Christiane Monarchi

Eleanor Macnair / Photographs Rendered in Play-Doh

Tiina Itkonen copy

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


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’.


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


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:


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.


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.


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:

- Katie Barlow

Pink Bobble Hat © Katie Barlow 2016

Pink Bobble Hat © Katie Barlow 2016


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


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


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:


For further viewing:

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

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