Luna and The Smithfield

If New York has its gentrified Meat Packing District, London has The Smithfield Market. The 140 years old market has been on site for over a thousand years.  The slowly evolving market starts business at 3 am everyday excluding the weekends and Bank holidays.

G Lawrence Wholesale Meat has been very kind to open their doors to allow me to photograph on their super clean shop.  The wonderfully fresh carcasses featured as the backdrop for the dress by Jaybeelyn Luna.

The design inspired by the spine was modelled by the talented artist Marjolaine Coste.

PALABRAS

The translation of the word palabra from Spanish to English is word but the Turkish word palavra means a lie or bogus.  Words have power and although the saying goes a “picture is worth a thousand words”, this is not always true.

A single word or a paragraph can have power that ranges from ability to change people temporarily or the whole world permanently.

Everyone has unpleasant parts or events in their lives that they prefer to forget about, sometimes no good ever comes from nostalgic nightmares.

Something that is very personal to me, and something perhaps that most people I know don’t know about me is that, the words that can be seen on this image was uttered to me.  The letters read something that is obviously not pleasant but when put into context, it was debilitating at the time.

In 2008, I was raped.

I will not talk about the whirlwind of emotions and traumas that this caused but even after many years, I still remember the words my attacker said to me afterwards.  I wanted to take away the power of the word by breaking it apart and recreating it photographically.  Each of the letters is an anonymous mark on the walls that had no choice but be written on.

I am sharing my experience completely openly, probably despite what majority of my friends would advise me.  It is shocking that there is an estimate of 60,000 to 95,000 rape victims per year in England and Wales.

PalabrasAs one of those individuals, it was the emotional side that hurt me more.  Talking about it was the most healing.  I hope that people speak out and not be afraid.

 

Palabras

Moving Life

Every photographer has a specific genre or a few which they stay away from.  The idea of a still-life and especially the cliche of photographing beautiful flowers were as tasty as drinking burnt caramel on a very hot day; bitter and dehydrating.  I guess my blood sugar must have been very low for me to challenge  this viewpoint.

Alexander James, a very talented photographer, uses classic nature morte objects and photographs them underwater in a black velvet-lined glass tank.  I was inspired by his subversion of the classic genre by shooting objects differently.  He gave a painting-like appearance to them through his technique of obtaining the image rather than through post processing.

I was also inspired by Impressionistic paintings, especially Monet and his works from his garden in Giverny.  I wanted to breakdown some of their elements such as allowing pure colour to form a structure rather than black shadows and white highlights.

I transformed my bathroom into a tiny studio where a desk lamp became my only light source and my bathtub was where my subjects stood, or more accurately floated against the oscillations of waves created by a plastic lid and cascades of water from a pot.  To challenge my photographic practice, I too stood away from post processing.  The colours of the flowers on the camera were as vivid as they appear on the screen and only minute adjustments were made.

I hope you will enjoy my off-tangent series of work.  This caramel was not burnt and accompanied my vanilla ice cream very well, and it was not overbearingly hot.

Doll House

Often the lives in dollhouses were more magnificent than the homes of wealthy Victorians.  The currency of wealth was symbolised by the glory of the dollhouses contained in a household. This is the reason why several dollhouses exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green was the backdrop for the fashion editorial I shot for my Digital Manipulation Unit as part of my Diploma in Kensington and Chelsea College.

Several rooms of many dollhouses were photographed, a task that proved to be tricky as they were all behind glass and very low lit.  To match the glory of the featured rooms, current couture clothing advertised in fashion magazines were scanned to later be digitally worn by my model Indre Marc.

Each photograph is a composite of at least 3 images- 2 photographed by me and 1 scanned from magazines.  Whilst doing this was good to teach me more editing techniques, ethically I would prefer to have my beautiful model wearing the clothes. The life in dollhouses is an idea I would like to revisit but perhaps with a concept that is less commercial.

 

THE DEUTSCHE BORSE PRIZE 2014

The Photographer’s Gallery is amongst my favourite galleries in London and this isn’t just because of their amazing coffee in the café at the entrance.  The 4 shortlisted exhibitors this year were spread out on the top 2 floors of the multi-store gallery with expert curating.

Starting from the top floor, we are greeted by the large-scale photographs by Richard Mosse who in fact won the prize this year.  His work is spread along 3 walls, 2 large ones and the smaller one adjacent to the entrance to the floor.  All five images displayed are of differing sizes but what unifies them is the fact that there are no boarders used and the frames are a dull and clinical-feeling grey.  This abrupt transition from print to the frame matches the subject of the photographs- the conflict in the Republic of Congo.  The photographs themselves have this abrupt transition form beautiful looking landscapes to the harsh reality.

The scarcity of the number of images displayed on the large display area shares the inherent isolated feeling of a war and genocide ridden country.  The voices of the 5.4 million people that have died since 1998 echo throughout the bare walls which provide a respectful moment of silence as we pass through them.  There is a feeling of isolation as each frame is independent of each other.

The photographer uses an infrared film that is not in production anymore and provides a new way of looking.  Transforming them to tones of coral feminizes the sinister undertones of the khaki green uniforms.  The foliage of the landscapes seen in infrared resembles a cancerous and lethal tissue that is all consuming and inescapable.  The blue hues of the rivers appear viscous and contaminated, perhaps something that is picked up by the curator.  They resemble selfish veins that are draining the land rich in minerals and metastasising to bring about chaos and death.

The size of the problem in Congo is shown on large prints obtained from a large format camera with discontinued infrared colour film, which traditionally was used by the army to identify camouflaged targets.

Along the same floor, crammed into a small corner are photographs belonging to Lorna Simpson. This is in direct contrast to Mosse’s layout.  Here are many images in a very small space.

In her work Simpson has incorporated anonymous archival prints belonging to 1950’s and she has copied the poses in her self-portraits from 2009.  The artist that is known for her visual diaries here shows us a summer from 1957 and one from 2009.  There are no elements that give away the time period in the photographs and often some images are duplicated.  The lack of temporal identity confuses the viewer and makes them question what is now and what was then.  Have there been that many changes since the 1950’s, especially for ethnic minorities and for women?

The lack of clarity of which image is the original and which one is a re-creation is carried through the way the images are displayed.  They are all square prints in small white frames that have equal spacing between them.  The layout is across a corner with differing number of rows on each column.  This gives a grid-like appearance and resembles a calendar with differing number of days in each week. The curator plays with irony by placing the frames equidistantly to ignore the mass inequality for women and especially the ethnic minorities in the 1950’s America.  Being placed in a corner of the gallery mirrors the social standing of the individuals photographed.  It feels as if there is an equality in which minority groups are ignored.

The show continues on the 4th floor.  Here we face the work of Alberto Garcia-Alix but before we see any of his work, we are greeted by a voice, a Spanish voice coming from the large screen placed on the entrance wall; “From Where There Is No Return”.  Facing this is a bench and depending on the time of the day you visit, many people sitting or standing around it.  This creates a feeling of paranoia as you enter.  Are they waiting for me?  Why are they facing me?  What are their eyes focusing on?  For anyone with social anxiety, this creates tension, the same way that the artist’s photographs have.  The voice demands attention and you are sucked into the world of Garcia portrayed over 4 decades.

Excluding the screen, there are 3 walls that hold his photographs.  The 2 walls facing each other hold prints of the same size, frame and mounting.  On one side there are 2 rows of 6 images that are from a more recent time.  The artist here is shown middle aged and alone in his images. He appears with sombre expressions and seems only comfortable when his face is hiding in the shadows or behind a mask whilst holding his genitals. Opposite this are the works from past decades.  Here he often has companions within the frame and he appears to be enjoying himself, whether he is injecting himself with possibly drugs or about to have a threesome.  By this temporal separation, the curator highlights the span of artist’s works and allows the viewer to appreciate his career that so far spans over 4 decades.  The frames are the same colour, size and the mounting is identical.

The third wall holds 2 very large prints of equal size to each other and acts to summarise the overall feeling of the artist. One of these is a self-portrait full of emotion and the other an occupied building on a stark night sky that feels cold and distant.  As he states, “fear does not paralyse me, nor stops me dead; instead it drives me on, forces me to keep looking at myself, even though I know that fear will always be the mask behind which I show myself”.

While Garcia-Alix’s layout feels that there is an element of separation with regards to time, as we move onto the adjacent room, Jochen Lempert’

s work is separated almost according to species.  The prints taped to the walls are separated roughly according to size, which has a great variance. There is a feeling of taxonomy occurring in the layout.  The frameless and nameless prints are held on the wall or under glass tables as if they were post-it notes full of reminders or flashes of scientific concepts. The lack of information about the images creates a unique feeling, the scientist here is hypothesizing either in a moment of clarity or utter confusion.

The photographer’s previous training, biology, seems to play a role in this exhibition layout.  There are two tables with glass tops that hold some of his smaller prints, again without a frame or a mount.  The curator creates a studios environment for the work of the photographer that feels less like a visual recording and more like examining specimens in a laboratory.  There is one wall that holds photograms of frogs, in movement and still.  The viewer interacts more with the subject that is not in hiding inside a frame.

The Deutsche Borse Prize, which awards a living photographer of any nationality whose work has contributed to photography in Europe, has awarded the first place to Richard Mosse. His depiction of the happenings in the Republic of Congo is laid out in a large space, which is in direct contrast to Lorna Simpson’s work, which is on the same floor.  It is not a surprise that out of the 4 photographers, the curator have kept these two artists together.  As a Caucasian male born in the 80’s that has never travelled to Africa I am far removed from the issues displayed. Most of the viewers of the show perhaps won’t have first hand experiences of these issues but the curator allows a small fraction of these emotions to be experienced.

The curator on the penultimate floor has placed Garcia-Alix’s and Lempert’s work together, again by no coincidence.  Both shows have an element of separation or categorization, either in time or species.

The show has been curated expertly.  Each of the short-listed bodies of work is laid out in a way that matches the content.  This allows the viewer to approach the Prize as 4 individual exhibitions or 1 large one that is cohesive.

“All photos are accurate, none of them is the truth.”- Richard Avedon

What is the “truth”?  Doesn’t the viewer of the photograph decide what it is based on their experiences and hence that judgment is accurate for them as the only thing giving them relativity is their experience or knowledge?

If a photograph is taken during a riot, the instant the image is made, that composition, that lighting, is the truth for that photographer.  The viewer of the image, someone who may not been there in person would judge it according to the other representations of the event or the place.  The photographer, the viewer or the mediator all have the power to caption the image, metaphorically or literally and therefore the truth may get altered but the scene will remain accurate (unless the image has been manipulated to change the content).

The possible route of the quote by the photographer may be from the work he was commissioned-  In the American WestDuring this project, he photographed “the real people” on location in his portable studio using a white background.  This erased their environment and only the character and their physicality was focused on.  The personality conveyed was accurate as the subjects were captured after being asked a question.  Avedon interfered with the location by adding the white backdrop and changed the model’s mood by his shocking questions.

The quote makes sense from Avedon’s perspective, as he was not a photojournalist.  He did not use photography as a way of documenting or archiving the present in its truth however even the most impartial photographer can only hope to show a portion of the truth, at most, an accurate depiction.  In that case, I agree with Avedon as us humans fail to keep objectivity and the images we create can never be fully objective or be the truth.

 

 

 

“Senescence” of Chloe Sells

The first time I came across the work of Sells was in Paris Photo Fair 2013, represented by the Michael Hoppen Gallery based in Chelsea.  It gives me a great pain that I missed her exhibition at the said gallery as she has a small online visibility.  I was inspired to combine medias as she often combines spray painting with her prints.

Born in Aspen, Colorado, she began using photography in her artwork in 1993. She graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2000 with a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Art, with a major in photography, taking her Masters in Fine Art from Central St. Martins in 2011. She currently lives and works between London and Maun, Botswana with her South African husband.

Each of Sells’ works is a unique analogue C-type print. Using medium and large format cameras with film, Sells produce each unique print by hand in a darkroom.  Though she shoots in colour, Sells spends 45 minutes in the darkroom with each picture, manipulating shades of cyan, magenta and yellow light to create unique, unreplicable images – reflecting her wish to capture the transience of nature.

The series Senescence, uses the traditional form of the still-life to explore her personal experiences of the country she resides in.  She puts elements drawn from her travels and combines symbolic objects with bold colours that stand out but ironically shadows and covers up part of the objects underneath it.

 

Pairidaeza, 2013 is a unique analogue C-type print measuring 102cm by 76cm from the Senescence series.  The name comes from the Persian word meaning exceptional gardens or celestial garden/heavenly paradise on earth.  The Babylonian Hanging Gardens were amongst the 7 ancient wonders of the world.  It takes knowledge of the surrounding areas in Central Asia to appreciate how unique these gardens were and perhaps Chloe Sells is using the notion of intense beauty in an environment that you don’t expect to see, like a diamond set inside a stone.

The photograph uses green foliage that through the unique techniques of the artist is coloured and the triangular shape towards the left of the photograph acts as a prism breaking white light into its constituent wavelengths and creating this rainbow effect.  I feel she could be using this effect to showcase the uniqueness and diversity amongst things and people that appear to be the same and perhaps having the identity of a traveller or a foreigner, she is able to make these observations.

I am very much looking forward to a future Sells exhibition as her prints have an immense impact that goes so much beyond the power of the colours she uses.

 

 

 

Balat House

I had memories. S/He had memories. We had memories. They had memories. Those were just fleeting moments that are imprinted on our minds and etched onto the landscape where it occurred like the remains of a rusty nail holding up the portrait of a lost loved one.

Balat is a neighbourhood of Istanbul that remains unchanged and not developed for many decades. Visiting this place is almost like time travelling and watching the memories of those around you that you are yet to meet, yet to talk and yet to touch.

Void of the 5 senses, you can feel the essence of this place through your aura and through your physical cage. You can feel their love, their pain and their loss. You can imagine their dreams, fears and desires.

Digital Identities

Whilst I was deciding which profile picture to use in a social networking site, I realised that we have never been this open about our own identity or how we want it to be perceived by the people around us. We choose to show an image of our self to the rest of the world and allow judgments to be made about who we are.

I collected 15 of my own profile pictures and layered them together to show more of myself in one go. I continued this process with images of my classmates  to explore the identity they chose to share with the world or at least with everyone except for the black listed “limited profile” individuals…

Like Idris Khan, I have used mostly appropriated images but unlike Kahn these images were not “works of art”.  The result is something resembling abstract painting and in a way the identities of the individuals become blurred. The illusion of sharing one’s identity is thus broken.  Do we really show our true self with those photographs or is it just the illusion of self?

“Sonora Desert” by Graciela Iturbide

On a leisurely stroll in the Tate Modern, my attention was caught by a gelatin silver print belonging to Graciela Iturbide as part of a series of 5 portraits taken in the Sonora desert, Mexico.

It is a black and white portrait of an indigenous young woman that exudes strength and pride. She does not make a direct gaze with the viewer, instead focusing slightly above her and towards the left.  This produces an air of mystery as you are left to choose whether it is her pride that prevents a direct gaze or that there was something a bit more interesting than Iturbide herself at the time.

The protagonist wears a button down shirt with two-toned piping running down from her shoulders towards her breasts and parallel to the buttons.  The top button of the shirt is left unopened whilst the second one remains closed with a metal pin.  This may give clues about the socioeconomic status of the individual.  She wears a simple bead necklace and her long straight hair run down predominantly on her left shoulder.

The image was taken from below the woman, elongating her torso and neck.  By positioning in such manner, Iturbide has given her strength, power, confidence and pride.  She has also exaggerated her chin and glorified her indigenous bone structure and strengthened the ethnic identity.  The shallow depth of field is focused on her skin allowing the viewer to see details such as her pores.  There is no visible background apart from the dark cloudless sky. These elements make the protagonist the pure focus of this image and finds immense strength through its effortless simplicity.

The lighting is harsh on her face, producing shadows which adds onto “this is me and I am not going to change myself for flattery” feeling.  The time of the day that this may have been taken could be midday as demonstrated by the harsh lighting.  It is likely that fill-in flash was also used to allow more details of the skin to be seen and darkened the sky to add onto the drama of the shot.

This black framed with large white mounting print is flanked either side by more portraits from the same series that feature individuals from Sonora Desert from the same year.  These too have been taken with almost none to very simple backgrounds and angled to give power to those who are featured. They all appear to have a strong sense of identity and make an impact through its simplicity and focus.  The frame and its wide mounting add onto the monochromatic images.  The print could have easily drowned in such heavy white mounting however the dark sky background creates a strong contrast and provides the protagonist space to be distinct from the gallery surroundings.

Graciela Iturbide was born in 1942 in Mexico City. She studied in Centro de Estudios Cinematográficos at the Universidad Nacional Autónama de México to become a film director, however she was influence by her tutor Manuel Alvarez Bravo and chose to continue in still photography. She has worked as his assistant and travelled widely across South America.  In 1978 she was commissioned by the Ethnographic Archive of the National Indigenous Institute of Mexico to photograph the country’s indigenous people.  This work took her to the Sonora Desert- an area that covers part of Southwest USA and Northern Mexico.

Here she photographed people that a growing part of the modern Mexican culture find unattractive.  The norm is to appreciate features that are more of European descent and this is evidenced by the booming plastic surgery industry.  What I responded most to is the dignified expression this young woman wears on her face that gives the impression she is well-rooted and a non-conformist to a changing attitudes of an “evolving” culture.

Iturbide’s work in the gallery ranges from these seemingly simple portraits to still life and journalistic pieces.  She shows everyday life where she lives, the same way that Eggleston does, however rather than using abstract shapes and bold colours she mostly works in black and white print and focuses more on indigenous rituals, gender identity and contrasts of urban and rural life.

She is featured in the Poetry and Dreams section, which features a mixture of paintings, sculptures and installations.  Iturbide’s work is in the adjacent room to works such as Barkley L. “Hendricks’ NNN (No Naked Niggahs)” and Christain Schad’s “Agosta, the Pigeon Chested Man, and Rasha, the Black Dove” both of which form part of Realism movement in the 20th century which is aimed to be immediately understandable as it is “made for ordinary people”.

At first it may not make sense that hyperrealistic or “immediately understandable” images are in the Poetry and Dreams section along side work such as Picasso’s “Weeping Woman 1937” or Joan Miro’s “Women and Bird in the Moonlight 1949”. However it would not be open minded to limit poetry and dreams to unusual colours and shapes.  Everyday life is poetic and dream-like provided you can see it.  It is obvious Iturbide does and she takes us along with her.