Monday, February 28, 2011

Circular cities

Hiroshima, September - November 2003

"The narrative behind the Diorama Map series is the fluid nature of memory and the setting is always a city.
The creation of a Diorama Map takes the following method; Walking around the chosen city on foot; shooting from various location with film; pasting and arranging of the re-imagined city from my memory as layered icons of the city."

Kyoto, June - October 2003

For those who think photography of the urban landcsape is starting to look all the same, Sohei Nishino could be a pleasant discovery: rather than endlessly praising the New Topographics behind us, why not approach the subject and actually draw a city with photographs? More or less the way a child would draw a house with a chimney and a fence, trees around and a blue sky and some fluffy clouds on top, not caring about what should be bigger or smaller, what should be up or down, near or far.

Osaka, February - June 2003

All images taken from Diorama Map © Sohei Nishino


Point Sublime

"Or to reach my dad, best build a fire out of wet birch, wave your jacket over the flames. He is more likely to answer a smoke signal than an email."

A few weeks ago we talked about Andrew Phelps' latest projects, Point Sublime, a little book and a printset Andrew made with photographs taken by his father at Point Sublime on the north rim of the Grand Canyon in 1984.

"The set is in an edition of 300, which isn't exactly low, but you aren't buying this for its rarity, but for a good cause! 100% of the proceeds go to the research of prostate cancer. In the summer of 2011 I will personally hand a check over to the research department and technicians who have treated my father for the last 2 years".

I just wanted to share with you the pleasure of receiving it, having found it in my mail last Saturday - you might want to have one too!


Monday, February 21, 2011


From BBC News, February 22, 2011:

"Security forces and protesters have clashed in Libya's capital for a second night, after the government announced a new crackdown.

Witnesses say warplanes have fired on protesters in Tripoli.

To the west of the city, sources say the army is fighting forces loyal to ruler Col Muammar Gaddafi, who appears to be struggling to hold on to power.

Libya's deputy envoy to the UN has called on Col Gaddafi to step down, and accused his government of genocide.

Ibrahim Dabbashi said that if Col Gaddafi did not relinquish power, "the Libyan people will get rid of him"."

"...warplanes have fired on protesters..."

The situation in Libya is one of the most dramatic examples of scarcity of informations of all kinds and gravity of the events taking place. These days the country is shut down, and free reporting is almost impossible. But today's medias allow informations to leak somehow anyway, and we read all these fragments of life (and death) as they are happening, which make them sound a bit like bursts lost in silence.

In-between these bursts, you might feel like you want to see something actually coming from there, lay your eyes on pieces of that land, to have the feeling or at least the illusion you can picture what is happening right now. Marco Zanta traveled to Tripoli many times over the last months, and these days his images seem to me the perfect place to go to think about all we are hearing from that city, all those things so huge we can barely imagine them.

All images taken from La Città © Marco Zanta


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Photographic noise

We all know that these days looking at photography has become more and more an immaterial experience, and my fear is that if we lose the habit of watching physical images, what will we be really looking for in a picture in the end?

If you listen to music on a crappy stereo (with a tiny mp3), what you get is basically just the melody, because all the rest gets lost. But what if you listen to something that has no melody, for example?
Can we say that a computer monitor is the equivalent of a crappy stereo, ultimately?

And, most important, what is the melody in a photograph?

These Saturday morning thoughts brought to my mind the work of Maria Dabrowski, and I am not sure if it's for her photographs, for her book design (she's Dutch) or for her website as a whole: the intimate storytelling of her images is perfectly matched by the retro look of her online portfolios, where collages, old paper folders and a general feeling of found photos makes you feel like there's a vinyl crackling in the background while you're browsing through the pages.

All images © Maria Dabrowski


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

"Overwhelmingly homogenous"

Dieuwertje Komen has just launched her brand new website, so I take this chance to introduce you to her excellent (mostly urban) landscape photography, where you'll have plenty of choice among the many series she presents. Whether it is personal or commissioned work, Komen's images raise many discreet and yet important questions about the spaces we live in.

Sometimes I wonder if the main outcome of the contemporary visual topography is having shown the differences between the various man-altered landscapes or instead reveal the dreadful uniformity that is shaping the majority of the urban settlements, and most of all, of the ideas behind them.

Dieuwertje Komen's work moves exactly along the line of this dilemma: "For the series Commonness I've portrayed the cities Bordeaux, Kosice, Mechelen, Plzen and Mons all European cities that aspire to the title of European Capital of Culture", she writes. "The resulting pictures display a similarity between the different cities, a discovery both surprising and unsettling since the cities compete for the title with distinctive assets. And yet, here they are shown to be overwhelmingly homogenous".

Homogeneity can be suffocating, but at least there is something graceful in Komen's vision, as she proved herself to be able to draw the greater picture of those urban dystopias, and yet somehow left space for imaginary escape routes, subversive plans, hope for something different.

All images taken from Commonness © Dieuwertje Komen


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Engaged observation

On his website, young Dutch photographer Tom Janssen presents himself as a documentary photographer, but I would say that his work is slightly different from what we usually call that way. His images are wide scenes of urban (and sometimes natural) spaces, where slowly we detect something happening inside.

Groups of people gathered to watch something, the core of their attention often concelead from us: Janssen's images show the theatre where a photographer would normally move, looking for the right shots and the right angles, moving inside the people, choosing the good background and the captivating details, but perhaps ignoring the complexity of the whole scene. Janssen focuses exactly on that, and if I had to choose an example of what an engaged observation could be in photography, I would definitely choose his photographs.

All images © Tom Janssen


Monday, February 7, 2011

Human surfaces

Hiding in the City No. 93 - Supermarket No. 2, 2010

"Some people call me the invisible man, but for me it's what is not seen in a picture which is really what tells the story".

Teatro alla Scala, 2010

Meet Liu Bolin and his work Camouflage, which definitely makes him the Georges Rousse of the human body. Will Georges be happy of that? Hard to tell.

More info here.

Hiding in the City No. 71 - Bulldozer, 2008

All images © Liu Bolin