Tag Archives: DOCUMENTARY PHOTOGRAPHY

HELGA PARIS: FOTOGRAFIE

NOTES FOR THE EXHIBITION OF HELGA PARIS’ PHOTOGRAPHIC WORKS, STREET LEVEL PHOTOWORKS, GLASGOW, 2014

Fotografie is a retrospective look at the work of German photographer, Helga Paris. Exhibiting a collection of photos taken in East Germany in the postwar period, Paris’s work is considered to be one of the most revealing and compassionate bodies of work reflecting life in Germany at that time. Going beyond a simple ‘social study’, Paris’s technique was simply to engage with her subjects, rather than take on the role of the distant street photographer. In making this connection, the result has been a collection of photos that give the viewer an insight into a moment of the everyday lives of an East German resident.

Starting in the 60s, Helga Paris took an interest in photography and began teaching herself the basics. Paris came from a fashion and art background, but it was her interest in the everyday lives of the East Berlin people, during the postwar period that made her want to capture that on film.

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Henri Cartier-Bresson: Gestapo Informer Identified, Dessau, Germany, April, 1945

 

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Cartier-Bresson was 36 years old at the time the photo was taken and had been taking photographs since 1931. He had also worked in filmmaking and had assisted the celebrated French director Jean Renoir on two of his films.

At the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, Cartier-Bresson joined the French Army’s film and photo unit. His work involved filming and photographing artillery fire, road bombardments and troop movements. However, in June 1940, he was taken prisoner by the German army and was held for more than three years, most of which were spent doing hard manual labour.

He tried to escape three times and succeeded at the third attempt, returning to France with forged papers. Before being captured, Cartier-Bresson had buried his beloved Leica in farmland in France. One of the first things he did after escaping was to return to the farm and dig it up. He later photographed the liberation of Paris in the summer of 1944 while working as a war correspondent. Continue reading Henri Cartier-Bresson: Gestapo Informer Identified, Dessau, Germany, April, 1945

PIETER HUGO AND NIGERIA’S HYENA HANDLERS: PORTRAITS OF THE GADAWAN KURA

“These photographs came about after a friend emailed me an image taken on a cellphone through a car window in Lagos, Nigeria, which depicted a group of men walking down the street with a hyena in chains. A few days later I saw the image reproduced in a South African newspaper with the caption ‘The Streets of Lagos’. Nigerian newspapers reported that these men were bank robbers, bodyguards, drug dealers, debt collectors. Myths surrounded them. The image captivated me.” -Pieter Hugo

 

Pieter Hugo first learned of Nigeria’s Gadawan Kura, or hyena handlers, in 2003 when he received an image taken on a cell phone camera depicting several of these men with their beasts in the streets of Lagos. A newspaper in Hugo’s native South Africa published a similar image and identified the men as debt collectors, drug dealers, and thieves who enlisted hyenas as muscle in support of their criminal activities. With the help of friends in Nigeria, Hugo found the group in a shantytown outside of the capital, Abuja. They were not necessarily criminals, but rather what Hugo describes in an artist’s statement as “itinerant minstrels… a group of men, a little girl, three hyenas, four monkeys and a few rock pythons,” who subsist by staging performances and selling traditional medicine. Hugo traveled with the group for weeks at a time over the course of two years, taking a series of portraits of the men posing with their animals.

Much of Hugo’s work documents life on the peripheries of African societies, addressing the complex political realities of race and identity through the conventions of portraiture. The circumscribed scope of the genre forces an engagement on the level of the individual, an approach that skirts both sentimentality and the journalistic impulse to explain. He has photographed inhabitants of border towns and civil war zones, farm workers, and migrants, in each case rendering social flux and marginalization with reference to the human face and figure.

In Hugo’s series on the Gadawan Kura, entitled “The Hyena and Other Men,” the subjects are also animals. The titles of the photographs include the names of both the humans and animals depicted along with a reference to the various cities in Nigeria where the images where taken. These double portraits describe a trans-species relationship unfolding in a setting of poverty and uncontrolled urbanization. They constitute a stark tableau of life on the margins, but also raise questions of how and to what extent this life can be something shared by human and non-human subjects.

– Will Smith, The Hyena And Other Men, Museomagazine.com

BRUCE DAVIDSON :: BROOKLYN GANG, 1959

In 1959, photographer Bruce Davidson read about the teenage gangs of New York City. Connecting with a social worker to make initial contact with a gang in Brooklyn called The Jokers, Davidson became a daily observer and photographer of this alienated youth culture. The Fifties are often considered passive and pale by our standards of urban reality, but Davidson’s photographs prove otherwise. These photographs of Brooklyn gangs, Davidson’s first photographic project, were undertaken when he was not much older than the boys depicted in the work.

Davidson, a Magnum photographer, has recently published a monograph entitled Brooklyn Gang, containing 70 images from this documentary series and some interviews as well.  These images had never been published together as a whole until the recent publication of this book.