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Another expert every month: We invite well-known bloggers and specialists from the international photography scene... Read more »

Hannes Jung ‘How is life?‘

Mücken in der Luft an einem See in der Nähe von Kupiskis. Vilma, die an diesem See wohnt, verlor ihren Mann vor fünf Jahren durch Suizid.

Mücken in der Luft an einem See in der Nähe von Kupiskis. Vilma, die an diesem See wohnt, verlor ihren Mann vor fünf Jahren durch Suizid. Aus Hannes Jung ‚How is life?‘, 2016.

Edita mit ihrem Mann Darius. Editas Vater hat im Januar 2016 Selbstmord begangen. Litauen, Kaunas, 21. Mai 2016. (c) Hannes Jung

Edita mit ihrem Mann Darius. Editas Vater hat im Januar 2016 Selbstmord begangen. Litauen, Kaunas, 21. Mai 2016. (c) Hannes Jung

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Seit 2001 findet an der Hochschule Hannover die Fotografie-Ausbildung mit einem deutschlandweit einmaligen Schwerpunkt im Bereich des Fotojournalismus und der Dokumentarfotografie statt. Ziel der Ausbildung war von Beginn an die Entwicklung fotografischer Persönlichkeiten, die es verstehen, Themen und Inhalte in ihren individuellen Bildsprachen zu visualisieren.

Angesichts aktueller Phänomene wie der Fotografie als Massengut und -kommunikationsform, der Visualisierung von Daten, die hergebrachte Vorstellungen der Spezifik des fotografischen Mediums auf die Probe stellen und der Tatsache, dass wir uns mehr und mehr mit einer medialisiert vermittelten Welt konfrontiert sehen, durchläuft das Medium massive Veränderungsprozesse, die seine Instabilität vorantreiben. Die Frage ist heute weniger: Was ist Fotografie? Als: Was wird Fotografie? – sozial, kulturell, politisch. Das hat vielerlei Auswirkungen auf die Gebrauchsweisen und Kontexte, in denen Fotografie auftritt. Und das muss auch Auswirkungen auf die Ausbildung haben. Für uns geht es daher in der Lehre mehr und mehr um das Reflektieren der Möglichkeiten einer zeitgenössischen erzählerischen Fotografie und einer zukünftigen Praxis in diesem Feld.

Ein gutes Beispiel für eine aktuelle Position, die die Grenzen der dokumentarischen Fotografie auslotet, ist für mich die Arbeit von Hannes Jung, der 2016 bei uns im Studiengang seinen Abschluss gemacht hat. In ‚How is life?‘ beschäftigt sich Hannes Jung mit Litauen, einem Land, das die höchste Suizidrate Europas und eine der höchsten der Welt hat. Proportional mehr als dreimal so viele Menschen wie in Deutschland bringen sich jährlich um, im ländlichen Raum steigt die Rate bis um das neunfache. Betroffen sind vor allem Männer zwischen 40 und 50 Jahren. Seit dem 2. Weltkrieg und mit Beginn der sowjetischen Besatzung ist die Suizidrate unter Männern in Litauen bis um das 10fache gestiegen. Experten sprechen von einem kollektiven Trauma und Identitätsverlust. Dies ist die Ausgangssituation für Hannes Jungs fotografische Arbeit, die keine soziologische Analyse über Suizide in Litauen sein kann und will. Mit dem Medium der Fotografie, das von der Sichtbarkeit lebt, nähert er sich einem Thema, dessen entscheidende Aspekte und Hintergründe einer unmittelbaren Sichtbarkeit verborgen bleiben. Dokumentarische und konzeptionelle Strategien verbindend, interessiert sich Hannes Jung für das Spannungsfeld zwischen dem, was sichtbar ist, und dem, was vorstellbar wird, und lotet in seinen Bild-Text-Kombinationen die Möglichkeiten und Grenzen des Abbildbaren aus.

„Vielleicht kann der Wind nicht fotografiert werden. Aber vielleicht seine Wirkung, wie er das Meer und die Bäume bewegt und verändert.“, wie Hannes Jung selber sagt.

Litauen, Kupiškis, 9. Mai 2016. (c) Hannes Jung

Porträt von Donata mit ihrem Hund Mikutis im Bett. Litauen, Kupiškis 30. Januar , 9. Mai 2016. (c) Hannes Jung

Ein Brunnen im Garten von D*. D*'s Mann versuchte sich in diesem Brunnen umzubringen. Litauen, Katiliškiai, 20. Mai 2016. (c) Hannes Jung

Ein Brunnen im Garten von D*. D*’s Mann versuchte sich in diesem Brunnen umzubringen. Litauen, Katiliškiai, 20. Mai 2016. (c) Hannes Jung

Porträt von Teresa tanzend in ihrer Küche. Teresas Mann brachte sich vor 19 Jahren um. Litauen, Varėna, 21. Februar, 14.Mai 2016. (c) Hannes Jung

Porträt von Teresa tanzend in ihrer Küche. Teresas Mann brachte sich vor 19 Jahren um. Litauen, Varėna, 21. Februar, 14. Mai 2016. (c) Hannes Jung

Weitere Informationen und Bilder unter: www.hannesjung.com

Faktisch – postfaktisch?

Martin Schoberer: Words Once Written, 2011
Martin Schoberer: Words Once Written, 2011.

Weniger die Schrift- als die Fotografieunkundigen werden die Analphabeten der Zukunft sein, wussten schon László Moholy-Nagy und Walter Benjamin in der ersten Hälfte des 20. Jahrhunderts.

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Kürzlich wurde das Adjektiv ‚postfaktisch’ von der Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache (GfdS) als das Wort des Jahres 2016 gewählt. Dabei sind die Vorstellungen, die sich mit dem Begriff verknüpfen, keinesfalls so neu, wie es seine aktuelle Konjunktur glauben macht. Zum anderen gibt das Kunstwort durchaus Anlass für eine kritische Lektüre, denn der Begriff impliziert ein Davor, das sich aus meiner Sicht nicht im Sinne eines Dualismus als ‚faktisch‘ begreifen lässt.

Beim Wort ‚postfaktisch‘ impliziert die Vorsilbe in Anlehnung an Begriffe wie ‚Postmoderne‘ und ‚Poststrukturalismus‘, dass sich unsere Medienverhalten dahingehend verändert habe, dass ein vorher auf Fakten rekurrierendes Denken und Handeln nun abgelöst würde von einer Rezeption, die eher Gefühlen, Spekulationen, Lügen und Propaganda zu glauben scheine. Nun ist unser Umgang mit Medien ganz sicher zentralen Veränderungsprozessen unterworfen und gerade das Medium der Fotografie, um das es mir im Folgenden gehen soll, erfährt gegenwärtig eine massive Transformation, die unsere Vorstellungen von Repräsentation, Dokumentation und fotografischer Zeugenschaft radikal in Frage stellt. Dennoch halte ich die im Begriff formulierte Implikation, es habe vor der ‚postfaktischen‘ Berichterstattung eine gegeben, die vor allem Fakten vermittelt habe, für problematisch. Denn gerade für Fotografien, die in der für die journalistische Berichterstattung charakteristischen Kombination von Bild und Text eine zentrale Rolle spielen, sollte die Idee einer Faktizität und Zeugenschaft ungeachtet des Vermittlungspotenzials, das Fotografien ohne Frage haben, schon immer Ausgangspunkt einer kritischen Betrachtung sein.

Fotografische Repräsentationen fungierten noch nie als neutrale objektive Abbilder einer wie auch immer beschaffenen Wirklichkeit, sie waren schon immer mehr als reine Zeugen einer Wirklichkeit, mehr als Fakten. Fotografien sind ebenso wie Bewegtbilder und Texte unausweichlich eingebunden in Funktionsweisen von Macht.

Ein Bild, das im vergangenen Jahr zu einem zentralen Ereignis der Medienberichterstattung wurde, ist das Bild des Jungen Omran aus dem August 2016. An seiner Rezeptionsgeschichte lässt sich sehr gut, das enge Verwobensein von Bildern in Prozesse von Politik, Macht und Ethik nachvollziehen.

In den ersten beiden Tagen der intensiven Rezeption des Bildes war nicht wirklich viel über die Quelle bekannt. Trotzdem müssten wir uns fragen: Was zeigt dieses Bild? Was zeigt es nicht? Und was steckt hinter diesem Bild? Ist die Quelle überhaupt vertrauenswürdig? Aus Syrien gibt es für westliche Medien fast nur Informationen aus zweiter Hand, da westliche Journalisten so gut wie keinen Zugang zum Gebiet haben. Das Bild des kleinen Omran wurde über das oppositionelle Aleppo Mediacenter verbreitet. Das ist ein Zusammenschluss von Aktivisten, die seit 2011 Nachrichten aus den von den Rebellen gehaltenen Vierteln liefern, die aber in der Regel vor allem die Menschenrechtsverbrechen der gegnerischen Parteien in den Fokus stellen. Dass man nicht über die Verbrechen der eigenen Lager berichtet, gehört zu den ungeschriebenen Gesetzen eines solchen Krieges. Einen Tag nach der weltweiten Rezeption des Fotos, gab es eine neue Welle der Aufmerksamkeit, die dieses Mal dem Fotografen des Bildes, Mahmoud Raslan, galt. Blogger hatten nach der Veröffentlichungswelle auf Raslans Facebook-Seite hingewiesen, auf der er sich mit zwei Kämpfern der Zenki-Miliz zeigt, die bei der Enthauptung eines Zwölfjährigen mitgewirkt haben sollen, den sie selbst beschuldigten ein Kindersoldat des Machthabers Assad gewesen zu sein. Die Tatsache, dass das Foto von Omran in Russland kaum Verbreitung fand, ist ein weiteres Indiz, dass die Veröffentlichung solcher Bilder immer mehr ist als der Beweis für ein Unrecht. Sie ist Teil eines Kriegs, der sich auf die Gesetze der Repräsentation ausdehnt und sich dieser als Mittel bedient. Hierbei wird die Steuerung des Sichtbaren mit der Absicht der Regulierung von Inhalten durch die Kontrolle der Perspektive, aus der die Kriegshandlungen und ihre Folgen gesehen werden können, ergänzt. Darstellungen in den Medien sind über jede Zeugenschaft hinaus eine Spielart politischen Handelns. Es besteht dabei mittlerweile kaum eine Möglichkeit, die Fakten und die materielle Realität des Krieges von den Repräsentationsregimes zu trennen.

Sicher haben sich das Tempo und die globale Reichweite, mit denen solche Bilder eine massive und zeitlich nahezu unmittelbare Aufmerksamkeit erfahren, verändert, dennoch sind die kritischen Fragen, die man an das Bild des Jungen Omran richten sollte, die gleichen, die man an Bilder schon immer richten musste.

„You don’t take a photograph, you make it.“ Dieser häufig zitierte Satz von Ansel Adams macht deutlich, dass jedes Bild Ergebnis eines Konstruktionsprozesses ist und nicht der unmittelbare, authentische Abdruck einer Wirklichkeit, die sich 1:1 im Bild wieder finden ließe. Jede Fotografie nimmt eine Rahmung vor. Fotografien ‚rahmen‘ erst einmal rein formal, indem sie einen Ausschnitt festlegen und durch Mittel wie Kamerawinkel, Fokus, Blende, Belichtung etc. gestalterisch wirksam werden. Doch der Rahmen fungiert nicht nur als formale Begrenzung des Bildes, er fasst das Gesehene ein, überträgt und determiniert es und strukturiert letztlich den kompletten Prozess der Bildpolitiken, in die Fotografien involviert sind. Das ‚Wie‘ der Fotografie bestimmt daher nicht allein die Bildgestaltung, sondern auch die Gestaltung unserer Wahrnehmung und unseres Denkens. Fotografien bilden Ereignisse nicht nur ab und suchen über diese zu berichten, sondern sie werden im Bild überhaupt erst hergestellt und mit Bedeutung angereichert.

Die Figur des Rahmens macht deutlich, dass sich Bilder nicht verstehen lassen, indem man sich in der Analyse alleine auf das im Rahmen Dargestellte bezieht. Bedeutung im Feld der Repräsentation konstituiert sich über das im Rahmen Sichtbare hinaus. Genauso wie sich jedes Bild im Kontext bereits existierender Bilder und Ikonografien bewegt und auf diese explizit oder implizit rekurriert, ist die Rezeptionsgeschichte von Bildern Teil ihres Bedeutungsumfeldes. Der Rahmen grenzt ein und schließt aus. Aber auch das, was außerhalb des Rahmens bleibt, innerhalb dessen Repräsentation sichtbar wird, ist Teil des Bedeutungsfeldes. Dabei bildet das, was der Rahmen ausgrenzt, den nicht thematisierten Hintergrund des Dargestellten, gehört aber zu dessen nicht sichtbarer Organisationsstruktur. Das heißt auch, das Unsichtbare ist immer Teil des Feldes der Repräsentation, aber die Ausgrenzungsmechanismen vollziehen sich in der Regel, ohne sichtbare Spuren zu hinterlassen. Daher sehen sich die Betrachtenden mit einer vermeintlich unmittelbaren Abbildung der Realität im fotografischen Bild konfrontiert. Der gerade im Fotojournalismus vorherrschende Glaube an das fotografische Wirklichkeitsversprechen gründet sich auf diese Unsichtbarkeit des Rahmens. Doch innerhalb und außerhalb des Rahmens sind soziale und politische Normen wirksam, die das Feld der Repräsentation strukturieren. Noch die scheinbar transparentesten dokumentarischen Bilder entlarven sich als gerahmt, und zwar gerahmt zu einem bestimmten Zweck, und sie transportieren und erfüllen diesen Zweck durch ihren Rahmen.

Dies war schon immer so – mit ‚faktischen‘ oder ‚postfaktischen‘ Zeiten hat das wenig zu tun und das kritische Lesen von Bildern war schon immer unerlässlich. So hat es Walter Benjamin bereits 1931 lange vor der sogenannten ‚Bilderflut‘ in seiner Lesart von Moholy-Nagy konstatiert, als er propagierte, dass der Fotografieunkundige der Analphabet der Zukunft sein werde.

Nicht erst, aber angesichts der aktuellen Bild- und Medienkultur braucht es allemal einen anspruchsvollen, reflektierten Umgang mit Fotografie. Wir benötigen ‚alphabetisierte‘, kritische Rezipienten und wir benötigen ‚Metafotografen‘, die die Milliarden an Bildern, die zur Verfügung stehen, zu reflektieren wissen, um ihnen ihre eigenen entgegensetzen zu können. ‚Metafotografen‘, die verstehen, dass jedes Bild Ergebnis eines komplexen Zusammenspiels nicht nur fotografischer und ikonografischer Gegebenheiten ist, sondern auch politischer und medialer Zusammenhänge. Denn Bilder wirken unmittelbar, aber sie verstehen sich nie von selbst.

Eleanor Macnair / Photographs Rendered in Play-Doh

Tiina Itkonen copy

Image: Tiina Itkonen ‘House’ rendered in Play-Doh and photographed by Eleanor Macnair

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Happy New Year to Hatje Cantz Fotoblog readers.  It’s been a pleasure sharing some inspiring photography with you this month.

Wishing you a festive year end with the most recent photograph by Eleanor Macnair: modelled on Tiina Itkonen’s photograph ‘House’.

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Eleanor Macnair is an artist living and working in London. For further viewing:

Eleanor Macnair’s website , Eleanor Macnair on instagram 

Photographs Rendered in Play-Doh, by Eleanor Macnair, was published by MacDonaldStrand / Photomonitor (2014)

Joséphine Michel / Mercures

MERCURES_9ld

Image: from the series Mercures © Joséphine Michel

Year end is almost here, and it’s time for a brisk walk in the park.  The wind plays with leaves and hats, ruffling the surface of a small lake in smooth ripples, interrupted by ducks and geese.  I am reminded of an image from Joséphine Michel’s recent photographic series, Mercures, and asked her a couple of questions as to the origins of this image:

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CM: Here we are immersed in the visual but also limited sensual landscape of an online blog, and I’m thinking of this image of yours which speaks to the experience of seeing, but also of taking in other frequencies and trying to make sense of their patterns. Could you tell me what interested you in making this image?

JM: Although the photograph may appear premeditated, it was discovered through an improvised process, in which I tend to embrace all visual accidents, during a walk across Regent’s Park in London in September 2015. This was in the very early days of a photographic ensemble now titled Mercures, which revolves around the multiple modes of our relationship with birds.

At the time, this on-going project was anything but conceptualized, thought through. Still I had interiorized, in an engrammatic way, what has been at the core of my experiments and research for years, the photographic’s relationship to the sonic. The project arose on a summer dawn the month before as I noticed the gulf between the generic, coarse mental image I had of birds and the splendid subtlety of a seabird song, which I was not then able to identify.

This photograph reveals a visual echo in which an actual acoustic experience eventuates at its core. Whilst editing, I suddenly remembered the visual patterns of Cymatics, where the incidences of sound on water initiated by Hans Jenny created a renewed visualisation of the acoustic experience. Here, the bird’s movements create a plethora of sonic matters materialized by the multiple aquatic patterns, from micro-sounds to larger noises. This image crystallises several recurring obsessions: the textural encounter of the visible and the acoustic realms, the coexistence of multiple states of matter (here, solidity, and liquidity) and the encounter of inertia and liveliness.

Although the bird occupies only a proportionately small area of the image, it is the vector of the photograph. It sizes it between the orthodox and the chaotic characters of grids and their reflections. Its vibrations animate the field and graphically undermine its own enclosure. This fugal trajectory stimulates thoughts about the boundaries we constantly try to impose to these frontier-less creatures.

CM: Where is this enquiry taking you, and what are you looking for in the images you are making, to add to this series?

JM: The project is gradually coming into focus. It gravitates around an exploration of the impact on birds of their habitats, which may be artificial, degraded or reduced by humankind, and the explicit tension and interplay this generates between bird and photographer.

If each new photograph should be able to take the project along an unforeseen path, I feel that the photographic experience intensifies when I record the ire of gazes, the pressure of gestures, the oddities of details.

In Mercures, birds are mostly represented without their surroundings, and there is not any clear sign of deforestation or agricultural clearance to be found. However, habitats affect and sometimes contaminate the images as hors-champs, generating undertones and shadows in these encounters with birds.

I am also interested in digital noise, by the manner in which digital code and compression, on one side, and the fineness of detail of the subject on the other, generate unpredictable textures, which defy a definitive reading of the photographs. In most of the images, a tension imposes itself between the photographic form, its implications of stasis and fixity, and the bird as a process, durational.

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For further reading:

Joséphine Michel is a French Photographer, who has recently collaborated with the Finnish electroacoustic composer Mika Vainio to produce the book and audio CD, Halfway to White. An essay about this project, written by Justin Coombes, was published on Photomonitor in 2015.

 

 

Katie Barlow

Looking Back at the Sea © Katie Barlow 2016

Looking Back at the Sea © Katie Barlow 2016

As these festive days at the end of December make one reflect on the most important things in life, in this column I’m sharing some images that made an indelible impression on me during the past year. At present the refugee crisis and the visual communication thereof continues to draw my attention, especially as the resolution of this crisis is not yet in sight.

This year, I had the privilege to be on the jury to select photographs for the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize (currently exhibiting at London’s National Portrait Gallery until 26 February 2016) where 57 images were selected for exhibition from more than 4,300 photographs submitted.  In this exhibition two works by Katie Barlow made an enormous impact on all of the judges, in her sensitive portrayal of child refugees – something which we only had confirmed in the actual exhibition, when we were able to read the caption accompanying the images (uniquely, the Taylor Wessing Prize judges are shown physical photographs without any caption, text or author’s name, and judge these by image alone).  These two photographs told a story that needed no words to communicate it, yet I wanted to know more.  At a recent meeting with Katie, I had the pleasure to learn more about these images; below I am sharing her story with you.

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Katia beach, Lesvos, Jan 2016

I travelled to Lesvos at the beginning of this year to bear witness to and document the refugee crisis. Unable fully to comprehend the scale of the crisis through the TV screen, I felt the need to go myself. The image of Aylan Kurdi had evoked upset and anger in me, as it had for millions. It had also been broadcast to the world on a day that I had been swimming in the English Channel, with a GoPro on my head, filming a woman doing the cross-channel swim. She was swimming to raise awareness of infertility, a story personal to her and which forms part of a documentary I am making about not being able to have children.

had spent most of the summer training in Dover to be her support swimmer, looking over to Calais as news of the mass influx of refugees in the Jungle camp emerged. Most were hoping to make it across to England in the back of trucks, but some had tried to swim, and drowned.  I started to question the validity of my professional and personal focus, unsure that my feelings about my own situation were justified in comparison to the global loss of life. It was jarring to have been immersed in the water, filming a “rites of passage” film about loss and longing for a child, in the channel that so many refugees were desperately trying to cross, risking their lives to do so.

A few hours after I had filmed Jessica’s elation as she reached the shore of Calais – a kind of rebirth and a new lease of life beyond childlessness – our screens were flooded with images of a dead child, washed up on a beach in Turkey after a failed attempt to cross the sea in a search for sanctuary.  My response was to change focus and go to Calais, delivering aid, and then on to Lesvos where many of the boats from Turkey arrive. I knew I was strong enough to be helpful as a water rescuer if need be, and I was asked to take photos for the Refugee Council. I spent two weeks at Katia beach, helping with and documenting the arrival of thousands of refugees as their boats drifted to the Greek shore. Many photographers were waiting at the shoreline trying to capture the essence of what we were witnessing: a mass migration of historical proportions. Finding it hard to film and photograph people in distress and feeling the need to help the refugees off the boats and to change sodden clothes instead of document, I found myself waiting until people were safe and dry before taking portraits.

 Away from the chaos of the beach, I became drawn to the UN transfer buses that were waiting to take the refugees to the registration camps. Although uncertain of what the immediate future held, their first perilous journey over the sea had been successfully accomplished and the UN bus became a temporary place a sanctuary, where families and individuals could get warm, shelter from the rain and freak snow storms. As the refugees took to their seats, some would look out of their windows, back at the ocean that had brought them to this point. Others would slump exhausted, others huddled in the warmth, some smiled with relief.

From where I was standing, each bus window served as a frame and presented a portrait.  There was a calm, although it was harrowing. Away from the chaos of the beach, people were still and reflective.

Two of the portraits taken at Katia Beach are currently being exhibited in the National Portrait Gallery as part of the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize exhibition. I would like to think that they are helping to keep the issue in the public eye. But to give practical assistance to the thousands of refugees in desperate need this winter please donate generously to: http://www.helprefugees.org.uk

- Katie Barlow

Pink Bobble Hat © Katie Barlow 2016

Pink Bobble Hat © Katie Barlow 2016

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Katie Barlow is an award winning film maker and documentary photographer whose most recent projects took her to Calais, Dunkirk and Lesvos refugee camps.

For further viewing:  Katie Barlow’s website  , Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize

 

Clarisse d’Arcimoles / Forgotten Tale

Installation

Above: Installation of Forgotten Tale by Clarisse d’Arcimoles at The Photographers’ Gallery, London, 2016

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There are some photography exhibitions in 2016 that were pleasant to view, some that were forgettable; only a few will leave an indelible mark on your memory and will forever have you wondering how, why and what have you seen.

The recent exhibition of French photographer Clarisse d’Arcimoles at the print sales gallery within The Photographers’ Gallery in London was one of those experiences in the last category, which almost defies categorisation itself.

Four years of crowd-funding enabled D’Arcimoles to create a Victorian set design centred on found photographic imagery, then photograph it and re-create it within The Photographers’ Gallery in a dizzying warp between 2D to 3D which pays homage to analogue craft on many dimensions.

A review of D’Arcimoles exhibition by Paul Carey-Kent on Photomonitor further traces the research and thematic expression of this compelling artist, whose show was, for me, one of the highlights of London exhibitions in 2016.

This was the image she was working from:

The image Clarisse was woring from

Details from the installation:

Detail

For further viewing:

Paul Carey-Kent reviews Clarisse d’Arcimoles: Forgotten Tale for Photomonitor

Clarisse d’Arcimoles at Print Sales / The Photographers’ Gallery

Darren Harvey-Regan / The Erratics / Interview by Naomi Itami

The-Erratics-wrest-11-C-type

Above: The Erratics (wrest #11), C-type © Darren Harvey-Regan

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Today I’d like to share a very special interview, one of those treasured spaces where two artists speak about photography from shared experience.

Darren Harvey-Regan is a London-based artist whose work has been featured in a number of international exhibitions and publications and is held in the permanent photography collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum.  After solo exhibitions in Pisa, Amsterdam, London and Exeter in the past several years, his most recent exhibition The Erratics was presented at Copperfield Gallery, London this past winter (2015 – 2016) and is presently part of the MAC International exhibition in Belfast.

The Erratics contained photographic and sculptural work engaged in a compelling discussion between form and abstraction.  In geology, an ‘erratic’ refers to a rock that differs from its native environment, having been carried and deposited there by a long-vanished glacier.

Naomi Itami is a cross-disciplinary artist working in mixed media and sound. She was formerly an international opera singer and holds several masters degrees including one from the LCC in Photography. She writes on the arts and is a frequent contributor to various publications and monographs. Below, Itami interviewed Harvey-Regan to find out more about the background to the works and text in The Erratics, after discovering she had also been to and photographed the same desert in Egypt that appeared in the exhibition.

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NI: I understand that this body of work originated in the White Desert of Egypt. When I went there the landscape struck me as lunar— with obvious themes of erosion, obsolescence, and emptiness. It occurs to me that these adjectives speak as much of the inner workings of the mind and heart as they do of the outer world of geology and matter.  Can you tell us how you came to travel there, and whether you sought out this unique remote landscape for the purposes of creatingThe Erratics?

DHR: I sought it out to make work, though I didn’t know what work I was making when I first found it! Finding an image of the desert online to arriving there with a camera all happened within a matter of weeks, and I remember wandering alone through these vast chalk forms at night, this near-mythic landscape so at odds with life in London, feeling overwhelmed I was actually there. I was thinking then about tipping points – the fragile choices and occurrences that can pass unnoticed yet at some point cause an idea to become a reality – I remember trying to trace the lineage of those that had led me to that point in the desert and they vary, from conceptual to personal to practical; it all becomes about which narrative I choose to tell as to which become prioritised, since different phrasings suit different contexts.

My exhibition statement follows the more conceptual line in considering abstraction as a form, intention and process, but it’s interesting you talk about the mind and heart in relation to the work since there is a more internal, personal narrative implied there, one I’m exploring through writing as a part of an upcoming bookwork. It focusses more on the elements an exhibition can’t encompass so well, a reflection on the doubts and drives of my own creative process and a need to disrupt a deadlock I found within my studio-bound practice at the time.

NI: Those giant, abstract chalk formations were formed over eons. When compared to the click of the shutter, does it make time itself an abstraction? Were notions of time integral to this project, and if so, in what way?

DHR: Photography naturally speaks very clearly about time – something I’ve tried to cloud in the past by showing photographs alongside the exact objects they depict. While that considers the interplay around the translation of object to image – a photographic object being located at an intriguing point of overlap between the two –The Erratics does attempt to reach wider, bringing the flattening of that forth dimension into the picture, using subjects and process that literally and poetically speak about time: as surfaces stilling time I see rocks themselves as a type of image, and my own incremental carving of collected chalk with razorblades is like a gestural re-enactment of the erosion that so slowly shaped those formations photographed in the desert.

Rosalind Krauss writes about the idea that perspective is the visual correlative of time, that one thing follows another in space. A lot of the studio photography in this work makes use of forced perspective – a type of rephrasing of physical relationships. I like the idea that this has an echo of re-presenting things in their relationship to time. The more I write around the work – drawing on my memory of the desert and the process of carving chalk while using the photographs I’ve made as things to think with – the more prominent a theme time becomes.

NI: In your practise the interplay between photography and sculpture (or objects) seems to be fluid, with each medium commenting on and complementing the other. I wondered if you could tell us which comes first: photography or sculpture?

DHR: I have a longer relationship with photography and to that extent it feels like my native language, other disciplines become like learnt secondary languages always translated – internally at least – through my mother tongue. That means I approach sculpture from the perspective of the photographic, but not necessarily that the photographic precedes the sculptural in a work.

NI: I noticed at Copperfield that the sculptures on plinths, as well as the framed b/w prints, were quite formal in their presentation. The sculptures’ relationships to the plinths also suggested a melding of sorts, with the angles and planes of both often in alignment. Could you talk about this decision and its origins?

DHR: There was certainly an intention to present the work under the guise of tradition – photographs as framed objects and sculptures on plinths – since essentially I feel the thinking and process involved in making the work are where its ambiguities exist, and I thought a more neutral presentation allowed a quieter work to not become eclipsed though a louder, heavier styling. So there are very defined formal choices that set the work and their presentation into an ordered system, but one I think the work’s subjects and slowly shifting reading begin to undermine and erode.

NI: The connection between the monoliths you photographed in Egypt and the sculptures you created out of chalk from the south coast of England points to a slippery slope in terms of perception and experience. Was the act of physically carving flat planes into the rough chalk pushing sculpture toward the flatness of the photographic image? Was it your intention to forge a kind of truce or sympathy between the body and the mind? 

DHR: For the studio photographs the raw material of the chalk was being physically shaped towards the image plane it would become – like some kind of preparatory ritual for its own visualisation. And the physical sculptures in the show – largely different to those within the images – enacted a type of reversal to this, where surface and shape were pulled out of the idea or appearance of two dimensions and mapped into or onto three. So while their physical presence as framed photographs and sculptures is unavoidable, they both certainly address perception – or the mind – directly.

However, the process of their making is very physical – my entire studio being covered in chalk dust for months on end with me white and messy, leaving cloud-like traces everywhere I went! I would never be entirely comfortable with the impassivity of photography as a technical medium without also being able to touch and mould and mark, without something in my process being immediately gestural.

I think at a personal level this work has been about trying to integrate the tendencies I feel that pull in different directions, types of creative fulfilment such as embracing natural beauty alongside a desire to strip it all away in preference for abstracted line and form; working in both the mess of real matter and the purity of the flawless surface; allowing narratives based in my experience and feelings to entwine with those guided by ideas and by medium.

It’s been a very slowly evolving work for me and one I feel very close to.

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For further viewing:

Photomonitor interview: Harvey-Regan/Itami

Darren Harvey-Regan website

MAC Belfast 

 

 

Paul Hart / Farmed

23-PAUL-HART-Donnington-Bridge-from-the-series-FARMEDD-300

Image above: Donnington Bridge from the series ‘Farmed’ © Paul Hart

Paul Hart / Farmed

The Fens, also known as Fenland, is an area of reclaimed marshland in the east of England which is one of the richest arable areas of the UK. British photographer Paul Hart has been making images in this landscape of agribusiness over the last six years. Most of this land was drained several centuries ago, resulting in a flat, low-lying agricultural region. The majority of the Fens lies within a few metres of sea level. As with similar areas in The Netherlands, much of the Fenland originally consisted of fresh-or salt-water wetlands, which have been artificially drained, and continue to be protected from floods by drainage banks and pumps. With the support of this drainage system, the area has become a major arable agricultural region in Britain.

Farmed engages with the recurring themes of this linear landscape, a place comprised primarily of straight lines with a flat horizon. Hart explores an environment of control, one of nature faceted by symbols of industrialisation, a landscape with monoculture at it’s core. Hart’s working method is in the vein of documentary, exploring our relationship to this landscape by highlighting elements that are so often overlooked. His narrative pin points the objects that remain, when all that surrounds has been cleared by modern agricultural practice. He aims to convey nature’s vulnerability within this unsheltered and unprotected environment, but as Steven Collier Brown stresses, he “resists narratives of pure catastrophe in places clearly impacted by centuries of mismanagement.” He employs the analogue process and traditional darkroom techniques, to convey something of the soulful in a landscape that is rarely considered of any aesthetic interest.

Hart grew up in a rural, agricultural part of the UK, and when young, spent much time outdoors in an area quite untouched by the modern world. This free and unrestrained up bringing, a personal history so attached to tangible landscapes, informs his work. As Steven Collier Brown writes of Farmed; “Hart’s photographs raise important questions about possession, ownership, mobility, stewardship, history, memory, perspective – the list goes on.”

Biography

British photographer Paul Hart (b. 1961) explores our relationship with the landscape, in both a humanistic and socio-historical sense. His projects usually concentrate on a specific geographic region, where he photographs intensively over a number of years. Hart studied at Lincoln College of Art (UK) and graduated from Nottingham Trent University (UK) in 1988 with a BA (Hons) Photography. He works solely with the analogue process; shooting on medium and large format, personally processing film and making handcrafted silver gelatin prints in a traditional manner. This hands-on approach, which includes a mix of science, chemistry and craft, is integral to his working practice and results in, what could be described as, a poetic interpretation of his subject. Hart has concentrated on self initiated projects for exhibition and publication for the past fifteen years. His work has been widely exhibited and internationally shown at Paris-Photo and The AIPAD Photography Show.

Publications

Farmed : Dewi Lewis Publishing, UK (2016) Monograph
Looking at Images : LensWork Publishing, USA (2014) Brooks Jensen
Truncated : Dewi Lewis Publishing, UK (2008) Monograph
Photo Projects : Argentum, UK (2006) Chris Dickie

Portfolio

To see more images from Paul Hart’s series ‘Farmed’ please visit Photomonitor  online magazine for current photography in the UK and Ireland.

Bettina von Zwehl / Bloodlines

C-type print, 21.4 x 17.3cm, 2016 © Bettina von Zwehl

Rosa (Lampropeltis Getula Splendida) , c-type print, 21.4 x 17.3cm, 2016 © Bettina von Zwehl

Hello – this is Christiane Monarchi, delighted to be sharing some current photography with you on Hatje Cantz fotoblog from artists and photographers working around the UK and Ireland, which is the geographic focus for the online magazine Photomonitor that I started 5 years ago.  Since 2011 Photomonitor has published more than 750 features from more than 200 artists and writers, for a broad spectrum of current thinking on photography, lens-based media and photobooks created and exhibited in the UK and Ireland.

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Bettina von Zwehl / Bloodlines

Each portrait in Bettina von Zwehl’s new series Bloodlines shows a young girl, in a studio environment, holding a live snake. The encounter between human and snake is at the core of each portrait, the slow and gliding movements of these mesmerising creatures quietly and subtly guiding the gestures of the sitter as she seeks to retain her composure and her poise.

“I am drawn to the snake’s unblinking stare, its sculptural presence, its symbolic potential, the beauty of its shimmering scales, and to its transformative presence in the frame of the image, evoking so many different associations: from fear and disgust to sensuality and feelings of awe. The girls approach the challenge of the session in their own unique way: a mix of anxiety, trepidation, excitement and also pride. The encounter with the snake as it undulates and coils across each young sitter’s body calls for her to find her own way to support it, guide it, protect it, and in some sense, to connect with it.” – (BvZ, 2016)

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Bettina von Zwehl (b, 1971, Munich) lives and works in London.  She has built her international reputation on subtle yet captivating photographic portraits; works from her recent series Bloodlines will be shown at Konsthallen Bohusläns Museum from 3rd December 2016 – 27 February 2017.

For further reading:

Photomonitor (Bettina von Zwehl / Bloodlines) www.bettinavonzwehl.com

Shortcuts 13

5 questions on photography
Today: Andres Serrano, photographer
Met at the opening of his exhibition at Musée Europeen de la Photographie, Paris

AndresSerrano_©NadineBarth

How do you see photography today?
The same way I saw it yesterday. The only difference is that there is a lot of digital photography now. I have a problem with digital photography. Because it looks manipulated and it looks fake. The other thing is everybody can be a photographer, everybody with an iphone is a photographer, and that means there are few artists left who are real photographers.

What has impressed you recently?
I have to tell you my own work impresses me the most, and I have two exhibitions right now in Paris. The other thing that impresses me is a photo I took in 2012 for my american series, which I never showed before, now for the first time, and it’s a portrait of Donald Trump. It’s a special portrait for me now, because it’s a picture of the president of the United States.

Your first photo book?
I don’t remember the first one. I still like my book on The Morgue. That has been very special to me. It’s out of print now, I think we should publish it again.

Next project?
I’m thinking about it. Jerusalem „Salvation“ is a recent project. „Torture“ is a new project. And I’m planning more museum shows in the next future. My next project should be my memories. I’ve been putting off for years.

Photography is …
… not dead.