First Photo Challenge of 2020

This year, I said I should blog more, but with that comes the challenge of what to blog about. I also decided to cut down on my social media consumption/use so I can have more time to be able to do so (I declared this on my first and ‘possibly’ the last post on my Instagram feed). However, I still cannot resist the urge to check out Instagram and I come across some pretty awesome stuff, one of which has inspired this blog post.

The Biennale für aktuelle Fotografie 2020 “The Lives and Loves of Images” – an extensive photography exhibition curated by David Campany is happening from the 29 February – 26 April across three cities in Germany – Mannheim, Ludwigshafen and Heidelberg. There will be works from over 70 artists showcased in six museums, with talks, discussions and workshops events during this time. On their Instagram feed, they have been introducing participating artists by asking them to give ‘instructions’ to their followers. You take a picture with said instructions, you upload it on Instagram using the hashtag #biennale_instructions and your photograph will be posted on their feed.

Here are some of the artists (exhibition name) and their ‘instructions’ that have been shared so far:

  • Peter Puklus (When Images Collide)  – Create your own, personal universe. You are the Sun.
  • Jessica Potter (Walker Evans Revisited) – Take a photograph of a gesture.
    Take a photograph of someone walking away.
  • Patrick Pound (Walker Evans Revisited) – As a record, the photograph is always a trace of something.
    Try taking photographs that are records of traces (from shadows to stains and remnants).
  • Joshua Murfitt (All Art if Photography) – Make a photo where a subject is obscured.
  • Sara Greenberger Rafferty (When Images Collide) – Make a picture without a camera (or phone) and do not post it.
  • Antonio Peréz Río (All Art is Photography) – Take pictures of screens. More concretely, take pictures of pictures on the screens. Pictures that people are taking or pictures that you took. Focus on what happens on the screens and its formal and content connections with the world around. Focus on the foreground but don’t forget the background. Make a single photograph or a whole story with a sequence of pictures.
  • Thomas Wunsch (Between Art and Commerce) – Find a photographic theme with care and passion. Then take a look at how other photographers have treated this topic in the past. Think about how you can edit this topic. Find a niche. Be different. Make it interesting. Attract attention. And don’t hold back. It’s your chance to tell the world something.

So, where do I come in? Well, I thought I should challenge myself and pretend for just one minute that I was posting on my Instagram feed. Why not take one of these instructions and share my own photograph using the hashtag #biennale_instructions and instead of posting it on my IG feed, I post it here?

I decided to follow Patrick Pound’s instructions –

  • As a record, the photograph is always a trace of something.
    Try taking photographs that are records of traces (from shadows to stains and remnants).

This one resonated with me as I am currently working on a ‘Remnants’ series of photographs. Here I am sharing a photograph I haven’t posted on my blog before following said instructions.

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Reflections of Syzygy in The Blue Room, 2019

If you were to follow any of the instructions, which one would you pick? Or, why not attempt this challenge with me? Link back to my blog so I can see which instructions you followed.

#PhotoChallenge

#RemnantsProject

#Biennale_Instructions

Event: Diversity in Photojournalism Forum

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Earlier this week, I attended a panel discussion on Diversity in Photojournalism at theprintspace. The speakers on the panel were Anna Gordon, Suzanne Plunkett and Chin We, all women photographers who were invited to speak about the challenges of working in a male-dominated field of photography and also, why there is lack of diversity within the industry. This event was organised by Photo Forum and it was lead by Helen Healy, the Head of Pictures at the Financial Times.

Here are a few stats that were discussed in the forum:

  • Research conducted by the University of Stirling in the UK and the World Press Photo Foundation found that at least 70% of women photographers face discrimination in the workplace.
  • And only 1% of participating photographers in the research classify themselves as Black (makes you wonder how many of those were women).
  • Furthermore, women will certainly face some form of harassment during their career as a photographer.
  • Also, women drop out of the photography industry after university even though they tend to be more female students than male.
  • You will also find that major professional bodies like AOP, NUJ, RPS, etc. have less than 30% female members.

Here is a snippet of what the panellists had to say with regards to their experiences working as photographers.

Suzanne Plunkett – “The Associated Press (AP) sent me to Afganistan. My mission was to photograph the female angle. My editor said that because all of the photographers that had been sent there during the war were men, they had no photographs of women. Here I am in Kabul in 2002 and it was just after the fall of the Taliban, many Afgan men did not know how to deal with an influx of self-assured female journalists. Their confusion resulted in sexual assaults in crowded places. Myself and many of my female counterparts were frequently groped while working. And not just in Afganistan. I try not to think about it. I just remove their hands (from my private places) and continue working.” – Follow her on Instagram @suzanne_plunkett

Anna Gordon – “While Suzanne was in Afganistan, I was pounding the mean streets of Enfield as a trainee at a local newspaper. A random man stopping me on the roadside to explain, “You shouldn’t change lenses in the street. You’ll get dust on them.” A helpful PR stating, “I’ve set everything up for you. All you have to do is press the button.” A subject I was photographing saying, “I feel like you are about to kiss me.” Numerous people asking me, “Do you actually make a living our of photography?” Explaining what a breast pump was to Bill Clinton’s security detail. Negotiating a fee for a shoot to commemorate the Holocaust while locked in a toilet in my child’s nursery. Few of my experiences as a female photographer.” – Follow her on Instagram @annaggordon

Chin We – “From my colleagues, it is very difficult to get into photography through the art world. There is a lack of diversity for people who look like me. If more people of colour are seen to be doing these kinds of stories, things will change. For example, the New York Times commissioned a white photographer to go to Africa to feature a story. They need to commission local photographers , because the story would look different from how a white photographer would capture it. African Journalist database has over 400 photographers living in the continent, but the New York Times prefer to fly a white photographer to Africa. The problem also is that the gate keepers are white and male and if they are not willing to hire black photographers, it’s not going to work.” – Follow her on Instagram @chinw_e

Women Photograph has collected data on photographs published and how many of those are by women photographs. Here is a glimpse of data collected from this year alone from US-based publications only.

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I know there is still a lot to be done to make the industry more accepting of women and photographers from minority groups. At least conversations are being had and changes are happening, albeit slowly.

In the meantime, I will leave you with this observation by a female photographer who took part in the research by the University of Stirling in the UK and the World Press Photo Foundation.

“I think that how photojournalists are employed in today’s era of rapidly rising living costs — almost exclusively as private contractors — without any parental leave, health or pension benefits, dramatically influences the people who are able to choose to work in the field over the long term. I look around our industry and it’s true, I see a lot of men, but mostly what I see is people with no kids. I feel like the gender makeup is more equal among photographers in their 20’s but it becomes much less balanced among photojournalists in their 30’s and beyond, with men making up the majority. These men though, who make up the majority of older photojournalists, at least the ones I know, are for the most part, childless, or they have a partner who is the primary parent, or stays at home full time. If I look at my female colleagues, many of them are in the same position.”

If you are interested, you can read the whole report here.

#PhotoDiversity

 

Exhibition: 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair

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‘The Fortress, 2014’ by Kiluanji Kia Henda (Angola) – 1-54 Courtyard Sculpture Commission
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‘The Purple Shall Govern, 2019’ by Mary Sibande (South Africa) as part of her solo exhibition I Came Apart at the Seams
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‘Turn, turn, turn, 2019’ by Mary Sibande (South Africa) as part of her solo exhibition I Came Apart at the Seams
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‘History Papers, 2019’ by Adeunmi Gbadebo (USA)
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Detail of ‘History Papers, 2019’ by Adeunmi Gbadebo (USA) – a mix of cotton, indigo dye and human hair.
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Close-up detail of ‘History Papers, 2019’ by Adeunmi Gbadebo (USA) – a mix of cotton, indigo dye and human hair.
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Quilted portraits of African-Americans by Bisa Butler (USA)
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‘Macho Nne: The Honeycomb, 2019’ by Cyrus Kabiru (Kenya)
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‘It’s My Time & There Has To Be Another Way, 2019’ by Evans Mwangi (Kenya)
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From the series Interwoven by Kyle Meyer (USA)
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Circle Art Gallery from Kenya
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‘Failed Coup, 2019’ by Shabu Mwangi (Kenya)
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Art on the wall ‘Dexu Adüna, 2019’ is by Alexis Peskine (France) and the bike installation ‘MBK100, 2018’ is by Romuald Hazoumè (Benin)
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‘Carriage Clock, 2019’ by Yinka Shonibare, CBE (UK)
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‘The American Library Collections (Philanthropists), 2019’ by Yinka Shonibare, CBE (UK)
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‘Tightrope: Noiseless 14, 2019’ by Elias Sime (Ethiopia)
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Detail of ‘Tightrope: Noiseless 14, 2019’ by Elias Sime (Ethiopia)
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I saw Noma’s bag by Kenyan artist Michael Soi and I just had to take a picture.
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Photographs in lightboxes by Michel Papami Kameni (Cameroon)
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‘Untitled (boxes), 2018’ by Gareth Nyandoro (Zimbabwe)
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Detail of inside ‘Untitled (boxes), 2018’ by Gareth Nyandoro (Zimbabwe)
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Detail of inside ‘Untitled (boxes), 2018’ by Gareth Nyandoro (Zimbabwe)
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‘Speed Demon 1, 2, 3 & 4, 2019’ by Boris Nzebo (Gabon)
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On the wall is ‘Fatherhood’ by Prince Gyasi (Ghana) and the sculptures are by Alimi Adewale (Nigeria)
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This is me checking out Mxolisi Dolla Sapeta (South Africa) artist’s studio in South Africa using Virtual Reality (VR)
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‘Golden Horde 5, 2006’ by Hew Locke (Scotland)
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Close-up detail of ‘Golden Horde 5, 2006’ by Hew Locke (Scotland)
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‘L’écume de la mer, 2019’ by Louisa Marajo
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Detail of ‘L’écume de la mer, 2019’ by Louisa Marajo (Martinique)
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A sculpture by Jake Michael Singer (South Africa)
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Photographs from the exhibition Water Life by Aïda Muluneh (Ethiopia)
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Pop-up exhibition storefront for Jamm Rek: Quotidien Senegal a photography exhibition by Laylah Amatullah Barrayn (USA)
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Signage of the pop-up exhibition for Jamm Rek: Quotidien Senegal a photography exhibition by Laylah Amatullah Barrayn (USA)
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‘Marche HLM, 2013’ as part of Jamm Rek: Quotidien Senegal a photography exhibition by Laylah Amatullah Barrayn (USA)
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Top ‘Les Femme Paying Respect to Mame Diarra Bousso, 2015’ and bottom ‘Baye Fall Alamadies, 2014’ as part of Jamm Rek: Quotidien Senegal a photography exhibition by Laylah Amatullah Barrayn (USA)
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‘Sokhna Khady Ba, 2014’ as part of Jamm Rek: Quotidien Senegal a photography exhibition by Laylah Amatullah Barrayn (USA)
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Curator of Jamm Rek: Quotidien Senegal a photography exhibition by Laylah Amatullah Barrayn (USA), Atim Annette Oton, speaking to my friend Wasi
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Somerset House Seaman’s Hall at dusk
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‘Baga Nimba (Gold), 2019’ by Niyi Olagunju (Nigeria)
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‘Green button Qarboush, 2019’ by Qarm Qart (Egypt)
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Triptych of ‘The Urban Mask, 2019’ by Kagiso Patrick Mautloa (South Africa)
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Guests mingling
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With Aude Konan a writer and filmmaker from Ivory Coast
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With legendary photographers Joy Gregory (UK) and Sunil Gupta (India)
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With Arlene Wandera a sculptor from Kenya.
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With artists Celine_A (France) and Evans Mbugua (Kenya)
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Somerset House courtyard at night

It was an early start for me as I RSVP’d to be at the Press Preview breakfast and launch of the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair. The previous day it was raining heavily on and off and I was hoping that the weather would stay nice and calm. Luckily the sun came out to play and the morning air was crisp, but it was cold. And it is Black History Month!

This is the seventh edition of the fair which is held at Somerset House with 45 galleries from Europe, Africa, the Middle East and North America showcasing contemporary African art from all over the world with 15 of those galleries showcasing for the first time.

This year, the 1-54 Courtyard Sculpture Commission is The Fortress by Angolan artist Kiluanji Kia Henda and for South African Mary Sibande, a first major solo UK exhibition of her photographic and sculptural works I Came Apart at the Seams which will continue on after the fair has ended until 5th January 2020. Another solo exhibition that will continue on after the fair until 20th October is an Afrofuturist tableaux Water Life by Ethiopian photographer and artist, Aïda Muluneh with a further nine solo exhibitions by various artists being displayed during the fair.

For me, this year 1-54 was an amazing experience as it was a long day of looking at artwork, networking and taking pictures. I even managed to squeeze in a visit to a pop-up hosted by Mak Gallery of a photography exhibition Jamm Rek: Quotidien Senegal by Laylah Amatullah Barrayn which ends on the same day on Sunday 6th October as 1-54. So, if you are in the area, please go and check it out. The address is 62 Church Street, London, NW8 8ET – nearest station is Edgware Road.

I went back to Somerset House for the evening event of drinks and more networking then I decided to call it a night.

Please give yourself plenty of time to walk through the fair’s space if you do decide to go, as there is so much to see judging from the ‘few’ photographs I have shared. And there are also screenings and talks happening as well, which are free to ticket holders, but you will need to book as spaces can be limited.

If you are reading this before the 06th of October and are in London, please go and see it. I highly recommend it.
Tickets are £25.00 for Day Ticket/ £10.00 concessions. Children under 12 go free.  Friday is FREE for students with student ID.

The exhibition has ended.

#ContemporaryAfricanArt