PHOTOGRAPHY NOW

/ Tuesday, May 17, 2011 /
Even though the NYPH’11 ended sunday, I wanted to write something on the main show curated by Elisabeth Biondi and Enrico Bossan.  The show was called PHOTOGRAPHY NOW : Engaged, personal and vital. Within this context, Biondi and Bossan each curated their own show.
Within the context they created I think the work fit well, and I could see that they tried to have diverse subjects. But I was a bit disappointed about the space they used for the large amount of work shown. I like photos to have space. It creates more weight and lets you consider the work without something else being in your view. Sometimes I was confused as to what belonged to whom, and the statements not always being in the right order didn’t help. The statements and the nametags were also just pasted on the wall, and some were curled and wrinkled. I feel that for such an event in NYC, they could’ve tried a little harder to make everything look tidy.

For each show, I will talk more about one photographer that impressed me the most. 
The show Elisabeth Biondi put together was called Subjective/Objective. For it she chose 10 photographers who each made documentary work through their personal vision. In Biondi’s statement about the show she says the following:

'As images can no longer surprise by discovering unknown territory photographers venture into a more personal visual language. From the more traditional approach which strives to show the world in an objective way to a more contemporary subjective engagement'.

While I disagree with her saying that there is no more unknown territory to explore, I think it’s a step forward to establish documentary photography in a new, contemporary way. For as far as the discussion about documentary and objective/subjective goes, I will say right now that I don’t believe in objective photography. For me, documentary photography has always been subjective.
But I love to see photographers venture out and experiment with new ways to make a documentary.
What I liked about the show was that it was clear that each photographer had chosen a subject that they felt close with. The personal aspect certainly did show. And I could see how some experimented with the medium, like Balazs Gardi who took all of his pictures with the iPhone 4, using the Hipstamatic app.


 © Jessica Hines

Jessica Hines, with her project ‘My Brother’s War’, researches her brother Gary’s history of life and death. Gary spend two years in the Vietnam War and came out with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The Us Veteran’s Administration labeled him 50% disabled and ten years later Gary took his own life. Twenty-five years later, in 2004, Hines started the search to retrace Gary’s footsteps.
Hines used his letters and photos as a guide and they make for an important part of her work too.
I like the way she incorporated existing footage in creating something new, and how something a small part of her is visible in the photos. Her presence, by having herself visible in the photos, makes it even more personal and touching.

The other participating photographers were Richard Mosse, Martine Fougeron, Irina Werning, Ethan Levitas, A Yin, Alejandro Chaskielberg, Stefano de Luigi, Balazs Gardi and Carolyn Drake.

Bossan’s show was called Hope: Between Dream and Reality. He chose 14 young photographers who impressed him with their ability to capture the most essential parts of life. The work ranged from the Dwarf World Games, to Anorexia, to the harsh reality of violence in Juarez, Mexico.
In this show there were a couple of photographers that really caught my attention with their work, like Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse with their series about Ponte City in Johannesburg, South Africa. They had larger than life prints with beautiful portraits and amazing views of the trashed building. Matt Eich’s project Carry Me Ohio also lingered with me after I left. It’s about the region that struggles with the problems that inevitably arise when poverty strikes.

© Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse

© Matt Eich
But the one photographer that I really loved was Sean Lee, from Singapore. He used the medium to affect him and his family in a way they haven’t experienced. He wants to be changed by what he does. Through photography he could make his family touch each other, make them laugh together by doing crazy things for the camera. Lee says that “photography allows him to confront his reality in a manner that, hopefully, gives him a little more tenderness and passion in life”.
If that’s not a beautiful goal, I don’t know what is.


 © Sean Lee
In the exhibition, five photos were shown. When I was over there on the first day of the show, there was a little cardboard box on a pedestal. In the box was the complete work and  I am really glad I was able to see it, because when I went over there on the last day, it wasn’t there anymore. With every photo he wrote a little something about the scene, or something about him or his family. Turning the camera towards your family is not a new thing, but the tenderness and development of his family members was visible and Lee created his own language in doing so.
I went around the block to ask people if they knew where I could get it or if they had more info, but nobody really knew what I was talking about. I hope I can somehow get my hands on one and write a more profound post about it.

The other photographers in the show were Olivia Arthur, Peter van Agtmael, Shaul Shwarz, Margo Ovcharenko, ClĂ©mence de Limburg, Ali Taptik, Andrea Gjestvang, Andy Spyra, Ben Lowy, Cia de Foto and Simona Ghizzoni. 

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