© Rita Nowak, Zenita Komad, 2004
© Rita Nowak, Venus in Furs, 2005
Starting with an intense engagement with the self-portrait as a genre, two years ago Rita Nowak began reenacting famous masterworks with artist friends. In choosing the works to model, Nowak works associatively in that some works—due to certain gestures and moods—trigger memories of people well-known to her or stand in an “almost magical proximity” to them. A central interest here is what the artist calls the “memory effect”: “from history a voice that tells me something about people from my past.”
Her portraits intend neither the perfect, historicizing mise en scène of the persons portrayed using costumes and props, nor an elaborate, theatrical treatment of the space. Instead, her attention is primarily focused on choosing an appropriate space/background and, especially in the current works, arranging the accoutrements found on site. It is above all the relation established between the space and the person portrayed that gives each photograph its particular characteristic.
The spaces are chosen on the one hand in terms of their appropriateness for reenacting a certain masterwork, and at the same time reflect the individual personality of the person photographed. The people depicted are thus—aside from their telling poses—decisively interpreted by the space surrounding them. Sometimes, conclusions can be drawn about the actual private and social world of the person portrayed. In each case, “the scene serves as a dramatic counterpart to the subject,” as the artist put it. In recent works like Venus in Furs or Invert Muse this has taken on even more significance, in the sense that now architectural objects or urban landscapes almost seem to demand being staged in the style of a masterwork—with or without a concrete reference.
More of Rita’s work here
© Lara Jacinto, Untitled
© Lara Jacinto, Untitled
As far as the public eye goes, this is our (Portuguese) new emerging photographer. Her images, on the realm of the documentary, have a lot of presence; they reveal intimacy and good awareness of the surroundings. Although not having a strong conductor, I’ll dare to say the thread amidst her work is the stylization of memories, absence, the loss of, the non appropriation of reality and non interference with its time.
More of Lara’s work here
© Tim Roda, Untitled #24, 2004
© Tim Roda, Untitled #138, 2007
“I started using photography, not for the love of the technical aspects of the medium, but because of its properties, both abstract and physical. It is the only medium I can use to best depict my vision of life, art and time.
Although the final product is a photograph, the work casually travels within arenas of installation, photography, film and performance. A camera is used to record one moment in time that balances between memories and constructed commentaries, yet is a documentation of “real” events for my wife, Allison, and son, Ethan.
When asked about the irregularity of the margins in my work, I explain that there is a relationship between the apparent contempt for the materials and the reverence for the subjects of the imagery. I have always said that the subject is the most important part of my work. I understand that for people from photography backgrounds the technique of my work is very distracting to the content. My work is all about metaphor. The rough edges, irregular margins, erratic fixer stains, and haphazard tonal range are suggestive of the working-class way of life that my grandfather experienced when he came to America as an Italian immigrant. This set of values was passed down to my father and then to me in all of its eccentricities. For example, my grandfather and father built our family home, swimming pool, tree fort and decks out of the same secondary wood they built our chicken house with. My father just built a two-car garage with three sides and wood that looked like a patchwork quilt.
Technically, I could print what photographers would consider to be a perfect picture, but I would consider that to be imperfect. The seeming imperfections that you see on the physical print are similar to ways that I use the materials within the photograph. The props or devices I include in the images are made of paper, wood, tape and clay—-simply because they are all mediums that are all disposable or re-usable. I have decided that it is more important for me to be myself and approach techniques and materials the way I do rather than jeopardize the integrity of my art by conforming to existing standards.”
Tim Roda, full statement here
More of Tim’s work here
© Phyllis Galembo, Affianwan, Calabar South, Nigeria,, 2005
© Phyllis Galembo, Okpo Masquerade, Calabar South, Nigeria, 2005
© Phyllis Galembo, Sierra Leone, 2008-2009
“Photographer Phyllis Galembo wants to transform you. What you experience with her photographs of African masks and costumes is not simply another form of virtual tourism.[…] To see these costumes is to be transported inside them. Think of them as full-body masks. They often incorporate and mimic natural materials, such as grass, sticks and feathers. In that sense they emphasise the mediating importance of the costume. Put it on and you enter an in-between world, where the human and the non-human merge and exchange places, and the usual rules of nature and community are suspended. As Claude Levi-Strauss and Rene Girard have pointed out, the rituals that accompany the costumes are episodes of formlessness and redefinition of boundaries. In many cases, masking is not a portrayal but an embodiment – an act not of concealment but revelation. Human beings need such experiences to explain and order their world and, even more importantly, to renew it. Needless to say, the industrialised, bureaucratised world (East and West) has pushed such experiences into the background, even suppressed them. They are permissible primarily to children. That sense of suppression and loss may be why Galembo, who collects Halloween masks and children’s costumes, devotes such attention to detail in her African photographs. ‘This cultural material is precious, and the information in the photograph is critical,’ she says. ‘We need the colour and detail in order to understand the symbolic meaning and visual impact of these costumes.’ To capture that information, Galembo travels with a portable ‘studio’; simple backdrops she can set up even in the middle of the street during a parade. The negotiations to make the pictures are often elaborate, involving discussions with chiefs and ritual participants. And sometimes, as in Haiti, she has to get involved in the celebrations herself. There’s no standing on the sidelines.”
source: DAMNation.17, 2008
More of Phyllis’ work here
© Katie Koti, Tangle, from the series Asunder, 2008-current
© Katie Koti, Fall, from the series Asunder, 2008-current
“The images in my current project, “asunder”, reflect my continuing exploration of gender and its relationship to sexuality through the means of photography. The landscape works on various levels in my images. I use the landscape to seduce and engage the viewer with its beauty and textures. The landscape also acts as both an ambiguous form as well as a means to speak a shared and tangible language. The viewer can recognize the landscape as part of our world, it is ordinary and evokes a sense of comfort. The universal voice of the landscape creates a common thread for viewers to access ideas of gender and sexuality that may otherwise be foreign to them. I build symbolic connections, through metaphor, between the human body and the natural forms of the land. These connections allow the viewer to break away from a more literal, confined context, and in turn enables them to identify with the familiarity of the landscape. Aspects of the figures identity are revealed when they have partial or no clothing on. Our society has attempted to rigidly define gender and sexuality into a binary divide. There is often a sense of disconnect that one can experience as a result of not fitting into these boxes. I hope to challenge these dichotomous roles as well as expose the struggle an individual can go through inside of their skin. A struggle that is not only psychological, but also social and physical. I am particularly fascinated by the intersection of pain, clarity, and spirituality, that can come from this struggle. “
More of Katie’s work here
© Urszula Tarasiewicz, Untitled, from the series Boys / Girls
© Urszula Tarasiewicz, Untitled, from the series Boys / Girls
More of Urszula’s work here
© Ellen Nolan, Untitled, from the series Previous Personality, 10th March 2008
© Ellen Nolan, Untitled, from the series Previous Personality, 10th March 2009
© Ellen Nolan, Untitled, from the series Previous Personality, 9th September 2009
‘Previous Personality’ explores my relationship to my mother as she recedes into dementia. I started photographing my mother and myself when she stopped recognising me as her daughter.The documentation lasted for three years, exploring a journey of reversal and erosion. The title ‘Previous Personality’ is derived from a section in the form I had to fill out for my mother, upon admission to her institution.
There is a strangeness of being inherent in this condition, an altered state where the family member shifts into another being, whilst retaining the physical appearance of their former selves.
Photographically, I tried to reflect this state by creating images that are simultaneously uncomfortable and aesthetically pleasing. This mirrored the interior and exterior conflict of the illness.
My clothes were used as a visual reminder that whilst I had the freedom of personal expression, members of staff now chose my mother’s wardrobe, brought from a generic clothing company that visited the home on a monthly basis. I never got used to seeing my mother in these clothes, and together with her growing sense of alienation within her ‘home’, they came to visually represent her loss of self.
What remains when almost everything is stripped away? A silent negotiation took place through emotional and physical intimacy. Few words were exchanged, except repeated uttering’s of love and the remembering who I am and who she was.
Photography as a medium seemed to serve the situation well. It was a record to capture my dying mother, a means to examine our state, and perhaps to create an alternative family album.
Photography also seemed to fit the muteness of illness and ageing.
The decision to include myself followed my concerns with the objectification of my mother. I felt that by joining the frame, I would challenge my position and my safety as a photographer in order to further explore my role as a daughter and my relationship with my mother at this time.
More of Ellen’s work can be seen here
© Richard Ansett, Woman with electric cap #2, from the series Judging a book by its cover, 2008
© Richard Ansett, Sasha, from the series Judging a book by its cover, 2007
“We are a product of our environment, in dress, behaviour and body language. All aspects of personality are shaped by the social and political landscape.
The myth of the documentary tradition is that it is truthful but what we see is tainted by personal experience; whilst the locations and people are often ‘real’ the combination of imagery and style are inventions, they are subjective elements brought by the photographer.
How personal experience affects living space and the complex relationship between subject and camera are key components but the images do not offer a clear narrative.
The images are not a result of a democratic process; the subject is complicit but it is not collaboration; it is the exploration of the subject free from the confines to represent them in a positive light. A beauty can come from capturing something human.
The emotions within us are manifest in a momentary glimpse of the lives of others. We are fascinated by examples of others’ lives but this is merely an exploration of the limits of ourselves.”
Ansett was adopted from birth and has no knowledge of his genetic or social family history.”
More of Richard’s work can be seen here
© Louise Fago-Ruskin, Untitled, from the series The Catchers, 2008
© Louise Fago-Ruskin, Untitled, from the series The Catchers, 2008
“My current practice stems from an abiding interest in psychological and philosophical disciplines. Committed to exposures of the psyche, the camera is deployed as a tool by which the unconscious may be unlocked thus enabling significant emotional and mental shifts. The private nature of the photographic studio enables certain revelatory actions, unveiling previously concealed truth.
A crucial element of ritual in my work seeks to facilitate transformative procedures, gaining inspiration from Richard Schechner’s theories on symbolic time and processes inherent within situations of conflict. The re-construction of ‘episodes’, be they of the solitary or paired figure, relies on the metaphorical nature of physical posturing. The deliberately destabilized object acts as conduit for the expression of anxiety, anger and repression.
Taking the form of the contemporary confessional box, attempts are made to confront particular perplexities held within firm ideological belief systems. I seek to challenge practices of control alongside engagement in a process of fresh enquiry. My practice acts as both an exercise in mourning and the re-negotiation of a rite of passage.”
More of Louise’s work can be seen here
© Amy Montali, Martin, Palmer and Nora, 2003
© Amy Montali, Erin in the blue room, 2004
“These portraits and narrative fragments are produced with a large-format view camera, which requires a slow and formal approach. However, I try to shoot spontaneously as though I am on the street or at a birthday party. I like to fuse the seductive power of studio photography with the energy and emotion of a snapshot.
The work is often collaborative and always improvisational. I choreograph scenes of varying complexity in order to explore real and fictitious relationships and to consider such subtexts as rivalry, desire, guilt, and redemption. I use the colors and shapes of my locations to illuminate and intensify, or invent, psychological states. Then, I wait for the picture.
The camera allows me to stare. In some ways content is secondary to my obsession with photography itself. I am particularly interested in how photography seduces its participants, including me, and how its power differs from that of painting, theater, or film.”
© Ben Gest, Chuck, Alice & Dale, 2003
© Ben Gest, Alan & Noah, 2002
“My pictures describe tenuous moments between people sharing their lives together in their homes. These ambiguous narratives of personal and simple everyday activities describe the way people sometimes disengage from those closest to them. They are an outgrowth of my interest in photography’s potential to tell the story of human life while considering its ability to create objective truth.
These photographs are creations of familiar and perhaps anticlimactic events. The struggle one faces in maintaining a sense of self is made more difficult because those who affect us most are the very people we love. How do people maintain their own psychological self when the physical space between them is so close?”
© Jessica Todd Harper, Self Portrait with Christopher, Papa and Ah-Choo, 2003
© Jessica Todd Harper, Self Portrait with Christopher and my future In-Laws, 2003
“I grew up copying paintings. My mother gave my sister and I first crayons, then charcoal, and finally pastels and watercolors as she plunked us down on the floors of local museums and directed us to pass the time drawing what we saw. Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent and Renoir were my heroes as a kid. When I went to college I became an art history major and fell in love with Vermeer, Memling, Pieter de Hooch and other Northern European artists who at first glance seemed to make paintings about nothing everyday-ness, but whose charged, quiet domestic scenes haunted me afterwards. I was impressed with the many seventeenth century Dutch painters who could at once make an image about an overflowing bowl of just-about-to-turn fruit and a metaphor for the beauty and tragedy of the human mortal experience. One could make the same observation about the children in Sally Mann’s photographs or the empty spaces in Andrew Wyeth’s paintings, both artists whom I also love.
My photographs reflect all these influences. They are about identity, familial relationships and the unspoken things that make up the inner stories of our lives. Sometimes that involves waiting for a “decisive moment” and other times I use Photoshop in a process analogous to combining different sketches for a final painting. In either case I strive to make pictures that rely on their intimacy and intensity to touch on the grander narratives of consciousness and what it means to be alive.”
Jessica Todd Harper
© Mathew Monteith, Untitled #6, from the Czech Eden series
© Mathew Monteith, Untitled #13, from the Czech Eden series
“Czech Eden is named after an officially protected park in the Czech Republic, a place known for its vertiginous sandstone formations and remarkable natural beauty. However, few of Monteith’s photographs depict this preserve. Instead, most were taken in or around Prague, in his friends’ homes, on the streets, or in small towns where it is as likely to find a centuries-old castle as an ominous nuclear cooling tower looming large. Although it is important to know where these photographs were taken, ultimately their meanings are not contingent upon place. “Czech Eden” should not be viewed as a documentary project. It is not a literal description of life in the Czech Republic but instead an open-ended allegory, one that references old images but articulates a vision of contemporary life that is at times disquieting and humorous.”
to read full article click here
to view Mathew’s full body of work click here
© Mikhael Subotzky, The Mallies Family, Rustdene Township, Beaufort West, 2006
© Mikhael Subotzky, Residents, Vaalkoppies (Beaufort West Rubbish Dump), 2006
to view more of his work click here
© Pieter Hugo, Rose Brand’s doll collection, 2006
© Pieter Hugo, Jan, Martie, Kayala, Florence and Basil Meyer in their home, 2006
“Musina is the northern-most town in South Africa. It lies on the Limpopo River on the border of Zimbabwe. The town was formerly known as Messina, and in 2002 its name was changed to correct a colonial misspelling of the name of the Musina people who previously lived in the region.Located in the heart of the bushveld with its hunting farms and diamond mine, on the major trucking route north, it attracts a conglomeration of disparate peoples. They are drawn to this town by the opportunities it offers, be it working in the mines or on the farms, policing the porous border, smuggling contraband and alien immigrants, or prostitution.In his photographs of individuals, families, interiors, landscapes and incidental details, Hugo reflects on the wounds and scars of race, class and nationality that persist here, on the border of Zimbabwe, a country in the process of self-destructing. The circumstances of Musina can also be seen as broadly reflective of any community that is confronted by transition.”
to view full series click here
to read an interview about this work click here
© Wang Qingsong, Tramp, 2004
© Wang Qingsong, Night Patrol, 2005
” I think it is very meaningless if an artist only creates art for art’s sake. For me, the dramatic changes in China have transformed China into a huge playground or construction site. Whenever I go into the city I feel suffocated by the pollution, social contradictions, and so forth. All of these factors contribute to the fact that artists cannot just make art for art’s sake. I think it would be absurd for an artist to ignore what’s going on in society.
I have the right and I’m capable enough to depict the environment in China because I am familiar with this society and it is close to me. Also, I can do it right and I can do it accurately. I admire some photographers like Andreas Gursky. He took some photographs of garbage, which is similar to something you would see in China every day. I just hope to continue making more and better photographs in the future.”
* for full interview click here