Interviews

The Ball by Ingvar Kenne

Reading Time: 4 minutes “I was quite scared to begin with,” says Ingvar Kenne, who has now been to ten Bachelor and Spinster (B&S) Balls, all in different regions of the Australian outback. “It’s by far one of the most intense things I’ve ever experienced. It’s full on, and non-stop.”
B&S Balls are notoriously drunken and raucous. They were originally set up to give young people in rural Australia the rare opportunity to meet a potential life partner. Nowadays they are mostly an excuse to party and let loose, but many of the old traditions have stuck, and hundreds of people still drive from all over the country to take part.

29 January 2019

Felicia Honkasalo’s portrait of her late grandfather

Reading Time: 4 minutes When Felicia Honkasalo’s grandfather passed away in 2009, he left behind boxes full of rocks and minerals, and stacks of notes, sketches, and fading photographs. “No one else in the family wanted them,” says Honkasalo, who never got the opportunity to meet her grandfather, “I was really intrigued by it all, but I didn’t really know what to do with it at first”.
Honkasalo’s debut book, Grey Cobalt, is an attempt to construct imagined memories of her grandfather, who was a metallurgist during the Cold War in Finland as well as an avid cosmologist. Published by Loose Joints, the book release accompanies an exhibition at the Webber Gallery in London, which will run till 15 February.

25 January 2019

Life on the permafrost in Yakutsk

Reading Time: 5 minutes Though he was born in France, Alexis Pazoumian has long had ties with Russia. His grandfather, the painter Richard Jeranian, is originally from Armenia, and was among the first Western artists of his generation to go to Moscow in 1957, and then again in 1970, and then again for an exhibition in Novosibirsk in Siberia. “I grew up listening to the stories of his travels to this strange and far-away land,” says Pazoumian, “and it made me want to go there.”

Pazoumian’s uncle also adopted an Armenian girl after she was orphaned in the 1988 earthquake; this girl now lives in Yakutsk in the far north of Russia, so when Pazoumian heard about them, he decided he’d like to go to visit. “I was very well-received by this family,” he says. “They helped me throughout my stay.”

23 January 2019

A fictional turn with A Thousand Word Photos

Reading Time: 6 minutes “She hangs around with us after school even though we make it clear she bores us. We whisper nonsense and pretend to laugh at jokes so she laughs too, and we ask, ‘What’s so funny?’ to watch her squirm. She knows we are mean, and yet still she follows along behind. ‘Like a dog,’ we say, loud enough for her to hear.”

On athousandwordphotos.com this is the start of the text accompanying an image of Russian army cadets by Anastasia Taylor-Lind – but it’s not a direct quote from one of the young women depicted. Instead it’s a work of fiction by author Claire Fuller, inspired by the image but written without any knowledge of the circumstances in which it was shot.

It’s the same with the story that accompanies Karim Ben Khalifa’s photograph of a sofa, which was taken in war-torn Kosovo in 1999. In real life, the sofa had been looted and therefore set on fire by French peace-keepers to discourage further looting. But in author Dan Dalton’s hands, it’s set on fire by a 17 year old, who had spent happy hours with a slightly wayward group of friends hanging out on the abandoned couch. Meanwhile a photograph taken by Dungeness nuclear power station by Phil Fisk, inspired Lydia Ruffles to write a short story about a worker called Tomo who’s afraid of the sea.

Pairing documentary photography with fictional writing isn’t new – in fact it’s become quite a trend, with image-makers such as David Goldblatt, Vasantha Yogananthan, Max Pinckers, and Dayanita Singh – among many more – all playing with the combination in recent years. But the examples above come from quite a different project, set up to support Interact Stroke Support – a London-based charity that organises sessions in which actors read to recovering stroke patients.

18 January 2019

Guy Martin’s The Parallel State

Reading Time: 12 minutes Taking a new approach to documentary photography after a near-death experience in Libya, Guy Martin captured Turkey’s fantasies and created a series which was recently published by GOST. “To not learn from that event in April 2011, I couldn’t do that to myself,” he says. “I couldn’t justify it to my family, I couldn’t be put in that same situation again,” he says. “The starting point was to take control of my photography, to use my photography instead of letting it use me.”

16 January 2019

Irina Rozovsky’s search for the familiar in former Yugoslavia

Reading Time: 3 minutes In 1989, a record number of 71,000 Soviet Jews were granted exodus from the USSR after a century of radical changes, fuelled by a wave of anti-semitism. Between 1988 and 2010 over 1.6 million Jews left the territory of the former Soviet Union, most of them settling in Israel but others heading for Germany, Canada, Australia, and the United States.

Irina Rozovsky was seven years old when her family fled from Russia to America in 1988. “It’s ironic in retrospect,” she says. “The USSR was a closed up place where Jews were discriminated against; in the end we were the ones that got to leave and seek out a better life. It was like winning the lottery.”

Rozovsky, now 37, lives in Georgia, US, with her husband and two-year-old daughter. “In my work I’m always circling back to the beginning of things, which for me is leaving one place and settling in another, adapting to a new life,” she says. “My photographs are not autobiographical, but I guess that history and the search for the familiar echoes in how I see. Not being able to see the place that you remember, I think that drives my photography.”

14 January 2019

Todd Hido’s Bright Black World

Reading Time: 6 minutes To look through Todd Hido’s lens is to view the world darkly. The San Francisco-based photographer’s entire oeuvre of compelling visual narratives is shrouded in inky obscurity, and in this regard, his latest work is no exception. The difference is that for the first time he has departed from his usual territory of suburban landscape and its relation to his own troubled childhood. Instead Bright Black World results from extensive travels abroad, and is steeped in a deep sense of pessimism about the future from the perspective of the present, attempting to “photograph the darkness that I see coming”.

There is something universally foreboding and immense happening here; work that captures nature on an awesome scale. And yet it can be read as a metaphorical measure of our individual existential lives, a dark poem alluding to our preconditioned mortality. His landscapes are magnificent in their brooding seduction, inspired by Norse mythology and the concept of Fimbulvetr – the long, harsh winter that precedes the end of Earth. Hido travelled to places he’d never visited before to capture these spectacles of natural devastation and melancholy, including the chilly vistas of the Norwegian tundra.

14 January 2019

Simone Sapienza’s alternative view of Vietnam

Reading Time: 3 minutes Charlie surfs on Lotus Flowers, which addresses the control of the one-party Communist government, and United States of Vietnam, which looks at the slow victory of capitalism over communism and its consequences for Vietnam’s economy. Using a combination of a staged, typological form of photography in United States of Vietnam, and a more autonomous, naturalistic style for Charlie surfs on Lotus Flowers, Sapienza intends to leave something for the viewer to work out. “They have to try to put their feet in the author’s shoes,” he says. “They just need to get the leitmotiv of your project, not the full, descriptive content. In that exchange lives the real core of the project.”

11 January 2019

Ukrainian youth by Vladyslav Andrievsky

Reading Time: 5 minutes “The Soviet Union left a great heritage in various manifestations from architecture to people’s thoughts, and some are struggling to understand the new times,” says 22-year-old Ukranian photographer Vladyslav Andrievsky. “Often, because of this, the youth is struggling to find common ground with the elders.

“It’s obvious that there were many limitations when it came to one’s life or freedom. Today, when thinking about the Soviet Union, we are visualising it the way it could have been, not the way it was. Of course the fact that somebody could have been killed for a painting or a thought is shocking and devastating. Still, we are left with an enormous cultural heritage like art, literature, music, films, and we truly value that.

“Owing to people like Boris Mikhailov we can try to understand what life was like back then,” he continues. “In his book Case History he is showing homeless people like heroes, who are giving their lives for the brighter future of the new generations. As a young person I don’t want to be a let-down. I don’t want to upset Boris.”

11 January 2019