BJP #7830: Who am I?

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“Who am I?” we ask in the November issue of British Journal of Photography, an issue dedicated to exploring identity and expression in contemporary portraiture, available to buy and download now.

We remember the extraordinary life of René Burri, who died on 20 October at the age of 81 after a long battle with cancer. We feature Michael Grieve’s article on Bertien van Manen, who discovered photography as a young mother in 1970s Holland. We celebrate the photography of Danny Lyon, the counter-cultural American documentarian who, as a 20-year-old Jewish New Yorker, hitchhiked to the Deep South to take some of the first pictures of the nascent Civil Rights Movement. And we look ahead to Paris Photo, “the most prestigious fair dedicated to the photographic medium”.

The early photographs of Bertien van Manen’s family – “vital images at once considered and free” writes Michael Grieve – were published shortly after her husband’s death. “You do not need to show yourself,” she tells Grieve, “because your photographs already possess the capabilities to do this.” Over the drunken sounds of a Swedish bar, she talks to Grieve about the loss of her husband. “When he died it was not an immediate blow, but it has worked slowly on me.” The moral of her story, writes Grieve, is “the faster we go, the less of life we see”.

Burri’s most iconic image is of Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara, fatigues on, cigar in mouth, glaring off to his left. Burri had been in Havana for a week before he was summoned to Che’s office, where he used eight rolls of film. “Che was so fierce and so anti-American,” Burri told BJP in an interview in 2007. “I was in his office for three hours. I danced around him and photographed him and not once did he look at the camera. He was like a tiger in a cage.”

Among hundreds of events, this year’s Paris Photo is marked by the first retrospective for Garry Winogrand in 25 years. Winogrand, a prolific photographer, died suddenly in 1984 at the age of 56, leaving around 6500 rolls of undeveloped film, as well as proof sheets he had marked up but never printed. Roughly half the images in this show have never been exhibited before, and over 100 have never been printed.

“There exists in photography no other body of work of comparable size or quality that is so editorially unresolved,” Winogrand’s friend Leo Rubinfien says. We hear about the great man’s hidden legacy.

The first time Danny Lyon was arrested, he scrambled a picture of his black friend Eddie Brown laying passively as white police – smoking cigarettes and wearing Stetsons – casually roughed him up.

It was the summer of 1963. Lyon had just met Brown in Albany, a small city in the state of Georgia. “It was exactly ten months before the media would realise a historical event was taking place in the Southern States,” Lyon writes in his new memoir collage-book, The Seventh Dog.

They were parted at the jail; in the Deep South, even prisons were segregated. “Through the bars in the white section of the prison,” Lyon writes: “I could watch Dr Martin Luther King Jr in a cell about sixty feet away.” The photography Lyon took during those violent, inspirational summers more than 50 years ago is spread across seven pages in this month’s issue.

We also investigate Sputnik, the Polish photography collective providing insights into post-Soviet societies. “Sputnik’s work speaks of the complexities of the exciting – and traumatic – transformation from communism to capitalism, and the ways in which these countries struggle with their newfound identities.

In our Projects section, we talk to Daragh McDonagh about shamanism in Ireland, Otto Snoek about the differences – and similarities – of nations across Europe, Oliver Eglin about the crumbling beauty of Sicily, and Travis Hodge about the brave new world of wearable technology.

This issue is available from the BJP shop or available to download now.

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Tom Seymour

Tom Seymour is an Associate Editor at The Art Newspaper and an Associate Lecturer at London College of Communication. His words have been published in The Guardian, The Observer, The New York Times, Financial Times, Wallpaper* and The Telegraph. He has won Writer of the Year and Specialist Writer of the year on three separate occassions at the PPA Awards for his work with The Royal Photographic Society.