Tag Archive: alex majoli
On October 15, 2011 there were riots in the streets of Rome, as part of the current wave of anti-government protests happening worldwide. An estimated 200 people were injured and 12 arrested in an unusual provocation compared to many Western protests (like the “Occupy” protests in the United States), which were relatively quiet.
Our friends at the Italian collective Cesuralab have published an interesting portfolio of the events, and I wanted to ask about their perspective on covering such a story in their own country, after a year of photographing protests and revolutions elsewhere in the world. Last year we talked about Cesuralab covering an earlier anti-Berlusconi riot, and in February showed amazing pictures from Cairo by Alex Majoli and Gabriele Micalizzi. In June 2010 we also interviewed Cesuralab about their collaboration.
Could you give me some background on what is happening in Italy these days, what is inspiring these protests? I know there were protests in the last year, that also had some violence. Why is there violence in Italy now when there is not so much in other western countries?
The social and political situation is really dramatic. Our prime minister is a living joke (think about the whole escorts thing and the bought votes, for instance), unemployment is at maximum level since the postwar period, fiscal pressure is very high, retirement age is increasing, and the young people have no future, just the fact to leave parents’ house seems something unrealizable.
The reason of all this violence exploding is certainly that the situation is really critical, but you have to take in count that there’s always infiltrations in this kind of events: hooligans, extreme right parties, police…they are often the ones who let everything starting. In this last case you could notice a very serious organization of the centri sociali (leftist activists) and the clear fact that the police was allowing vandalism. I mean, it was necessary to create a media distraction to cover up what’s going on in our Parliament’s house. I don’t think that Italy is the only nation in such a situation; if we consider Greece, where you can find in the streets people from any social class and age that throw molotov, and not just a bunch of anarchic kids. And in Spain and Portugal the situation is not easy either, something is gonna happen there soon as well, the “indignados” movement is already a very interesting reality.
As far as I know, you both have photographed some of the “Arab Spring” events, the rallies and the battles. How does this overlap, or does this have anything to do with, your pictures from Italy? What is it like photographing dramatic events abroad and then photographing similar scenes at home?
We actually wish that what happened in Tahrir square could happen in Italy as well; that was a real revolution. Leisure prevents the deep dissent to come to life: the dissent that drives people to risk their life to change things. I don’t think we will ever see an Italian running throughout the bullets as the Egyptian people I’ve seen in Cairo.
After the demonstration here everyone goes back home as they went to a concert or at the stadium, no one stays and keeps going with the guerriglia to obtain what they ask for.
Beside this, in terms of feeling, the pathos is the same, the anarchic mood of the violent protest is something that fills any kind of contest, religion, territory, culture, etc..
What can you tell me about how Cesuralab is covering these events collectively? There often are many Cesuralab photographers covering these events, in North Africa or in Rome for instance, are you working together on the street? Or editing together? Do you publish together?
We always try to find a way to be more than one while reporting on these kind of events because it’s quite difficult to cover the event completely if there are many people and a lot of things going on in an extended area.
What is important for us is to cover the event and preserve the quality of the work, we do not care about ‘who’ rather about ‘how’.
We generally split up in different areas, except for special situations, also because we have very different way of working. At the end of the day we edit the work together and we plan the [distribution] to certain magazines we want to work with. The work is in this way collective because every single member of the collective interacts with the other in different ways, and we deeply believe in each other potentiality. Our approach to photography is structured to create a story and not to satisfy the editorial market needs. We carry our thoughts and philosophy and try to pass it down to the people that collaborate with us.
This morning I saw Newsweek’s gallery of remarkable images Alex Majoli took in Cairo last week: “The Agony and the Ecstasy”. A few minutes later I got an email from a friend at Cesuralab inviting me to look at a series of pictures by photographer Gabriele Micalizzi also from Egypt. We’ve written about the collective Cesuralab before, including an interview from last year, and their art director is Majoli. But Micalizzi’s work is also tremendous. I’ve been waiting to see work like this from Cairo.
Be sure to check out Micalizzi’s other projects, including his recent work in Tunisia and pictures from the Bangkok Turmoils on the Cesuralab site. Newsweek also recently published a portfolio of Alex Majoli’s work from Tunisia “Postcards from a Revolution”, and a joint gallery of Alex Majoli and Paolo Pellegrin in Egypt from before Mubarak’s abdication. Clever, these Italians. Terrific work all around.
Cesuralab, a photography collective in Italy who we interviewed earlier this year and friend of dvafoto, just published a terrific collaborative essay about the riots in Rome this week that erupted after Italian President Silvio Berlusconi narrowly avoided a no-confidence vote. The pictures are by Gabriele Micalizzi, Luca Santese and contributor photographer Giovanni Panizza. I’ve been talking with many Italian friends lately who are increasingly frustrated with the political and economic situation in their country and are fearing renewed social conflict and violence. It begs the question, as Cesuralab themselves title their piece, is this “The Beginning of the End”?
Though peaceful at first, the demonstration turned violent after news of the confidence vote circulated among the students and antigovernment rabble rousers, this provokes the most violent protests seen in Rome for years, by mid-afternoon, two thick columns of smoke rose from the remnants of a barricade at the entrance to the historic Piazza del Popolo. Ninety people, including 50 police, were reported injured. According to police, there were 41 arrests.
If you’re not familiar with Cesuralab be sure to look at the rest of their projects, they have an amazing crew of photographers, artists and collaborators. And their artistic director is Alex Majoli. And keep your eye out for more news coming from Cesuralab via dvafoto soon.
We’ve been a fan of Cesura Lab for some time, and of collective founder and artistic director Alex Majoli for as long as both Matt and I have known his work. When Daria Birang wrote in to us about some upcoming workshops hosted by Cesura Lab, I thought it’d be a great opportunity to talk to the group about their philosophy and operations. The answers we got back during the interview were a bit enigmatic at times, but illuminating as to how a group of photographers might operate in the new media environment mixing editorial, gallery, commercial, and any other means of getting photography out to audiences. The questions and answers (formatted as received) are below:
Dvafoto: What is Cesura Lab?
Cesura: Cesuralab is a photographer’s collective
What does the name mean?
It means something like “cut off lab”, which comes from the name of the little village, Cesura, where the studio in alex majoli’s house started years ago, and since we are in the middle of the country side in Italy, cut off from civilization, we kept the name.
Why have the photographers come together?
what we can do together we can’t do alone. we are putting our forces together so everyone gains.
What is Cesura Lab as a whole?
it really is a studio, a playground in which we come and work, edit, talk, come up with projects and talk some more. we smoke a lot of cigarettes too.
What is it’s mission?
We think that photography has perfectly represented a world in the past but that world has changed completely. Most of contemporary photography seems to apply the dictates of that photography trying talk about contemporary reality with a language that doesn’t belong to it anymore. What we aim to do and what we might consider our mission is trying to not adapt the world to old photography, but to adapt photography to the new world.
Is Cesura an arts organization?
no, we are an independent group of photographers trying to stay out of the system, we want to make a difference, on our own, without a funder with a big voice.
A journalism organization?
we don’t like to put ourselves in one particular category, we all do different photography and we try to encourage each other’s differences.
An education organization?
no, but we use our resources, space and contacts for photography workshops and masterclasses.
Do these distinctions matter to the group?
not at all.
Read on »
This just came across my favorite Foreign Policy Passport Blog: Why is Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva sporting cameras of his own so often during photo shoots with other world leaders? See the slideshow: is he’s shooting his own archive and fine art of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez? Or is it some sort of joke that none of us are understanding?
Does anyone know what’s up with this? The Internets reveal nothing. Is the president an amateur photographer or does he just grab cameras from news photographers to clown around? Are any of his snaps available anywhere? – Asks the Passport Blog
This isn’t even new, President Obama was known to take up photographers’ gear for a few frames. This is a fun mystery though. But to see behind the scenes done right, you really should look at Alex Majoli’s work from Brazil in 2004 where he spent time with the President and so much more. This is one of my most favorite photo essays around. Majoli in Brazil, 2004.
Magnum’s Georgian Spring is an incredibly interesting project, and possibly a turning point in photojournalism and agency work. This book, print, web and ‘multimedia’ project is a collaboration with the Georgian state itself, funded by the Ministry of Culture and arranged by photographer Thomas Dworzak with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, and independently curated by publisher Chris Boot.
As Scott mentioned when this project first went live, 10 Magnum photographers are involved and are a very interesting cross section of what is being done in photojournalism today. Jörg Colberg, of Conscientious and photojournalism criticism fame, agrees in his review of the book. To quote him, “So there are ten photographic voices, all from the same photojournalistic agency – how could there be a crisis in photojournalism when there is such variety? Or asked in a different way: What kind of crisis?”
I see Georgian Spring as the latest in a series of interesting photographer and agency-driven productions where people are “doing it themselves” with alternative funding methods. I think of two other Magnum projects directly that I’ve always respected: Euro Visions, about the ten new EU states in 2004 in collaboration with Centre Pompidou and Magnum Off-Broadway (a project that deserves a post in itself, definitely coming soon).
Beyond being a necessary development to continue doing the work we’re out in the world to do, these agency and photographer-led projects almost invariably produce more interesting and personal work. (But maybe this is because I’m a photographer? Wonder if there is a breakdown between publication-designed and producer-designed projects with the public?).
There has been some hubbub around VII’s recent efforts (especially on the public relations front) to get ahead of new funding opportunities, such as working directly with NGOs and then maneuvering to have the work published. In an era where the number of assignments is shrinking and our archives are our pensions, finding any way to photograph important stories prior to selling them is intelligent. So likewise getting countries to pay for portrayals of themselves is an interesting idea that just brings this idea to a new level, and shows impressive lateral thinking. The multifaceted distribution is terrific too, from podcasts to an impressive book (so says Colberg, I haven’t seen it in person yet), to an exhibition and interactive website (with maps and breakdown by region in Georgia, which is nice to see). All around, from ideas to photographs to presentation, extremely well done and I think (at this early moment, juries will tell in time) a new landmark in photojournalism.
Thomas Dworzak has a long personal history of working in Georgia, having been (or continuing to be, as the website suggests) based in Tblisi. And maybe because of his close relationship with the country, and the president, his photographs in this project are the most contentious to me. Dworzak presents a love letter to Saakashvili, which is a curious choice given the mix of other work by his colleagues and the nature of the project itself. By all means I’ll defend his right to publish what he feels like but in such a project it is so strange to see this photo-profile of the president traveling the world, wooing its leaders and his domestic successes. The video presentation is especially strange, with lighthearted music, rapid pictures of the smiling president and running tourism-board commentary by Saakashvili himself. As PDN brought up in its piece Magnum on Georgia, For Georgia a “photojournalistic” project about a State funded by that State on the surface is begging for careful scrutiny of its objectivity. There seems to be ample distance between the creative and journalistic freedom of the photographers and their curator Chris Boot from the state itself, and many of the essays and their subject matter probably would not be picked up in tourist literature by Georgia.
Also enlivening from the PDN article is this quote:
According to Dworzak, the project set off some debate within Magnum. “It’s nothing extraordinary, Magnum has done it and other agencies have done it for many other countries, it’s just usually done in a very shitty way,” Dworzak says. That the Georgian government agreed to a completely hands-off approach “made it really easy to accept,” Dworzak relates.
On the other hand, I was blown away by many of the other projects. In some sense this was a narrow assignment, to bring photographers into one country and have them all cover it in their own way, perhaps putting photographers in positions they are not suited for in an obvious time crunch (the book was published roughly a year after the conflict with Russia). But just the opposite has happened, it opened each to do what they do best and it really compounds the impression of contemporary Georgia. As I said above, this project brings together ten unique voices and gives them freedom to search out their own stories and it is a treat to see it come together. I haven’t had a chance to watch through all ten ‘Magnum in Motion’ video presentations but two really have stuck with me, perhaps for obvious reasons.
Alex Majoli has long been an important photographer for me but his work in Georgia, both here and in the recent war, has taken my respect for him to a new level. Please have a look at his piece for this project on Magnum in Motion. From two stark black and white title cards that tie his personal experience (and relationship to music, which is dear to my heart) to his early photography and then straight to the emotions and people he was photographing in Georgia. The soundtrack, from Italian punk band CCCP, provides stark cohesion with the best of movie scores. The images are raw, beautiful and confounding.
Russian photographer Gueorgui Pinkhassov provides a similarly personal dispatch from Georgia, with terrific commentary (I believe his words, read by another person). Most of this piece is short video clips, fitting for a man who began his career as a cinematographer and working with Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky. And they are ridiculously beautiful, absolutely in Pinkhassov’s ‘style’ but in motion. Indeed some of the videos are from scenes that became final photographs for his contribution to the book, such as the one posted alongside here. It is a moving and unique vision, and I can’t recommend strongly enough seeing his work on Magnum in Motion.
And have a look at the Jonas Bendiksen video, you just might spot him having a drink with the people at the party (in another short video clip, again used nicely). Glad to see the photographers getting involved personally!
Another question, which I admit not giving much thought to yet, is the new “Hollywood” film about the war tentatively titled “Georgia”. Wired’s terrific Danger Room blog riffs on an AP story in a post titled One Year Later, Hollywood Re-Fights Georgia-Russia War. What does this other project Georgia-supported project mean for this Magnum work? The film isn’t funded by Georgia it seems but it has gotten state support, and Wired is framing it as pro-Georgia. Does this paint the Magnum Georgia a different hue?
In the end, I think it is a wonderful thing to have such a portrait about a nation in an interesting point of its history, and I of course want to see more projects of this sort of subject matter as well as innovative funding strategies like this. But the final product of Georgian Spring does still leave me with some caution, particularly with Dworzak’s piece included. Maybe it is the newness of this idea, having the subject fund the project themselves, or having potential conflicts of interest so close to the surface (that’s a good thing, but still something new to deal with), but I’m a touch uneasy still. A bold approach, ingenious in many regards, and its bound to ruffle feathers, and I’m happy that it has affected me that way too. Can’t wait to see what is next, and I’m inspired to think about all of these issues anew.
The F Blog has posted part 2 of their interview with Alex Majoli, the first part having come out in April (and which we linked to). If you’re not familiar with his work, here is his portfolio at Magnum.
Fblog: Well, you’ve said something about Samurai development, and it’s been your most important quotation, it appears almost everywhere along with your name…
Alex Majoli: OK, everybody ask this! OK, this quotation – when I’ve done some workshop I had to say something, and I didn’t want to make some bullshit like “I’m the best photographer in the world” so actually I wrote something like that as a joke. They accepted it and didn’t understand it was a joke. I think you can’t teach photography, but I think as a Samurai you can do an every day little things. Discipline, determination. You know you need to prepare to take picture. I can not teach you that, I can tell you only: don’t distract, escape, stay there, don’t move, but I can’t tell you how to take it.
Most of my students keep making pictures like this [AM: acts like a photographer in candid, shaking, very nervous]… and then I say: “relax, you can’t make pictures like that. Think about it. Relax.” [AM: acts slowly, knowing what to do, determined and relaxed], and it’s not working, so again I’m saying “Get relaxed, come closer, move, concentrate on process.” You can do only that.
Fblog: What would you say to a budding photographer? Go to some exhibitions, see as much as possible?
Alex Majoli: Don’t look at other photographers. Don’t think you’re photographer. Read all books. I say work, work, work, just try to be yourself. Work a lot and read books. Get out from photography and then go back. That’s most important.
(one of my favorite recent pictures from Majoli)
Following the “photographer’s website” link at Magnum’s page for Alex Majoli brought me a welcome surprise in the form of Cesura Lab, an Italian photography collective and consulting service. There’s so much good work here that I can’t figure out where to start. Try BANG KOH by Gianfranco Tripodo or BODIES BORROWED by Coskun Asar or THE WHITE DANCE HUMAN TRAFFICKING FOR SEX TRADE IN BELARUS. by Alice Pavesi or PIO OF PIETRELCINA by Luca Santese. Beautiful work in many different styles from a bunch of photographers you probably haven’t seen before…