News from the World of Photography: April 2019

V&A Photography Centre receives major donation from Sir Elton John and David Furnish


British Photographic History

The V&A has announced a new, long-term collaboration with Sir Elton John and David Furnish to revolutionise public access to photography. Comprising a significant donation towards the museum’s recently opened Photography Centre, for which gallery 101 will be renamed ‘The Sir Elton John and David Furnish Gallery’, the partnership will also include a major co-curated temporary exhibition, to be announced in due course...

2019 Portfolio Prize Winner: Mark McKnight


Aperture

Mark McKnight is a modern-day modernist. His black-and-white photographs of skin and sand, brick and tar, with their rich tones and sparkling light, are redolent of twentieth-century masterworks, those pictures by men like Edward Weston who cast the world in silver-gelatin. Weston once said the camera should be used for recording the “quintessence of the thing itself, whether polished steel or palpitating flesh.” But for McKnight, who was born in Los Angeles to a New Mexican, Hispana-identified mother, something was missing from Weston’s vision. Something that would ignite a flame of recognition in a young queer man with ideas about male beauty more expansive than the Eurocentric standard. Something that would make “straight” photography a little less straight...

A Mexican Photographer Explores the Enduring Bonds of Her Indigenous Culture


The New York Times LENS Blog
 
The homes, streets and shops that make a community tangible may crumble, and its residents may scatter, but the invisible bonds of culture, love and longing endure. This is not mere nostalgia. It sustains life itself.

Among the indigenous people from Yalálag in Mexico’s Oaxaca state, these ties bind them to one another, no matter where they may have migrated in search of opportunity. Citlali Fabián’s parents hailed from there, moved to Mexico City, and returned to Oaxaca City, which is 90 grueling kilometers away from Yalálag. But no matter where Ms. Fabián lived, her heritage kept her — and others — close to the cradle of her people, who descended from the Zapotecs.

“Why is it that despite the distance and separation there is that need to stay connected?” Ms. Fabián said. “We who are born away from there, how do we keep the same preference to work, or to celebrate as if they were still there, or the music? It’s interesting how years and generations pass, and we still dance to the same music my grandparents and parents did. It’s the same dance they taught me. It’s very interesting to see the reconnection of generations. You don’t have to live in a specific place. It’s beautiful to create — and recreate — a community when you are away from it.”

Her project, “Soy de Yalálag” — I’m From Yalálag — is a quiet look at the town, its residents and its diaspora, focusing not on what they lack materially, but the richness of a culture that endures and sustains. It is deeply personal, which gives her images of festivals, family and friends an emotional heft that reassures and reaffirms...

Federico Borella wins Photographer of the Year


The British Journal of Photography

Federico Borella has been named Photographer of the Year at the 2019 Sony World Photography Awards, winning the $25,000 prize for his series Five Degrees – a look at male suicide in the farming community of Tamil Nadu, southern India, which is facing its worst drought in 140 years. The Italian photographer’s work takes its lead from a Berkeley University study, which found a correlation between climate change and increased suicide rates among Indian farmers, and explores the impact of both via images of the farming landscape, mementoes of the farmers, and portraits of their survivors.

“As global warming changes the face of life ever more rapidly – particularly in developing and underdeveloped nations – the work of artists such as Borella becomes ever more needed,” commented Mike Trow, chair of the professional jury. He added that this year’s submissions “provoked a lot of debate and interest amongst the jury” with works “pushing the boundaries of photography and challenging the perceptions and expectations the audience”. 

High Museum Names Sarah Kennel Curator of Photography


Art News

 The High Museum of Art in Atlanta has appointed Sarah Kennel as its curator of photography, a position she currently holds at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. She starts at the museum on July 1.

“I am delighted to join the High at a vital moment of growth for the photography program and am inspired by the institution’s commitment to curatorial excellence, relevance, and equity,” Kennel stated in a release. “The High has played a key role in defining the range of American photographic practice, especially with its commitment to civil rights and Southern photography.”

The High holds one of the largest collections of photography from the Civil Rights Movement, and the museum’s gallery for photography recently expanded by 3,000 square feet during the museum’s collection reinstallation. Among the photographers in its collection are such artists as Eugene Atget, Wynn Bullock, Harry Callahan, and Evelyn Hofer.

Rand Suffolk, director of the High, said, “Sarah’s myriad accomplishments as a curator and scholar, together with her commitment to innovation and inclusion, make her exceptionally well-suited to lead the continued growth of our active photography department.”

 

Cantor wins major photography archive and endowment for Stanford


Datebook

Ansel Adams made only six “museum sets” containing 75 of his best pictures. That’s why when he offered one to a Los Angeles money management firm shortly before his death, its officers jumped at the opportunity.

That purchase, 38 years ago, started a collection that grew to 1,000 images by seven major American photographers before the firm, Capital Group, decided to give it all away to one university. An informal competition was held among 20 top university art museums nationwide, and on Tuesday, March 12, Stanford University announced its Cantor Arts Center as the victor.

The Capital Group Foundation Photography Collection at Stanford University is accompanied by a $2 million endowment, and a full-time curator will be hired to manage it. The collection goes deep into the careers of Adams, Edward S. Curtis, Edward Weston, Wright Morris, John Gutmann, Gordon Parks and Helen Levitt. All of the prints were made by the artists.

Cantor plans to mount the premiere in September, with a show of selections from the Adams 75, plus the 386 images by Weston...

Photographs: New York Auction 4 April 2019 Results

Phillips Auctions


Vice

In the nearly two centuries since Daguerre's classic 1838 Parisian street scene, exposed for several minutes, miraculously capturing two men who stayed still long enough to show up on the negative, attitudes towards street photography, photographing in public, and the possibility of the medium—digital or not—to achieve any sense of objective truth have changed continuously. And the debates have been contentious. For years, many traditionalists treated the genre with a rigid sense of rules prescribed by street-photo-godfather Henri Cartier-Bresson. No double exposures, no printing techniques that might obscure the original content on the negative, no cropping that could change what was captured. Some insisted on including the edges of the negative on their prints as “proof” that the original photo had not been altered.

And then Photoshop and digital photography opened up a whole new can of worms...

Luigi Ghirri: The Map and the Territory


Jeu de Paume
Concorde, Paris
12 February - 2 June 2019


This first retrospective of photographs taken outside his native Italy by Luigi Ghirri (1943- 1992) focuses on the 1970s. It covers a decade in which Luigi Ghirri produced a corpus of colour photographs unparalleled in Europe at that time.

Luigi Ghirri, who was a trained surveyor, began taking photographs at weekends in the early 1970s, devising projects and themes as he roamed up and down the streets, the piazzas and the suburbs of Modena. He cast an attentive and affectionate eye on the signs of the outside world, observing, without openly commenting on them, the changes wrought by humans to the landscape and the housing in the Reggio Emilia, his province of birth. It was a barometer for a local vernacular exposed to the advent of new forms of housing, leisure and advertising. “I am interested in ephemeral architecture, in the provincial world, in objects generally regarded as bad taste, as kitsch, but which have never been that for me, in objects charged with desires, dreams, collective memories [...], windows, mirrors, stars, palm trees, atlases, globes, books, museums and human beings seen through images.”

The Winning Photos of the 2019 Wet Plate Competition


The British Journal of Photography

Modern Collodion has just announced the winners of the 2019 Wet Plate Competition, the second annual contest for wet plate collodion photographers around the world after launching last year.

This year, over 220 photos were submitted by 90 photographers based in 19 different countries. The judges, Michael Godek, Giles Clement, Alex Timmermans, Tom DeLooza, and Paul Barden, spent nearly a month on “difficult deliberation” before deciding on the handful of winning wet plates.

50 years of Arles: Les Rencontres d’Arles 2019 programme


The British Journal of Photography

The biggest and most respected photo festival returns for its 50th year with 50 exhibitions that celebrate its history and influence, as well as championing cutting-edge photography and emerging talent

50 years ago, photographer Lucien Clergue, writer Michel Tournier and historian Jean-Maurice Rouquette put together the first edition of Les Rencontres d’Arles in the city’s town hall. They had three exhibitions – a group show tracing the history of photography, and solo shows by Gjon Mili and Edward Weston. Now it’s the largest and most prestigious photography festival in the world, and this summer, they celebrate 50 years with 50 exhibitions, looking back on their history and heritage, as well as championing cutting-edge photography and emerging talent.

Running from 01 July till 22 September, the festival is lead by director Sam Stourdzé for the sixth year. Last year, Stourdzé was criticised by a group of eminent photography specialists in an open letter urging him to include more women in the main programme. A year on, it seems they’ve taken the criticism on board. Marina Gadonneix, Germaine Krull, Helen Levitt, Evangelia Kranioti, Libuse Jarcovjakova, Camille Fallet, and Pixy Liao, among many more, appear on the main programme with solo shows; the festival also includes a section titled Replay, which is dedicated to female-led narratives...

Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing


Frist Art Museum
Nashville, TN
15 March – 27 May 2019


Dorothea Lange (1895–1965) is widely recognized as one of the most important documentary photographers of the twentieth century. She was a prominent advocate of the medium’s power to effect change and used her camera as a political tool to expose what she saw as injustices and inequalities. Lange was also a formidable woman of remarkable vigor and resilience. Having overcome adversity during her childhood in New Jersey, she went on to become a successful portrait photographer of San Francisco’s elite. In 1933, she took her camera to the streets for the first time to document the unemployed people—economically devastated by the Great Depression—she saw from her studio window. Later, she focused her attention on migrant farm laborers and refugees streaming into California from the Dust Bowl states in search of work. During much of this time, Lange worked for the government’s newly established Resettlement Administration (later called the Farm Security Administration), and her photographs were meant to be powerful arguments for federal assistance.

Although Lange’s photographs were taken more than fifty years ago, many of the issues they address remain relevant today: poverty, environmental degradation, treatment of immigrants, the erosion of rural communities, racial discrimination, and women’s rights. They also speak to the continuing role of visual images in shaping public opinion and political positions.

The exhibition encompasses more than 150 objects, including vintage and modern photographs, letters and a video.

Anthony Hernandez: L.A. Landscapes


Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
Kansas City, MO
19 April 2019 - 18 August 2019


For nearly 50 years, Anthony Hernandez has photographed the social landscape of his native Los Angeles. His pictures convey an abiding human concern for issues of class and race as they impact, and are shaped by, urban environments. The exhibition features selections from several bodies of work made between 1978 and 2012, highlighting Hernandez’s mid-to-late career achievements.

Black and white photographs from the series Automotive Landscapes, Public Transit Areas, Public Use Areas, and Public Fishing Areas focus on the everyday activities of people as they negotiate the unforgiving concrete landscapes that dominate Los Angeles, a city reliant on automotive transport.

Large-scale color photographs from the two series Everything and Forever focus on the city’s overlooked, fringe landscapes. Made while Hernandez walked the Los Angeles River basin, Everything transforms drainage ditches and storm drains –“wastelands” rarely seen by car – into somber, geometric abstractions. For Forever, Hernandez adopted the point of view of the homeless, focusing on spare, material traces that mark this way of life. Through Hernandez’s empathetic lens, these pictures emphasize the emotional and psychological impact of living on the streets, giving symbolic weight to the simplest of objects.

Martin Parr’s Only Human

The British Journal of Photography

When the Portrait Gallery was established in London in the mid-19th century, its role was envisioned “to consist of those persons who are most honourably commemorated in British history”. Opening in an era when photography was still a new and untried technology, the National Portrait Gallery (as it later became known) was intended to be the national repository of the images, chiefly paintings and drawings, of those men and, much later, women who represented what was best among the British hierarchy of achievements, skills and aptitudes. Its function was to hold up a mirror to Britain that reflected its qualities back to those who came to observe them, as object lessons about how to aspire to, or more simply respect, the qualities and moral standing of the great and the good.

This conception of the NPG may still be widespread in the public mind, as even Martin Parr thought his work would be an ill-fit for a contemporary exhibition along these lines. “I never thought of myself as a portrait photographer,” he says, “and when I first met Phillip Prodger [NPG’s former head of photographs], I told him I had only a few celebrity portraits. I just put a lightbox together and sent them to him, though I was quite surprised at what I had.” Prodger, however, had other ideas, seeing in Parr the work of a social observer who could also offer a portrait of a nation at a key point in its history. So it is that the NPG put together Only Human, on show from 07 March to 27 May, bringing together some of Parr’s most famous photographs alongside a number of works never exhibited before...

A living legend steps away from photography and then returns with ‘I Know How Furiously Your Heart is Beating


The Washington Post

If you have been following the world of photography over the past 10-plus years, you no doubt have heard of and are familiar with the work of American photographer Alec Soth. A member of the prestigious Magnum Photos cooperative, Soth has published numerous monographs of photography and has exhibited far and wide to high acclaim.

Soth first came to prominence around 2004 after his work (also a book) “Sleeping by the Mississippi” caused waves of excitement among some of the industry’s most prominent gatekeepers at the prestigious Review Santa Fe in 2003, where it took the Santa Fe Prize (now called the Santa Fe Fellowship). He subsequently became a member of the aforementioned world-famous photo cooperative and published more books, including “Niagara” and “Songbook.” Along the way, Soth cemented his place as one of the most important photographers working today.

In addition to publishing books and holding exhibitions of his work, Soth is also known for his engaging online presence through his Instagram handle @littlebrownmushroom. He has also published work through an imprint (http://www.littlebrownmushroom.com/shop/) of the same name (everything at the site’s online store is sold out). Having said all of that, Soth tried to pull back from photography for a spell before his latest book, “I Know How Furiously Your Heart is Beating” came out this year. Elaborating on that point, Soth has said:

“After the publication of my last book about social life in America, Songbook, and a retrospective of my four, large-scale American projects, Gathered Leaves, I went through a long period of rethinking my creative process. For over a year I stopped traveling and photographing people. I barely took any pictures at all.

"When I returned to photography, I wanted to strip the medium down to its primary elements. Rather than trying to make some sort of epic narrative about America, I wanted to simply spend time looking at other people and, hopefully, briefly glimpse their interior life.

"In order to try and access these lives, I made all of the photographs in interior spaces. While these rooms often exist in far-flung places, it’s only to emphasize that these pictures aren’t about any place in particular. Whether a picture is made in Odessa or Minneapolis, my goal was the same: to simply spend time in the presence of another beating heart.”

The resulting work is a compilation of images that are, according to the publisher, “fundamentally about intimate encounters in private rooms.” The book coincides with a host of solo exhibitions at the following venues: Weinstein Hammons, Minneapolis; Sean Kelly Gallery, N.Y.; Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco; and Loock Gallery, Berlin.

The title of Soth’s latest book is taken from the poet Wallace Stevens’s short poem, “Gray Room.”...