Hen The Exhibition, by Bex Day

01.03.2019 | Art , Blog , Culture | BY:

British fashion and documentary photographer Bex Day in collaboration with producer curator Sandrine Servent and artist publisher William Esdale have recently joined forces in the conception of a campaign which seeks to raise awareness and visibility of the UK’s older transgender community.  The campaign titled ‘Hen’ is an initiative Day has been working on for the past three years, that aims to promote a better understanding of integration in and outside the transgender community through an exhibition, film, talks and workshops. 

According to Day, “Hen is an anthropological study on gender fluidity and an exploration into the lasting impact societal restrictions concerning sexual identity and gender roles upon us. It examines how gender stereotypes have affected the older transgender community and questions how we define gender and if as a society we should, as well as exploring the inherent social and cultural problems within these alienating classifications.” The exhibition is set to display a series of 30 photographic portraits in various sizes and a newly commissioned film featuring subjects over the age of 40 which with successful funding, will take place in London at the Herrick Gallery during the first week of April following Trans Day of Visibility day on March 31st.

Unfortunately , the campaign is sans funding and is in attempt of seeking financial sponsors to cover the expenses of the panel discussion, transport and installation of the artwork, equipment for the three workshops among other costs. The workshops will be hosted by the charity Stonewall Housing with whom the exhibition has partnered with to ensure that 50% of prints sales goes to the organization as one of the UK’s LGBTQ+ and trans only supported accommodations. Twenty percent will also be contributed to partners Press For Change as one of the UK’s leading campaign groups in focus of the rights and treatment of transgender people. To donate, visit Hen The Exhibition, to learn how. 

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Charlie Siskel Q&A

17.07.2014 | Film | BY:

With the release of Finding Vivian Maier drawing closer, Twin spoke with director Charlie Siskel to find out more about the documentary that looks into the life of the mysterious nanny that took over 100,000 photographs, only to be discovered decades later (watch the trailer here).

Tell us a little about how the project came about?
John Maloof bought the original box of negatives because he was working on a book about Chicago. These pictures didn’t work for the book but the more he looked at them the more he recognized there was something special about them.  At the time he didn’t know anything about photography but the photos inspired him to start taking pictures himself.  Eventually he scanned some and put them online just to hear what other people thought. The reaction was incredible and they went viral. That’s when he knew he had found something special.

How did John go about contacting people who knew Vivian?
John contacted someone by phone who’s address was on a slip of paper in the box of negatives he purchased. He told them he had the negatives of Vivian Maier and the person said, “Vivian was my nanny.” That was the point when he realized there was an interesting story here. He started to search for people who knew her and eventually started filming interviews.

When did you get involved in the film?
I thought this was a great story the moment I heard it. A nanny takes over 100,000 photographs and hides them in storage lockers, and they are discovered decades later and she is hailed as one of the great photographers of the twentieth century – what a great story! I thought this could be a great feature documentary that should be seen in theaters.  It is a great story of discovery, a detective tale, a mystery, a roller coaster ride and “an entertainment,” as they used to say. I also grew up in Highland Park where Vivian worked and I thought it would be interesting to tell this story of an artist through the eyes of those who knew her.

How closely does the documentary follow John Maloof on his quest to find out who Vivian Maier really was?
The film is about Vivian Maier but it can’t be told without her discovery — not only would Maier’s story not have an ending, there would be no narrative. So John’s discovery is central. But [the film] explores the mystery of who she was and how she lived a double life publicly as a nanny and privately as a brilliant artist, told through the eyes of people who knew her not as a photographer but as the woman that looked after them, so their accounts are limited, flawed and incomplete. The viewer has to fill in the blanks, judge for herself, and we invite this kind of scrutiny.

People in the film contradict each other — one says that she had a fake accent, another says it was real; someone says she posed people, another says she photographed them just as they were. So part of the film is our exploration of Maier as this secret artist — a kind of detective story.  The other narrative in the film follows John’s effort to share Maier’s work with the world and “put her in the history books.”  Starting with sharing her work online and mounting his own show of her work in Chicago and then trying to gain acceptance of her work among institutions.

You must have ended up with lots of footage. Was it a difficult project to edit down?
That is a challenge, but once you understand the story it is easier to make these decisions. That is where documentary storytelling combines art and journalism. It is not just a recitation of facts — not a movie version of the Wikipedia entry on Vivian Maier. Just because some things are interesting about Maier doesn’t mean everything is interesting about her. The challenge is to tell the story using the elements you have — and we had Maier’s photos, audio recordings, super 8 films, the belongings she left behind and the stories of people who knew her — in an entertaining an enlightening way.

Once we recognized that this was the story of an artist who went undiscovered during her lifetime — in part because she kept herself hidden but also because we as people don’t always know where to look to find art — it became easier to see what belonged in the film and what didn’t.  But yes you always have to make tough choices and say goodbye to individual scenes/things you love in order to make the film work as whole.

What was the most interesting thing you discovered while working on the film?
At first I thought this was a nanny who somehow happened to take thousands of photographs, but that was 180 degrees wrong. She was a true artist, who just so happened to be a nanny, but that was her means to an end, her camouflage and masquerade – that was the biggest discovery. I could see how Maier would feel like an outsider in this world of suburban wealth and privilege. She was misunderstood.

Finding Vivian Maier is released in the UK tomorrow, July 18th. 

findingvivianmaier.com

Images: ©Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection

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Picture Perfect

17.05.2012 | Art , Blog | BY:

Kicking off this week, the New York Photo Festival 2012 is set to display an international variety of creative talent. Now in its fourth consecutive year, the event intermixes submissions from fine art, documentary, advertising, photo books and multimedia – in other words, expect an interesting representation of the photography genre.

At the forefront of this year’s festival is an exploration of the convergence between fine art and documentary photography. Accompanying this theme will be exclusive curations by SocialDocumentary.net founder Glenn Ruga, former P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center/The Museum of Modern Art curator Amy-Smith Stewart, TRACE Magazine founder Claude Grunitzky, and multimedia artist/musician DJ Spooky. Entitled On the Razor’s Edge: Between Documentary and Fine Art Photography (a focus on art documentary), What Do You Believe In (the interplay between photography and personal ideas), the Curse and the Gift (how digital photography and smartphones has changed the shape of the photography medium) and Sinfonia Antarctica (a review of the effect of archiving Antarctic history on digital media art), the shows will include work from the likes of Rina Castelnuovo, Jen DeNike, Yamini Nayar, and Evangelia Kranioti.

Encompassing sculpture, architecture, digital media and live performance, the NYPH ’12 proves that photography is more than just the simple click of a button – just like its creators, the art form is both of a complex and captivating nature.

The New York Photo Festival 2012 runs from May 16-20 and is headquartered at POWERHOUSE Arena, 37 Main Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201
nyph.at

Jen DeNike, What Do You Believe In (detail), 2008
© New York Photo Festival 2012

Yamini Nayar, Memorious, 2012.
Courtesy of the artist and Thomas Erben Gallery, New York. © New York Photo Festival 2012

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