Andre D. Wagner Interview: New York Portraits That Give Face to Connection

Andre D. Wagner

A city can be hard to love. At times it may even seem maddeningly distant. As the sights go by, some streets will melt into others, as faces do in a crowd. Love spread too thin barely loves at all. When hoping to confront this largeness of presence, an artist often hunts for the stories and lives that form a city’s spirit, the material that shapes its core.

Andre D. Wagner, a portrait and street photographer based in New York, is one such artist. Eschewing a panoramic view of New York, one that collapses its dizzying heights into a plane of frenetic movement, Wagner instead looks for the sparks of feeling tucked within a gaze. He looks for moments that sing above the rush.

While he doesn’t consider himself creative, saying that the photographs he captures are “far more creative than I ever could be,” he has an undeniable eye for foreseeing where life will pop up. And that foresight, the anticipating of what will be before it’s there, requires him to go near and observe up close. He creates, preferably in film, his own special prints of the world, giving face to all that has moved him.

Wagner’s first solo exhibition, open to July 5th, is on view at the Papillion, Los Angeles. I spoke to Andre over email about his work.

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Guy Martin Interview: Turkey’s Popular Soap Operas Seen Through the Eyes of A Photojournalist

Guy Martin

“A prisoner exchange, outskirts of Istanbul”—reads one photo’s caption. “A man approaches a murder scene,” says another. “Murder of the mistress.” If you suspect that these captions seem inspired by the plots of a crime novel or a soap opera, you’re not mistaken. They are. Many of the photographs found in City of Dreams, Guy Martin’s Emergency Fund–awarded project, were taken on the sets of Turkish soap operas.

And although a soap opera—with its ever effusive acting, outlandish drama, and tantalizing resolutions—might seem as antithetical a visual medium to photojournalism as can be imagined, what Martin found was that in one sense the two worlds weren’t really that much different. In both worlds, when the camera’s on, life takes its stage and performs.

The late photojournalist Tim Hetherington coined the term “feedback loop” to illustrate a self-perpetuating relationship between those who fight in a conflict and those who capture images of them. He suggested that the movies, television, and photography that people ingest might influence not only their appearance but also their actions on a battlefield. “It’s the fact that there could be a revolution fought by young university students, teachers, and normal working people when they have had no training or knowledge of battlefield tactics or military planning,” says Martin about the feedback loop. “How are you supposed to dress, behave, act, or be a soldier? Where does that knowledge come from?”

Martin was with Tim Hetherington and fellow photojournalist Chris Hondros when they were hit, in Misrata, Libya, by a rocket-propelled grenade. Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros were killed. Martin suffered a severe pelvic wound and underwent surgery at a triage center held by rebels. City of Dreams was his first project after taking a year off shooting. “I felt that there was something that I wanted to say, on a very basic level, that dealt with the way we (as western, foreign photographers) were documenting the region” he says. “I wanted to talk about notions of power and how countries exercise power . . . and as weird as it might sound—Turkish TV was one of those tools.”

I spoke to Guy Martin over email about his thoughts on photography and City of Dreams.

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Karen Miranda Rivadeneira Interview: Does Photography Preserve the Past or Give It Form?

Karen Miranda Rivadeneira

How much of your life has already been forgotten? Which moments would you have remembered instead? Questions of this sort, ones about memory, sparked the Ecuadorian photographer Karen Miranda Rivadeneira to start Other Stories, a project that pulls together her attempts at recreating memories of her childhood, ones that she considers “inaccessible” to her conscious mind or ones already ransacked by the years of time.

Each photograph has a line of words written into its bottom edge. These words give hints of the memory, or invention of one, that has been ciphered within. There’s a pliancy in memory. And Rivadeneira, questioning what it means to remember, stages and directs her family to help her recreate events that might have happened, if only because they’ve happened before (to her family, to others), but may have not actually happened, or happened only theoretically. “Other Stories is, if anything, the antithesis of childhood memories,” she says. Unadorned and softened in natural light, the photos exercise a mental juggling of her past. What’s remembered may only be a clever summary—and a photograph, the dress rehearsal of that remembering.

I spoke to Rivadeneira over email about Other Stories and her ideas on photography.

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Santiago Forero Interview: What Does It Mean to Shoot in the Wrong Way?

Santiago Forero

Of all Santiago Forero’s playfully mischievous photographs, only one can be said to have gone viral, having appeared, in 2013, on a much-shared Buzzfeed article that grouped together classic works of Western art re-imagined to include people of color. Forero’s contribution was a staging of Grant Wood’s masterwork, “American Gothic,” which he shot with a Latino couple (shown above).

The Colombian photographer didn’t suspect that a photograph in his series Mexican-American Gothic would go viral. “I thought that they were just going to be hung in [my boss’s] office,” he says. But the photograph’s popularity wasn’t a surprise either. Forero has spent a career making work that probes into the cosmopolitan landscape of photography, upending styles and perspectives that attach themselves to what’s most popular now. He prefers a slight swerve in “the wrong way.” And he just as well dishes out upright irony as he plays with sly humor.

I spoke to Forero over email about his thoughts on photography and his work.

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Marianna Rothen Interview: Photos that Look Right at Home in 70s Art Cinema

Marianna-Rothen-Desertofjune-8

At the heart of every photograph is a dilemma of conscience. From the very first to the last, each artistic choice that you make is another step farther from what’s in front of the camera and one step closer to you. Imagine if all the photos in your phone were projected at your wake one by one. Which story would this private series of photos tell? A story describing the world? Or one describing you?

Plump with retro-tinged colors and burnished with big wigs, big drama, and even bigger design, the photos in Marianna Rothen’s most recent projects use as many folds of narrative as it takes to step outside a one-off reading. Trusting your impulse to tease out meaning from an assemblage of symbols, she offers a chance to not simply look at the women, who are shot in various states of distress or liberation, but to understand their story. It’s in the fiction, the series of artistic choices that pull reality from artifice, that Rothen shows you where to look. “My approach is to create something that’s original and truthful,” she says. “If something is not labeled, it forces people to look at it innocently.”

I spoke to Rothen over email about her photobook Snow Rose and Other Tales and her approach to photography.

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Elena Perlino Interview: Incisive Portraits of the World’s Dark Economy

Elena Perlino

Each year, according to the I.L.O., nearly 21 million women, men, and children are trapped into an economy of forced labor. These victims of coercion — whether facing overt physical threats or subtle manipulations of illiteracy and debt — provide $150 billion to the world’s economy. About half of the victims are migrants. And an estimated $99 billion, from the $150 billion total, is the result of sexual exploitation, or prostitution.

Starting in 2005, for her project Pipeline, Elena Perlino, who was awarded a Magnum Emergency Fund this year, has been documenting the lives of women trafficked into Italy, one of the world’s main destinations for sexual exploitation. The photos in Pipeline capture, with sharp clarity, the bearing of deep privation, while also recording evidence of bonding, endurance, and self that rises through the catastrophe of human slavery.

In this interview, Perlino talks about the human trafficking in Italy, her project Pipeline, and one of my favorite series of hers Sea of Light.

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Emine Gozde Sevim Interview: Cinematic Portraits of the Middle East’s Protests

Emine Sevim

Emine Gozde Sevim is one of eleven photographers who were awarded this year’s Emergency Fund from Magnum. Given to projects that Magnum considers in need of critical attention and support, the grant helps experienced photographers continue work on documenting social issues. Sevim received the grant for her on-going project Homeland Delirium, a project that started in 2013 during the Gezi protests in Istanbul.

Sevim shoots in what she calls an impressionistic style — merging cinematic aesthetics with documentarian subjects. Her projects are as much about her thoughts and feelings as they are about the people and conflicts she’s photographing. I spoke to Sevim over email about Homeland Delirium and her first photobook, Embed in Egypt, that will be published this summer by Kehrer Verlag.

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Pierre Gonnord Interview: Old Master Styled Portraits of Southern Portugal’s Gypsies

© Pierre Gonnord, Anibal 1, 2014. Courtesy of the Artist and Hasted Kraeutler, NYC.

© Pierre Gonnord, Anibal 1, 2014. Courtesy of the Artist and Hasted Kraeutler, NYC.

Pierre Gonnord’s The Dream Goes Over Time, his latest exhibition at Hasted Kraeutler, takes its name from a line written by the poet Federico García Lorca. Much like Lorca, who was drawn to writing about people living outside a modernizing world, Gonnord photographs the people who live in the Alentejo region of Portugal, a region that has been outside modernizing influences for generations.

In respect for the culture he finds, the French photographer avoids exoticizing. The Old Master styled portraits are done only after an involved time spent traveling and living with those he intends to photograph. “Our loneliness is a beautiful thing to share,” he says. “The portrait is the story of an encounter before it is the process of creation.” The Dream Goes Over Time will be on view until April 25th at the Hasted Kraeutler art gallery in New York.

© Pierre Gonnord, Maximiliana, 2014. Courtesy of the Artist and Hasted Kraeutler, NYC.

© Pierre Gonnord, Maximiliana, 2014. Courtesy of the Artist and Hasted Kraeutler, NYC.

I’d like to start with a quote that popped into my head while looking through your work. It’s from Roberto Bolaño’s short story Dentist:

“That’s what art is, he said, the story of a life in all its particularity. It’s the only thing that really is particular and personal. It’s the expression and, at the same time, the fabric of the particular. And what do you mean by the fabric of the particular? I asked, supposing he would answer: Art. I was also thinking, indulgently, that we were pretty drunk already and that it was time to go home. But my friend said: What I mean is the secret story . . . The secret story is the one we’ll never know, although we’re living it from day to day, thinking we’re alive, thinking we’ve got it all under control and the stuff we overlook doesn’t matter. But every damn thing matters! It’s just that we don’t realize. We tell ourselves that art runs on one track and life, our lives, on another, we don’t even realize that’s a lie.”

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Marc Yankus Interview: Seeing Beauty in New York’s Old, Forgotten Buildings

Marc Yankus

The Space Between, Marc Yankus’ most recent project exhibited at ClampArt, started one day after Yankus had returned from photographing the Goldman Sachs building in Manhattan. “When I got back to my studio and opened the image on my computer I noticed that I could see every single detail of the building,” Yankus told me about the moment. “I found it fascinating.” In keeping with that initial fascination, Yankus shot the photos for this project, unlike much of his previous work, with a precise, hyper-real focus.

He also digitally altered the light and reality of many sites he found. In some photos, buildings have been erased or faded, while many feature a textured, sandpaper-like background. City life is often removed and reality softened. Yankus considers his images as attempts to rebuild New York. He revives the beauty of overlooked or forgotten materials — sees in concrete, brick, and city light traces of past wonders. I spoke to Yankus over email about New York City and The Space Between.

Yankus’ work is represented by the gallery ClampArt in New York City.

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(NSFW) Bang Rang Interview: Naked Bodies Like Poems, the Dark Erotica of Sanghyeok

Bang Sanghyeok

I know nearly nothing about South Korea’s Bang Sanghyeok. Aside from finding one prominent feature on Juxtapoz, I couldn’t find much else. I do know that the South Korean photographer also goes by Bang Rang. Other than that, I can’t say much about him. Still, even in its obscurity, his photography isn’t hard to notice.

It’s dark. It’s messy. It’s dramatic. Unlike a photo you might see in Playboy, his photos don’t obliterate the organ of volition or soul from nakedness. He finds the absolute zero of it: the wonder of baring who you are. As a result, the women he photographs are incandescent and vulnerable, their stares burning through the photos. In their stark blacks and whites, he’s captured a brutal spirit of stripping away pretense.

In this interview, Sanghyeok talks about porn, nudity, and his photography.

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