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Tenkamaru. In a Tunner, Tochigi, 2005

On Thursday i went to Artissima. Turin's contemporary art fair lands in the agenda almost straight after Frieze and compared to the London's fair, it feels lighter, fresher, edgier. It also demonstrates a greater attention for the design -in all its forms- of the event. I'm a fan.

That evening I've discovered a dozen of artists whose works i'll mention in the coming days (or weeks given my propensity to write at the speed of a banana.)

Let's start with Tatsuki Masaru whose photos were exhibited by Gallery Side 2 (Tokyo). The artist spent a decade following the Decotora (an abbreviation for "Decoration Truck") subculture, photographing the trucks of course but also their drivers and in the long series of "Japanese do it better", these vehicles have a panache and extravagance that never reach bad taste.

In an interview to Photoeye, the artist explains that the phenomenon is subject to trends and economic woes: There was a peak in say 1980, that was the peak time in terms of the number of decorated trucks existing in Japan. This trend got started somewhere in the '60s when Japan's economy was growing and people were starting to spend money decorating their trucks. In the beginning it was like, "Who has the most number of lights on the truck," that kind of competition. But then in the '90s there started to be a little bit more specialization, and one area which became popular was Gundam, which are like Japanese transformer movies, and anime type of decoration, so there are some stages to its development. Recently, because of the economic difficulties like Japan's recession, and governmental regulations, traffic laws and all that, the [truckers] can no longer do the things they used to do. So in a way, they're sort of going back to the '70s style, which is a little bit less lighting, more heavy on the paintings, a little bit more subdued decorating style so they cannot get busted by the police.

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A Member of Seirokai, Behind the Wheel, Ibrarki, 2005

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Denshokumaru, Shinjuku, Tokyo, 2005

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Misakimaru. At a Truck Stop, Saitama, 2005

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Kuroshiomaru, Chiba 2007

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Daichimaru II, Shizuoka 2007

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Midnight Emperor, Shiga, 2002


More truck drivers videos

Both Photoeye and Pingmag have interviewed Tatsuki Masaru about the truck series. More images at photoeye.

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Top Secret: Images from the Stasi Archives, by Simon Menner.

Available on Amazon UK and soon on Amazon USA.

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Publisher Hatje Cantz writes: First publication of pictures from the archives of the Stasi, the East German secret police

Almost 300,000 people worked for the East German secret police, per capita far more than were employed by agencies such as the CIA or the KGB. Not quite fifty years after the Berlin Wall was built, Simon Menner (*1978 in Emmendingen) discovered spectacular photographs in the Stasi archives that document the agency's surveillance work. Formerly secret, highly official photographs show officers and employees putting on professional uniforms, gluing on fake beards, or signaling to each other with their hands. Today, the sight of them is almost ridiculous, although the laughter sticks in the viewer's throat. This publication can be regarded as a visual processing of German history and an examination of current surveillance issues, yet it is extremely amusing at the same time. The fact that the doors of the opposite side--the British or German intelligence services, for example--remained closed to the artist lends the theme an explosive force as well as a tinge of absurdity.

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Close combat. From a manual for different close combat techniques

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Surveillance of Mailboxes

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Surveillance of the United States Embassy

Simon Menner has one of the most peculiar portfolios i've ever encountered. Snipers hidden among the trees, soldiers posing with corpses, Boobytraps and "Unconventional Warfare Devices and Techniques" from the 1960s, weapons used to murder people, views of WWI from both sides of the conflict, etc. Even the photos of Happy People have been selected for some very dark reason.

For one of his latest photo series, Menner spent 2 years searching through the Stasi archives, the majority of which were opened to the public shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The Ministerium für Staatssicherheit (Department of State Security) of the former German Democratic Republic was one of the largest surveillance apparatuses in history and its record of citizens' intimate life was thorough and sinister. The story and practices of the Stasi have been fairly well documented. Until this book however, we still lacked a clear visual account of the methods, tactics and props used by the spying agents.

The publication presents a selection of images documenting many of the Stasi operations: the spying accoutrement of Stasi personnel, the techniques employed to shadow or arrest a suspect, the signs used to convey secret messages, the packages sent via mail and confiscated by the secret police, etc.

The most baffling photos were taken during seminars in which Stasi employees learnt the art of disguise.

The props are amateurish, the poses are awkward and the result is grotesque beyond words. Yet, the intentions were serious: repression, control, surveillance.

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From a seminar on disguises

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The same agent using a different disguise

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From a handbook of Different Disguises

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Documentation of a seminar teaching how to apply artificial facial hair

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Disguising as Western tourist

The award for most disturbing photos go to Polaroids of unmade beds, (Western-made) coffee machines and rows of shoes. The photos were taken by Stasi agents when they secretly searched peoples' houses on the hunt for evidence they might be betraying the communist state. Photos of the rooms and furniture were taken upon arrival and used by the agents to be able afterwards to put everything back as if nothing had been touched.

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Secret House Searches

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Secret House Searches

The photos below were taken at the birthday party of a high-ranking Stasi official. The party guests were asked to come dressed as members of demographic groups under Stasi surveillance such as athletes, dancers, academics, peace activists, and religious figures.

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Costume party. Guests were dressed up as members of demographic groups -such as clergymen- that the Stasi deemed suspicious

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Costume Party

Spies of the western Allied Forces photographed Stasi spies and Stasi spies photographed their Western counterparts. "Sometimes they met, both sides were absolutely aware that the other side was there, but nevertheless both sides took photos, showing that both East and West lived in pretty much the same state of mind," the artist explained. So far, however, Menner hasn't been granted access to the correspondent photos from the British or Federal German secret services.

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Spies taking pictures of spies

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Accolade of the Phone Surveillance Unit

I love the necklace, very Tatty Devine!

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Accolade of the Phone Surveillance Unit

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Stasi spy photographs himself

More images on the photographer's website, in Der Spiegel and Morgen Contemporary.

Post-Industrial Stories is an attempt by photographers Ioana Cîrlig and Marin Raica to document the remains of communist industrialisation in central and eastern Romania. Decades ago, these areas were attracting workers from all around Europe but the collapse of Ceauşescu regime left local communities to their own devices and the mining towns are now fighting unemployment and poverty.

Cîrlig and Raica spend several months in each town, visiting the area, talking to ex-workers and their families, looking through archives, experiencing as much as they can what the local communitites are living.

I discovered the photo series through Anti-Utopias. Its author and curator, Sabin Bors kindly put me in contact with the photographers. I've emailed them a couple of questions about the work and the result is below...

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Ioana Cîrlig and Marin Raica, Foundry Man, Central Workshops

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Zlatna

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Gheorghe Carja and Ioan Achim have been working in the Central Workshops for over 40 years

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Hi Ioana! Why have you started the project? Has no one documented those post-industrial areas before?

We started the project because of a growing fascination with Romania's industrial areas. Travelling the country we realised many communities face the same problems. In communism it was all about building, expanding huge industrial sites, urbanising. After '89 it was all about closing the mines and factories, tearing them down, removing everything valuable. The two opposing trends left the landscape with surreal-looking ghost towns.
Most of the areas we travel to have been covered by the Romanian media, but they've never been documented in-depth. The media mostly cover the extreme poverty and the occasional privatisation scandal. We try to tell the story of these places and hopefully spending years on the subject will create a complex image of post-industrial Romania.

I find your photos very moving. Most photo series documenting post-industrial areas focus on decaying buildings. You also give your attention to the people who have remained there. How much preparation does the project require? Do you contact people in advance or do you just turn up unannounced and start photographing?

We contact people before going to a new place but most of the people we photograph we meet "on the field". A few days ago we met a man on the street. He checked out our project's website, liked what we did and ended up helping us a lot around his city, introducing us to people, showing us around and explaining a lot of what's going on. This is one of the fun, exciting parts of what we do, you never know where you're day is going to take you.

Could you comment on some of these images? Explain us what or who they are? what is the story behind these images?

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I took this one in Copsa Mica, a place known in the 80's for the carbon black pollution. Since 1993 that factory was closed and everything of real value has been sold by the "investors". In this kind of almost-torn-down industrial site metal scavengers try to make a living, looking for iron in what's left after the luquidators/buyers remove everything of real value. They risk serious accidents and, in most places, being arrested for trespassing and theft.

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This is a factory worker from a small factory in Southern Romania. It's the kind of place that struggles to survive with less employees that in the "good days".

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Rovinari still has lots of industrial activity. It's a mining town with a big coal quarry. It also has one of the largest power plants in Europe.

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This is Cristina, a girl that performed at the end of the Junior Prom in Criscior. Until 2007 the small town of Criscior was surrounded by gold mines. The young people in the area have very few job options. Most of them leave for bigger towns and countries in western Europe. The Crisan highschool teaches mechanics and tourism.

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This is one of the buidings in the Petrila mining site. Petrila is one of 3 coal mines that are going to be closed until 2018. Valea Jiului has 7 coal mines working at the moment.

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A tv is on a "manele" station in the living room of a family from Copsa Mica. The young girl in the backround watched the station a lot and tried to learn how to dance like the performers in the video. Her brother wanted to be a manele singer. The girls in the videos mostly wear sexy outfits and dance arround the male lead-singer. The lyrics are about love, money, enemies who want the money, girls who want the money etc.

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This is an office from an old factory in the Criscior area. About 1200 people used to build mining equipment here. Now the factory has 120 workers that build, refurbish and repair rolling stock.

How are people coping now that the industrial sites (and thus source of work and livelihood) has closed? Are they moving to bigger cities in search of any kind of job? Are they learning new skills in order to work in other contexts?

Many young people leave, mostly for Western Europe. Right now we are in a small town in Western Romania, Anina. The coal mine here was closed in 2006. Since then no new jobs were created in the area and the situation is quite scarry. The town is surrounded by forest so some of the young people work with wood. People say the town is being held together with the money made by women who work in Austria, Germany and Italy taking care of elderly or sick people. They joke about the men being "happy widowers".

Why have you chosen to work in wide format film?

We have 2 reasons to love medium format. Unlike with digital, we take more time to think before taking a picture. We are both compulsive shooters, when we find a situation we like, we go wild. Film helps us tame the instinct to take 100 pictures of the same pretty tree. The second and more important reason is image quality: the coulours, depth of field, the volume objects have etc.

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How/where do you get the archive photos? The ones in the Journal section of your website?

The old photos we post in the Journal section are mostly from personal collections. People invite us in their homes and we ask to take a look in their photo drawer.

How much is the rest of the country aware of the situation in these post-industrial town? Is the State doing anything to help these areas?

The situation of industrialised areas is very common in our country. They receive the status of "underpriviledged" areas. This could attract potential investors because of the lower taxes. The sistem is to corrupted to change anything. Romania doesn't have a long-term plan to relaunch and support the reconversion of industrial areas. Maybe it has one on paper but most of these areas are completely abandoned.

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What are the next stops on the journey of Post-Industrial Stories?

We are in the middle of a round-the-country road-trip. For five weeks we are travelling to mostly monoindustrial areas, about 3000 km. Next year we will move to Petrila, a small mining town in the heart of Romania's coal exploitation area, Valea Jiului. We plan to live there for about 8 months. Then, we move to Anina, a small town that used to have a coal mine and a power plant.

Thank you Ioana!

Lots more images on the fb page of the project, tumblr and in the photographers' journal.

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Location unknown, possible Morcambe, 1967 - 68 by Tony Ray-Jones © National Media Museum

The Science Museum in London has recently inaugurated a new Media Space. I was expecting it to be filled with photos of super computers and distant planets. Instead, i found Only in England, a retrospective of Tony Ray-Jones' photos curated by Martin Parr. Which is completely fine by me as i'd rather spend an afternoon looking at eccentric English ladies than at moons around Jupiter (no disrespect to satellites.)

In the late 1960s, Tony Ray-Jones traveled across his country in a VW camper to document the leisure and pleasures of the English. He was a man who lived by his own rules. One of them was to never take a boring photo. There are dozens of images in the exhibition and none of them is remotely insipid. It's easy to see why the photographer had such an impact on Parr's work: he had a taste for the quietly humorous, the compassionate detail, the ironic narrative.

Ray-Jones died of leukaemia in 1972. He was only 30 but in his short career, he invented a new way of looking at society.

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Beauty contestants, Southport, Merseyside, 1967 by Tony Ray-Jones © National Media Museum

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Only in England exhibition © Kate Elliott for Media Space

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Blackpool, 1968 by Tony Ray-Jones © National Media Museum

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Eastbourne Carnival, 1967 by Tony Ray-Jones © National Media Museum

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Bournemouth, 1969 © Tony Ray-Jones, Courtesy James Hyman Gallery, London

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Location unknown, possibly Worthing, 1967-68 by Tony Ray-Jones © National Media Museum

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Strongman Contest, Mablethorpe, 1967 (James Hyman Gallery)

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Windsor Horse Show, 1966-67

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Windsor Horse Show, 1967

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Glyndebourne, 1967

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Ramsgate, 1967 by Tony Ray-Jones © National Media Museum

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Brighton Beach, 1966 by Tony Ray Jones

A black and white photo series by Martin Parr, The Non-Conformists, is also part of Only in England. The work follows the religious life of the Methodist and Baptist communities in and around Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire. Shot in the mid-1970s, just after Parr graduated from art school, the photos have a gentleness i wasn't expecting from Parr.

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Mankinholes Methodist Chapel, Todmorden 1975 by Martin Parr © Martin Parr/ Magnum

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Tom Greenwood cleaning 1976 by Martin Parr © Martin Parr/ Magnum

Only in England: Photographs by Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr is a the Science Museum until 16 March 2014.
You might also want to check out Another Country. Vintage Photographs of British Life by Tony Ray-Jones which is up at the James Hyman Gallery in London until 7 November.

Last week (or maybe it was the week before) i was in Hamburg for the Reeperbahm festival. As soon as the symposium i participated to ended, i walked to the other end of the city to see the Santiago Sierra show. Only that i went to Deichtorhallen -one of my favourite centers for contemporary art and photography- to discover that Sierra was actually in another exhibition space a few metro stops away and that i had to book in advance to see the show. Well, i was Deichtorhallen, they have a nice bar, an über friendly staff (i should add that i found everyone i spoke to in Hamburg to be extraordinarily helpful and welcoming) and a photography show. I love a good photo show. And so i stayed.

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Max Vadukul, Back To Berlin, for Zeit Magazin

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Gabriel Bouys, Entblösst (Stern 1)

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Albrecht von Alvensleben, Pretty Awful Terribly Nice, Horst und Edeltraut Nr. 04

VisualLeader 2013, The Best of Magazines And Internet displays the works of the nominees and winners of last year's LeadAwards, Germany's most prestigious print and online media award. Photo reports, fashion shoots, advertisement, blogs, etc. The lot! That made for a great afternoon so without further ado and in no particular order...

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Benny Lam, Life in 6,42 square metres, Stern Nr. 11

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Benny Lam, Life in 6,42 square metres, Stern Nr. 11

Photos taken by Benny Lam for the Hong Kong-based social welfare group Society for Community Organization highlight the housing crisis in one of Asia's richest cities. The apartments photographed are just four feet by seven feet. According to the South China Morning Post, an estimated 280,000 families are currently living in those shoebox apartments, which are essentially regular-sized (for Hong Kong) flats that have been divided into usually four smaller units (source).

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Paolo Pellegrin, Guantanamo

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Paolo Pellegrin, Guantanamo

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Paolo Pellegrin, Guantanamo

Paolo Pellegrin photographed life in the U.S. prison camp in Guantanamo. Together with journalist Tim Golden, he traveled to the place that Obama promised to abolish. Yet, terror suspects are still being held without charge in the military detention camp. Pellegrin's photos were submitted to the scrutiny (or rather censorship) of the military press office. He had to delete approximately a third of his photos.

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Hans-Christian Schink, Industrial building, near the port town of Minamisanriku

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Tanogashira, Utatsu, Miyagi Prefecture

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Hans-Christian Schink, Houses piled up the tidal wave in the destroyed village Ogatsucho Mizuhama has piled up the tidal wave

One year after the tsunami, Hans-Christian Schink spent several weeks traveling through the Tohoku region in northeastern Japan.
More images in Zeit.

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Linda Forsell, Another Day in Paradise, (Vice 5). From the series Life's a Blast

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Linda Forsell, Gaza. A man is bathing his sheep in the ocean. They are reluctant at first but when they have entered the water the become completely calm. From the series Life's a Blast

Life's a Blast is a series of photos that Linda Forsell took in Israel and Palestine from 2008 to 2010.

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The Standard: Erwin Wurm, Pee on Someone's Rug

A print ad campaign for The Standard hotel featuring an image from Erwin Wurm's series of Instructions on How to Be Politically Incorrect.

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Paweł Jaszczuk, High Fashion

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Paweł Jaszczuk, High Fashion

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Pawel Jaszczuk, Street Photography from Japan

Everyone's favourite: 'salarymen' who fell asleep in the gutter in their suit and polished shoes.

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Heidi and Hans-Jürgen Koch, Magical Beginning, Fetus of a brown-breasted hedgehog , Erinaceus europaeus, about 6 cm long, shortly before birth, gestation period about 35 days, about 100 spines are white and change color after birth, Hubrecht collection, Berlin Museum of Natural History

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Alexander Zemlianichenko. In the dock: The members of Pussy Riot on 8 August 2012 in Moscow

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Esther Friedman, Iggy Pop in James-Bond-Pose in a Berlin U-Bahn Station, 1979. © Esther Friedman für ZEITmagazin

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Corey Arnold, Ein großer Fang, in "Mare" Nr. 90 and "Dummy" Nr. 37

I got a surprising (to me at least) request from the guard while i was taking photos in the gallery. He told me that i would have to either stop taking pictures or go back to the ticket office and buy a 'photo license' that cost 2 euros. That was new to me. No more laughable excuse, just "go and get the right to take photos."

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Photo Henning Rogge for Deichtorhallen

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Photo Henning Rogge for Deichtorhallen

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Photo Henning Rogge for Deichtorhallen

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Matthias Vriens McGrath, Facilitated Mess, Zoo-Magazine

VisualLeader 2013, The Best of Magazines And Internet runs until 13 October at Deichtorhallen The House of Photography in Hamburg. Deichtorhallen has a photo set on flickr.

I haven't seen that many exciting exhibitions in London over the past few weeks. I was however, bowled over by the photos of Philip-Lorca diCorcia at the David Zwirner Gallery. The East of Eden series brings side by side biblical references and the American dream gone sour. East of Eden is named after John Steinbeck's 1952 novel, contains direct references to the book of Genesis and is inspired by the collapse of the economy as well as the political climate of the United States towards the end of the Bush era.

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Mr. Briggs, 2007-2008

"It was really about the loss of innocence I think the whole world went through when the financial crisis started," diCorcia explains. "The financial crisis was the beginning of an economic crisis that led to a political crisis. It took two administrations to learn that the war on Iraq was based on a lie, that Saddam Hussein didn't work together with Al-Qaida, and that Afghanistan was an impossible country to transform. Now we have natural disasters that we never could have imagined before. And then there are all those people with no homes. I did feel some compulsion to respond. I never respond directly. But I had a distinct motivation for the conceptualization of the imagery."

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The Hamptons, 2008

The only photo in the gallery that is not likely to throw you into a melancholy state is the one with the two placid white dogs watching porn in a Hamptons home. They were actually looking at much tamer images. 'I rarely manipulate photographs after they are taken,' said diCorcia, 'but in this case the dogs were watching Bambi. I put in the porn later.'

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Iolanda, 2011

The lady in Iolanda is the artist's mother-in-law. She is either staring at her own reflection or looking at the sky outside, waiting for the tornado forecast on tv.

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Epiphany, 2009

The tempting Serpent from the Garden of Eden is symbolized by the stripper gliding up and down a pole.

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Cain and Abel, 2013

Everything has a meaning and purpose in diCorcia's photos. One man is wearing a red jumper, the other a blue one, while a pregnant woman looks at them from the door. Cain and Abel are locked in reluctant embrace before one kills the other. They also represent U.S. politics and more precisely the Democrat/Republican relationship.

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Abraham, 2010

East of Eden is at David Zwirner in London until 16 November 2013.
And do check out GalleriesNow and Happy Famous Artists, they are far more inspired by the London art offer than i am.

UPDATE: David Zwirner will host a talk by Martin Barnes, Senior Curator of Photographs at the V&A, about the artist's work, 19 October 2013, 11 AM, RSVP to +44 (0)203 538 3165.

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