The new show charts the photographer’s 30-year career
In the final month of her current exhibition in London, the Swiss-French photographer discusses her practice
“I got into photography because I’m a little restless, and I liked that it was fast,” says Brazilian photographer Mona Kuhn, who has just published her sixth book with Steidl, She Disappeared Into Complete Silence. Even so, the speed of photography haunted her, as Kuhn feared that her photographs would be consumed then discarded – like so many of the magazines she read and tossed away. “I wanted to stop time with photography,” she says. “That’s another reason I got into nudes, for the timeless aspect.”
She Disappeared Into Complete Silence is an experimental project shot in Acido Dorado, a reflective house in the middle of the Californian desert designed by American architect Robert Stone. Inside it are mirrored ceilings and walls, which refract sheets of golden desert light that flood the house. Here, Kuhn presents a solitary nude on the edge of the desert, removed from any symbols of time, creating “an abstraction of being,” and “a space where our mind resides”.
In the mid-1960s, a vast concrete housing estate began to rise out of a neglected marshland on the south bank of the River Thames. Headed by the Greater London Council (GLC), the scheme was seen as visionary; Thamesmead would provide a marina-esque lifestyle with plenty of greenery, and wide walkways that connected housing with schools and local amenities, all set within striking brutalist architecture. Thamesmead was to be the “town of tomorrow”.
Five years ago though, it was announced that the estate would be undergoing a huge redevelopment, and now a new book published by Here Press, titled The Town of Tomorrow: 50 years of Thamesmead, celebrates its part and present.
To the people of Provence, the Mistral is a local menace. It regularly ruins weddings, steals hats and scarves with ease and, at its worst, this epic wind has the strength to sweep up metal chairs and smash them into neighbouring windows. Even so, says Rachel Cobb, “I think maybe they actually like it”. “What I feel is that it’s a source of pride among the Provincials, a way of defining the region,” she adds. “They can withstand it, and they’ve learned to live with it.”
Cobb’s new book, Mistral: The Legendary Wind of Provence, is a record of the 20 years she spent hunting the wind. She has holidayed in the south of France for 40 summers now and, though she has been victim to the perils of the strong gales, she’s also found it inspirational – as have many other artists and writers. “I’m energised by it,” she says. “At night, when you hear it stir, you can feel the energy in the air.”
Born in Australia and now based in Melbourne, Tom Blachford first visited Palm Springs back in 2013. Struck by its pristine Modernist architecture he was keen to take photographs, but wary of repeating the many sunny images of California. Deciding to try working at night instead, he happened to venture out during a full moon, and stumbled on a new project.
He’s now been adding images to his Midnight Modern project for five years, capturing still-futuristic buildings with long exposures in the silvery, pleasingly alien light of the moon. Midnight Modern IV is his final addition to the series and sees him shooting outside Palm Springs for the first time, and also stretching the Mid-Century time-frame to include contemporary architecture such as the 2014 Black Desert House by Oller & Pejic.
“Photography is just a medium. It’s like a typewriter,” said Ezra Stoller in an interview in 1991. “Photography as an art doesn’t interest me an awful lot.” Even so, he raised architectural photography to an art form, capturing the smooth lines of American modernism in its heyday, as well as lesser known industrial images.
Born in Chicago in 1915, Stoller grew up in New York and studied architecture at NYU, getting into photography while still a student. Launching his career in the late 1930s, he worked with Paul Strand in the Office of Emergency Management from 1940-41 and, post-war, was perfectly poised to take advantage of the American economic boom. Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Louis Kahn, Le Corbusier, Eero Saarinen and Marcel Breuer – he shot work by them all, including iconic buildings such as The Guggenheim Museum, Kennedy International Airport, and the Fallingwater house.
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“It may seem like a provocation, but I am not particularly interested in architecture – at least not in that of great architects and cult buildings,” says Eric Tabuchi. “I’m interested in what humans build, whether for shelter, work, recreation or worship. Basically, what has captivated me for 20 years is the vast domain of anonymous architecture, which is the daily environment of most of the inhabitants of this planet, and which we do not look at it so much. It appears to us without any real quality.”