Featured Artist : Sheila Zhao

zhao.s.portrait

I met Sheila Zhao at the 2017 Mt.Rokko International Photo Festival  in Kobe, Japan and discovered her exhibited series The East Was Red for the first time. This series comprises of scanned vintage black and white photographs she collected in China depicting mainly the youth of the period during Mao’s reign, in various formal and semi-formal poses.

Each photograph has a patch of ‘communist’ red purposefully hiding propaganda symbols and objects used as props in the making of the original photographs, which presumably, was the intention of the photographer at the time.  These found photographs could be dated to the 50s – 70s during the height of Communist Party’s control.

zhao.s.01

zhao.s.03

zhao.s.04

zhao.s.05

I found the work intriguing and steep in historical commentary, nuanced interpretation and concepts, and posed a few questions to her.

Q. What did you major in at Indiana University?

SZ. Journalism with a minor in anthropology.

Q. How or what made you go into photography the way you did?

SZ. I entered photography rather recklessly. I was interested in the arts in secondary school, but never pursued it in university, apart from a weeklong photography course in a media class. I bought a camera post graduation and was photographing during holidays I got from my public relations agency job. That’s where my love and interest for photography took root. I wasn’t cut out for a PR job in that capacity, and when I decided to find a new career, I looked towards photography.

Q. Your earlier photographs have a certain dream-like aesthetic to them (apart from Last Days). Did this come about accidentally or intentional?

SZ.The aesthetic initially came organically. I wasn’t intentionally trying to force myself to photograph in any certain way. However, once I recognised that this type of aesthetic came more naturally, I tried to focus on it and use it as a component to my photography.

Q. Coming to The East Was Red work, what was the source of inspiration for this series and, in terms of found photography, can you see this developing further, (perhaps a Soviet Union project?) or is this project dependent on the expansion of your collection.

SZ. The East Was Red was started after I began collecting found photographs from China. I would buy these photographs, usually originating from family albums, from vintage dealers in Shanghai and Beijing. I wanted to share the more interesting finds with a broader public – to make sure they wouldn’t be lost again – and thus began posting them on Instagram under the handle @chinalostandfound.

As my collection grew, I began noticing a pattern in photographs from the Cultural Revolution era in China, of what seemed like an enthusiastic incorporation of propaganda and the articulation of a certain mindset. It was from there that I decided to impose my own artistic interpretation. As for further development of this series, I certainly plan on continuing to collect found photographs as long as I remain in China. As for The East Was Red, there are still a few certain things that I’m looking out for that I think can better round out this work. However, at the moment I am only comfortable to make this kind of work about China, due to my personal affiliation with the country, as well as my family’s connection with it.

Q. The narrative of this series is simplistic to a post Mao viewer perhaps, but what about the older Chinese population? Have you thought about their response to this series? The ideas and topics of censorship, state apparatus, & symbolism plays deeply in this work if one analyses it closely. Do you prefer your audiences to make their own values and judgements, or like to lead them along with hints and pointers?

SZ. It’s funny you mention this about the older population. A Chinese friend of mine recently told me she showed some photos from this series to her (elderly) father. Apparently he was rather alarmed and warned to be careful where the pictures are shown. Of course this was only one person with his own memories of the past, but indeed it would be interesting to see how other people of that generation would respond to this work. As for the second part of your question, I think both points you asked about are mutually inclusive. But I think for the longevity of a body of work, it requires the audience to be engaged, for them to continuously be thinking and questioning themselves and the points the work brings up.

Q. Lastly, where do you see your photography in 5 years time?
SZ. No idea. Hopefully you’ll see The East Was Red in a book by then and I will be working on other interesting and relevant works.


More www.sheila-zhao.com

Advertisements

Featured Artist : KG Krishnan

I have known KG since 2014, when I mentored him for the very first Exposure+ Mentor Program. He produced a stunning series of stylised portraits of transmen and transwomen living in Kuala Lumpur called Continuum.

Much time has passed since then, and recently I discovered that he had been off the scene for some time, but has since produced this piece, which formed the subject of his presentation at the KL International Photoawards 2017 in Kuala Lumpur, titled loosely as Between Lust and Longing.

KG is one of those rare and extremely talented artists who, can and will surprise you, unpredictable and yet photographs with such personal conviction, and dedication, often obsessive, with every kind of camera he can find, and in this series, his phone, mainly. I think he often lives on the edge.

This project began as a body of work documenting my personal struggle with crystal meth which started in the year 2011. A quick search online for crystal meth will tell you a great deal of its dangers on the mind and body, the demographic, its use is usually associated with, and some statistics on the estimated number of people currently thought to be using meth in communities around the world – all of which would be completely misleading.” KG

“In the early days of my use, by chance I’d stumbled upon a group of users among the gay community which at the time I thought to be an isolated incident, though soon after I started realising that the community as a whole was on the verge of an epidemic and with it, my battle to stay clean started to decline.”

 


 

KG Krishnan was born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 1989. A journalist, photographer and spoken word artist, his art explores ideas concerning sexuality, gender politics and the intimacy of human relationships in the contexts of contemporary culture.

As a commercial photographer and art director, KG Krishnan’s clientele comprises design institutions, fashion designers, advertising agencies, filmmakers, musicians and lifestyle publications ­ for whom he produces images, film and fashion productions. His work, both writing and photography, has been widely published around Southeast Asia and occasionally appears in European and American publications.

He currently does visual consulting and art direction for production and advertising clients in Kuala Lumpur while working on personal projects.

His work can be viewed at www.kgkrishnan.format.com

Thirty Pieces of Silver – K. Azril Ismail

 

L1001871

Popped by the stunning Wei-Ling Gallery, a Colonial-era shophouse in Brickfields which is currently showing Dr. K Azril Ismail’s collection of 30 hand-crafted plates, all framed and set in dark wood and black backgrounds. This collection includes plates produced during the years Azril spent in the UK researching, studying and photographing, often producing daguerrotypes, tintypes and salt prints, and some, of more recent productions in Malaysia. This is is second solo exhibition.

Bearing in mind the long processes needed, and the single edition plates, there are some stunning still life imagery to behold, but up close, since the plates are merely about 4 x5 inches of smaller and some are gorgeously presented in a folding leather display case.

There is a planned talk on 4 October, details forthcoming.

Highly recommended if not for the curiosity factor.

What : Leather bounded salt prints, ambrotypes, tintypes and daguerreotypes, special interest, vintage processes

Where : WEI-LING GALLERY  8, Jalan Scott, Brickfields, 50470 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

“These pieces are hand-crafted, one of a kind, image-objects, with the lending hands of the great giants of photographic pioneers: Louis Daguerre, William Henry Fox Talbot, and Frederick Scott Archer, alongside with Herschel, Wedgwood, Scheele, Davy, Niépce, and Bayard. The tactile qualities and the idea of presenting an ephemeral experience to his works, all ties in with the artist’s belief that objects created by craftsmen are essential keepsakes.

Thirty Pieces of Silver is Dr. K. Azril Ismail’s second exhibition with the gallery following his seminal ‘Live Animals Inside‘ (2009) which documented the now demolished Pudu Jail. “

http://www.weiling-gallery.com

12 September  ~ 31 October, 2017

More info

Featured Artist : Caroline Gavazzi

_KX11588

I visited Caroline’s exhibition at The Brick Lane Gallery yesterday and thought I’d make a quick post about this amazing double exhibition of her last two projects, since the display will only be up for a short period, this weekend! At the front of the gallery, her recent work titled Tropical Sighs is a series of photographs taken through greenhouse glass of tropical plants. The works are all printed on art paper and appears painterly. The dirt and condensation from the internal surfaces of the glasshouse add layers of vibrant texture to the plant studies and gives them a unique look. Read her statement here . I was also intrigued by the way she boxed framed all her prints in clear perspex, perhaps creating another second ‘equilibrium-environment’ which has already been subjected to the living plants via the greenhouse.

The back of the gallery displays her earlier project titled We Are Here. This is a conceptual portraiture series depicting headshots in black and white of settled refugees from a small village in Calabria, Italy called Riace, where the town mayor, one Domenico Lucano, in 1999, welcomed the arriving Kurdish migrants off a boat. He managed to house them in the many empty homes in his shrinking village and through his ingenuity, persuaded the home owners to sell their properties to him for the purpose of providing migrant housing, to this day, is one of the success stories in the larger refugee crisis.

The portraits are all displayed, once again with the use of a transparent perspex layer of an enlarged fingerprint in front of the person – to symbolise giving back identities to what is often, faceless and stateless refugees, since we know that no two fingerprints are ever alike, and every print (and face) is a person of uniqueness.

Powerful stuff.


 

Caroline Gavazzi is a French/ Italian photographer who lived in London for over 20 years and currently resides between Milan and London.

Caroline presented a Slide Share talk at LightGallery in 2013 and since then, she worked at Spéos Photography School in London. She has Masters in Professional Photography Practice from LCC and also studied photography at Spéos in Paris.


 

Current Exhibition 

Tropical Sighs & We Are Here

5 – 10 July, 2017 Daily 10 – 6pm

The Brick Lane Gallery, 216 Brick Ln, London E1 6SB

www.carolinegavazzi.com

More Featured Artists here

Featured Artist : Lim Paik Yin – Body & Soul

I have known Paik Yin for 4 years now, from when she first joined the Exposure+ photo mentor program, our very first instalment. Since then I have followed her progress as a photographer, and I can say that she is one of the very few multidisciplinary artists using photography, performance and dance in Malaysia today. She’s not a prolific photographer but her projects, about one a year, are always well researched and presented.

Her work has gradually matured and has become more focussed and disciplined. Keeping to her mantra of ‘body, space and time’ which is clear from her recent projects, her most recent project Metaphor examines the limits of the physical body, transformation in time and the projection of space. This is a series of self-images depicting expressions of contortions, studies and movement signifying the transcendence of the body into something more metaphysical, inspired by the ancient court dances of Apsaras (Cambodia) and Srimpi (Indonesia). These dances have many restrictive movements in the body and take many years of training and contortion to reach the elegance and grace in their movements.


 

Lim Paik Yin

Screen Shot 2017-07-03 at 13.02.26

(From Reflections of a Woman, 2013)

 

Lim Paik Yin (1980) is an interdisciplinary artist working with photography, performance art and spoken words. Graduating with a B.A in Multimedia (Media Innovation and Management), her art education is supplemented through workshops organized by galleries, collectives and cultural institutions with bases in Malaysia.

Lim’s practice in theater transitioned to the visual arts through workshops organized by women’s rights groups and debut in the visual arts project, Scripted Bodies Art Exhibition in 2005. This group show use the human body as a visual motif to explore the various ideologies and political forces that shape attitudes towards the human bodies. This theme has been revisited in various forms.

She currently writes on photography for Frame Zero media after 5 years working as a photo researcher at Corbis and Click Photos Malaysia. She recently been selected for the Angkor Photo Workshop with Antoine D’Agata and Sohrab Hura and was shortlisted for the Photo Kathmandu 2016 Mixed-Media Residency.

Her photography works has exhibited in the South East Asian region, Spain and the Chennai Photo Biennale in India 2015.

 


 

Paik Yin will be running a Visual Storytelling Masterclass on July 8, 2017 at the Nikon Centre, Kuala Lumpur. More information and registration HERE


 

www.cargocollective.com/lim-paik-yin

http://www.exposureplus.wordpress.com

More Featured Artists here

The Prayer of the Yazidis : Noriko Hayashi

Noriko Hayashi is a Japanese photojournalist working mainly on social, gender and human rights issues. I first met Noriko at the Mt.Rokko International Photography Festival in Kobe, in 2015 where she presented a bizarre story on the kidnapping of brides in Krygyzstan called Unholy Matrimony.

She has just published her second book,  The Prayer of the Yazidis – a compelling compilation of photographs and interviews of the Yazidi community  of Iraq, who fled their homeland following the siege and massacre of hundreds by ISIS (DAESH) fighters in August 2014, and also photographs of some refugees and their families resettling in Germany.

Firstly, the book itself. Thread sewn and case bound, it has no hardcover or spine.  There is a translucent plastic gate fold dust jacket protecting the internal pages, and neatly separating the main photographs section and the text. It’s kind of awkward to turn the pages as the loose jacket’s texture is slippery and separates entirely from the book itself.

Nonetheless, when you open the book and skip pass the Japanese Prologue and aerial map (I don’t read Japanese, unfortunately) the images hit you, hard.

Anyone expecting images of front line fighting, death and destruction and war torn streets will be disappointed. The images go deeper than expected and show shattered dreams, loneliness, isolation, trauma & identity, contemplation and mostly, hope. It portrays the stories of mainly young Yazidi women who escaped from the clutches of their Daesh/ISIS captors who abused and mistreated them, their families and follow their resettlement in Germany.

Although the photographs themselves demand careful viewing, for me, the strongest part of the book is the text section – the personal testimonies of the individuals recounting their experiences from the day ISIS militants invaded their homes, villages and towns, their incarceration and separation from the men, their forced slave work and physical abuse, and their escapes.

Their stories are heart-wrenching and tragic. Women were separated from their men. The men were shot. The women taken as slaves, tortured, married off and raped. Their escape from ISIS were the only highpoint of their accounts.

I feel compelled to reproduce one testimony from a girl named Nadia.

Jpeg

“I come from Kocho, a small village surrounded by Muslim villages.The house where I live with my family was built out of clay in 1952. We had 130 sheep. I used to do things like putting on makeup and going to wedding feasts, walking to the high school together with my friends, or when spring came, going to picnics in Mt. Shingal. My dream had been to become a history teacher.

When Daesh invaded my village the militants gave the order to hoist white flags on the roofs. The villagers were locked up in their houses. During this time the family tried to encourage each other and prayed to God. On the August 15 Daesh gave orders that all villagers go to the village school. I put on a black dress and a pink jacket and left the house. When we arrived in the school, some 700 male villagers who had gathered there were taken away in Daesh cars. I stood by at a window on the second floor and witnessed the men being rounded up and shot on a vacant land. Six of my nine brothers were murdered there and the remaining three managed to flee despite being seriously wounded.

We, some 150 young women, were brought to Mosul on buses. There were already some 70 Yazidi women in the building were we were taken to. A woman said to me, “the women who come here are being sold and married off to the Daesh militants”. Daesh militants came every evening, They chose women and took them. On the fourth day a militant took me to his house and ordered me to remove my clothes. From that day on I was sold and raped by various men. Sometime in November, taking advantage of an unguarded moment, I escaped from a militant who lived alone. After two hours I found a house and asked for help. Although the house belonged to Muslims, they did not support Daesh. They were a very kind family. They took me under their care and continued to hide me. A week later one of the family’s sons brought me to the frontline between Daesh and the peshmerga, near Kirkuk. My younger brother came to get me there. Thirty-eight of my relatives are still missing, including my mother and brothers. ” – Nadia, born 1993, Kocho village, Iraq

These testimonials are printed in English, Japanese and German.

This book does not attempt to patronise the plight of these Yazidi women and families or portray visually the horrors of conflict. Even so, the horrors we read and hear about in the news in 2014/15  – names like Kirkuk, Mt.Shingal, Mosul  – and terms like “rape, mass killings, executions, massacres” become real from the photographs and the testimonies, because these are first hand accounts, from the very people we read about. The several testimonies printed in this book tells of further harrowing sufferings, beatings and torture endured by the victims, and each account is a personal tragedy of sorts.

There is much empathy in Noriko’s photographs with her subjects. Many images show only glimpses and fleeting moments – personal items, places, objects, found photographs – all combine to paint a picture of lost hope.

The Prayer of the Yazidis is available from Amazon Japan , 223 pages, Published by Akaaka Art Publishing, Japan.

 

http://www.norikohayashi.com

Gallery

“We can’t live without forests.” Featured artist – Mitsu Maeda

With the recent announcement of the new Baleh mega-dam project in Sarawak, following the Murum project which was commissioned in 2015; combined with the severe deforestation of primary rainforests in this naturally endowed state in East Malaysia, the plight of the nomadic communities of the Penan people have been dealt another blow.

The Penan of northern Borneo are primarily ‘hunter-gatherers’ or nomadic indigenous peoples. In Sarawak, the Penan plight was highlighted by international media attention by their 1960s resistance to the Baram dam clearing. Dam projects and deforestation go hand in hand, and these nomadic people were promised resettlement and land, which to most, were alien to their lifestyle and their hunting traditions. Today, only several hundred Penan still continue with their nomadic lifestyles, and resisting further intrusions into their habitat. Their fight against conglomerates and big, well-connected  business entities are all but futile.

I discovered that Mitsu Maeda, a freelance commercial photographer from Japan, whom I met at Mt.Rokko International Photo Festival in 2014, had traveled into the interior of Sarawak in 2010 and lived amongst the Ba’Marong community, to document their lifestyle. Her project titled “Forced Changes : The Penan and Life in the Rainforest” was published in 2011 by Days Japan magazine. This photo series gives us a glimpse of their nomadic lifestyle, which is fast disappearing and serves as a reminder about the complexities of developmental changes and the importance in maintaining the balance between man and its environment.

I recently asked Mitsu Maeda why she became interested in such a project, and how she managed to travel into the interior to engaged with this community.

In 2010, she became aware of the Penan due to the large scale logging of the forests, where a lot of hardwood timber were being exported to Japan for their construction industry and also paper products.  The nomadic communities were affected most as the deforestation displaced them from their already scarce resource of hunting for food, and habitable land.

“I got interested in their lives in the rainforest itself and also felt that I wanted to cover it as Japan has been one of the largest consumers of wood, paper from acacia plantations, and palm oil from Sarawak. So (indirectly) we were destroying their lives without really noticing it”.

“Vast forests have been logged and become palm or acacia plantations. Palm oil is often promoted as “environmentally friendly”, and acacia is consumed as cheap paper in offices in Japan. But large amounts of pesticides are used in these plantations and it pollutes the rivers which nearby residents use. Now many residents are suffering from skin diseases.”

She arrived in Miri and met with several settled communities before heading into the interior to visit the nomadic Ba’Marong for about a week, living, eating, hunting and sharing their stories. This community of nomads was made up of 8 families and totaled 20 persons.

“I contacted Friends of The Earth which is an NGO helping Penan people in Sarawak. They arranged my trip.”

img_6606

Sagun, the leader of Ba’Marong.

img_6580

img_6340

Listening to the sounds of the forest on their way hunting.

img_6376

img_6381

Mitsu Maeda followed some men on a hunt for monkeys and even sampled some of its meat.

img_6390

img_6219

img_5990
Cutting down a sago tree

img_6085

Processing tapioca from the sago tree. They take fibre from the tree, soak them in water, filter, and dry. The process takes almost a day. Tapioca is their main source of carbohydrate since the community does not cultivate rice or wheat.

“I liked the Ba’Marong people a lot. I felt like they really know what they need. And the girl, Sagun’s daughter, she was running around naked but on the day I left she wore a pretty pink one-piece!”

img_5949

img_6552

Ranny with her grandmother.  Older generations prefer to stay in a “hat house” while younger generations live in a house with walls. The grandmother is making rattan products.

img_5705

Bathing and washing clothes in the river

img_6476
Ranny, daughter of Sagun, the community leader. There are two children in the community but there is no school since the community is nomadic. This is one reason why Sagun is thinking to settle.

“Their life is facing changes and problems. Some of the people in Ba’Marong do not even have Identification Cards or birth certificates which the government is supposed to issue, meaning they are not registered as Malaysians.”

This is why most of the Penans are not able to simply go to the towns to work when there is not enough food to eat in the forest and have to find other ways to take care of their families.

Also, many land disputes are occurring between Penan communities as the forest resources become scarce. Basically, people in a community can only hunt and gather in the forest area which has been decided in community leaders’ meetings in the past. However, as the forest resource become scarce, some communities cannot get enough food and other resources from their area and started to claim other areas. It is ironic that people who did not even have a sense of land ownership now have to fight over it.

“Anwi, the leader of Ba’Marong told me, “I want more people in the world to know what is happening here. Forests for us are like supermarkets for you. Even we settle, we can’t live without forests.” ”

All images © Mitsu Maeda


Mitsu Maeda is a Japanese photographer currently based in Kochi, Japan. Her theme in photography is to capture emotions and senses that she encounters. Ultimately she aims to explore the organic complexities of the individual.

www.mitsumaeda.com

Mt.Rokko International Photo Festival 2016 : Portfolios reviewed.

Jpeg
Let’s begin!

I recently attended the Mt.Rokko International Photo Festival 2016 in Kobe, Japan as reviewer and below are the notable works that I have personally seen over the 3-day event. I have been coming to this festival since 2013, organised by Takeki Sugiyama and his excellent team of volunteers and staff. The festival is centred around the portfolio reviews, of which there are 21 reviewers and 42 photographers. There are also presentations and slideshows from the guest photographers, this year, being Jamey Stillings, Kosuke Okahara and Alejandro Durán.

The overall standard of work is notably higher, since the director implemented a pre-screening and presentation session earlier in the year, to prepare the selected photographers to obtain maximum value in attending the reviews. This is clearly seen, in my experience last week, of being presented with clear and concise statements, quality loose prints in presentation boxes and a few well-edited work. However, as other reviewers also noted, photographers are still presenting too many prints in their series, and in some cases, too many series. Anything more than 20 images for me, would be too many.

_R007766
Kyoko MARUYAMA
_R007771
Kyoko MARUYAMA

One of the most arresting images I recall were the two silver gelatin photographs (above) from Kyoko Maruyama‘s project Heart Island project -Awa. Although the series is not complete in terms of photography, she had an initial idea to photograph the inhabitants of this district in Chiba – under threat from possible massive contamination  of the land through the underground storage of unknown polluted soil. The story itself warrants documentation over the next years and has potential.

_R007783
Takayuki NARITA

When Takayuki Narita, a young and trendy photographer, with manly long hair and light beard sat down and presented me his statement, titled ROSE GARDEN and printed on paper with light pink roses and pale green leaves, I didn’t know what to think.

Until he showed me his series of garish, over-saturated ‘studies’ of people enjoying themselves in a sunny Osaka park well known for roses – I begin to understand his obsession with the flower. He writes “The modern day flower thieves snatch the images of flowers with the digital cameras, smart phone in forms of megapixels”. As an observer of human behaviour, his carefully composed scenes are humorous as well as reflective of our modern ‘image-sharing’ societies across the world.

Jpeg
Takayuki NARITA
_R007786
Takayuki NARITA
_R007789
Laura VALENTI (Photo Lucida Critical Mass)
_R007813
Toshiyuki SHIRAI

I also reviewed Toshiyuki Shirai‘s [without joy, without happiness] series of self-portraits dressed in what is a typical ‘salaryman’ (business) man suit, posed in expressionless faces in ‘out of context’ situations, eg. playground, swings and slides where children enjoy themselves.  He complains of the ‘mental torture that salarymen endure like “a man digging a hole in the morning, and fill it in the afternoon every day, endlessly”. This creative series can be expanded to include other scenarios – like on a beach, in a kindergarten etc  where the contrast can be extended. I like this kind of photo series – of self -examination and creative portrait photography.

_R007814
Toshiyuki SHIRAI
_R007816
Toshiyuki SHIRAI
_R007819
Noriko TAKASUGI

I knew of Noriko Takasugi‘s recent portrait at this year’s Taylor Wessing Photoprize where she was a finalist with her portrait of celebrated Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. Also, her Fukushima Samurai series of portraits which she showed at Mt.Rokko this year. What I didn’t expect was the depth of research she had done in this project which, for several years now, has over 40 fine portraits of modern day samurais, each, dressed in traditional garb and photographed respectfully in and around the Fukushima area. It is time a book is published.

_R007823
Ryosuke SAITO
_R007825
Ryosuke SAITO

Another promising work I have seen is Ryosuke Saito’s humorous observational series of ‘tourists, smartphones and selfies’ called “#photooftheday”  (- complete with hashtag).

His witty captures of beachgoers in Thailand reveals more about what I term the ‘experience’ economies have to offer and yet informational exchange still holds true in our social media world. Similar ideas with the Rose Garden series above.

_R007827
Eiji OHASHI

Another brilliant colour series is by Eiji Ohashi from Hokkaido.I saw him at Mt.Rokko last year where he displayed a black and white collection of his Vending Machine series. At the time I thought that they could be improved if he captured them in colour instead. This year he showed another set of vending machines in colour, and I thought they were significantly improved, as they showed the placements of these machines in more realistic and contemporary settings. The images are quiet reflections of an essential and modern invention that is found all over the country. He has 9 pieces of this series being shown at the Singapore International Photo Festival 2016 in October.

The photographer known as TOMM is a bubbly person and dons a  pair of Yohji Yamamoto trousers. He showed me his series of raw and gritty black and white photographs of festival people from over 30 such events across Japan called Ikai (Spirit World).

His pictures are to record what he calls ‘tamafuri’ or life soul of these events in modern times Japan, where science makes everything efficient and festivals seem irrational and strange at times. He photographs in black and white to depict the sacredness of their existence.

_R007828
TOMM Photographer
_R007830
TOMM Photographer
_R007831
TOMM Photographer
_R007833
TOMM Photographer

I found his images to be varied, strong and well composed, as often than not, photographing at public festivals can be quite restricted in terms of vantage points.

His images are bold and has a sense of immediacy to them, unlike many festival photography series I have seen. I did suggest to Tomm if he could visit the annual Thaipusam festival in Malaysia one day, that would be right his street.

One of my favourite images of the festival came from Takako Fukaya from Aichi.

_R007836
Takako FUKAYA

She is a mother three girls and she started showing her black & white images of them playing and doing normal things in and around her home, gardens and recreational parks. I didn’t feel as though she was portraying them in their joyful existence as they seemed too contrived. Nonetheless, when she began to show me her previous series of colour studies of them, right at the end of the review session, it completely surprised me! This set of toned portraits was fresh : innovative and whimsical, using homely props and natural light with effect. Beautiful.

Finally, I was also impressed with Yoshi Okamoto‘s series about women scorned. There is much intimacy and isolation that showed through to the viewer with her work about depression, despair, loss and ultimately, an unknown fate  which lies ahead for the woman in the picture. Yoshi is no stranger to awards, as one of the images from this series was selected as a finalist in the Kuala Lumpur International Photoawards 2016. We also discovered that she has been selected as one of the 100 candidates at Review Sante Fe this year.

_R007843
Yoshi OKAMOTO
_R007847
Yoshi OKAMOTO (R)

I would like to mention Shyue Woon‘s Car Park series of dimly light atmospheric scenes. This was his first review in his photographic practice and was proposed by myself to attend the portfolio review at Mt.Rokko this year. His work was also projected at the Emerging Photographers Slideshow on the final evening to all the gathered photographers, reviewers and guests.

_R007873
Shyue WOON – Emerging Photographers Slideshow

The final mention goes to the Anne-Sophie GUILLET a French photographer on a residency in Japan. She showed two series, Inner Self and Reminiscence.

anne-sophie01
Anne-Sophie GUILLET

I’m a sucker when it comes to a strong portrait image, and she has not one but several strong ones in her series Inner Self, which are formal portraits of ‘androgynous’ strangers she met on the street, invited to their homes and photographed. To me, this is such an interesting photo project which does not involve any kind of travel or fanciful enactments but require patience, trust and a lot of goodwill.

anne-sophie02.reminiscence
Anne-Sophie GUILLET

Reminiscence goes deeper, and she explores her childhood memories at her grandmother’s house in the French countryside. The house is no longer in the family but she has her grandmother’s objects and belongings to which she photographs at the house and it’s surroundings to immortalise her fading memories.

Each year the Mt.Rokko reviews always bring out some extraordinary work and this year these are the more memorable and meaningful ones for me. I’m sure other reviewers will have their own set of favourite projects, and  would like to close by thanking the festival director Takeki Sugiyama for his constant drive for education and exposure, and to make this event a success in Japan.

Arigatou gozaimasu.

_R007900
Open Portfolio Viewing

Occupied Pleasures by Tanya Habjouqa

Christmas came early!

Jpeg

Any day now.

Today, November 8th.

Phone rang, postman delivered.

I was hoping and expecting to receive my copy of Tanya Habjouqa’s amazing book called Occupied Pleasures, a collection of candid photographs of Palestine and it’s people, which was funded through Kickstarter, which had a planned release date in November 2015. Like an eager kid, I opened the package sent by FotoEvidence from Sofia, and voila here it is!

Jpeg

Jpeg

Jpeg

Jpeg

Jpeg

“Each image avows aliveness and desolation” – Foreword by Nathalie Handal

Every photo is so well taken and composed, and the colour is simply mesmerizing. I seldom buy photobooks nowadays, simply because I have no more bookshelf space, and also the costs of the ones I like to collect. Another reason is that I also like trees. Once in a while, however, comes a publication worth supporting and this is one.

Tanya Habjouqa

Videohttp://www.tanyahabjouqa.com/page1

Full circle – Gathered Leaves & Influence and Intimacy

One can hardly miss the hundreds of posters around London of the blue swim-capped headshot of ‘Misty’ promoting Alec Soth’s Gathered Leaves exhibition at the SCIENCE MUSEUM in South Kensington.  I spent Monday afternoon at this rather unorthodox museum (as far as photography goes) to visit Gathered Leaves and also, adjacent to it on the same floor, Julia Margaret Cameron’s Influence and Intimacy, a tribute to this quintessential English woman photographer, marking the 200th year of her birth.

Jpeg

Two major exhibitions, side by side, with some 150 years of photography practice in between. I could say that these twin shows actually form a full circle in photography, from the invention of the medium, the processes and imaging styles of the early pioneers, to a very creative, storytelling contemporary approach using a modern camera. Both artists essentially documenting what they have seen, who they have met and where they have been through the printed image.

Gathered Leaves is Alec Soth’s first UK exhibition and comprises 4 titles or bodies of work, brought together to create this excellent show –  Sleeping by the Mississippi (2004), Niagara (2006), Broken Manual (2010) and the most recent, Songbook (2014). The exhibition is separated into four distinct galleries, with the Broken Manual photographs having a separate grey backdrop. His images are mainly portraits and still-life studies of the far and out towns he visited in America, some printed very large and are absolutely stunning to see up close. As a documentary photographer, Alec Soth mainly uses allegory to give meaning to his images. In Mississippi and Niagara for example.

Jpeg

Jpeg

I particularly like his solitary portrait studies in Mississippi and Niagara, less so in Broken Manual, which I thought was slightly over staged and contrived, with his subjects, hermits and their lifestyles, their surroundings slightly disjointed. Perhaps the book would make more sense as there are more images to look at.

Jpeg

Jpeg

Jpeg

Jpeg

Jpeg

Jpeg

Jpeg

Jpeg

Jpeg

Jpeg

There are hints of Robert Frank and Stephen Shore in some of these images and as a consummate traveller searching for stories, some apparently made up (Songbook) he has produced these rural Americana imagery with great depth and tenderness.

His sitters are often photographed holding something, doing something and often if they do not appear, then a trace or clue of the them is depicted. The subjects aren’t ordinary people in the true sense of the word but people who in his eyes are worthy to be photographed because of what they do or represent within the sub text of his allegory. They fit in to his stories. They all appear troubled to some extent and I feel that is his narrative.

Given enough time, if I were to have sat down for a long period and absorbed these striking photographs, I could be transported into them, and can only wish that I was with the artist when he took them and jointly observed life then.

About 150 years earlier, Julia Margaret Cameron was making albumen photographs (a laborious process then) with a large cupboard of a camera in sleepy Freshwater on the Isle of Wight.

She was given a camera when she was in her 40s by her daughter and immediately fell in love with the concept of making portraits of noble acquaintances, famous neighbours and personages of the period. She made portraits in a most novel way for her era, often of women, children and men friends dressed fantasy costumes, Arthurian legends and fairytales.

At a time when only men photographers were taken seriously in the trade, she bucked the trend with her influential and modernistic poses.

Julia Margaret Cameron travelled to Ceylon and distant lands making portraits, in particular of the ‘natives’ when most other make photographers chose to take landscapes mainly.

She also printed the images all by herself, with all the challenges of a messy and volatile processes of the colloidon print.

Influence and Intimacy is a truly remarkable exhibition of mainly portrait poses, of friends and family, staged with a degree of stiffness included (mainly because the exposures were several minutes then). The small A4 sized sepia coloured prints contrasts with Soth’s modern, bold, colour photographs in size as well as definition, or the lack of in the former.

Jpeg

Jpeg

Jpeg

However, to compare these small albumen prints to modern photography would be foolish. What I find remarkable about this exhibition is that these intimate portraits were made some century and a half ago and are still preserved and cherished today. As true documents of a bygone era, the faces, features, poses, stares, scowls, frowns, etc of each portrait brings these characters alive, as if they had been taken only yesterday, but instead were photographed at the dawn of photography. Lord Tennyson, Darwin, even portraits of herself remain vividly real.

Both exhibitions run until 28 March 2016.

http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk