Les Rencontres d’Arles 2024

Beneath The Surface

Festival review by Mark Durden

For the 55th time, Arles, the historic Roman city in southern France, hosts the prestigious Les Rencontres d’Arles, where municipal buildings are transformed to showcase the visual legacies of photographers and artists worldwide. This year’s theme, Beneath the Surface, explores narratives that uncover divergent paths, often revealing vulnerabilities in seemingly impermeable facades. As expected, the festival boasts its usual grandeur, meticulous organisation, and impressive works by renowned artists. Yet, as Mark Durden writes, it is the traditional photographic approaches that retain a profound impact amidst the festival’s exploration of new directions in the medium.


Mark Durden | Festival review | 11 July 2024 | In association with MPB

Sophie Calle’s exhibition of some of her own artworks and possessions are left to rot in the subterranean Cryptoporticus in Arles, offering a great contrast to the clamouring image spectacle of the very festival of which it is part. On discovering one of her favourite works, The Blind, had become toxic through mould spores after her studio was damaged in a storm, and refusing to follow the restorer’s suggestion that it should be destroyed, Calle decided to exhibit it (together with other works that had been contaminated and objects from her life that she no longer had any use for but could not throw away) in a humid and underground place where its degradation could continue. Calle’s show, in this respect, offers a mini retrospective, a darkly comic counterpoint to the grandiosity of more spectacular displays above ground, and a reminder of the ultimate and inevitable mortality of art and the artist. When I viewed her exhibition, water was constantly dripping upon large framed black-and-white prints of graves, laid on the floor.

This year’s Les Rencontres d’Arles is marked by a schism between those who work against photography, those who deploy it through montage in installations and those who less ostentatiously explore its intrinsic properties. Calle works against photography, but knowingly and comedically, clearly relishing the correspondence between her decaying pictures and their sepulchral and funerary setting.

In the impressive interior of the 15th century century Gothic Église des Frères Prêcheurs, Spanish photographer Cristina de Middel’s flagship show’s magical realist response to the migration route across Mexico to the US, with its overblown and enigmatic combinations of pictorial elements, objects, archival material and Mexican lotería card imagery (this game of chance, presumably there to bring in an iconography related to Mexico and imply the journey of migrants is a lottery and up to fate) muddles the clarity of reportage and seemingly relishes the resultant ambiguity. The US’ brutal migrant policy and murderous exploitation by cartels through both people and drug trafficking (nothing to do with chance) becomes a cue to a fantastical tale, modelled on Jules Verne’s science fiction Journey to the Centre of the World (1864). The problem with such a spectacular display is that it is hard to engage and relate to what is going on as images collide and compete for attention. If montage was originally intended to be critically dialectical and produce new meaning, the danger here is that things become all too uncertain.

Mary Ellen Mark, who is given a significant and engaging retrospective at Espace Van Gogh, valorises an older, humanist documentary tradition; her 1987 portrait of the Damm family in the car in which they were living at the time, is in some ways her “Migrant Mother”. Perhaps it is not so obsolete as de Middel’s pop documentary display might suggest. The real goes beyond our imagination, and is always full of surprises. Photographers like Mark are attuned to this and bring it out again and again in many of their extraordinary pictures. In her powerful, colourful, somewhat voyeuristic depictions of sex workers in Mumbai, she may be outside but the sense is that she pictures more from the inside and in affinity with these women.                                                                                                                                                   At the Palais de L’Archevêché, I’m So Happy You Are Here, Japanese Women Photographers from the 1950s to Now curated by Lesley A. Martin, Takeuchi Mariko and Pauline Vermare, was a welcome change and far cry from the continued celebration of such male Japanese photographers as Daido Moriyama and their fixation on women as subject. But with so many photographers on show, 26, it only functions as a taster. I would have liked to have seen more work by Mari Katayama. Born with tibial hemimelia, which caused the bones in her lower legs and left hand to be undeveloped, and having decided to amputate her legs at the age of nine, the young artist sees herself as ‘one of the raw materials to use in my work’ in extraordinary self-portraits with hand-sewn prostheses.

Ishiuchi Miyako, recipient of the Women in Motion Award, as well as showing in I’m So Happy, is given a solo show at the Salle Henri-Comte, presenting photographs of objects and possessions remaining after death: her mother’s used lipstick, her lingerie, her hairbrush tangled with her hair, her dentures. There is also a picture of her mother’s scarred skin. For Miyako, ‘things touched by my mother were like part of her skin.’ The intimacy and poignancy of such photographs is continued in other pictures: the clothing and personal objects of Atomic bomb victims, from the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, and Frida Kahlo’s belongings, her nail varnish, decorated corsets and casts, through which one can sense the presence and strength of the artist. Miyako is responsive to the intrinsic properties and resonances of photography as an auratic medium. In contrast to Calle’s funereal retrospective, for Miyako, objects from the past, through photography, are ‘revived in the present moment.’

In many ways, New Farmer (2024) by Bruce Eesly offers a bright, jaunty and comic interlude to the festival; an AI generated mock documentary, consisting of photographs and texts presented as if from the 1960s, parodying the Green Revolution’s goal of intensified agricultural yields, by showing farmers, fields and smiling kids replete with oversized vegetables. Such absurdity and fakery serves as a fictional counterpoint to the reality of what increasing farming yields has led to, as the artist says: ‘giant fields of monocultures, fertiliser run-off, pesticide pollution and a major loss of genetic plant diversity.’

The revelation of Nicolas Floc’h’s exhibition is that there is a rainbow of colours in water. His epic quasi-scientific project, Rivers Ocean. The Landscape of Mississippi’s Colors (2024), a dazzling array of different blocks of pure colour prints, the result of photographs taken underwater at different depths, presented together with black-and-white photographs of the land, nevertheless remained baffling. While the descriptive detail in some of the captioning texts might help explain what causes the colours – ‘In Minneapolis, the Mississippi gets its colour from the tanins of northern forests… At the surface, a bright luminous orange turns bright red at one to two meters in depth’ – in the end, I was left pondering the gulf between these beautiful and seductive colour fields and the pollution and ecological disaster they presumably are indexing.

At La Mécaniqué Générale, there is more colour, not so much in the photography, which is predominantly black-and-white, but on the walls that animate and resist the potential stasis of ordered clusters of photographs in Urs Stahel’s beautifully curated show, When Images Learn to Speak, drawn from the collection of Astrid Ullens de Schooten Whettnall. Since the collector has been buying up whole series rather than individual photographs, Stahel pursues the conceptual implications of serial groups of images, beginning with Harry Callahan’s street portraits and Walker Evans’ worker portraits. The show is very much about the formal richness, the subtleties and lasting fascination with what are mostly now classic photographs. There are also some nice surprises, including Max Regenberg’s billboards, for example, in both colour and black-and-white, taken over two decades, a simple register of fortuitous collisions and relations between the imagery of billboards and their settings: the crumpled rear end of a car appearing as if trampled by giant feet on the advertising beside it. Is there not a lesson for Arles here? Maybe we do not need the fireworks. Straight(-forward) photography can still be very engaging and lasting.  

Stahel’s curation links well with Lee Friedlander’s small survey show at LUMA. Friedlander was also in Stahel’s show and some of his TV pictures appear in both exhibitions. An outlier to the festival, the Friedlander exhibition nevertheless was a vital and refreshing addition. Selected and curated by filmmaker Joel Coen, the show underscores the enduring richness of his work and brilliant understanding of the possibilities of photographic form. Coen is skilled in picking out the compositional play of elements in well-known and lesser-known Friedlanders. The point made by Friedlander in the 1960s was that montage effects can already be found in the world; it is a question of framing. He is a picture-maker who made a virtue out of the limits of photography. A pity there are so few new contemporary photographers on show at Arles that come close.♦

 

 

 

 


Mark Durden is an academic, writer and artist. He is Professor of Photography and the Director of the European Centre for Documentary Research at the University of South Wales. He works collaboratively as part of the artist group Common Culture and, since 2017, with João Leal, has been photographing modernist architecture in Europe.

Images:

1- Sophie Calle, Finir en Beauté, 2024. Courtesy Anne Fourès

2- Cristina de Middel, An Obstacle in the Way [Una Piedra en el Camino], Journey to the center series, 2021. Courtesy the artist and Magnum Photos

3- Cristina de Middel, The One That Left [La que se Fue], Journey to the center series, 2021. Courtesy the artist and Magnum Photos

4- Cristina de Middel, The Black Door [La Puerta Negra], Journey to the center series, 2021. Courtesy the artist and Magnum Photos

5- Mary Ellen Mark, Rekha with beads in her mouth, Falkland Road, Mumbai, India, 1978. Courtesy of The Mary Ellen Mark Foundation and Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

6- Mary Ellen Mark, Vashira and Tashira Hargrove, Suffolk, New York, 1993. Courtesy of The Mary Ellen Mark Foundation and Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

7- Mary Ellen Mark, The Damm family in their car, Los Angeles, California, 1987. Courtesy of The Mary Ellen Mark Foundation and Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

8- Rinko Kawauchi, Untitled. From the eyes, the ears series, 2002-04. Courtesy the artist and Aperture Foundation

9- Sakiko Nomura, Untitled, 1997 from the Hiroki series. Courtesy the artist and Aperture Foundation

10- Hitomi Watanabe, Untitled from the Tōdai Zenkyōtō series, 1968-69. Courtesy the artist and Aperture Foundation.

11- Ishiuchi Miyako. Mother’s #35. Courtesy the artist and The Third Gallery Aya

12- Ishiuchi Miyako. ひろしま / hiroshima #37F donor: Harada A. Courtesy the artist and The Third Gallery Aya

13- Bruce Eesly, Peter Trimmel wins first prize for his UHY fennel at the Kooma Giants Show in Limburg, 1956. From the New Farmer series, 2023. Courtesy the artist

14- Bruce Eesly, Selected potato varieties are rated in sixteen categories according to the LURCH Desirable Traits Checklist, 1952. From the New Farmer series, 2023. Courtesy the artist

15- Bruce Eesly, Farm table in Dengen, 1955. From the New Farmer series, 2023. Courtesy the artist

16- Nicolas Floc’h, White River, Badlands, South Dakota, Rivers Ocean. From the Mississippi series, 2022. Courtesy the artist

17- Nicolas Floc’h, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Rivers Ocean. From the Mississippi series, 2022. Courtesy the artist

18- Nicolas Floc’h, Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana, Rivers Ocean. From the Mississippi series, 2022. Courtesy the artist

19- Nicolas Floc’h, Mississippi River, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Rivers Ocean. From the Mississippi series, 2022. Courtesy the artist

20- Moyra Davey, Subway Writers III, 2011. Courtesy the artist

21- Martha Rosler, Photo-Op, photomontage. From the House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home series, 2004. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Nagel Draxler, Berlin/Cologne/Munich

22- Judith Joy Ross, Annie Hasz, Easton, Pennsylvania, Protesting the Iraq War, Living With War. From the Portraits series, 2007. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Thomas Zander, Cologne


1000 Words favourites

• Renée Mussai on exhibitions as sites of dialogue, critique, and activism.

• Roxana Marcoci navigates curatorial practice in the digital age.

• Tanvi Mishra reviews Felipe Romero Beltrán’s Dialect.

• Discover London’s top five photography galleries.

• Tim Clark in conversation with Hayward Gallery’s Ralph Rugoff on Hiroshi Sugimoto.

• Academic rigour and essayistic freedom as told by Taous R. Dahmani.

London city guide

Top five photography galleries

Selected by Tim Clark and Thomas King

As the dust settles on Photo London 2024 and Peckham 24 – the capital’s two key points of reference within the UK photography calendar – we benchmark five leading London galleries and museums who are making a sustained effort to create productive and welcoming spaces for the encounter, use and consideration of photography today.


Tim Clark with Thomas King | City guide | 14 June 2024 | In association with MPB

At a time when the funding climate in the UK is at its least favourable in decades, setting up – let alone sustaining – a gallery dedicated to the art of photography, public or otherwise, is far from straightforward. The sector is currently groaning under the weight of government funding cuts, exorbitant energy bills, messy logistical and bureaucratic ramifications arising from Brexit, the fallout of the pandemic and cost of living crisis; not to mention the constant undermining of the arts in education in favour of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects at the hand of the outgoing Tory party, allied with pedalling culture wars and all round anathema.

Yet, despite – and even in spite of – these significant challenges, the UK government’s own estimates show that the creative industries generated £126 billion in gross value added to the economy and employed 2.4 million people in 2022 alone. A global leader clearly, but one that is woefully underfunded, leaving an increasing amount of arts organisations out to dry as they struggle to thrive in one of the world’s most expensive cities. In a parallel universe, the city of Berlin’s culture budget for 2024 is set at €947 million (with a population of 3.56 million) while the entire culture budget for England in 2024 pales in comparison at £458.5 million (with a population of 57 million): two wildly different per capita spends.

Meanwhile, in March this year, opposition party leader Kier Starmer spoke at the Labour Creatives Conference claiming he would “build a new Britain out of the ashes of the failed Tory project” and restore, what he called, the UK’s “diminished” status on the global stage. His top line pledges were as follows: getting art and design courses back on the curriculum, supporting freelancers’ rights, cracking down on ticket touting and improving access to creative apprenticeships. Essentially, promising to ensure creative skills are a necessity, not a luxury. To use the creative industries as a form of soft power. But it will require a detailed arts strategy coupled with fierce and charismatic advocates, and, crucially, increases in funding for the arts to European levels to get the UK’s cultural infrastructure back on sturdier ground. It is nothing short of a miracle, then, to have London gallery and museum spaces fully participating in a civic society at such a high calibre level.

What follows is a rundown of five leading London galleries and museums who are making a sustained effort to create productive and welcoming spaces for the encounter, use and consideration of photography today. It should be noted that there are a handful of medium specific spaces that haven’t been included, but doubtless could be. Among them: the ambitious British Centre for Photography currently looking for a permanent home; Tate, whose new Senior Curator of Photography and International Art, Singaporean Charmaine Toh, is just a few months in post; beloved and sorely missed Seen Fifteen (its founding director Vivienne Gamble now channels her energies towards growing the annual photography festival Peckham 24); Webber Gallery, which has seemingly shifted the emphasis of its exhibitions’ focus to a vast Los Angeles space; not neglecting to mention stalwart dealer Michael Hoppen whose eponymous gallery no longer operates from its multi-floor premises on Jubilee Place, instead opting for a location in Holland Park. Hopefully that goes some way to account for their omissions. There are other bricks and mortar spaces too: Hamiltons, MMX, Atlas, IWM’s Blavatnik Art, Film and Photography Galleries, TJ Boutling, Huxley-Parlour, Leica, Photofusion, Albumen, Purdy Hicks, Camera Eye, Augusta Edwards Fine Art and Doyle Wham, all worthy of a mention and giving much cause for celebration.

Autograph

Autograph
Rivington Place, London, EC2A 3BA
+44 020 7729 9200
autograph.org.uk

Every exhibition that Autograph stages is unmissable. The organisation’s remit is to ‘champion the work of artists who use photography and film to highlight questions of race, representation, human rights and social justice’, and it offers opportunity after opportunity to see powerful and vitally important work. Far from jumping on any bandwagon, this mission has long been embedded within the organisation, its practices and via ambitious work. Autograph was established in 1988 to support black photographic practices, and began in a small office in the Bon Marché building in Brixton, when it was known as the Association of Black Photographers (ABP). It applied for charitable status and moved to a permanent home at Rivington Place in Shoreditch in 2007, the first purpose-built space dedicated to the development and presentation of culturally diverse arts in England, decades before museums considered it necessary to start rethinking themselves.

Autograph punches significantly above its weight, and has long been an essential port of call for any photography lover living in or coming through the city, not to mention the impact on the capital’s culture at large. Largely owing to the skill and determination of visionary director Mark Sealy OBE – in post since 1991 – and talented and rigorous curator Bindi Vora, exhibitions at Autograph are born out of a professional methodology that is fundamentally interdisciplinary and grounded in both real-life research and experience. Yet it also moves past cultures of “them and us” to routinely bring to life transgressive and inclusive commissions, projects and publications.

As one of Arts Council England’s National Portfolio Organisations (NPO), Autograph saw a 30% uplift increase from £712,880 to £1,012,880 a year to support its work for the period of 2023–2026 (as per the last round of funding decisions announced in 2022). Stuart Hall once served as a chair on the board and Autograph’s unique collection contains works by Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Zanele Muholi, James Barnor, Lina Iris Viktor, Yinka Shonibare, Ingrid Pollard, Joy Gregory, Colin Jones, Phoebe Boswell, Raphael Albert, Ajamu and others.

V&A Photography Centre

V&A Photography Centre
Cromwell Road, London, SW7 2RL
+44 020 7942 2000
vam.ac.uk/info/photography-centre

Two transformative moments in the recent history of the V&A’s longstanding relationship with photography have been, firstly, the appointment of scholarly curator Duncan Forbes as the inaugural Director of Photography in 2020, who came from the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, and then the launch of The Parasol Foundation in Women Photography Project in 2022, spearheaded by the prodigious Fiona Rogers. Dedicated to supporting women artists though acquisitions, research and education, augmented through a commissioning programme with support from the Parasol Foundation Trust, Rogers’ programme also features an increasingly important prize established to identify, support and champion women artists. It attracted over 1,400 submissions for the 2024 edition produced in partnership with Peckham24.

Prior to this, its vast photography holdings were bolstered when the Royal Photographic Society (RPS) Collection was transferred in 2017, and the collection now runs to over 800,000 photographs that span the 1820s to the present day. Programmes have evolved amidst a backdrop of institutional accountability and inclusivity during the dramatic changes we’ve witnessed in recent years and has embraced dynamic contemporary practices as well as pivoted to account for the medium’s many histories. It’s now the largest space in the UK dedicated to a permanent photography collection, with a total of seven galleries, three rooms of which focus on contemporary international practices with Noémie Goudal and Hoda Afshar commanding ample space, the mighty impressive resource that is The Kusuma Gallery – Photography and the Book, and The Meta Media Gallery – Digital Gallery. Fledging curators: take note of The Curatorial Fellowship in Photography opportunity, supported by The Bern Schwartz Family Foundation, aimed to facilitate in-depth research into under-recognised aspects of the photography collection.

The Photographers’ Gallery

The Photographers’ Gallery 
16-18 Ramillies St, London, W1F 7LW
+44 020 7087 9300
thephotographersgallery.org.uk

While the restrictive nature of its building – a converted, six story former textiles warehouse situated off Oxford Street in the heart of Soho – doesn’t make for an optimum exhibition experience, The Photographers’ Gallery remains an important and well-visited public gallery for photography in London. TPG spaces are tricky given the premises’ vertical orientation and warren-like galleries, but recent exhibitions such as the exemplary Daido Moriyama: A Retrospective, guest curated by Thyago Nogueira of São Paulo’s Instituto Moreira Salles, did well to turn the entire gallery into something coherent.

Founded by the late Sue Davies OBE (1933-2020) in 1971 as the UK’s first public gallery dedicated to photography, TPG has a strong legacy and recently saw is funding maintained at £918,867 per year as one of Arts Council England’s NPOs during the 2022 announcement, the same year it launched its outdoor cultural space, Soho Photography Quarter – a rotating open air programme with much potential. It’s the world-class education and talks offer, programmed and curated by Janice McLaren and Luisa Ulyett, that are among its standout qualities. Workshops and short courses are just some of the events that broaden access and steer conversation. At street and basement level there is an innovative Digital Wall catering for photography’s increased automated and networked lives, a print sales gallery, well-stocked bookshop and much-loved café area providing a condensation point for a range of different publics. TPG’s annual exhibition, The Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize, an award of £30,000, has also entered a new phase since 2020 to include a broader range of voices as evidenced by the past five winners: Mohamed Bourouissa, Cao Fei, Deana Lawson, Samuel Fosso and Lebohang Kganye.

Former Photoworks director Shoair Mavlian took the helm in 2023, positive news given her curatorial background, NPO experience and canny thought leadership. Of course, it takes a couple of years for a new incumbent to put their stamp on a place like this but TPG is primed to reap the benefits of Mavlian’s ethos – contemporary, generous and diverse – and question what the space can be and who it can be for in order to thrive into the future.

Large Glass Gallery

Large Glass Gallery
392 Caledonian Road, London, N1 1DN
+44 020 7609 9345
largeglass.co.uk

In 2011, former director of Frith Street Gallery, Charlotte Schepke established a contemporary art gallery that leans heavily into photography: the innovative and elegant Large Glass Gallery based near Kings Cross on the edge of central London. Large Glass bills itself as an ‘alternative to the mainstream commercial gallery scene’, a description that is wholly warranted in light of its original and inquisitive approach to exhibition-making. From the inaugural exhibition, a precedent was set: channelling the energy of Marcel Duchamp by way of eclectic presentations of artworks, design pieces and found objects that take inspiration from the father of Conceptual Art, not only nodding to his famed work The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (1915–1923), more commonly known as ‘The Large Glass’, but through embracing experimental juxtapositions.

Playful use of concepts and materials are still to be found and the current “rolling” exhibition is in case in point. Staged in three parts, After Mallarmé is curated by Michael Newman, who is Professor of Art Writing at Goldsmiths, University of London. The heady thematic exhibition riffs off the works and legacy of French poet Stéphane Mallarmé to reflect on ideas of spaces, the page, the book, chance, mobility and contingency. Whereas, previously this year, Francesco Neri: Boncellino offered a more classic take via a selection of quiet and meditative, mostly black-and-white portraits of farmers and the farming community in the countryside around Modena in northern Italy, ‘a census of a village’s population’. Large Glass’ represented artists are: Hélène Binet, Guido Guidi, Hendl Helen Mirra, Francesco Neri and Mark Ruwedel.

Flowers Gallery

Flowers Gallery
21 Cork Street, London, W1S 3LZ
+44 020 7439 7766

82 Kingsland Road, London, E2 8DP
+44 020 7920 777
flowersgallery.com

Heavyweight Canadian photographer Ed Burtynsky may occupy much of the limelight at Flowers Gallery and their presence at art fairs such as Photo London and Paris Photo (Burtynsky was recently the subject of back-to-back exhibitions at the gallery’s Cork Street space which coincided with Saatchi Gallery’s major 2024 retrospective, BURTYNSKY: EXTRACTION / ABSTRACTION, the largest exhibition ever mounted in Burtynsky’s 40+ year career), but it boasts an impressive roster of photographers built up over years, first by Diana Poole then Chris Littlewood, who established the department which is now run by Lieve Beumer. Among them: Edmund Clark, Boomoon, Shen Wei, Robert Polidori, Julie Cockburn, Gaby Laurent, Tom Lovelace, Simon Roberts, Esther Teichmann, Lorenzo Vitturi, Michael Wolf, Mona Kuhn, Nadav Kander and Lisa Jahovic, all recognised for their engagement with important socio-cultural, political and environmental themes. Aficionados of the medium may hope for further in-depth and major photography exhibitions in due course from the esteemed gallery, but despite Flowers’ deep commitment to photography, it works across a range of media within contemporary art.

Flowers has presented more than 900 exhibitions across global locations, including from New York and Hong Kong outposts, and lists a total of 80 represented artists. Established in 1970 by Angela Flowers (1932–2023), Flowers has long held East End venues, initially in the heart of Hackney with Flowers East on Richmond Road, set up in 1988, before moving to Kingsland Road in Shoreditch in 2002, a 12,000 square foot venue spread over three floors of a 19th century warehouse, arguably London’s most elegant white cube space within which to view photography. ♦

 

 

 

 


Tim Clark is a writer and curator based in London. He is Editor in Chief at
1000 Words, Artistic Director at Fotografia Europea in Reggio Emilia, Italy, and teaches at The Institute of Photography, Falmouth University. 

Thomas King is Editorial Intern at 1000 Words and a student on BA (Hons) Culture, Criticism, Curation at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London.

Images:

1-Autograph, London. © Kate Elliot

2-Hélène Amouzou: Voyages exhibition at Autograph. 22 September 2023-20 January 2024. Curated by Bindi Vora. © Kate Elliot

3-Wilfred Ukpong: Niger-Delta / Future-Cosmos exhibition at Autograph. 16 February-1 June 2024. Curated by Mark Sealy. © Kate Elliot

4-Gibson Thornley Architects, V&A Photography Centre. Installation view of Untitled (Giant Phoenix), 2022, Noemié Goudal, Photography Now – Gallery 96 © Thomas Adank

5-Gibson Thornley Architects, V&A Photography Centre – Photography and the Book – Gallery 98 © Thomas Adank

6-Gibson Thornley Architects, V&A Photography Centre – Photography Now – Gallery 97 © Thomas Adank

7-The Photographers’ Gallery, London. © Luke Hayes

8>9-Daido Moriyama: A Retrospective exhibition at The Photographers’ Gallery. 6 October 2023-11 February 2024. © Kate Elliot

10-Ursula Schulz-Dornburg: Memoryscapes exhibition at Large Glass Gallery. 13 May-1 July 2023. © Stephen White and Co

11-Francesco Neri: Boncellino exhibition at Large Glass Gallery. 19 January–16 March 2024. © Stephen White and Co

12-Guido Guidi: Di sguincio exhibition at Large Glass Gallery. 3 February-11 March 2023. © Stephen White and Co

13-Flowers Gallery, Cork Street. © Antonio Parente

14-Edward Burtynsky, New Works exhibition at Flowers Gallery, Cork Street. 28 February-6 April 2024. © Antonio Parente


1000 Words favourites

• Renée Mussai on exhibitions as sites of dialogue, critique, and activism.

• Roxana Marcoci navigates curatorial practice in the digital age.

• Tanvi Mishra reviews Felipe Romero Beltrán’s Dialect.

• Discover London’s top five photography galleries.

• Tim Clark in conversation with Hayward Gallery’s Ralph Rugoff on Hiroshi Sugimoto.

• Academic rigour and essayistic freedom as told by Taous R. Dahmani.

Paris Photo 2023

Top five fair highlights

Selected by Alessandro Merola

Paris Photo has returned to the Grand Palais Éphémère with a diverse line-up of ambitious solo, group and thematic gallery presentations. Amongst the highlights, contributions by artists working across mixed-media make for some of the most memorable viewings. Here are five standout displays from the fair’s 26th edition – selected by 1000 Words Assistant Editor, Alessandro Merola. 


Alessandro Merola | Fair highlights | 9 Nov 2023

1. Bruno V. Roels, Gold Giants
Gallery FIFTY ONE

There is no shortage of fascinating flora at this year’s edition – from an Anna Atkins’ cyanotype all the way through to Hanako Murakami’s thermographies – but the cranked-up, sci-fi-esque palms of Bruno V. Roels are utterly hypnotic. Each of the works presented across an eight-metre-long, old rose wall at Gallery FIFTY ONE has its own character, mood and texture, yet all are interrelated and function as variations on one image. Nearby, the warbly ripples of distortion in “Magic Lantern (Palmographs)” are filled with anxiety and encroaching dread, whilst the squiggle-painted “Figura Serpentinata (Demeter)” has an air of sinful artificiality. Through this series of unaffected, unsentimental gestures of dissolution ­– stretched to infinity with deadpan irreverence – Roels loops us back to the ways in which we continually seek out familiar shapes and icons. Of course, these ventures comprise only the latest chapter of Roels’ playing with paradise. One feels he isn’t far off repeating it to the point of emptiness. 

2. Marguerite Bornhausser, When Black is Burned
Carlos Carvalho

Marguerite Bornhausser is becoming a fixture around these premises, not least for the fact she is currently completing a residency exploring the Grand Palais’ renovation. Unveiling reworked negatives – painted or coloured – from Bornhausser’s new series, When Black is Burned, the two walls at Carlos Carvalho are a reminder that the French artist’s penchant for the experimental – not to mention her taste for deep hues – is only intensifying. This sharp and splashy selection draws on the ways in which light and shadow can unlock the imagination. Indeed, Bornhausser renders what she dreams and not what she sees, not so much confronting but reactivating – or reinventing – sensations through visions outside of time. Also available here is her freshly-printed, hard-back book with Simple Editions, a wholly captivating and riotous object in which the convergence of natural elements and artificial matter suggests that meaning can drift in on a current of air and alight itself on just about anything. If Bornhausser has a crush on beauty, then it is as much for its mystery as for its surface appeal.

3. Hassan Hajjaj, 1445 in Paris
193 Gallery

Hassan Hajjaj’s solo booth at 193 Gallery is as bold as can be, with vibrant camel-print wallpaper and flooring comprising the scenography to the Moroccan’s mixed-media works, which are hung in custom frames made of stuffed olive tins, Arabic alphabet blocks and tyres. They belong to celebrated (and celebratory) series such as My Rockstars and Dakka Marrakchia, and are themselves melting pots, remixing photography with fabrics, commerce with tradition and heritage with globalism. Although unrepentantly decorative, Hajjaj’s works are also critical in that they batt off orientalist clichés, all the while confronting the consumerism that has transformed traditional craft production in the Arab world. Yet, ultimately, it’s the unmistakable, uninhibited sense of rootedness that is Hajjaj’s hallmark. Moroccan mint tea ceremonies and sweets can be enjoyed at the booth, making it the place to be for cross-cultural exchanges (as further emphasised by the exhibition’s title, which invokes the current year in the Hijri calendar). This is Hajjaj’s world of today.

4. Daido Moriyama, ’71, NY
Daniel Blau

At Daniel Blau, the unstoppable Daido Moriyama is represented by 22 staggering new paintings, each splicing consecutive exposures – that is, back-to-back snaps of the same scenes – taken during the photographer’s first trip outside of Japan in 1971. The influences of Andy Warhol and William Klein are there to see in Moriyama’s New York: an overwhelming and chaotic chronicle bestowed, in black and bronze, by a narrator whose finger seems to be as firmly on the city’s pulse as the camera’s shutter release. What is at stake here is a kind of unveiling in which Moriyama seeks to grasp what is lurking, hidden beneath the surface, or in-between the negatives. By juxtaposing different perspectives, ruptured in time, he delves into his memories, confronting them – like a mirror – with the materiality of the world. The stand, simultaneously, blasts us into space with a curious selection of photographs derived from galactical missions in the 1960s and 70s, including Friendship 7, in which John Glenn became the first man to orbit the earth. He did it solo, and has a dazzling shot of space particles to show for it. You can’t help but feel his was a quest for truth not unlike Moriyama’s on earth.

5. Rebekka Deubner, Strip
Espace Jörg Brockmann

The valedictory photograms on display at Espace Jörg Brockmann constitute the most poignant and affecting work at this year’s Curiosa. Convening various items from the wardrobe of Rebekka Deubner’s deceased mother, what Strip offers is no mere catalogue, but, rather, a kind of séance. The mosaic-like hang heightens the disembodied and untethered quality of the photograms, whose shifts in scale – often zooming into tiny tears and frays – evoke the yearning for physical closeness to the departed. Although the tight crops teeter towards abstraction, Deubner never compromises her concern for detail and texture. The presentation of a video work in which the artist interacts with her mother’s old items – she ties her laces, applies lipstick and pulls out a tissue from a pocket – creates an intriguing tension with the ethereal and ghostly photograms. After all, it is by way of Deubner’s cameraless approach that she resists any sense that she is fighting against evanescence. Instead, she evokes the nuanced, unresolved conflict between holding on and letting go; between what can be touched and what can only be felt. ♦

Paris Photo
 runs at the Grand Palais Éphémère until 12 November 2023.


Alessandro Merola is Assistant Editor at 1000 Words.

Images:

1-“Unfinished Landscape” (2023) © Bruno V. Roels. Courtesy of the artist and Gallery FIFTY ONE.

2-“Gold Giant #3” (2021) © Bruno V. Roels. Courtesy of the artist and Gallery FIFTY ONE.

3-“Also Protected By Sharp Spines And Needles” (2023) © Bruno V. Roels. Courtesy of the artist and Gallery FIFTY ONE.

4-“Untitled” from When Black is Burned (2023) © Marguerite Bornhausser. Courtesy of the artist, Carlos Carvalho and Simple Editions.

5-“Untitled” from When Black is Burned (2023) © Marguerite Bornhausser. Courtesy of the artist, Carlos Carvalho and Simple Editions.

6-“Garage Hajjaj (BW)” (2003/1424) © Hassan Hajjaj. Courtesy of the artist and 193 Gallery.

7-“n.t.” from ’71 NY (1971/2023) © Daido Moriyama Photo Foundation. Courtesy of Akio Nagasawa Gallery.

8-“Fireflies Outside Friendship 7: First Human-Taken Photograph from Space” (1962) © NASA/John Glenn. Courtesy of Daniel Blau.

9-“#11” from Strip (2022–23) © Rebekka Deubner. Courtesy of the artist and Espace Jörg Brockmann.

10-“#48” from Strip (2022–23) © Rebekka Deubner. Courtesy of the artist and Espace Jörg Brockmann.

Daido Moriyama

A Retrospective

Exhibition review by Mark Durden

Presented on four floors of The Photographers’ Gallery, London, Daido Moriyama: A Retrospective has been deftly curated by Thyago Nogueira of São Paulo’s Instituto Moreira Salles to offer an anti-modernist, Pop, all over display of pictures that extends the montage aesthetic of print media to the gallery wall, writes Mark Durden.


Mark Durden | Exhibition review | 25 Oct 2023

What does it mean today to show Daido Moriyama at The Photographers’ Gallery? In 2012, in an effective and revealing exhibition, Tate Modern presented Moriyama’s photography and silkscreen print variants, books and magazines alongside films, photography and paintings by William Klein. The pairing was significant, for Klein was an important influence through his grainy, blurry out of focus way of rendering the city in his 1956 book Life is Good and Good for You in New York. Can this new show of Moriyama say anything new? Curated by Thyago Nogueira and accompanied by a substantial new book, Daido Moriyama: A Retrospective has toured via Europe from São Paulo’s Instituto Moreira Salles in 2022. Presented on four floors of The Photographers’ Gallery, photographic images are everywhere, framed in grids, pasted on walls, on video screens, projected and in books and magazines in vitrines. The Tate Modern display of Moriyama was more modernist and restrained in comparison.

Perhaps the curatorial approach at The Photographers’ Gallery is more in keeping with Moriyama’s approach to photography. The often-made point is that Moriyama is a photographer for print-reproduction, that the book is his primary format. This anti-modernist, Pop, all over display of pictures is in keeping with this, extending the montage aesthetic of print media to the gallery wall.

The show begins on the top floor, accessed by a lift, its interior pasted with repeated images of a mascaraed eye, an appropriate cue to the image glut that awaits. Moriyama’s aesthetic or vision is defined in relation to the US, with Andy Warhol as well as Klein big influences. Warhol was encountered aptly through reproductions, by way of the exhibition catalogue of his 1968 Swedish retrospective at Moderna Museet. But his work also needs to be seen in terms of the destruction and defeat of Japan – Moriyama was seven when atomic bombs obliterated Nagasaki and Hiroshima – as well as its occupation by US forces after 1951 and its transformation by American consumer culture.  

The exhibition begins with his 1968 book Japan: A Photo Theater in the form of both a grid of selected photographic images and a video screen presentation of the book. As the text panel highlights, the point is that the book is assembled from photographs recomposed from earlier editorial pictures in magazines, a deliberate break from the sequencing and clarity of the picture essay, treating photographs as “fragments” according to Moriyama. Disjuncture and discordance characterise the pictures, many of them grainy, blurred and taken off-kilter. They detail the collisions of a Japan in transformation, the miraculous and bizarre worlds associated with Kabuki performances and the avant-garde theatre troupe Tenjō Sajiki, mixed in with observations of life on the street: a shaven-headed man on all fours, two upright and smartly dressed young Japanese shoppers, a woman fearful behind her partly opened but chained door, two women in traditional Japanese dress, the big tail fins of an American car. The lopsided photograph of a television screen with the fragmentary cartoon image of female lips and teeth, in its cheery but plastic expression, accords with the general unsettling of human values and expressions in the series. The book closes with a series of human foetuses in formalin, one of which is included in the grid display of pictures: a life still born, an allegory of photography itself.    

The top floor defines what is now his signature aesthetic. The analogue process is evident throughout – grain, blur and deliberate high-contrast. In a feature for Asahi Camera, the oiled flesh of overcrowded beachgoers seems irradiated, pleasure is linked with death. Bleached out figures recur, with light as a destructive force. A series of blow-ups from a traffic poster from National Police agency showing a graphic car crash makes a homage to both Warhol’s Death and Disaster silkscreens (1962-65) as well as Weegee. Another series includes a fuzzy broadcast image of Bill Eppbridge’s well-known photograph of Robert Kennedy’s assassination. The fourth floor closes with his photography for Provoke magazine, his features about sex and commodities in two of its four issues. In a display drawn from his series Eros (1969), a sequence of blurred images of an anonymous naked lone female in a hotel room is framed by an explanatory wall text referring to the issue’s critique of ‘capitalism’s suppression of individual desire through which real feelings were progressively repressed and replaced by the consumption of images.’ Moriyama’s photographs of displays of supermarket products represent a degraded Pop aesthetic – the image deterioration or break-up through reproduction becomes integral to the picturing, a counter to the fetishism of commodities.

The third floor begins with a grid of colour photographs, dating from the late 1960s, and on a facing wall, a colour vinyl print blow-up of one of them. It shows Moriyama behind the camera, reflected in a mirror, which also shows the face of a young Japanese woman, slightly out of focus and looking at the photographer and us. For all the ambiguities set up through the mirror, like Eros, it is an all too familiar dynamic. Women are a constant in his street photography – among the block of colour images is his memorable and often reproduced flash-lit photo of a woman running away from the camera barefoot over rough and sharp-looking debris in a back alley in Shinjuku. The picture makes explicit the predatory menace we are invited to assume is allied with the photographer. Of course, the predatory male photographer was, and still is, part and parcel of street photography: Lee Friedlander ironicised it brilliantly in his 1970 book Self Portrait, whilst Garry Winogrand both indulged and joked with it in his celebratory 1975 book Women are Beautiful.

Amidst the glut of images, one almost loses the radicality of his book Farewell Photography (1972), his goodbye that certainly marked an existential crisis but was never in the end a goodbye. The complete layout from Farewell is presented as a wallpaper installation, in sequence. Not that sequencing makes much difference. On the wall, the pictures are less abrasive than in book form. Whilst the book is lost among other books and magazines in one of the vitrines, the whole book is shown on a video screen in the reading room on the second floor. The wall text includes his remark about how it was made against the ‘naivety to think that you could try and create masterpieces.’ It is of course ironic now that the book is unequivocally a masterpiece. Many of the images are drawn from the growing images he had amassed and accumulated. For Japan: A Photo Theater, he reshuffled pictures to break sense, but here he goes further as the pictures are so degraded – some were printed from negatives picked up from the darkroom floor. There are blanks and voids, grainy fields, solarised images, analogue noise and blur shrouding and obscuring what images remain discernible.

Towards the end of the show, there is a wall-sized blow-up of a photograph of a female mannequin head, adorned with mirrored sunglasses, one lens reflecting a woman from the street and the other the photographer. It is part of a recent work called Pretty Woman, an all-over wall installation of pasted photographic images, both colour and black-and-white, which, according to the captioning text overlaid on the wallpaper of images, ‘offers a garish immersion into urban consumerism through the trope of the female figure, in all its forms.’ The show invites us to see a shift in the work – a clear move from Farewell, which was dominated by disfiguring or the ruination of representation to a photography of the world, the streets of Japan and other cities, beginning in the early 1980s. But with this embrace of what the curator refers to as “the visual lyricism” of street photography, the thematic is the same – the link between commodities and woman in Pretty Woman is a variant from his two series in Provoke, but now played out also using colour and in response to urban spaces choking with images. A generous reading might say there is a critique in the emphasis on vacuity, for example, the mannequin female head. There is a deathliness to photographic reproduction in Farewell and it is also here. Moriyama once referred to the all-over display of photographs as akin to a menu from which the spectator could choose pictures – but we are spoilt by choice. There are too many images. The show began with the re-assembly of photographs as fragments for his first book. It ends with a three-screen projection (with an accompanying soundtrack) from his ongoing magazine Record, which initially ran in 1972-73 and was relaunched in 2006 with more than 50 editions, in turn becoming a regular way of publishing his photography.

This is a very thorough, comprehensive and well-curated show. It does open up new insights into his work and one does get the sense it brings us closer to what, for better words, one might call Moriyama’s vision. In a recent documentary video included in the show, Moriyama refers to how “the world is erotic”. It links with earlier remarks about street photography in a film made for the Tate, where he remarked how “cities are enormous bodies of people’s desires”. For all the understandable buzz and excitement over this blockbuster show, such remarks are troubling when his street photography is so clearly centred on women. Whether the figure of the woman is a trope for consumerism or not, it does not matter. The world has moved on but Moriyama’s art has not. ♦

Images courtesy the artist and The Photographers’ Gallery, London © Daido Moriyama

Daido Moriyama: A Retrospective runs at The Photographers’ Gallery, London, until 11 February 2024.


Mark Durden is an academic, writer and artist. He is Professor of Photography and the Director of the European Centre for Documentary Research at the University of South Wales. He works collaboratively as part of the artist group Common Culture and, since 2017, with João Leal, has been photographing modernist architecture in Europe.

Paris Photo 2022

Top six fair highlights

Selected by Alessandro Merola

Within the Grand Palais Éphémère, Paris Photo 2022 is now underway. This year’s offerings are more diverse and demanding than ever, making it a great litmus test for what is going on in the medium today. Here are six standout displays from the fair’s 25th edition – selected by 1000 Words Assistant Editor, Alessandro Merola. 


1. Boris Mikhailov, The Theatre of War, Second Act, Time Out
Galerie Suzanne Tarasieve

Paris’ multiple tributes to Boris Mikhailov, in the form of his retrospective at MEP and the haunting presentation of At Dusk at the Bourse de Commerce’s Salon, continue to take on new meanings following Vladimir Putin’s razing over the Ukrainian photographer’s hometown of Kharhiv. Galerie Suzanne Tarasieve’s decision to show The Theatre of War, Second Act, Time Out (2013), a rarely exhibited record of Ukraine’s slide into war, is a strong one. Produced during the wave of pro-European demonstrations in Kyiv’s Maidan Nezalezhnosti, these on-the-ground shots depict life behind the barricades – what the artist refers to as a “stage set”. Indeed, the Stalinist square, after which the movement was named, had been rebuilt in the 1930s as a set piece to glorify – or appeal to the memory of – revolution. But what we find here are the architects of a real revolt, ushering in the transformation of a state both deeply ambitious and tragically incomplete. In this regard, the inclusion of prints from Tea, Coffee, Cappuccino (2000–10), chronicling the colourful, plastic realty of Kharhiv in the era of new capitalism, both reflects and disturbs this story. No photographer has captured the complexity of Ukraine’s post-Soviet psyche as eloquently as Mikhailov, whose aesthetic sublimations have kept him on the inside of history, looking out.

2. Jean-Kenta Gauthier, Real Pictures: An Invitation to Imagine

Offering a sensitive dimension to erasure, memory, imagination et cetera – the themes that underpin Jean-Kenta Gauthier’s booth, which feels more like a mini-exhibition – is the installation of Real Pictures (1995) by Alfredo Jaar, who lays to rest the post-traumatic content of his Rwandan photographic encounters by entombing them in black boxes. The site contains a certain sorrow that can only be understood once you read the texts on the boxes, factually describing the photographs. The Real refers to a failure, or impossibility, of representation which sustains Jaar’s engagement with the subject matter of genocide. Whilst Daido Moriyama takes us back to the “beginning” of photography through a shot of his Tokyo bedroom in which Nicéphore Niépce’s “fossilised” View from the Window at Le Gras (1827) hangs (the clock reads 11:03, one minute after the Nagasaki bomb, as memorialised by the melted pocket watch of his mentor, Shōmei Tōmatsu), Hanako Murakami takes us back even further still via Louis Daguerre, whose words, now ignited in neon, “I am burning with desire to see your experiments from nature”, penned in a letter to Niépce. The statement becomes troubled alongside Murakami’s take-free paper stack which cleverly condenses Niépce’s 1829 treatise on the invention of heliography to its front and back covers, respectively illustrating both sides of a single sheet. Murakami’s ongoing, richly researched and poetic archaeologies of the past remind us that the history of photography is full of absences. By questioning the origins of the medium, she questions the memory of the world. 

3. Noémie Goudal
Galerie Les filles du Calvaire

The fragile instability of the world humans desire to see is intelligently interpreted by Noémie Goudal, whose dynamic presentation at the group show of Galerie Les filles du Calvaire really stands out. The complexity of Goudal’s interventions reside in the way it implicates the audience – both visually and spatially – in her fabrications of nature. For example, it is only upon a close inspection that her large snow-capped mountain peak images reveal themselves as paint-coated concrete slabs mounted on cardboard; their initial illusory vastness thus become vertiginous. Yet, if Goudal attempts a trompe-l’œil, it is intentionally flawed, for she does not set out to conceal the models’ constructedness, but instead puts it centre-stage. Her manipulations are even more ambiguous in Décantation (2021), which, on the contrary, are most impactful when viewed from afar. Achieved through a process of printing on water-soluble paper and rephotographing, small, subtle iterations narrate an imaginary washing-out – or “dissolving” – across time. Over the suite of photographs, the rock formations melt, like glaciers. It’s here that Goudal, chillingly, shows us the complicity between the desire to see and the desire to destroy. 

4. Patricia Conde Galería

One of the toughest and most transcendental viewings at this year’s fair comes from Cannon Bernáldez’s El estado normal de las cosas (2022), which is on show at Mexico City’s Patricia Conde Galería. Translating to The normal state of things, the piece sees Bernáldez communicate her experience of being assaulted through the language of fragmentation: an arrangement of 105 silver gelatin prints each depict her wounded hand. By way of burning as well as solarising – extreme, continuous and multiple overexposures of the photographic film – Bernáldez touches on the violence of inhabiting a physical, female body. Just as symbolically loaded is the work of Yael Martínez, represented here by a grid of nine new photographs that tell a dark and fractured tale of contemporary life in Mexico. For all his sublime, fantastical lyricism, Martínez channels an attuned physicality, spirit of resistance and sense of rootedness. Meanwhile, there is a special opportunity to view a portfolio of delectably printed Mary Ellen Mark photographs documenting vibrant happenings at Mexican circuses. Their joyousness and eccentricities make it clear why Mark considered the circus “a metaphor for everything that has always fascinated me visually.” 

5. Jean-Vincent Simonet, Heirloom
Sentiment

Since its inauguration in 2018, the Curiosa sector has been charged with injecting cutting-edge elements into the fair. And this year is no different as Holly Roussell’s energetic curation certainly continues in this vein. Jean-Vincent Simonet’s meta-experiments that form Sentiment’s booth are interesting because they fuse analogue photography and digital techniques in a way that feels more terminal than future. Comprising a classic hang of 12 unique pieces – images of, and made at, the printing factory that has belonged to the artist’s family across three generations – Heirloom (2022) turns its attention to the instruments of production: ink tanks, paper trash and cleaning tools. Whilst they lack the exuberant, excessive fetishism of his fashion work and nudes, they retain all the entropic impulsivity and vivid luminosity that makes Simonet’s work so seductive. Using and abusing industrial printers – through what appears to be a frenzied combination of false settings, plastic foils, drying, washing, rinsing and fingertip smudging – Simonet has manufactured and modified images that bear an uncanny resemblance to painting. Although the ink sometimes seeps into the white bleed, their “aliveness” is actually deceptive, for the lead frames bestow a sense that what we are really looking at are reliquaries: elegiac witnesses of an approaching demise.

6. Kensuke Koike, Versus
Goliga Editions

Kensuke Koike entrances once again with a series of mind-bending photo-sculptures at Goliga Editions, whose presentation is one of the most mesmerising and unique of the book sector. The brass and ebony-wooden frames of Versus (2022) create a kind of playground for the collagist extraordinaire, housing 16 loose acrylic bars that display four original vintage prints on each of its sides. Sliced and spliced with razor-sharp precision (it had to be so, because he had only one shot), Koike’s hand-made assemblages, despite their obvious Surrealist twist, in the end defy any “ism”. For one can switch, rotate and recombine the puzzles to activate wonderful metamorphoses – from human to floral and back again – thereby giving these once abandoned relics the chance to live a large, albeit mathematically finite, number of other lives. As for the rolling, cloud-shaped slider that glides across the base to animate the image, it might border on the gimmicky, but there’s no denying its amusement and charm. Nothing and everything is left to chance for Koike, who offers us a most pure form of visual pleasure: play.

Paris Photo runs at the Grand Palais Éphémère until 13 November 2022.


Alessandro Merola is Assistant Editor at 1000 Words.

Images:

1-Boris Mikhailov, The Theatre of War, Second Act, Time Out (2013). Courtesy the artist and Galerie Suzanne Tarasieve.

2-Boris Mikhailov, Tea, Coffee, Cappuccino (2000–10). Courtesy the artist and Galerie Suzanne Tarasieve.

3-Daido Moriyama, The Artist’s Bedroom (2008). Courtesy the artist and Jean-Kenta Gauthier.

4-Hanako Murakami, The Immaculate #D5 (2019). Courtesy the artist and Jean-Kenta Gauthier.

5-Noémie Goudal, Mountain III (2021). Courtesy the artist and Galerie Les filles du Calvaire. 

6-Cannon Bernáldez, El estado normal de las cosas (2022). Courtesy the artist and Patricia Conde Galería.

7-Jean-Vincent Simonet, Door (2022). Courtesy the artist and Sentiment.

8-Jean-Vincent Simonet, Untitled #5 (2022). Courtesy the artist and Sentiment.

9-Kensuke Koike, Versus #12 (2022). Courtesy the artist and Goliga Editions.

10-Kensuke Koike, Versus #17 (2022). Courtesy the artist and Goliga Editions.

Daido Moriyama

Pantomime

Akio Nagasawa Publishing

With thin pages between organic-feeling cloth covers, this slight book of photographs seems as delicate and fragile as life itself. Its first image, shot from a dispassionate distance, could be of a tiny pair of strange prawns, touching at the tail. But the next picture, a distressing close-up, dispels any illusion of the non-human: what look like two cowering newborns hug each other, all wrinkled skin and baby-fat wrists. Visual correspondence between two images – common and commonly inconsequential in photobooks – has rarely been used with such life-and-death profundity. For these are not prawns or live babies. They are dead embryos and dead foetuses.

Heartrending yet detached and neutral, Moriyama’s stream of never-borns ebbs and flows between the amorphous and the gravely human. Potent individual images abound: a male silhouette’s hands are stretched out, as if trying to grab onto life; another is dumped upside-down into a translucent bag, the human treated inhumanely. But most powerful of all is a recurring luminous figure, its face to the floor, seemingly trying to crawl. Immobile, we see it from behind, from above, from the side: a few grainy, refulgent pictures of apparent failure which stand for all human helplessness and despair. Nothing could be further from the globally-celebrated scientific wonder of Lennart Nilsson’s roughly contemporaneous pre-natal foetus photographs.

Made over half a century ago, Moriyama’s pictures reflect his embryonic career as a struggling young photographer. But they offer much more. Most of them are ethereal, almost unreal, and the heartbreak they provoke is all the stronger for their sensitivity and gentleness. They also demonstrate a level of traditional technical accomplishment and control not readily associated with an artist best known for rejecting photographic conventions and pushing his medium to a new frantic extreme of unfocused grain and blur.

Most importantly, Pantomime is the work of a young image-maker who is already a true artist, even before finding what we think of as his own photographic voice. At a very early stage of his development, Moriyama created the base material he has now formed into one of his finest photobooks.

Simon Bowcock

Images by Simon Bowcock, courtesy Akio Nagasawa and © Daido Moriyama

Daido Moriyama

a room

Essay by Jean-Kenta Gauthier

Renown for his urgent, blurry photographs of street scenes, experimental approaches to printed matter and vast dissemination of images, Daido Moriyama has in effect been working on a room in his own apartment since the 1970s. These intimate, black and white photographs, with their strong erotic undertones, offer a glimpse into Moriyama’s daily life. Mixing depictions of female nudes — often pictured from angles in which the models’ faces are kept obscured — with shots of banal and ordinary domestic situations, this works suggests a voyeuristic approach in which the artist is simultaneously a participant and observer of his own intimate, private documentary. Asserting both a sense of control over the actions and containment in its rendering, a room represents the diary of an artist, now aged 77, who for over five decades has harnessed photography’s power to revive memories like no other.

On February 14-15, 2015, Daido Moriyama held a ‘printing show’ performance in Akio Nagasawa gallery in Tokyo, using the entire selection of 67 photographs included in a room. The event, during which 600 unique copies of a book of the same name were produced, marked the fourth recreation of Moriyama’s now famous book-making performance since the original underground exhibition from 1974. It was also the first time Moriyama would reorganise such an event in Tokyo, as the three other venues were located in the US (Aperture Foundation, New York 2011), the UK (Tate Modern, London, 2012) and France (Le Bal, Paris, 2013).

‘Printing show’, a term coined by Moriyama, puts the process of creating a photobook at the heart of the event. That week of March 1974, participants were asked to select a fixed number of his images from a grid displayed on a wall, determine their order and then have them printed on location using a photocopy machine before assembling and stapling their own unique copy together. Each would be signed and accompanied by a silkscreen cover and the book, entitled Another Country in New York, ushering in a brand of performance art applied to the creation of a photobook.

Daido Moriyama has confessed to me that his favourite book is Andy Warhol’s catalogue for his exhibition held in 1968 at Modern Museet in Stockholm. Less a traditional museum catalogue, this historical book conveyed Warhol’s aesthetics without heavy use of text. Made of a stream of black and white images with a colourful silkscreen cover showing Warhol’s famous flower motif, this publication shares many similarities, despite its size and pagination, with Moriyama’s 2015’s a room or the aforementioned Another Country in New York.

Daido Moriyama has also made appropriation, a core idea in Warhol’s oeuvre, a key concept in his work. Over the course of a long and prolific career, photographs of posters or television screens, i.e. images of images, have become legion. The work that is the most representative of this principle is probably Accident, a volume of 12 series published each month throughout 1969 in the Japanese magazine Asahi Camera. Each series, wonderfully titled Premeditated or not, consists of photographing magazine pages or television screens ranging from incidents such as car crashes to murder cases, and other instances of violence, unrest and depravation. The premise of a ‘printing show’ naturally extends the appropriation principle further by enabling not only the artist but the public to make Moriyama’s images their own. It closes the gap between author and audience, message and medium. One could also add that, as is the case with a room, Moriyama has reached his utmost level of de-appropriation by letting the participants appropriate and edit what can be considered as the artist’s most intense images of highly personal memories.

During his 2011 printing show at Aperture Foundation, one particular participant chose to repeat the same image throughout her copy, which was a surprise to Daido Moriyama who smiled wryly when he discovered the singular sequence. By transmitting images, the ‘printing show’ fits into the wider discussion on the nature of visual communication. Moriyama, himself, has said the following on the matter: “When I sign each book, I open the book and look at the image on the first page, and I think ‘aah… this person chose this image!’ I kind of see the person’s character and taste. I find it very interesting. To tell the truth, I would like to see every page of what everyone has selected. For example, even without seeing the person’s face or their daily life and work, I think there is a moment of communication with them through photography.”

Often referring to the idea of a photograph being a “fossil of light and time” that is updated or reanimated every time it is seen by a viewer, Moriyama has focused his attention on the moment when one of his single memories potentially encounter those belonging to the viewer. In this sense, his ‘printing shows’, given that they let the viewers recontextualise Moriyama’s memories in the most tangible way, ultimately consist in a form of confrontation with memories. They represent the most advanced formula of the artist’s intention, of which a room is the latest and most generous manifestation. Moriyama says it best: “A single photograph contains different images.”

All images courtesy of the artist, Akio Nagasawa Gallery and Jean-Kenta Gauthier. © Daido Moriyama Foundation.


Jean-Kenta Gauthier is the founder of a Paris-based contemporary art gallery. He has also partnered with Clément Kauter and Akio Nagasawa on Circulation, a new laboratory space dedicated to artists’ books, opening on 13 November with an inaugural show of Daisuke Yokota’s new work entitled Inversion.