My first reaction to the pics in this tome was: These people are clearly nuts! How can you want to have your picture taken surrounded by your firearms? And not just one firearm, lots of them. Moreover, the guys and gals look seemingly proud. It is way beyond me what is going on in their heads. On the other hand, it is generally beyond me what is going on in anybody’s head and that includes my own.
Politicians from both sides of the Atlantic often talk about shared values. Looking at the people portrayed in this book, I’m not sure what these values could possible be. To me, these people seem to inhabit a foreign planet. But, hey, aren’t Swiss citizens allowed to have guns at home? Yes, they are (and I do find that nuts too) but they do not talk about it. It’s like money, the Swiss do not talk about it either … although they are supposed to have lots of it..
Although I’ve been visiting the US many times (and once crossed it from East to West) and have of course heard about American gun culture, I hadn’t been aware of the dimensions this book informs me about: There are more guns in America – firearms legally purchased and owned by civilians – than people. How come? Journalist Gea Scancarello argues “it is a question of tradition, of a constitutional guarantee”. It is, she writes, the “ideal of freedom on which the entire American narrative is founded: limitless possibilities, minimal restrictions, self-determination. Ensured by guns.” It is also what Trump stands for: Me first. The American version of freedom, it needs to be stressed, is not a universally understood concept.
Gea Scancarello quotes a sixty-six-year-old shooting instructor from Pennsylvania: “I think that revolvers are the quintessence of this nation.” Well, I’m not surprised that a shooting instructor would say that, I’m however doubtful that a yoga teacher would say the same. But who knows? Race, gender, religion, political affiliation or wealth do not seem to matter when it comes to gun ownership, at least according to this book. I’m not so sure about this.
The pro-gun lobby uses catchphrases such as “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” On the face of it this seems plausible although it isn’t much more than an argument for selling guns. And where there are lots of guns there will be lots of guns used. That is pretty obvious, isn’t it? How come, so many Americans can’t see that? Because we are unable to learn from history for, as the old Romans knew, mundus vult decipi, the world wants to be deceived.
By the way: “An average of two-thirds of firearm-related deaths are suicides; a ‘mere’ third are homicides, a negligible few of which are in mass shootings. Of the 38,658 who died in 2016, 22,938 took their own lives; those killed by others numbered 14,415, of whom ‘only’ 71 were in mass shootings. Lastly, there were slightly more than 1,300 domestic accidents.” I find especially the suicide rates disturbing, they make me also think of the many drug-related deaths. The issue here, it seems to me, is violence and specifically self-destructive violence.
How did the photographs come about? Gabriele Galimberti explains: “I asked my subjects what they were keeping in the house. Then, I arranged everything in an orderly and geometric way, as if each object was an integral part of the environment surrounding the subject.” I must admit I have quite some difficulty with this approach – why not have the subjects arrange their guns themselves? I also thought it baffling that people who claim they want to decide as much as possible for themselves let somebody else decide how they should be portrayed.
The ones shown in this book consented to pose for these pics, they wanted to demonstrate “that they are not the ones who should be viewed with suspicion.” Although I doubt that these images will achieve that, I was left with the impression that there are more deep-rooted issues at the core of the seemingly never ending gun-ownership debates in the United States and this tome does an excellent job at highlighting this by dividing it into four chapters – family, freedom, passion, style – that address the major themes that are instrumental for many American attitudes towards guns.
Despite the abundance of guns shown on these pages, this isn’t really about guns, it is about how the ones portrayed see the world and themselves in it. Very American, I’d say, but it is not the America and the Americans that I know.
The Ameriguns is a very instructive book!
by Gabriele Galimberti
with interviews and texts by Gea Scancarello
Dewi Lewis Publishing, Stockport, England 2020
Tentative timed-entry for the opening reception will be offered on Saturday, January 9, 2021 between 4:00 and 8:00 pm. Registration will be required. Please see CPAC’s website for the most up to date information.
Vantage Point/Personal Projects by Veterans features a compelling collection of fine art photography created by 10 Denver-area artists who have served in the U.S. military. This unique exhibition is the culmination of CPAC’s Veterans Workshop Series, a five-month program of advanced photography courses provided to participants free of charge. Each project is intensely personal, reflecting each artist’s inspirations, life experiences, creativity and point of view.
Colorado Photographic Arts Center
1070 Bannock Street, Denver, CO 80204
The 2021 Ballarat International Foto Biennale is proud to present an exclusive look back at the career of world-famous photographer Linda McCartney (1941 – 1998) at the Art Gallery of Ballarat.
The Ballarat International Foto Biennale is Australia’s leading photographic festival showcasing work from significant international and Australian photographers that is new, previously unseen in Australia or contextualised afresh. Running from 28 August to 24 October 2021, come for the day or stay awhile to immerse yourself in the two-month program of exhibitions, workshops, talks and events.
Ballarat International Foto Biennale
Reservations are required. Visitors can make a reservation at mocp.org
The exhibition explores the psychological, physical, and emotional realities women encounter in the years leading up to, during, and after fertility. The exhibition features eight artists who consider a range of topics including birth, miscarriage, pleasure, the lack of access to abortion, trauma, and the loss of fertility. The exhibition is organized by MoCP chief curator and deputy director Karen Irvine and curator of academic programs and collections Kristin Taylor.
The Museum of Contemporary Photography
600 South Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60605
What a superb shot!, was my reaction to this colourful, elegantly composed cover. Images of a BBC report from twenty years ago on a fashion show at a hotel in Blantyre, Malawi, popped up in my head, the goal of which had been to show an Africa that was something different from the usual news from the continent – famine, wars, and wildlife.
Congo in Conversation, I learn from the preface, was launched by British-Canadian photographer Finbarr O’Reilly, as “an online collaborative reportage with Congolese journalists and photographers. During six months, they documented the human, social, and ecological challenges that Congo faces today, within the context of the Covid-19 crisis.” Needless to say, this publication couldn’t be more timely.
Who are they? Arlette Bashizi, Dieudonne Dirole, Justin Makangara, Al-Hadji Kudra Maliro, Danny Matsongani, Guerchom Ndebo, Raissa Karama Rwizibuka, Moses Sawasawa, Pamela Tulizo, Ley Uwera, and Bernadette Vivuya.
“Finbarr saw an opportunity for Congolese reporters to regain the central storytelling role long held by outsiders and reshape narratives around Congo. He worked with the Congolese photographers from afar, discussing subjects to cover, photo edits etc.,” Myrtille Beauvert, who looks after the press for the Carmignac Photojournalism Award, lets me know.
Congo in Conversation is introduced by a conversation between Mark Sealy, curator and Director of ABP in London, photographer Finbarr O’Reilly, and Emeric Glayse, Director of the Carmignac Photojournalism Award, about the colonial past, the African images provided largely by foreigners and by an attempt to answer the question: “But how do we develop and encourage other ways of seeing things?”
I must admit I have no idea whether the photographs in this tome look different from others taken in the Congo. I haven’t seen that many. What I can however say is whether they appealed to me, made me think as well as wonder and question what I saw. Yes, absolutely.
Pics like the ones below are however almost self-explanatory.
Congo in Conversation is divided into the following chapters/themes. Life. (“Amidst the vast country, from Kinshasa to Goma, the protective mask is at once banality, a shield and, for the trendy, an affirmation of liberation and individuality. The DRC, a country of 90 million inhabitants, has recorded less than 300 deaths from Covid-19; here, the values of community, beauty and pride are not empty words.”). Health (“Hospitals often lack basic equipment and staff and run out of essential medicines and supplies.”). Access to Clean Water (“Congo is Africa’s most water-rich country, holding more than half of the continent’s fresh water reserves, but 75% of the country’s 80 million people have no access to safe drinking water.”) – the conflicting population figures 90 million or 80 million inhabitants, made me google it: the Worldbank, in 2018, stated: 84.07 million – Electricity and Hydroelectric Plants (“Congo has one of the lowest electrification rates in the world at just over 9%, 1% in rural areas and 19 in urban areas.”). Environment (“Virunga is the continents oldest national park and largest tropical rainforest reserve, covering 7,800 km2, and home to over half the world’s population of mountain gorillas.”). Politics and Insecurity (“Insecurity is by far Congo’s biggest impediment to progress. There are more than 140 armed groups active in eastern Congo’s North and South Kivu provinces.”). Decolonization (“The 60th anniversary of Congo’s independence in June 2020 coincided with the coronavirus pandemic – and with the sweeping denunciation of both the colonial past and the racist present everywhere in the world.”).
Congo in Conversation convincingly demonstrates the potential that photojournalism has to make us aware of people and places hardly known. For me, it has been in many respects a real eye-opener.
To find out more about this project and see all of the images visit https://congoinconversation.fondationcarmignac.com/
Congo in Conversation
Photographs by Finbarr O’Reilly and Congo in Conversation contributors
Refliefs Éditions, Fondation Carmignac, Paris, France 2020
F-Stop Magazine: How did you first become involved in photography and what led to you working in this medium as an artist?
Mikhail Lebedev: After my graduation in 2011 I worked in many positions – as an engineer, taxi driver, construction worker, office clerk, bartender, camera operator. Right now, I understand that it was an important experience in getting to know the world, in improving my communication skills. I have met and have talked to people of different wealth and occupations; I have learnet their view of looking at things. Why are they where they are now? It is a massive kaleidoscope of fates, of their worries and heartaches.
Before 2017 I thought of myself as a photographer, while, in fact, I was not one. I hid behind the word ‘photographer’ in society but did not pay much attention to photography. In spring of 2017, during an internal crisis, I internalized that. At that point it was decided – either I experience the photography for real or I do not pursue it at all. My life changed. I started to spend most of my energy on photography. I graduated form the “Dokdokdok” school of documentary photography, started to shoot photo stories. For now, photojournalism and personal projects occupy the central position in my life. I invest in studying the English language and dismiss commercial shoots to make space for documentary shoots.
F-Stop: The current issue of F-Stop Magazine includes images from your project “Restaurateurs by chance,” can you tell us about this project and how it came about?
ML: To create a life-affirming story about Russia was a long-time wish of mine. I’ve accidentally learnt about this place from a friend. There is a federal highway going through Umet, and a lot of travelers know about this place. A little less than three thousand people live in the village. If you divide the population number by the number of working cafés, the result is much higher than that of Moscow, Paris or New York! But Umyot is a village and not a city! Right near the main street you can see a classic rural scenery: grazing goats and chickens, rickety barns, bathhouses, wooden houses with carved plat bands, orangeries. A rather surreal view.
Most of the documentaries about Eastern Europe show a rather depressing picture. Emptying regions, withering rural life, vanishing small ethnicities, trauma of ethnic wars of the 90s. It is wonderful, that the authors reflect on those themes. And I do understand why, after almost thirty years since the dissolution of the USSR, Russia is still living in the post-Soviet world, exploiting its achievements and infrastructure. But the history of Umet is an inspiring example of the new Russia. In their darkest hour locals didn’t wait for government help, instead they took matters into their own hands. They became honest entrepreneurs, gave jobs for themselves and their neighbors and spent the money earned to give their children education in universities of Saransk, Moscow and Saint-Petersburg. This shows the enormous creative potential of the Russian people.
F-Stop: Can you discuss your process for making these images or your creative process more generally?
ML: As for me, the most important thing is communication. In all of my projects I communicate a lot with characters, trying to build friendly relationships. In the most cases it’s not easy, people are suspicious of strangers with cameras. The general lifehack is to not be afraid to speak, to look them in the eye, to be honest about what you are doing and why. People feel sincerity, and it disarms them. If you lie, your body language will give you away. Photography is about integrity and connection between people. When I shoot, I discuss the process and the posing with the characters, it’s important for me that people are involved in the process, that the project is an act of collaboration. We share phone numbers, find ourselves on social media, maintain contact. For me as well, it isn’t an easy process, live communication with people takes a lot of energy. That’s probably the reason social media became so popular. I think it’s an illusion.
In this exact project. For two weeks, dusk till dawn, I would go around to the cafés and the village, meeting people, speaking to them, explaining what I do. It was hard at first, but then in a couple of days the rumors about me began to spread, and I was treated as a weirdo, but not as a stranger.
F-Stop: How do you choose what or who to photograph, what are you looking to capture?
ML: In the end I’ve spent around two weeks in the village. There were three important aspects for me: portraits of the owners, interior and exterior of the establishments. I don’t know for how long these establishments can go on, and I wanted to depict this strange world with scrupulous detail. It was an ethnographic research for me: not about small ethnicities, but about a very brittle society.
F-Stop: Do you have a favorite image in this series? If so, which one and why is it the image that speaks to you most?
ML: I really like the portrait of Marine. She is a strong and independent woman, who went through a lot, but despite that, she didn’t lose her femininity, kindness and charm. She was the first among the owners, who agreed to speak with me, to make a portrait. For me it was a very important moment, the moment, when I realised all is going to work out in the end.
F-Stop: Are you working on any other projects currently?
ML: Yes, right now I’m making a project about stigma surrounding people, who were convicted of taking or possessing drugs. About the influence of darknet on this. It is a big problem in Russia, the majority of convicts are serving sentence for crimes connected with drugs. But with that in mind I don’t shoot my project in a strict documental form, I’m experimenting with the visual language.
F-Stop: What photographers or other artists inspire you?
ML: Many! Modern technology and ways of communication have uncovered lots of talented people, and that’s very cool! Werner Herzog, the one who truly inspired me some years ago. I am fond of his films, especially the “Fitzcarraldo”. And he is a grand person, he could go from Munich to Paris on foot for his friend’s life’s sake. By the way, she had lived for many years after that. He stole a camera to shoot his first film. A man with an unbound will to create and a passion for adventures.
On December 12 at 5 pm (italian gmt) Walter Borghisani (contributor for f-stop magazine) and Luisa Bondoni (curator of the National Photography Museum of Brescia, teacher and historian of photography) will talk about photographic projects worthy of mention in a Facebook live stream.
“Other Research – Extemporaneous conversations on lesser known authors” is not a symposium, it is not a lesson and it is not even a monologue. “Other research” is proposed as an opportunity, through a guest, for conversation about known or lesser known authors and photographic books.
On the live broadcast on December 12, Walter Borghisani will talk to Luisa Bondoni about books such as Staying Home Together (born from a collaboration between F-stop magazine and Trieste Photo Days) and authors such as Billie Mandle and Kyler Zeleny (already reviewed for f-stop magazine), Vanessa Winship, Peter Hujar and others.
The event will be in Italian.
Video tour of the exhibition: https://vimeo.com/474769720?mc_cid=31e264408e&mc_eid=f703a1f297
“The Museum of Contemporary Photography is pleased to present, What Does Democracy Look Like? Leading up to the 2020 presidential election, the MoCP has invited seven faculty members from various departments at Columbia College Chicago to mine the MoCP’s permanent collection of 16,000 objects. Each curator will interpret the museum’s collection to consider what democracy means to them, and how photographic images record and shape our understanding of current and historical events. Guest curators include Melanie Chambliss, Joshua A. Fisher, Joan Giroux, Ames Hawkins, Raquel L. Monroe, Onur Öztürk, and Sharon Bloyd-Peshkin.”
Museum of Contemporary Photography
600 S. Michigan Ave.
IV: Annual Members Exhibition
December 1, 2020 – January 31, 2021
“Filter Photo is pleased to present IV, our fourth annual Members exhibition, juried by Jonathan Blaustein. The work of over 60 Filter Photo Members is on display in this online exhibition. Congratulations to the Juror’s Choice artists Dave Jordano, Mark Lipczynski, and Tanya Lunina and Honorable Mentions Denis Gillingwater, Judith Levy, and Kathryn Rodrigues. Visit the exhibition page on our website to read the juror’s statement, view the exhibition, and see expanded portfolios by the Juror’s Choice artists.”
Grant Scott is the founder of United Nations of Photography, and the associated podcast, A Photographic Life (included in my photography podcast article ‘Now Hear This’). Within each episode, Scott asks a photographer what photography means to them, and in roughly five minutes, the guest photographer gives their audio response. Each photographer answers in their own words, on their own terms, what ‘photography means to them and it takes many forms. Some answer in a diaristic way, some answer in rhetorical ways, or via short stories which reveal touchstones in their lives – sometimes it is a person or a time when photography changed their life irrevocably. In the book adaptation, 89 professional, award-winning photographers from around the world explain what photography means to them.
Some photographers take the opportunity to share the glory of their professional career, or tell the story of humble beginnings and who gave them their first camera (a common genesis theme) – but no matter which approach each person takes, they tell the story of those of us who eat, breathe, and sleep the life of a visual storyteller.
The stories shared in What Does Photography Mean To You? are informed and fully engaged. These stories are told by people in their golden years of their craft, and those asked to contribute solely because Scott finds their work to be interesting and engaging. Nobody needs to be a superstar, not one needs to be a veteran whose work has been on the pages of Vogue, Rolling Stone, The Guardian, or the New York Times – they don’t need to be photojournalists, fashion photographers, or represented by a high-end gallery. Some are self taught, or would broadly be considered on the commissioned-side of the photo industry to be amateurs. But Scott simply puts it, “All are passionate, informed and engaged. Their words force the listener to stop and take stock, they force self-questioning, reconsidering pre-conceived understanding. They make you think.”
I was surprised – maybe not, given the big picture – that over a dozen of the featured photographers are people whose work I was familiar with, or had the great fortune to personally review or interview. I was inspired as well – the list of contributors included many more whose work I either admired, or was glad to discover and learn more about.
The black and white image of each photographer along with their response is understated in the way the design for the book leads the reader from one photographer to the next. Each person featured in the book includes a website link so readers can learn more about their work. The stripped-down graphic design demonstrates expertly how difficult it is to make something look effortless. The book’s layout gives each photographer equal footing. Each photographer’s ‘voice’ in their essays comes across: direct, and in their own voice – largely devoid of gallery-speak and grandiose academia language for its own sake. In this way, the reader gets to hear what the photographer ‘feels’ about the importance photography means to them. In less than 200 pages, Scott gives his readers a chance to read frank insight from photographers whose work will prompt you ask yourself about the importance and meaning of photography.
What Does Photography Mean to You? Edited by Grant Scott
Mono 190 x 130mm portrait + 192pp
Published by Bluecoat Press
Grant Scott is the founder of United Nations of Photography, and began working as a professional photographer in 2000 after working for fifteen years as an art director of photography books and magazines such as Elle, Tatler and Foto8. He was the editor of Professional Photographer magazine and founded Hungry Eye magazine. Grant now works as a freelance photographer, writer and documentary filmmaker. He is a Senior Lecturer and Subject Coordinator of Photography at Oxford Brookes University and the author of several published books on photography.