Friday, 31 October 2008

Borders again

Still not convinced about how to approach the project. I keep changing my mind and I am coming up with new ideas every week. After my last visit to the Barbican on a grey and depressing Sunday for instance, I thought It could be interesting to explore the empty urban landscapes and the lives of people working against the current of normal hours and days. Street sweepers in the cold of the street, security guards talking to nobody in front of an old magazine or cleaners travelling by night to do their job without disturbing workers in the office. The contrast between the rhythm and intensity of a Sunday night and a Monday morning must be incredible. Desolation, hardship, loneliness and social exclusion could be potential themes around the story and maybe a mixture of formal strategies the way forward. Photojournalistic images with interviews together with series of portraits and big scale landscapes.
Another possibility starting to develop in my head lately is to show a more intimate analysis of everyday life ambitions, fears and values of white families in South Africa. The whole situation is deteriorating by the day and the political, social and cultural connotations are changing fast. I will be living for three weeks with some members of my girlfriend's family in a small community on the coast during Christmas and I thought it is probably a good idea to try something you know a bit better that others for personal reasons and at the same time something that is close and meaningful to you. Just like Leonie Purchas!

Wednesday, 22 October 2008


Last Sunday I went to the Barbican to have a look at the new exhibition "This Is War!", which includes some never-before-seen photographs and newly discovered documents about Robert Capa (1913-1954) and Gerda Taro (1910–1937). it was very interesting to see closely and in detail the whole process of making iconic images of the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War, but I was more intrigue about the artistic responses to Iraq and Afghanistan by Omer Fast, Paul Chan, An-My LĂȘ and specially Geert van Kesteren's Why Mister, Why?, and Baghdad Calling, (2008).
Each artist reflects on the subjects of war and their experience of conflict and at the same time each considers how some images mediates our experience and understanding of any given situation. Looking at the photographs taken by local people in everyday life Irak with their mobile phones, I thought straight away about Sco and his use of basic technologies to get close and real to the subject.
Later in the day flicking through the Sunday Times Magazine, I found an article about a new and lucrative relationship between photojournalism and art. Private collectors and galleries are willing to pay huge sums for reportage images taken in the first place to document events and provoke reaction. W Eugene Smith's photograph of a soldier holding a newborn baby during the battle of Saipan sold at Christie's for £4369, Simon Norfolk's photograph of a bullet-scarred apartament building in Kabul fetched almost £6000 and Luc Delahaye's photograph of a deserted road in the aftermath of a bomb blast went for £22100.
This year's Brighton Photo Biennial takes as its main theme the changes in both the production and consumption of war photography. Its curator Julian Stalabrass argues that, as fewer photojournalists are allowed on the front line and censorship often dictates what can and cannot be shot, photographers have to adapt to get heir message across. Today war is as much about suicide bombers and terrorism as opposing armies in the battlefield. The nature of war has changed dramatically so the way we record it it must change too. Finding new ways of communication is the key issue for most practitioners. Hung in an exhibition, these images have huge visual impact and push people to confront them and think and talk about them.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Borders now

I have been reading lately quite a few articles in magazines and newspapers about how the other half live in any given situation. Workers in Dubai living like animals while tourists spend loads of money in luxury hotels. Farmers in Argentina struggling with new taxes while government officials get richer. Street artists fighting social injustice while well established practitioners play with unreal prices in the market.
Getting inspiration for new stories around the world is easy, but for some reason I find it harder in London. This is the place where my everyday life became routine with same patterns over long periods of time. Jono said to me once that Istanbul is full of visual opportunities and Mark was thinking about travelling to the borders between India and Pakistan.Talking about his new film on the IRA hunger strikes, Steve McQueen said that people talk about the abuses in Abu Ghraib, but the same thing was happening here in our own backyard.
I would love to travel somewhere and explore some of the issues I am reading about, but for this new project I will try to work on something a bit closer to me from a cultural and geographical point of view: Spanish and Latin American people in London living somehow detached from any local interference in terms of language, music, food, customs and culture.
The largest modern influx of Spanish people happened after the Spanish Civil War, when political exiles began to settle mainly in Westminster, Kensington, Chelsea and Camden. Many others like me came seeking work, skills and education after the economic crisis in Spain.
Latin American people started arriving in London mainly in the 1970s at a time of much political turmoil and civil unrest in their countries. Around 2,500 Chilean exiles, including businessmen, professors and students, were met by a small community of Latin people who were already here. In the following years people from Argentina, Ecuador and Peru came to London. The mid-1980s saw Colombians arriving not only as political refugees, but also as migrant workers escaping conditions in their country.
Although there are no real Latin American or Spanish districts as such, it is estimated that around 15,000 Spanish people live in North Kensington, focused around Vicente Canada Blanch, the Spanish School in Notting Hill. Other areas with Latin communities are Camden Town, Finsbury Park, Harrow and Wimbledon. In Lambeth the community from Latin America has grown massively within the last five years or so with Spanish being increasingly spoken in the borough. It was Mark again who told me about El Carnaval del Pueblo, the largest Latin American festival in Europe, supported by Southwark Council and attended by more than 130000 people. Such a big and close event I didn't know anything about.

Monday, 6 October 2008


TED, a New York-based organisation that brings together leading scientists, thinkers and designers committed to social change, grants $100000 to three outstanding people each year and gives them one wish to change the world. James Natchtwey is now using his skills as a photojournalist to raise global awareness of extensively drug resistant tuberculosis and in the process demonstrate the power of news photography in the digital age. He travelled to countries as diverse as Cambodia, Siberia, Rwanda and India documenting the XDR-TB and the efforts of governments and NGOs to pioneer new treatment programmes that may arrest the disease's progression.
Last week TED unveiled a slide show of more than 50 images at the Lincoln Center in New York and the National Theatre in London and over the next few weeks the same photographs will be shown on outdoors screens in 50 cities worldwide and on the internet as part of a multimedia campaign that aims to harness the power of viral marketing techniques on the web. The aim is to bring TB into the mass consciousness in the hope of starting an action campaign that can leverage more funds for aid and sponsorship for research.

Friday, 3 October 2008


Today I read in The British Journal of Photography that the US Senate has passed an amended version of the controversial Orphan Works Bill, which has been widely criticised for tearing up international accords on artists' copyright. Under current law, a copyright holder has the undeniable right to profit from his work, but this new bill allows pictures editors and art buyers to use images with unknown or incomplete copyright information, as long as they have made sufficient attempts to track down the owner.
If the new legislation passes through the House of Representatives, responsibility passes to the author, who must actively protect his work by process of registration. This system could prove impossible for most photographers due to the time and cost involved in registering works. Companies unscrupulous enough to strip an image of copyright information know that if caught, they would merely have to pay what they would have been charged in the first place.
As we make progress through the course and we start to publish images on the web, it would be interesting to know a bit more in detail about the potential dangers. Internet is a big opportunity for all of us, but in the current economic meltdown the market will test legislative boundaries to the limit, profiting from any grey areas resulting from unclearly defined regulation.
We need to get better at attaching value to our images and protect our work, but for now I will keep posting some more images of the people I met in my last trip and see what happens.