vrijdag 25 februari 2011

Lithuania's Richard Billingham? Rural Lithuania Rimaldas Viksraitis Photography

Rimaldas Viksraitis: Grimaces of the Weary Village
These images of abandonment in depressed rural Lithuania mix reportage and voyeurism to surreal and disturbing effect
Sean O'Hagan
The Observer 6 December 2009

A farmer bends over a dead pig with a blowtorch, a chicken perched on his back. A young girl stares out of a window over the decapitated head of a goat. A drunk bites the ear of another drunk who is biting the ear of a pig's head on a plate. Welcome to the strange, frightening and darkly humorous world of Rimaldas Viksraitis, a 55-year-old photographer who travels through the benighted villages of his native Lithuania with a camera tied to his bicycle.

In July, Viksraitis won the prestigious Discovery Award at the Arles photography festival, having been nominated by Martin Parr, who described the work as "slightly insane and wonderfully surreal". That about captures it. The motifs that recur in Viksraitis's work are, in no particular order, chickens, vodka, breasts, dirt, animal carcasses and inebriated, often semi-naked, pensioners. In terms of photographic reference points, Boris Mikhailov's work springs to mind, though his images of a bleak post-Soviet netherworld of alcoholism and madness are altogether harsher and more detached.

The more I looked, the more I was reminded of the early photographs of the Birmingham-born Richard Billingham, who turned his camera so revealingly and startlingly on his own dysfunctional family in his book Ray's a Laugh. There is the same kind of unflinching gaze at work here, and the same kind of intimate identification with the subject. Interestingly, when I ask Viksraitis to name his prime influences, he cites "the films of the Fellini", and, in a sense, he has created his own version of the great director's semi-autobiographical Amarcord in a series of still images that shock and provoke as much as they intrigue.

As his photographs suggest, Viksraitis is quite a character. He was born in 1954 in the village of Sunkariai and contracted tuberculosis as a child. As a result, he is disabled and one senses that his otherness has helped him create these startling images. There is something, too, of the imp about him. When I met him at the gallery before his show opened, I asked why there are so many semi-naked women in his work. He laughed long and hard and had an animated conversation with his translator, Iena, who told me mysteriously: "Rimaldas says that he grew up surrounded by women and knows all their secrets."

Viksraitis graduated in photography from the Vilnius technical school and his mentor is the great Lithuanian photojournalist Antanas Sutkus. For 10 years he worked as a commercial photographer, mainly doing wedding portraits, before receiving a grant from the Lithuanian ministry of culture. He has been photographing his friends and neighbours since 1971, when he first bought an old Soviet Smena 8 camera for 15 roubles. Grimaces of the Weary Village is the latest in a series of wonderfully titled visual narratives that began with Slaughter (1982-1986) and continued with Nude in a Desolate Farm (1991) and This Crazy World (1995).

The social backdrop to these powerful images is the decline of village life since the break-up of the Soviet Union and the attendant disintegration of the local farming system. People drink so much, he says, "because they are lost". He shows me some images of a group of fresh-faced young boys posing in swimming trunks by a river. "I grew up with these people," he says. "I know them since they were children but now the farms have fallen down, the work has gone and they have nothing so they are always drinking. Some of them are in prison from drinking. There is nothing else to do but they do not complain." He identifies some of the boys, now grown-up and broken by circumstance, in the photographs on the wall. There is nothing else to say.

Viksraitis is also, as Parr has pointed out, a storyteller, and a director of his own narratives. In one disturbing image, a man lies in a drunken sleep beside a young boy, who stares unfazed at the camera, a cigarette dangling from his lips. Like the image of the girl and the goat's head, this image occupies that shady hinterland between staged photography and social reportage. Some viewers may find his images voyeuristic, but the drunken abandonment and chaos of the villagers is as telling as the grime and poverty of their living quarters. Many young people have left these villages in search of work in the cities; those left behind seem unmoored. The traditional way of life that sustained them has disintegrated like the barns that stand empty and decaying in the nearby fields.

Revealingly, too, Viksraitis sometimes places himself at the centre of his work. Two of the more mysterious shots are staged tableaux: in the first, he stands naked, his back to the camera, balancing a huge metal bucket on his head; in the second, again naked, he walks in front of a long line of empty bottles. He seems to be saying, I am just like the people I photograph, even as he displays his physical difference. The camera, too, of course, makes him different, signals his detachment from the chaos and disorder around him. He grew up, he says, "between marshes and clay", and now he is an acute and graphic chronicler of that alluvial world, a world that seems to be sinking under the weight of its own sadness and despair.

donderdag 24 februari 2011

Masquerading Rituals in Africa and the Caribbean Phyllis Galembo Photography

Behind the masks: the photographs of Phyllis Galembo

The photographer Phyllis Galembo combines art and anthropology in her celebration of masquerading rituals in Africa and the Caribbean

'I still remember the bric-a-brac that she used to fashion my outfits,' Galembo says. 'This is where my lifelong obsession began. I collected Hallowe'en costumes for over 15 years.'
After studying photography and printmaking at the University of Wisconsin, in the 1970s she began photographing subjects wearing festival costumes. 'I have a lot of pictures of my friends as upside-down Easter baskets,' she says.
Then, in 1985, she travelled to Nigeria to photograph priests and priestesses with their traditional costumes and ceremonial objects. 'I was fascinated by the idea of ritual clothes that had spiritual, transforming power. I followed the story to Haiti, where the priests and priestesses of voodoo are believed to transform via their clothing into magical beings. Once I discovered the Jacmel Kanaval [Haiti's pre-Lenten festival], I felt I had found my metier in the masquerade.'

Masquerading has a long history in Africa. Long before the Europeans arrived the tradition criss-crossed the continent, giving birth to endless variations. Galembo, now a professor of fine art at Albany University in New York, has spent more than 20 years capturing the masquerade's myriad forms, following festivals and carnivals across Nigeria, Benin, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Burkina Faso, and chronicling their re-emergence in places such as Haiti as a result of the African diaspora.
As alien as her images seem, Galembo - who describes her interest as 'both artistic and anthropological' - says that they are only a more strident embodiment of rituals that feature heavily in the West. They are celebrations to give thanks for spring, fertility and prosperity; to banish the threatening forces of the winter; to poke fun at authority figures - they are their Hallowe'en, their harvest festival, their Notting Hill, Rio and Venice carnivals.

In Ghana the tradition began as a party. From the late 19th century Europeans living in the port of Winneba would celebrate New Year by donning masks and dancing at the town's bars. In the early 1920s two local men, Abraham and Yamoah, annoyed at not being invited, created a rival masquerade of their own. They called themselves the Nobles, and made comical costumes that satirised religious figures and local bureaucrats.
Such was their success that rival groups formed, some boasting hundreds of members. By the 1950s Ghana's masquerade had become a national, annual competition. For a week from Boxing Day clusters of outlandish figures march together through the streets all over the country, in costumes that have taken up to a year to create. African masking generally invokes deities, nature spirits and ancestors.
In north-west Zambia, once a year the elders select boys aged between seven and 13 to participate in initiation ceremonies known as Mukanda. Over several months in an isolated bush camp the boys learn about their roles as husbands and fathers. When Mukanda is complete the village celebrates the boys' transformation by calling on ancestral characters known as Likishi. In masks made from beeswax slathered over twigs and cardboard, and body costumes woven from sisal, the Likishi masqueraders perform a frenetic dance to entertain and scare the audience. There are more than a hundred different characters, with new ones added all the time. Some of them reflect the modern world, such as Honda, Helicopter and Airplane.
Galembo's images all follow a similar pattern. She never uses a studio, but seeks out bare walls of houses and clearings in the woods, against which she photographs her subjects, usually full-length. She lights each scene meticulously, setting up her equipment at dawn, then waiting for the masqueraders to arrive.
'Often we would work the day after our first meeting with the local chief, which was usually sweetened with gifts of cash and gin,' she says. 'Masqueraders would then show up in twos or threes, followed by children and onlookers. Once a whole troupe arrived by motorcycle.' Galembo's photographs celebrate, above all, the creativity and ingenuity of the costume-makers, whose skills are passed down through many generations.
They plunder material from tar to lizard excrement, sugar syrup, coal dust, leaves, cowry shells, roots, sisal, gourds and shredded plastic to achieve their effects. Some, particularly in Haiti, use grimy pigments to colour their skin from top to toe, adding real animal skins and even stuffed heads to complete their look.
Galembo's images have now been collected into a book, Maske, introduced by Chika Okeke- Agulu, an assistant professor of art at Princeton University and a native of Umoji in eastern Nigeria, where some of Galembo's photographs were taken.
Masking, he points out, is in decline, suffering from the political, religious and cultural pressures on traditional modes of life. 'What is remarkable is that it has not declined more,' he writes. 'And yet it makes one wonder - with great regret - what knowledge of masking in Africa is now forever lost.'

maandag 21 februari 2011

Paul Graham Beyond Caring Bart Sorgedrager's Choice of Company Photobooks Photography

Between 1984-85, Paul Graham put together Beyond Caring, a series of photographs of English dole offices, whose angry depiction of the grim reality of unemployment in the mid-1980s pulled no punches:

These photographs are all the more remarkable for the fact that they were taken undercover: such was the difficulty in doing this without being discovered he wasn’t even able to look through the viewfinder for a number of the images and had to compose instinctively, with his camera buried inside his coat.
The book’s almost impossible to get hold of: my local library had its copy nicked, the British Library have struggled to source one, and the cheapest second hand copy listed on Amazon is £375. If by some minor miracle you know of a copy that’s at a loose end please get in touch.
In certain respects the world of Beyond Caring is a far cry from that of the modern job centre. Savvy interior designers have stepped in and replaced the chipped paint, graffiti and fag-burned carpets with a glossy IKEA aesthetic that’s more Hollyoaks than Boys From The Blackstuff. You tell me what this says about the benefits system, the people who run the country, or the state of the nation, because I don’t know.
The Paul Graham Archive is the online resource for his work...

Books on Books #9
Paul Graham: Beyond Caring
Essays by David Chandler, Jeffrey Ladd
Hardcover w/ Dustjacket
104 pp, 9.5 x 7 in.
50 Color illustrations
ISBN: 978-1-935004-16-5

Paul Graham's Beyond Caring published in 1986 is now considered one of the key works from Britain's wave of "New Color" photography that was gaining momentum in the 1980s. While commissioned to present his view of "Britain in 1984," Graham turned his attention towards the waiting rooms, queues and poor conditions of overburdened Social Security and Unemployment offices across the United Kingdom. Photographing surreptitiously, his camera is both witness and protagonist within a bureaucratic system that speaks to the humiliation and indignity aimed towards the most vulnerable end of society. Books on Books #9 presents every page spread of Graham's controversial book along with a contemporary essay by writer and curator David Chandler.

zondag 20 februari 2011

AkzoNobel A Magazine Wibo Bakker's Choice of Company Photobooks Photography

AkzoNobel A Magazine 2010 5

AkzoNobel is the largest global paints and coatings company and a major producer of specialty chemicals.
We supply industries and consumers worldwide with innovative products and are passionate about developing sustainable answers for our customers.
Our portfolio includes well known brands such as Dulux, Sikkens, International and Eka. Headquartered in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, we are a Global Fortune 500 company and are consistently ranked as one of the leaders on the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes.
With operations in more than 80 countries, our 55,000 people around the world are committed to excellence and delivering Tomorrow’s Answers Today™.

zaterdag 19 februari 2011

Staatsmijnen Wereld van Groei Wibo Bakker's Choice of Company Photobooks Photography

Wereld van groei- Ontstaan en uitbreiding van de Staatsmijnen

Vada, Wageningen, Netherlands, 1962. 3 ed. 182 p. illustr. sm,8vo. Dutch. Fotoboek over de Staatsmijnen met een 3-D verrassing.

See also Nico Jesse Oranje Nassau Mijnen ... &  Carel Blazer 4 Gaten in de Grond ...

Wibo Bakker audio (Dutch) ...

woensdag 16 februari 2011

Frank van der Salm Leporello Interpolis 2006 Bart Sorgedrager's Choice of Company Photobooks Photography

Frank van der Salm Leporello Interpolis, commission by Interpolis/Hans Meijs Tilburg, NL

Interpolis is one of largest insurance companies in the Netherlands. The company has gained wide recognition with its advertising campaign"Interpolis.Crystal clear". Besides financial compensation, Interpolis also offers compensation in kind.

In addition to insurance, Interpolis is also known for its special outlook on work. No one at Interpolis has their own fixed place of work. The employees can select a place of work that is best suited to them and to the work that they do. Special areas called ‘club houses’ have also been created at the Interpolis head office, each with its own particular atmosphere. In these club houses the Interpolis employees can combine various daily activities, such as working, consulting, meeting people, relaxing and eating. The flexible working concept led to a cultural transition at Interpolis. That is because flexible working is not just a matter of moving some furniture around. Flexible working must also become embedded in the way you think and act. Employees at Interpolis do not have to clock in. The motto at Interpolis is: as long as the work gets done. Whether that is done from home or at the office is something the employees can decide for themselves. Interpolis is a pioneer of teleworking in the Netherlands. At the moment about 2,500 employees work from home several days a week.

Frank van der Salm (Delft, 1964)
Lives and works in Rotterdam (The Netherlands)

Studied at the Delft Polytechnic in the early 80's and the Rotterdam Art Academy in the early 90's.

Early influences include the New Topographics, but since his photoworks have developed greatly and evolved into a diverse oeuvre around the control of landscape, the lack of space, the infrastructural issues and the visual characteristics of the pressure on time and space in contemporary urban metropolises around the world. The dualistic position of photography itself (the original vs. the copy) in a media-heavy society has become one of the key elements in his photoworks.

Works on projects with architects like O.M.A. (Rem Koolhaas) and Herzog & de Meuron, among others. His photoworks are published widely and have been exhibitied in galleries and museums worldwide, among which the Biennale of Venice, Italy (2001) and Haunch of Venison, Zürich, Switzerland (2005).