As part of the Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA initiative, which will involve dozens of museums across Southern California, the Hammer will open a survey of more than one hundred female Latin American artists. Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960-1985 focuses on a turbulent twenty-five-year period when much of Latin America suffered under forms of military dictatorship, and the emboldened work of female artists, in particular, challenged the status quo.
The history of photography as a worldwide phenomenon
At a time when new modes of photographic history are urgently needed, we would do well to revisit the histories written in the 1960s, when a certain freedom of expression was allowed to manifest itself. Of those, perhaps the most remarkable is the one produced by French author Michel Franqois Braive.
An iconic photographer’s backdrop comes to the fore
Maria Morris Hambourg
In the late 1940s, when Irving Penn turned to fashion for Vogue, fashion photographers generally shot in an elegant setting— a paneled drawing room with a satin chaise, for example, or a set that simulated the equivalent. Penn had no experience of such rooms, nor of the lives lived in them, and looked for expedient alternatives.
Saturated with references to the lives of African Americans, Leslie Hewitt’s work explores the poetics of visual history, its absences, and its mysterious narratives. In her series of constructed images Riffs on Real Time (2006-9), Hewitt overlaid found snapshots of everyday people onto ephemera, including pages from Ebony magazine.
“How do we create a meaningful photographic experience on this continent?” the photographer Nii Obodai asked last year at Addis Foto Fest in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. “We have to map the network.” Across this issue, from Johannesburg to Lagos, Dakar to Algiers, the points of connection—schools, workshops, biennials, festivals, project spaces, and artist-led initiatives— form a network of exchanges and dialogues around image-making.
There’s a character in “Lawless,” a short story by the Nigerian author Sefi Atta, who asks, “Who was I to think that art could save anyone in Lagos?” Azu Nwagbogu might have wondered this a decade ago when he founded the African Artists’ Foundation, an organization that coordinates the LagosPhoto Festival.
Alshareef Aboud started shooting pictures after Sudan gained independence from Great Britain in 1956. His medium-format black-and-white images are of crisp urban scenes in Khartoum. There’s an image of a zoo in which three boys are feeding giraffes.
RAW Material Company is a center for art, knowledge, and society, founded and directed by the internationally renowned independent curator Koyo Kouoh. Although RAW Material Company has existed since 2008, it was only in 2011 that Kouoh decided to open a permanent space, as it had become indispensable for her to have a physical location to ground her activities, as well as to create a place for reflection, debate, and sharing knowledge around contemporary artistic production.
To reach the premises of Cairo’s Contemporary Image Collective (CIC) is an exercise in negotiating the very constitution of the city. There is the arrival to downtown by way of any one of the bridges that serve like veins over the Nile River and across the miles of growing urban sprawl: the chaotic, overpopulated so-called city victorious, whose residents have come to claim what space they can around tentacles of unplanned roads and a pandemonium of traffic.
“When someone tells me something is impossible,” Aida Muluneh said earlier this year, “I’ll do it anyway.” Last December, Muluneh stood at a podium outside the ballroom of the palatial Sheraton Addis Ababa, where she inaugurated the fourth edition of the Addis Foto Fest.
In Africa's capital of photography, the influence of an essential biennial
In 1998, I traveled to Bamako for the first time to attend the third edition of Bamako Encounters: African Biennale of Photography. At the time, I was an independent curator based in London, and was thus humbled and refreshed to learn that a space existed on the continent for presenting the work of photographers of African descent—many of whom had yet to gain recognition in the West.
In Bamako, a group of young photographers engage a changing city
Bamako, the capital of Mali, is situated along both sides of the Niger River and figures as a dynamic trade hub where diverse cultural and social influences converge. Due to an ongoing rural exodus in Mali, Bamako is one of the continent’s fastest growing urban areas.
It all began with the high heels. In 1976, as a precocious teenager, Samuel Fosso traveled from Bangui, Central African Republic, where he operated his own photography business called Studio Photo Gentil, to visit his family in Nigeria. There he discovered a pair of platform boots similar to those worn by the popular Nigerian highlife musician Prince Nico Mbarga on the cover of his record albums.
“I really could use a break right now!” Phumzile Khanyile said in February. The Soweto-born photographer was slumped on the step of a ladder, supervising the installation of Plastic Crowns, her exhibition of self-portraits, which, in twenty-four hours, would inaugurate the new premises of Johannesburg’s Market Photo Workshop.
There’s something achingly poetic and yet unsettling about Sabelo Mlangeni’s work. This paradox is a reflection of the Johannesburg-based photographer’s approach: a soul quite quiet, though audible in its silence. Because of this innate calm, Mlangeni succeeds in taking both subjects and audience into his confidence.
In midcentury South Africa, Drum magazine was the destination for culture and politics.
When Zola Maseko’s film Drum was released in 2004, its poster featured the iconic red-and-white masthead of the eponymous South African newsmagazine, beneath which ran the tagline, “THE TRUTH SHALL SET YOU FREE.” The American actor Taye Diggs plays the trailblazing investigative reporter and editor Henry Nxumalo; Gabriel Mann plays the photographer Jurgen Schadeberg; and the scenes of 1950s Sophiatown, a black area of Johannesburg, are shot through with a heady sense of stylish nostalgia for an era of fearless truth telling and high fashion.
When Madagascan-born, Paris-based artist Malala Andrialavidrazana obtained her degree in architecture in 1996, France’s economy was still recovering from the global recession of the early 1990s and high unemployment during the socialist era of François Mitterrand.
"Beyond the edge of the world there’s a space where emptiness and substance neatly overlap, where past and future form a continuous, endless loop,” Haruki Murakami writes in Kafka on the Shore (2002). "And, hovering about, there are signs no one has ever read, chords no one has ever heard.”
What is a photographic synonym? Can one image stand in for another? How do these subtle slips of meaning and understanding, so fundamental to language, work visually? For South African artist Nico Krijno, the game of comparing, translating, and constructing affinities plays out in buoyant pictures arranged in whimsical sequences.
Africa is often defined from the outside. Throughout history, works about the continent—films, photographs, and books— have rarely come from the people living those realities. Centuries of colonization and oppression have kept Africans from authoring their own narratives.
Ashley Walters’s breakout series Uitsig (2013) addresses the community of the same name in Cape Town where the photographer was born. Uitsig means "landscape” or "view” in Afrikaans and is a place that Walters describes as "a small community situated between informal townships, industrial zones, open spaces, a cemetery, the main road, and a railway line.”
How are artists rethinking documentary in North Africa?
If we were to attempt to chart the photographic practices of the Maghreb region, it’s unlikely that we’d end up with the expected map, divided into three neat slices of national territory: Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. Rather, we’d have an opaque diagram, tangled with intertwined roadways, hybrid landscapes, and fragments of experience to be retraced.
The photographs in Abdo Shanan’s series Diary: Exile (2014-16) take viewers by the hand and race them through a vertiginous world of gritty, everyday intimacies. Imagine Nan Goldin and Diane Arbus meeting Roger Ballen in the inner cities of twenty-first-century Algeria to produce work that none of them had the background or experience to perceive.
Delio Jasse is something of an archive addict. While browsing through a flea market in Lisbon, he came across boxes of old documents from the 1960s that belonged to a Portuguese family living in Nampula, a province of Mozambique, which was at that time a colony of Portugal.
On March 6, 2017, Ghana, the first sub-Saharan country to gain independence in Africa, marked sixty years of freedom from British colonial rule. Despite its pioneering political history, proud anticolonial tradition, and impressive cultural and intellectual heritage, Ghana’s laws still reflect British colonial obsessions with regulating bodies and criminalizing sexual expression.
What is a ruin? For the photographer François-Xavier Gbré, born in Lille, France, to a French Ivorian family, architectural ruins are manifestations of nefarious ambition. Growing up in the 1980s and 1990s in a city where the dominant textile industry was in decline, his first photographs articulated conditions of loss and its effects on the built environment.
Stories from the Aperture community— publications, exhibitions, and events
While Mickalene Thomas is best known for her lush, rhinestone-covered panel paintings of people and domestic interiors, photography has long been at the core of her work. As a student at Yale she began photographing herself—and her mother—as artistic muses such as Edouard Manet’s odalisques, model Beverly Johnson in her iconic fashion shoots, and Malick Sidibe’s stylish Malian club-goers.
Self-Portrait by Chief S. O. Alonge, Benin City, Nigeria, ca. 1942
“He was a very well-dressed man,” Regie Alonge, son of Solomon Osagie Alonge, the first official photographer to the royal court of Benin, Nigeria, recalled. “Everyone knew him for that. He was always wearing a suit.” Across a career spanning sixty years, from the 1930s to the 1990s, Alonge (1911-1994) photographed politicians, ceremonies, and festivals.