Photo London 2018

On show at Foam – Senta Simond’s Rayon Vert

Reading Time: 3 minutes “Tu sais qu’est-ce que c’est le rayon vert?” Marie Rivière’s listless character Delphine asks, her legs swinging, in Éric Rohmer’s 1986 film Le Rayon Vert [The Green Ray]. The film – a portrait of its main character’s halting search for summer romance – was based on Jules Verne’s 1882 novel of the same name. While in theory its title refers to an optical phenomenon – in which the appearance of the sun as it rises or falls beyond the horizon creates a brief flash of green, and with it a supposed moment of mental clarity for all those who see it – in reality its subject matter is far more elusive. “I related the ‘rayon vert’ phenomenon to the process of photography – this special and quick moment that happens rarely,” Swiss photographer Senta Simond explains, referring to her project of the same name. Her series, which will be published by Kominek and shown at London’s Webber Gallery soon, adds a new, compelling layer to the meteorological event/Jules Verne/ Éric Rohmer mix of references. Indeed, Simond, a former student of ECAL, University of Art and Design Lausanne, from which she graduated last summer, first encountered the concept via the 1986 film.

2 August 2018

Photo London: Hayahisa Tomiyasu’s TTP wins the MACK First Book Award

Reading Time: 4 minutes It’s a prestigious prize, which earns the winner an exhibition at Photo London plus a photobook published by the well-regraded specialist MACK Books. This year it’s gone to Hayahisa Tomiyasu for his book dummy TTP. Shot from the window of his eighth-floor student flat in Leipzig, Germany, TTP shows a park with a ping pong table, shot at various times of day and in various seasons, and showing different protagonists each time. The table is used as a tischtennisplatte (table tennis table, as a sun lounger, as a climbing frame, as a skate obstacle, and as much more, and, states MACK Books “thanks to Tomiyasu’s sustained curiosity, we observe the habits, humour, and idiosyncrasies of human behaviour”. 

17 May 2018

Photo London: Killed Negatives at the Whitechapel Gallery

Reading Time: 3 minutes In 1935 Roy E. Stryker, head of the Information division of the Farm Security Administration (FSA), commissioned several photographers – including Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange and Russell Lee – to document America’s farm life and workers. The USA was in the throes of the Great Depression, and the scenes that the image-makers captured, from 1935-1944, created a damning and lasting vision of destitution. Lange’s 1936 portrait of the so-called Migrant Mother became a symbol of the plight of the impoverished itinerant farmers, for example – and, for Stryker, summed up his entire project at the FSA. “She has all the suffering of mankind in her but all of the perseverance too,” he reportedly said. “A restraint and a strange courage. You can see anything you want to in her. She is immortal.” As Stryker’s words suggest, he had a very particular vision of what he wanted to achieve with these photographs. Images that did not fit in with that vision were ruthlessly “killed” – rendered unpublishable by having a hole punched through the negative. Thousands of photographs were defaced in this way, in an act of censorship that has since been described as vandalism.

16 May 2018

Photo London: Another Kind of Life explained by Barbican curator Alona Pardo

Reading Time: 8 minutes “They’re all driven by motivations that are both personal and political to a degree, and they are all self-initiated projects,” says curator Alona Pardo of the photographers in the show Another Kind of Life: Photography on the Margins. “Some may have started as commissions, but very early on took on a life of their own. It was interesting to think about the role of the photographer, because often the photographer hides behind the camera as a facade. There is also an interesting subtext of the photographer occupying the position of an outsider within mainstream society. They are there, assertively documenting the world.”

16 May 2018

Ones to Watch: Valeria Cherchi

Reading Time: 4 minutes Between 1960 and 1997, the idyllic Italian island of Sardinia witnessed a series of kidnappings at the hands of the anonima sequestri sarda – a group of vigilantes meting out justice according to a traditional, local code of honour known as the codice barbaricino. Over 37 years, 162 people were kidnapped for ransom, with some of them killed. The kidnapping of seven-year-old Farouk Kassam in 1992 is particularly vivid for Sardinian-born-and-raised Valeria Cherchi, who was the same age at the time. The case instilled in her a profound fear. “I clearly remember the news, during his fifth month of imprisonment, that the upper part of his ear was found by a priest on a mountainous road in Barbagia, central Sardinia,” she recalls.

16 May 2018

Ones to Watch: Rie Yamada

Reading Time: 4 minutes Roland Barthes’ tear-jerking account of his confrontation with his mother’s photograph captures the emotions that a picture of a loved one can evoke, and the significance of a family photograph. From early formal portraits of upper-class families shot in studios to contemporary snaps, images have welded families together under the premise of memory. But with private pictures now becoming more public, family photographs are evolving in the way we document our histories. Rie Yamada’s family photographs take it a step further: instead of documenting her nearest and dearest, in her series Familie werden (which translates as Become a family), the photographer plays every relative herself, highlighting gender stereotypes and social archetypes with a good dose of hilarity and absurdity.

16 May 2018