If You Liked Humans of New York

Someone was clever and cheeky at Strand Books in New York City. I saw this sign yesterday tucked inside Antoine D’Agata’s book Antibodies.

IMG_2257sm

If you’re not familiar with Antoine D’Agata’s photographs, have a look. His work is a nice antidote to the clean-cut banality of “Humans of New York”. And it would be a lovely surprise for someone genuinely interested in HONY to open up this book of harsh, intimate and graphic images. I hope that it does shock some folks browsing the photo book section at Strand.

We’ve been trying to write something about “Humans of New York” and our aversion to the work on dvafoto for months, but this photo will suffice for now.

But as a teaser, start with this brilliant critique on Warscapes of Brandon Stanton’s project. And for some discussion of the discomfort some of us in the photo community have for the work see this article in the New York Times from last summer.

Scott and I keep coming back to this phrase, from the NYT article: “Mr. Stanton professes to be apolitical. “I purposely and pointedly try to avoid infusing any meaning in the work,” he said.” This is a huge problem for this project, and we’ll discuss it later.

“Antibodies” looks like a terrific book, by the way, and I’ll grab a copy for myself soon.

Alan Chin: Another Home 8,000 Miles Away

Alan Chin is currently running a Kickstarter campaign for his new project Toishan, China: Another Home 8,000 Miles Away. Chin’s project will take him back to his family’s home in the Toishan region of China, an area that is undergoing rapid development since his first visit in 1989. The fundraising campaign will run until October 28th but we are happy to report that Chin has already exceeded his initial goal. Congratulations to him, but the project is still worthy of support and we hope that with further fundraising he will have more time and flexibility with the project, something every photographer would dream of.

Chin answered a few of our questions about the new work, and I also encourage you to have a look at Chin’s Kickstarter video below and his fundraising page for more information about his plans for this project.

Tell me something about the region of China that your family comes from? How many times have you visited the area?

Toishan (or Taishan in official Mandarin Pinyin romanization), is about a hundred miles from Hong Kong and Guangzhou. Two-thirds of all Overseas Chinese immigrants to the United States came from the greater Toishan area, until the 1960s. Today, Chinese-Americans hail from diverse regions in China, especially from Fujian, but for a hundred years that was Toishan.

I first visited in 1989, when I was eighteen years old. I was there again in 1997 and then many times in 2008 and 2009.

Do you still have family in Toishan that you are in contact with?

My last close relative was a great-aunt who died in 2009 after I saw her for the last time in 2008; I still have more distant cousins that live in the village.

What is the relationship between this area and Chinese-American communities, particularly in New York? Is immigration from this region still prominent?

Starting in 1965 with LBJ’s immigration reform to reunify families (as important a piece of landmark legislation as Medicare or the Civil Rights laws), the Chinese-American community expanded tremendously. And as the Cold War ended, commercial and diplomatic relations improved between China and the US. Individuals began to travel to-and-fro with much greater ease and frequency. Toishanese continue to emigrate abroad, but now are one of many Chinese clusters rather than the majority. The old part of New York’s Chinatown in Manhattan, dating from the late 19th century, was originally Toishanese and remains predominantly Cantonese. (Toishan is part of Guangdong, the Cantonese province.)

Are you going to be documenting Toishanese communities from both countries with your book?

Yes, but the emphasis is on China, on where we come from.

How do you plan to use your family’s photographs in this project? What are some of your favorite photographs in this collection that will help tell the story?

I will use some of my family photographs to track our specific history, which is typical of so many families. The oldest photograph we have is of my great-uncle, Sing Chin, who emigrated to Cuba in 1927 and then the US in 1935. The photo is a formal studio portrait from his time in Cuba. It shows him in a tropical suit, and he was younger then than I am now. I think it will help show just how transformative the 20th century was in its global impact of revolutionary change.

My favorite photographs? That’s too hard a question to answer!


Click image above to start Chin’s video about the project

To See As A Photographer Sees: Mikhael Subotzky

Mikhael Subotzky gave a presentation at TEDxStellenbosch in August 2012.

A few years ago, I stopped talking about my work completely. I found that the process of trying to explain it to others got in the way of my own attempts to understand it myself. But this is a TED talk and I very much wanted to accept the invitation to be here. So, I’m going to show you some of the images that I’ve made and to go with them I’ve stolen some words. Some as you’ve heard from T.S. Eliot, some from James Agee, from Tom Waits, from Herman Melville and from Wim Wenders. And I’ve added a few of my own.
– Mikhael Subotzky at TEDxStellenbosch

I also recommend Blake Andrew’s review of Subotzky’s recent book Retinal Shift. I also wrote about Subotzky’s project Ponte City in a 2011 post here on dvafoto.