White Cube: Cocoa Sculptures With a Bitter Taste of Colonialism

White Cube tells a story about how art can be an ally to a community constricted by neo-colonialism. The feature-length film directed by Renzo Martens documents the formation of Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise (CATPC), and how they mobilised their artwork, to bring economic and ecological growth back to their community. The film is set to premiere in Lusanga, Democratic Republic of Congo, and in the international feature film competition at the IDFA film festival in Amsterdam, this November. 

The sculptures are first made using mud and are then 3D scanned and reproduced in cocoa and palm oil in Amsterdam. One sculpture by artist Irene Kanga titled “Forced Love”, depicts a brutal rape to symbolise the catalyst of the Congo Revolt of 1960. 

The artwork is then exhibited in museums and art galleries worldwide and the money from these exhibitions is reinvested back into the community. The White Cube sits on a Lusanga plantation as a pillar for a different future, surrounded by new ecological growth.

“Land or art. If I would have to choose, I would choose both. But if I really have to choose only one, I would choose the land. Where can I put my chair and start making art, if I do not own the land?” – Matthieu Kilapi Kasiama, CATPC.

Renzo’s film and the work of the CATPC, brings light to the complex relationship between the Congolese plantations and the art world. With reports of profits extracted from these plantations to fund museums and galleries such as Tate Modern, the question presides: can these museums ever be truly inclusive when reparations have not been paid to plantation workers who have financed these very institutions? 

“Is there any way, for working people, for the working class to benefit from art? Is there any way for gentrification to be reversed?” – Renzo Martens

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Hair Portraits by Rachel Portesi at The BMAC

Cover image: Homage to Louise Bourgoise (quadriptych) 2018

The Brattleboro Museum & Art Center (BMAC) in Vermont recently opened an exhibition with Artist Rachel Portesi and BMAC Chief Curator Mara Williams exploring  the sentimental values of hair as it pertains to identity and its relationship women and femme-identifying individuals throughout society. The exhibit entitled Hair Portraits features a series of Portesi’s tintype photographs of femme identifying models of various ages and ethnicity who see consider hair to be a large part of their identity. Each image through the series reflects on hair’s symbolic significance throughout history, with linkage to culture, fertility, sexual identity and ethnicity. 

“Also informing Hair Portraits is Portesi’s fascination with the cross-cultural presence of hair in historic memorialization and mourning practices. During the Victorian era—which coincided with the rise of tintype photography—wreaths, art, and sculpture were often made using the deceased’s hair as the primary medium, especially among families that couldn’t afford photography. In the Ndebele culture of Zimbabwe and northeastern South Africa (among other ethnic groups), it is customary for family members of all sexes to shave their head during the mourning period, unless the deceased relative willed them exempt prior to passing. Religious sculptures from first-century China have been found to contain human hair in their hollow recesses. And in present-day Western culture, it is not unusual for a parent to save a lock of hair to memorialize their child’s first haircut,” – BMAC

 “I use hair to both honor and say goodbye to past parts of myself. These images address fertility, sexuality, creativity, nurturement, and harmony and discord with nature. Above all, these images — photographs of elaborate, pinned hair sculptures constructed in the studio with the input of their subjects—are a testament to change. In my case, that change is a record of metamorphosis from a past fractured self to an integrated, confident, self-actualized woman,” the artist explained.

Rachel Portesi is now on show at The Brattleboro Museum & Art Center, for more information visit The BMAC.

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Red Bull Arts New York presents Akeem Smith: No Gyal Can Test

In collaboration with Red Bull Arts New York , Jamaican stylist, designer and artist Akeem Smith is set to present his first solo exhibition entitled “No Gyal Can Test” at the Red Bull Arts New York. Set to open doors on September 24th, the exhibition is a compilation of personal photographs and videos gifted to the artist over the past decade by family members, friends and members of Kingston’s dancehall community, documenting the iconic era.  

“Drawing upon his experience growing up between New York and Jamaica, Smith harmonizes disparate elements from this extensive archival documentation, which chronicles this seminal era from the early 80s through y2k, conjuring a collective memory that otherwise would have only existed on the threshold of the artist’s own. Part poem, part anthropological homage, No Gyal Can Test forms a layered exploration of spectral coloniality, diaspora, and the voyeurism that results from transposing these artefacts across cultural, economic, and temporal divides.”

The exhibit includes work in collaboration with sculptor Jessi Reacves, British fashion designer Grace Wales Bonners and musicians Total Freedom, Physical Therapy, Alex Somers and dancehall icon Bounty Killer. Visit Red Bull Arts for more information on Akeem Smith: No Gyal Can Test. 

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Unit London presents : The Medium is the Message

Cover image : Sthenjwa Luthuli, Untold Stories, 2020 Hand carved wood & 149 x 198cm, courtesy of Unit London

London based Gallery Unit London recently announced the upcoming opening of their exhibition The Medium is the Message — a group show 18 emerging artists exploring the role pigment and blackness plays in the expression of identity through artistic mediums. Set to open on October 2nd, the showcased has been curated by Azu Nwagbogu with the aid of assistant curators Wunika Mukan & Jana Terblanche. With the work of Wonder Buhle Mbambo, Ngozi Schommers, Barry Yusufu among many others the exhibition tells the story of a world which stigmatises Blackness & Brownness while simultaneously celebrating its cultural fruits. Each artist throughout the exhibition approaches this from unique angles, names like Collins Obijiaku for example uses portraiture, domestic settings and seemingly mundane scenes to reflect notions of identity with compositions. While many of the other artists challenge stereotypes and politicised images of black and brown people by focusing on traditions ritual and familial bonds. 

Katlego Tlabela, Tableau Vivant ll Step Ya Money Up! (After Kerry James Marshell’s Club Couple), 2020, Acrylic, ink and collage on canvas Diptych, 77 x 154cm each, 77 x 77 cm, courtesy of Unit London

‘While representation is important, it is empty if it is not succeeded by unfettered existence. This exhibition veers away from the performative power of the image and ponders existence beyond representation. The Blackness presented here is authentic, quiet, and confident. It rejects the societal gaze whereby Blackness is inextricably linked to majesty or misery with very little gradation between the two, their art unveils many facets of black existence that encompass play, solitude, contemplation and a range of human experience with approaches that do not kowtow to exoticism, but rather reflect the communities from whence they were birthed,’ explained curator Azu Nwagbogu . 

For the full list of artists and further information about the exhibit visit theunitldn.com 

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Somerset House presents: Untitled by Akinola Davies Jr

In their latest installation of their ongoing online Pause programme —  a mid-week moment designed to carve out time to enjoy an artist’s work in full —  Somerset House Studios has partnered with artist & filmmaker Akinola Davies Jr. on a film that documents his interactions with his mother during lockdown. In an exploration of themes of mortality , intergenerational relationship and the black female body, Davies Jr. uses his lens to tell a story of black motherhood. 

 “There is redemption in exploring the power of vulnerability. The passage of time and a confrontation of mortality and the eternal.    This work leans on the sacrifice of motherhood.   The process of ageing.   The relationship of the human body with the physical space as expansive lives inhabit the daily ritual of being.  It is a requiem of living memories.  Homage to technology as an archive of embalming our history, bringing life to our past.   It is the honouring of our mothers so our days on earth can be long.   Ultimately I don’t know what the work is about, but I also know exactly what it is about. It is a work that lives in the quiet space, beyond words. It is ultimately what I place value on. The most value,” he explained. Watch the full film here.

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ANIME SALVE by Jess Kohl – A Detailed Visual Account of Neapolitan Queer Culture

British photographer and director Jess Kohl is scheduled to inaugurate her first Italian solo exhibition next month under the title Anime Salve. Set to debut in Napoli, Italy the presentation is a visual documentary recollected during the last two years, intimately exploring themes of gender non-conformity in a city like Scampia where spirituality, gender and sexuality have long co-existed.

Initially her body of work began with a magnification of the concept of the Italian slang ‘femminielli’ which is a word used to describe effeminate men — often used in modern Neapolitan culture. The exhibition then takes its viewers on a journey throughout the lives of five people, most living in Scampia, as they’re framed in intimate portraits and candid shots. A woman named Alessia is documented living with her elderly mother Amalia and Kohl captures current moments of an ever-changing narrative that moves with the city that surrounds them. 

Each subject was documented over a period of years,  which gives an accurate scope of their personal evolution and an authentic representation of marginalised communities throughout change. Named after the famous album of Italian songwriter Fabrizio De André, the exhibition (which translates to “solitary spirits”), also includes monochromatic images documenting the architectural and developments of the Scampian landscape, an exploration of the intersection between queerness and Catholicism, and a visual map between traditions of the femminielli and modern day trans lives. It then closes with a thought-provoking ending composed of 8 portraits that bridges a sentimental connection between the lives of trans women in Napoli and trans women in Koovagam, India through cultural similarities and liberal attitudes towards gender.

Also accompanying the exhibition is a catalogue by ShowDesk, giving a more detailed scope on the documentary which includes an essay by Paolo Valerio, honorary professor of clinical  psychology at the Federico II Naples University. Anime Salve will officially open its doors on September 11th 2020 at the Palazzo delle Arti Napoli. 

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Twin Talks: Osaze Akil – A refreshing mix of modern & traditional black culture

Traditional renaissance art is a genre that was created with a central focus on European history, religion and identity which was mainly if not entirely centred around whiteness. However upon our recent discovery of the Atlanta based visual artist Osaze Akil’s work, we found ourselves moved by his method of re-framing some of these traditionally white narratives to include black identities, while also offering contemporary takes on themes of black divinity with influences from African cultures spirituality and fashion. His work speaks volumes in such a way where it uses different elements and smaller details that ultimately come together to tell stories that speak proudly to both modern & traditional black heritage and culture. Which is why Twin chose to sit down with the artist himself to gain a more accurate idea of the process, inspirations and aspirations behind his work. 

Tell me about your journey, how did you first start painting ? 

I’ve been painting for most of my life. As a child, my mother painted leisurely so I think I picked that up from her. I started painting for myself when I was about six or seven, but I was drawing and sketching well before that. I had all of these ideas and ways that I saw and interpreted the world, and putting them on canvas always felt like a sweet release. If I didn’t have the language [verbally], I had the language to express myself through the art I created.

Security Rising by Osaze Akil

What or who would you say is your biggest influence/s?

I have major influences that  all contribute to my art in different ways. The first would be Toni Morrison. She’s one of my favorite authors and I’ve always been drawn to the mysticism that she alludes to in her work. The idea that black people have a sort of magic, that isn’t self contained, but shared and experienced communally was always something that intrigued me. With my paintings, I definitely want them to feel magical- that there’s an inherent magic that isn’t forced, but still felt by anyone looking at the piece. Another big influence of mine is Axel Vervoordt.

He is an interior designer and art collector, and often references the energy of a space or of an object being transformative. For me, I think of “spaces” more metaphorically. I think about the spaces that black people have been provided, and have been made by us for ourselves, and how they hold the weight that they do because of the energy that we’ve brought into them. Most of the subjects in my paintings are indoors, or enclosed in some sense, which reinforces my idea of us bringing our magic and our energy into the confines of our reality and making it work for us. We’re often put in boxes, and yet we make them beautiful, exciting, and influential. 

Revolutionized Luxury by Osaze Akil

A lot of your work in many ways feel quite sacred, with some even holding biblical titles , what part does religion or spirituality play in your process ? 

I grew up in church. Although I don’t consider myself to be a fundamentalist, I’ve always felt that I am guided, protected, and supported by something much larger than myself. My belief in God is a core part of my identity, if not the most important. I feel that God has given me a gift, which is my talent, and I honor that by referencing God’s work through me in my pieces. Painting has become not only a meditative practice for me but a form of worship. I also often reflect on the importance that spirituality has held in my culture, as an African American. Since slavery, our connection to God and the way that we worship has been the foundation for a lot of ways that we operate today, intraculturally and with the world in general.  

Tignon Law by Osaze Akil

As a contemporary artist, what role would you like your work to play in modern day society ?

I feel that I’m rewriting history, and telling a new story. When walking through art museums as a child, I never saw depictions of black people being exalted, significant, worthy of comfort, or abundance. I feel that had I seen more of that growing up, I wouldn’t have lived thinking that so many positive things that we can get from life could only be afforded to me if I wasn’t who I was. I want those younger than me to have that representation, and to know that even though our past in this country started in bondage, our future can be free.

Shadrach, Meshac, and Abednego in the Fiery Furnace by Osaze Akil

What’s the part of your process that you find most exciting? 

I love when I first get an idea, and I do the pre-sketch. I sketch out my paintings on paper about 4-5 times before I actually put anything on canvas. Going through that process, being introspective, and understanding what I want to say through it is very gratifying. Also, the end when it’s completed is also a very exciting feeling.

Do you have a favourite piece of yours? 

I don’t think I’ve yet made my favorite piece. If I had to choose, it would be my “Madonna and Child” piece. We haven’t seen many depictions of Christ or the Virgin Mary as anything other than white. So, challenging that felt important to me. 

Peaceful Isolation by Osaze Akil

How was your lockdown experience? Did you find yourself more or less inspired?

I am definitely more inspired in lockdown than before. Before, there were so many distractions and interactions that I had on a daily basis that took my mind away from creating. Now, I’m forced to sit with myself, learn new things, and focus on things in different ways which automatically sparks inspiration.

Where can one purchase your work ? 

My work can be purchased on my website! osazeakil.com

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Peter Lindbergh : Untold Stories at Museum für Kunst & Gewerbe Hamburg

Earlier this year Museum für Kunst & Gewerbe Hamburg inaugurated their run of the ongoing exhibition Peter Lindbergh: Untold Stories. The exhibit features unseen work of the iconic German fashion photographer and is the first ever survey exhibition curated by Peter Lindbergh himself prior to his passing in September 2019. It celebrates the legacy of his work with a collection of 140 photographs accumulated over two years which offer an insight into his extensive oeuvre, spanning from the 1980’s the present day.

The first time I saw my photographs on the walls of the exhibition mock-up, I was startled, but in a positive way. It was overwhelming to be thus confronted with who I am,” Lindbergh explained during an interview in 2019. His famous black and white work is known for transcending their own context and giving an alternate spin on fashion photography by finding ways to not have his images centred around the fashion. 

© Peter LindberghCourtesy of Peter Lindbergh, Paris

“The exhibition allowed me to reconsider my images in a non fashion context. The presentation aims to open the photographs to different interpretations and perspectives. However, I don’t try to claim that my pictures aren’t fashion photographs, that wouldn’t be true either. I insist on the definition “fashion photography because for me that terms doesn’t mean that one has to depict fashion — photography is much bigger than fashion, it is a part of contemporary culture, ” he commented. 

The showcase is divided into three chapters, two of which are large scale installations: opening with Manifest, which offers an insightful thought provoking immersive introduction to the late photographer’s perspective of fashion photography; while the central section features never before experimental works of the photographers shown in pairs or groups; and it then closes with a film installation entitled Testament (2014) which is an unveiling of a hither unknown side of the character of the iconic image maker featuring some unexpected and emotionally moving subjects. The exhibition is currently on at the  Museum für Kunst & Gewerbe Hamburg until the the 1st of November and is also accompanied by a 320 page hardcover catalogue with 150 images and exclusive interviews with the photographer. For more information visit MKG.

© Peter LindberghCourtesy of Peter Lindbergh, Paris

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The Auction Collective takes residency at Browns East

Cover Image: Rayvenn Shaleigha D’Clark, Untitled (737935), 2019/2020

This week The Auction Collective officially launched a residency at Browns East London in celebration of the arts in efforts to showcase some of the finest emerging global talent with themes ranging from the art of seduction , icons and the future.  The selection of artists include carefully curated exciting up and coming names in contemporary including Rayvenn D’Clark, Realf Heygate, Claudia Legge, James Rogers, Andrew Hardy among others whose work in the exhibit will all be available for purchase. 

We have long been admirers of Browns. Their 50 year history of curating top quality collections of the latest designers is an inspiration to us and our drive to give a voice to the rising stars of the contemporary art scene,” explained Tom Best, Founder of The Auction Collective. The exhibit is currently on show at Browns East London and will run until December this year. 

Claudia Legge, Havana Street, 2016 Archival pigment print on German Etching paper 40 x 60 cm

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Postcards From The Past by Elena Cremona

This past week, Elena Cremona , photographer, founder and creative director of The Earth Issue launched a series of black & white images entitled Postcards from the Past. The series, which will be offered in 20 black and white plates is a powerful series of images that document the landscape of Joshua Tree, California. 

“In relativity to human experience, landscapes are static things – their changes are slow, their ecosystems cyclical, and any given  day is likely to unfold within them much the same as the one prior; it is us that moves through landscapes, shapes and colours them with our emotions, and remembers them ‘before, ’ Cremona explained. 

In several ways the twenty black and white images captured showcase the creeping splits of the surfaces and rocks , and the Joshua trees that are most often seen alone. Her journey through the Mojave Desert was paralleled with the ending of her relationship and the images speak of that story. 

The images are currently available for Pre-Order, find out more at Guest Editions.

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A chat with Ming Smith – the photographer whose work is soft, intimate & bathed in community through its documentation of the black American experience.

Cover image: America Seen Through Stars and Stripes, New York City, NewYork Painted, 1976, by Ming Smith

Ming Smith, not necessarily a name widely known in photography, was the first Black woman to have her photographic work accepted into the Museum of Modern Art, in 1975.

The only female member of the Kamoinge Collective, and a dedicated image maker to capturing the humanity for the Black Experience, Ming Smith’s imagery and life trajectory is due a mighty relook. Currently staging an online exhibition of a selection of Smith’s work, from her image of Grace Jones as a Ballerina, to the playwright August Wilson, Pippy Houldsworth Gallery has moved the exhibition online through Vortic

We caught up with the photographer from her apartment in New York. 

How did you first get into photography?

I borrowed my mother’s camera on my first day of school in kindergarten and I took photographs of some of my school mates. The class was predominantly white, and we were about 10% of the class. I had a lot of friends and classmates that I took photographs of. 

Did you feel looking back that there was a central focus for your photographs?

It was just a natural thing. My father was a photographer. He was a hobbyist but he was really artistic: he drew, painted, did films and things like that. However he worked 12 hours a day as a pharmacist, so he didn’t do photography a lot, however I think it then became for me a natural thing to do. 

You trained to be a doctor initially, and then you decided to focus on a career in photography. 

My grandfather would always say that he wanted me to be a doctor. I liked that because he taught bible school, and my grandmother was helping all the neighbours, so I felt that being a doctor was a way of helping people. I know that might sound pretty naive but that was what I wanted to do. I did volunteer work at the children’s hospital when I was young. I saw a lot of pain around me, so I wanted to help.  Being a doctor was a way of trying to help. Then I read something about artists, and they were talking about the system and how your work could help humanity, and you work could be outside of the system, instead focusing and turning ideas into something that would be healing. 

Child Porter, Abidjan, Ivory Coast, 1972 by Ming Smith

There is such a sense of intimacy and connectivity about your images. How do you capture that? What do you look for in your subject matter? 

Well there are stereotypes of the Black community, but there is so much love in the community, from people who were making and doing the best spiritually or going to church. There was just this stereotype of Black people, you know, and I never saw those types of images with the love and the empathy and the humanity with the people that were around me in my community.

You have become renowned for your portraiture for Black cultural figures and icons What did you hope to profess or present in these images of these icons?

I hope that other young people or students will find inspiration in what they are teaching: the struggles and what they went through to get to where we are now. For example, August Wilson, I went to Pittsburgh and photographed his hometown and economically depressed neighbourhoods and shot some of the places he talked about in his plays. He documented the comic and the tragic aspects of the African American experience in the 20th Century. The characters in Pittsburgh were the same characters that I knew in Ohio where I grew up, or Detroit, where I was born. 

Lou Drapper’s Pick, 1973 by Ming Smith

What would you say the main challenges you have faced in your career?

I would say being taken seriously. I am a better photographer than a talker. I am quiet, and I like that with photography you can be by yourself, you don’t have to talk. Being shy, photography was a way of me being in it but out of it at the same time. If you are a quiet person it’s harder to take you seriously.

I went to a gallery seeking representation, and the gallerist didn’t hardly even look at my photographs; it was very disappointing. Just like “ok, thank you”. Just total dismissal.

Did you have a lot of other female counterparts and friends that were experiencing the same in the art industry or the creative industry?

I am sure there was, and I’m sure there is, but I have really continued to be a loner and doing photography was almost like a friend or a companion and was how I spent my time. Being a photographer was a way of expressing yourself and going through your own challenges, and needs, and so I spent my time not really talking to anyone else. 

Ethiopian Crew, 1973 by Ming Smith

What was New York like when you arrived? What were you focussing your photography on?

When I got to New York I was photographing but I came for money, and one of the first jobs I had was as a model. It was like 100 dollars an hour: an Ohio pharmacist back then was making 100 dollars a week. 

Someone told me ‘you should be a model’, and so I tried it for a bit. When I first met Grace Jones, she was an aspiring model also. 

You were part of the Kamoinge Workshop: did you feel like things changed then, that you were a part of a group of like-minded individuals?

Going to the meetings, I was first introduced to photography as an art form. Prior to this I had not committed myself to being an artist.  I didn’t think of myself as a photographer as I was still studying pre-med curriculum. So when I came to Kamoinge, I had first heard about the collective on an assignment, where a photographer was talking about whether photography was an art form. I was invited into Kamoinge by Lou Draper, who also printed for Eugene Smith. He used to tell me stories about Lorraine Hansberry, who I loved. that was when I first learned about the goal of Kamoinge: to own and interpret our own images. Roy Decarava was one of the founders of Kamoinge, which came out of the Black Arts Movement, where they started plays, and there were writers, musicians, painters, artists. That is where I learnt about lighting. I remember one member saying that his neighbourhood grew up in Harlem, and that all the young men that he grew up with were all dead. That opened my eyes to the politics. 

Oolong’s Nightmare,Save The Children (for Marvin Gaye), New York City, New York 1979 by Ming Smith

Tell us about your experience of fashion photography.

In New York I never knew about fashion photographers and advertising: it was a completely new world. I had a chance to go into both of those worlds, as I was modelling. I met people like James Moore who was a beauty photographer, or Arthur Elgort or Deborah Turberville, who I loved. She photographed my lips for a Bloomingdales bag! She did fine art photography besides that; I really liked her. I lived in the Village, so I knew Lisette Model, and I would go eat at this little dinner, the Waverley – the cheapest diner! You could buy a meal for five dollars there, and that was where Lisette Model would eat too! She would tell me stories about Diane Arbus, and she would call her Dion. For the longest time, I didn’t realise she was talking about Diane Arbus as she called her Dion!

You documented some of the greatest spokespeople of the African American experience. 

August Wilson really told our stories through his plays: the comic and the tragic of the African American experience. That is what connected me to him, to go to Pittsburgh and photograph him. Eugene Smith did a famous series on Pittsburgh, but the African American experience wasn’t documented. This is another aspect of my work. We also have Katherine Dunham. She was an anthropologist, choreographer, writer. She was an activist as well: she wouldn’t perform in places unless they de-segregated the audiences. There is always a struggle, that is extremely distressing of the black American community. They simplified the experiences of the black community in the 20th Century. Katherine went to Haiti and Africa and notarised the dance technique. When she won the Kennedy award, she talked about how hip hop came out of her technique, meaning the isolations and different notations of moves and contractions and release. Now we have dance, twerk, afro-latin, west African, Haitian, rumba, Caribbean, west African beats. We have had all these different classes come out of the diaspora. That is what Katherine Dunham did. 

Flying High, Coney Island, 1976, by Ming Smith

How do you get inspired?

I follow mainly instincts and my heart about things. I hope to say these things in my work: that is the intention. 

Would you say your photography is driven by intuition?

Definitely. Intuition, which is also very spiritual. It is like there is a spirit that speaks within me, and I go with that. I trust that more than I trust my brain. 

What changes do you see in the photography industry now? 

There is a lot more inclusion, and participation. There are different avenues for photographers – there are now young black American fashion photographers, and I think a lot of the hip hop generation are participating in that inclusion, you can go into documentaries, they work with the NYT. I think this is not only in America, but globally. 

Beauty, Coney Island, 1976 by Ming Smith

Do you think there are still many racial obstacles that need to be overcome in the art industry?

I think of course, but I am in the middle of it, and sometimes it is harder to see, but of course I think there has been many steps in the right direction. Dr Deborah Willis, she started doing books on black images, she started this in publishing and the School – she has made a life of that. I remember she came to Kamoinge to do a book. It wasn’t easy for her to receive support so I think that we have a voice now greater than before and it is growing. People are conscious of it, and they are trying to make it right, or more honest: the documentation of us, including us. Not just the stereotypes. More human.

Do you see more women photographers being showcased?

Most definitely, but I also think that there is more of an option. Before, it was a question of what could you even do with photography! Photographers and artists now, there are different avenues and you can earn a living from it! I see this more and more. Before, what could you do with it, how could you earn a living? Now, photographers both men and women are like ‘oh I could do photography, portraiture.’ 

There wasn’t any kind of show, exhibitions, talks, creating a book… there wasn’t those options. You did it out of pure love in the beginning. You did photography as an art form.

Self Portrait Nursing (Total), 1986 by Ming Smith

Do you still photograph regularly?

Yes I do! The main obstacle with that is everything is digital now. I am doing a book at the moment for Aperture, and so taking it from film to digitising it, to having to re-edit everything over again… it’s a lot! I need a lot of help with the translating of it. 

What do you hope viewers take away from your works?

I think just the personal struggles, the empathy or the humanity or the altruism or just being supportive. Maybe the humanity, and that being exposed to the people I have photographed, they will know what to do. It was like when I heard my first August Wilson play, or the drum, and I went and took my first dance class and the teacher told me he was a Katherine Dunham dancer. People will get what they get from my photography: hopefully an experience that will inspire them in some kind of way. 

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Atomic Punk by Berber Theunissen

Images courtesy of Berber Theunissen

Dutch photographer Berber Theunissen’s project Atomic Punk offers a rare and intimate perspective on the North American road trip. Having experienced an unexpected pregnancy, a miscarriage, a marriage and a honeymoon, Theunissen and her partner took to the road to “capture the moments, emotions and memories in which these intense situations were revolving around [her].”

Theunissen addresses personal experiences in this body of work. Women often carry the burden of miscarriages – they are rarely spoken about in public or in the media, and women feel bound by the ‘13 week rule’ leaving many people isolated and alone. Atomic Punk captures this period of isolation and anxiety through the lens of the classic North American road trip. Theunissen’s work is often based on things that affect her personally: “things that I love, but things that make me feel vulnerable.” In one image, we see Theunissen slumped over a chair in her underwear. An intimate scene full of raw emotion, one that could only be captured behind closed doors. 

I could never have imagined the possible impact of a miscarriage until I’d experienced it myself. One out of four women will experience a miscarriage in their life, and there is still a big taboo on the subject. So yes I’m also sharing my story so that you’re not alone, and that you are allowed to feel whatever it is you feel. 

The project is full of contradictions. It is on one hand a cathartic journey to process feelings of loss. And on the other hand, a time for celebration. Wide expansive landscapes, stretching across California, contradict with private scenes in motel rooms. As Theunissen has said, “It’s all about the vibes and the mood. I think the landscapes and the portraits reinforce each other. They enhance the emotion of the story.” The camera gives Theunissen a sense of security, allowing her to “observe [her] life in a more objective way,” and so photographing these moments was the obvious reaction for her.  There is a disconnect between taking images during a moment of intimacy and then publishing them after for the world to see, this takes courage as emotions are laid bare. Theunissen and her partner have a coping mechanism for this, a way of protecting themselves: “some photographs are just for us and some will be published. Sometimes it takes a while before we share the photo, when the quiet has returned.”

In another image, Theunissen and her partner are on a bed, light streaming through the window, but neither of them are looking at the camera. We wonder what has just been said, what is going to be said and by who? Sometimes these are recreations of events that have already happened, but most of the time, Theunissen is capturing it as it happens. “Before I was a mother and there was no toddler with chubby grasping hands, my camera was almost always on standby on a tripod.” This reveals how a project like this can exist, how the camera can become the third member, recording moments of intimacy, tension and vulnerability. 

The romance of the North American road trip has lured photographers for years, inspired by some of the greats like Robert Frank and Stephen Shore. But these experiences are usually seen through the eyes of male photographers. The intimate approach to Atomic Punk, that explores intimacy, loss and love, shines a new angle on this type of photography. The motel rooms become places of privacy, the roads places for discussion and healing. Theunissen’s images provide a glimpse into a moment in time, allowing the camera to record and save the journey, and while it is a personal story, it has resonance for other people going through similar experiences. And as always, a Californian road trip provides a fitting backdrop for a cathartic journey to unfold. 

Prints of the series are available to buy at Open Doors Gallery in London

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Looking Through Lockdown with Jessica Madavo

All images courtesy of Jessica Madava

Exploring the self during London’s lockdown, photographer Jessica Madavo took the time she found herself immersed in to turn her photography on her own form. Being granted this time to explore her own representation, Jessica shared her images captured and spoke to us about her own motivations and artistic drive.  

Tell us a little about your book you have just created

Its a book full of self portraits I took during lockdown. 

What compelled you to create this book?

I’ve been alone during lockdown, and that that meant no people around me to shoot. I then started experimenting more with different ways I could capture myself and really loved the process. I did find it strange to begin with, as I don’t see as being in front of the camera. 

How did you get into photography?

I moved from Johannesburg when I was 15 years old, five years ago and had the most amazing photography teacher Mr Wallace. He really encouraged me to spend as much time taking analogue photographs, building small light box cameras and working on the images in the darkroom and it kind of kept on going from there. 

What subjects and themes do you explore in your photography?

I’m super interested in people, and faces specifically. It’s interesting to me, how I am able to convey how that person is making me feel in an image and that’s the collaboration that keeps me going. 

What power has photography proved in the last few months for you?

Photography really has become a tool for me to look at the world, and in a sense respond visually to issues I see as important. That, and really just being able to almost have a document for each of the periods in my life. 

What photographers have you taken inspiration from?

I always find this a hard question because I have a lot of love and appreciation for a few photographers, for a lot of different reasons. Someone who jumps to mind immediately because of his dreamy use of light is Paolo Roversi, while Leo Colombo’s colour images constantly catch my eye. Other favourites are include Malick Sidibé, and probably Vivanne Sassen. 

What inspires you in a broader sense?

Since leaving South Africa, I’ve really loved relearning parts about my heritage that I pervious hadn’t really thought about. Music too is something that I truly love. 

What is on your horizon?

I’m still studying, so I’m hoping to go back to university in October, but apart from that I’m just collaborating as much as possible and keeping an open mind to my work. 

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LIMBO Magazine – A Lockdown Cultural Time Capsule

This week a new zine model entitled LIMBO made its debut which was created out of a lack of government support for the arts and creative industries during these difficult times. The LIMBO model , launched by publisher Nick Chapin (Frieze, Vice) is a community drive model with the aim of supporting out-of-work creative minds. The first issue edited by Francesca Gavin, Art Editor for Twin, Kaleidoscope, Dazed & NTS, with creative direction by David Lane of The Gourmand, features a myriad of almost 100 artists including Wolfgang Tillmans, Peaches, Collier Schorr, Tyler Mitchell, Brain Dead, Paul Noble , Georgina Johnson , Carol Bove, Honey Dijon among others who have contributed their art, ideas and humour born out of the global lockdown.

The zine is seen as somewhat of a time capsule , offering creative insight, hope , humour and vision during a time where everything seems so unsure. The publication is a 176 page book that recalls DIY magazines with a method of patchwork , created with expressive work with lo-fi techniques. The magazine also offers a non-traditional approach to publishing as all profits from advertising and issue sales will be distributed directly to the contributors and the staff who need it most. Some of whom have opted to waive their fees and agreed to allow their portions of the profits to be donated to those in need like Vivienne Westwood, Wolfgang Tillmans, Tyler Mitchell and others.  

The book is now available for purchase online limbomagazine.com 

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GUCCI x Bruce Gilden Beaten & Blown by the Wind

Gucci’s latest venture is a limited edition hardcover art book shot in Rome by photographer Bruce Gilden and entitled “Beaten & Blown by The Wind”. The book features a portfolio of street portraits and imagery of the house’s pre-fall 2020 collection with faces like advocate Bethann Hardison, Singer Achille Lauro and actress/model Benedetta Barzini. 

“I have never made a book in this way before, which I viewed as a photographic challenge, and the end result is a creative collaboration with Alessandro Michele. Having Rome as the backdrop was great, the city really inspires me—the beauty of the architecture and its age and watching how the Roman people move around their unique surroundings, as well as discovering the statues in the park high above Rome that mix with beautiful clouds, and the panorama of the city below… it all lent itself for some good pictures,” explained photographer Bruce Gilden.

The images are all featured in black and white and give insight into the city of Rome and all its wonders through Gilden’s lens. It is presented in a format that takes inspiration from vintage tomes with a luxurious feel that create an interesting contrast with the earthy reality of its contents. ‘Beaten & Blown by the Wind’ is currently distributed by IDEA Books and will also be available at Gucci Garden in Florence and the Gucci Wooster Bookstore in New York.

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Meet Nuda: the independent publication from Stockholm that looks beyond the meaning of spiritual for its latest edition

We spoke to the co-founders Nora and Frida about the embryo for Nuda, whether artists should go to space, and looking within the self for definition. 

Tell us about the ethos behind Nuda, and how it came to be founded.

Nora Arrhenius Hagdahl: Nuda is foremost a space for us to create without interruption, a platform where you can make what you want to make because you enjoy making it. What we love to make most is books, probably because it’s a way to combine so many elements – art, design, text, ideas, photography, fashion, people and philosophy – and create a context and visual world for them. A Gesamtkunstwerk contained between cover and back. 

Frida Vega Salomonsson: The embryo for Nuda was originally founded when we were in high school. We were young, naive and wanted to spread our ideas and aesthetics with the world. Now we’re semi-young and semi-naive. We want to make books that are both thought provoking as well as nice looking. We never claim to have the answer, rather we like to ask questions and display different and sometimes opposite views on a topic. 

Your issues work on themes: how are these decided? 

N: We don’t decide on a theme, the theme decides on us. We exist in a fluxus of ideas and you just have to reach out and grab it. 


F: For this issue, Beyond, it came down to topics we’ve discussed and noticed in our own lives. I found myself at a tantra wedding and Nora had been freaking bothered by all her friends taking life advice from apps like Co-Star. When did that become a reasonable source to find direction for intellectual people?

N: It felt like people around us were searching for new spiritual and profound experiences. Sweden is a very secular and a country of sceptics, and all of a sudden everyone we knew were looking for answers in the stars, tarot cards, meditation and psychedelics. People are fascinated, need and want more to life than what reality can offer – so that became the world we wanted to explore. 

With the culling and closure of many publishing houses in light of C19, will we see a sort of Darwinistic evolution of magazines? What does its future look like to you?

F: I don’t know? Are people still stupid enough to start print publications? It’s a trap, heaps of work – small payout (but a lot of fun, at least that’s what we tell ourselves). Hopefully other people are not as naive as we are, but you have to finish what you started right? Hopefully Covid-times will at least make people more interested in reading, because what else can you do when in lockdown?

N: It’s a great time to feed your intellect and indulge in imagery, concepts, thoughts and reflection. In history, dark times prove to be very constructive for creativity and often become a time when people can explore outside of the set framework, a source of originality one can say maybe? Change can be a good ground to explore new ideas. 

F: Being on the edge on survival may serve as a profound source of inspiration? I hope so. Future looks dark from over here, but even more reason to continue. Fingers crossed.

Nuda is based in Stockholm: has this influenced the magazine at all?

N: Have you ever been in Stockholm? It’s clean and in winter it’s quiet and dark as fuck – maybe that has influenced our aesthetic.

F: Stockholm is also a very small city, there isn’t one isolated fashion scene, one isolated art scene and one isolated design scene. All these scenes are merged together and influence each other, perhaps more than in most cities, because it’s a necessity. That’s an approach we have for the magazine as well. Mixing ideas and people from various fields. 

N: Rather than only looking at what’s around us and picking up inspiration from what we see, for this issue at least, we wanted to look at what’s within us, look at what we can’t see but feel. Aiming to touch on those experiences that are of a more universal character.

What can we expect from your third issue, Beyond, that has just been released?

F: Beyond is a guided journey through the immaterial aspects of life. We humans, and all species, have very limited ways to experience the world, we have to rely on our senses, our eyes, our nose. But there is so much out there that we can’t see or register with our senses. What if all humans were born with eyes that would only allow x-ray vision, that would dramatically affect our conception of the world around us.

N: In the book Marina Abramović tells us about her belief in parallel realities and Michael Pollan argues for the benefits of psychedelics. The astronaut Christer Fuglesang speaks about whether we should have artists in space and Jemima Kirke says the only spirituality that exists is love. Jeremy Shaw speaks about the multiple views of transcendence, Roy Andersson don’t believe in a life after this. Johnny Johansson says that god, for all he knows, could be a rabbit. The artist Cecilia Edefalk holds a séance to make contact with Hilma af Klint and the famous spoon bender Uri Geller speaks about his encounters with extra-terrestrials – it’s a march of different perspectives on the immaterial and the world beyond! 

What can we expect from Nuda in the future?

F: Don’t expect so much from us. To quote the legend Stephen Hawking: “My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus.”

N: Or as Sylvia Plath says: “If you expect nothing from somebody you are never disappointed.”

F: Perhaps Bruce Lee said it best, “I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.”

Follow nuda on: @nudapaper

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Ahluwalia’s Jalebi – photo book & virtual exhibit

Just in time for London Digital Fashion Week last weekend, designer Priya Ahluwalia launched her photobook titled Jalebi in collaboration with photographer Laurence Ellis. The hardcover book is the designer’s second release, following the success of her first book Sweet Lassi not too long ago. Throughout the pages Ahluwalia & Ellis explore themes within the designer’s work as they give a visual account of what it means to be a young mixed heritage person living in modern Britain.  She explores her roots growing up regularly visiting Southall, Britain’s first Punjabi community with the help of Ellis who captures the beauty of diversity and the level of enrichment immigration brings to our lives and communities. The theme of family also stands out as one that is also a major factor in the make up of the Ahluwalia brand. Old family photographs tell stories of past lives lived by her family.

Each image in the book is featured with extracts from an interview carried out by Ahluwalia with her Nana regarding the family experience between India and Britain. The personal touch of the book mimics the finishing techniques of the designer’s work as how each one her pieces acts as a fundamental part of a bigger story. The book launch has also been supported by Chameleon Visual who have rendered a 3D , VR exhibit , allowing the contents of the book to be presented in a way that might not have been achievable otherwise , considering the circumstance. To view the exhibition and purchase Jalebi visit alhuwaliastudio.com 

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The Earth Issue’s Freedom Fundraiser – Round 2

Cover image : Lauren Mary Fan Gerstel – Bus Driver, 2017

Last week The Earth Issue — a collective of artists and creative professionals working at the convergence of fine art and environmentalism — launched the first instalment of their Freedom Fundraiser. The initiative entails a print sale put together to raise funds for bail contributions and to support organisations fighting for social justice in response to recent events in America regarding the murder of George Floyd and the great movement which has followed. The Earth Issue has taken this opportunity to stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement by donating to the cause. The first wave from last week featured the work of over 80 artists and photographers from around the world , and has managed to raise over £70,000 in 3 days  100% of which will be donated. 

Markn , Joseph Siblings, 2020

“I was feeling really upset about what was going on and just feeling kind of helpless as a white person , so I wanted to make sure that I contribute, so I decided to start this print fundraiser and initially reached out to all of my contacts to try and see if I could get anyone to donate, and in a few hours we thankfully managed to put together over 90 artists. My entire team, which is a collective of people from different origins and backgrounds came together  and pulled on their respective resources and got it done in about 20 hours , which I’m really grateful for, ”explained Elena Cremona, The Earth Issue Founder,  Creative Director & Print Media Coordinator 

The collective now gears up for their second wave of the initiative to be launched tomorrow morning, where another round of limited edition prints will be put on sale including artists and photographers such as Chieska Fortune Smith, Johanna Tagada-Hofbeck , Edwin Antonio, Olivia Rose, Harley Weir,  Justin Tyler Close among many others. A 100% of the proceeds after printing and shipping raised  from this wave will be split amongst the organisations on Bail Funds: George Floyd and the 4Front Project. 

“ We want to thank the artists who donated their work to this initiative , and of course everyone who contributed by purchasing prints. We are overwhelmed by your quick and generous response — the power of the global and creative community to rally together and support community struggle in a time of need has been truly heartening.” 

To keep up with the launch of the The Earth Issue Freedom Fundraiser’s second wave , visit TheEarthIssueFreedomFundraiser.com

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SAINT LAURENT RIVE DROITE : ‘NOSES ELBOWS AND KNEES’ by Mario Sorrenti & John Baldessari

Saint Laurent Rive Droite recently announced that it has exclusively launched the prestigious phonebook by Mario Sorrenti and John Baldessari “Noses Elbows and Knees.” Curated by Neville Wakefield, the book was originally published at the end of the “Noses Elbows and Knees” exhibition in 2017 ,  and explores the work of Baldessari’s signature paintings of body parts on photographs , giving a nod towards Hollywood culture with elements of bold colour, while Sorrenti’s work on the book was a reinterpretation of 90’s beauty photographs .

Together the duo question the notion of familiar representations through codes of nudity in society , fashion, collage and photography. Each copy of the book is signed by both artists and are currently available for pre-order in Saint Laurent Rive Droite’s Paris and LA stores.

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GUCCI Presents, “No Space , Just A Place”

One of Gucci’s last exhibitions was their iconic collaboration in Maurizio Cattelan two years ago in Shanghai which gained much critical acclaim. Which is why we’re so excited for their latest venture. The house has returned to the content in the city of Seoul for their recently opened exhibit entitled “No Space, Just A Place.” Gucci’s Artistic director Alessandro Michele teamed up with curator Myriam Ben Salah to create a visual story which pays homage to the city’s art and culture. 

Hosted at the Daelim Museum, the showcase poses questions of cultural identity, nonconformity and belonging at the hands of several local Korean artists and institutions including d/p , the Boan1942, Hapjungjigu, OF, space illi, Tastehouse, Post Territory Ujeongguk , White Noise as well as the likes of some international artists like Meriem Bennani, Cecil B. Evans , Martine Syms, Olivia Erlanger & Kong Seung. 

Each project within the exhibit opens a door to an alternate world, as an exploration of several dimensions of utopia. Among the project titles included in the showcase are ‘Psychedelic Nature’ by Boan1942; ‘Secret of Longevity by White Noise which is a exploration of collaboration among artists and  ‘Swimming QFWFQ’ by space illi which speaks on what society deems natural through the eyes of female artists. The exhibition is one that is sure to leave it’s audience thinking for hours and even days, and as a result of the COVID outbreak m the house has managed to treat us to virtual rendition of the exhibit which can be viewed here. The physical exhibit is currently active and will run until July 12th, for more information visit No Space, Just A Place.

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