© Guillaume Bonn
© Guillaume Bonn
For the last few years I have struggled with the notion of what it means to be a documentary photographer. I feel that people put you in a box with a label and that’s all you are allowed to be. However I have always been interested in the concept of the aesthetic and always was inspired by fashion.
For some time now I have been deconstructing my approach to photography so that the visual experience is purely aesthetic rather than based on telling a story.
I could sum up this process by asking myself how could I photograph without being a story teller or how can I just take a picture without meaning just for its beauty?
I have largely failed in this process, but it has launched me on a different path. I feel that my photography has grown in the process. Recently, while researching human-wildlife conflict in Kenya, I came across a story that finally allowed me to mix fashion with documentary.
The abysmal number of elephants and rhinos that are being shot every month for their tusks and horns is well documented. Yet despite global pressure the situation remains critical. The reality of the situation is more complex than what is generally understood. This war is a contest for resources fuelled by both marginalized and privileged sections of society. Impoverished men whose families have lived side by side with wild animals for generations turn to poaching to feed their families. They incidentally also help fuel the demand for horn and tusk by wealthy Asians.
In the process of my research I found that privately owned and managed game reserves are doing a better job at protecting their wildlife than the government-run National parks. However, I was not expecting to see how militarized the anti- poaching war had become. Well-equipped and highly trained game rangers are fighting organized international crime rings on a daily basis. That’s when I realized that all my questioning about photography, aesthetic, documentary and fashion had brought me to this exact moment where I could use it all to tell an important story. The best way to do so, I thought, was to isolate the rangers from the field, where they track and apprehend poachers, often having to return fire in deadly contacts.
I photographed them against a white background in full gear just moments before being deployed for their night patrols and later decided to use a red veil over the picture to symbolise the bloodbath that animals and rangers have both suffered. That way I could also show how what they dress themselves with – from camouflage gear to tree branches – is a creative process of achieving invisibility for self-preservation. In a way, my photographs strip them of that camouflage the importance of the clothes they wear, taking the camouflage out of the camouflage by shining a light on people who don’t want to be seen.
Unlike fashion this is no story of beauty and illusion but like fashion the clothes are the essential element that is telling an important story that everyone needs to know.
© Elin Berge
© Elin Berge
The exhibition Queejna/Queen shows women with different backgrounds and opportunities in a number of photographic works by Elin Berge taken between 2004 – 2018. The women portrayed have in common that they are often seen as provoking to their surroundings or perceived as victims for social and/or religious norms in society. The photographs ask questions like: What is real love? What is male/female? Who is entitled to the female body?
The title of the exhibition Queejna/Queen showcases the duality of the word queejna, which the Västerbotten-born writer Sara Lidman used in the meaning of ”woman”. The word queejna can also mean the “queen of the house”, i.e. a powerful woman, as she applied it when she described Hagar, the wild independent woman in the epic The Railway. Hagar was also called ”främmenqueejna”, which, with a postmodern interpretation, can be read as ”The Other”. Berge has with her camera sought to find groups of women that, in different ways, are dealt with as ”The Other”, thus embracing Sara Lidmans term Queejna.
Berge uses her camera to look for alternative interpretations of an apparently obvious situation. The photographs return our gaze to ourselves. What do we really think about the women’s life choices and what does it tell us about ourselves as observers? The exhibition includes, among other things, portraits of young Muslim women in the project Veils, which testify to how a hijab can provide freedom in a sexist community. The work challenges a general view of the veil as a religious symbol and we ask ourselves who is free or oppressed in society. In the same room as the exhibition is the work The Awakening which portrays a group of women who find the freedom to affirm their naked bodies. The groups may seem far apart, but on closer inspection, have something in common in their longing for being a woman without the condemnatory view of society. In the series The Land of Queens and The Kingdom, the image of Thai women who emigrated to our country and married Swedish men is nuanced. The work explores major questions about migration, power structures, freedom of choice as human beings, welfare and love.
Through Berge’s eyes, all women appear as individuals in their own right. She focuses on their actions and strengths, even in a reality that includes oppressive structures. For future generations of young women and men, a nuanced image of our world is important as an injection against prejudices, which can contribute to a more tolerant environment.
In the exhibition Queejna/Queen, Berge shows pictures from the previous series Suicide Girls (2004), Veils (2006), Bare Breasts (2008), The Land of Queens (2009) and The Kingdom (2015), and newer works like Predators (2018) and The Awakening (work in progress).
Texts: Susanne Fessé
In the series Predators, Elin Berge portrays women hunting elk in the forests of Västerbotten. These photographs show strong, proud and confident people in a historical male domain. Neither fear or worry is seen in their eyes when they control nature and death. Their big rifles, the colossal animals, the blood on their hands, and a thick fog in the ancient forests further contribute to creating a sense of human strength and security.
The environment, a sublime forest landscape in which only people with significant knowledge of nature would survive without today's modern techniques, cement the sense of control among the depicted women. A hunter provides food for his or her family, by going out into the forest to kill animals.
When women take this position, it is still something that makes some people stop and reflect on accustomed structures in society. In one of the photographs, an elderly woman is holding a severed elk's head in front of her body. This photograph has a deeper meaning to the young girls who grow up today, a strong role model and an opportunity to question accustomed patterns and predetermined thinking about what is female and male.
In a number of works, Elin Berge depicts how different groups of women want to reclaim the right to their own bodies and change the way other people see them. Pre-conceived notions concerning nudity, liberation, and seeing the veil as either an oppressive symbol or a protective tool, are represented here as women's collective desire to have power over their own bodies.
The group depicted in the series Bare Breasts claims the right to go to, among many places, public bathhouses with a nude upper body. The series The Awakening shows a group of women that come together in spiritual gatherings to embrace their sexuality and their bodies.
The series Veils depicts young Muslim women who all carry hijabs, a religious symbol but also an opportunity for bodily freedom in a sexualized world. The photographs in the series Suicide Girls show women belonging to alternative sub-cultures, who by showing themselves in nude pictures online, want to broaden the common concept of what female sexuality can look like.
Elin Berges work raises questions about the body’s neutrality and how far you can go before the line is crossed and it turns into provocation. The women’s attire/nudity gives us a nuanced view on bodily freedom.
In Sweden, there is nearly 30 000 people that are born in Thailand, most of them women. In the series The land of Queens and The Kingdom, we get to meet people from two rural areas, Västerbotten in Sweden and Isaan in north-eastern Thailand, who's fates have been linked together in a dream of a mutually life.
The subject “migration marriage”, or in popular speech called “love migration”, is seen by many as provocative. Elin Berge wanted to try to understand the driving force behind the decision to establish oneself in a new environment, culture and family. Many of the women in the project share their dreams of a better life, the will to mean something to your family and the thought of breaking the chains of an earlier life situation.
The photographs seem to approach the question – what is real love? There are many answers but none of them are easy.
Elin Berge has, for over ten years, followed women who have lived in Sweden for a long time as well as those who have just arrived. The work depicts happiness and disappointment, daily chores and holidays. Women and men who all long for safety, love and respect show a nuanced picture. The photographs highlight that simple answers can evoke important questions about love and life.
© David Maisel
© David Maisel
In 1983, Maisel was in the midst of his studies towards a degree in architecture, and was also working closely with his photography professor, Emmet Gowin. Gowin invited Maisel to accompany him on a photographic expedition to the volcano Mount St. Helens, which had erupted several years earlier.
At Mount St. Helens, Maisel was captivated not only by the natural disaster of the volcano, which released energy equivalent to 27,000 times the atomic blast over Hiroshima, but also by the equally potent and cataclysmic energy with which the logging industry was clear-cutting the area and transforming the landscape. He found the biblical scale of this man-made systematic industrialization chilling, especially when seen from the air.
At Mount St. Helens, Maisel first encountered the apocalyptic sublime – a sense of the landscape as a site of earth-shattering events, both literally and metaphorically – and this experience set the course for much of his future work.
© Tine Poppe
© Tine Poppe
A science-fiction notion of a European's fascination with the post-human and unreal feeling of the American desert and urban landscapes. The images created, inspired and exaggerated by the 2016 US presidential election and it's possible worst outcome. All image titles are Donald Trump quotes.
Honourable Mention IPA AWARDS 2016
© Susana Raab
© Susana Raab
Empleada, niñera, nana, chacha, muchacha – these are the names identifying the domestic workers of South America, signifying employee, nanny, cleaning person, cook, servant. It is a shock for some foreigners to realize the ubiquity of the empleada in Latin American life. “We cannot live without our empleadas,” many a Limeña has told me. And in developing economies, where the stratification of rich and poor is vast, these occupations do allow some women to come from the countryside and study in the city, and improve their prospects and potential. “Música de Plancha” a Latin American ballad form is so called because of it’s popularity among servants performing household tasks (ironing music).
Trabajadores del Hogar" (domestic workers) occupy one of the lowest stratums of Peru's very hierarchal social system. A significant portion of these employees come from indigenous communities in Peru's interior provinces, seeking opportunity, education, and support for their families in the provinces, they are reliant on the benevolence of their employers to not exploit them. Their continued existence is emblematic of the institutionalization of oppression of racial minorities in Peru. It is estimated that there are at least half a million women who work as domestic workers in Peru, with approximately 67% of that. number working in Lima. Yet the Law of Household Workers (Law Nº 27986) protecting their rights and establishing employment guidelines has only been on the books since 2003. While this law guarantees them rights of renumeration, social security and pensions, and maximum working hours (48 hours/week) it does not guarantee a minimum wage and many employees are unaware of their rights to this day. The Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations (MIMP) reported that for 2017 50% have social security and 46% health insurance, indicating a disparity between rights and compliance to Law No. 27986.
More recently groups like Casa Panchita, a social service organization dedicated to education and support of domestic workers and other groups are raising awareness of the plight of household laborers. In the exclusive seaside resort of Asia, ninety kilometers south of Lima, where household workers were forbidden from swimming in the beach until after 7 pm, a January 28, 2007 protest "Operativo Empleada Audaz" (Operation Bold Employee) called for the elimination of discriminatory restrictions for "empleadas del hogar" (household servants). Members of human rights organizations, artists, and household employee social service organizations dressed in the uniforms of household servants and entered the private beachside community to fight "ethnic, social, and cultural discrimination prevailing in Peru" according to the Mesa Contra Racismo, a human rights organization. With chants of "The beach belongs to everyone and not the racists," and uniformed girls affirming, "We are employed and we are citizens!" the crowd formed a human chain along Playa Asia demanding equal access to Peru's beaches.
Yet the prevailing public attitude of disdain remains: All over Lima, "Nanas" or nannies and other empleadas gather to watch over their young charges and chat in the public parks of the upscale neighborhoods of Miraflores and San Isidro. A 2015 op-ed in Lima's paper of record, El Commercio, discussed a prevailing attitude among some Limeñas regarding these public gatherings of Peru's domestic servants: "My mom always complains about the park because there are too many nannies." The statement is exemplary of the inchoate attitudes towards these working class peoples right to exist in the public sphere. The displeasure at the sight of lower-class workers congregating in the performance of their duties is the manifestation of a silent but tangible prejudice. There are more overt signs of discrimination as well: Some Limeño private clubs have been accused of perpetuating the indignities against domestic employees by demanding that they utilize separate bathrooms. "They say we have germs," asserts Enrestina Ochoa Lujan, vice president of Sintrahogarp (the National Trade Union of Domestic Workers of Peru.)
It is difficult to watch them, hovering on the periphery of family life, integral and seemingly invisible. Do they accept this fate as inevitable? Or consider themselves lucky to be part of a well-known family? Are they resigned to a situation where all they have ever known is lack of access to education and wealth-building? I cannot help but see similarities to the Jim Crow South in the United States, and wonder what it will take to provide greater opportunities to the lower classes that are so often disdained by those they serve. These photographs were taken during many visits to Lima over the past ten years.
© David Tesinsky
© David Tesinsky
This is the story of the women fighting the war in the east of Ukraine - in Donetsk and Luhansk region. Some women are only 22 years old, many of them are fighting against Russia since they are 18.
Photographer David Tesinsky spent time with the female warriors documenting the struggle. The tensions in the Donetsk and Luhansk region, Ukraine are very evident with regular shooting. Russia is dependent on Ukraine and the whole thing seems to be a "hybrid war" since ex president of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych turned against Ukraine and started to support Russia and this conflict.
Acknowledge support from international Visual Art Project Ukraine: Tiding Over
© Stefano Majno
© Stefano Majno
Crossing the tiny coastal country of Abkhazia, a Caucasian time capsule protecting the architectural soviet heritage within its borders dissolved elsewhere by the sun of the disintegration of the communist empire.
Abkhazia historically has always been the soviet riviera with the highest concentration of sanatoriums and hotels in the Black sea area but after the expulsion of more than 250,000 Georgians most of the new nation is uninhabited and abandoned. More than two decades after the Soviet Union’s collapse, the three-sided conflict involving breakaway Abkhazia, Georgia and Russia is far from a solution and the year 2017 marks the 25th anniversary of the beginning of the Georgian-Abkhaz war in 1992-1993.
Abkhazia, autonomous republic in northwestern Georgia declared independence in 2008, nowadays only a few countries recognize the new nation among which Russia that maintains a military presence in the region. In recent years, Abkhazia has drifted closer and closer to Russia and in 2009 Moscow signed a five-year agreement with Abkhazia to take formal control of its frontiers.
© Max Aguilera Hellweg
© Max Aguilera Hellweg
In 1997, a one page article was published in the journal Science, “Addiction is a Disease of The Brain, and It Matters.” Written, by Alan Leshner, Director, of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Leshner’s paper, was the first to make the case and bring forth the notion, that addiction was a disease of the brain. Leshner based his claim on recent advances in neuroscience, citing research that, “virtually all drugs of abuse (had) common effects, either directly or indirectly, on a single pathway deep within the brain.” Known as the reward pathway, “activation of this system appears to be a common element in what keeps drug users taking drugs.” Further, Leshner wrote, “prolonged drug use cause(d) pervasive changes in brain function that persist long after the individual stops taking the drug,” and cited significant effects of chronic use that had been identified, “molecular, cellular, structural, and functional. The addicted brain,” he wrote, “is distinctly different from the non-addicted brain in brain metabolic activity, receptor availability, gene expression, and responsiveness to environmental cues,” and summed up his argument, now and forever forward know as the brain disease model of addiction, stating, “that addiction is tied to changes in brain structure and function is what makes it, fundamentally, a brain disease.” Proclaiming addiction a medical problem in 1997, was like comparing alcoholism to diabetes, indeed that is exactly what it is, and does not conform to our common held beliefs and views— that drug addicts and alcoholics are weak, bad people, immoral, persons lacking an ability to control oneself, people who just can’t “say no.” Leshner confronted this issue in his landmark article, “The gulf in implications between the “bad person” view and the “chronic illness sufferer” view is tremendous. There are many people who believe that addicted individuals do not even deserve treatment.” Twenty years have passed since the brain disease model for addiction was introduced. It remains not widely known by the general public, nor is it fully known or accepted by the medical profession or those making public policy. The implications are indeed tremendous— we are in the midst of an Opiate Crisis in America, and its far more easy for a doctor to write a prescription opiate pain killers, yet far more difficult for a doctor to write one for.
Methadone, an opiate that does not get addicts “high”, but is used as maintenance therapy, much like insulin for diabetics, to get addicts through the day, and get them off heroin. Addiction remains so poorly understood, last year, the newly elected president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, vowed to kill 3 million addicts (having already killed an estimated 3,000 in the first few months his presidency.) NIDA has focused their research not just on the brain, but on genetics — looking for a genetic link, they’ve not found one yet; and on the behavioral and social mechanisms involved. But their core research remains focused on the brain. And addiction researcher has been focused on finding targets for treatment in the brain. Baclofen, a generic medication used to treat muscle spasms, was accidentally found to treat cocaine addiction by a paralyzed cocaine addicted patient at the University of Pennsylvania in the late 1990s, and was found to cure alcoholism, by an alcoholic treating himself in Paris; the use of Transmagnetic Stimulation to treat cocaine addiction, was stumbled by chance by a researcher in Padua, Italy. All three treatments work by actions on the Dopamine Reward Pathway and related circuitry in the brain, but not all is understood, and more work and much more continues to be done. Another major area of focus is the Pre-Frontal Cortex. What researchers found in the Pre-Frontal Cortex the area of the brain involved in judgement and decision making— and these findings have been identified across the broad range of substances of abuse and the behavioral addictions. There is a reason why addicts make poor decisions for themselves. A crucial if not fundamental necessity of current addiction research is to eliminate the stigma of addiction and promote wider recognition of addiction as a chronic, relapsing brain disease. When this happens, a new era of addiction treatment and how we view addicts and reatment will be upon us.
© Alice Mann
© Alice Mann
These images focus on the drum majorettes at Dr Van Der Ross Primary School, located in one of the poorest areas of Cape Town, where gang violence and drug abuse is prevalent. At the school and in the wider community, there is an aspirational culture around school’s team, affectionately known as the ‘drummies’.
While there have been various debates around the notions of femininity that drum majorettes represent, at many South African schools, it is taken seriously as a competitive sport. For the girls at this school, being a ‘drummie’ is a privilege and an achievement, indicative of success on and off the field. It gives them a positive focus and sense of belonging, providing them with structure in a community where opportunities are limited. ‘Drummies’ is vehicle through which they can excel.
This is part of my on-going work, exploring notions of femininity and empowerment in modern society. I hope to communicate the pride and confidence that these girls have achieved through identifying as ‘drummies’ in a context where they face many social challenges.
© Richard John Seymour
© Richard John Seymour
Humans have always adapted to their environment, and adapted their environments to suit themselves, but we are now adapting our planet to fulfil the will of global forces, market movements, and political manifestations. This is an environment shaped not by natural movements, but by ideologies. In this context the role of land, city, and economy are becoming inseparable as a globalised system that the individual is left with no choice but to find a place within.
Continuing his long-term and ongoing body of landscape work, BAFTA nominated film-maker and photographer Richard John Seymour’s newest project brings Romania into focus. After being awarded the Romanian Cultural Institute Grant for Foreign Journalists in 2015, he travelled there to focus on the environmental issues of a country still dealing with the trauma of communism and post-industrialisation.
From the underground Salt Mines discovered in the 11th century now used as a subterranean theme park, to Europe’s largest onshore wind farm, to entirely submerged villages sacrificed for the gain of a nearby Copper Mine, to the sites of the ‘worst environmental disaster in Europe since Chernobyl’, Romania’s landscape is filled with narrative, contradiction, and projections of failed and future visions for a better (or more profitable) world.
Referencing techniques of 19th century painters to carry allegory and narrative through depictions of landscape, Cartographies of Man aims to question the nature of landscape in the 21st century and bring into discussion issues surrounding the environment, our conception of it, and ultimately our compatibility with our own planet.
© Mathias Depardon
© Mathias Depardon
Hotan is an important city on the southern branch of the Silk Road. It’s a Saturday night evening. I’m in the city since several days and my flight back to Urumqi has been canceled due to a sand storm in the region. It’s been 3 weeks I’m in Xinjiang photographing the Chinese Wild West.
China's Xinjiang province is the country's most westerly region, bordering on the former Soviet states of Central Asia, as wellas several other states including Afghanistan, Russia, and Mongolia. The largest ethnic group, the Muslim, Turkic-speaking Uighurs, has lived in China's shadow for centuries. The region has had an intermittent history of autonomy and occasional independence, but was finally brought under Chinese control in the 18th century.
My hotel located on the People’s Square (The City main square) of the city where a big statue of Mao Zedong is hand shaking a local Uighur. For this small city of Southern Xinjiang mostly inhabited by Uighurs the People’s Square represent a large perimeter with an invisible border dividing the square into two parts, the Uighurs and the Han Chinese with this occasion armed Chinese military all around and in the middle of the square. On one part of the square the Han Chinese are into their Tango dance classes with speakers bursting Chinese Tango music. On the other side a traditional Uighurs show, with traditional music, costumes and dance is taking place at the bottom of the Statue of Mao on a permanent stage.
The situation, which may appear quite surrealist for a foreigner, seems totally normal for the locals which share this music chaos and fake appearance of cross culture which rather seem like culture assimilation is in fact the essence of fraction and division of a society in this part of Western China.
In the 2000 census Han Chinese made up 40 per cent of the population of Xinjiang, excluding large numbers of troops stationed in the region and unknown numbers of unregistered migrants, and Uighurs accounted for about 45 per cent.
Economic development of the region under Communist rule has been accompanied by large-scale immigration of Han Chinese, and Uighur allegations of discrimination and marginalization have been behind more visible anti-Han and separatist sentiment since the 1990s. This has flared into violence on occasion these past years.
International attention turned to Xinjiang in July 2009 when bloody clashes between Uighurs and Han Chinese in the region's main city, Urumqi, prompted the Chinese government to send large numbers of troops to patrol the streets. Nearly 200 people were killed in the unrest, most of them Han, according to officials.
Protests against Chinese rule had already emerged in the 1990s, to which the Chinese authorities reacted forcefully. Protests resumed in March 2008 in the cities of Urumqi and Hotan, and spread to Kashgar and elsewhere through the summer - coinciding with the Olympic Games in Beijing. There were reports of bus bombings and attacks on police stations.
Beijing has sought to deal with the unrest with a mix of repression and efforts to stimulate the region's economy, including through increased investment by state-owned firms.
© Norman Behrendt
© Norman Behrendt
Brave New Turkey is based on a conceptual approach to documenting newly built mosques in a Neo-Ottoman-Style in the urban landscape of Ankara and Istanbul.
Since 2015, Norman Behrendt has regularly travelled to Turkey and visited the sprawling suburban districts of both cities. These rapidly built, endless suburban high-rise developments are a manifestation of Turkey’s economic boom. Along with massive housing construction has come a second massive construction project: mosques. Behrendt’s work reflects this phenomenon as a symbol of change and power that reaches beyond national borders.
Returning Turkey to the glories and origins of its Ottoman past and ending Atatürk’s secular constitution has been one of the primary goals of Recep Erdoğan throughout his long rule of Turkey since 2003, first as prime minister and now as president with growing executive powers. Thanks to the country’s recent economic boom, the AKP, Erdoğan’s party, has improved healthcare, urban infrastructure and prosperity, but on the other hand has also made control of religious affairs a priority. The Diyanet (Directorate for Religious Affairs) fulfills this role and helps to legitimize the religious backswing of Turkey. In less than a decade, its budget has quadrupled to over $2 billion per year, and it employs over 120,000 people, making it one of Turkey’s largest institutions — bigger than the Ministry of Interior.
In recent years the Diyanet has become a political instrument for the government to reshape Turkey and intensify control over the people. The Diyanet is the main investor for thousands of the newly built mosques in Turkey and abroad. As most of them are built in a Neo-Ottoman style with their distinctive domes and minarets, they follow precisely the architectural tradition of Mimar Sinan (1490 - 1588), the master of classical Ottoman architecture. Since 1987, the number of mosques in Turkey has grown from 60,000 to more than 85,000 in 2013, an increase of almost 1,000 mosques per annum.
The newly constructed mosques attest the evident political influence on urban planning, but more importantly on Turkish society. Brave New Turkey is less about architecture in a classical sense, but rather how architecture reflects power and how ideologies are manifested in it. It reflects a newly tied compound of religious and cultural identity, against the backdrop of a constant exclusion of minorities, a reckless fight against those whose convictions are different and an unresolved question of what is Turkish identity?
© David Maisel
© David Maisel
For more than three decades, Maisel's work has considered how human-made spaces are politicized and transformed through processes of industrialization, geo-engineering, and militarization. Proving Ground is a photographic investigation utilizing documentation, abstraction, and time-based media of the classified military landscape of Dugway Proving Ground.
In 2003, while making aerial photographs around Utah’s Great Salt Lake as part of his Terminal Mirage series, he encountered a site in the Tooele Valley, near the western slope of the Oquirrh Mountains. Positioned along the desert floor in uniform rows were hundreds of small buildings. What Maisel eventually learned about this gridded array was extraordinary — the buildings comprise the Tooele Army Depot, and they hold thirty million pounds of ageing chemical weapons, including mustard gas and nerve agents such as sarin and tabun.
Learning about the transformation of the region’s landscape into a repository of weapons of mass destruction triggered many questions. And those questions—pertaining to issues of chemical and biological weapons, land use in the American West, how space becomes militarized and politicized, the ways in which such sites are made off-limits, and thereby invisible—led directly to Dugway Proving Ground, some 45 miles southwest of Tooele.
Since its inception in 1942, Dugway has been devoted to the development and testing of chemical and biological weapons and defense programs. It is a site of dark creativity, used by the military to design the shape of conflicts and wars to come. Dugway’s isolated setting in Utah’s Great Salt Lake Desert, in tandem with its scale of some 800,000 acres (larger than the state of Rhode Island), make it particularly suited to working with virulent substances like anthrax, sarin, plague, the botulinum toxin, and other chemical and biological agents. Despite its massive size, Dugway remains nearly invisible: not only is it located, by necessity, in an extremely remote area, but it is rarely discussed in the media and is almost entirely closed to civilian visitors. On aeronautical charts, the militarized airspace of Dugway is labeled “Restricted R-6402 A” and pilots are cautioned of “Special Military Activity.” Despite these obstacles to access, upon learning of its existence and its mission, I became captivated by the idea of making photographs there.
In 2004, Maisel's initial request to the Pentagon for permission to photograph Dugway was denied. In 2013, he met Richard Danzig, a former Secretary of Navy and chairman of the Center for a New American Security, a think tank focused on national security issues. Maisel presented him with a copy of his book, Black Maps: American Landscape and the Apocalyptic Sublime, and described his interest in looking at Dugway in similar terms, as part of the evolution of the American West. Danzig introduced Maisel to James Petro, the Pentagon’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Chemical and Biological Defense. In 2014, with his support, David Maisel received permission from the Pentagon to make photographs at Dugway Proving Ground, provided he was “comfortable with a few requirements that they have to ensure everyone’s safety, security, and continued success of their ongoing activities.”
Every site he has been permitted to photograph thus far at Dugway Proving Ground has been highly vetted by layers of military personnel, and Maisel is accompanied at all times by a military representative. However, he has also been granted an extraordinary degree of access to work in zones that are otherwise restricted from civilian view. Maisel began by photographing from the ground, focusing on structures related to the testing of chemical warfare dispersal patterns, as well as high-tech laboratories devoted to the detection and decontamination of chemical and biological toxins. More recently, he has shifted to an aerial perspective, making photographs of biological test grids and dispersal patterns inscribed directly into the raw desert floor. Looking down from above reveals colossal weapons testing sites that are carved into the land, nested circles and crosshatched grids, as though the abstract drawings of Agnes Martin or Sol Lewitt have been taken to a poisonous extreme. The gridded landscape becomes a measuring device against which dispersal rates, toxicity levels, and threats to the human body are measured.
Proving Ground investigates the colonization, militarization, and mutation of the desert of the American West into a repository for toxic substances. Maisel wishes to question the ideological forces yielding these changes, and to underscore the need for greater understanding of how these transformations – both physical and political – occur.
There is a myth of the American West that Proving Ground seeks to interrogate: the national frontier as a locus of the pure and the sublime, or as a setting for what the photographer Robert Adams has termed “a landscape of mistakes.”
At the crux of Proving Ground lies the question of what we demand from the land of the American West. What needs does it fulfill, and to what has it been sacrificed? Dugway is a strangely compelling terra incognita that offers the opportunity to reflect on who and what we are collectively, as a society. In the more than thirty years that Maisel has made photographs of contested sites throughout this region, none has seemed to encapsulate the difficult and problematic realities of our present day as much as Dugway Proving Ground.
© Filippo Venturi
© Filippo Venturi
Between 1905 and 1945 Korea was dominated by the Japanese, thus becoming a colony of the Empire. In 1945, after Japan's defeat, Korea was involved in the Cold War and became an object of interest for the USA, the URSS and lately for China as well. This brought to the division of the country in two along the 38th parallel and to the Korean War between 1950 and 1953. On the 27th of July of 1953, an armistice was signed but a declaration of peace never followed, leaving the country in a permanent state of conflict.
North Korea is officially a socialist State with formal elections but in fact, it is a totalitarian dictatorship based on the cult of the Kim dynasty, practically an absolute monarchy. Since 1948 the country was ruled by Kim Il-Sung, the “Great Leader”; in 1994 his son, Kim Jong-II the “Dear Leader” succeeded him and until in 2011 Kim Jong-Un, his son, the “Brilliant Comrade” became Supreme Leader.
North Korea is one of the most secluded countries in the world, we know little about it and the citizens' rights are subdued to the country's needs. Citizens have no freedom of speech, media are strictly controlled, you can travel only with authorization and it is not allowed to leave the country. The few foreign travellers who get the visa can travel the country only with authorized Korean guides, who have also the task of controlling, censoring and finding spies.
Pyongyang, the capital, is the centre of all the resources and the country's ambition to boast a strong and modern façade (the rest of North Korea is composed of countryside, rice-fields and villages usually with no water, electricity or gas).
The continuous and incessant propaganda against the US portraits the South Korean population as a victim of the American invasion; young generations live in a constant alert state as if the USA could attack any day. At the same time, the propaganda aims at instilling a great sense of pride for the country's technical progression, fueled by the Supreme Leader and culminating in the atomic bomb and the subsequent tests.
Pyongyang youngsters have been educated to be learned and knowledgeable people, especially in the scientific field, to foster the development of armaments and technology, chasing the dream of reuniting Korea in a whole and free state.
© Joakim Eskildsen
© Joakim Eskildsen
In the deciduous forests of southern Estonia, small cabins made of logs layered with moss dot the countryside. These are the smoke saunas — places to bathe bodies and cleanse spirits. The aromas of alder wood and stripped birch, burning below hot stones, waft through the air. Once the stones reach peak heat, the smoke is vented out with the help, it’s said, of a mythical “smoke eater.” Inside the cabin, a caretaker whisks visitors’ skin, delivering gentle beatings with a bouquet of leaves gathered, as at the sauna in Vorumaa at left, from the surrounding woods as the hot air alleviates the anxiety that comes with living in one of the world’s most technologically savvy populations. For three to five hours at a time, Estonians go back and forth from hot cabins to cold ponds nearby. Generations of Estonian families have marked the special occasions of life and death and healing in these small cottages and communal sweats — the oldest written references to the practice date back to at least the 13th century, and Unesco includes the tradition as a part of “the intangible cultural heritage of humanity.” But the tradition is productive, too: It turns freshly slaughtered livestock and wildlife into smoked meat to be eaten for a post-sauna meal. In a smoke sauna, you are meant to breathe deeply, to relax, to feel the heat and then to plunge into the chill of the pond. Jaime Lowe
© Alessia Gammarota
© Alessia Gammarota
In numerous cosmopolitan cities throughout the West, there is a younger generation of Muslim women have been recently more and more frequently choosing to express their identity and faith by wearing the hijab (the Islamic headscarf) and covered dresses. The veil is one of the most visible signs of Islam, and at the same time, one of the most contested. The generation who started proudly wearing it again consists of girls in their early twenties; young ladies brought up in the post 9/11 era, marked by accentuated public and media hostility towards women’s dressed bodies. Within Europe, this phenomenon is most visible in Great Britain, due to its multicultural character and lack of any formal regulation regarding openly religious attire. In order to fully understand the nature of this phenomenon, it is worth considering its various aspects.
First of all, the majority of those girls were either born in the UK, or they spent most of their life there, and similarly to other British girls of that age, they shop mainly at H&M and Primark. However, they don’t feel fully represented by mainstream fashion, nor they can fully identify with the outfits worn by their mothers, considering them too traditional. Each day they have to face the conflicting expectations of their parents, friends, Islamic community and general society. As a result, these girls become more articulated and self-conscious with regards to clothing and solving the issues it creates. They experiment with mainstream fashion in order to develop an individual style which corresponds to their complex backgrounds, interests and concerns, simultaneously challenging the negative stereotypes of Muslims. The platform that connects them and enables the evolution of this phenomenon is the internet. Thanks to numerous blogs, online shops, YouTube tutorials and Facebook pages, these girls get the chance to share opinions and tips on how to be fashionable and Islamic at the same time. The result is a variety of Muslim dressing styles visible in the streets of multicultural British cities: from the more traditional forms of body and face covering as the niqab, to the colorful combinations of headscarves paired with covered outfits, loose or fitted. Such experiments in style are signs of the birth of “modern western Islamic fashion”. It is a contribution to the general change within Muslim dressing practice in contemporary societies, and brings the debate into the Islamic community. At the same time, the phenomenon also attracts the attention of non-Muslim part of the society and triggers reflection on issues such as: immigration, multiculturalism and relationship between Islam and Western culture. One of the most interesting personalities representing the Islamic street style fashion are: the half-Egyptian and half-British vlogger Dina Tokio, with her heterogeneous followers on YouTube; and Sarah Elenany - fashion designer, who is known for creating UK scouts uniforms, suitable both for Muslim and non-Muslim girls.
© Luca Locatelli
© Luca Locatelli
The story of Italian marble is the story of difficult motion: violent, geological, haunted by failure and ruin and lost fortunes, marred by severed fingers, crushed dreams, crushed men. Rarely has a material so inclined to stay put been wrenched so insistently out of place and carried so far from its source; every centimeter of its movement has had to be earned. “There is no avoiding the tyranny of weight,” the art historian William E. Wallace once put it. He was discussing the challenge, in Renaissance Italy, of installing Michelangelo’s roughly 17,000-pound statue of the biblical David. This was the final stage of an epic saga that, from mountain to piazza, actually began before Michelangelo’s birth and involved primitive and custom-engineered machinery and, above all, great sweating armies of groaning, straining men. But the tyranny of weight was in effect long before that, and long after, and it remains in effect today.
What we admire as pristine white stone was born hundreds of millions of years ago in overwhelming darkness. Countless generations of tiny creatures lived, died and drifted slowly to the bottom of a primordial sea, where their bodies were slowly compressed by gravity, layer upon layer upon layer, tighter and tighter, until eventually they all congealed and petrified into the interlocking white crystals we know as marble. ‘‘Marmo,’’ the Italians call it — an oddly soft, round word for such a hard and heavy material. Some eons later, tectonic jostling raised a great spine of mountains in southern Europe. Up went the ancient sea floor, and the crystallized creatures went with it. In some places they rise more than 6,000 feet.
In Italy’s most marble-rich area, known as the Apuan Alps, the abundance is surreal. Sit on a beach in one of the nearby towns (Forte dei Marmi, Viareggio), and you appear to be looking up at snow-covered peaks. But it is snow that does not melt, that is not seasonal. Michelangelo sculpted most of his statues from this stone, and he was so obsessed with the region that he used to fantasize about carving an entire white mountain right where it stood. He later dismissed this, however, as temporary madness. ‘‘If I could have been sure of living four times longer than I have lived,’’ he wrote, ‘‘I would have taken it on.’’ Humans face limits that marble does not.
Besides, carving Italian marble at its place of origin is precisely not the point. Its major value has always derived from its removal. Hundreds of quarries have operated in the Apuan Alps since the days of ancient Rome. (The Romans harvested the stone with such manic intensity that it became the architectural signature of the empire’s power; Augustus liked to boast that he inherited a city of bricks and left it a city of marble.) These quarries are far off of Italy’s most-traveled tourist routes, so few visitors see them; most of us know Italian marble mainly as an endpoint in the chain of consumption — not only Renaissance statues in major museums but also tombstones, bookends and kitchen countertops in American McMansions. Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s wedding reportedly featured, as an extra touch of conspicuous luxury, furniture made of Italian marble.
The quarries themselves, as these photos by Luca Locatelli attest, are their own isolated world: beautiful, bizarre and severe. It is a self-contained universe of white, simultaneously industrial and natural, where men with finger-nubs stand on scenic cliffs conducting tractors like symphony orchestras. Over the centuries, the strange geology of the marble mountains has produced an equally strange human community — strange even by the standards of Italy’s fractious regional subcultures. The people there live in white towns, breathing white dust, speaking their own dialects, nursing their own politics. There is a proud history, in and around Carrara, of anarchism and revolt.
Although the tools of extraction have changed over the centuries — oxen and chisels have given way to tractors and diamond-toothed saws — the fact remains: Large pieces of white stone, cut and hauled to distant places, function as a sign of wealth and power. Like gold, marble is a special form of embedded wealth, visually striking and deeply impractical. Follow Italy’s
marble, and you follow the major movements of global wealth in human history, from ancient Rome to Victorian London to 20th-century New York. Today Italy’s marble tends to move farther than it did before — not just 200 miles to Rome or 700 miles to London but 3,000 miles to Abu Dhabi and 4,000 miles to Mumbai and 5,000 miles to Beijing. The centers of wealth have shifted, as they always will, and the marble follows, as it always has. The last decade has coincided with feverish marble-based construction, in particular, around Mecca in Saudi Arabia. In 2014, the Saudi Binladin Group, one of the region’s major construction firms, bought a large stake in one of Carrara’s largest quarries. The famous white stone is now used not in small batches for art but in bulk for huge building projects: mosques, palaces, malls, hotels.
How long can it hold out? Like North American timber or Antarctic ice, Italy’s marble is not an infinite resource. We will, eventually, reach the end of our ancient fund of calcified creatures, and the process that transformed them into stone is not likely to recur on any time scale we can imagine. These are cycles that outlast species. And although the white stone itself will almost certainly outlive its current quarriers, as it outlived the ancient Romans and Michelangelo, most of it will no longer be in the Apuan Alps: It will be scattered in this worldwide diaspora — in sinks, tiles, altars, skyscraper lobbies, busts.
© Alice Mann
© Alice Mann
Following the period of African Independence from colonial rule, there are numerous contemporary challenges facing African citizens, compelling many people to migrate towards the more prosperous regions outside of the continent. In Congolese society, there is great significance attached to being able to create a new life within the context of Europe and the UK.
Writer Didier Gondola explains how in Congolese culture, the word ‘mokili’, Lingala for the ‘world’ has become synonymous with Europe, and the expression milikiste describes the young Congolese who have made it to Europe.
Over the past year, I have been working on a personal project with a group of Congolese men based in London and Paris. Using designer clothing and fashion as a means of self-expression and empowerment, they identify as a European chapter of the La Sape movement (a dynamic sub-culture emanating from Brazzaville, literally translated as the ‘Society of Ambiance makers and Elegant people’). The individuals in these portraits represent a fragment of the broader Congolese diaspora, spread across Europe and the UK. Working in close exchange with these men, I hope to portray their efforts to confidently affirm their identity specifically within the context of British and European spaces.
For subscribers of the La Sape ideology, clothing provides a vehicle with which to challenge limitations, and celebrate difference. Fashion transcends something purely aesthetic; style underpins a lifestyle and provides a vehicle for personal creativity. They see fashion as a medium that allows for distinctiveness, and power over how people may perceive them. Self-made men, they have created their own language through the image they present, Utilising new and vintage designer pieces, from instantly recognisable luxury European brands. Significantly it is about how they see themselves, not how others see them.
Consequently, my approach to creating these images has been very collaborative; each man I have worked with has been involved in the direction of his shoot, and has styled himself in his own clothes, the way he sees fit. There was a sense of individual assertiveness and agency that I wanted to communicate with these portraits, and through each man being so implicit in the direction of his shoot, I hope to emphasise the concept of self-representation.
I also want each individual to feel he truly owns his set of images, and have worked with the notion of creating images that are reflective of the way he wants to present himself. Working together, the shared goal in producing these images has been to create photographs which will have a life both inside and outside the art world, which my collaborators have access to, to display in any way of their choosing. The resultant images have been used for self-promotion via various social media networks and over the past year, I have seen them reposted various times, in online collages and in music videos. Subsequent adaptations made to the images (digital filters and frames) are a clear suggestion of their ownership.
My intent with this work is to challenge stereotypes of the way that African citizens are represented and understood, specifically in a Western context. Referencing ‘street casting’ and fashion editorials, my intent is to make images which are both serious and playful to question notions of representation in a world where appearance is all-important. I hope this series communicates creativity, dignity and pride, giving viewers some insight into the lives of Africans in European spaces.