Nigel Shafran: The Well

In a new book published by Loose Joints, the British photographer turns a critical and humanistic lens onto the fashion industry 

© Nigel Shafran 2022 courtesy Loose Joints

“This isn’t a book of best pictures, it’s more of a tight edit than that. It’s a book about the ideas that always end up somewhere in my work, I guess… Windows, shopping, making decisions and consuming…” So goes the opening phrase of Nigel Shafran’s new book The Well, penned by the British photographer himself. 

Recently published by Loose Joints, Nigel’s latest endeavour is a 376-page critique into the fashion industry. A steer away from the usual glitz and glamour, the pages are filled with impromptu photographs from a plethora of past commissions – the type that avoids studios or the cold poses and laser stares. Instead, his imagery offers up a well-rounded insight into his subjects, who are often caught mid-grin, having fun with their mates or dressed in an astronaut suit. Think lavished granny carrying her shopping trolly, a model trying not to be a model as she goofily places a globe on her head, and a black and white shot of some kids posing in baggy clothes, similar to garms we see on TikTok today.

© Nigel Shafran 2022 courtesy Loose Joints

Nigel’s career started in his younger years, where he’d trudge around his local village taking pictures of all sorts of people and places. His first gig was as a photographer’s assistant in London, before he moved to New York City in 1984 to assist in studios and on the streets, namely for commercial fashion photographers. After being deported in 1986 for working illegally, he returned to London and started photographing for magazines like The Face and i-D, utilising a set of 10 Pola Pan black and white 35mm slides, plus a viewer. “I was such a pain in the arse,” says Nigel in the book, often spending ages finding the right light for people to view his slides. 

With a background predominantly in commercial fashion photography, The Well is a juxtaposing albeit welcomed foray into the more idiosyncratic parts of his image-making – the weird, simple and spontaneous. The title – The Well – refers to publishing jargon meaning the central spread of work of the issue, the place in which photographers and writers alike strive to have their work featured. It’s the creme de la creme of the magazine and usually where the most topical and high quality features can be found. So where does Nigel’s work sit amongst it all? 

“These weren’t usual fashion shoots that are often done in a day. You’d go out, come back to show me a picture, and then go back out to take another one. Then you’d take another two or three, and we’d get rid of the first two, over and over again,” writes Phil in the book, in reference to Lost in Space, published in The Face, Seven Sisters Road (1989).

© Nigel Shafran 2022 courtesy Loose Joints

Nigel’s photography is undeniably anti-fashion, which is interesting coming from a photographer who’s carved a career working predominantly in this corner of the industry. Yet his gentle and humanistic eye is what makes his work so captivating. His subjects pose sometimes humorously in carefully curated garments; they smile, jolt and jive in front of the lens without a care in the world. Let’s not forget the fashions either; the more every-day clothing that you’d see on a passer by during your stroll to the off-license. His work signals much about his subjects’ personality, as it does his own. He’s not pretentious, nor is he one to fit into the norm. He wants you to know this. 

“I grew up around the world of fashion, it’s a bit like family,” says Nigel in reference to Fashion Circus, shot for a Jean Paul Gautier show in Paris, and published in i-D, 1990. “Still I always considered myself an outsider, but I’m probably more of an insider, really.”

The Well by Nigel Shafran is published by Loose Joints.

© Nigel Shafran 2022 courtesy Loose Joints

© Nigel Shafran 2022 courtesy Loose Joints

© Nigel Shafran 2022 courtesy Loose Joints

© Nigel Shafran 2022 courtesy Loose Joints

© Nigel Shafran 2022 courtesy Loose Joints

© Nigel Shafran 2022 courtesy Loose Joints

© Nigel Shafran 2022 courtesy Loose Joints

© Nigel Shafran 2022 courtesy Loose Joints

 

The Golden City

Mimi Plumb’s new book documents a world grappling with climate change, war and poverty

©Mimi Plumb The Golden City

There are countless reasons why someone might refer to San Francisco as The Golden city – the consuming, orange sunsets; the constant rolling fog that heats up the air between the buildings; or its involvement in the California Gold Rush. But even before it was nicknamed The Golden City, San Francisco wasn’t even called San Fransisco. It was only in 1847 that it was given its title, just a year before the Gold Rush which sparked a surge in the population. Then, in 1906, California experienced what’s deemed the worst earthquake of all time, shaking miles upon miles with impact reaching the Bay area. In fact, it’s noted that some remember it as the fire that ripped through the city, giving it a misleading title of San Fransisco Earthquake. San Francisco has an interesting past – its history still looms and is felt in the hills, landscapes and even the people.

©Mimi Plumb The Golden City

Mimi Plumb, is an American photographer currently based in Berkley, California, beholds distinctive memories of the area of San Fransisco. So much so that she’s now compiled these past thoughts and snapshots into a book, aptly named The Golden City and published by Stanley / Barker. Mimi grew up on the edges of the city, where the rents were cheap and humdrum of city life was more diluted and dispersed. “San Francisco, known as The Golden City, truly is a golden city,” Mimi tells me. “But, as with most cities, it has an underbelly, which is where I lived and what I photographed in the 1980s.” The city during this time was rife in radical activism, with inhabitants taking to the streets in opposition of gentrification and the policies coming from the White House. It was a tumultuous time for politics and society, which caused sharp contrasts to those living in a gentrified, inner-city world and those on the fringe. Protests and anarchism subsequently forged and the arrival of a more underground, DIY culture, music and art stared to grow. But it wasn’t without its downside. 

“I was an art student working at a minimum wage job,” explains Mimi of the time. “I lived on the edge of the city where the rents were cheap. I photographed the environment around me, often taking daily walks in my neighbourhood of Bernal Heights; Dog Patch, along the bay; and the Mission District.” In one part of the neighbourhood named Warm Water Cove, located on the bay, Mimi observed captured a pile of tires and abandoned cars. In another spot, she climbed the chimney of a power station that was positioned above the 25th Street Pier – she’d sit and watch the planes swooshing above. Mimi is an observer and this becomes explicitly clear in her photography, that which steers from bleak landscape shots to the more intimate, candid portrait. All of which is shot in signature black and white and features a distinctive luminous tone – an ominous hue that probably couldn’t be captured anywhere else apart from The Golden City. “I actually began this project in the early 1980s using colour film,” says Mimi, “but the blue skies didn’t convey the edgy content of the work.”

©Mimi Plumb The Golden City

To accurately (and artfully) tell her stories, Mimi has divided the book into sequences. The first half features notes from The Golden City itself, “predominantly of landscapes in and around the city,” she says. The work in this part is particularly distinguished as she documents the link between “wealth and power to climate change and poverty” – that which is pictured through angular cliff edges framing the city, almost like a colony of concrete ants in the distance; or busy streets peppered with suited city dwellers juxtaposed with the stark, deteriorating landscapes. Then, you reach the middle point: “The breaking heart and the two spreads that follow represent the heart of the book for me,” she adds. “The second half of the book, mostly portraits of both friends and strangers, reflects the psychological angst that I felt in myself and my community, both then and still now. One of the last pictures in the book – the girl in the polka dot dress hiding her head – is a stand-in for me not knowing what to do about it all. And my cat, Pearl, waiting and crouching is a portrait of me, as the world grapples with climate change, war and poverty.”

What’s most interesting, however, is that although the work in The Golden City was shot between 1984 and 2000, the topics, themes and issues explored are especially relevant today. The world over continues to tackle the warming climate, the dangerous policies imposed by the government and increasing poverty, not least in San Francisco. Mimi’s work, then, reminds us of the cyclical nature of things – that life and history tends to repeat itself. She concludes: “I see this book as a testament to the time and place that we are all experiencing.”

Mimi Plumb’s The Golden City is published by Stanley/Barker

©Mimi Plumb The Golden City

©Mimi Plumb The Golden City

©Mimi Plumb The Golden City

©Mimi Plumb The Golden City

©Mimi Plumb The Golden City

©Mimi Plumb The Golden City

©Mimi Plumb The Golden City

©Mimi Plumb The Golden City

©Mimi Plumb The Golden City

Black Body Amnesia: Poems and Other Speech Acts

Jaamil Olawale Kosoko shares a poem from their new book blending poetry and memoir, conversation and performance theory

Jaamil Olawale Kosoko. Photo by Freddie Koh

                             Black Joy
                                                               Is the Protest!

                             Listen to me. I am telling you
                             a true thing. This is the only kingdom.
                             The kingdom of touching;
                             the touches of the disappearing, things.
                             —Aracelis Girmay, “Elegy”

BLACK JOY is a protest that must be protected. It requires

  constant spiritual conjuring and attention, attention of embodied survival.

        I feel my BLACK JOY most in the depths

                      of loving and creating and healing. This beauty, I have come

to understand, is a kind of undeniable truth-telling to myself

        or anyone else who might want to listen. BLACK JOY

as a birthright, a duty I must fulfill within myself to fully be within myself

                         …my raptures …my poetics. A testament,

                                                of self love as resistance, as resilience.

                                 Listen,

             I’m speaking about a world of feeling, a spiritual excellence

                      that can only arrive in sensual attunements between the self

and the earth and the universe—when feelings become a presence so intense

               that everything that has ever been past or future must take rest.

 

Black Joy Is the Protest! is featured in Jaamil Olawale Kosoko’s new book, Black Body Amnesia: Poems and Other Speech Acts, published by Wendy’s Subway. 

Road to Nowhere

Robin Graubard’s debut book is a stark documentation of Eastern Europe following the dissolution of the USSR

© Robin Graubard 2022 courtesy Loose Joints

Besides the long, paisley dresses and other vintage fashions, there really isn’t much dissimilarity between today and the events documented in Robin Graubard’s Road to Nowhere. The first major book of the photographer published by Loose Joints, Road to Nowhere is a stark documentation of Eastern Europe during the 90s following the dissolution of the USSR, conceived through a diaristic manner in which Robin bore witness to the Yugoslav War, Bosnian genocide and Kosovan uprising. She journeyed to Russia, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia and others, lensing and telling stories of hardship, suffering, war and hunger. And what with Russian invasion of Ukraine and ongoing conflict in Afghanistan, these pictures show that history does indeed tend to repeat itself.

© Robin Graubard 2022 courtesy Loose Joints

Road to Nowhere features primarily unseen imagery shot over the 90s, yet the visuals themselves appear timeless – they could have been taken yesterday, just a few years back or even decades. She worked solo and sought out stories that were close to her heart, revealing the difficulty of these lived experiences and powerfully juxtaposing them with the emerging subcultures of post-Soviet life, such as those seeking joy and normalcy amongst it all. Chores, games or dancing at a concerts are therefore comparatively sequenced alongside the deteriorated urban landscapes and buildings impacted by shelling. It’s a devastating depiction of conflict, but equally one of resilience. 

© Robin Graubard 2022 courtesy Loose Joints

With a career spanning 40 years, Robin’s work is often seen merging the autobiographical, editorial and documentary. She came of age in the counterculture and punk scenes of the 60s and 70s in New York, set against the urban backdrop of revolt and rebellion. She worked as a photographer at a newspaper; there was a strike and it was shut down. Consequently she bought a flight to Prague and met a group of women outside a UN building, who were discussing how no one was covering the war in Sarajevo. Receiving the press credentials from Newsweek, she set up base in Prague and stayed for three years.

“I photographed the war in Yugoslavia, oil smuggling in Rumania, runaways and orphans living in train station tunnels in Bucharest, and a school for girls in Prague,” she writes in the book. Proceeding to travel alone throughout the Balkans, she’d met families, lovers, translators, bus drivers and soldiers. In Belgrade during 1995, for instance, she spoke with a group of soldiers, some “dogs of war” who were the “most elite Serb and Russian mercenary soldiers on the front line”, she writes. “They seemed young and bedraggled.” She spent time photographing them and they were posing with peace signs. “Most of the soldiers in the picture died during the war.”

Robin was often on the front line and at the heart of conflict. Not only did she experience heavy shelling at night in her apartment while in Sarajevo, she also had a near miss when a bullet shot past her head during check in. “The man at the front desk seemed to be in some sort of trance and just ignored it,” she pens. On one occasion, she was walking to the hospital in Sarajevo through what was sniper alley, accompanied by a translator who’d been shot four or five times. Usually walking around on foot through Sarajevo, Robin recalls, “Somehow, I made it out”.

An impactful debut from the photographer, Road to Nowhere sees 130 photos compiled over 228 pages. The book is published by Loose Joints.

© Robin Graubard 2022 courtesy Loose Joints

© Robin Graubard 2022 courtesy Loose Joints

© Robin Graubard 2022 courtesy Loose Joints

© Robin Graubard 2022 courtesy Loose Joints

© Robin Graubard 2022 courtesy Loose Joints

© Robin Graubard 2022 courtesy Loose Joints

© Robin Graubard 2022 courtesy Loose Joints

Look at me like you love me

Their most personal project to date, Jess T. Dugan’s new book lenses topics of identity, desire and connection

Jess T. Dugan, ‘Collin at sunset, 2020’, from Look at me like you love me (MACK, 2022). Courtesy of the artist and MACK.

Jess T. Dugan’s new book is their most personal yet. Entitled Look at me like you love me and published by Mack, this new body of work is part of an ongoing, long-term portraiture project that sees the photographer explore themes such as identity, gender and sexuality. An enduring and empowering subject, Jess has carved a career making intimate pictures of topics that they hold closely; they draw from their own experience as a queer, non-binary person and therefore strive to understand and connect with others through their work. Jess has resultantly been exhibited widely across 40 museums in the US, and their previous monographs include To Survive on This Shore: Photographs and Interviews with Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Older Adults, and Every Breath We Drew.

In this new publication, Jess has combed 60 shots of friends, loved ones and self-portraits with their own written texts. “It’s representative of what I’m thinking about right now,” they tell me. Having worked on the project throughout 2021 – a difficult year to say the least – Jess has succeeded in making the “strongest and most of-the-moment book” they could. It’s a record of their own life – stories about themselves and the things that they have experienced. Below, Jess discusses this impactful collection, what desire means to them and the importance of being seen. 

Jess T. Dugan, ‘Shira and Sarah, 2020’, from Look at me like you love me (MACK, 2022). Courtesy of the artist and MACK.

This book is what you refer to as a “deeper exploration” of your work. What does this mean exactly?

I think a lot of it is where I am in my life: I’m 35, I have a child and I’m thinking about things differently than when I was in my 20s. I’m grappling with some larger questions about living a meaningful life, how to live authentically, how to relate to other people and these questions of desire. I think the book centres around the power of seeing someone and also letting yourself be seen, and how that act of being seen can validate your own internal identity.

There’s definitely a theme of desire throughout the book, and that appears in the photographs as well as the texts. I think about desire in a more expansive way – the desire for someone, the desire to be close to someone, the desire to be in relationship with other people, the desire to be part of a community, the desire to see yourself reflected in someone else, and that complicated interaction that happens between photographer and subject. Both the portraits and the texts are highly personal. 

Jess T. Dugan, ‘Oskar and Zach (bed), 2020’, from Look at me like you love me (MACK, 2022). Courtesy of the artist and MACK.

I’d love to hear more about your subjects – your friends and your loved ones. 

This body of work as a whole are people that I know really well. Some of them I met because I was interested in them; it allows us to begin a relationship both as a photographer and subject, and also as friends. Sometimes the act of photographing someone allows them to become a friend, and that’s something that I value about what I do. For me, photographing is the way that I connect with other people on a meaningful level. It’s hard for me to separate my work from my personal life, and this book is perhaps the most obvious example of that – how it’s folded together. 

There are some people in the book who I have known and photographed many times over a period of years. There’s someone named Collin, who appears quite regularly in the book, and he and I met in 2017. He’s also a photographer, and I was visiting a class that he was in and just immediately felt drawn to him – I asked if he would let me photograph him. We started this relationship where we worked together many times over a period of several years. Each photoshoot, we were able to go to an even deeper level, emotionally and psychologically.

Jess T. Dugan, ‘Collin (red room), 2020’, from Look at me like you love me (MACK, 2022). Courtesy of the artist and MACK.

There’s another person named Oskar, who I photographed several times over a period of many years. Oskar and someone else named Zach are the two on the cover of the book. I was interested in his particular identity and gender presentation. One thing I have been very interested in for a long time is a more gentle and nuanced and complex version of masculinity, so I’m often seeking people out who exist in that space. I’m also aware that it’s a space that I myself exist in, and I’ve had to very actively define my own gender, my own masculinity; it’s something that I view as a more gentle version of masculinity than the one in the mainstream culture. I’m often seeking that in other people as well; I’m interested in how we can mirror each other.

The book also includes several images of my partner, Vanessa, and there are five self-portraits in the book. Other people are friends who, in some cases, I’ve known for a really long time. In others, they’re newer friends. A lot of the people in the book – not all of them – are part of my community here in St. Louis, where I live. They’re close friends, people that I spend time with. They’re people that I’ve photographed over a period of several years and gotten to know on a deeper level, both as friends and as as subjects.

Jess T. Dugan, ‘Self-portrait (hotel), 2021’, from Look at me like you love me (MACK, 2022). Courtesy of the artist and MACK.

Your work appears like a form of catharsis, does this book feel like an emotional release for you?

I do think so. I have definitely always used my work to understand myself and make sense of my life and the world around me. That has been true since the very beginning. I made a video piece in 2017 about my estranged relationship with my father and, at that time, I think that was the most cathartic piece I had made and it was also really personal. It was also the first time that I had a text overlay with images. So in a way, I feel like that piece is in dialogue with this book.

The photographs are mostly from the past three or four years, and the texts were all written in 2021, between March and September. I think it feels very much of this moment. I do think the pandemic changed me as both a person and an artist, and made me think more urgently – or I should say even more urgently – about the importance of connection to other people and the need to live authentically and in a way that’s present and alive. I assume this happened for a lot of people, but those things were amplified for me. I think the texts are also coming out of this place where the urgency of relationships and the urgency of living authentically feels at the forefront of my mind, and that certainly influenced this book.

Look at me like you love me (2022) by Jess T. Dugan published by MACK

Jess T. Dugan, ‘Zach and Oskar, 2019’ from Look at me like you love me (MACK, 2022). Courtesy of the artist and MACK.

Jess T. Dugan, ‘Red tulips, 2020’, from Look at me like you love me (MACK, 2022). Courtesy of the artist and MACK.

Jess T. Dugan, ‘Alix at sunset, 2017’, from Look at me like you love me (MACK, 2022). Courtesy of the artist and MACK.

Vincent Ferrane

The photographer’s new book redefines notions of time, place and intimacy

Vincent Ferrane describes the relationship he has with his wife, Armelle, as being similar to a film script, “that we had just co-written”. An apt interpretation, Vincent has lived with Armelle for the past 15 years; they have children together and she has long been his muse photographically. This harmonious partnership has been published in previous works like Milky Way, a series documenting his wife and child during breastfeeding. And now, Vincent’s lens has landed once again on his favourite subject matter, this time in a book titled Inner, published by Art Paper Editions.

To summarise, the work travels through a lockdown spent in Paris. It’s shot solely in their living room – “and it’s not a very big room space,” he says – as the photographer strives and succeeds in documenting his own representation intimacy. By definition, intimacy refers to the closeness and familiarity with another being. In Vincent’s work, he looks at the link between two bodies: “first that of a close relationship, of a space that we share with someone,” he says. “And then this intimate space, this space to oneself, this interior in which one can immerse oneself.” The resulting pictures show a parallel between photographer and subject, man and wife, as they navigate through shared territory together: the living room.

This particular room is a space for daily ritual, where moments of idleness, calm and being can be indulged through the simple acts of laying on sofa or armchair. “But it is very much a mental space to which we try to have access here,” he continues, “an interiority which is also looked at and shared.” To portray the quietness of days spent over lockdown together, Vincent avoided the cliches (think masks, window gazing and doorsteps) and instead zoomed in on the finer details. Hands gripping the stomach; fingers in pockets; a body cradled in the fetal position and the subtle arch of a back; every element has been carefully formulated and elevated through the a mix of artificial and natural lighting choices. “This gives both a notion of realism and creates a more painterly touch by opening up the shadows, by energising the colour palette of the skins, the drapes of the fabrics… We are moving away from a naturalistic image.” Vincent’s Inner is much more considered than candid. Everything seems purposeful, recognisable and familiar: “An everyday pose”.

Vincent’s wider photography practice takes a similar contemplative stance as it looks at the smaller details of those around him. From breastfeeding with his family and the process of female artists creating in their studio, to the beauty standards of the fashion industry and the routine of trans and non-binary people before leaving their homes; Vincent provides a portal into the lives of others. “I guess I’m delving into the everyday and the intimate, questioning why some things are hidden and how they could be shown. I’m assuming a position at the articulation between a documentary, vernacular image and an author photograph that offers a renewed look at representations that we thought were obvious or trivial.”

In the context of Inner, Vincent twists the viewers’ perception of space and time by dissecting physical bodies and the movements that occupy it. Time is suspended here. The hours are merged and the light has been manipulated – an intentional move that gives an eternal quality to the imagery, despite being made at a crucial and pivotal point in in their lives. “So many human activities have been blocked, links broken, physical and social distancing imposed,” says Vincent. “I hope that one can be sensitive to these images which do not call for sovereign or cathartic values, but rather sweet and delicate things to experience, to contemplate one’s love as something exceptional, fragile and everyday.”

Restraint and Desire

Ken Graves and Eva Lipman’s lifelong creative partnership highlighted in a publication from TBW Books

The first thing to notice in Restraint and Desire, Ken Graves and Eva Lipman’s collaborative publication, is its duality. Not only for the representation of kinship – a partnership between husband and wife – but it also induces a visual mirroring. With black and white imagery often presented on the right hand sided of the book, you’ll see pairings of subjects gestating, touching or moving in the dynamic and heavily contrasted stye of the photography. It would be strange to see a character on their own.

To witness two spouses collaborating together is not an uncommon occurrence in the art world; think Marina Abramović and Ulay, who produced work together for 12 years in total; Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre; Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivero to name just a small handful of examples. But in this specific union, there’s something so effortlessly harmonic in the way they have composed their imagery. In fact, it’s hard to determine who did what; the work appears like a single entity, which is a stark contrast to the distinctive narratives found in synergies like this.

Over the decades and until Ken’s passing, the pair have worked in alliance with one another, defining this merging of two minds – a melting pot of shared goals and ideals. The result of which is a survey of the rituals found in typical American culture, things like the awkward celebration of school dances, the cheer of football games and boxing matches; the archetype of American society. By shining their lens on these topics, the couple were able to douse it with their own sensibility, in turn highlighting the complexities of human nature and how these rites of passage can often go overlooked in the every day. Ken and Eva, however, were never oblivious to the subtle intricacies of humankind and, instead, sought a career in documenting these moments. 

But it wasn’t just the world around them that went on to inspire their work. It was also their relationship, which tended to reveal itself in their work together – the sexual tensions, dynamics and complexities that comes with sharing a life with someone. The resulting work illustrates feelings of tenderness, intimacy, lust, generosity, connection and communication; the elements that define what it is to really love someone. And equally, they also represent the more negative associations of love where boredom, fear and tiredness might rise to the surface.

“These pictures were made in collaboration with my partner in life and work, Ken Graves,” writes Eva in the book. ”I will forever be grateful to him for his love and generosity, his unfailing optimism, and for sharing with me his strange and unique worldview. I miss him everyday.

Restraint and Desire, then, is like an archival memory box of their relationship together. So even though Eva is no longer able to physically touch her husband, nor are they featured in the work themselves, these posing bodies are somewhat of an apt reminder – a visual cue that she can refer back to whenever she needs. As Eva says, “our work reflected back to us, like a mirror, the intensities and power dynamics of our shared life together”. Love, and this partnership in particular, will never fade, and this book is fine example of its enduring presence.

Restraint and Desire is published by TBW Books and available here.

The Fendi Set

In a celebration of history and heritage, this new book serves as a love letter from Kim Jones to Bloomsbury and Fendi

Chapter 2: Paris

“Memory is the seamstress, and a capricious one at that,” writes Virginia Woolf in Orlando. A love letter penned by the acclaimed author in October 1928, the satirical novel was inspired by the family history of Vita Sackville-West, who’s both a friend and lover of the author. A feminist accord and one that rose to great acclaim, the book details Vita’s transition from man to woman as she goes on to live through centuries, thus meeting many names in English literary history. 

This love letter has inspired the debut Fendi Couture Spring / Summer 2021 collection designed by Kim Jones, the newly appointed artistic director of womenswear and couture. Derived from his adoration for the Bloomsbury, a term used to describe the English artist and literary movement, the pieces within pull references to both the time-travelling words found in Orlando as well as cues from the Bloomsbury Group – a cohort of English writers, intellectuals, philosophers and artists from the first half of the 20th century, which both Virginia and painter/interior designer Vanessa Bell were part of. The collection therefore pays homage to the warping concept of time and gender found in Orlando, which has now been composed into a new publication titled The Fendi Set.

Chapter 1: UK

The book, published by Rizzoli, is an ode to the rich heritage of both Bloomsbury and Fendi, as well as the locations shared between them and the two lovers of Orlando. Consequently, the work involved gives a firm nod to the characteristics of both England and Rome – two significant locations visited in the collection and publication. Documentary and portrait photographer Nikolai von Bismarck has collaborated for the release and, concurrently, has created a series of textural collage-esque imagery that alludes to the archaic style of a Victorian-era photograph album. Paired with diary entries and letters written by members of the Bloomsbury Group – such as the love letter correspondence between Woolf and Sackville-West – it’s a significant pairing that allows its viewers to traverse back in time joyfully and momentarily. 

Working with Polaroid, film and Super-8, Nikolai says of his process: “Whether shooting landscapes, interiors or models, I wanted to maintain an ethereal sense of dreaminess, with figures that are occasionally ghostlike and who seem to drift on the page. Sometimes with muted colours to mirror the palette of Duncan Grant and Clive Bell. Sometimes images were dark and moody, textured, layered, soft blurred and sometimes not like photographs at all – images that were above all romantic and true to the characters of the Bloomsbury Group, dark graceful and free.”

Chapter 2: Paris

Structurally, the book journeys through the hilltops of Southern England and traverses to ancient Rome, before landing finally at the aqueducts of Italy. Two family histories are expelled in unison: the artists of Bloomsbury and the dynasty of Fendi. To reveal this synergy, the book is split intro three sections. The first takes its audience to Sussex and Kent, which are two locations associated with the Bloomsbury Group; they’re also referencing Sackville-West’s ancestral home and the fictional family seat of Orlando. Additionally, Sackville-West later lived with her husband Harold Nicolson in Sissinghurst Castle. The second chapter takes place in Paris as it marks the couture presentation abound with Italian Renaissance references; the third travels to Rome to follow in the steps of Bloomsbury artists who spent time there, including Woolf. 

“I wanted a ghostly atmosphere, a dreamlike quality,” states Kim, discussing the book’s unmissable aura. “Orlando is about time travelling and I wanted the work to transience time, to drift between the present, past and future. Nikolai’s photographic language and his exploration of both analogue and other experimental techniques and textures evokes these shifting narratives.”

Other contributors include Tilda Swinton who’s written the preface, as well as Bloomsbury scholar Dr Mark Hussey who’s penned the introduction; Hussey also worked with the archive of Berg Library in New York to curate Woolf’s diaries and letters.

 

The Fendi Set with photography by Nikolai von Bismarck and text by Kim Jones, Jerry Stafford and Dr. Mark Hussey is published by Rizzoli priced £97.50

Chapter 2: Paris

Chapter 2: Paris

Chapter 2: Paris

Chapter 3: Italy

Chapter 1: UK

Chapter 1: UK

Chapter 2: Paris

The Day After Tomorrow

Eric Asamoah intimately documents the journeys of young men transitioning into adulthood 

It’s hard to predict what will happen in the next hour, let alone the next day or two. But the ability to find peace in the unpredictable – to be comfortable with the unknown – is something of an achievement in life. This is a concept that Ghanaian and Austria-based photographer Eric Asamoah explores through his practice and debut monograph, aptly titled The Day After Tomorrow and published by Verlag für moderne Kunst (VfmK). An aesthetically luminous and intimate depiction of growth, the book centres itself on the journeys of young men as they transition from boyhood into adulthood. 

“As my surroundings and I evolve and get older, I often think about the concept of time and what it does to us, how the past is still present today and will also have an influence on tomorrow,” Eric tells me. “Starting a new journey can be exciting, but stepping up to something you don’t know, and leaving the past behind can be frightening for some people – young men and women who are in the coming-of-age journey are included. Once you understand the journey, you begin to operate differently as a person and start to question your surroundings, past beliefs, dreams and yourself. You begin to seek the truth, be vulnerable and honest about yourself and slowly find your true colours. This is a beautiful and complex process to appreciate and to enjoy it will not always be rosy and peachy, but at the end of the day, you’ll find peace during the process – if not today, if not tomorrow, then eventually the day after tomorrow.” This is precisely how his monograph came to fruition; he strives to tell the stories and thoughts of his peers, conceived through relatable imagery and a universally felt tale of growing up.

The pictures found in The Day After Tomorrow are poised and quiet. But despite this softly composed demeanour on the outside, there’s comparatively much to be learnt and felt in the imagery. In a photo titled Ocean’s breath – an early one from the series – Eric captures his subject after they’d discussed the strength of the waves that day. Personifying the ocean to be an element of force and change, the subject laughed and said: “The ocean is taking deep breaths, I can feel it!”. The ocean and its expanding and remedial qualities feature heavily throughout the series. In Open World, for instance, Eric expresses his own fascination for the water. “I can watch the sea for hours and be amazed by its gentle yet powerful nature. Looking into the horizon, I wonder how wide the sea is; ‘what’s on the other side’ I ask myself, similar to when I question the future.”

In another image named Tough boy, Eric looks inwards as he reflects on his own upbringing. “Back then as a kid, my brother was the only person I ever challenged or competed with,” he recalls. “He was older, bigger and stronger than me, but apart from being respectfully humbled each time, it taught me the value of being consistent in standing up for yourself, especially in tough situations.” Another, titled Yellow sports car, reflects on a memorable moment of Eric’s while he was driving around Kumasi and passing a car next to KFC. He dreamed about a yellow spots car a night beforehand, so he had the urge to pull over. “The vehicle reminds me of unfulfilled desires that are no longer in your interest, something that was valuable before but has since lost its value due to the passage of time.” This raises many questions about the attachment we hold to objects and the memories exuded from them; over time, we begin to realise the worth of the things around us and wash away those that no longer serve a purpose. It’s a cleansing process. 

Yellow sports car, 2021

Photography also serves a different kind of objective. It allows us to document, assess and learn from the past, making way for new beginnings and codes of thought – both for the image-maker and the viewer. In Layover, this becomes evident as Eric reveals the picture’s remedial qualities. “Every time I look at this photo, I remember the energy in the air which was serene, carefree and soothing. Be still for a few seconds, let go of all you know and be grateful for the current moment, which will lead you to understand that you can be anywhere in the world, but the only place you can find true contentment is within.”

Eric presents his subjects as anonymous beings, choosing to keep them unnamed throughout the series. By doing so, the pictures become a “utopian ambiance” – a moment of catharsis for Eric. “All the young Black men in the images were a reflection of myself, the inner self that seeks truth and contentment,” he shares. “I hope that individuals from all walks of life an also see a bit of themselves and reflect on their own truth, contentment and journey in life.”

Layover, 2021

Ocean’s breath, 2021

Open world, 2021

Tough boy, 2021

 

Polly Alderton: The Family Portrait

In a new book, the North Essex-based photographer captures intimate and cathartic moments of family life

Polly Alderton finds inspiration in the people around her. Citing it as an “obvious” touching point, she will often angle her lens onto her children and family – the subject matter to the bulk of her work spanning portraiture and pictures akin to the traditional format of a family photo album. “I am really lucky to be able to witness my children experiencing things for the first time, and to be able to watch them grow up,” she tells me. “I think I feel very disjointed from my own childhood, so in many ways the experience of motherhood, for me, has been like a rebirth; in some ways I am growing up alongside my children.”

Polly was born in Kent and spent her formative years moving around regularly, finally settling in North Essex where she resides with her husband and four children. When asked about her past and what steered her towards the medium of photography, she reflects on the more troublesome moments in secondary school, having been excluded with only three GCSE’s. “I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do and my options felt very limited,” she admits. At the time, Polly’s new boyfriend was studying a GNVQ in art and she’d head to the art department to hang out with him. “I was there so often that the tutors assumed I was part of the course, I was even doing the coursework.” After clocking the situation after around six months, they let Polly switch courses and, naturally, she excelled. “I was working at the time and my home life was quite unsettled, I was moving around a lot and didn’t have too much stability.” A tutor, though, suggested she apply to university. She got in to Byam Shaw school of art – a “safety net” – and Polly was able to support herself financially and independently. 

“Art felt like it was something that rescued me to start with but ended up closing doors on me,” she notes, citing the industry jargon and educational system as being somewhat of an exclusive minefield. “I ended up pregnant in the final year and left with a sour taste in my mouth about education. When my first child was born, I was always taking pictures. It was a thing I did for me and I loved it. It took me a really long time to be brave enough to show it or label it but I’m really proud of it.”

Polly has now been published in the pages of The Sunday Times, The Observer, Invisible Britain: Portraits of Hope and Resilience, Portrait of Britain Vol.1 and Vol.3, i-D, British Journal of Photography and Sudetenduetsche Zeitung. Besides the intimate storytelling found amongst her personal projects, Polly also spends her time as a still life photographer and works with the BBC, a highlight has been photographing David Attenborough in Climate Change: The Facts, as well as Mary Beard and working with Martin Parr for a series of BBC One idents. Her most recent accomplishments, though, is a publication with Setanta Books – the ninth of a bi-monthly series that highlights work of emerging artists. 

Entitled with the photographer’s name, the publication journeys through candid scenes, gripping portraiture and sun-drenched environments as she reworks the notion of a memory. From the first days of school or Christmas eve outside the church, Polly questions the role of memories and how much we can really trust them – particularly from a mother’s viewpoint. “Personally, it feels like a marker between different sages of motherhood,” she explains of the book’s concept. “It’s been quite timely. As a family, we have evolved to a different space, we’re now dealing with three big teens and only one left behind (who’s nine years old), so the dynamics have changed.” The book arose as they realised this major familial shift, conceding to the power of catharsis by documenting these moments. “Whilst I’m daunted about how this body of work will evolve, I’m excited too,” she says.

The topic of representation as a documentary and portrait photographer is an intriguing one. How should you present your subjects, should they be wrapped up in a painted narrative or eschewed with honesty? What’s captivating about Polly’s imagery is the manner in which she lenses her children, which are, as she says, quite the opposite to their real-life personas. With one child who’s confident in front of the camera and one who’s less so, she was surprised to hear someone commenting on the matter, saying: “Oh your child is so serious in your pictures, I’m surprised by how animated they are in real life”. She adds: “I realised that my portrayal of my children might not always be representative of who they are, and that’s interesting because their images do exist in spaces that are separate from them yet potentially inform an idea of who they are, even if they never visit these spaces.”

“I try to be honest about our home and faithful to this idea of preserving a truth but, equally, I’m drawn to quite dark things and often quite funny things (a combination of both ideally). So I encourage them to play about with masks and things; my youngest child loves doing a ‘dead face’ where he rolls his eyes back to show the whites and I adore it!”

Other snaps see her husband and youngest son in a broken mirror , cracked from an “OTT” play fight between their sons and consequently sealed back up with sellotape. This image sparks many observations about Polly’s role and life as a mother, to which she refers to as being once “quite needy” towards her son – who’s an identical image of his father, by the way. Back then, she envisioned them watching film marathons together and becoming just like friends. Having learned to give her child space and let him blossom on his own, it’s in these very pictures – especially the one in the mirror – that she learned of her own personal history. “When I look at this picture I understand the bigger picture and, in a way, it’s a portrait that includes me. It feels like it has some biblical element to it, I can see myself sitting in the grass below him just pining or worshipping him. I should say, if my son reads this, we watched a load of films and did loads of stuff together too, when I wasn’t being annoying!”