Tate launches new publishing series with a quartet of photobooks exploring community and solidarity

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Liz Johnson Artur, Sheba Chhachhi, Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen and Sabelo Mlangeni have all released titles, which each include a conversation between the photographer and a Tate curator

Tate Publishing has introduced a new series of photography books – The Tate Photography Series – exploring rolling themes regarding ongoing social issues. Released in groupings of four, the first quartet – featuring Liz Johnson Artur, Sheba Chhachhi, Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen and Sabelo Mlangeni – explore community and solidarity across diverse territories.

Each publication shares the same format: a brief introduction, followed by a conversation between the photographer and a Tate curator, and completed with a portfolio of images from one or multiple series. 

Below, we take a closer look into the first round of releases.

Liz Johnson Artur

Liz Johnson Artur’s new series Time Don’t Run Here was made in the summer of 2020 during the Black Lives Matter protests. Various London neighbourhoods are featured – Peckham Rye, Vauxhall, Westminster and Trafalgar Square – with irrepressible pumped fists and placards held aloft. A devastating sign by a young Black boy reads: WHEN DO I TURN FROM CUTE 2 SUSPECT!

“The reason we still talk about the 1968 generation and demonstrations is because they were recorded for time to come, and I wanted the same connection,” Artur noted in a dialogue with Tate’s director of photography Yasufumi Nakamori, which is published in the book. 

The photographer subtly adds an interesting layer: she laces in references to conflict literature – namely Iris Murdoch’s The Red and The Green (1965) and John Harris’s Ride out the Storm: A Novel of Dunkirk (1975) – printing the visuals on braille editions of the two titles, thus tying the protest movement to a wider history of unrest. This series is part of what Artur calls her Black Balloon Archive, an ongoing body of work depicting contemporary generations from African and Caribbean diaspora settled in capital cities across the world.

Sheba Chhachhi

“I have always been drawn to ‘odd’ women. I feel an affinity, a resonance with women who don’t fit the norm – perhaps recognising aspects of myself – and this is reflected in my photographic work,” Chhachhi stated, in a conversation with Beatriz Cifuentes Feliciano that is published in the book. 

Chhachhi’s works champions women in front of her camera and behind it, given her fierce involvement in feminist workshops, protests, and anti-dowry campaigns. “I was a participant as much as a documentarian,” she said. “I would be shouting a slogan one moment and lifting the camera the next!” Chhachhi is also a believer in creating collaborative staged photographs, in this way giving the subject the agency of self-representation. 

This is evident in one of the three photographic series included the title: Seven Lives and a Dream (1980–91), an exploration of the Indian feminist movement. It is accompanied by images from The Green of the Valley is Khaki (1994), a documentation of women in conflict-ridden Kashmir, and Initiation Chronicle (2001–7), and a chronicle of the transformation of a female sadhus who explicitly renounce their gendered participation in society.

Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen

In 1969, Finnish-born photographer Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen ditched her filmmaking course, moving to Newcastle with a group of idealistic young ex-students to found the Amber collective. She embarked on a series of long-term projects, including her seminal work on Byker, which was inscribed in the Unesco UK Memory of the World Register. 

The work spotlights the working-class neighbourhood she settled in, and scrutinises the troubling redevelopment projects encroaching on Newcastle’s East End. These images find their counterpoint in Writing in the Sand (1978–98) – exuberant outings to the coast as relief from the increasingly sparse local industrial labour of shipbuilding and mining. 

“The plan was to give voice to those communities and to tell their stories, from their perception of who they are,” Konttinen noted, in a conversation with Thomas Kennedy that is printed in the book. “We all felt strongly that working-class culture was badly represented by the British media at the time.” 

Sabelo Mlangeni

Sabelo Mlangeni works collaboratively and sensitively with marginalised sectors of the South African (and sometimes Nigerian) population, exploring the spectrum of expression regarding gender, sexuality, and power dynamics.

His book reflects a mélange of his series, from chronicles of LGBTQI+ safe spaces to rendering visible the women working as night-time street sweepers. Mlangeni has also photographed Zionist Christian churchgoers, pursued a long-term body of work on weddings and examined the residents of urban men-only shelters. 

His book reflects a mélange of his series, from chronicles of LGBTQI+ safe spaces to rendering visible the women working as night-time street sweepers. Mlangeni, notes curator Sarah Allen, is “seeking a new visuality for South African photography beyond the era of ‘struggle photography’.” When he joined the prestigious Market Photo Workshop in his youth, “I was introduced to photography as a way of speaking about socio-political issues,” he told Allen. But, he added, ultimately: “The camera is secondary, simply a tool to allow me to tell stories about the different communities that I am part of.”

Find out more at tate.org

Sarah Moroz

Sarah Moroz is a Franco-American journalist and translator based in Paris. Her words have been published in the International New York Times, the Guardian, Vogue, NYLON, and others.