BJP #7843: Cool & Noteworthy

With features on more than 20 of the best photography projects of the last year, Cool & Noteworthy looks at the photography practitioners, festivals, exhibitions and publishers that have pushed at the medium of photography in this momentous year of the viral image.

You can buy the issue now from the BJP shop.

Highlights include an in-depth, all-access look at New York Times Magazine’s redesign, an exploration of Magnum photographers Paolo Pellegrin and Alex Majoli’s collaboration in Congo, festivals in Delhi and Lagos, Cristina De Middel’s remarkably productive year, and our newfound  fascination with contemporary Japanese photography.

Simon Bainbridge, editor of BJP, introuduces the new issue:

“Whose work most impressed you over the last 12 months?

“I like to keep a list of all the things that for one reason or another don’t make it into BJP , but that I wished that we’d found room for or known about them early enough to include. This growing list, along with suggestions from colleagues and friends of the magazine, forms the basis of my thinking for our annual ‘Cool & Noteworthy’ edition, an ad-hoc celebration of some of the most memorable and outstanding contributions to the year in photography, and the people behind them.

“For me, it all started on a cold and rainy night in January, when I decided to hop on the train a couple of stops to make a quick visit to the opening of a show of young Japanese photographers, one of whom we’d just published in our annual talent issue. It didn’t quite work out that way, as a lot of other people had the same idea, and by 7 o’clock the queue for Doomed – a small basement studio-cum-gallery on a grotty market street east London – was a couple of hundred people deep, and it was one-in, one-out, despite the miserable weather.

“I took it as an early signal that this generation of emerging photographers – who had been attracting a lot of word-of-mouth, but little mainstream attention – was on the verge of something big. I just hadn’t figured it would happen quite so soon. Interests in the artists in the exhibition had gone viral, and photography galleries and institutions were already on the uptake, later putting them in shows at Photo London, Rencontres d’Arles and Unseen, and recognising them in some of the year’s key awards for emerging talent.

“In part, I put this down to our newfound obsession with Japanese photography. But as the show’s organisers’ are keen to point out in this month’s feature, that interest focuses on the prolific postwar generation whose work is only now being properly recognised in the West, on the back our re-evaluation of the book and its importance as the central means of expression within the art of photography. Books are also important to this new generation, but just as the forebears took the form in new, experimental directions, these young photographers are stretching – literally – the limits of how you can display a photographic print on a wall.

“If it was inevitable that our interest would shift to what followed the provoke generation, that time has surely come.

“I gave up on the Doomed queue after 20 minutes, instead popping next door to visit Bruno Ceschel of Self Publish, Be Happy at the makeshift studio he shares with two artists. He and his team were in the early stages of preparation for the ‘DIY Manual and Manifesto’ published Aperture last autumn, drawing on his accumulated knowledge of the past five years, collecting and disseminating the self-published books and magazines that have become such an important part of contemporary practice.

“Five years earlier, Ceschel was one of my neighbours, and I helped him a little with the wording of his first manifesto. He shared with me some of the things he’d been sent, and it quickly became evident that people were self-publishing for reasons other than economics or lack of recognition. It was an active choice to take control of the design and production; a marked shift towards seeing the book, rather than the photographs, as the form and medium.

“It seems obvious now, but back then it was just a hunch. Ceschel had that rare ability to make sense of photographic culture as it was shaping and morphing, without the benefit of hindsight. This year has been his most productive, with the publication of the Aperture book, and staging pop-up events around the world to celebrate the fifth anniversary, including taking up residence within Tate Modern’s great Turbine Hall to stage a performance space. For these reasons, he’s our de facto person of the year.

“Back on Ridley Road (the same market immortalised in Lorenzo Vitturi’s Dalston Anatomy, published by Ceschel two years earlier) the queue was only getting longer, but it was obvious that in this microcosm, some of the most noteworthy initiatives in photography were taking place side by side.

“I hope you enjoy our selection for this year’s special issue, which of course extend beyond our own backyard, taking in the New York Times Magazine’s redesign, Paolo Pellegrin and Alex Majoli’s collaboration in Congo, and festivals in Delhi and Lagos.

Buy the issue now from the BJP shop.

Video produced by Signature Pictures with music by Jacob Brookman.