Tag Archives: Point In Time

Alixandra Fazzina Photographs the Flight of the ‘Flowers of Afghanistan’

In 2008, photojournalist Alixandra Fazzina, who lives in Pakistan, began to stumble across stories of young Afghan refugees, children who were fleeing the country for Europe. Soon after she noticed the phenomenon, she visited a refugee camp in Afghanistan, where she witnessed the funeral of a boy who had died trying to cross from Turkey to Greece. Then, on the same visit, at a hospital, she met a boy who had lost his legs—not as she initially assumed, from a land mine, but as a consequence of having been kidnapped and tortured when trying to go west. “All the time he just kept saying he wanted to get the Europe again, despite the risks. He was just so convinced that there was absolutely no future for him as a young Afghan,” Fazzina says. The last time she saw him was in Greece, where he had again fled, the second time losing the prosthetic legs he had needed after his first attempt at emigration. “He was very lucky to survive that far, and he wasn’t done yet.”

The phenomenon that Fazzina observed first-hand was soon confirmed by statistics. The photographer noted a 64% jump in the number of underage Afghan refugees applying for asylum in Europe in 2010. With money that came that same year with her recognition by UNHCR (the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) as the first journalist to win the prestigious Nansen Refugee Award, along with the support of the Norwegian government, Fazzina began a project to document the hardships faced by young people making that journey from Afghanistan.

That project, Flowers of Afghanistan, is now about one-third completed; Fazzina is planning to continue her work in Iran, Pakistan and Italy in the coming months. “When the U.S. leaves, we’re on the brink of civil war,” she says. “It’s very important to me to be highlighting this at this point in time. It’s very important for people to realize that Afghanistan isn’t a success story.”

Although Fazzina had intended to follow the boys—and the very few girls who make the trip—along the road, photographing them, she has found that the journeys are rarely linear. Before they leave home, the boys hide their travel plans, often even from their parents; smugglers, Fazzina says, warn them that to tell will cast a jinn, a bad spirit, on their travels. And once they leave home, false starts are likely; kidnapping is frequent and deportation is a possibility even for children who seek asylum. Instead, Fazzina says she relies on networks and word of mouth, and perhaps the trust that is more easily won by a woman, to find the refugees at each stop along the way. She says that even smugglers, once they hear about her project, will reach out and provide information about their whereabouts. “Of course I want to see them traveling, but I’m not interested in photographing the smugglers themselves, so a lot of what I’ve been getting has been, in photography terms, very quiet pictures,” she says. Her photos from the series are often dark, capturing a moment of furtive rest or a person who must stay in the shadows, but stillness and gloom does not mean calm. “When I take a step back,” she says, “I often wonder if people really understand how dangerous it was.”

And the more time Fazzina has spent in that shadowy world, the clearer the patterns have become. About half the boys, she says, are fatherless due to war or sickness, thrusting them into positions of responsibility in their families. They are from the least stable provinces in the country. Recently, she met some children in Peshawar who had given up or been deported back to Afghanistan, and noticed another level of pattern. “I started to talk to them about the journey, and it was the same places, the same hotels they were held hostage in,” she says. “It’s very shocking and repetitive.”

Even though Fazzina has rarely been able to literally follow the boys she photographs, she has found that there’s a virtual way to keep track of them: through their own photographs, on Facebook. “I see a boy I’ve met and his pictures of himself in Athens, taken with fast cars and in tourist locations and in borrowed clothes, whereas the reality was he was living in a hotel, like a squat, that was being run by the smuggling mafia, full of prostitutes and drugs. It was a million miles from the pictures he showed,” she says. Unfortunately, that brave face can encourage others to try to make the dangerous journey themselves.

She once tried to make those photos that the boys take of themselves into something more true. One 16-year-old she met was passionate about photography. He was, she says, a “genius” at it. He wanted to be a filmmaker. After he survived for six days in a trucking container and arrived in Rome, Fazzina tried to get a camera to him through her colleagues in Italy. By that time he had left for Paris. They spoke by phone. He said that he had been told that he was too old when he went to a children’s home and that he was too young when he went to a refuge for adults. He was sleeping on the streets, in the winter, in the snow. She still hadn’t gotten a camera to him. He didn’t call again. “He just moved on. He disappeared. I have no idea what happened to him,” she says. “I am fearful what his fate is.”

Alixandra Fazzina is a British photojournalist. She is represented by NOOR Images and is the 2010 recipient of the UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award. More information about Flowers of Afghanistan is available here.

Neil Goldberg and New York Moments

UPDATE: Goldberg’s exhibit Stories the City Tells Itself at the Museum of the City of New York has been extended through July 4, 2012.

Multimedia artist Neil Goldberg grew up on Long Island, and his childhood was full of trips into New York City, a place that he says always seemed glamorous for being just out of reach. There was a certain part in the drive, on the way through the borough of Queens, when the car would pass the massive apartment complexes known as LeFrak City. “I just thought about all those windows and how behind each of them lives were being lived,” says Goldberg. “You couldn’t see into them but it was thrilling to think of them as this big, dense collective of lives.”

Neil Goldberg

Installation at the Museum of the City of New York.

Goldberg’s continued affinity for the collection of lives that is New York City is on view in his solo exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York, which has recently been extended to run through June 19. The show contains a dozen different projects plucked from two decades of his work for their focus on the city.

But Goldberg says that the city is not so much subject as catalyst for his work. “I’m deeply fascinated and engrossed with New York but really all the projects in the show are really just about being alive in a body,” he says. “New York has all these amazingly specific qualities that I love, but in the end it’s a huge, idiosyncratic public space and it’s a place to watch people being alive. That’s the thing that I’m mostly interested in: the basic mystery of ‘here we are, alive in these bodies, at this point in time.’”

The mundane moments he captures, such as the boarding of a bus, are overlooked by the people involved. And there is often, the photographer finds, an instant of rich emotion beneath the banality of it all. “There’s nothing more mundane than missing the subway, but the way it’s experienced has a more operatic quality than what’s actually happening,” he says. “Which is that you’re going to have to wait another five minutes.” His choice of video versus still photography depends on whether that emotion is best emphasized inside or outside of time. The faces of people who miss the train, he says, are best examined freed from the rest of the bustle of the station; the moment of orientation when one emerges from the subway, on the other hand, needs to be conveyed as a transition from confusion to clarity.

The exhibit involves both formats, still and moving, installed in a way meant to echo the city: viewers can choose what to focus on but can’t prevent the rest of the world (the sounds and sights of nearby videos, not presented in isolation as is typical in a museum setting) from seeping in around the edges.

Goldberg says that the show’s title—Stories the City Tells Itself—is a reference to a story he in turn tells himself. In that fiction, the city, like the photographer, is observing its residents being alive. “I like to think of the moments as being overlooked by the people involved but existing for the pleasure of the city itself,” he says. “Maybe no one is noticing these people as the emerge from the subway or the little trapezoids of beautiful sky, but somehow the city itself is watching.”

The exhibit Stories the City Tells Itself is on view at the Museum of the City of New York through July 4. More information about Neil Goldberg can be found here.

Photo Portrait News – Portrait Salon de Refusés calls for portrait prize images, Alan Powdrill’s Pipe Up portraits and What’s in a Face?

“All portraits reveal something of the sitter, the photographer and also of us as viewers, but none reveal a whole and complete being. This is part of the enduring fascination with the photographic portrait which purports to be an exact likeness but operates more accurately as a metaphor for the self and how that self might exist in the world at a particular point in time.” – Judy Annear, senior curator photographs, Art Gallery of NSW from the press release for What’s in a Face: aspects of portrait photography

Alan Powdrill, Glow from the Pipe Up series

My grandpa, photographer unknown

Alan Powdrill, Amy from Pipe Up series

It’s a photo portrait post, with a pipe-theme, today – that’s one hell of a lot of Ps for a sentence.

Today there’s a call for “unselected entries to the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2011″ by Portrait Salon, which considering that only 60 images are selected for the international Taylor Wessing Prize, is a fun and positive way to promote portrait photography through trying to retrieve as many of the “discarded” images as possible. Also, some quirky images of women with some amazing pipes (but are they really pipe smokers, I wonder?) courtesy of photographer Alan Powdrill who also has a blog with a Picture a Day, plus an upcoming photo portrait exhibition What’s in a Face? opening on 24 September in Sydney, Australia and running until 5 Feb.

PORTRAIT SALON
Portrait Salon aims to show the best of the unselected entries from the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2011. The organisers – two portrait photographers, who are both based in London and are professionally involved in the city’s photographic community – believe that, “out of the 5,973 rejected entries, there must be some good quality portraits which deserve to be shown”. To this effect, the organisers have anonymously (at least at this stage), set up a Salon des Refusés, “which has a long tradition as a fringe way of showcasing artists’ work that may otherwise go unseen”. See Wayne Ford’s blog for more  on the origins of the Salon des Refusés.

This will be a projection of works rejected from a juried art show.  So, if you submitted work to the Taylor Wessing photo portrait prize 2011 and got rejected, then you have another chance to get your work seen and shown.

Simply, email a Jpeg only, at 1000 pixels on the longest edge, of your “refused” submission to: [email protected]

See over for more…

Sure, there may be the possibility that your work will not be selected for a second time, but then, unless you give it a go, how will you know? Also, as the organisers say: “We will show a much higher percentage of work than at the National Gallery” this is also because they will be projecting work so will not be as constrained, in terms of numbers of works that can be shown.  “The venue, date and time, is yet to be confirmed. In order to maintain a high standard of imagery, the projection will be curated, so a selection of the submissions will be shown.”

I’ve agreed to help on the judging panel, which will be announced soon, so send your unselected entries in. After all, you’ve already done the work and it won’t cost you anything, except a little of your time. And if you didn’t enter but know someone who did, then pass the details on. Can’t wait to see some of the “refusés”, so look out for some of them in future posts.

WHAT’S IN A FACE? – ART GALLERY OF NSW

Left: Edward Weston (USA 1886-1956) Guadalupe de Rivera, Mexico 1924, printed later gelatin silver photograph, 20.7 × 17.8 cm. Gift of Patsy W. Asch 2000 © Centre for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents. Right: Loretta Lux (Germany b1969) The waiting girl 2006, Ilfochrome photograph, 38 × 53 cm. Purchased with funds provided by the Photography Collection Benefactors’ Program 2007 © Loretta Lux/Bild-Kunst. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

With portraiture in mind, the Art Gallery of New South Wales has a show What’s in a Face? aspects of portrait photography which is “an exhibition of 45 photographs from its collection. The exhibition focuses on crucial points in the history of photographic depictions of the human face ranging from studio portraiture in the late 19th century to contemporary practices today. Works by Australian photographers, such as Paul Foelsche, Olive Cotton, Max Dupain, Carol Jerrems, Destiny Deacon, Patrina Hicks, Darren Sylvester and others, are placed in an international context, represented by Man Ray, Edward Weston, Iwao Yamawaki, Nan Goldin, Ben Cauchi and Loretta Lux, amongst others.”

If I am anywhere near the Antipodes before then, and you never know what life can bring, then I will swing along, if not I’ll have to make do with virtual enjoyment. I leave you with these thoughts about portraiture from the press release:

“Using photography to depict the face and figure was initially a time-consuming and expensive business. However, the drive to document all things in the world, and rapid technological advances, meant that by the 1880s most people, willing or not and regardless of the photographer’s or their own desires, were documented in some way.

“Spurious 19th century ideas to do with what a face could represent exploded in the early 20th century when identity came to be seen as a psychological rather than social phenomenon. Theatricality and performing for the camera, which had existed in photography since its inception, also became much more evident in this period.

“In the post-WWII era representations of the face and the body quickly acquired a political and socially aware edge. More recently the face has tended to stand less as an expression of personal experience and more a statement that may signify a set of ideas, whether about the individual, the group or the society at large. Many of these highly constructed images acknowledge and play upon the problematics of the photographic portrait.”

Filed under: Uncategorized Tagged: Alan Powdrill, Art Gallery of NSW, Derek Bevis, photo portraits, Pipe Up, Portrait Salon, portraits, Salon des Refusés, Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize, What’s in a Face?