Tag Archives: Magazines

Romka magazine: a collective photo-album

Romka magazine, Issue #7

I wrote about Romka magazine over on the eyecurious Tumblr some time ago, but I will confess to never having picked up a paper copy before, so the latest issue (#7) is the first I have been able to flick through. The conceit is a simple one, “favorite pictures and the stories that lie behind them” by pros and amateurs alike. No book reviews, no interviews, no ads… no excess fat. The result is a kind of crowd-sourced collective photo-album, which makes it sound terrible when it is really quite good. Romka simply does what it says on the tin: it presents a series of single images by photographers (that might be Roger Ballen or it might be Sachi “the builder who lives in a pink house in New Orleans”), each accompanied by a short text explaining what that image means to them. It is a very simple recipe, and like many simple recipes it is hard to get right, but when it works it is rather delicious. Although it follows a fairly strict formula it doesn’t feel formulaic because of its democratic, all-inclusive approach to images and because it helps to reveal some of the myriad reasons why photographs matter so much to people. This simple formula also makes it refreshingly different to most other photography magazines out there.

I have done a lot of wondering (to myself and sometimes out loud) about whether the photo album has become irrelevant today given the changes in the way that we make and look at photographs… Romka makes me think that there is life in it yet.

Romka magazine, Issue #7

Romka magazine, Issue #7

Romka magazine, Issue #7, November 2012, edition of 1,500.

Share

Conceptual photography

For its latest issue (#71), Source magazine is asking the question, “What is conceptual photography?” To go along with the mag they have produced three short talking-head videos exploring this question with a handful of artists and critics. The importance of the “concept” in contemporary photography has always interested me. In the photo-world, the question regularly pops up about why “straight” photography isn’t taken seriously by the art world. Those in the straight photography corner often appear to see conceptual photography as impure in some way, as if it were not what photography is really about. Without wanting to spark off another one of these debates, it seems to me that concept is indeed considered paramount in Western art photography today (in my experience, this is not at all the case in Japan, where “serious” photography can still very much be about wandering around with a camera and taking pictures). For example, I’m often struck by young photographers struggling to hang an ill-fitting artist statement with some big ideas in it over the shoulders of work that is clearly not conceptual in the slightest… presumably because they have been taught to do so in art school. Wherever you stand on this question (or however delightfully far away you stand from it) these videos provide an interesting look at how photography became so excited about concepts and what the hell “conceptual photography” is even supposed to mean in the first place.

Share

Guy Sargent, Kynance Cove (Swimmers)

Guy Sargent, Kynance Cove (Swimmers)

Guy Sargent

Kynance Cove (Swimmers),
Cornwall, England, 2011
From the What Lies Beneath the Surface series
Website – GuySargent.net

Guy Sargent (b. 1965) photographs both landscape and architecture using a large format camera. He works on various ongoing projects; What Lies Beneath the Surface, London, a Personal View, Common Progress and, most recently, From here, we control everything… His work has been published in magazines such as Ag: The International Journal of Photographic Art & Practice and AV Proyectos. Exhibitions include the Royal Academy of Arts – "Summer Exhibition" 2009 and 2011 and The Association of Photographers (UK) Open Awards. His work is available from Lux Archive in New York and Wanted in Paris. He lives in London.

Thomas Jackson, Cups

Thomas Jackson, Cups

Thomas Jackson

Cups,
, 2012
From the Emergent Behavior series
Website – ThomasJacksonPhotography.com

Thomas Jackson grew up in Providence, Rhode Island. After earning a B.A. in History at The College of Wooster, he spent much of his career in New York as an editor and book reviewer for magazines. It was his particular interest in photography books that led him to pick up a camera eight years ago, first shooting Garry Winogrand-style street scenes, then landscapes, and finally the staged work he does today. His work has been shown at Central Booking in DUMBO, Brooklyn, the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, Vamp and Tramp Booksellers, The Center for Books Arts and the Governors Island Art Fair. He lives in Brooklyn.

Naoya Hatakeyama: a book and an exhibition

My most recent trip to Japan in October happily coincided with Naoya Hatakeyama’s first retrospective at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography. Regular readers will know that I am a big fan of his work – and there is quite a lot of it – so I was curious to see how this exhibition, entitled Natural Stories, would be put together. The exhibition has now closed in Tokyo but opens at the Huis Marseille in Amsterdam today until the end of February 2012. To coincide with Natural Stories, Hatakeyama also released his latest book, Ciel Tombé, which I included on my best books of 2011 list, so I thought I would discuss them together here.

I will admit to being a little surprised at the selection of work in Natural Stories. Although there are ten different bodies of work in the exhibition, none of Hatakeyama’s work on Tokyo (Underground, River, Maquettes/Light…) was included. However, in the curator’s text on the exhibition she is quick to explain that this was a conscious decision given that Hatakeyama already had several solo exhibitions in Japan including a 2007 show at the Museum of Modern Art in Kamakura & Hayama which took the city as its theme. With that in mind the exhibition’s focus on the natural landscape makes sense.

The title Natural Stories is an intriguing one. I think it works best in french (Histoires naturelles), which I believe is the language in which the title was originally given. In french ‘histoire’ can mean both history or a story. The title evokes Natural History, stories about nature, and perhaps even a history of nature itself. The essay by the French writer Philippe Forest in the exhibition catalogue explores these notions in detail so I won’t dwell on them any further, but the title evokes the very different considerations that inform Hatakeyama’s photographic approach to the landscape. His landscapes are never ‘just’ landscapes: they are always the reflection or the echo of something else. For instance, although it depicts the limestone mines, the series Lime Hills deals with the transformation of the natural landscape to feed the insatiable growth of the city of Tokyo.

Although it is almost never directly present in this exhibition, the city is never very far away. In the series Ciel Tombé Hatakeyama explored the Parisian catacombs and their underground ‘fallen skies’ (ciel tombé). This series is the subject of Hatakeyama’s latest book, Ciel Tombé (Super Labo, 2011). For this book Hatakeyama has deviated from the standard photobook formula and asked the French author Sylvie Germain to contribute a short story based on his photographs . I won’t go into detail about this book as this post is already overly long, but I will say this: I first saw the work from Ciel Tombé a few years ago at a gallery in Tokyo. Several months later I had the opportunity to read Sylvie Germain’s deliciously strange and unsettling text. I had not seen any of the images since that first viewing, but as I read through the story the images appeared in my mind as if I had only just seen them. For the moment the book only exists in a deluxe edition of 200 which includes a print, a book of Hatakeyama’s photographs and another book containing Sylvie Germain’s text in French, English and Japanese, but there is word of a second edition in the making.

Returning to Natural Stories, for me the final two rooms of the exhibition were the highlight. The first of these rooms (pictured at the top of this post) contained Hatakeyama’s most recent work on his hometown of Rikuzentakata in Iwate prefecture, one of the many towns destroyed in the tsunami of 11 March 2011. Although very little time has passed, Hatakeyama decided to include a series of photographs in the exhibition that he took in the wake of the disaster. Many images have been produced of the aftermath of the tsunami, but most of these fail to connect beyond conveying the scale of the physical destruction. What stands out about Hatakeyama’s images is how matter of fact they feel. He has photographed these landscapes with the same unflinching precision, intelligence and quietness tinged with nostalgia as any other landscape. His photographs strike me as the most natural possible response to the disaster, but they must have been incredibly difficult to make given the deeply personal and tragic nature of the subject. These images are presented on three adjacent walls in the space, while on the fourth a slideshow of images taken between 2008-2010 in his native region is presented in the guise of a framed photograph.

The final room contains the companion series Blast and A Bird. Both series have been exhibited and published in the past, but for this exhibition Hatakeyama also chose to present Blast as a stop-motion video projected on a huge wall in the space. These photographs have a potent mix of beauty and brutal force which is heightened even further when animated in this way. It is an overwhelming end to the exhibition and one which resonates long after you leave the space.

Share


Related posts:

  1. Review: Naoya Hatakeyama @ Rencontres d’Arles
  2. Review: From Back Home (book and exhibition)
  3. Some more fuel on the photo-book fire

Photographer #412: Paulina Otylie Surys

Paulina Otylie Surys, 1979, Poland, is a fine art and fashion photographer based in London, UK. Only recently she has launched herself as a fashion photographer. She studied fine art in Poland and photography in the UK. She uses a variety of camera’s, mostly vintage one’s working with 35mm, medium format and large format film. Currently she is interested in working on other alternative techniques as tintypes and the wet collodion proces. Her analogue images are hand-painted using a mixture of toners, chemicals, inks and dry dyes. The photographs are often described as outerworldly and have a strong relationship with classic photography and painting. Her work has appeared in numerous magazines. The following images come from the series The Deadly Chair of Moros, Sever and Une Belle Sauvage.

Website: www.paulinasurys.co.uk

Photographer #406: Txema Yeste

Txema Yeste, 1972, Spain, is a fashion photographer based in Barcelona, Spain. His career started as a reporter after completing his photographic studies in Barcelona and Birmingham. He was traveling the world shooting images for newspapers like El Pais. He sees this period as very helpful for the photography he does today. His editorial fashion shoots have a narrative quality, build up of story-telling images. This is reflected in the titles given to the series as Spy in Nice, A Summer Waisting or Beyond Love and Evil. Txema is known for his sophisticated style, his experimentations, surrealism and graphic expression. His work has appeared in numerous magazines as Harper’s Bazaar, V Magazine and Vogue. Amongst his commercial clients are major brands as Lacoste, Levi’s and Nike. The following images come from various different shoots.

Website: www.txemayeste.es

Photographer #401: iO Tillett Wright

iO Tillett Wright, 1985, USA, is a young photographer based in New York City. She is currently working on the project entitled Self Evident Truths. The project started as part of an exhibition called Manifest Equality. She shot 300 portraits of people who felt that the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ) desciption applied to them. These portraits were laid in stacks for visitors to take home for free. Currently she is working on another 4000-5000 portraits that will be shot in 25 different cities throughout US. For the portraits in New York she was supported by the Human Rights Campaign. “This is the civil rights fight of my generation, and this project won’t be complete until queer people have the same rights as every other human being in this country.” All of her projects and images contain something pure, genuine, intimate and in close contact with the reality of life. In 2010 she released the book Lose My Number in a limited edition and recently KISSER came out. iO has been published in numerous magazines as The New York Times Magazine, Vice and The Huffington Post. The following images come from the project Self Evident Truths and the books Lose My Number and KISSER.

Website: www.darlingdays.com & www.selfevidentproject.com