Thursday, April 28, 2011

A sight to behold

Onkel Rudi winkt | Marathontreppe, Berlin, 2005

Using pinholes or spectacle lenses, Oliver Möst has chosen blurrines as one of the key elements of his photographic works. The out-of-focus represents for him the way to rethink certain trends in contemporary photography, where imperfections and DIY mood turned into some kind of consolidated style, crossing both fine art and commercial photography.

Orange, Ærø, 2008

Through the use of old fashioned technical procedures,
Möst attempts to reset the meaning of these effects and take them beyond the simple status of visual tricks. His series include still lives, tipologies, portraiture, abstract, creating an interesting revisitation of some of the major trends of contemporary photography through the foggy surface of his images.

Kantstraße / Joachimsthaler Straße, Unter den Linden, Berlin, 2000

Audigraphien, for example, is a series of pinhole landscapes taken from the window of his Audi 80 while driving around:
"The advantage of photography is that a brief moment of our reality can be clearly and precisely captured with the press of a button. “Snap” and a picture of a particular place at a particular time is created. But is a snapshot really a representation of our reality? Are we not constantly on the move? And do we not perceive our surroundings in a vague and haphazard, rather than a clear and precise, way?" Cannot but agree with his words.

Nachtbus, Budapest, 2004

All images © Oliver Möst


Wednesday, April 27, 2011


In days when immigration is more than ever a big issue around Mediterranean Europe, it is worth mentioning Henk Wildschut and his excellent photographic work about illegal immigrants who managed to enter the EU (find a review of his book Shelter on Conscientious).

A friend once told me how we always tend to think that people escaping their countries and facing such long and exhausting journeys must be desperate, running away from some living hell compared to which anything else would be better, any 24-hour trip through a dark sea packed on a small boat would be preferable. And he made me realise that this way we ignore what is probably the main thing about the choice of those migrants: their courage, their dignity and their strength to refuse their present condition, doing anything possible to start a new life, pretending more from their existence to the point of risking all to get the chance to be in a different place, and to live in a different way.

The people and the shelters shown in Wildschut's photographs maintain their courage and their dignity somehow, that strength that you need to preserve some kind of everyday life for yourself no matter where you are: a bed, a roof, a mirror to check your face, a fire for a meal. The fine line between feeling lost and holding on to what you really want, the strength to imagine what you still don't have, believing you will get it one day.

Other artists I have mentioned in the past had makeshift shelters at the centre of their works, so this is a good chance to take another look to Inabitanti by Tancredi Mangano and to A Place to Stay by Alessandro Imbriaco.

All images © Henk Wildschut


Sunday, April 24, 2011

"Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire..."

Chris Bucklow is one of those artists who in the past could have easily been described by certain critics as "an artist who uses photography" rather than a photographer, caught in the middle of the battle to grasp the meaning of a supposed pure photography that filled so many pages and gave so many headaches.

His work Guests is an ongoing series of pinhole human silhouettes made with thousands of tiny holes on sheets of aluminium foil, through which light exposes photographic paper.

From the press release of his exhibition in 2010 at Danziger Projects: "Bucklow begins by projecting the shadow of his sitter on a large sheet of aluminum foil and tracing its outline. He then makes thousands of small pinholes in the foil silhouette, one for each day of the subject's approximate lifespan. Using a contraption of his own device that places the foil over a large sheet of photographic paper, Bucklow wheels his homemade "camera" out into daylight and pulls the "shutter" to briefly expose the paper to direct sunlight. Thus each finished picture becomes a kind of photogram silhouette composed of thousands of pinhole photographs of the sun. The intensity of light on a given day and the length of exposure create unique color variations on how the resulting piece appears."

Human figures made of an amount of light corresponding to the length of their lifespan: perhaps the only way one single photograph could rightfully claim to capture the essence of somebody...

All images taken from the series Guests © Chris Bucklow


Defending Journalists Worldwide

Tim Hetherington, from the series Sleeping Soldiers

The recent deaths of photographers Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros in Libya had a widespread coverage that should be a reminder for what happens to many other journalists every year in several parts of the world. CPJ (Committee to Protect Journalists) monitors the situation of the freedom of press worldwide and reports about missing, imprisoned or killed journalists.

Here is the list of journalists killed in 2011 so far.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Planting a seed

More pinhole musings with Jan Dunning, a British artist devoted to the stenopeic vision whose images show unlikely life forms, like giant plants growing from the floor of a room, "remote and unnerving landscapes" or "hybrid creatures involved in a process of change or evolution". Dunning carefully constructs or stages her photographs, inducing a fascinating suspension of disbelief.

The beauty of her work is exactly in the reversal of truth and fiction that she creates with her technique: while the mysterious blend of sharpness and blur of pinhole is often used to make ordinary things look extraordinary and magic, Dunning uses it to make the impossible look real. A veil of uncertainty fogs the light of her photographs, so that we can for once stop wondering if something is real or fake, and appreciate the simple fact that it feels real. With images like these, it is a nice feeling indeed.

All images © Jann Dunning


Monday, April 18, 2011

Bird's-eye view

Coming from a weekend of lenseless photography at Pinhole Days 2011 in Rome, during which I held a lecture about the many faces of pinhole in contemporary photography, I felt that I wanted to share with all of you some of the beautiful discoveries I made while researching material for my slideshow.

I'll start with the work that actually ended my presentation,
A heartwarming feeling by the Singaporean photographer Zhao Renhui. There can't be better words to introduce it than the ones Renhui himself wrote:

"Climate change has significant impact on birds. It can alter distribution, abundance and behavior. It can also affect events like bird migration. [...]

A recent phenomenon in the Arctic Circle is the emergence of mass bird graves. It seems as if different species of migrating birds due for the south has been flying the opposite direction, in an apparent act of suicide. Very little research has been done on this phenomenon. [...] "

"On January 2008, I collaborated with the Yamshina Institute for Ornithology (a regional expert in bird banding) in an attempt to document this phenomenon during an artist residency. A group of a few thousand migratory birds were banded by the Institute over the course of two months. Besides banding the birds with a metal band on their legs, I included a small pin-hole camera near each band. Inside each camera was a very small sheet of positive photographic paper of extremely low sensitivity. [...]

On June 2010, 50 of the birds were dead found in the Arctic Circle. 30 of the birds still had their cameras intact and 12 of the cameras actually created an image of the bird's rather confused migratory journey to the Arctic."

"What I found intriguing when I enlarged the images was that much of the bird's journey might have been captured (recorded while it was flying, never long enough to register a still) in all the blurry colourful hues we see in the images. Parts of the mountainous Arctic landscape, however, registered quite clearly. The only way that these landscapes could have formed on the paper was when the bird came to a final rest and laid on the ice, because that would give the pin-hole camera enough time to form a clear and still image - which is probably the last view of the bird before it died."

- Zhao Renhui, October 2010, Yamanshina.

All images © Zhao Renhui


Monday, April 11, 2011

Pinhole Days

"Un bunker è una costruzione militare concepita per osservare, mirare, sparare. Dalla sua piccola apertura si riesce a ritagliare una porzione specifica di paesaggio, restringendo il nostro angolo visivo a una sorta di poligono di tiro. Dietro alla distribuzione di questi insediamenti e alla ragnatela che disegnano lungo il territorio c'è il desiderio implicito di prendere possesso del paesaggio. Muovendo queste riflessioni su un piano puramente fotografico, questo progetto vuole riutilizzare i bunker con uno scopo artistico; impossessarsi del loro siginificato bellico e trasformarli in degli osservatori sul paesaggio da cui 'si fa fuoco' sul bersaglio. Il fotografo ha quindi utilizzato il foro stenopeico per trasformare i bunker in apparecchi fotografici di cemento, per fotografare i paesaggi che erano e sono tuttora i bersagli di questi bunker."

Asier Gogortza così descrive il suo progetto Concrete Landscapes, morbide forme naturali che invadono la durezza del cemento nelle scure caverne delle nostre guerre passate, come fossero l'equivalente fotografico del mettere un fiore dentro la canna di un fucile, e al tempo stesso l'apertura verso un'infinità di riflessioni sul senso storico del paesaggio e sul nostro modo di osservarlo.

Concrete Landscapes debutterà in Italia con una mostra all'interno di Pinhole Days, un festival curato da ars-imago dedicato alla fotografia stenopeica alla vigilia del World Wide Pinhole Day 2011. Mostre, workshop e incontri si svolgeranno a Roma dal 15 al 23 aprile prossimi.

"The bunker is a war construction designed to look, watch and shoot. From the small windows one can capture a specific part of the landscape, honing the visual angle into a target range. Behind the special location of these settlements, which create a complex spider web spanning across the territory, there is an implicit desire to take over the landscape. Adapting these assumptions to photographic thinking, this project aims to reuse the bunkers with an artistic purpose; to steal their military connotations and transform them into landscape observatories from where the target is “fired upon”. The photographer has used the pinhole technique to convert bunkers into large concrete cameras and take pictures of the concrete landscape that were and are target of the bunkers."

Asier Gogortza is the artist behind the project Concrete Landscapes, soft natural forms invading the harshness of dark concrete caves from our past wars, perhaps the photographic equivalent of placing a flower inside a rifle barrel - and at the same time an excellent way to question the historical meaning of our landscape and our own way of looking at it.

Concrete Landscapes will have its Italian debut with an exhibition during Pinhole Days, a festival devoted to pinhole photography curated by ars-imago ahead of the 2011 World Wide Pinhole Day, with exhibitions, workshops and lectures in Rome on April 15 - 23.

All images © Asier Gogortza


Thursday, April 7, 2011

In Praise of Light

“I could see the road clearly just then and, plunked down on the mud beside it, big squares and cubes of houses, their walls whitened by the moonlight, like big unequal blocks of ice, pale and silent. Would be this the end of it all? How much time in this desolation after they’d done for me? Before it was all over? […] That night I had everything to myself. I was the owner of the moon, the village and an enormous fear.”

I have always dreamed to see - or more daringly, to make - an image that could show what these words by Louis-Ferdinand Céline describe, the whiteness of ice glowing in the deepest night. Many times I pictured in my mind a photograph that would force me to hold my eyes wide open in order to see, like we do when we walk in the dark and we try to guess what is a step ahead of us; or a photograph that would make me squint for its brightness, hiding its countless details inside a blinding light. Photography always needs light, of course, but how can photography really be about light, committed to it?

We have chosen ten artists who’ve devoted their work to the beauty of light, each of them crafting a different poem to it: chanting its absence and all the ghosts it evokes in the theatre of night, or its sheer force and the scars it leaves on the surface of a film; light as the endless shades of colours painting the true heart of a land, or the veil hiding all the unearthly creatures lurking in a forest. Whether it is fading or shining in every little corner, light is not meant to show, anyway: it is meant to conceal, to transform, to invent. It is a source of different worlds, of different creatures, it is a gate for our fantasy. Light is a way to free our eyes from the trivial duty of seeing, to give ourselves a chance, instead, to feel through them.

- Fabio Severo

'In Praise of Light' is the title of this text I wrote for Unless You Will #14, a double issue curated by me and Heidi Romano, featuring the work of:

Alia Malley
Awoiska van der Molen
Chrystel Lebas
Claus Stolz
Feng Bin
Virginia Woods-Jack
Gianpaolo Arena
Deborah Parkin
Simon Høgsberg
Peter Puklus