Edges

“Our hope is in the dark around the edges, not in the limelight of center stage. 
Our hope and often our power.”
-
from ‘Hope in the Dark’ by Rebecca Solnit

They say that the origin of the name “Ukraine” is derived from the Proto-Slavic word for “Edge”. 
While looking at Christopher Nunn’s work, it feels to me as if the journey around the edge is an important element to his ongoing photography project in Ukraine.

Christopher’s grandmother was born in Ukraine, displaced by World War II to Germany and eventually England, and began to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease in 2013. As the edges of her memory started to fray, weakening the thread that is supposed to hold everything together, Christopher tried to find a way to remain connected to her by learning more about the place she was born in. 
He traveled to her birthplace Kalush and from there, started exploring regions across west and east Ukraine over repeated trips- forming important relationships and connections along the way.

What started as a personal journey to the edges of his own family history, developed into an ongoing series about the people and places in Ukraine’s fragile east. When political chaos, revolution and war started to unfold in 2014, the global media machine and photojournalism industry focused solely on the conflict. It became increasingly important for Christopher to also show a more subtle, domestic and human side and he took a quieter look at the periphery of these events.

Nunn’s images are often framed by themes of friendship, escapism, unity, alcohol and faith- they are small stories that are part of a larger picture, they are stories about being human.
In an interview with Michael Segalov from Huck magazine, Christopher Nunn said:
“You have to take time to understand where you are, and the context of what’s going on.
I think ultimately what I was doing subconsciously, was trying to show a more human side of a place that I felt really connected to, 
despite it being in our consciousness because of war.”

Ukraine is the largest country in Europe and will have elections again tomorrow.
The people of Ukraine are neither defined by borders nor by conflict.
Maybe they are better defined by the stories that are born on the edges, small stories and unexpected moments of connection- like the ones that Christopher Nunn captures so poignantly in his photography.
May these stories glisten as hopeful as the beautiful boys from Kurakhovo, Donetsk in the summer of 2015.

Thank you for sharing them, Christopher Nunn.

xez

* all photographs copyright ©Christopher Nunn, click to enlarge.
Follow Chris on Instagram @chrisnunnphoto and visit his website at http://www.christophernunn.co.uk/ to see more of his striking work. 

Noguchi’s gifts

In the introduction to his series ‘One Two Three’, Japanese photographer Shin Noguchi shares a quote by the late Jazz Saxophonist Eric Dolphy:
“When you hear music, after it's over, it's gone in the air. You can never capture it again."

After his father passed away and long forgotten photos from his own childhood reappeared, Noguchi began photographing his three young daughters Yumeji, Kotoyo and Hikono.
The ongoing project started as a careful attempt to ease his mother’s loneliness and to spend more time communicating with his children, while strengthening their self esteem in the process.

‘One Two Three’ shows us intimate, funny and touchingly tender moments. Brief moments, that Noguchi himself describes as gifts his daughters show to him. Gifts which he can’t help but “catch” once they appear. And to intuitively click the shutter at the exáct right moment..well, this feels to him like hearing the magical but fleeting Jazz improvisations Dolphy was talking about.

Earlier today, as I looked up Eric Dolphy’s original quote, I found it to be just a little longer. It turns out that Dolphy had spoken additional words: 
“...But if you listen closely, you can still hear the echoes.”
To me, it’s in these hidden words that lies the core of Noguchi’s work.
He enables us to perceive the rare echo of truly beautiful and ephemeral moments.
They are the echoes of a feeling.
And this is a feeling that Shin Noguchi might have very well described when he said:
“I never called my photography ‘art’, but definitely, my daughters show me what I feel art to be.”

Thank you Mister Noguchi!

xez

* all photographs copyright ©Shin Noguchi, click to enlarge.
Please have a look at Shin Noguchi’s impressive and moving body of work here:
https://www.instagram.com/shinnoguchiphotos/
https://shinnoguchiphotography.com/photo/one_two_three/

Wandering, Wondering

Jonathan Bensimon is a Director and Cinematographer, that decided to go back to his old twin-lens Rolleiflex in 2015.
As a framework for himself, he made up a small set of rules and started the Chromasketch Project.

Always bring the Rolleiflex.
Shoot one roll of slide film, each week.
This means 12 images and hardly to no post production.
At the end of each year, share the giant contact sheet, to expose all photographs next to each other.

What I love and respect about Jonathan Bensimon’s filmmaking background, is that it made him a true storyteller. By showing us just one still image, he invites us on a much longer imaginary journey.

This first photograph is my favourite from the series and today, it made my thoughts wander...Looking at this lady with the dark hair and flowery dress, at the softness of her exposed back and that tiny rose- I’m curious where she is going, in that big city. Is she on a mission to give or to forgive, to celebrate or to create?

Thank you for making me wonder, Jonathan.

xez

* all photographs copyright ©Jonathan Bensimon, click to enlarge
Please have a look at more of Jonathan Bensimon’s work here:
http://www.jonathanbensimon.com/photography/

Mommie

“When my mother and my grandmother would be parting at the end of the day, they always kissed. And they kissed on the lips, so that was very outstanding to me- something significant. I remember once, my mother was yelling my name...I was somewhere else, down the hall and they were about to say goodbye with a kiss and she knew I liked to photograph that, so she was calling me!”
- Arlene Gottfried


Mommie Kissing Bubbie, from the book Sometimes Overwhelming.

Mommie Kissing Bubbie, from the book Sometimes Overwhelming.

The way in which Arlene Gottfried has captured so many beautiful strangers on the streets, shows how bright and curious her eyes, and how open and warm her heart must have been.
But those pictures are for another day.

Today is for the intensely intimate photographs she made of the strongest and most important women in her life; her grandmother, mother and sister. “Mommie” is a portrait of these three generations of inseparable women, taken over the stunning course of 35 years and through the eyes of a daughter that loves them unconditionally. The pictures are so honest, pure and tender, that we can almost feel the strength of their bond.
Although life isn’t gentle to these ladies, they sure are gentle and loving to each other.

In Arlene’s own words about the series, “Part of it was trying to stop time...which of course, I couldn’t do.
With “Mommie” she does however show us beauty in the ordinary, offers comfort through the pain and vulnerability of illness and ageing, and leaves us with hope for the future.

On this loving journey through time, we meet Arlene’s breathtaking grandmother- Minnie "Bubbie" Zimmerman, who was born in Odessa in 1897, came to the US all by herself at 14 years of age and lived to be 104 years old. She looks so lively, sweet and cheeky and it moves me to slowly notice her posture change, the frailty of her naked knees and her thinning arms.
Mommie Lilian has such a beautiful and strong sparkle in her younger eyes, but also has a fragile health and as she gets older, her suffering from diabetes deepens. The photographs show the ever increasing pain in her face, as well as the compassion and care in the expressions of those that surround her.
And sister Karen, is so obviously adored by young Arlene that it’s simply heartwarming. Over and again she catches her when looking her best, happiest and prettiest. As time passes, Karen even seems less reluctant to be photographed, while she now grows older and becomes a loving caregiver.
We follow the women through their lives together and ultimately through their separation by illness and death.
Bubbie and Mommie pass away close in time, leaving an empty house behind.
…We pause.
Then, although Karen doesn’t seem to be quite that young anymore, she gives birth to little baby Graham.
And while her eyes still show traces of grief, new life will gently ease the pain of loss.
A new generation has begun.

What touches me, is that the technical perfection of the photo’s always takes the backseat and intimacy comes first.
Because the pictures might not be technically perfect, but life isn't either.
Sometimes life shakes, blurs of blind us and we just don’t always remain well composed or have enough time to quickly adjust our focus.
Perhaps “Mommie” shows us, that in a way the best we can do, is to keep looking with a curious eye and a tender heart and to lovingly bear witness to one another.
We can’t stop time, but we can walk each other home.
And we can always, always leave with a kiss.

xez

* all photographs copyright ©Arlene Gottfried, click to enlarge

Tuned in the key of melancholy

‘When I first met Dave Heath in the ’70s he struck me as the only human being I’d ever met whose vocal cords were tuned in the key of melancholy.’ 
- Michael Torosian 

Philadelphia Born photographer Dave Heath, was abandoned by both of his parents at a very young age and spent his childhood in orphanages and foster homes. The emotional trauma of this loss, inspired in him what Heath himself called “a need of joining the community of mankind”- a yearning for human connection.

He looked at the people around him with extraordinary sensibility and attention, observing not voyeuristically but with deep empathy and respect, almost as if reaching out to them through the lens of his camera. Within the multitude of a crowd, Heath seemed to instinctively be able to spot and capture intimate, vulnerable moments of solitude. As there is rarely any contact between the photographer and subject, the connection remains forever one way- existing solely within the image, infusing it with a sense of longing and tenderness.
It is through this feeling, that we connect with these strangers and feel like we see our own deepest moments of isolation, uncertainty, beauty or hurt reflected in their faces and bodies.

Dave Heath’s incredibly sincere photographs remind us, that at a deeper level we are all connected.
Dave Heath reminds us, that we are resilient.

Heath's photographs are quietly beautiful and remarkably hopeful and I look at them while sitting in momentarily solitude too, with words by Cheryl Strayed on my mind:
“Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. 
Sometimes you’ll put up a good fight and lose. 
Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. 
Acceptance is a small, quiet room.”

xez

* all photographs copyright ©Dave Heath, click to enlarge

Anything but boring

Thomas Rousset grew up in a small mountain village near Grenoble in France, where he learned to entertain himself with very little but his imagination.

This hometown inspired his wonderful series “Prabérians”, in which Rousset takes us away to a fictional community in a dreamlike French countryside, a place where the everyday mixes with the surreal.

So, if the weather is as bad with you as it is over here, I encourage you to be inspired by Rousset’s world this weekend, create your own fairytale with what is available to you...use champagne bottle caps as jewellery, adorn your body with dog stickers, put a bucket on your head, carry the moon!

xez
* all photographs copyright ©Thomas Rousset, click to enlarge

Colour Stories

One of my favourite pictures by Belgian photographer Harry Gruyaert is a photograph of two young girls in Ireland. I probably love this photo most, because every element in it, reminds me of being that age myself. 
I remember how much I loved a green visor and seeing it’s translucent colour in my shadow.
I can almost taste how sweet a cold can of coke was on a hot day and how it’s bubbles hurt my nose and brought tears to my eyes.
I know how that handle on the radio feels and how it sounds to turn the cassette tape around, or look for a radio station.
I can see how the straps on my sandals looked, with one very large hole in the leather, where the buckle went through.
And I recall the feeling of a sticky watch band, socks that kept sliding down and my fingertips touching a car bonnet heated by the sun.

Each of Harry Gruyaert’s photographs feels like a movie still, in which the deep Kodachrome colour palette carries you away to a different place. Though people are often present, they are just part of the overall scene…and maybe that’s the magic of Gruyaert’s work- they’re a part of a bigger story and you can easily take their place for a short moment.
Then you become the story.

xez
* all photographs copyright ©Harry Gruyaert

Shocking pink

They say
that Napoleon
was colourblind
& blood for him
as green as
grass.
- from “Unrecounted” by W.G. Sebald

In 2011 and 2013, Richard Mosse travelled to Eastern Congo to document the hidden. 

He used a discontinued false colour infrared film, Kodak Aerochrome, which was originally developed for military surveillance. This film registers the infrared spectrum of light, which is invisible to the naked eye but reflects off chlorophyll in vegetation. As the earth and other contours (like human camouflage) absorb infrared instead of reflecting it, this film has the potential to make the invisible visible.

Aerochrome film produces a unique colour palette, turning the Congolese rainforest into a beautiful and surreal landscape of electric pinks and reds.

This shocking, slightly nauseous pink confuses, seduces, offends and urges thoughts about perception.
How much more constructed is a pink photograph than a black-and-white photograph?
Perhaps the otherworldly colours make the familiar seem strange and the real seem almost absurd.
But the unseeable is as real as what we perceive as reality.

The unseen, the hidden, the invisible, these are all integral aspects of Congo’s war and ongoing conflict. 
Yet sadly, they are very real.

xez
* all photographs copyright ©Richard Mosse

American Pictures

This picture has been on my mind.
This lady has been on my mind.

jacob_holdt

Jacob Holdt made this photo- one of approximately 15.000 pictures he took during 5 years of hitchhiking across America in the early 1970’s. During this time, he stayed in over 400 homes, ranging from the extremely poor to the very wealthy and intimately documented this stark contrast, the painful social injustice within American society. 
His parents had sent him the cheapest half-frame camera they could find, and every week Jacob sold his blood plasma in order to have a little money to pay for new film and post the photographs back to his family home in a small village in western Jutland, Denmark.

Jacob Holdt never considered himself a great photographer and has mentioned that for him, photography is just a way of fighting racism.
About the above photo, he has shared the following story:
In Alabama, this poor old woman of 87 asked me to drive her to Phoenix, Arizona. She wanted to go there to die. I helped her board up the windows in her dilapidated shack outside Tuskegee, because although she knew very well she would never return, she still didn't want the local blacks moving into it. 
She sat the whole way out there with a pistol in her hand. She was scared stiff of me because of my long hair and beard, but she had no other way of getting to Arizona. She was so weak that I had to carry her whenever she had to leave the car, but in spite of this she continued to cling to her gun.
The car was so old that we could only drive at 30 miles an hour, so the trip took us 4 days. She had saved for years in order to have enough money for gas, but she had no money for food, so I had to get out several times and steal carrots and other edible things along the road
.

Now- when I read these words and look at the old lady’s face, it saddens me.
It saddens me, that in the evening of her life, all this lady had to hold on to was hate and fear, tightly clutching it through the cold metal of her gun.
But somehow I hope, that somewhere, perhaps at the end of her last journey, she experienced a tiny sense of freedom. 

A feeling that Jacob Holdt himself described as following: 
The greatest freedom I know is to be able to say yes; the freedom to throw yourself into the arms of every single person you meet. Especially as a vagabond you have the freedom, energy, and time to be fully human toward every individual you meet. The most fantastic lottery I can think of is hitch-hiking. There is a prize every time. Every single person can teach you something. [...] Every person is like a window through which the larger society can he glimpsed.

American Pictures, Jacob Holdts’ document of the time he spent in the USA between 1970 and 1975 is devastatingly intimate, painfully confronting and shockingly relevant.
http://american-pictures.com/

xez
* all photographs copyright ©Jacob Holdt

Treasure Hunting

Photographer Peter Byrne found a true treasure at a car boot sale in York...
A box full of slides, taken by a couple living in New York during the 1950’s. 
Only one of the slide boxes had a name on it: “Frank J Dominick”.
But each picture tells an entire story. 
The boys and their turtle is my absolute favourite.
More from the amazing find below (click to see full size) and on Peters Blog: https://peterbyrne.co.uk/category/found/


xez

Amazon skin

Javier Silva Meinel’s series “Piel del Amazonas” was developed in the course of several years in the Peruvian jungle.
Javier imagines wildly.
Gazes gently.
And collaborates with his subjects intimately.
The fabric background he incorporates in most of his images, seems to add a veil of separation from the normal surroundings- creating a new and safe space of rite.

 

Gösta Peterson

“I didn’t want to work with these damn people who scribbled on my drawings. I liked to have control,” is what Gösta Peterson later said about quitting his job as an illustrator in the 1950's.
So he grabbed his Rolleiflex and taught himself photography.
A few years later, he was the one that captured the first ever American portrait of Twiggy and he was the one that shot Naomi Sims for the New York Times in 1967 (the first time an African-American model finally appeared on the cover of a national magazine).
He chose character over beauty and declined working for Vogue, because they wouldn’t let him choose his own models.
A bit of a badass, definitely original, independent.
An artist in fashion.
Tack ska du ha, Gösta!

Anja Niedringhaus

Anja Niedringhaus took this stunning picture of Palestinian schoolgirls enjoying a ride at an amusement park outside Gaza City in March 2006.
She was an Associated Press photographer for over 25 years, documenting from conflict zones in Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia and beyond.
Amidst death and danger, she maintained a clear eye and warm heart for humanity and the lives of the ordinary people that she cared about deeply.

In April 2014, Anja was shot and killed by a police officer in Afghanistan, leaving behind a body of work that won awards and broke hearts.

On the AP website, I read the words “Anja Niedringhaus faced down some of the world's greatest dangers and had one of the world's loudest and most infectious laughs.”
I like that.

Thank you, Anja- may you rest in peace and loud laughter. 

*click to see full size photographs and background information.

Slim Aarons

"I used natural lighting. If it was good enough for Rembrandt, it was good enough for me."
S.A.

Slim Aarons became an army photographer at 18, during WW II.
After the war, he decided he wanted to turn his camera away from misery and be photographing “attractive people, who were doing attractive things in attractive places”.
So he started capturing the dolce vita of the jet setting High Society of the 1960's and 70's.

These stories, the vibrance, the optimism…all the 'bull' (as Slim called it himself) are still like taking a refreshing dip into the pool of a fantasy world.

Thanks for showing us a wonderful time, Slim.

*click to see full size photographs

Claude Nori

French photographer Claude Nori has an ongoing love affair with Italy.
And so do I.
Mister Nori decided to make a lovely book about it, a book about the sweetest “dolce far niente” on the Italian coast. 
The photographs, taken in the 80s and 90s almost make you taste the salt, feel the sun, hear the Vespa’s.
Purrrrrr.

Dream Away

“She pinched my butt, and that was that”- words that photographer Michael Northrup spoke about meeting his former wife and muse Pam, in 1976.
Michaels book ‘Dream Away’ is a document of their relationship- in all of its curious, sexy, beautiful, intimate, gentle and dramatic glory.
The marriage has long ended.
But the memory remains, in the tender and colourful melancholy of this wonderful tribute to a Love lost.

Monochrome Melancholy

Autumn Colours