June 30, 2017

Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up - 30 June, 2017

This week on Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up a triple treat with Josef Koudelka in Berlin, Georgian photographer Daro Sulakauri's photo essay Black Gold and Siberian photographer Evgenia Arbugaeva's Amani. Plus some interesting weekend reading.

Exhibitions: Berlin
Josef Koudelka - Invasion/Exiles/Wall

“When I left Czechoslovakia, I was discovering the world around me. What I needed most was to travel so that I could take photographs.” Josef Koudelka

France, 1967 © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

This exhibition features three significant stages of work by Magnum photographer Josef Koudelka, his first dedicated exhibition in Germany for nearly 30 years. With around 120 photographs and projections this exhibition ranges from the Soviet occupation of Koudelka's homeland in 1968 to his time in exile. The exhibition is curated by Xavier Barral in cooperation with Sonia Voss and organised in partnership with the Nederlands Fotomuseum in Rotterdam.

Czechoslovakia, 1968 © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos 

Czechoslovakia, 1968 © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos 

Czechoslovakia, 1968 © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos 

C/O Berlin Foundation, Amerika Haus, HardenbergstraBe 22-24, 10623 Berlin

Photo Essay:
Daro Sulakauri - Black Gold

(C) Daro Sulakauri

Georgian photographer Daro Sulakauri’s photo essay on the mining town of Chiatura in Georgia is absolutely captivating. Sulakauri’s empathy with the miners and their families is palpable and her compositions take you right to the heart of this mining community. 

Once a bustling manganese ore mining town, since the collapse of the Soviet Union these miners, who toil for 12 hours a day, earn less than USD $300 a month. It is a brutal job in a harsh region where there are few creature comforts.

(C) Daro Sulakauri

(C) Daro Sulakauri

(C) Daro Sulakauri

(C) Daro Sulakauri

(C) Daro Sulakauri

You can read the full story on National Geographic's PROOF. 

Photo Essay:
Evgenia Arbugaeva - Amani

(C) Evgenia Arbugaeva

This photo essay, by one of my favourite photographers Evgenia Arbugaeva, is in complete contrast to the previous subject matter of this Siberian artist whose Weather Man and Tiksi series I’ve written about. But her visual signature is unmistakable and immediately I'm transported to another world. There's something so rich and hauntingly beautiful about her images that captivates me. 

In 2014 Arbugaeva turned her lens on Tanzania and the Amani Hill Research Station to “bring back the atmosphere of this dark, magical place,” as she told National Geographic’s Jeremy Berlin. This station is located in the remote Usambara Mountains where Arbugaeva worked with anthropologist Wenzel Geissler, to capture this “hidden world”. It’s a wonderful visual story told beautifully by Arbugaeva. Berlin’s story is equally engaging. You can read it and see more images here

(C) Evgenia Arbugaeva

(C) Evgenia Arbugaeva

(C) Evgenia Arbugaeva

Great Weekend Reading:

Photobooks - Australian photobook specialists and noted academics Doug Spowart and Vicky Cooper recently showcased a range of books from Australia and New Zealand at the Vienna Photo Book Festival with great success. Check out their blog posts at WotWeDid.

How Some Photographers Make a Living - World Press Photo

June 23, 2017

Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up - 23rd June, 2017

This week on Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up - World Refugee Day 2017 (20th June) and some images that provide a sobering reminder of just how many people are in need.

Australians welcome refugees, but our federal government doesn't
(C) Greg Wood, Sydney (AFP/Getty)

Special feature:
World Refugee Day 2017

Play therapy - helping refugee children overcome trauma
(C) Philippe Carr/MSF

The world is facing the largest refugee crisis on record. Millions are displaced. Governments are slow to act and in terms of the humane treatment of refugees, Australia is one of the worst offenders.

According to the UNHCR in 2016 there were 22.5 million refugees. Of those refugees only 189,300 were resettled last year. More than half of the refugees are under the age of 18 years and many are born in refugee camps - a whole generation knows no other existence.

Africa still remains the continent where the largest number of refugees are “hosted” followed by the Middle East. Asia and the Pacific have the lowest number. 55% of refugees worldwide come from three countries - South Sudan, Afghanistan and Syria.

Doing research for today’s blog I came across numerous media articles about the plight of refugees. What I found incongruous was the advertising that appeared on many of these online sites - banner ads across pictures of refugees that were advertising ways to improve your investment fund; pictures of celebrities and half clad women; holidays in exotic locations; consumer goods on sale. The effect these ads have is to normalise the refugee crisis. It just becomes part of the visual noise and when there’s so much other information available it takes away from the import of these media articles and photographs in raising awareness.

While the plight of the Syrian refugees is currently headline news, and rightly so, there are many others that the West rarely hears about such as the more than 66,000 Sri Lankan refugees living across 109 camps in Tamil Nadu State in India. Some of these people have been living in miserable conditions in the camps for nearly 20 years with no prospect of change for the better. A scenario repeated across the world.

The size of the problem is overwhelming, but we cannot lose hope. The great work being done by so many is recognised, yet there is so much more to do and governments around the world need to take a global view and come together. We've heard it all before, but we need to keep saying it. Change is possible. We need to hold onto that belief. As the Dalai Lama says, change can begin with a single act. Sharing these photographs and raising awareness is a small contribution that may spark a conversation that may influence people to act.

This is where some of the world's 22.5 million refugees live:

Dadaab Refugee Camp Kenya - the world's largest (C) UN

Tamil Nadu State in India

Nyarugusu, Tanzania (below) - more than 290,000 people live in the refugee camp in Tanzania’s northwestern Kigoma District, the majority of whom come from neighbouring Burundi. Overcrowded, unsanitary and dangerous, camps like this struggle to provide even the most rudimentary shelter and care. Often perpetrators live in the camp along with their victims. The psychological trauma is beyond comprehension. This refugee camp is one of the oldest, established in 1959.

(C) Eleanor Weber Ballard/MSF

Tanzania (C) Erin Byrnes/AFP

Yida South Sudan (below) where 70,000 Sudanese refugees live

Yida camp, South Sudan from the air.

Yida camp on the ground.

The majority of Malian refugees living in Mbera camp in Mauritania (above and below) arrived in 2012 after violent clashes in north Mali and refugees numbers continue to rise. Photos: MSF

Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan (below) houses around 80,000 Syrians more than half of which are children. The camp is so large it is now considered Jordan’s fourth biggest "city".

Syria, ten, and Hassan, four, walked for almost 12 hours to cross the border from Syria to Jordan. 
They now live in Za’atari refugee camp with their mother.

 Za’atari refugee camp/Oxfam

Jabalia (below) is the largest of eight refugee camps in the Gaza Strip. Today nearly 110,000 refugees occupy an area of only 1.4 square kilometres. There is one health centre, high unemployment, electricity supply issues, high population density and 20 schools running double shifts to accommodate the large number of children.

Kakuma refugee camp Kenya (below)

J Craig VOA

The refugee camps outside Dolo Ado in Ethiopia (below) have become a sanctuary for Somalis fleeing the violence in their homeland.

June 16, 2017

Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up - 16th June, 2017

This week on Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up - a feature interview with legendary photojournalist Maggie Steber, the Every Brilliant Eye exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria and a new group show for Colour Factory celebrating the darkroom. Plus the Maggie Diaz Portrait Prize is open for entries, closing 14 July.

Maggie Steber - The Secret Life of Lily LaPalma
Alison Stieven-Taylor

“I can’t wait to get home to my dead lizards in the freezer,” Maggie Steber tells me as we sit down to talk about this legendary photojournalist’s most personal body of work, The Secret Garden of Lily LaPalma, a fantasy world in which Steber’s artistic side is flourishing. I tell her I’m going to have to start my article with that quote. “Of course. That’s absolutely fine,” she laughs. But we’ll get to the dead lizards later.

Having spent more than three decades documenting some of humankind’s less than honourable moments, and witnessing more death and destruction than anyone’s psyche can bear, Steber is finding a new way to engage with photography and the results are exquisite.

In some ways Lily LaPalma has seen Steber reconnect with the type of photography she did as a child. “When I first started taking pictures I did this sort of work,” she explains. “I grew up as an only child and was brought up by my mother who was a scientist and very eccentric. We had a very lively, cultural life”.

(C) All images Maggie Steber

In her formative years she was drawn to the dark side of fantasy. Steber experimented making what she calls “very strange pictures. I loved science fiction, as well as pulp fiction and B-Grade horror movies. I loved to be scared to death sometimes as a kid,” she laughs.

As a student of photography her professor told her she’d never make a living out of her photographic art. Unable to imagine a life that didn't involve taking pictures and telling stories, she moved into documentary photography, becoming the first female picture editor for Associated Press in New York.

After several years behind the picture desk, and with the threat of being promoted to management, a career step Steber wasn't interested in, she threw in her job, left her boyfriend behind and headed to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) which was in the grips of a long guerrilla war.

In Rhodesia Steber sought out the back-story to the war, something she found far more interesting than the fighting itself, forging a narrative style that would come to define her documentary work. “All of these people who had built a life, who had established farms, who were the colonial rulers, they were fleeing and that was the story I wanted to cover. I stayed for two years until the ceasefire and then returned to the United States”.

Back home she started working as a photojournalist, but says it was “hard” and she found herself covering a lot of news stories, which she didn't enjoy. “You know the five hour stake-out to get a single shot. That was not for me”.

Steber decided she wanted to tell stories and began experimenting with long form photo essays. “I started working in Cuba quite a bit, on my own dime and time. I’d do portraits or whatever I had to do, to earn enough to go. Over time I built a big body of work, but it was terrible, and I never showed it,” she laughs at the memory. “But I learned how to do a long term project and to tell a story”.

After Cuba, Steber decided she was ready to try her hand at a long-term study. She thought about going back to Africa, which she really missed, but it was too far away. At the time she was freelancing for a French picture magazine and they commissioned her to go to Haiti. “I fell in love with Haiti. After 30 years I still work in Haiti doing various projects. That early work really put me on the map and that’s when things changed in my career and I used the Haiti work to get my foot in the door with National Geographic magazine.” A relationship that continues today.

Steber’s career has been a mixed bag, as is the case with most freelancers. She’s shot fashion and commercial work, often as a way to fund her documentary photography, but at the heart of everything she shoots is the desire to tell a story.

Which brings us to The Secret Garden of Lily LaPalma, in which Steber’s skills as a master storyteller are clearly on display. But there is also a sense of playfulness here, as well as experimentation making the work fresh and engaging. “I’m reinventing myself as a photographer,” she says brightly. 

Steber tells me that she was one of triplets, but the other two babies were stillborn. As an only child, but patently aware that there were meant to be two others, she gave her sisters names. One of them was Lily, who was dangerous and adventurous, dark and mysterious and it is this alter ego who Steber draws on for inspiration. “In Lily’s secret garden there are no rules, no boundaries and anything can happen.” Steber’s eyes sparkle with possibility as she warms to the story.

“Suddenly I had this place I could play and it didn't have to be real, or sad or happy or dangerous, it could be anything. It was somewhere that I could act out all of these things through Lily. The thing I love about the Garden is that I don't have to care if anybody likes it. You know as photographers we are always worrying about whether people like our work.”

After years of experimenting, and sharing some work on Instagram, her favourite social media platform, Steber is now bringing The Secret Garden of Lily LaPalma out into the wider world. “Yes I am,” she says, her childhood Texan drawl suddenly noticeable. “But the Garden is not me, it is Lily. Sometimes it is fun to be bad and Lily is always killing people, so it’s pulp fiction, it’s fantasy”.

The pictures in the Garden are spontaneous, often found images that Steber works with later in Photoshop. She also uses Instagram filters and other apps. “I’ll be out and see something and just photograph it, which is a different way for me to work. Or I might be walking with friends and I’ll be like, oh can you lie down there for a moment, or could you run down that hall!” It’s clear she’s having a lot of fun and inviting viewers to use their own imagination in reading the work.

The Garden has not only provided a way for Steber to spread her artistic wings. Lily has also allowed her to exorcise some personal demons. “I’ve seen some terrible things in my life,” she says quietly acknowledging that many of the darker moments she has witnessed stay with her. We talk a little about art as therapy, and she agrees that in some ways playing in Lily’s Garden has been a release. “What I can say is I’m the happiest I’ve been in a long, long time. I’m gleeful in the Garden”.

And we're back to the lizards. “For the last few years I’ve been collecting dead lizards and freezing them.” We both burst into peals of laughter. “I live in Miami and I have a courtyard and these small lizards come in and I have cats and they are always catching them and killing them. I love them, they are like little dinosaurs, so I started saving them, wrapping them in foil and putting them in the freezer.” There’s more laughter and a caveat that she doesn't use the freezer for anything else. “It’s funny, when I was a little girl we had a freezer and my mother would bring home specimens from her lab, and she’d tell me not to eat anything out of the freezer. So I’m more like my mother than I’d care to admit!”.

Steber, who is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, is continuing her work on the Garden and the lizards will be its sentries. “They’ll keep the meanness, the criticism out. They are just beautiful. Some that didn't go in the freezer have deteriorated and they are now these amazing delicate skeletons”.

“The Secret Garden has given me a playground in which I can exercise my creative instincts and nature without any boundaries and any cares. At this point in my life I feel like I’ve earned this moment to play with something I have treated in a very serious nature and given up a lot in order to do.”

“My life has been so enriched by photography,” she says. “You know I’m just a little nobody from Texas. I’ve had a life I never thought I’d have and I can’t believe it sometimes. I’m grateful to photography and mostly grateful to the people in my pictures.”

See more images on Maggie Steber’s Instagram

In Brief:

Exhibitions: Melbourne

Every Brilliant Eye - NGV
(C) Patricia Piccinini - Psychogeography 1996 from the Psycho series
National Gallery of Victoria

This new exhibition at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia Melbourne explores the cultural phenomena of the nineties - grunge, techno, cyborgs, identity politics and DIY - with more than 100 works by some of the foremost artists of the period.

Util 1 October
Ian Potter Centre
Federation Square
Cnr. Flinders & Swanston Streets

For the Love of the Dark - Colour Factory
(C) Tom Goldner

A group show celebrating the craft of the darkroom. Artists include Phill Virgo, Linsey Gosper, Shane Waghorne, David Tatnall, Ellie Young, Tom Goldner, Lynette Zeeng and Sophie Caligari.

Until 1 July
Colour Factory
409–429 Gore Street

June 09, 2017

Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up - 9th June, 2017

This week on Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up - photojournalist Martine Perret's new work draws focus on Australia's Indigenous languages, Lumina a new photographic collective launches with an exhibition in Sydney and Melbourne photographers take to the streets in a one day shoot, print and hang challenge to raise funds for youth homelessness.

Ngala Wongga (Come Talk) - Cultural significance of languages in the Goldfields - Martine Perret

(C) Martine Perret

I first met French-born photojournalist Martine Perret almost a decade ago when she was working with the UN and based in Timor-Leste. While she still occasionally works with the UN on international missions, today she lives in Margaret River, Western Australia and is focusing her storytelling skills on examining the interconnectedness of people with the land and the significance of language in creating that bond.

For some months she has been working with the Elders of the Aboriginal community in the Goldfields in Western Australia creating a collaborative multimedia work - Ngala Wongga (Come Talk) - Cultural significance of languages in the Goldfields. This project combines documentary and photojournalism tropes with audio recordings to present a unique and immersive installation that addresses an important issue: the survival of Australia's indigenous languages. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that this story may contain images and voices of people who have passed away.
In Australia there are about 120 Indigenous languages, but only 13 are spoken by enough people as to not be endangered. The rest are in peril of disappearing and the Indigenous languages of the Goldfields are among those at greatest risk.

Perret says, “If you lose your language, you risk losing your culture, your oral history, your identity”.

Ngala Wongga features evocative multimedia portraits of Elders who share the significance of their experiences and stories through image and audio recordings. Perret’s Gungurrunga Ngawa (Look Above) series of aerial photographs capture the otherworldly visage of the Goldfield’s salt lakes adding another dimension to the narrative. Together these bodies of work present a compelling narrative. 

Keneisha and Levi – the grand-children of Glenys Williams pictured below
(C) Martine Perret

Glenys Williams (C) Martine Perret

Perret says, "as a young child, Glenys Williams (above) used to speak Putijarra language. She now speaks Mardu language. In 2004, there were estimated to be four speakers of the Putijarra language. It is a highly endangered language". 

Nyapala Morgan (C) Martine Perret

Nyapala Morgan (above) was born in Patjarr (Karliywara) in the Gibson Desert. “When I was young, my mother took me from rock hole to rock hole,” she told Perret. “We survived on bush food, digging the wichetty grub. We used to sit down under the wilja with my sisters, brother and my parents. In those days, we ran around naked. One night, I thought someone was throwing a spirit with a light or a flame, but it was the lights coming from a car. I saw white fellas. I was worried of being grabbed. They were standing around taking photos. It was the first time I saw white fellas”. This is an excerpt from one of the stories that Perret has recorded, and features in the audio installation.

If you're in Carnarvon or nearby, mark this show in your diary. Let's hope the show can also tour to the east coast to engage with an even larger audience.

June 15 to July 23
Carnarvon Library and Gallery
18 Egan Street

The Lumina Collective

(C) Sarah Rhodes

(C) Aletheia Cassey

(C) Anna Maria Antoinette D'Addario

(C) Donna Bailey

(C) Jessie Boylan

(C) Morganna Magee

(C) Lyndal Irons

(C) Chloe Bartram

This week a new Australian photography collective launched in Sydney. Lumina is the brainchild of
Morganna Magee and Aletheia Casey who were inspired to create the collective to provide a vehicle for newer voices to work alongside established, award-winning photographers. 

The initial group comprises eight women - Magee and Casey along with Donna Bailey, Chloe Bartram, Jessie Boylan, Lyndal Irons, Sarah Rhodes and Anna Maria Antoinette D'Addario - who are all recognised practitioners in the documentary genre.

To coincide with the collective's launch is a group show featuring work from all the members and curated by D'Addario at Sydney's Black Eye Gallery until 18 June.

I asked D'Addario what the thinking was behind the formation of Lumina, if it was intended to be a female only collective and what the objectives were for the immediate future.

"Initially the group was started in an attempt to bring together documentary photographic artists who are exploring new ways to tell stories and engage the public with them. We feel there is a real urgency for this right now and wanted to offer something different in regards to our approach. Traditional visual documentary practice exists within every one of the member's work but all of us are developing various long-term projects that combine different methods including art practice. each member is really trying to push the boundaries of the genre. And we aim to support this movement with the collective.

"Morganna and Aletheia contacted everyone at the beginning because of the unique approaches and it turned out we all happened to be women. We are proud of this fact as it is unusual for a collective in Australia to be founded completely by all female members and we feel it brings a different voice to existing groups.

In discussions member Lyndal Irons said about Lumina: 'I think the most interesting thing about the collective of eight female voices together, is that you have a real opportunity to see the nuances and variety in the work women are making. By coming together we are indirectly inviting comparisons in what and how we approach our personal projects. And this is pretty powerful especially when you collect women together from across many states of Australia.'

It creates a unique national voice. We did question initially if the group should remain a female exclusive collective in the future but we have decided that who we are in regards to gender is not the main focus (although still an exciting one), It's how we tell stories and what we push for in the community to help develop the cultural landscape. We will remain open to a wide range of members down the track and eventually also not specifically Australian based artists, although there will always be a healthy dose of national members in the group. The idea as we evolve is to really support practitioners looking to push the boundaries of storytelling worldwide.

When we talk about the community we are talking on one hand about the community Lumina is creating within the collective, the support each individual practitioner will give to the other to help us push out work we feel is important. Yet on the other hand all of us really want to push Lumina to become a dynamic force in the community. We want to create projects in collaboration with other groups and platforms to expand the work we represent. We really want to build on the cultural community within Australia and internationally with our projects.

We'd like to engage other practitioners outside of the collective to develop projects with us also, to try and weave out and push forward some of the really great work out there that just does not get seen enough. Education and mentorship is a big aspect of our vision as well.

It is rather incredible to have such an amazing group of women to work with and there is some pretty powerful energy in the group right now," D'Addario concludes. 

To find out more visit Lumina Collective.
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Project Street 7:30

(C) Julie Ewing

Last weekend, 30 Melbourne photographers were given a few hours in which to shoot, edit, print and hang their image in an exhibition at Fox Darkroom & Gallery, where the photographs were auctioned off to raise funds for charity.

The challenge, posed by photographers Craig Wetjen and Steven Scalone, was enormously successful, raising almost $12,000 with all proceeds going to Kids Under Cover, an organisation working to prevent youth homelessness. What a fantastic effort Melbourne!! And what a fabulous initiative, one the pair hopes to take further afield.

Here are a few images from the day, which are now on show until 25 June. 

(C) Nicola Bernardi

(C) Don Chu

(C) Roland Dempster

(C) Silvi Glattauer

(C) Sarah Louise Jackson

(C) Glynn Lavender

(C) Ken Spence

(C) Michael Teo

(C) Craig Wetjen

(C) Andrew Chapman

To find out more visit the website here.

Until 25 June
Project Street 7:30
Fox Darkroom & Gallery
8 Elizabeth Street