Friday, 23 May 2008

Human Hair Trade

Each year the hair of thousands of women in India and China is cut off for just a few dollars. Once collected, cut, cleaned and sorted, the hair is exported for different end uses. Short bad quality hair is used for jackets linings, cosmetic brushes food and medicine, but the bulk of the trade is for wig and hairpiece making. Tonnes of waist-length hair make its way from vast warehouses to lucrative auctions and processing factories, eventually arriving in Britain, America and France, where it will adorn the heads of Western women. The demand for hair extensions and cosmetic products means that turning poverty and faith into fashion has became a new market, earning major companies revenues of more that $300 million last year alone.
I have been considering for a while as a potential project the creation of a series of images about the whole process in London, from the basic shops in Brixton that sell the product to the fashionable salons in Chelsea that work with models and wealthy clients. So far getting access to the places where human hair is stored and sold has been difficult and frustrating, but most probably I will be able to attend in the next few days the preparation and shooting of a series of different hair styles as part of the competition for the British Hairdressing Awards 2008.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Deja vu

Since I started doing this course, I have the feeling that everything is connected somehow. All the ideas I am interested in, all the articles I come across, keep unfolding in front of me in different ways. It seems that from the beginning of this year I am going through subjects I knew or I thought about before.
Doing some research on Salgado this morning,I just discovered he photographed the sulphur workers I visited last Summer in Indonesia. They climb the slopes of a volcano in Java and then make the dangerous descent into the crater to get chunks of sulphur while breathing the poisonous air.
Yesterday I read by chance an article on The Independent about exactly the same mountains Antrim was talking about a few days before in one the tutorials. The coal industry in Kentucky is blowing up the Appalachian peaks without any environmental concern to generate electricity and displace the consumption of imported oil. The rubble is tipped into the valleys and more than 700 miles of rivers and streams have been filled with toxic waste.
A few months ago I knew nothing about all the information and help I am getting from the rest of the group, even if sometimes they may give me ideas and tips without even notice.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Sebastiao Salgado

In 1984 Sebastiao Salgado began a fifteen-month project of photographing the Sahel region of Africa in the countries of Chad, Ethiopia, Mali and Sudan, where approximately one million people died from extreme malnutrition. Working with the humanitarian organization Medecins Sans Frontieres, Salgado documented the enormous suffering and the great dignity of the refugees. Since then he has showed in different projects how human beings struggle because of military conflict, poverty, famine, overpopulation and other form of catastrophe.
Salgado explains: “ With documentary photography the difference is that the photographer must have a big concern, you must have a big ideological affinity with the subject you will be shooting, because if you don’t, you cannot remain sincere and empathetic for long. You must strongly identify with the subject”
Salgado’s body of work is one of the most exciting and inspirational for me so I am thinking already about the essay title number 9 “ Sebastiao Salgado weakens the force of his message by the sheer beauty of his images”. It raise very important issues about the nature of concerned photography and it questions whether Salgado’s photographs undermine rather than dignify his subjects and his intentions of social awareness and change. Also very interesting and worth researching are the issues of curatorial practice in presenting documentary photography as art, and the use of visual quality and aesthetic beauty as hook to audiences.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Film and Photography

Films about photography often fail to acknowledge the difference between the still and the moving image. Despite the fact that film and photography are both visual, it is difficult to represent one in the other. Manufactured Landscapes, Jennifer Baichwal's film about Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky, shows what movies can do when the main subject is the process a photographer need to go through in order to create a specific body of work.
The film communicate the scale of Burtynsky's images, which features vast assembly lines, huge factories and mountains of waste, by following him as he photograph the effects of industrialisation on the landscape. The tactic of the film is to show the human figures dwarfed by the environment within a wider context.
The images are aesthetically seductive and the message is ambiguous. They could hang in the hall of a corporate office and on the wall of an environmentalist organisation at the same time. And that is where the power comes from, because the images guides you into the subject but doesn't give you opinions.
I am still convinced of the power of photography because it lodges itself in our consciousness in a very different way to film. If you think about the Vietnam War for instance, the still image endures.