Tag Archives: Jumble

Little Europe on the Outskirts of Shanghai

Spanish photographer Pablo Conejo traveled to China to document the rapid—and, he thought, almost unsustainable—development of a country full of contradictions, the result of Chinese culture confronting global trends. Before his trip, he made a list of opposite concepts to accompany him as an inspiration: east and west, poverty and wealth, communism and capitalism and tradition and modernity were all ideas that served as guides in the photographer’s anthropological excursion. In Shanghai, he saw yet another contradiction.

Conejo found himself immersed in a futuristic urban landscape, a skyline overloaded with concrete and glass above the smell and feel of the stereotypical China he expected to find, one that he describes as a “tangle of motorcycles, cars, people and noise; a mix of intense food smell from stalls and kitchens, car fumes and a murmur from all this bustle; all this jumble peppered with red lanterns and fortune cats.” Then, as he reached the borders of the city he found a peculiar urban project: a set of nine suburban neighborhoods under construction, mimicking the architectural styles of several iconic European countries, including France, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Holland and Germany. Built to house the wealthier Chinese population escaping the big-city lifestyle, “One City, Nine Towns” is a thematic urban project launched in 2004 with the goal of relieving overpopulation in Shanghai. These artificial towns, which are replicas of buildings found in the various European locales, are projected to house one million people by 2020.

“At the moment all the towns look like ghost cities,” Conejo says. “The empty streets make them look like Disney World or a cinema set. As a matter of fact, Thames Town, the English imitation, is becoming a very popular location to have one’s wedding photography made.” Despite their popularity among locals, Conejo realized that some people weren’t familiar with the original inspirations of these model homes. In the Paris neighborhood, the photographer asked three teenagers if they knew anything about the French capital. “Paris?” one asked. “I don’t know.”

Pablo Conejo, who was born in Madrid in 1981, ran two urban photography workshops in Instituto Europeo di Design in Barcelona in 2008 and 2009. You can see more of his work here.

El Incidente – 1940s Street Photography in Lima

Another fascinating exhibit right now as part of Lima’s Photography Biennial is a show called El Incidente. In it, the curator shows snapshots taken in Lima from the 1940s to the 1960s by street photographers working for local photo studios.

El Incidente

The game/business worked as follows; a guy working for some photo studio would snap a photo, typically without permission, and then ask the person if they would like to pay for a copy. If the answer was yes, someone from the studio, or the photographer himself would go the next day to the person’s house and deliver the photo.

As a type of vernacular photography I find it fascinating that something like this ever existed. It could only exist in a city that was big enough to be anonymous but not so large as to be dangerous and chaotic, as Lima was soon to become. The photos themselves are don’t break ground aesthetically. There were no Winogrands or Friedlanders lurking in Lima in the 1950s (at least not in this show). Still, the photos offer a fascinating glimpse of  a society and city in transtion.

El Incidente at Casa O’Higgins

El Incidente at Casa O’Higgins

The mounting of the show is fantastic. It’s housed on the ground floor of the gorgeous, restored 19th Century home of Chilean independence leader Bernardo O’Higgins.

El Incidente in Casa O’Higgins

The front room has large blow-ups of some of the photos next to small displays of the original photos themselves. In the back is a giant table with hundreds of photos on display under glass.

El Incidente at Casa O’Higgins

The curator, Daniel Contreras, collected these photo albums himself at various flea markets over the last several years. It wasn’t clear to me if these photos came from the customers or if the photographers themselves kept their own albums. In any event, the show does a masterful job of bringing this genre to life. A display case at the entrance shows a jumble of decaying albums from which some of the photos in the exhibit came.

El Incidente at Casa O’Higgins

As a type or genre of photography, this is totally new to me and fascinating too. I wonder if other cities in other or in other time periods something like this has existed.

My two favorite shows of the biennial so far, this one and Memorias Visuales, both deal with different expressions of vernacular photography in Peru. Both in their own way, as exhibits, do fantastic jobs of bringing to life an era as well as a genre of photography.

The Gallimaufry Edition

Sarah Girner recently wrote me about a new photo zine, The Gallimaufry Edition, she has created with four photographers–“a jumbled medley of American, British, German and Iranian shooting a variety of formats and film types and styles.” The five photographers first met in New York in 2008 and have come up with an interesting idea. They have not only created a new magazine, but an exhibit to go along with it that opened yesterday at the Pine Box Rock Shop in Brooklyn. The exhibit and zine includes pictures from Centralia, Germany, NYC, San Francisco, Tehran and Winnipeg. They hope to travel the exhibit, but also hope you consider purchasing the magazine (and they are having a Mother’s Day special)!

Along with Sarah Girner, the photographers include Sahara Marina Borja, Sunny Shokrae, Matt McDonough, and Phil Brown. As Matt McDonough puts it “It’s called Gallimaufry, meaning a hodgepodge or confused jumble of things and I have to say it looks quite gorgeous in its 64-page, full-color, perfect-bound glory.”

A sampling of images follow.

Images by Phil Brown

Images by Matt McDonough

Images by Sarah Girner

Images by Sunny Shokrae

Images by Sahara Marina Borja