© Cristina De Middel
© Cristina De Middel
With only a few hundred years of history within the Modern Era the United States of America seem now to be facing the decay of their time as a model of civilisation.
More significant than the predictable economic defeat against asian markets, the American way of life is no longer a miraculous recipe for success and well- being.
I personally belong to a generation that has grown surrounded by images, jingles and stories imported from the United States of as valuable cultural assets and now I see how all these models are starting to get rusty.
Documentary projects are normally expected to give a vision of reality with certain accuracy, but in this case it is almost impossible to remain impartial and not to start working on one´s opinion at the basis.
I admit this is just a portrait of a nation builton my own disenchantment, which I guess is common in all of those who have grown up watching Hollywood moviesand repeated themselves hundred times “Just do it” before facing a challenge.
North America put the man on the moon and the atomic bomb into practice. They started and finished wars. They can designate what is evil and what is good with a press conference from the White House and they can even fix the price ofmoney. They own the records and the gold medals and they composed the original soundtrack of the last century.
They can make us dream with our potential as modern citizens but also can make us be ashamed of being humans.
And all this just with only a few hundred years of history within the Modern Era.
© Mar Saez
© Mar Saez
Vera confessed to Victoria that she was transsexual the day they kissed for the first time. It was in a park. It did not change anything. For the four years that they were together, they loved each other as they had never loved anyone before.
For that part of their lives, Vera and Victoria were no longer two people, they merged into one. They built a home together filled with dreams and future projects. Indifferent to the prejudice of others, they surrendered to love and passion.
Vera and Victoria is a visual diary shot between 2012 and 2016 in which I have portrayed the intimate universe of the young couple. A universe in which new facets of a relationship as intense as theirs come to the surface. No better or worse than anyone else.
Far South is the new Far West. The action takes place along the US-Mexico border where three groups on the ground interact in two opposite stories.
The first group is the Arizona Border Recon, a militia that feel the US government has failed to adequately protect the border and have taken it upon themselves to prevent further illegal crossings from Mexico in the US. These is a group of heavily armed citizen that are inflamed by Trump’s rhetoric. Composed mainly by former military or law enforcement individuals they patrol the border, gather intelligence and push back illegal immigrants and drug trafficking.
The second group are NGO’s like Samaritans or Water Station that do exactly the opposite. They are humanitarian organizations that help illegal immigrates that cross the border trying to reduce the thousands of deaths that occur each year, providing water stations in the desert, rising awareness on their condition and their lobby for change in the immigration laws.
The third group is composed by illegal immigrants, “coyotes” and smugglers that try relentlessly to penetrate the US. They are always in balance between the first two groups, between Mexico and the US, between good and bad, between past and future and, too often, between life and death.
Photographers Edoardo Delille and Giulia Piermartiri have followed two stories, one that trails the Arizona Border Recon and one the NGO’s. The man and women composing these groups are, on both sides, tellingly, volunteers. They see their activity as a mission and depending on where you stand in America’s political map you will see one group as heroes and the other as villains.
In a game of hide-and-seek that becomes very real the protagonists of Far South almost never encounter but are all there because of each other. Edoardo and Giulia have followed, interviewed and photographed these three groups trying to understand their motives and capturing them in the imposing landscape that is the backdrop to this national drama.
© Cristina De Middel
© Cristina De Middel
One day, at the age of 16 Dr. Ashok Aswani decided to enter the cinema theatre instead of going to work. He watched 4 times in a row a movie by Charlie Chaplin and left the cinema determined to dedicate his life to honor the character who, he believed, could inspire a whole new generation of Indian men. He lost his job that day but he started what would become biggest parade dedicated to the Tramp.
Dr. Aswani could not be the perfect man because the perfect man works and helps making his country great again. The perfect man wakes up early and goes to work, waves at his wife from the car before getting into the daily traffic jam to go to the office , where he will stay for 8 hours in order to provide for all the family. Charlie Chaplin could not be the perfect man either.
In India the industrial revolution never really started and never really stopped but the Western standard of the new perfect man was imposed and embraced on top of an already elitist cultural structure. The results are confusing.
Using the 10 first minutes of the “Modern Times” movie as the script, this series aims toreflect on the quite unique understanding of masculinity in India and the traditional depiction of both, working conditions and the idea of the perfect male citizen.
Most American universities give their students a week of vacation in the middle of March in order to break the spring semester in half. This so-called “spring break” has become an institution among college students and is considered by many a great excuse to let loose and party. One of the most famous spring break destinations is South Padre Island, located in the southern most part of Texas on the Gulf of Mexico. South Padre Island is known all across the country as a great place to party during spring vacation – in fact, this year it was named as the second most popular spring break destination, after Cancun, Mexico.
During spring break week on South Padre Island, anything and everything goes. The casual observer can see a little of everything – beer bongs on the beach, wet t-shirt contests at the Coca-Cola stage, dancing till dawn at the various clubs on the island. The police are merely a background presence – despite the fact that many of the kids partying on the beach are under 21, drinking laws are not strictly enforced. Many of the students get excessively drunk and the whole scene often becomes general chaos – people passed out on the beach under a blazing hot sun, fights breaking out in the crowd, girls flashing their breasts to collect cheap bead necklaces, street parties that last until dawn even after the clubs have closed at 2 am. It’s a week of promiscuity and exhibitionism, without rules or boundaries. Many students use the excuse of “hey, it’s spring break” to party wildly, far more than they would in their normal environment at home or university.
Discarded Drug Baggies is a three year long project mapping public drug use in South East London through the collection of tiny zip-lock bags that contained a variety illegal substances.
The baggies, branded with interesting imagery; from Bruce Lee to Bob Marley, Bulldogs to Playboy Bunnies, litter the streets of London. Artifacts of social gatherings, pinpoints of illicit acts, remnants of good times, and markers of addiction.
More than 400 baggies were collected mapped and photographed across three South East London boroughs, forming a large fine art collage and individual enlargements of various different baggie designs at various stages of degradation.
These markers to plot areas of prolific drug activity and attempt to ascertain whether any patterns emerge, whether those patterns pertain to the frequency of specific designs in specific places, and whether a specific design is more prevalent in a specific area. What areas and days and times of year baggies were found more or less frequently?
The project draws attention equally to the striking aesthetics of the baggies when enlarged; the branding, the remnants of drugs inside, and the level of degradation to the bag itself; with enlargements showing every dirty detail of the bag and asking questions about its history and in turn the history of those who consumed its contents.
© Joel Redman
© Joel Redman
Death Valley, California perhaps an unusual tourist destination for some, though it has a unique beauty and quietness to it that attracts people to visit from all over the world. The fact that it is one of the hottest places in the world with the highest recorded temperature is not a barrier to tourism and the lure of visiting this great wilderness.
With it’s unusual name stemming from the time of the Californian gold rush, when a group of pioneers whose story would be referred to as the “The Lost 49ers” journeyed across this immense Great Basin desert with some perishing or suffering severe hardship. Leaving the survivors to allude to this expanse through which they had traversed as, Death Valley.
Since the story of these great pioneers, travel and access has made many previously inhospitable wildernesses accessible for people to visit or escape to. When you visit today you still can’t help but feel you have travelled to an immense and unreal world, referenced poetically in Zane Grey’s a “Wanderer of the Wasteland”. “How desolate and grand! The far-away, lonely and terrible places of the earth were the most beautiful and elevating.”
There is undeniably a certain romance to visiting the desert. The idea of wandering off and disappearing into it is a thought that you carry with you at times. Edna Brush Perkins in her travelogue “The Heart of Mojave” remarks on this feeling in the following extract:
“When you are there, face to face with the earth and the stars and time day after day, you cannot help feeling that your role, however gallant and precious, is a very small one. This conviction, instead of driving you to despair as it usually does when you have it inside the walls of houses, releases you very unexpectedly from all manner of anxieties. You are frightfully glad to have a role at all in so vast and splendid a drama and want to defend it as well as you can, but you do not trouble much over the outcome because the desert mixes up your ideas about what you call living and dying.”
Tourism and the accessibility to these many great wildernesses allow us to travel to pretty much wherever we may aspire, though for whatever reason we still endeavor to visit those scenes that are suggested to us from previous travelers, be that the highest peak or the lowest desert basin. The path well travelled and these significant geographical landmarks still conjure an appeal in us and entice us to glimpse them for ourselves.
This project looks at the path well travelled as well as some of the quieter surrounding landscape and history that Death Valley has to offer. Be that the Timbisha Shoshone tribe, who have an area of land recognized as their own after years of struggle, who live alongside the more affluent tourist hub which is Furnace Creek, or the surrounding beauty of the landscape away from the standout geographical highlights. Death Valley and other great wildernesses offer more than just the discernable focal points that initially attract us and unfortunately people forget sometimes to stray from the path.
© Dan Giannopoulos
© Dan Giannopoulos
The UK Bikelife movement is young, but in the past 2 years its growth has been dramatic. Quickly becoming a fully-formed subculture and underground sport scene with hundreds of riders in dozens of groups across London and further afield.
The primary aim of the Bikelife scene is to bring young bikers together to ride, perform tricks and share videos and photos to a large and engaged social media following.
In the eyes of the police, UK Bikelife is just the latest menace to hit the streets of London. The group are seen and often portrayed as a violent criminal gang with a complete disregard for authority, and are allegedly responsible for serious and multiple levels of illegal activity; from unlawfully performing stunts on public roads, to the massive increase in motorcycle theft in London, and the rise in moped snatch-and-grab robberies. They are seen as such a threat to the public that a police task force has been set up to tackle this spike in bike related crime. From using tazers on riders to sending out helicopter surveillance -at much cost – to impounding and destroying bikes for a multitude of vague and tenuous reasons.
However the reality of the UK Bikelife scene is much more complex and far less sinister than the police or mainstream press would have the public believe.
Riders in the scene are predominantly young disaffected males from working class backgrounds who use riding as a means of escape from the harsh realities of daily life. Through social media they can create and curate modern outlaw celebrity images, and as a result they are increasingly idolized by their rapidly expanding following. Parallel to the rise in popularity is the increase in the level to which they are vilified by the media. With regular negative coverage from major news organisations like the BBC, Channel 4 News, The Daily Mail, The Guardian and The Mirror. In 2015 a Halloween rider out event in London saw international coverage.
This series of photographs aims to subvert the stereotype that the riders in the Bikelife scene are bad people doing bad things and aims to instead emphasise their skill and dedication to performing stunts, the strength of their community and bonds, their defiantly British resistance of oppressive authoritative figures as well as the ups and downs of life in the scene from the joys of sharing deep connections with others through bikes to the unity that arises when a member is injured or dies.
© Frank Herfort
© Frank Herfort
Frank Herfort’s photographs are personal invitations to explore self-contained worlds that startle with rich detail and vibrant color. Based in both Berlin and Moscow, Frank has made exploring the contrasts and contradictions of life in contemporary Russia a central focus of his artistic work. Whether situated in the austere, crumbling remains of Soviet society or the opulent homes of modern Russian oligarchs, the spellbinding results demonstrate a singular talent for documentary storytelling. These immersive environments intrigue with people and riveting places seemingly caught out of both time and context.
Wondrous worlds waiting for something to happen. For his project “Russian Fairytales”, the Leipzig-born photographer captured scenes of inner states of the soul in a surreal (artistic) space. The whole world is frozen in a condition of waiting. The people on these photos seem to be totally absorbed in a deep, paralyzing, enchanted slumber. And we have the uncanny sneaking feeling that this time there is no prince on his way to kiss them awake again. “This moment of life here could go on for ever” remarks Frank Herfort. The images make a surreal, absurd impression; they raise more questions than they answer. “The storyline, these absurd constellations, develops out of the relationship between the people in the photos and the space around them,” comments the Leipzig photographer. The seminal idea for it came to him during a stay in Russia two years ago, at a time when he was beginning to develop an interest in the aesthetic aspect of public spaces. “In Western Europe everything is so neatly defined, so specific. A waiting room is a waiting room, an office is an office. In Russia, in contrast, rooms are open to interpretation, many-layered and not so prettified. And I also noticed that there seem to be many more people just sitting around in them. None of them seems at first sight to know what they are doing there. I tried to integrate people like that into my pictures.”For this, Herfort chose subtle settings with people whom he met at the scene and asked whether they would be willing to let him photograph them in the poses he wanted. Thus, in “Russian Fairytales” what we see are not classic portraits and individual emotional states. Herfort makes intuitive use of the often melancholy atmosphere of a location, influenced by building materials such as marble and dark woods, in order to give emotional states and themes such as isolation and stagnation visible expression. He finds the Russian soul mirrored (in a double sense) in these images of the Russian urban population, just as the artist-princes such as Repin or Surikov once did - and finds himself quoting the tradition of the painters almost by accident. The ”fairytale” in these pictures is nothing more than a distant dream of another time, far, far away.
© Carlos Cazalis
© Carlos Cazalis
The American artist Susan Scafati referred to certain experiences and iconography that include notions of right and wrong in our collective global conscious, the way meaning is organized and subject to change, and life’s ability to transform so rapidly that your mind is unable to simultaneously rationalize what you see, and she found that all these were also inherent in the bullfight.
In the book Sangre De Reyes, Carlos Cazalis explores the bullfight alongside the Spanish matador José Tomás, considered the greatest matador that has lived, from a more cultural anthropological approach, following him for nine years through Spain, France and Mexico. It is as much blatantly brutish as it is aesthetically cosmopolitan.
Cazalis has three generations of professional matadors in his family’s dynasty in Mexico. The objective of his book is to exemplify the vitality of death, through the deep and serene bullfighting style of the matador Jose Tomas as much as the strength and nobility of the bull in a cinematic view that evokes simultaneous polarized reactions.
The Pulitzer Prize American author Ernest Becker, might have agreed in “The Denial of Death” that the matador is the prodigal son being sent to his possible death, the immortal symbol that the family, the village, or society at large can attach itself to, face death without taking the risk and thus continue to deny one’s own fate in the unconscious.
Sangre de Reyes is thus a silent hope of images, like the silence that the matador José Tomás exerts in the arena, that moves the masses and the same he has kept now for over a decade in explaining his often brute and then poetic serene calm. Ultimately, it is a kind of disembodiment, a performance reduced to a waist, a wrist. Finally, to spirituality. If it is a disembodiment, it is a paradox because when the horns gore, it’s his body that suffers, and it is that suffering that made him shake hands with his friend the Mexican matador Fernando Ochoa on the operating table of the bullring in Aguascalientes where they were operating on him while he was awake. Awake because anesthesia would have killed him. He was already practically dead.
In retrospect Cazalis says he does not wish to defend the actions of killing, but he knows that the bullfight guarantees the continuous existence of this particular kind of bull. The wild things exist and mankind must not try to tame them all. He found solace in the words of the American activist and naturalist Derrick Jensen, who said that for an endurable and balanced peace, as a rational, thinking, individual being on earth, that consumes both plants and animals for its sole benefit, it is the responsibility of each one of us to ensure the continuity of any species we consume, because everything comes from the earth. Anything else is stupidity.
© Nic Bezzina
© Nic Bezzina
Spanning five years, five countries, and nine unique music festivals. This project turns the camera away from the bands and captures the emotion of the crowd, that amorphous, vibrating creature with a thousand faces. Revealing both the intensity that comes with letting go, as well as the close communities inside which fans can truly be themselves.
Music and society have always been intimately related. When they both come together, it becomes a rite of passage for many people and just one day can create memories that will last long after the stages are dismantled and the bands move on. Live music and festivals are powerful at the individual level because it can induce multiple responses that are physiological, kinetic, emotional, cognitive, and behavioural – sometimes all at once. Few other stimuli have the power to affect such a wide range of human functions.
With all of my projects, I like to consider them from the future. How will people respond to them 30 years from now, or even longer? It becomes an anthropological study on a scene, on a culture, on humanity in a way.
The festivals captured include: Wacken (Germany) Download (UK) Sonisphere (UK) Bloodstock (UK) Hellfest (France) Primavera Music (Spain) Big Day Out (AU) Soundwave (AU)
© Carlos Cazalis
© Carlos Cazalis
Beyond the routine and classic mechanisms that are conceived to orchestrate the novel aspects of life in Cuba and its circumstances, there is a serene and precise approach, that requires a sketchy architecture, of an anthropological mission, in order to penetrate and know the true face of the nation.
The now deceased Cuban scholar and historian Joel James called it, La Cuba Profunda, or Deep Cuba, today a cliché emancipated by every camera that visits the island. In this photographic approach, On Deep Intimacy, curated and edited by the Cuban anthropologist and Santero, Abelardo Larduet, both him and Carlos Cazalis, set out to show an exuberant, colorful and poetic mystery, legitimized and compiled through their mutual collaboration. The result is a contrast of the varied pigmentations of the Cuban, the cultural differences between the countryside and the city; and the latent presence of religious expressions of African substrate, as permanent and tangible traces of the slave route and the cruel colonization of America and of course, of Cuba.
Larduet and Cazalis show an imaginary conception of how Cuban culture might have been created during the colonization period into an agricultural stronghold for sugar, coffee and tobacco up until modern day. Through cultural components and various customs of both Spanish, West African and other Europeans and on why Cuba, despite its hardships due to the material deficiencies and an economic embargo imposed since the beginning of the 1960s, still maintains an international presence with all the cultural splendor that characterizes it.
A language and a message is set, a Deep Cuba extends itself through two years of work from the eastern shores of Guantánamo into the Guajiro countryside, through the intimacy of two opposite families of color; one black, in the hills of Guantanamo amongst sugar cane workers contrasted with the whitening of Holguin and the Canary migration of a farming village in Ciego de Avila. In Santiago de Cuba, alongside Larduet, Cazalis steps into the deep religious customs, rooted from the Haitian post rebellion until he arrives to a decomposed point of the urban Havana. The images thus are an insertion into the framework of what happens today in the modern world.
© Didier Bizet
© Didier Bizet
On the 18th March 2014, it was announced that the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea would unify with the Russian Federation a er a winning “yes” vote in the referendum. Since then, tourism in Crimea has collapsed. In two years, the number of visitors has dropped from six million to less than three million, according to western media. Meanwhile, local press states that more than 6 million tourists have visited the area this year alone. For Ukrainians and the Crimean Tatars, the tourism industry is now a thing of the past. Building sites that had been started before the referendum took place have since been stopped and le abandoned all along the Crimean coast. President Vladimir Putin has moved to restart tourism in Crimea by introducing nancial aid to the Russian community, and by o ering cheap, all-inclusive holiday packages to Russians tourists as an incentive to visit. This in turn could be helped by the construction of a 19km-long bridge that will link Crimea to the mainland by 2019, and already scores of seaside adverts can be seen plastered all over bill- boards. “Investing your rubles in Crimea is a sure bet,” says Martina Cravcova, an estate agent manager in Ayu-Dag. A white, blue and red flag flies from all public buildings and now features on all car registration plates. The atmosphere has completely changed, especially now that Moscow is keeping the peninsula under surveillance yet again and has reintroduced security measures. Zhenya, a Ukrainian woman from Simferopol, testifies that old practices, such as giving up your own neighbours to the authorities, are reemerging now that Crimea belongs to Russia. But sixty two year later Crimea was transferred to the Ukraine, the Russian community can be found relaxing along the Lenin Embankment in Yalta. Street artists and entertainers delight the crowds, while children are having a field day eating their favourite ice creams, and the Russian national anthem could well be the hit of the summer.
© Joel Redman
© Joel Redman
The humble Babassu palm provides a livelihood for communities of women across North Eastern Brazil. Bread, charcoal, oil and soap are produced from the nut and husk; the surplus is sold on. But production has not always been so peaceful.
“Brazil’s Warrior Women” touches on the battle to maintain these communities’ way of life. In the face of intimidation and threats from farmers for years,
Babassu women have negotiated their own terms; creating a grassroots movement and establishing the ‘Free Babassu Law’ in seven states. The law gives landless coconut gatherers rights to collect from palm groves.
In this series states such as Tocantins show how the “Free Babassu Law” can have a positive effect whereas for some in the State of Maranhao the fight continues for access, though with legislation passed the woman are able to fight back.
These inspiring women are now able to plan for the long-term, diversifying their business and securing their future. They fight for their families, their forests and the Amazon as a whole.