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John Kenny
John Kenny
John Kenny

John Kenny

Country: United Kingdom

In 2006 I developed my style of portrait photography within traditional communities, heavily influenced by the dramatic pictures of chiaroscuro artists. Chiaroscuro is an Italian term which literally means light-dark. Back then, at the very start of my Africa journey, I was buzzing with energy having met people of real magnetism just days into my trip. I was excited by extraordinary people and fascinating cultures and wondered how I could possibly communicate and express these feelings of excitement to friends and family back home.

The solution, I imagined, would involve abstracting the remarkable from the not so remarkable: put simply, I felt that the vibrant and intense individuals that I had met in traditional communities would best show their magnetism on camera when they were removed from the (often) dull and dusty backgrounds of their immediate environment. After a few days I started to imagine each of these people in front of me emerging from the nothingness of darkness, with no distractions, hoping that this would provide a real feeling of proximity between the viewer and the person in the picture. I made a conscious decision at that time to leave a more documentary style of environmental portraiture to others. Practicing this new technique in remote African villages in 2006 I had nothing but sunshine and a hut available as a great ‘open studio': so I used these parameters and started experimenting (I've never really liked flash anyway). So it's simply the illumination of natural sunlight, and sun on dry earth, that reaches into the darkness of huts and lights up these remarkable people. Sun and dry earth are the only ingredients required for the lighting in my prints. And of course, you also need to find exceptional people!

Falling in love with photography, and the origins of this series:
I first fell in love with photography around 2003. I had not been fortunate enough to receive an art or photography education, but I knew back then, when I picked up my first SLR camera, that I had found the perfect way to express myself. Every time I had the camera in my hand I was looking to improve, needing to know what everything and anything looked like once it had been through the photographic process. It was a bit like a mad pursuit of alchemy - throwing everything into the mix to see if any magic came out of the other side. The process of photographic learning is very rarely a simple one, but to me it remains beautiful: discoveries, experimentation and seeing for the first time how a camera distorts and enhances the world.
In Africa I seem to have made it my goal to travel through some of the remotest areas of the continent where the reaches of urbanisation and 21st century living are barely detectable. Looking back, this wasn’t my intention when I first arrived there in 2006, but somehow I keep returning to Africa to photograph because I'm fascinated to encounter societies that are able to survive in some of the most arid, isolated and difficult environments that people have settled in. If you haven’t visited these places then the reality of living is not nearly as romantic or idealised as one might imagine. Life takes place against a backdrop of very uncertain resources and enormous hardships, but traditions and hospitality towards outsiders remain intact.
I specifically chose to photograph the individuals that you see in these galleries because I had a very real sense of wonder when I met them. Each one of these people had something that attracted me, sometimes a piercing intensity, or an uncommon beauty, that I felt compelled to try and capture. It’s true that I photograph for myself, first and foremost, but a close second is my desire to show others this magnetism that draws one into the eyes of these fascinating people.
I have usually travelled alone or with a guide on these journeys, along the way walking and hopping onto overloaded vehicles of every kind to head to remote settlements. Often the destination is a transient, weekly market where hundreds of vibrant, colourful people assemble somewhat incongruously against a dull, dusty backdrop for a few hours. Later in the day they will all melt away with their animals and traded possessions, until the location is again a patch of bone-dry ground with almost nothing to separate it from the rest of the featureless land that typifies much of the African Sahel. It is fascinating to observe this process play out in almost exactly the same way across countless African countries, many of which are separated by hundreds or thousands of miles across this huge continent’s surface.
My favourite tools are sharp prime lenses and cameras that let you capture the tiniest pieces of detail: whilst these details may be insignificant alone, when aggregated I feel they help paint the picture of the environment and how each person adapts to theirs.

My favourite series of work remains the Northern Kenya series which involved 6 weeks of intense travelling with my guide, Mo, across remote areas without a vehicle and often without any semblance of an idea how to get to the next tiny settlement. The trip was full of unique encounters in locations that seemed to be famous, to me at least, as places where no transport seemed to be heading. On one particular occasion we came across a lone Moran (warrior) emerge into the dawn light, miles from anywhere. He seemed like a mirage: a vibrant vision in pink cloth and bright colourful jewellery, and more acutely so when set against the hazy yellow monotone of land that he emerged from. Even for Northern Kenya, I thought he seemed to be in a remote, featureless location: devoid of any water, and within an hour it would again be blistering hot. Despite these uncomfortable realities - which clearly weighed more heavily on my mind than his - the warrior seemed confident of his bearings and stopped for a moment to exchange pleasantries with Mo and I. A couple of minutes later, after sharing cigarette with my guide, he purposefully set off walking again, to God knows where. This place that looked barren and foreboding, to me at least, was clearly his home.
 

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With its tumultuous political history and its growing social pressure for managing farmers coming into urban areas for a better life, all of it pushed by a constant need of investments and fast modernization, I wanted to portray this view of a growing china, far away from the common views of eastern cities such as shanghai or Beijing. From a photographic point of view, I have decided to shoot the people in their environment. But i have decided to take a step back, using medium format film camera, I want to transmit the feeling of scales that the city and china in general is facing. Urban Scales, Social Scales, the country's biggest problem is now to find a way to link some extremes the highly rich to the very poor, the extravagant to the meaningful. Vertical Communism is a portrait of Chinese a megapolis full of contradiction, trying to keep up with its unpredictable modernization Source: www.timfranco.com Interview with Tim Franco: AAP: When did you realize you wanted to be a photographer? Tim Franco: There is not a precise moment. When I was young, I loved writing stories, then my passion became music. I always wanted to share my ideas and vision of things through some mediums at the end it became photography. AAP: Where did you study photography? TF: When I was a kid, my artist mother pushed me from one opening to the other, through museums and galleries. At first I hated it, and then became used to it and started to hang out more and more in her studio, until I took away her old cameras , I have learn through experience, other photographers and reading tutorials. AAP: How could you describe your style? TF: Photographers tend to be classified, put into boxes, commercial photographer, photojournalists, artists, etc. I never really know how to classify my work. What I love is telling stories, document facts with an artistic esthetic to it. I also enjoy working on creative commercial assignments. I always try to stay simple in the esthetic and subtle about the story. AAP: What kind of gear do you use? Camera, lens, digital, film? TF: For my personal work, I really enjoy medium format. When I see something, most of the time, I ideally want to frame it in square. I don't really like naming brands, they all have different feeling and esthetic and it really depends the look you want to give your image. To name a few I personally work with Hasselblad and old rolleiflex. For commercial work, I use Canon because of their price and availability in terms of lenses. AAP: Do you spend a lot of time editing your images? TF: When shooting film, I usually spend very little time editing, just cleaning dust on films and other small details. When shooting commercial work on digital its another story. Clients are very specific about what they want and color out of raw files needs to go through extensive treatment. My photo agency works with a retouching studio for most of our commercial projects. AAP: What advice would you give a young photographer? TF: Those days, its very easy to call yourself a photographer, grab a camera , a couple of nice prime lenses and you can get some good images. But I think young photographers should really focus on what are they trying to say with their images. What makes a great photo is not the instant esthetic of it but the impact that image will have on its viewer. AAP: An idea, a sentence, a project you would like to share? TF: One of the main project I worked on for the past year is about one particular city in China called Chongqing. Since 2009, I am going there quite frequently, at the beginning for some press assignments since the city have seen lot of interesting political stories and turmoils but also because it fascinates me. Both from an esthetic point of view and from its stories. This giant megapolis has been forcly populated with countryside people and has now a very hard time to deal its urbanization. "I personally see Chongqing as a macro representation of the whole China. With its tumultuous political history and its growing social pressure for managing farmers coming into urban areas for a better life, all of it pushed by a constant need of investments and fast modernization, I wanted to portray this view of a growing china, far away from the common views of eastern cities such as shanghai or beijing. From a photographic point of view, I have decided to shoot the people in their environment. But I have decided to take a step back, using medium format film camera, I want to transmit the feeling of scales that the city and china in general is facing. Urban Scales, Social Scales, the country's biggest problem is now to find a way to link some extremes the highly rich to the very poor, the extravagant to the meaningful. Vertical Communism is a portrait of chinese a megapolis full of contradiction, trying to keep up with its unpredictable modernization." AAP: Your best and worst memory as a photographer? TF: Being a professional photographers gives you a chance to go to many great places and meet amazing people. Sometimes the best memory is all the instants that led you to take a particular photo, the untold stories. What happened in the discussion you had with the person you were about to portray, how did you get to this fantastic point of view etc. For worst memory there is always issues of dealing with authorities, this large gap of misunderstanding between the photographer wanting to tell a story and a person not allowing you to shoot. This is always very annoying.
Inge Morath
Austria/United States
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Inge Morath, the daughter of a scientist, was born in Austria on 27th May 1923. The family moved to Nazi Germany and as a teenager she was sent to the force labour camp at Tempelhof for refusing to join the Hitler Youth. Morath graduated from Berlin University in 1944. After the Second World War she worked as an interpreter for the United States Information Service before joining the RWR radio network. Morath also contributed articles to the literary magazine Der Optimist. In 1950 Morath moved to France where she worked with the Austrian photographers Ernst Haas and Erich Lessing. This involved writing text captions for the two photographers. The following year she found work as a photojournalist with Picture Post, a magazine based in London. Morath's first book was, Fiesta In Pamplona (1954). After the publication of an photo essay on French worker priests by Morath in 1955 Robert Capa invited her to join the Magnum photo agency. Other books by Morath included Venice Observed (1956), Bring Forth The Children (1960), Tunisia (1961) and From Persia to Iran (1961). Morath married Arthur Miller in 1962 and together they published the bookIn Russia (1969). This was followed by My Sister Life (1973) with poems by Boris Pasternak, In the Country (1977), Chinese Encounters (1979), Salesman in Beijing (1984), Portraits (1987), Shaking the Dust of Ages (1998), an autobiography, Life As A Photographer (1999), Masquerade (2000) and Border Spaces; Last Journey (2002). Inge Morath died of lymphatic cancer on 30th January 2002. Source Spartacus Educational
Ellen Cantor
United States
Rineke Dijkstra
Netherlands
1959
Rineke Dijkstra was trained at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy, Amsterdam. Her first solo exhibition took place in 1984 at de Moor in Amsterdam. Dijsktra's photographs have appeared in numerous international exhibitions, including the 1997 and 2001 Venice Biennale, the 1998 Bienal de Sao Paulo, Turin's Biennale Internationale di Fotografia in 1999 and the 2003 International Center for Photography's Triennial of Photography and Video in New York. Solo exhibitions of her work have been shown at the Museum fur Moderne Kunst, Germany (2013), the Guggenheim Museum, New York (2012), the Fotomuseum Winterthur, Switzerland (2005), and the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago (2001). She is the recipient of a number of awards, including the Kodak Award Nederland (1987), the Art Encouragement Award Amstelveen (1993), the Werner Mantz Award (1994), the Citibank Private Bank Photography Prize (1998), and the Macallan Royal Photography Prize (2012). Source: Marian Goodman Gallery Rineke Dijkstra was born in Sittard, the Netherlands, in 1959. She studied photography at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam from 1981 to 1986. Through the late 1980s, she photographed people in clubs for magazines in the Netherlands and worked for corporations as a portraitist. In 1990 she injured her hip when her car was struck by a bicycle. A self-portrait produced during her rehabilitation, in which she is seen having just emerged from a pool, exhausted, sparked a new direction in her work. Commissioned by a Dutch newspaper to make photographs based on the notion of summertime, Dijkstra took provocative photographs of adolescent bathers. These ultimately formed her breakthrough Beaches series (1992–96), which featured her young subjects in different locations in the United States and Europe. From this point on, people in transitional moments would be a major theme in her work. In 1994 she photographed mothers in the moments after giving birth and bullfighters about to enter the arena; she also commenced a series of images of Almerisa, an adolescent Bosnian refugee, whom she continued to photograph until 2003. Dijkstra ventured into video with The Buzz Club, Liverpool, UK/Mysteryworld, Zaandam, NL, taping adolescents at raves between 1996 and 1997. She has also focused on particular individuals entering the military, as in her images of Olivier Silva, a French Foreign Legionnaire (2000–01), and new inductees into the Israeli army (2002–03). For the series Park Portraits (2003–06), Dijkstra photographed children, adolescents, and teenagers momentarily suspending their varied activities to stare into the lens from scenic spots in Amsterdam’s Vondelpark, Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, Madrid’s El Parque del Retiro, and Xiamen’s Amoy Botanical Garden, among others. Source: Guggenheim
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