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John R. Pepper
John R. Pepper
John R. Pepper

John R. Pepper

Country: Italy
Birth: 1958

John Randolph Pepper, (1958) is an Italian photographer, screenwriter, theatre and film director, the son of sculptress Beverly Pepper and journalist/writer Curtis Bill Pepper, editor of Newsweek and manager of its Rome office. He was born and raised in Rome; lives in Palermo and works worldwide.

Pepper started his career in Black & White analogical photography with an apprenticeship to Ugo Mulas at 14. He published his first photograph at 15 and had his first show at 17.

He studied History of Art at Princeton University, where he was also the youngest member of the exclusive painting program, '185 Nassau Street'. He then became a 'Directing Fellow' at The American Film Institute, (Los Angeles) and subsequently worked as a director in theatre and film for 20 years. For thirty years, he dedicated himself to photography while directing both theatre and film. During that time he continued to take photographs with his Leica camera always using the same Ilford HP5 film stock.

John R. Pepper, represented by the Art of Foto Gallery (St. Petersburg, Russia) and The Empty Quarter Gallery (Dubai, UAE), is a 'Cultural Ambassador' of numerous Italian Institutes of Culture in may parts of the world. Since 2008 he has exhibited his different projects 'Rome: 1969 - An Homage to Italian Neo-Realist Cinema', 'Sans Papier', 'Evaporations' in the United States, France, Italy, the Middle East and Russia. He has published three books and is represented in several major museums around the world.

Since 2015 Pepper has been working on his project 'Inhabited Deserts', where he explores deserts and their effect on time, history and people. 'Inhabited Deserts' debuted in Paris in November 2017; in September 2018, with the support of the Italian Embassy in Iran and the Italian Foreign Ministry, Pepper exhibited at the Aaran Projects Gallery in Tehran where he was one of the first Italian photographers since the Iranian Revolution of 1979. In November 2018, after participating at Paris Photo with the Galerie Sophie Scheidecker, 'Inhabited Deserts' went to Tel Aviv, Israel, representing Italy at the 6th International Photo Festival 'Photo Is:Rael'.

From December 12th 2018 to February 15th Inhabited Deserts was presented at The Empty Quarter Gallery in Dubai, U.A.E. with curatorial text by Kirill Petrin. Subsequently the show opened on March 19, 2019 in Saint Petersburg, Russia, at the Art of Foto Gallery and shortly thereafter, on April 18th, it returned to Tel Aviv at the NOX Contemporary Gallery. In 2020 Inhabited Deserts will be seen in the United States and Italy.

Per John Pepper

"When talking about photography, we're talking about time. The image is fixed in time. We also talk about black and white and color, digital and film, reality and punctum - the critical concept of the French philosopher Roland Barthes, denoting the wounding, personally touching detail, which establishes a direct relationship with the object or person within it.

Is a photographer an artist or not? The ones who feel they are, modestly define themselves as artisans. Still others, who do not think of themselves as photographers will snap photos relying on destiny's outcome. Finally, there are the ones who fantasize conceptual sequences snapped in extravagant situations - most of which without interest. About photography, much has been said. There are established masters, schools of thought, and many hopes. Yet whoever is sufficiently open to a vision within himself, who has cherished and assimilated the masters, will emerge with something new. Passion triumphs when backed by culture.

When looking at one of John Pepper's photographs - the one with the group of people, friends and family, in front of their home, for example - I think of Paul Strand's image in his book, published with Zavattini 'Un paese' del 1955. There is a similar gathering of characters at the doorstep of their home. Time here is not just in the shutter time and lens aperture - a sixtieth of a second at eight - but in the transformation of the people, in the process of revealing themselves. With John, however, the appearances differ from those of Strand - moved up in time as evident in the shoes and pants, the motorcycle helmet, the technology of the wheelchair and the modern necklace of the young girl.

They appear happy and to be speaking to the photographer. Despite some apparently expensive upper-class possessions, we perceive they are of a modest condition. In Strand's photograph, there is no doubt they are of peasant culture. Motionless, they stare at the photographer with a serious gaze, though ignorant of the world of images. Today, image is consumerism. It goes beyond diffidence. Everyone can have a camera, a motorcycle helmet and Nike shoes. People are well nurtured; they have even grown in height.

With John the scene is of movement. The characters interact with ease, and the photographer is part of the game. He uses black and white film enhanced by the fine art of printing - images stemming from classical photography.

John was just a boy when he came to my house in Milan, in piazza Castello, above the studio that once belonged to Ugo. I like to think that the darkroom at that time influenced him. Who knows? However, I do believe that Ugo's work helped him to become a photographer.

His reportage in Italy is filtered through the memory of many great photographers - Diane Arbus, Cartier Bresson, Robert Frank, the first Richard Avedon, and William Klein to name a few. He has also traveled through Italy, in the streets and byways of youth, finding dramatic, enlightened faces in the theater of life.

His portrait of the religious procession is most beautiful, with a perfect, compact, composition, among astonished angels and those bearing a religious float against a sharp background of light.

John lives and works in Palermo, an outward antithesis of New York. An American born and raised in Italy, it is as an Italian that he grasps the vital spirit, the soul, and the humanity of people. His choice to live in a region like Sicily, so full of contradictions and archaic values, will surely help him in chronicling the history of change in our era.

Then, apart from making art, he will have absorbed it as his own - a part of his life that will recur in defining time, space, and the evolution of the human condition."

Antonia Mulas, Todi, May 5, 2012
 

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Wang Qingsong
China
1966
Born in Daqing, Heilongjiang Province, China 1966 1993: Oil Painting Department of Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts, Sichuan, China Lives and works in Beijing since 1993 Awards: 2006 Outreach Award from Rencontres de la Photographie, Arles, France Wang Qingsong graduated from the Oil Painting Department of the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts and currently lives and works in Beijing. After starting his career as an oil painter engaged in the Gaudi movement, he began taking highly staged photographs that explore the influence of Western consumer culture in China. In more recent works he has explored political and social themes including the struggles of the migrant population and Chinese diplomacy. His photographs are known for their massive scale, deep symbolism and careful staging, which can sometimes take several weeks and involve up to 300 extras. Although photography is his main medium, he has explored performance and video art in more recent years. Qingsong’s work has been presented at prestigious galleries, museums and art fairs across the globe including the 55th Venice Biennale China Pavillion (Venice), the International Centre of Photography (NY), the Hammer Museum (Los Angeles), the Victoria and Albert Museum (London), the 42nd Rencontres de la Photographie (Arles), the Daegu Art Museum (Seoul), MOCA (Taipei), the Rockbund Art Museum (Shanghai) and the Mori Art Museum (Tokyo). Wang Qingsong is a contemporary Chinese artist whose large-format photographs address the rapidly changing society of China. His photographs, appearing at first humorous and ironic, have a much deeper message. Critical of the proliferation of Western consumerism in China, his, Competition (2004), depicts the artist standing with a megaphone in front of a city hall covered in advertisements for brands such as Citibank, Starbucks, and Art Basel. "I think it is very meaningless if an artist only creates art for art's sake," he said. "I think it would be absurd for an artist to ignore what's going on in society." Born in 1966 in Heilongjiang Province, China, Wang studied at the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts. Although he was trained as a painter, Wang began taking photographs in the 1990s as a way to better document the tension of cultural shifts. The artist's works have been in exhibitions at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles and the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne. Wang currently lives and works in Beijing, China. Source: Artnet
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