Photography from South Africa comes with a heavy luggage. Long before it played its documentary part in the fight against apartheid, the medium was used as an instrument to classify people according to racial type. A few years after the fall of the apartheid, a new generation of artists and photo reporters is attempting to rebuild the picture of a country where the old rules of codes and structures governed by race have (somehow) started to crumble. A number of these photographers, however, have chosen to turn their back on the culture of realism that defined South African photography in the years of the fight against the segregation and are exploring a more purely artistic aspect of photography

advertising

Lee Friedlander has captured the interior of American home as they were starting to be taken over by television. The black and white photographs, all taken in the early 1960s, casually record the turned-on tube in a variety of household settings. Yet, there is something eerie with the image

Apologies for updating this blog only once in a blue moon. I’ve been spending the past few days on a quest for the perfect flat. Now that mission is accomplished, i can announce that normal service will resume on Friday (tomorrow i’ll be visiting a couple of shows in Florence.) In the meantime, here’s some of the most stunning images i saw this afternoon at The Museum of London which is running a London Street Photography show until September 4, 2011

social

Guantanamo: If the light goes out illustrates three experiences of home: at Guantanamo naval base, home to the American community; in the camp complex where the detainees have been held; and in the homes where former detainees, never charged with any crime, find themselves trying to rebuild lives. These notions of home are brought together in an unsettling narrative, which evokes the process of disorientation central to the Guantanamo interrogation and incarceration techniques. It also explores the legacy of disturbance such experiences have in the minds and memories of these men

Combining the intricate techniques of food photography with the anthropomorphic tendencies of manga, Utsu has an affinity for kitsch. But instead of taking a strictly documentary approach to the Japanese relationship with food and the natural world, she uses fruit, vegetables, and seafood to construct surreal fantasies populated by kittens with octopus eyes, pineapples full of owls, and phallic carrots

Just back from London where i managed to catch up with up to 7 exhibitions in a day. Btw, there’s only a few more days to enjoy Parreno’s magnificent videos at the Serpentine and i urge you to run there if you haven’t seen the show yet. Another exhibition i liked a lot is Matthias Schaller’s series of Disportraits at Ben Brown Fine Arts

If you’re coming to Berlin for Transmediale, i’d recommend that you swing by The Berlinische Galerie. I briefly mentioned Mutations III yesterday, but the gallery has also a Nan Goldin show and a retrospective of Arno Fischer’s wonderful b&w photos. My favourite exhibition however is People, Things, Human Works which presents some of the most iconic photos of Emil Otto Hoppé. I was particularly fascinated by his documentation of industrial complexes and technical buildings. I could not find many photos of the Deutsche Arbeit (“German Work”) series online but i received this one in the press material

Arnold van Bruggen and Rob Hornstra embarked on the Sochi Project, a five year enterprise to map out the area of and around Sochi (Krasnodar Krai, Russia), a small city on the Black Sea that will host the 2014 Winter Olympics. The duo will document the changes the city undergoes while it is getting ready for the Olympics. The choice of this location is surprising, to say the least. This subtropical coastal area exceptionally mild winters by Russian standards, it lacks any kind of facilities and infrastructure to host the event and it is located in Russia’s most unstable region

One of the artists i was most happy to discover at the exhibition Alter Nature: We Can in Hasselt a few days ago was Antti Laitinen. The finish artist fills one room of the art space with a video triptych and a series of photos from It’s My Island. The work documents Laitinen’s sisyphean attempt to build his own island (and therefore micro-nation) in the Baltic Sea. The artist accepted to answer my questions for a short interview

Since the early days of photography, critics have told us that photos of political violence – of torture, mutilation, and death – are exploitative, deceitful, even pornographic. To look at these images is voyeuristic; to turn away is a gesture of respect. With “The Cruel Radiance”, Susie Linfield attacks those ideas head-on, arguing passionately that viewing such photographs – and learning to see the people in them – is an ethically and politically necessary act that connects us to our modern history of violence and probes our capacity for cruelty

Thanks to the symbolic and allegorical power of photography, combined with its documentary potential, we find ourselves faced with an extreme dimension of life that oscillates between the sublime and the horrific. As an activity accessible to all, photography helps us to understand that the toughest ordeals of pain and violence can paradoxically lead us to an existential experience whose outcome is a perception of the sublime

A few months ago, the Musée d’Orsay in Paris decided to ban photographs of the artworks and of the inside of the building, allegedly ‘to preserve the comfort of visitors and the safety of the artworks.’ OrsayCommons is a performance pro-photo, pro-remix and pro-public domain at the Musée d’Orsay that civilly and cheekily protests against what its participants call “a measure not only at odds with our times but also illegitimate since it concerns public heritage.”

There is a stunning photo exhibition right now at the Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris. Stunning and disturbing. I had to take a small pause from it after having seen only half of it. Yet, you won’t find any mention of the show on the museum’s website. Nor will you see billboards outside the museum to announce/denounce its existence

The show is indeed disturbing. Not so much for the images but for the issues they uncover: domestic violence, decaying corpses, mass graves for livestock, post-war trauma, pollution, nonconformist sexual practices, etc. Curators Germano Celant and Melissa Harris have hung on the white walls of the Triennale 260 pictures from 24 contemporary photographers. Each of these images follow the footsteps of the photos which emerged from Vietnam in the ’60s and ’70s and were so shocking that they played a crucial role in changing public opinion about the conflict

After the moving and now iconic series The Hyena and Other Men and the stunning
Nollywood, Hugo’s latest work, Permanent Error, portrays the people, animals and landscape of a dumping ground for computers and electronic waste from Europe and the US. The area, on the outskirts of a slum known as Agbogbloshie, in Ghana, is a shocking contrast to the better faster shinier life promised by the advances of technology

Some 100 works by photographers as Sibylle Bergemann, Evelyn Richter, Ulrich Wüst, Ute Mahler, Will McBride, Helga Paris and Roger Melis. In black and white, they have documented everyday situations that reflect the more recent history of East-Germany beyond high politics – snapshots that show the professional and private everyday life, political activities, urban landscapes, interiors and nudes

Fifty years after The Americans of Robert Frank, and practically at the same time as the reconstruction of the then pioneering exhibition “New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape”, FotoMuseum, through the exhibition American Documents, offers a comprehensive overview of the documentary trends in American photography from the 1970 until now

In this series of photos and installations in public space, Mitch Epstein explores and questions the ‘power’ that lays at the core of the United States. ‘Power’ in this case stands for both strength and energy. Over the course of 5 years he traveled through 25 states to photograph nuclear reactors, oil refineries, mines, rigs, abandoned gas pumps, wind parks, pipelines as well as their environs

Meiselas was 26 when she joined Magnum. One of the few women at the agency, she is probably better known for her work covering political upheavals in Central America in the 1970s and 1980s than for her coverage of the sex scene in the US. I saw both facets of her portfolio in London a few weeks ago

Chris Steele-Perkins unflinchingly records the absurdities, the pleasures and the tragedies of English life, invariably with wit and humour. There is a certain pathos in the image of a crowded beach, complete with donkeys, in which an unobserved dog pisses upon a windbreak: the English are unbelievably stoical holidaymakers

The photo series documents a traditional winter masquerade in Bulgaria that was originally aimed at frightening the evil spirits away but has now become way to welcome the new year. Estelle Hanania observed the scene from a nearby parking lot where participants changed into their costumes and masks

On June 30, the Democratic Republic of Congo will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its independence from Belgium. Photographer Carl de Keyzer traveled through the country following the “Guide Du Voyageur du Congo Belge”. Published in 1954, the touristic guide presented Congo as the ideal holiday destination with stunning scenery, brand new roads, musement parks for white people only, missions, factories, etc. These places have now lost much of their former glory, they are either ruins or used for identical or different purposes

The photo exhibition explores how our perception is mediated by and eventually adapts to the images coming from inquisitive medias such as satellites and security cameras. Everywhere around us, screens are showering our retina with information most of us hardly ever take the trouble to cross check. We tend to forget that these images are not first-hand, they are mediated, selected and distributed by media, political or scientific authorities

The 7th International Biennial of Photography and Visual Arts in Liege is one of the most exciting art events i’ve seen in a while. This year’s theme is (Out of) Control. It oscillates between the cheerful and the somber, between the mundane and the extraordinary. I’ll get back to you with a proper report but i couldn’t help singling out a quirky series of photos i discovered at the biennial

The illegal Israeli settlement Har Homa in the West Bank, the interior of the MIR space-station simulator in Moscow, the modernist monument in honour of WW II victims in Kosturnica, the bedsheet serving as an improvised cinema screen in a Chinese village – these are real Science Fiction scenarios, constructed man-made utopias, hurling their absurdities at the viewer