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Wednesday, 16 December 2020

Thank God that's the end of 2020. Oh wait...

 



So thank God it's the end of 2020, but oh wait, what's that I see steaming up on us in our rear view mirror. 

Here's the year as I saw it in pictures. It started with the picture at the top on New Year's Day. That kind of set the scene for the year. And the rest explains itself...
































Happy Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year. Here's to a better year and to the suffering in this life of corrupt and venal leaders past and present.















Monday, 7 December 2020

2020: My End-of-Year List of Books I have enjoyed

 


It is end-of-year booklist time. At the end of a terrible year, they are an escape. I haven't seen so many books, but of the ones I have seen, there are some brilliant ones. Some have sold a handful, some have sold a few thousand, some are superbly crafted examples of paper engineering, some are pragmatically made, some have a rough shine about them. There is humour, anger, intelligence, wit, doubt, pride, and beauty in this selection. 

And there is real pleasure. 

Enjoy your books. 


Ukrzaliznytsia– by Julie Poly

This is a book of staged situations in the carriages of the Ukrainian Railway System. Photographed by former Carriage attendant (and graduate of the Ukrainian Railway Academy) it is a fun journey through space, time, gender, and sexuality.






Galerna– by Jon Casenave

Jon Casenave takes us into a beautiful heart of darkness in images where his homeland ( the Basque Country) is elemental, ancient, and wild.




Rabbit/ Hare – David Billet and Ian Kline

This is a roadtrip of a book (the destination is Texas) with one of the great cat pictures of all time, and a level of ambiguity that can befuddle the careless reader.


Woman GoNo’gree – by Gloria Oyarzabal

This is a considered, thoughtful, and beautiful rumination on the dangers, prejudices, and responsibilities (past and present) in representing African women. It doesn’t have any answers, but it does ask questions through both word and image.













A les 8 al Bar Eusebi – by Salvi Danes

A bar, a street, a prison, a panopticon, Salvi Danes wraps them all into a superbly sequenced flow with nods to film, fashion, and masculinity.




1528 – by Rohit Saha

A book styled after a dossier that is titled after the 1528 people murdered by Indian government forces in Manipur, one of the eight states of Northeast India. It’s dark in every way.




 


Human Territoriality – by Roger Eberhard

This is a book of maps, borders, and the arbitrary ways in which our world is shaped; economically, geographically, politically, and on the back of a cigarette packet, it’s all in this book.




Zaido – by Yukari Chikura

This is a beauty of a book, with multiple papers, transparencies and moods taking us on a journey into the snow country of northern Japan.










Erna Helena Ania - by Tomasz Laczny

A handmade publication from the Reminders Photography Stronghold workshop, this tells the story of Laczny’s German grandmother and how she fell in love with his Polish grandfather. In 1945.



Post -  a newspaper publication by Tim Williams, Callum Humphreys and Philip Jones

This is the wild card of the selection which was the most heartfelt publication of the year for me. It tells the story of growing up, and being Welsh, in north Wales. It’s direct, it’s political, and it’s a scathing read.





Monday, 5 October 2020

Erna, Helena, Ania: Family Histories from the Second World War




Erna, Ania, Helena is the story of Tomasz Laczny's family history, how his grandmother (German) fell in love with his grandfather (Polish) at the end of the Second World War, and the struggles she underwent.

It is a beautifully illustrated book that strikes a chord with me because of my German Family Album and the ways in which love stories collide with political histories and extend beyond them. How do you begin to tell those stories. Tomasz did it with gold ink and paper. Here is what he says about the book. 






The idea came around 10-12 years ago when I was obsessively investigating my grandmother's story -- a sad and dramatic love story between my German grandmother and my Polish grandfather during the time of WW2 when this kind of relationship between enemies was prohibited. I discovered this story quite late when I was in my 20s but I really started investigating it when I reached my 30s -- I think it is the time when we starting to look back and ask questions about where we are coming from.





However at that point I didn't have a clear vision of  what kind of medium I wanted to use for this project. I had a lot of material in different forms like video and voice recordings, documents, family pictures, my diaries, drawings and sketches. And I also had a lot of "empty spaces" -- things I didn't know about the story and was not able to find out anymore because the people who witnessed the events were already gone. At the beginning I wanted to make a graphic novel as the whole book.  At the same time I wanted the medium somehow reflecting the shattered way of storytelling, a story which on top of that is incomplete. The project was abandoned for a few years -- during that time I went through difficult personal time (divorce and separation from my children). This however gave me a completely different perspective -- I found some similarities between my personal story and the story of my grandmother (living in a foreign country, separation from the child). I also wanted to include this intergeneration experience into the story, the idea of collective memory and events which are passed from one generation into another. I decided to make a book using different mediums and fill the missing gaps using my own photography (alongside the archival one). The idea was to use photography which suggests rather than illustrate to give the viewer the possibility of imagining their own version of the story.  


I strongly believe in the power of stories -- it is a starting point to any of my projects. Storytelling seems to be the best way to connect with people you don't know to gain their interest and, if the story is good, their trust. I believe that personal stories give this enormous opportunity of becoming universal simply because everyone of us have some stories to tell and can be easily connected to. I was showing my book in Japan and even though the historical and cultural context is different people still were able to quickly connect with the story of my grandmother. 





The initial idea behind the book was to capture simply the story of my grandma: her love of the "enemy", giving birth to my  mum as a consequence of that, her imprisonment and struggle to have contact with her child, her struggle after the war in a country which was earlier occupied by her nation. However during that research I found many layers and it gave me the possibility to ask more universal questions about who we are when we have lost our country family and even name. 




,

The project actually started with the illustrations. In my practice I use both photography and drawing.  As I mentioned before the initial idea to tell the story of my Grandmother was to use a graphic novel genre. But at some time I wanted the book to reflect the process of discovery of the story  and have "the different medium feeling". When I was doing my research (interviewing people, historians, reading books, visiting places, taking pictures etc) I started to think about how we actually preserve the story from one generation to another.




On many occasions during the research I had been told  the same story with different details (even my mom at some point told me some fragment of the story contradicting her previous version from a few years ago). I started to think about how our memory works and how I could capture that. I wanted to mirror this in my book to give the impression of many narrators who speak about the same thing but have different voices and sometimes contradict each other. It was not my intention to do a documentary, rather I wanted to capture the way the story is told and form a collective myth at some point at the end.   





I wanted the physicality of the pages (the variety materials used) to follow the multi narration used in the book. I am very much interested in creating handmade art books as it gives the possibility of making something very unique -- even each copy can be different. This uniqueness is key in my practice. For me photography, drawing, illustration exist fully when it is printed. Seeing the image on the screen of my computer is just a starting point to reinterpreting it and giving it full life in a form of physical object. 



The variety of forms of expressions in the book (photographs, illustrations, drawings, comics) are a reflection of my thoughts about storytelling and how we preserve story from one generation to another. It also mirrors my fascination with different techniques of storytelling like using silent graphic novel sections at the beginning of the book for example or using collected old family pictures later in the book. 





Making the book was a closing over 10 years process of research and discovery. I learned a lot not only about my family but also about my country, history (the events which are not really discussed in schools like for example the biggest forced migration of humans in world history). And I also learnt a lot about myself. It changed my perception of the family as a concept and gave me a completely different perspective of how I see my parents and grandparents. I learnt how much history and politics can influence the life of individuals -- how vulnerable we can be in the midst of dramatic historical events. I think it also changed my mum and her relationship to the past. She helped me a lot with researching the history, (she even started to interview some people herself). Also, I think this is the most important thing for me, I met my grandma when she was still young looking for love and was full of dreams about her future life.



Enquire to buy the book here


Friday, 2 October 2020

Brexit Pictures: Now on Sale

 


 

I am absolutely delighted to say that my newspaper publication, Brexit Pictures, will be available for purchase over the coming months. It will only be available for purchases during this pre-publication timeframe.

For authenticity, you don't know what you are going to get, it won't make sense, it won't be value for money, you can't see it, you won't like it. 

Take control and buy it!

The price is £18 including (unsigned for - the vendor takes no responsibility for non-arrival) postage. 

You can buy it here and also find further information on the special edition and portfolio edition.




Friday, 4 September 2020

Picking Tomatoes and listening to the radio - Silvia Rosi as her father and mother

 

    

      Self -portrait as my father

        All pictures copyright Silvia Rosi. Originally commissioned through Jerwood/Photoworks awards   2020


I love these images by Silvia Rosi, made as a homage and connection point to both her mother and the studio portraiture of Togo. They look fantastic, but at the same time there's something very direct in them and very personal in them that takes them above the two-dimensional, that crosses time and connects to who her mother and father are, how they connect, how they function in the world, how they struggled to survive in Italy. 

These are the introductions she gives to her parents on her website. They serve as captions to the images, and are something to behold in their simplicity and directness. 


Father: He was an educated man from a good Togolaise family. He arrived in Italy with a few clothes, some books and the dream of finding a good job. A few weeks later he was picking up tomatoes in a field for a few cents a box. 

Mother: She arrived in Rome in 1989 to reunite with her lover and found a job straight away as a babysitter for a family. One day while she was cleaning their living room, she heard on the radio that they were going to pass a law that would legalise every migrant in Italy. She was glad she listened to the radio that day. 


I asked her a few questions and here are her answers.


When did you decide to make this project connecting to your mother?

 I wanted to shoot a project around trade and women head carriers in the market of Assigame in Lomè. I took my first field trip to Lomè, where I immersed myself in the streets of the market, following the paths of traders in their daily struggle to secure income. Only then I started to associate their experience to my mother’s who worked in that same market as a young woman, and her mother before her.

A picture from the family album portrayed my young mother selling make up in Assigame. It’s one of those rare images which are not taken at the photographer’s studio. This picture was to me a window into my mother’s life immediately before migration, and from that I build the structure for my project. 

 

       
     Self-portrait as my mother

    
      
 

What role did photography play in your mother's families life in Togo?

 When my mother lived in Togo her family didn’t own a camera, so she would go to the photographer studio on Sundays after church to have her portrait taken. Photography was a collective experience and that’s how I think she perceived it. As an occasion to get together.


What changed or stayed the same when she moved to Italy?

When she moved to Italy disposable cameras where more accessible and she and my dad would document their lives. Back in Togo photography was a collective celebration, while during migration it became more like a record of experiences, an affirmation of the self in the uncertainty of the migratory journey.

 

     

     Self-portrait as my mother on the phone



What are you seeking to replicate in your images?

 In my images I hope to replicate the feeling of familiarity that many people that share my same history feel when looking at similar images the family album. But I also want to create a sense of discomfort which is not always present in family images but it is in the human experience of the family. 

 

 

    Self-portrait as my father on the phone


Has the making of the images affected your understanding of your mother's experiences?

 I don’t think the making of the images was revelatory as  much as the actual conversations with my mother where she was openly sharing her past with me.  The images are just the result of that confrontation.

 


     Self-portrait as my mother in school uniform



Will you continue this project? 

For sure, I see it as an ongoing project