Category Archive: Exhibitions
Asim Rafiqui, Aftermath Project Grant winner and the writer behind The Spinning Head, has spent much of the last year photographing in Pakistan for his Justice in Pakistan project. Rafiqui was named an Open Society Fellow by the Open Society Foundation last year to embark on this major new work. Last week he debuted the first chapter of this project “Bagram: The Other Guantanamo” with an exhibition in Islamabad, Pakistan. He will also be presenting this work in Washington DC on September 12, 2013 at The Fridge Gallery. The project features portraits and interviews with family members of the nearly 40 Pakistani men still detained at the Bagram base in Afghanistan and is presented in a highly organized and internally referenced website that links the families, prisoners and their stories.
Rafiqui has generously agreed to answer some of my questions about his new project and share some of the images here on dvafoto.
“Nearly 40 Pakistani citizens remain indefinitely imprisoned at the Bagram Prison in Afghanistan without charge or trial. Denied the right to a legal defense these men have become victims of a cruel and unjust detention system with little or no hope for a fair trial or release. Some have been behind bars for over 11 years. Periodically allowed to speak to their immediate family members via Internet telephone calls, they are denied access to the outside world. They are isolated from the law, the media, and human rights organizations.” – About The Bagram Campaign, Justice Project Pakistan.
Dvafoto: What drew you to the idea of a large new project about Pakistan?
Asim Rafiqui: I had been looking to do something in Pakistan for some time. I had also been looking to extend the work I had done in India – a work that explored colonial histories and their continuing impact on our modernity, into a new direction. With the War Against Terror tearing apart the fabric of so much of Pakistan, it was difficult to simply stay away. I had already begun work on a project on the victims of the War Against Terror in late 2011, and now, once the work in India had been completed, I realized that I had a chance to return to Pakistan and produce something new. Perhaps in the end I was most attracted to the idea of producing new stories from Pakistan, and doing so from the perspective of the individual Pakistani. This has rarely been done – we have become used to speaking of ourselves in the collective. Perhaps worse, we have become used to speaking of ourselves through borrowed narratives sold to us through the Western press and pundit who maintain an inexplicably powerful influence amongst the country’s political, bureaucratic and class elite. What that means is that there is a vast chasm between those who hold the power and the wealth in this country, and the tens of millions who hold all its burdens of existence. As Saadia Toor, author of the brilliant new book The State of Islam said:
…[the] liberal discourse reveals [a] profound dissociation from – and even a distaste of for – ordinary Pakistanis and their lives, hopes, dreams and struggles, reflected in the abandonment of mass political work. (page 199)
I see the same dissociation amongst our celebrated literati – most all of whom can only speak about the country through the prism of borrowed frameworks – the War Against Terror, globalization, Islamic radicalism and a whole host of dehumanizing, debilitating, distancing and degrading structures of thought and engagement that remove the individual Pakistan as a real subject, and replace her with victimhood, dependency, helplessness, and irrelevancy. My work in Pakistan will be built around 300 individual stories, each of which is meant to reveal the genuine struggles of the ordinary Pakistan and most importantly, provoke thought about the social and legal justice as it needs to be fought for and delivered.
How did this specific project about Justice in Pakistan come about?
It always begins with a thought, and these thoughts always emerge during the process of a reading. The idea for a project on questions of justice in Pakistan came up during the summer of 2011 when I was living in Delhi, India. I was taking time off from my field work on the Idea of India project and had set aside a month to review a number of articles and books on South Asian colonial histories that I had been meaning to read but had been forced to set aside. It was during that summer that I noticed that I had collected into a pile a number of books that focused on the law and colonial history – I had been avoiding reading these sections because I had thought them irrelevant to my current work in India. But as I came back to them and started to go through them I thought that it was a theme worth exploring and something that may be a way to do something new from Pakistan. By coincidence a close friend had introduced me to Osama Siddique – a brilliant lawyer and professor in Lahore, Pakistan, who had written some remarkable papers on the continuing impact of colonial institutions, laws and practices on modern day Pakistani court and legal methods. And I was hooked. It took me a few months to work out the details and transform what were purely academic questions into a workable concept of a photo project. That phase I completed sitting in a small apartment in Queens, New York in early 2012.
What is your partnership with Justice Project Pakistan?
There is no formal partnership as such. I am a Soros Fellow this year, and JPP is an OSI supported legal chamber. I was introduced to Sarah Belal, the director of JPP, when I arrived in Pakistan to start my justice project work. We both quickly realized that we share a deep commitment to the same questions of the rights of Pakistani citizens, and the objective of the law. What has emerged is a collaboration between two liked-minded individuals, both deeply naive and idealistic, but equally committed to speaking out on behalf of some of the most dehumanized, degraded and marginalized members of our society. Sarah was well aware of my ongoing work on the human cost of the American/Pakistani War Against Terror practices in the country that were / are tearing apart the lives of tens of thousands. And she approached me to see if I would be interested in doing something on the question of the Pakistani prisoners in Bagram. She and her team had already been working on a report about the situation of the Bagram prisoners, and I suggested that we broaden the focus on the work to include the lives and struggles of their families as well. We were soon able to transform a lunch conversation into a pilot project, and pitch the idea to funders, who, upon seeing the pilot website, were soon backing our work with the necessary funds. Our recently launched website (www.jpp.org.pk/bagram), and released report, and the various events and exhibitions we are holding in Pakistan, USA and the UK, are all a culmination of earliest discussions where we felt that we could do something new and more powerful by working together.
How long have you been photographing in Pakistan?
For this project I have been photographing since October 2012. However, I have been working in Pakistan since 2002 and have produced a lot of work from the country. I don’t live here, and in fact have not lived here since 1984. But I do keep coming back and can find my way around. In fact, Pakistan was the first country I travelled to when I decided to become a photographer. The current justice project work will keep me engaged here for at least another 2 years, though I am also in the midst of working on a draft of my India book, and starting work on a new project in the Middle East.
Where have you been traveling to work on these pictures?
There is really no specific travel agenda. I am going wherever I can find the stories. I am looking for individuals. So in many ways the physical and geographical dimensions are not so important this time. This is in sharp contrast to my work in India which was all about geography, sites, locations, and regions.
So far my work has taken me to the main urban centers – Pakistan as a very high rate of urbanization so this is not so unusual. The recent work trying to locate the families of the men in Bagram of course took me out into remote settlements along the Afghanistan – Baluchistan border regions, and deep into the slums of Karachi. But I also met some of them in legal offices, as for example when I was working with the victims of drone attacks. As I said, I am trying to find certain kinds of stories, and meet individuals with certain life experiences. The geography of the country becomes unimportant in some regards.
What is the process of identifying the prisoners and their families, and getting access to them?
We began with the court files, and those that had decided to join the various litigation that JPP had filed on behalf of the families of the men imprisoned in Bagram. These were the families that were easiest to reach. When I say easiest I meant that they had at least had left a mobile phone number at the office. That is how I began. Read on »
Newsweek Autopsy: a conversation with James Wellford about photography and the death of the magazineAug 20, 2013 by M. Scott Brauer No Comments »
“The management backed off; they gave all the money to high profile writers, abolished all the contract photographers, names, personalities and creativity. Certainly, in the world of journalism, photography took a back seat to some of the more infamous portrait photographers who shoot celebrities and power. They still get paid. But it was depressing for me as I am interested in news. It was possible for me to take one assignment for a portrait photographer, then cut it in four ways. This would enable me to support stories in other parts of the world very easily. I always believed in that and I could not ever accept or understand why they simply rejected it, hook, line and sinker. In the end it was terribly disappointing.” -James Wellford, speaking to Emaho Magazine
If you’re following dvafoto on tumblr, you’ve already seen our link to Emaho Magazine‘s interview with former Newsweek Senior Photo Editor James Wellford about the death of the magazine and how he tried to curate photography for the publication. Wellford talks about the types of photography he tried to support through his helm at the magazine and how that ultimately ran counter to what the publication’s management had in mind for Newsweek. It’s definitely worth a read.
The Camera Club of New York is holding it’s 4th annual Zine and Self-Published Book Fair this weekend, Aug. 3-4, 2013, presenting work from North, South, and Central America. The event, which includes a lecture by Tony White, the Director of the Decker Library at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, is at 336 West 37th Street, Suite 206, New York, NY 10018-4212. There’s a list of artists featured on the event page here.
In a similar vein, you might want to check out The Newsstand at the Metropolitan Ave subway stop in Brooklyn, which continues throughout the summer and features many zines and books by photographers. And there’s always the Indie Photobook Library, which shows up at photo and art events and shows around the world (next in Tokyo) and which is also browsable online.
In 2011 writer Pete Brook took his blog Prison Photography on the road. He used Kickstarter to successfully fund his trip, and produced a number of interviews with photographers, prisoners and activists, gave six lectures and visited three prisons. Last year the project grew in to the exhibition Cruel and Unusual at Nooderlicht in the Netherlands, with a newspaper-style exhibition catalogue and an upcoming Prison Photography on the Road (PPOTR) book.
After he was safely back in Portland last fall, he and I were discussing some of what he had accomplished and what he was thinking about doing next. Fortunately for us, he agreed to an interview so I can share some of his interesting insights and ideas. It has taken a while for us to find the time to put this together, but I’m excited to share some of Pete’s reflections on PPOTR and how he sees his work as a writer and curator evolving. It is especially relevant for other photographers and bloggers as they think about producing work ‘across platforms’ and offline, and what is possible when engaging and collaborating with our community at large.
dvafoto: I heard through the grapevine that you had an interesting experience right as you hit the road?
Pete Brook: I think you’re referring to my arrest. Before the trip began officially, I was in California. I’d been at a wedding, dancing and drinking in the sun all day. When the after-party began to die down, and being a gent, I offered to walk a couple of ladies home as they were across town and not staying at the hotel. Along the way, I took a piss on a palm tree (not so gentlemanly).
Thirty seconds later, two California Highway Patrol squad cars pulled up. I was pulled aside and told that urinating in public was an offense. I didn’t think a discrete piss on parkland at 5 am would land me in jail so I may not have taken the interaction as seriously as the officer expected.
I was on the road, had no permanent address, I was a bit merry, had no ID with me and was generally bemused as to why so much attention had fallen upon me. When asked if I would answer the officer’s questions, I said I didn’t feel compelled to do so. He took my wrist, turned me round, cuffed me and walked me to his patrol car.
The officer said, “We’ll do it your way. You could be in jail for days, weeks, months, even years.” A nonsense statement. He was reacting emotionally to the situation. Not good. He was also proving who had the power. I’m guessing it was late in his shift and he may not have had the patience for an inebriated me. I get that, but his solution, so to speak, was unnecessary and disproportionate.
I was in jail for 9 hours (as quick as they process anyone, I was told). Upon release, I was served with a court date and faced two misdemeanor charges of ‘Disorderly Conduct’ and ‘Willfully Resisting Arrest’. Just ludicrous. The court date was two weeks away, by which time I had scheduled to be in Ohio. I had to juggle my itinerary, bring all my Southern California appointments – that were to be in the last week of PPOTR – forward, and extend my research in the Bay Area.
Two weeks later, at the courthouse, I didn’t even see a judge. Not wanting to waste court time, the District Attorney threw the charges out. Common sense prevailed but not before I’d been inconvenienced.
The arrest nearly jeopardized PPOTR’s main prison visit, to Sing Sing in New York State.
Visitors to prisons must go through a criminal background check and mine flagged the arrest. So, now the New York Dept. of Corrections knew of the interaction, but had no details. I had to explain that no charges were brought and scramble for the paperwork to back up my claim. The workshop I did with the men in Sing Sing was a highlight of the trip and it would have been a sore loss to miss out.
I remain in the system. I am interviewed about the interaction by Customs & Immigration every time I re-enter the U.S. I’ve been told the record cannot be updated to include the info that there was no conviction; I’ll have to go through the same conversation every time I travel from overseas.
The experience was not great, but the irony could not have been greater. If I can get a copy of my mug shot it’ll be my press-photo for life!
Now that you’ve finished the fieldwork for PPOTR, co-curated an international exhibition, and printed a newspaper, do you think that Prison Photography the blog will change at all?
I’d like to say no, but it probably will. Not because of these projects but because more like them are in the pipeline. These emerging projects will take away from my time at the keyboard-helm.
Before I tell you about those new developments, I should say that PPOTR was designed to test the limits of the blog, test my stamina with the issues and test the reception of the public. In some ways, maybe I could or should have had the imagination to take on new formats earlier?
Directly out of PPOTR came the opportunity to co-curate Cruel and Unusual at Noorderlicht and that was a phenomenal privilege. Given how much I enjoyed that there’s no reason to draw back from activities outside the blog.
Cruel and Unusual travelled to the Melkweg Gallery in Amsterdam last April and then to Photoville in New York in June. This year it will show in Ireland and Australia. There’s some logistics involved in making those exhibits happen, and Noorderlicht and Photoville are greasing the wheels with that.
I initially planned to self-publish the Prison Photography photobook for the PPOTR Kickstarter backers, but Silas Finch a non-profit photobook publisher expressed interest and I decided to make it a bigger production … and print run.
We’ve signed on the dotted line and I’m writing the text for it now. The image edit will come in the summer and we hope to release it later this year. It’s wonderful to have, again, institutional support.
A couple of photographers working on the topic of prisons have expressed interest in collaborating on books and that interests me, but it has to be right for them too. That might sound silly, but how many essays would I need to do before I became the guy who writes introductions for prison photography books? Not many! It’d be good bylines for me, but not necessarily for the photographer. As a reader, I generally enjoy photobook essays that are not about the photography per se but about the larger subject and there’s many activists, advocates and academics who can write better on aspects of the prison system than I. Perhaps one or two essays will get done in time.
Furthermore, I just agreed to curate a photography show on the East Coast in January 2014. It’ll be an entirely new collection of works with a new curatorial statement.
In 2010, fifteen young South-East European photographers and three masters met in Berlin for the SEE New Perspectives masterclass, organized by World Press Photo and Robert Bosch Stiftung. After the first meeting in Berlin all of the photographers were given a grant to photograph a story within the region but outside of their home country.
The resulting projects are now being exhibited in Belgrade, Serbia (on display until December 14 at the ARTGET gallery on Trg Republike) after debuting in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina in October. The show will soon move to Zagreb, Croatia and Berlin, Germany. The exhibition features an interesting concept of displaying oversized “magazines” each devoted to one photographer’s project, with only one image from each project along with the photographer’s name on the wall.
You can see all of the stories produced in the masterclass on the SEE New Perspectives website as well as more information about the organization of the project.
The photographers are:
Andrei Pungovschi, Romania
Armend Nimani, Kosovo
Bevis Fusha, Albania
Dženat Dreković, Serbia
Eugenia Maximova, Bulgaria
Ferdi Limani, Kosovo
Jasmin Brutus, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Jetmir Idrizi, Kosovo
Marko Risović, Serbia
Nemanja Pančić, Serbia
Octav Ganea, Romania
Petrut Calinescu, Romania
Sanja Jovanović (née Knežević), Serbia
Tomislav Georgiev, Macedonia
Vesselina Nikolaeva, Bulgaria
And the Tutors are:
Regina Anzenberger, Austria, artist, curator, photographer’s agent, gallerist
Silvia Omedes, Spain, president at Photographic Social Vision Foundation
Donald Weber, Canada, photographer VII Agency
I asked my old friend Jasmin Brutus, a Bosnian photographer who was part of the masterclass, to paraphrase the statement he gave at the Sarajevo opening which expresses his feelings about the years-long masterclass project: “We [the participating photographers] all returned with nice small toolbox which our employers will never know how to utilize. So, I think experience in the masterclass is very useful for my personal projects and for my job is almost useless. I gained new skills and my old skills got enhanced. But, for me the most important thing is that I met a group of really great people and great photographers.”
Congratulations to my friends from around the region who were able to take part in this interesting project and many of whom were able to produce terrific photo stories that may otherwise never have seen light or been published. I encourage you to explore the work published on the SEE New Perspectives site or peruse the photographers’ own websites linked above.
The video below features interviews with all of the photographers about their work and experience in the masterclass:
Corey Arnold’s fun blog just announced an awesome looking and massive outdoor exhibition as part of the “Wonderland” Photo Festival in Knokke-Heist, Belgium. I’ve been growing more fascinated with outdoor exhibitions in the last year, and am considering doing something similarly grand here in Belgrade soon. So put this exhibition right into the inspiration folder. For more, see our reader-favorite post Bringing Photos Back to the Street, or Taking it to the Streets in Belgrade and a Simon Norfolk outdoor exhibit at the Guernsey Festival (I love those stone bases for the frames). And don’t forget all of the terrific outdoor exhibitions by JR.
Click the photo or the link above to see the rest of Arnold’s blog post with many more photos of the installations, work from other photographers at the festival and even some prints inside buildings. Bravo.
I didn’t expect to be back in New York so quickly after dvafoto’s visit last week, but this is especially exciting for me. I’m pleased to announce my work, China Everbright, will be shown as part of the New York Photo Festival in Slideluck Potshow XVI on May 14, 2011, in Brooklyn, New York. The slideshows for the evening–from a breathtaking assortment of photographers–were curated by Whitney Johnson, who has just recently been named Director of Photography for the New Yorker. The event is at St. Ann’s Warehouse at 38 Water Street in DUMBO, Brooklyn, New York, from 5:30p-10:30p.
The photographers selected for the evening are: Alex Fradkin, Alex Webb, Benjamin Sklar, Bruce Gilden, Carolyn Drake, Chris Hondros, Dominic Bracco, Dominic Nahr, Elena Dorfman, James Pomerantz, JR, Krisanne Johnson, Iwan Baan, Landon Nordeman, Luca Zanier, Luis Ladron de Guevara, Lyle Owerko, M. Scott Brauer, M. Wesley Ham, Mari Bastashevski, Mark Peterson, Martin Usborne, Matt Eich, Melanie Burford, Michael Christopher Brown, Natasja Fourie, Peter DiCampo, Phillip Toledano, Platon, Rinko Kawauchi, Stefano de Luigi, Steve Pyke, Steven Brahms, and Tim Hetherington. I’m excited to have my work shown in the company of so many talented and inspiring photographers; if you asked me for a list of my photographic idols, that list would be a goood start.
I also have one image in a slideshow presented by PDN at the New York Photo Festival, but I’m a little unsure on when and where that will be shown.
I hope you can make it to the event. If you’re there, please say hello. Here’s what I look like.
Matt Lutton and M. Scott Brauer are currently in the United States and will be visiting New York City together from Tuesday May 2 through Friday May 6th. Both will be sharing recent work and new projects. We already have some fun work meetings set up and are excited to see old friends and colleagues. We are also planning to meet at The Half King on Wednesday night to see everyone. If you’re in the city, be in touch and/or check here for final details.
It has been a couple of years since the two of us been able to meet up and we haven’t been in New York together since 2005, when we were both interns at Black Star. It’ll be a nice reunion and potentially the start of some interesting collaborations.
We already have most of our meals (Uighur! Momofuku! Matt is aching for variety after months in Belgrade) planned out and a few shows we want to see (like Revolucion(es) and Shen Wei at Daniel Cooney). And of course a pilgrammage to Dashwood Books. Any recommendations for shows happening these days that we can’t miss?
At the end of the week, Lutton is headed back to Belgrade and Brauer to Boston.
“This event [will be a place for] the entire NY Photo community to gather together, celebrate the lives of Tim and Chris while also generating funds for the recovery of Guy and Michael who will be in great need over the coming months. All prints in the show will be available for sale by donation only. All posters will be available for donation as well.” -from the Facebook invitation to the event
Matthew Craig (of MJR) and Julien Jourdes are curating an exhibition of recent photography from political revolutions in North Africa. The show opens 7pm, Thursday, April 28, at Instituto Cervantes in New York (211 East 49th Street). The show will include images by Samuel Aranda, Michael Christopher Brown, Bryan Denton, Mathias Depardon, Guy Martin, Gabriele Micalizzi, Andy Rocchelli, Luca Santese, Gabriele Stabile, Nicole Tung and Ricardo Garcia Vilanova. It will be an opportunity to celebrate the lives of Chris Hondros and Tim Hetherington, and proceeds from print and poster sales from the exhibition will go toward medical care for Guy Martin and Michael Christopher Brown, both injured in Libya last week.
Photographer Nick Turpin, who I first came across through the in-public street photography site and who writes the blog 779, has just published a rare selection of 20 Garry Winogrand color photographs. The profilic street photographer is almost exclusively known for his black and white work but apparantly (like Henri Cartier-Bresson) used color photography often enough. I first came across this fact while looking through one of my favorite photo books of all time years ago, the epic “Winogrand 1964″. The cover features one of the coolest shots of all time, a color photograph from White Sands, New Mexico.
(via Blake Andrews)