Monthly Archives: June 2014

My Fictional Exhibition: CHINA NOW

“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.”  This is a quote from Oscar Wilde.  Reading this I can not stop thinking about questions such as do we meet thousands of other people when we meet one individual, how much do other people influence us in the formation of our own identity and are we who we think we are or what other people perceive us to be.

Like the first few times that you look in the mirror and the period in which your body changes alongside with your facial features, you meet yourself, at least the physical self.

China is changing just like everybody else but a lot of the time she chooses to use the mirror inside the closet, concealing the view so others can not see her, adore her, judge her, hate her, feel indifferently…  She is looking at an old photograph and she is filled with bittersweet nostalgia.  She is not who she was back then and now she is just an acquaintance to her former self.  At times she is proud of where she is, the person she has become after all the tragedies and obstacles but she has enough sense of humor to mock her in a self-deprecating manner.

Under Mao’s rule, the Cultural Revolution of 1966 meant that only artwork that was supporting the socialist society was allowed to exist.  Artists whose work deemed to be too bourgeoisie or anti-socialist were persecuted and prevented from working.  The almost oxymoron of encouraging exploration of traditional methods whilst forbidding the return to traditional themes confused many.

It was only after Mao’s death that the period of state supported art ended.  This opened the doors for artists to reflect upon the new realities that China is now facing.

CHINA NOW exhibition focuses on the photographers from the post-cultural revolution China to reintroduce the country that is in hiding.  The Internet censorship becomes the closet doors that hold China and her mirror inside whilst the gallery space holds the flies on the wall that look at her.  Strangers catch a glimpse of China to reacquaint after a long period of silence.

The theme of identity is explored through the way an outsider may perceive one.  Tseng Kwong Chi’s self portraits pokes fun at the way Westerner’s perceived China in the 1980’s whilst Sun Ji’s decaying landscapes makes an introduction to nostalgia in reference to changing urbanscapes and what this may mean at an individual level.

Zhe Chen and Chi Peng deal with confusion of identity and consubstantiality.  Hong Hao’s still-lives allows the viewer to question if what we own is whom we are by accepting the viewer to peek into his belongings and Song Chao equally opens up by sharing his daily working life.

Yao Lu and Zhang Kechun highlight the impact of the rapid changes on the landscape as Wang Qingsong and Chen Jiagang explore the impact this has on society.

DISCLAIMER:  I do not own the copyright of these photographs and each image is labelled by the photographer alongside its title and year of production.


Gezi Park

Several months ago I published a mini series of images that was inspired by the summer riots of Istanbul- resISTANBUL.  Just over a year after I wanted to share the actual images from the numerous days that thousands of people protested not only to save a small green space in the centre of urban Istanbul, but also to protect the voices of millions against a government that is getting more corrupt each day.

The images were taken with a digital camera and then converted to film to allow a complete tactile control of the printing process.  As the actual voice of a protestor is stronger than a digital signature or “like” on a social media platform, processing with analog techniques felt absolutely right for this body of work.

Ara Güler: The Man Who Shot Istanbul

The first time I came across the name Ara, literally meaning in-between, was in Istanbul.  Ara Cafe sits snuggled between a busy bustling high street and a quiet narrow street meandering towards the Bosphorus.  Little did I know that this exact building was where the world renowned photographer  Ara Güler grew up.

Ara was born in Istanbul to an Armenian family in 1928.  Growing up, his goal was to become a film director or a script writer.  Although he became Turkey’s most celebrated photographer, he did reach his goal in 1975 when he directed the surrealistic 18mm movie, End of a Hero.  He started working for newspapers as a photographer and as he became more known, in 1953 he met one of the founding members of Magnum Photos, Henri Cartier-Bresson.  This meeting became the pivotal moment in his career as he became the Turkish representative to the photographic agency.

His list of awards is endless and it includes Master of Leica in 1962 as well as being listed as the Top 7 Photographers of the World by The Photography Annual Anthology.  He is most renowned for his Lost Istanbul work where he stays faithful to his photojournalistic roots but this did not stop him from travelling the world and photographing people as famous as Sofia Loren, Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso.

No matter which part of the world he may be photographing, people always feature in his works.  Whilst some of these maybe joyful or playful, Güler often portrays social issues.  He does not shy away from showing the uncomfortable or the sinister.  His Leica camera has captured Istanbul through decades of change and it would not be inaccurate to say that these hold an archival value.  The feeling of melancholia that resonates throughout his Lost Istanbul work could be traced to the photographer’s frustration with the loss of Istanbul’s aesthetic.  As the migration from Anatolian towns continue, the concrete jungle expands.  He states that the younger generation that live in the city are not aware the poetic or romantic aspect of the city.

He uses the banks of the Bosphorus often, the stretch of sea that separates Asia Minor from Europe, to use as a metaphor for separation.  The sea is what distances us from others as well as ourselves.  In his photograph Saying good-bye on the Galata quay taken in 1955,a woman with a headscarf is reaching towards the man inside the boat.  The framing makes use of the geometric shapes formed by the horizontal lines along the metallic ship and the vertical as well as slanting lines formed by ropes attaching to a pulley.  I initially assumed that the man and the woman were a couple and they were reaching out to each other to say good-bye one last time until the unforeseeable future.  Due to the fact that the ship is white in colour, it is not very obvious that the man is reaching towards a folded piece of paper that the woman is passing to him.  This changes the story of the photograph as we are left wondering what is written in that folded piece of paper.  Is it her feelings that she could not share with him?  Is it a letter from someone that he refuses to see in person or someone that just couldn’t be there?

Güler states that photography is not art although he accepts that masters such as Ansel Adams or Henri Cartier-Bresson have visual education, this does not make them artists.  He believes “photography is reality above all else” and that it is his job to record what he sees.  To him, the dark room tricks are not acceptable as he hates the idea of becoming an artist.

Güler has a list of qualities to describe what makes a good photographer; “A photographer must be well equipped…  They need to know painting, know music, understand theatre, read a lot, decide in an instant and all in all be very intelligent”.  Whilst I would strive to possess all these qualities he describes, I do see myself as an artist and as a photographer I feel that I have to show my own reality.  Perhaps all artists are journalists since they share their version of ideas, concepts and occurrences.

Puppy Between Feet

I have seen this photograph in Paris Photo fair as part of London-based Michael Hoppen Gallerys exhibition.  The photograph really stood out as it was placed next to the Chloe Sells‘ uber-vibrant mixed media prints.  The highly contrasting and rough feeling black and white print stood tall amongst the colourful haze of the gallery.

The scene consists of two rough feet resting on top of soft furnishings.  The feet are touching along the heels and parted along the toes to allow a hand and the head of a small puppy through.

The head of the puppy is so small that it is not immediately recognisable. The composition is formed to resemble childbirth and there is little contrast of tone between the hand and the head. The detail that really stands out for me is the contrast of the dog’s head to the feet and hand.  The newborn is smooth, has closed eyes and symbolises; innocence, the untainted and naivety.  The feet and hand that surround it resemble a human pelvis, a broken, aged and infertile pelvis.

Roger Ballen is an American photographer that lived in South Africa since the 70’s.  He is well known for his work in the fringes of  the society.  He was both celebrated and criticized for photographing the post-apartheid whites that were left in poverty.  He is also well recognised for the first music video he directed- “I fink u freaky” by the Die Antwoord, which also featured heavy contrasting black and white scenes.Puppy between Feet, 1999

Luna and The Smithfield

If New York has its gentrified Meat Packing District, London has The Smithfield Market. The 140 years old market has been on site for over a thousand years.  The slowly evolving market starts business at 3 am everyday excluding the weekends and Bank holidays.

G Lawrence Wholesale Meat has been very kind to open their doors to allow me to photograph on their super clean shop.  The wonderfully fresh carcasses featured as the backdrop for the dress by Jaybeelyn Luna.

The design inspired by the spine was modelled by the talented artist Marjolaine Coste.