Posts Tagged publication

Unpublished Magazine Issue #02: Reviewed for the Magazine Press Release.

 Unpublished is in essence an exhibition of work contained by the pages of a magazine. What characterises this publication, besides the nineteen photographers that are contained within, is the independence of the photographs. A first glance reveals a seductively simple design where there is no exaggeration of style. White is dominant, forming a translucent layer that isolates the images for the viewer and what little text that there is serves to introduce the photographs, rather than placing upon them labels, by which they can be judged.

Consistent with the style of the first issue, the lasting impression is that the pages are themselves photographs of gallery walls, upon which hang the images printed within. One could easily imagine such a scenario, not only for the magazines stylistic qualities but for that seldom appreciated, yet subconsciously understood aspect that is the sequencing of photographs. Here the images have been grouped in such a way so that each photograph compliments the other, allowing the viewer to cross from page to page without any feeling of being interrupted.

The introduction, written by Gabriele Naia, is the only body of text within the magazine that offers any explanation of the work and describes the photographs as “intentionally dwelling on vague and indistinct ground”. Indeed it is true that in all of the images there exists something that succeeds in unsettling the viewer. As a collective this element is magnified and suddenly what might distract or disturb becomes an intrinsic characteristic of the issue itself. Often there is a sense of surrealism which is only complimented by the lack of any explanation; it is as if these pictures are all that is required to understand both themselves and the world they represent. In short they become a narrative of themselves.

In addition to this, many of the photographs contain a feeling of lunacy that cannot be avoided. It is evident in the undefined form of the two bodies that appear on the front cover and in the relationship between a young boy and an open coffin at a car show. What is most interesting is that one could not imagine these abstractions without the existence of the photographs; a man who lies crushed beneath a chair cushion, a fighter jet hiding behind a tree, a rubber boat suspended in a floating world. Each of these sounds as ridiculous as the as the last. It is as if this vague and indistinct world requires an interpretation so that we might make sense of it.

There still remain questions; the magazine is a broken collection of singular images, each offering only itself. It is refreshing to see such photographs but for myself I would like to look beyond what is presented on the page.

Ultimately the significance of Unpublished is in its existence as a real and tangible object. At a time when most photographic literature is in decline it is encouraging to know that enthusiastic individuals are developing new outlets for artists to present their work to the public.

Within its pages, Unpublished showcases some truly interesting work which begs the question of what can we expect next? Although still in its youth, the magazine shows a promising future which we can only hope expands so that the direct line to the photographer’s work, that the magazine hopes to offer the public, is realised. For now, should you be lucky enough to acquire one of the five hundred copies printed, you will not be disappointed.

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Yulia Gorodinski – Self Portraits

All Photographs Copyright © Yulia Gorodinski

Yulia Gorodinski was born 1984 in Belarus (former USSR) and immigrated to Israel, with her family in 1996. From 2004-2007 she studied for a  B.A. in History and English Literature at Haifa University before going on to complete an M.A. in English Literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 2009.

Her self-portraits have featured internationally in various publications and group exhibitions including the Basil Hallward Gallery in the USA (Sep 2010) and more recently on Photoboite; an Online group exhibition featuring Women Photographers (Jan-Dec 2011).

‘While studying for my degree I became captivated by photography and began to focus on self-portraiture. I like being the model, the photographer and the post editor. Most of my images are autobiographic. I like to express my feelings, things I experience through photography. Or I just simply enjoy creating, being inspired by light, locations, props and colors. Photography is my joy, and I feel blessed that I have discovered it. I went to music school when I was little to play piano, I went to study English Literature at University, and all because I liked it. But it wasn’t until I discovered photography and saw how passionate I was about it comparing to my other fields of interest mentioned above.’

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The Image and Culture

The Itamar massacre: the spectacle of violence – ignored. One would suppose that such an event would have filled the newspapers; if not for the sake of the victims then for the anticipation of what was to come. And yet despite this, the attack on a Jewish family of five has received almost no coverage by the Western media. The question that has circulated since has been why?

In this case what is most disturbing is not the response of those Arabs who celebrated the event, (for I would expect nothing more of them) but the passive attitude of the ‘impartial’ press. Such an attitude as theirs reflects more directly the culture of Islam which places the image of the martyr above all other images. Indeed, it would seem that these photographs alone embody glory within Islam, for neither Allah nor the prophet Mohamed may appear in picture form.

Therefore the martyr receives a singular honour; immortality by the photograph. However, this unbalanced representation of society is not without consequences for photographs both reflect cultural trends and contribute to their promotion. In the case of these pictures, their impact on Palestinian society has had dramatic effect. In the words of David Suissa:

…a Palestinian child can walk to school along a street named after the terrorist Abu Jihad, who planned a bus hijacking that killed 37, spend the day in a school named after Ahmad Yassin, the man who founded Hamas, play soccer in the afternoon in a tournament honoring terrorist Abd Al-Basset Odeh, who killed 31, and end his day at a youth center named after Abu Iyad, who was responsible for killing 11 Israeli Olympic athletes in Munich.

These are the portrayed heroes of Islam; their images adorn the streets of Gaza, taking pride of place among advertisements compelling one to buy. For themselves, they become a type of advertisement for immediately one is aware of what they are looking at (the martyr) and what it leads to (immortality).

Within this immortality there exists a cultish form of celebrity; those who give their lives for the sake of Islam are to be admired for their sacrifice. It is as if Western views of chivalry are mirrored in this medieval ideology; whereas one views the likes of King Arthur and his knights to be the epitome of gallantry, those of the Near East hold the martyr to be as such.

In that respect their modern culture has built itself around these ‘legends’. Their names appear everywhere;  in one case, Dalal Mughrabi, who in 1978 was responsible for perhaps the most lethal terror attack against Israel, is now honoured and immortalized by having the following named for her: elementary schools, a kindergarten, a computer centre, summer camps, football tournaments, a community centre, a sports team, a public square, a street, an election course, an adult education course, a university club, a dance troupe, a military unit, a dormitory in a youth centre, a TV quiz team and a graduation ceremony.

The ultimate conclusion is that this is a society that either lacks any real cultural identity, or has chosen to forget it in favour of promoting a new form of identity for itself. This identity has swallowed up all aspects of Arab existence; outside their own immediate circle the world has come to know them as a problem race, characterised by violence. It is a stereotype, adopted by a segment of Islam, promoted by the media and accepted by the world.

With this, the question of why the Itamar massacre received no attention can now be answered. They are not martyrs for a cause; there is no sacrifice. Rather it is murder, cold and brutal but nothing more than that. By contrast, every Palestinian that dies is by proclamation a martyr for ‘the struggle’. In the same respect that today, anybody can appear on television and claim a right to celebrity; likewise anyone can become a martyr. No effort is required, no promise of commitment is necessary. It is the joke of equality; one can appear on the pantheon stage of celebrity (martyrdom), without discrimination, just as long as one’s life is taken.

Therefore, every Arab death is news; they are statistics in an on-going conflict, proclaimed protagonists in a war. In unison the media reflect the same attitude that the Palestinians have adopted. Of course the biggest losers in this cycle of stereotype are the Palestinians themselves; not content to limit themselves to the idea that death and violence brings glory, they have achieved alienation from humanity; their behaviour accepted as cultural, no condemnation for wrongdoing.   

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After Hiroshige – Emily Allchurch’s Tokyo Story

Last month saw the launch of Emily Allchurch’s latest exhibition, Tokyo Story. I have to say that I greatly admire her work and in all honesty it would be hard not to. They are seductively beautiful in appearance and of such detail that a single image could hold your interest for perhaps hours. Working to reconstruct master painters her latest project is a set of ten images that reference Utagawa Hiroshige’s, One Hundred Famous Views of Edo.  It is a unique way in which she chooses to make her images, for they are not one photograph but several hundred, stitched togeather to create the final image.

Image copyright © Emily Allchurch

Image copyright © Emily Allchurch

Image copyright © Emily Allchurch

However, for me my interest lies beyond the technical aspects of the images.  What is most fascinating is the contrast between the woodblock prints of Hiroshige and the photographs of Allchurch. Both works exist in negative form and are infinitely reproducible and yet only one set has to date been widely reproduced. The tradition of printing within Japan during the lifetime of Hiroshige was to make copies available for distribution on a large-scale. Evidence of this is present in the prints themselves, in fact the very title of Hiroshige’s most famous set of images reveals this. One Hundred Famous Views of Edo is comprised of landscapes that many residents of the city would have been familiar with, if not by sight then certainly from stories and poems relating to them. These were the postcards of Japan.

In Meguro Drum Bridge and Sunset Hill, Hiroshige depicts the path to a Famous temple dedicated to the King of esoteric knowledge that leads over a Drum Bridge. The shape and the fact that it was constructed of stone rather than the usual wood made it a tourist attraction for the pilgrims. The site would have been well-known to many in Japan at the time. The Shogatsuya teahouse, famous for its sweet-bean soup is indirectly depicted in the image; the roof can be seen in the bottom righthand corner. To the left is Sunset Hill which provided an attractive view over the Meguro River valley. Do Allchurch’s photographs fulfill the same role?

The answer is of course no. The pictures have been described  as “a gentle social narrative for the city (Tokyo, previously known as Edo) today.” They certainly give a glimpse of the nation. Like the paintings of Hiroshige they are constructed of small details that each seem to have significance, although they certainly stop short of any serious critique of Japan. However all of it seems strangely futile set in the style that she has adopted. As a homage to the inspiring artist their aesthetic qualities drown out the significance of what is contained within the image. Whilst viewing them one cannot help but feel that this is not so much how Japan is but rather how we are encouraged to think of Japan. There are also the obvious differences in the production and reception of the images. They are, in the words of Allchurch, “to be see as artworks”. In the tradition of Western art this simply means that they are limited to only a small number of copies. It is perhaps ironic that a western artist should go to Japan to reproduce reproducible art using a means that is reproducible and create a limited set of art works.  

Image copyright © Emily Allchurch

Despite these observations I still enjoyed the photographs. If you happen to be in London then the exhibition is running until the 11th March at the Japan House Gallery, 13/14 Cornwall Terrace, NW1 4QP. If you can make time then they are certainly worth the trip.

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Young Bodies – part 1

The notion of photographing children at a time when the idea of ‘correctness’ has such an emphasis placed upon it presents the photographer with a challenge where every detail of the photographs can be closely scrutinised. Perhaps it could be argued that such legality is an unnecessary nuisance and an unreasonable barrier on the artist. The photographers whose work is to be discussed in this publication have all been the subject of dispute over the rights and wrongs of photographing children. This essay has been written to address this subject; it will do so by examining what art is and why it is made, what it means to be naked and why it is depicted by the artist. Of our three photographers Sally Mann (b.1951) is perhaps the best known and without a doubt her most recognisable collection was Immediate Family published in 1992. Jock Sturges (b.1947) is well known for his pictures of nudists, many of whom are adolescents and David Hamilton (b.1933) is recognised as one of the most commercially successful photographers alive today due to his photographs of young girls. All these photographers have either made or continue to make children and adolescents the central focus of their ongoing work. By examining their work using the criteria here before laid down we can determine whether or not their pictures can be considered acceptable.

Image Copyright © Sally Mann

Typically Mann’s images explore childhood themes such as the games her children play whilst staying at the family’s summer cabin on the banks of a river. The setting is idyllic and the word setting must be used rather than location because despite the pictures natural look, which may or may not have been the photographer’s intention, there are signs that many of them have been carefully considered and composed. The reason this point is so important is that it raises a valid question; if such time and care went into the making of these pictures how real is their depiction of Mann’s children. These pictures can easily be viewed as a photographic essay recording the lives of these three children but Sally Mann regards herself as an artist, so whilst we may wish to consider them natural through the eyes of a mother the question remains; do they have to be naked? One picture in particular found within the pages of Immediate Family raises an important question. The picture is of a young boy, probably no older than ten years. The child is looking directly at the camera, there is no smile on his face and he adopts a stance as though he were an animal about to bolt away from a would be predator; to dive into the dark waters and swim out of sight.

Image Copyright © Sally Mann

What is interesting about this picture is its title; the last time Emmett modelled nude. From this are we to believe that the boy was asked to undress specifically for this picture? If this is the case then there must have been reasons for doing so and how are the public supposed to read the image? Mann’s pictures attracted a great deal of praise from art critics but the images also spawned criticism. Upon its release the book caused a great deal of controversy with some activists calling it child pornography. Kiku Adatto, the director of child studies at Harvard wrote of Immediate Family that Mann photographed ‘her own young children nude in erotic poses, or posed as victims of abuse and incest’.   

Image Copyright © Jock Sturges

An image that bears striking similarities to the previous can be found within the pages of Sturges’ book The Last Day of Summer. This time a young girl is pictured and although we are not told it can be supposed that she is approximately the same age as Emmett. From the way the light has been used it could be said that both pictures are almost identical and perhaps one drew inspiration from the other but the differences are in the stance of the subject. There is no evident pose and no pulled face. There is only a child standing in a river, her arms at her side with her shoulders held ever so slightly back so as if to exaggerate her nakedness.

Whilst both Emmett and this girl show us no smile the expression of character the boy reveals through his lowered eyebrows and pursed lips is lacking in this picture. Indeed the face of this child is altogether expressionless. Here is a picture that is very much about the body of the subject. This makes it one of the finest examples of images that display limitations. The viewer is left with questions rather than answers and their interpretation of the image is far more reaching. It raises questions about morality and nakedness and the conclusions people reach will each be effected by who they are as individuals.

Misunderstandings of what Sturges is trying to represent is as easy as misunderstanding what nakedness means. To be naked is to be oneself; the casting off of coverings that disguises the truth. To be nude is to be seen as naked by others but only as an object of desire. Concerning Sturges’ work this presents the viewer with a conundrum. His subjects are naturists and so display their nakedness as being themselves but for the viewer to see the images as an offence they would have to view them as nudes and so would be seeing them as objects rather than people. With this in mind it must be considered; are critics offended by what they see or are they offended by what they perceive the photograph to represent.

Considering this we can perhaps begin to understand the decisions of the individual photographers as to why they have decided on a subject without clothing. All of these pictures challenge the viewer in their own way, whether it be by displaying an alternative image of what childhood is or by offering an unorthodox interpretation of what becoming an adult means.

Mann approaches the subject by offering a realistic and gritty image of children that for many would go against the idealistic view of youth that family photo albums represent and despite their natural appearance many of them are fictions of her creation which may or may not apply to her children.

Image Copyright © Sally Mann

The pictures document the emergence of adult behaviour as much as they display childhood antics and with the book being made over a number of years we are given the opportunity to watch the children grow and develop in a way that the images of our other featured photographers do not. Candy Cigarette may have been carefully composed but it represents a significant change in a child’s life. Here Jessie is pictured holding what may be mistaken for a cigarette if it were not for the title. She holds it as if it were one for in her minds eye it is. Suddenly this sweet treat becomes a tool of rebellion. She is rebelling against the adults she has always been taught to respect.

Her eyes connect with the viewer to make this rebellion as much against them as against her parents and suddenly without knowing it she has commenced her own journey to becoming an adult. Sturges and Hamilton take a different approach and in both artists work the emergence of sexuality can clearly be seen. Sturges does not shy away from addressing this subject in some of his pictures.

Several images show glimpses of children expressing curiosity in each others bodies and in an image of two young boys holding hands we see what may be the photographers wish to photograph the emergence of homosexuality. Holding hands is not a classic trait of any boy and given that all the pictures in Sturges’ books are posed we have to conclude that this action was at the request of the photographer.

David Hamilton places a much more erotic view on the subject. Naturally his work has been the subject of much debate but despite harsh criticism Hamilton continues to produce books at a rate of almost one per year since his 1971 Dreams of a Young Girl, which featured in an exhibition of the same year at the Photographers Gallery entitled Four Masters of Erotic Photography. His pictures are deeply rooted in early romantic examples of art. Well known paintings such as Sleeping Venus by the Italian Renaissance painter Giorgione (1477-1510) is just one example of work that depicted women in the positions that Hamilton’s models assume.

The painting was one of Giorgione’s last works and was completed in 1510 shortly after his death. It is now generally accepted that the landscape and sky were painted by the artist Tiziano Vecellio (1488-1576), better known as Titan whose own painting, Venus of Urbino is strikingly similar.

Giorgione seems to have taken great care when painting his Sleeping Venus. The connection between the shape of the woman’s body and the landscape speak of their relationship as being natural, organic objects. The principle spectator of such images was always assumed to be the man therefore it would be for this audience that the artist would paint. For men the landscape has always been an object of possession and so the women of these paintings immediately became objects of the same kind.  

Due to their similarities this is repeated in Titans painting; Venus loosely clutches a posy of flowers in her right hand. The presence of the flowers is important in a way that may go by unnoticed today. Being red roses they symbolize love and passion but were also considered to be symbolic of the Virgin Mary and so what at first appears to be little more than a handful of plants suddenly becomes a provocation of sexuality; the young woman arrayed in all her natural beauty, her eyes staring directly at the viewer as if unconcerned with her nudity. She is passionate and yet she is also a virgin and as such becomes the object of mans desire, an object that is waiting to be possessed. This is made all the more obvious by the erotic underlying of both paintings; the right arms being held back to expose the breasts and left hand resting provocatively over the vulva which in both cases dominates centre frame.

This romantic way of seeing is recreated in Hamilton’s pictures. Classical poses such as these are not an uncommon sight in many photographs of this nature but is it ethical to apply them to children? What one must consider is the changing nature of what is acceptable. The days of Giorgione and Titan have long since passed and with them their opinions on how people should be depicted. Views on women are one example. The accepted idea of the woman as the subservient figure to man no longer prevails just as the strict morel guidelines concerning children that did not exist then exist today. In this sense surely the romanticised image Hamilton produces has a narrower audience?

In this next photograph we behold the very obvious characteristics of the erotic image; raised arms that that fall back behind the flower adorned head to reveal the body which is cast in seductive light and thoughtfully contrasted against the pale background. However there are more subtle details which we will often subconsciously interpret. The flowers have likely been placed upon her head to emphasis the innocence of the girl and to display her connection to childish things.

Image Copyright © David Hamilton

 This helps to reinforce our understanding of her age and with this in mind we make the association to virginity. It is also important to note that none of Hamilton’s pictures are captioned with the names of the models. Indeed the models remain nameless throughout. Is this not strikingly similar to the two paintings that we have just studied? European art produced many different examples of these types of paintings and the perhaps the most reproduced figure in the genre was Venus. It became the name for the nameless woman and the label for the object of sexual fantasy. By denying the spectator the name of the model Hamilton is presenting us with Venus; the object of sexual desire.

(To be continued).

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