening in the street. In terms of photography, a lot of questions have been raised as to what is legitimate for a photo to portray.

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Amber Films, High Row, 1973

I was also curious about Coke to Coke, a series of photographs you worked on together with Peter Fryer. The photos were taken in the 1980s and follow the closure of Derwenthaugh coking plant and the opening of the nearby Metro Centre shopping mall. What was the mood of the people then? Where they angry or sad about the end of an era or optimistic of what the new shopping mail represented?

You can't generalize of course but i think that when i accompanied Peter to photograph the opening of the Metro Center, we had a sense of people being dazed by it. It was all bright and artificial and protected from the weather. It was like a place to visit. It gave you a sense of the 'new world.' And it still does because it is so artificial. People loved it. In the States, it was nothing new but it was the first out of town shopping mall in the UK. There was a fun fair aspect to it, with people looking at the shop as if they were at the fair.

At the time, i had just moved to the Derwenthaugh Valley. Derwenthaugh Coke Works was a vision of Dante's Inferno at the end of the Valley. One place was closing, another one was opening. It was a symbol of time changing. That's why we looked at it.

People working at Derwenthaugh Cokeworks were sad but they were also starting to realize that they worked in a cancerogenic atmosphere. Looking back at the '80s, that's when people started to think about the environmental impact of fossil fuels. Before that, these issues were not really discussed.

The opening of the Metro Center was a moment in time. The steel making town was closing its steel factory, the miner strikes had failed and Thatcher's programme of closures was accelerating.

Thanks Graeme!

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Bruce Rae, Shipbuilding on the Tyne, 1981

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Nick Hedges, Fishing Industry, 1981

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Amber Films, Seacoal (poster), 1985

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Simon Norfolk, Goaf, Dalton Park, 2005

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Amber Films, T Dan Smith, 1987

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Amber Films, The Scar, 1997

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Amber Films, In Fading Light (still), 1989

For Ever Amber opens at the Laing Gallery in Newcastle on 27 June and runs until 19 September, bringing together over 150 original photographs and film clips capturing over 40 years of cultural, political and economic shifts in North East England.

'For Ever Amber' is a partnership between Amber Film and Photography Collective and Laing Art Gallery, with support from Tyne & Wear Museums and Archive. The exhibition has been supported by Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council England.
Image on the homepage: Jimmy Forsyth, Pine Street demolition gang, 1960.

Sponsored by:

Thomas Struth, Research Vehicle, Armstrong Flight Research Center, Edwards, 2014

Thomas Struth, Z-Pinch Plasma Lab, Weizmann Institute, Rehovot, 2011

If you're in London, drop by the Marian Goodman Gallery (and do it asap because the show closes in a couple of days.) They have a spectacular exhibition of new works by Thomas Struth.

There are two different bodies of work on show. One is the photo series made in Israel and Palestine as part of This Place, the other uncovers places of scientific and technological research in California. I'm not going to surprise anyone if i write that i entered the show to see the Palestine/Israel photos. However, the images left me a bit cold. They are definitely not tourism board material and are impressively made but they have a sense of déjà vu.

Which left me with the six photographs of scientific research spaces. The large format images are mesmerizing. They convey the fascination we have for instruments that embody scientific and material innovation but distract us from the calls for social and political progress.

Struth said: It is clear that the contemporary human imagination is more easily fired by the pyrotechnics of science and technology rather than by the difficult, and perhaps now historically discredited, negotiation of political ideals. I wanted to open the doors to some of these unseen places in order to scrutinize what our contemporary world--what we--create, depicting plasmaphysics and chemistry, ship- and oil rig-building, space shuttle repair, architecture, etc., as what our minds have materialized and transformed into sculpture.

Thomas Struth, GREAT, Armstrong Hangar 703, Palmdale

Thomas Struth, Polymer Head, JPL, Pasadena

Thomas Struth, Epitaxy, JPL, Pasadena, 2014

Thomas Struth, High Harmonic Generation Spectrometer, Weizmann Institute, Rehovot, 2009

Thomas Struth, Installation view, Marian Goodman Gallery, London

The following images are not part of the London exhibition, but i'm on a tech porn roll and see no reason to stop half way:

Thomas Struth, Blowout Preventer, Mountrail County, North Dakota, 2010

Thomas Struth, Figure, Charité , Berlin, 2012

Thomas Struth, Table 1, Georgia Tech, Atlanta, 2013

Thomas Struth, Measuring, Helmholtz-Zentrum, Berlin, 2012

Thomas Struth, Golems Playground, Georgia Tech, Atlanta, 2013

Thomas Struth's photos are at Marian Goodman Gallery, London until 6 June 2015.

5a1oDQ9XvrJL.jpgPhotography Visionaries, by Mary Warner Marien.

Available on amazon UK and USA

Publisher Laurence King writes: Photography Visionaries is an inspiring guide to 75 of the most influential photographers from around 1900 to the present. Entertainingly written by an expert on photography, it provides fascinating insight into the lives and careers of men and women working in a medium which perhaps more than any other in the visual arts has been deeply affected by technological change.

The entries are arranged chronologically, instilling in the reader an understanding of what marks each photographer as a visionary. Each entry is less about providing a full biography of the person and more about creating a sense of excitement regarding their work and the lasting impact that it has had on photography.

With the aid of an arresting selection of photographs, some well-known and others less so, this book offers a unique and engaging perspective on the development of photography through some of its most inventive practitioners.

Weegee, Charles Sodokoll and Arthur Webber use their top hats to hide their faces, 1942

"A good photograph is like a good hound dog, dumb, but eloquent." Eugène Atget.

Mary Warner Marien knows where to find a quote or anecdote that says more about a photographer's life, career and ethos than a long biography. She found something witty or striking to say about each of the 75 photographic visionaries she selected for the book. Those visionaries are people who experiment, expand the scope and significance of photography and are inspiring to their peers. They work in any field: portraiture, advertising, photo reportage, documentary, fashion or conceptualism.

Each of them gets one page of bio and three pages of images with a timeline charting the most salient moments of their career. There is always also a portrait of the photographers. I thought i didn't care much for artists' portraits until i realized i had never seen a photo of Bernhard and Hilla Becher before. Or one of Cindy Sherman being no one else but Cindy Sherman.

Obviously not everyone is going to be happy with the author's selection. And i'm going to agree with the English reviewers who deplore the absence of Martin Parr. Another reviewer mentioned Hiroshi Sugimoto. Indeed! He should be there as well. I'm going to add Broomberg and Chanarin to the list. What i like in the author's selection, however, is that women and non-Caucasian people do not feature only as subjects. I don't know if there was a conscious effort to include women photographers, black photographers, Chinese photographers, etc. But it feels just that the white male monopoly is somewhat under assault.

Warner Marien is also the author of Photography. A Cultural History, perhaps the most informative, interesting and intelligent photo book i've ever read about photo. Photography Visionaries is very different (i probably shouldn't compare one with the other anyway): it's snappier, shorter and less elaborate. But it's written with the passion and verve that characterizes her style.

And now for some images and (fairly random) comments

August Sander, Die Boxer, Paul Roderstein, Hein Hesse, 1928

August Sander, National Socialist, Head of Department of Culture 1938, printed 1990

August Sander's major project, People of the 20th Century, attempted to give an overview of the most archetypal figures of contemporary society, categorizing his subjects by profession or social class. His photos represent types (The Woodcutter, The Farmer, The Sculptress, The Bricklayer, The Bohemian, The Bank Official, etc.), not individuals.

Although there was nothing progressive about this model of society, the Nazis disapproved of Sander's work. In 1936 they confiscated the publisher's copies of Face of our Time (a selection of portraits from his series People of the 20th Century); the printing plates were destroyed and the book was officially banned.

Liu Zheng, From the series The Chinese, Two Miners, Datong, Shanxi Province, 1996

Liu Zheng, Convicts Fetching Water, Baoding, Hebei Province, from The Chinese series, 1995

Inspired by Sander's work, Liu Zheng traveled throughout China to portray archetypal Chinese characters from every social stratum: homeless children, transvestite performers, provincial drug traffickers, coal miners, Buddhist monks, prison inmates, Taoist priests, waxwork figures in historical museums, and the dead and dying. The images of The Chinese series depict a country caught between tradition and unprecedented economic upheavals.

Imogen Cunningham, Irene "Bobby" Libarry, 1976

When she was herself in her early nineties, Imogen Cunningham started working on After 90, a series that portrayed the elderly. One of them was Irene "Bobbie" Libarry who used to be a circus attraction and was living in a nursing home at the time of the photography.

Edward Weston, Excusado, 1925

John Heartfield, Und sie bewegt sich doch! (And Yet It Moves!), 1943

John Heartfield, Self-Portrait with Berlin President of Police, 1929

John Heartfield was one of the first artists to use photomontage, manipulating photographs to satirize the brutality of the Nazi regime.

Lisette Model, Woman with veil, San Fransisco, 1949

Lisette Model, Divorcee, Reno, 1949

Lisette Mode never formally studied photography but took it up in the 1930s while living in Paris. Her images are early examples of "street photography," a style which developed after the invention of the hand-held camera, which made impromptu shots possible.

Walker Evan, Workers Loading Neon "Damaged" Sign into Truck, West Eleventh Street, New York City, 1928-1930

Margaret Bourke-White, At the Time of the Louisville Flood, 1937

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Gestapo Informer, Dessau, Germany, April 1945

Gordon Parks, Colored Entrance, Mobile, Alabama, 1956

Yes, the photo above just made me realize how black and white the book is.

Nacho López, Hands with cigarettes under cell door, Lecumberri Penitentiary, Mexico City, from the series Prisión de sueños, 1950

Nacho López, La Venus se va de juerga, 1953

López orchestrated situations in public space and document passersby reactions. In the series "La Venus se va de juerga", for example, a man travels through the crowd carrying a blond mannequin.

Santu Mofokeng, Democracy is forever, Pimville, 2004

Eugène Atget, Avenue des Gobelins, 1927

Frances Benjamin Johnston, Stairway of the Treasurer's Residence: Students at Work from the Hampton, c. 1900

It's that time of the year again. The winning images of the Sony World Photography Awards have been revealed. It's the eight edition of the competition and, as usual, the Italians made a killing and take a large portion of the awards, there is a fair deal of suffering, at least one of the awards goes to an image featuring Palestinians being bullied by soldiers with sophisticated weapons (this year however, the photos are joyful), and it is always strange to look at the photos and realize that the main events of the year before have almost already been erased from consciences.

I've received the press images this morning, selected the ones i found most striking, made my community proud and copy/pasted the description and then i hit publish:

John Moore (L'Iris d"or, photographer of the year), A burial team sprays disinfectant over the body of a woman suspected of dying of Ebola in her home. From the series Ebola Crisis Overwhelms Liberian Capital

John Moore (L'Iris d"or, photographer of the year), An MSF health worker in protective clothing carries a sick girl at an Ebola treatment center. From the series Ebola Crisis Overwhelms Liberian Capital

In the summer of 2014 Monrovia, Liberia became the epicenter of the West African Ebola epidemic, the worst in history. Although previous rural outbreaks were more easily contained, once the virus began spreading in Monrovia's dense urban environment, the results were described by Medecins Sans Frontieres as "catastrophic". With a tradition of burial rites that include the washing of the dead bodies of loved ones, Liberians became infected at alarming rates. Only a decade after a long civil war, Liberia's fragile health system was unable to cope, international agencies were slow to react, and the country struggled.

Donald Weber (Still Life Photographer of the Year), Untitled. From the series Molotov Cocktails

Donald Weber, Untitled. From the series Molotov Cocktails

Molotov Cocktails have been the weapon of choice for the EuroMaidan protestors in Kiev. Using fire to their advantage, the protestors were able to defend their barricades, extend their lines and fortify their positions. In order to set fire to tanks, armoured vehicles, buses, and tires in opposition to local cops, Kievís protestors used thousand and thousands of Molotov Cocktails, inspiring and mobilizing people throughout the city to collect as many bottles as possible.

Turi Calafato (Winner Mobile Phone), A day on the beach

It is usual to see scenes like this because people spend all day along at the beach and all the usual activities, like playing, eating, sleepping, etc., are done outdoors. All kind of people are seen, and it is a pleasure to contemplate at the same time so much of humanity enjoying and relaxing under the sun.

Daesung Lee (2nd place Conceptual), Untitled. From the series Futuristic Archaeology

35% of Mongolians are living a nomadic life and depend on their land for survival. This is increasingly difficult due to serious changes: 25% of the Mongolian land has turned into desert in the past 30 years. Potentially 75% of the territory is at risk of desertification. These environmental changes directly threaten the Mongolian nomadic way of life, which has been passed from generation to generation. This project attempts at recreating the museum diorama with actual people and their livestock in a real place where decertifying is taking place. It is based on an imagined image that these people try to go into museum diorama for survival in the future. This is accomplished with printed images on a billboard placed in conjunction with the actual landscape horizon.

Eduardo Leal (3rd place Campaign), Plastic Tree #22. From the series Plastic Trees

Plastic bags are considered the most ubiquitous consumer item in the world, but this has become the main source of pollution worldwide. Unfortunately, the properties that make it so useful such as its durability, weight and low cost also turn it into a problem, which is even more acute in developing countries where waste management infrastructures are not developed and where the population is used to throw everything away. This accumulation of plastic bags in the environment cause deterioration of the landscapes and agricultural soils and it is associated with the death of domestic and wild animals. This series, Plastic Trees, was made to call for attention on this problem, focusing on the spreading of plastic bags on the Bolivian Altiplano, where millions of bags travel with the wind until they get entangled in native bushes, damaging the beautiful landscape.

Antonio La Grotta (3rd place Architecture.) From the series Paradise Discotheque

Antonio La Grotta. From the series Paradise Discotheque

Discotheques, the symbol of 80s and 90s hedonism, were fake marble temples adorned with Greek statues made of gypsum, futuristic spaces of gigantic size, large enough to contain the dreams of success, money, fun of thousands people. And then the dreams are gone, people disappeared and nightclubs became abandoned wreck, cement was laid on large empty squares, places inhabited by echo and melancholy. The grass is growing in the crack, the Discobolus is hiding under a porch, priggish Venus lurks behind the bars. The Paradise Discotheque, contemporary monuments of our civilization, are waiting to be burned to the ground, and in this expectation made of vacuum, only the memory of a former glory remains.

Simon Norfolk, (Landscape Photographer of the Year), Mt Kenya 1963(a). From the series When I Am Laid In Earth

These fire lines I have drawn indicate where the front of the rapidly disappearing Lewis Glacier was at various times in the recent past; the years are given in the titles. In the distance, a harvest moon lights the poor, doomed glacier remnant; the gap between the fire and the ice represents the relentless melting. Relying on old maps and modern GPS surveys I have rendered a stratified history of the glacier's retreat. Mount Kenya is the eroded stump of a long-dead, mega-volcano. Photographically, I hope to re-awaken its angry, magma heart. My fire is made from petroleum. My pictures contain no evidence that this glacier's retreat is due to man-made warming (glaciers can retreat when the don't get sufficient snow, or if the cloud cover thins, for example,) but it is nonetheless my belief that humans burning hydrocarbons are substantially to blame.

Rich Wiles, (3rd place Arts & Culture), Untitled

The Palestinian Circus School was established in 2006. In 2011 it moved into its own premises in Birzeit near Ramallah. Around 150 young people participate in regular circus classes which accommodate different age groups and ability levels. The school's policy affirms that no student will ever be turned away if they cannot pay the tuition fees. Gender equality is considered an intrinsic aspect of the circus school's structure and practice. Weekly workshops are held in refugee camps and cities across the West Bank for people unable to attend the school in Birzeit. The school has implemented performance tours in various European countries. Exchange programs have been established with European circuses to host qualified trainers and performers in Palestine. The Palestinian Circus School fuses contemporary culture with Palestinian storytelling and identity. The first production, Circus Behind the Wall, explored Palestinian separation from family, land and water by Israel's Wall.

Valery Melnikov (2nd place Current Affairs), Civilians escape from a fire at a house destroyed by air attack in the Luhanskaya village. From the series Black days of Ukraine

These pictures were taken in June-July near the city of Luhansk (Luhanskaya village). I arrived there half an hour after Ukrainian army airstrikes. Buildings were destroyed and blazed, some locals were dead, while others were escaping in fear. In 2014 the conflict between rebels and the government army in Ukraine led the country into full-scale hostilities. The local residents of the strategically located city of Luhansk were left without water and electricity for three months over the summer, while constant gunfire could be heard above their heads.

According to the Federal Migration Service, more than 800 thousand Ukrainian citizens had to be relocated as a result of the conflict.

Liza Van der Stock (3rd place People), Performance at the erotic fair, 2015. From the series Paradise Lust

Liza Van der Stock, Performance at the erotic fair, 2015. From the series Paradise Lust

In a Flemish village, surrounded by nature, Laura and Maurice live together with their daughter Eva. In the garden, Eva plays with her dog or meets with her classmates. Friends and family come along and fill the house with activity. But when Eva is at school, Maurice and Laura shoot what most people prefer to keep to themselves. The porn they make is not populated by Barbies or muscled superheroes. Ordinary women play with men who are also dad or neighbour. A humanity that not only exists in the porn they make, but also emerge behind the scenes and in their family life. In recent years, Laura has built strong bonds with a number of like-minded people: every one of them confident women who have consciously chosen this lifestyle and only depend on themselves with respect to their work. On a regular basis, they go to erotic fairs, rendez-vous evenings or an erotic nightclub: to make money or to have fun - or both.

Cosmin Bumbut (Architecture Photographer of the Year), Intimate Room, Targsor Penitentiary, Romania, 2011. From the series Intimate Rooms

Romania joined the European Union in 2007, the whole prison system went through major revamp and the biggest reform was to introduce the right to private visits. This means that a prisoner who is married or in a relationship has the right to receive, every three months, a two-hour private visit which takes place in a separate room inside the prison compound. Plus, if a prisoner gets married in detention he or she can spend 48 hours with the spouse in the special room and is allowed visits once a month in the first year of marriage. I started photographing the private rooms in 2008 and I have now photographed the private rooms inside all Romanian penitentiaries (35 penitentiaries).

Riccardo Bononi (Sport Photographer of the Year), Untitled. From the series Las Valkyrias de Bolivia

Bolivia is proud of being the Latin American country with the highest the number of actively working women. Bolivian women no longer are the subject for the ìweaker sexî prejudice, they are rather associated with the outstanding physical stamina, the inclination to struggle and the great brute strength. Then must not be surprising the fact that, in the poorest neighbourhood of La Paz (4000 mt), a bunch of female farmers from the countryside get together every Sunday in the ring for a public fight. Wearing the traditional cholitas (the term originally refers to the ìindigenous mixed raceî people) clothes and bowlers, Bolivian Valkyries deal with even more demanding fights once they get off the ring, raising their children all by themselves and working between the fields and the urban street markets.

Jens Juul (3rd place Portraiture), Hair, 2015

I started visiting different hair salons to capture the moment where we let other people get intimately close and shape the way the world sees us. When I meet ordinary people, I'm intrigued by the fact that they have so many fascinating stories and interesting personalities. Meeting strangers and getting to hear a chunk of their lives really gets me. In this case the stories were found at the local hairdresser. The project is not yet finished - there is still so much to discover in Copenhagenís smaller hair salons.

Jonathan Syer (2nd place Campaign), Tooting Bec Lido, London. From the series Lidos Of England: Lost & Found

Jonathan Syer (2nd place Campaign), Broadstairs Lido, Broadstairs, Kent, UK. From the series Lidos Of England: Lost & Found

Lidos were perhaps at their most popular between the wars when people took their holidays here in England. Many of them were built in the 1930s or earlier and were naturally located on the English south coast, which was a favoured holiday destination for those living in London and the home counties. However there were many that were built in towns and cities to cope with the demand that once was and many of these remain. However, when the affordability of overseas holidays started to emerge in the 1960s many of these lidos fell into decline and have never recovered. Some have survived and have benefited from investment and so have taken on a new lease of life as popularity has started increasing again. Most have been left to decay or lost under modern developments, such as Ramsgate's once booming pool which is now under a car park.

Dougie Wallace, image from the series Glasgow; Second City of The Empire

In Iraq, life expectancy is 67. Minutes from Glasgow city centre, in Calton, it is 54. I looked at this community and the day-to-day lives of its inhabitants. My intention was to juxtapose Glasgow with the vastly different setting of Kensington and Chelsea in London. Being from Glasgow and familiar with the landscape, I am moved by what I perceive to be missing chunks of life and the bleakness of those shortened lives lived in the Calton compared to those lived in Kensington and Chelsea. The difference in fortunes is not only apparent in mortality but in the cut of their suits and coats, the accessories they carry, the way the women apply their make-up, even their expressions tell a tale, confident and haughty vs downtrodden and malnourished.
(i LOVE that series.)

Petr Bambousek (3rd place, Czech Republic, National Award), Crested Macaque / Makak chocholat˝

I walked along with enormous macaque troop on Sulawesi tens of hours and learned many about their behavior. At one moment the troop rested all around me, babies played each other while adults checked surrounding if it is safe enough. I noticed there is one male in dark shades nearby.

The winning photos of the World Photography awards are exhibited at Somerset House, London until 10th May 2015.

Image on the homepage: © Marcin Klocek, Poland, Sport, Shortlist, Professional Commpetition, 2015 Sony World Photography Awards.

Julian Röder, World of Warfare. Demonstration of fighter jets at the IDEX - the largest arms fair in the middle east, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, February 2011. Credit: Julian Röder / Agentur OSTKREUZ / Picturetank

Julian Röder, World of Warfare. Credit: Julian Röder / Agentur OSTKREUZ / Picturetank

Julian Röder, World of Warfare. At the stand of BAE SYSTEMS at the IDEX - the largest arms fair in the middle east, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, February 2011. Credit: Julian Röder / Agentur OSTKREUZ / Picturetank

I've just spent a long weekend in Berlin to attend the Drones event organized by the Disruption Network Lab. The talks, panels and screening were engaging, informative and quite mind-blowing. I'll be back with a report as soon as i've managed to give some intelligible form to whatever i scribbled on my notepad.

Since the event was taking place at Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien, i got a chance to see one of the exhibitions running at the space this month: Boys and their Toys. Zur Omnipräsenz von Krieg und Waffen - auch in der Kunst... (which, according to my ultra rudimentary knowledge of German might mean something like Boys and their Toys. On the omnipresence of war and weapons - also in the art....) As the photos i took will easily demonstrate this is a very entertaining show with some moments of gravity.

The photo groupie that i am was particularly interested by Julian Röder's series World of Warfare. Thrilling copy/paste action follows...

In February 2011, while popular protests were rising in the Arab world, the young photographer traveled to Abu Dhabi for the International Defense Exhibition and Conference. 50,000 military officers and arms dealers attended the fair. Some represent dictators. Others are mortal enemies: India, meet Pakistan. But here they meet and mingle, shopping for missile systems, assault rifles, and attack helicopters.

On a sunny morning, combat helicopters flew in attack formation over Abu Dhabi. Tanks rumbled through the streets, and commando teams launched assaults on barbed-wired encampments. But this display of military might wasn't designed to start or suppress a rebellion. It was a sales pitch.

The copters, the tanks, the troops--all were part of a carefully choreographed spectacle designed to impress 50,000 military officers, arms dealers, and government representatives from 150 nations. It was the start of the biennial International Defence Exhibition and Conference, or IDEX, the Middle East's largest arms fair. There were media presentations to be seen, VIPs to schmooze, and plenty of speculation about the ongoing Arab spring. One could see a wide range of weapons and riot-gear that are not suitable for the battlefield but for street fights against the own revolting population. But mostly there were guns. Lots of guns.

Julian Röder, World of Warfare. Credit: Julian Röder / Agentur OSTKREUZ / Picturetank

Julian Röder, World of Warfare. Credit: Julian Röder / Agentur OSTKREUZ / Picturetank

Julian Röder, WOrld of Warfare. Demonstration of fighter jets at the IDEX - the largest arms fair in the middle east, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, February 2011. Credit: Julian Röder / Agentur OSTKREUZ / Picturetank

Julian Röder, World of Warfare. Credit: Julian Röder / Agentur OSTKREUZ / Picturetank

Julian Röder, World of Warfare. Credit: Julian Röder / Agentur OSTKREUZ / Picturetank

Julian Röder, World of Warfare. Credit: Julian Röder / Agentur OSTKREUZ / Picturetank

Julian Röder, World of Warfare. Credit: Julian Röder / Agentur OSTKREUZ / Picturetank

Julian Röder, World of Warfare. At the IDEX - the largest arms fair in the middle east, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, February 2011. Credit: Julian Röder / Agentur OSTKREUZ / Picturetank

Julian Röder, World of Warfare. Russian stand at the IDEX - the largest arms fair in the middle east, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, February 2011. Credit: Julian Röder / Agentur OSTKREUZ / Picturetank

Boys and their Toys. Zur Omnipräsenz von Krieg und Waffen - auch in der Kunst... is at Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien until 26 April 2015.

I'm drowning in really good books this year. Unsurprisingly, half of them are photography books. And because i'm short on time and these publications deserve a review, i'm going to take the lazy road: a sweeping and speedy overview of 5 of my favourite photo books of the moment. In one post.

Here we go...

Gina Glover, Windmill, Prairie Farm, Near Williston, North Dakota, USA

Gina Glover, Garrison Dam Intake System, Lake Sakakawea, North Dakota, USA

0cape Exhibition Jessica_Rayner_Conversion WEB-615x410.jpg
Jessica Rayner, Conversion


The Metabolic Landscape. Perception, Practice and The Energy Transition, by Gina Glover, Geof Rayner and Jessica Rayner.

The Earth is a living organism. Our escalating energy demands are interfering with the carbon and nitrogen cycles and altered the metabolic balance of the planet. Authored by two photographers and a scientist, the book uses images and essays to investigate the landscape in relationship to sources & sites of energy, energy extraction, energy use and climate control.

Gina Glover's work exploits atmospheric weather and ambient lighting conditions to draw attention to such energetic places and artefacts as coalfields in the Arctic, nuclear installations in France and hydraulic fracturing sites in the USA; Jessica Rayner observes how theories of the sun have varied according to the symbolic or scientific precepts of the day, drawing comparison between manufacturing, properties of the sun and changing theories of energy; and Geof Rayner constructs an accompanying textual narrative which shows how the energy transition has profound evolutionary consequences, not only for external nature, but how we see and interpret the landscape.

Published by Black Dog Publishing and available on amazon USA and UK.

Untitled, from Some Things are Quieter than Others

Untitled, from Some Things are Quieter than Others

Untitled, from Some Things are Quieter than Others


Next is Some Things are Quieter than Other by a young Polish photographer called Jacek Fota.

Fota made several trips to the U.S.A. between 2012 and 2013, consciously avoiding the mega cities and landscapes we are already too familiar with. Instead, he turned his lens to the 'peripheries of civilisation' and condensed his personal experience of the big country into a small travel diary.

His photos show the U.S. but on a less grandiloquent, less cliché and more mundane angle than we might be used to. His images look effortless, they are both dream-like and very real, very down to earth.

This way to get the book.

Canadian Arctic, 2013. LAB 1 Royal Canadian air force short range radar installation, north warning system, Cape Kakiviak, Torngat Mountains, Labrador. Photograph: Donovan Wylie

Photo HFA

Over a year ago, i saw Donovan Wylie: Vision as Power at the Imperial Warm Museum in London. The photo exhibition brought together five geographical locations that are interconnected through the apparatus of military surveillance.

Steidl has collected into one slipcase three of these photo series. British Watchtowers (2007) studies the surveillance architecture built at the height of The Troubles. The network of watchtowers and observation posts was erected by the British army to control cross-border smuggling and paramilitary attacks but also to maintain an intimidating presence. The watchtowers were dismantled between 2005 and 2007, as part of the Northern Ireland Peace Process. As Whyle documented their final days in the countryside, British troops were deploying to Afghanistan, taking with them elements of these Northern Ireland watchtowers.

The second book, Outposts (2011), charts NATO observation posts in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. Built on natural promontories, the outposts offer a fascinating parallel with the British Watchtower, as both networks ensured oppression and control in the name of a "war" against terrorists.

The last book in the set, North Warning System looks at a radar station that is surveying a less clearly defined threat. The extreme environment of the Canadian Arctic is home to cyber radar stations unmanned and operated electronically to detect any presence seeking out lucrative natural resources along Canada's Arctic frontier made more fragile by global warming and the new routes though the Northwest Passage it enabled.

Happy Famous Artists beat me to the review.

Donovan Wylie: The Tower Series is available on amazon USA and UK.

PALERMO, SICILY, ITALY, 20-10-2010: ruins in the old part of town. During the American invasion in WWII nearly 40.000 people lost their homes. Instead of restoring them, the local politician, together with the mafia capos planned a speculative plan that kept the old ruins from being rebuilt. Instead, thousands of new concrete blocks were built in all the Golden Valley, surrounding Palermo

Jerez, Spain: This newly built suburb illustrates everything that went wrong in Spain: rapid growth based on seemingly limitless borrowing, which produced a glut of houses and office space that nobody wants © Carlos Spottorno

Athens, Greece. Hundreds of massive archaeological ruins at the Acropolis are piled here and there, around the restorers' provisional offices. The weight of history is just too heavy for the southern European countries. © Carlos Spottorno

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Carboneras, Almeria, Spain: Hotel "El Algarrobico" was built in a protected Natural Park with the complicity of local authorities. Popular activism and pressure from Greenpeace stopped the project. But after a decade of litigation, it has not yet been demolished © Carlos Spottorno

Gela, Italy: Saro Spataro is a Sicilian-born Argentinian. He sells "madonnine" at the side of the road. He makes them with clay and black concrete. © Carlos Spottorno



The term "PIGS" was coined by the financial press as a shorthand for Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain . Never doubting the suitability of reducing over 100 million people to a bunch of clichés, the neoconservatives and the mainstream media quickly adopted the acronym.

Photographer Carlos Spottorno attempted to portrays "Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain through the eyes of the economists". The parody starts right with the design of the Pigs: the book cover is modeled on the front page of The Economist, and even the back page of the publication features a fake advertisement for WTF Bank.

Spottorno's photographs show European countries squeezed between a glorious past and far less glamorous contemporary realities.

Published by Phree and RM Verlag in 2013. The PIGS are on amazon USA and UK.


I'll always have time for war photography. And since i enjoyed the exhibition Conflict, Time, Photography so much, i had to get my greedy hands on the catalogue of the show. The show (and thus the catalogue as well) looks at over 150 years of conflict around the world, since the invention of photography. Instead of organizing the photos according to themes, geographical area or chronology, the curator orchestrated them according to the length of time that elapsed between the conflict and the moment the photographs were taken. The result is fascinating. You start with images taken almost straight after a disaster occurred and as you proceed, the duration between image and event grows into days, weeks, months, years and decades. One of the last series was shot almost 100 years after the start of WWI. Chloe Dewe Mathews photographed some of the exact spots where British, French and Belgian soldiers were executed for cowardice and desertion between 1914 and 1918.

I'd definitely recommend the book if you can't make it on time to see the show.
Conflict, Time, Photography was edited by Simon Baker, the curator of the exhibition. It is available on amazon USA and UK.

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