Friday, 27 April 2012

Sony Awards

Rob Hornstra, one of the contributors to Foam Magazine's What's Next? issue, has won a Sony World Photography Award in the category of 'Arts and Culture'.

Simon Norfolk, who is also exhibiting at Foam in the exhibition, The New York Times Magazine Photographs, also won in the category 'People'.

You can read more about the awards on the World Photography Organisation's website.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Out of Focus: Photography

What's Next? experts Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin are showing work in the Out of Focus: Photography exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery, London. The show opens on 25 April and runs until 22 July.
Broomberg and Chanarin gave a presentation on their work last year during the What's Next? expert meeting at Foam.

Part One

Part Two

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

The London Festival of Photography

The London Festival of Photography is back for the second time with events and shows running throughout June 2012.

'The London Festival of Photography is an international photography festival dedicated to showcasing the best of contemporary and historic visual storytelling, encouraging dialogue about a wide variety of current social and political issues, and establishing a global platform for photographic practice and learning through a comprehensive programme of exhibitions and events.'

Read more about The London Festival of Photography.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Martin Asbaek Gallery

Martin Asbaek Gallery, Copenhagen talks to Foam about their participation in the international photography fair, Unseen, taking place in Amsterdam in September.

1.What defines Scandinavian photography compared with that from other parts of the world?

It's hard to say. I don't think that Danish photography has any special features. Danish photography is highly international. Which isn't so surprising since many of our photographers are educated at various schools abroad. These four artists that we will represent at UNSEEN, Astrid Kruse Jensen, Trine Søndergaard, Nicolai Howalt and Ebbe Stub Wittrup come from four different schools in Europe; Prague, The Netherlands, Scotland and from Fatamorgana - The Danish School of Art Photography in Copenhagen, Denmark. But the common feature of these four artists is an intense and precise aesthetic awareness. They work with thoroughly planned concepts and whole thematic series.

2.Can you give us a brief summary of the four artists you will present at Unseen?

Trine Søndergaard's (b. 1972) work ranges from documentary and diary sketches to conceptual photography. In recent years she has focused primarily on the landscape and portrait. Søndergaard is also working closely with the Danish artist Nicolai Howalt (b. 1970). They are known for the series How to Hunt, that describe the interplay of man, nature and animal. They are currently at work on a new common project that we will present at UNSEEN. Nicolai Howalt's work has documentary references, operating at the intersection of conceptual photography and installation.

The third artist Astrid Kruse Jensen explores in her work the borderland between the apparent and the hidden, between the real and imaginary

And finally the fourth Danish artist Ebbe Stub Wittrup, who has focused on the photographic medium since the end of the 1990s. His photographs, whether we look at his neorealistic snapshots or the more conceptually oriented photo series, display a mysteriousness that makes one think of a series of narrative parallel worlds.

They are in total four of the best and well established Danish photographers at the moment. They have all exhibited nationally and internationally at museums and galleries, and are all represented in several private as well as public collections.

3.There is limited space for each gallery at the fair so how will you choose which works get presented?

We are in that lucky situation that all the artists are currently working on new thematic series, so we have the chance to present four new projects for the photo fair. We work very closely with the artist when we select the works for the fairs. The artistic idiom of the group presentation at the upcoming fair will be as enigmatic and poetic as a Nordic landscape.  It will be a truly Scandinavian presentation where the artists investigate the ambivalent space between reality and imagination.

4.You have an art advisory firm as well as a gallery. What are your key tips for those wanting to collect photography?

MAG doesn't have an advisory firm. Asbæk Art Consulting is an independent company founded and managed by Thomas and Patricia Asbæk, Martin Asbæk's brother and mother. An Art Advisory firm works on other premises and has a completely different structure than the gallery business.

But if we asked them for some general advice I have no doubt they would say: 1. Buy with your heart and use your head. 2. See as much art as you can - it's ultimately all about looking, re-looking and then look again. 3. Don't be afraid to contact an art advisor.

The contemporary art market including photography (since there is no real distinction between the two) is very hard to predict. But an art advisor has the sensibility and experience to distinguishing between A-list pieces and B-list pieces and it will always be the A-listers that define an artist or a period in art. And then remember that good art is always a personal investment  - also in the future.

Julie Quottrup Silbermann
Gallery manager at Martin Asbæk Gallery

Friday, 20 April 2012

Joachim Schmid in Bergamo

On 23 April, What's Next? expert Joachim Schmid will be in conversation at the International Festival of Culture in Bergamo, Italy.

'In his conference Schmid will present a series of works created with photographers over the course of the last thirty years. He will also present the various ideas behind these works to the audience: in particular, the use of found photographs, the appropriation of materials created by other people and the re-use/recycling of images.'

In collaboration with the Contemporary Photography Museum of Cinisello.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Massoud Hossaini’s Pulitzer prize-winning photo

Tarana Akbari, 12, screams in fear moments after a suicide bomber detonated a bomb in a crowd at the Abul Fazel Shrine in Kabul on December 06, 2011 © Massoud Hossaini

It's best to talk about an image like Massoud Hossaini's Pulitzer prize-winning photo in purely formal terms. I've been staring at this picture for a while.  And I've tried to decide what it says about photojournalism, prizes and the war in Afghanistan. But the more I think about its usefulness in socio-political terms, the more dead-ends I reach. We are drowning in pictures trying to convey the horrors of war. There will never be one that succeeds, and this one fails just less than the others. So let's leave aside what the image does or does not do.  Instead Let's just look at what it is.

It is a photo deserving of its award. It won because it achieved the status of art, with the requisite art historical references bound up in the suffering.   It seems perverse, but you are reminded of so many other artworks by looking at this picture. The screaming nurse in 'Battleship Potemkin', Dell'Arca's 'Lamentation', Picasso's 'Guernica'.  But like these other greats, Hossaini's photograph is visually and emotionally powerful because it is not extremely explicit in its content. Yes, we see the dead and dying, but they could almost be sleeping. The ground is not littered with body parts, blood or other gruesomeness. The real impact comes from the girl at the centre of the composition who stands virtually unscathed amongst the carnage. She is picked out by her striking green dress in the same way that the torchlight picked out the small girl in Chris Hondros's equally haunting image from Iraq.

Is it devaluing the subject to talk about it in these distant terms? Somehow pretentious? I hope not. It is perhaps more out of touch these days to argue that single images like Hossaini's contain some kind of inherent power to change the course of events or influence popular opinion. His photograph, in fact, teaches us nothing more than we already know from seeing thousands of other images of suffering. Instead it does makes me believe Oscar Wilde's view that 'all art is quite useless'. Because it is the very fact that there is no reason for an image like this that makes it so valuable.

Jonathan Crawford

Monday, 16 April 2012

Onorato & Krebs in Moscow

The La Lettre de la Photographie blog introduces Onorato and Krebs's work, currently on show in the Moscow House of Photography. Foam Amsterdam will be hosting the Swiss duo in June with some of their other work.

'Swiss humor is hardly one of the country's most popular exports. But the artists Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs (both Swiss, despite their names) have made a breakthrough in Moscow. Russian visitors giggle as they pass by the duo's clever collages. Onorato and Krebs: the future of comedy? Their original plan was to travel to the United States, capture the American dream, and relive the emotions of their idols, the masters of American photography: Robert Frank, Stephen Shore, William Eggleston, William Christenberry, Robert Adams and Joel Sternfeld.'

Read the full La Lettre de la Photographie post.

Friday, 13 April 2012

In Pursuit of Light

Manchester Art Gallery © Karin Bareman

At first sight Roger Ballen's work seems rather perturbing and harrowing. Dirty, ugly, grimy characters populate his images as do animals, quite often vermin. Of the people we mostly see their hands, their feet, their limbs, their tongues, but rarely their faces. If we do, they tend to be ugly or deformed. His still lives are composed of clutter such as wires and coat hangers, and they are set against a backdrop of plastered walls, rough-spun cloth and graffiti. The pictures contain hard-cast shadows and strong contrasts. In Ballen's visual world, white seems white and black seems most definitely black. There appear to be no shades of grey, no quarter given, it all seems relentless and without remorse. But then you look again.

Ballen's photography is like a Tom Waits album. At first you do not know what to make of it. Should you bin it? Listen to it again? You give it another try, and just like with Tom Waits' songs, Ballen's pictures start to grow on you. You start wondering. What is the photographer actually trying to express with these pictures? Could it be that he is trying to shed some light into some really sad and forgotten corners of society? There is some of that in his early work. But especially the later series are a form of fiction, although the works contain enough traces of reality to perhaps hover on the fringes of documentary photography. After all, Ballen works with people he encounters during his explorations, they are not actors or models. The locations are real, and so are the props, and Ballen finds all of them at the utter fringes of society. The images then become miniature dramas about the human condition.

Manchester Art Gallery © Karin Bareman

The exhibition Shadow Land: Photographs 1983-2011 at the Manchester Art Gallery is well produced. It contains no frivolous or unnecessary additions, but is simply and spaciously presented on light and dark grey walls and in a straight line. The works are divided in the projects Ballen has pursued up until now. This includes the early series Dorps and Platteland, dealing with the poor rural white population of South Africa. The exhibition continues with Outland and Shadow Chamber to his most recent work Boarding House and Asylum, where the focus has shifted to the South African urban poor of all backgrounds. The projects are presented chronologically. Ample text is provided with each project, giving sufficient background information to situate the works both socially and culturally as well as artistically.

The exhibition shows excellently that Ballen's development as a photographer is gradual and very subtle. After all, he hit upon his trademark style very early on in his career. Once he stepped inside people's living quarters, he decided not to leave them ever again. Since then he has refined his style and pushed the boundaries as far as he could. He has moved in closer and closer to his subject, be they people, animals, things or a combination of all three. The discerning observer finds a lot of humour in his works, a subtle irony and absurdity, a gentle playfulness. He sets the stage with the people and props at hand, and then waits patiently for that very particular decisive moment, when someone pulls a funny face or an animal suddenly sprints across the floor. A good exhibition by a fascinating photographer.

Roger Ballen features in The New York Times Photographs exhibition.

Karin Bareman

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Hamid Sallali Interview

Hamid Salalli © Foam

Hamid Sallali has been a designer for Foam Magazine since 2007. In this interview for Foam Blog, he tells us about the process of art directing the Talent issue.

What is the most important thing to consider when putting together an issue of Foam Magazine?

That would be the flow. The central focus of the magazine are the 8 portfolios that are being selected according to a certain theme. In the research process we try to interpret the theme in the broadest way possible in order to come to a dynamic selection and order of portfolios. What comes first and what comes last? Everything in between dictates the flow of the magazine. It's like a book basically, kind of a visual storyline based on a theme.

How does the Talent issue differ from the 'regular' issues?

Regular issues are theme based, have 8 sixteen-page portfolios, no age limit and could contain historical work. Talent issue have 15 portfolios (8 and 16 pages) and are not theme based in that the subject of the actual work does not refer to 'talent' but to the quality of the work itself. The Talent issue is a once-a-year platform for exceptional photography within a particular age range.

Hamid Salalli © Foam

What is your role in the Foam Talent Call?

My role in the Talent Call is the same as every other Foam Magazine issue: directing the design of portfolios, theme typography and the layout of all the text parts, together as one solid product. The only difference with regular issues is the portfolio selection that has to be done before any of this starts. Last year there were about 800 submissions and the year before that over 900! You're free to go through all submissions, which most of us do since it's fun and this way you don't miss out on good work. I mostly do it in my spare time so I can focus. It's an honour.

When selecting portfolios for the Talent issues, what are the main things you are looking for?

Like with regular issues the flow of the magazine is important, so we look for a wide range of fresh and exceptional photography. Not only to create a strong and balanced issue but also to reflect what has been sent in. It's kind of funny to see certain 'trends' each year. For instance 2 years ago, I remember there was a lot of dark, gloomy photography. However, some things we keep in the back of our minds while selecting are the kind of photography (from documentary to fashion and experimental work), the origin (we try to select from each continent), the subject of the work and of course the aesthetic quality.

How does the judging process work?

It's a good thing each one of us editorial members (5) have a different taste in photography so we browse through the submissions differently, but nonetheless, taste does not stand in the way. Our common interest is in exceptional photography. It's interesting to see how we sometimes end up with the same works in our long list. We all start with a personal long list of 20 photographers and narrow that down to a joined long list of 50. Last year there were a lot of talents on our long list that didn't make it to the magazine since we already had a strong selection of 15. We mentioned some of them in the introduction text of the magazine. This year however, there are plans to exhibit a selection of the long list outside of the magazine which I think is great, an extra platform to present even more Talent.

Is there an issue of Foam Magazine that has been  your favourite to work on?

The Talent issues are great fun to work on, mainly because of the enormous amount of different work you get to browse through. Normally there's a lot of research being done to find exceptional work that fits a theme. With Talent that part is already done: it's the big pool of submissions. So it's a matter of selecting and arranging portfolios. a pretty intense but satisfying job.

My favourite Foam Magazine issue is #14, Meanwhile. It was my second issue as graphic designer, so I got the hang of it. Apart from that, I am really fascinated by the theme and the selected work. It has a lot of similarities with #19, Wonder, also one of my favourites. I love wondrous, timeless photography. It's like the opposite of journalistic work. I love being amazed by things you normally wouldn't pay attention to. That's what both issues are about.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Mikhailov vs. Sander

The DLK Collection blog reviews the August Sander/Boris Mikhailov exhibition at Pace McGill in New York. August Sander is one of the artists in Foam Editions and Boris Mikhailov features in the latest issue of Foam Magazine.

'A total of 23 black and white and color photographs, hung against grey walls in the main rooms of the gallery. All of the works by August Sander (11 prints in total) are gelatin silver prints hinged to board, framed in blond wood, and taken between 1924 and 1943. Each image is sized roughly 10x7, in an edition of 12. All of the works by Boris Mikhailov (12 prints in total) are archival pigment prints mounted to Sintra, framed in white, and taken in 2008.'

Read the full DLK Collection post.

Talent Call - Entry Conditions

There has been a lot of discussion surrounding the age requirements for entering The Foam Talent Call. If you are one of the photographers who falls outside the age range, please do not feel excluded. You can still submit your portfolio for consideration for Foam Magazine.  Age has nothing to do with the portfolios featured in three out of four issues. These are selected purely for their photographic, artistic, or documentary quality.

Olivia Bee is a perfect example. She started her projects at a very young age, so young in fact that she could not apply to the Talent Call. Nevertheless, we featured her fantastic work in Magazine issue #26 because she is an outstanding photographer. As are all the 174 photographers featured in Foam Magazine since its birth.

The age limits set for the Talent Call have been created in order to focus once a year on a particular segment of photographers. This is for the simple reason that we are curious about how this generation of people look at the world and express themselves with a camera.

If you don't fit into the Talent Call's age range, don't be put off. We'll still be very pleased to review your work. Our submission guidelines are on the website, all you have to do is send us a PDF or a link to your images and a written statement. We'll try to get back to you within a reasonable amount of time, however bear in mind that we receive a large number of submissions every week.

The entry fee to the competition has also been discussed at length. Because Foam Magazine is non-profit, the €35 that we ask to enter The Foam Talent Call goes 100% towards producing future issues. We have a small, dedicated team that is passionate about photography and they devote a great deal of time into sourcing not just great work, but also the best way to present it. The proceeds from the Talent Call are used to pay for the best papers, the highest quality printing techniques, exceptional writers and creative designers. This income is also being invested in a planned iPad app so we can serve our readers even better in the future. Without the financial support of initiatives like The Foam Talent Call we couldn't continue to deliver this publication that we care so much about.

Hopefully, this goes some way to explaining the conditions that are attached to The Foam Talent Call. So whether you are eligible for our competition or not, there is still every chance that your portfolio could feature in one of the next issues of Foam Magazine. We look forward to seeing your work.

Elisa Medde

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Rob Philip on Bertien van Manen

Vlada in the kitchen Kazan 1992 C Bertien van Manen

When I visited the beautiful exhibition of Bertien van Manen I was struck again by the way she connects to often complete strangers and showed me their everyday life in an extraordinary way. I'm totally envious in the way she is capable of seeing those special moments. When I was a student I tried to photograph the way she does, but I didn't see what she saw and my photos were a mere homeopathic abstract of the genre. I clearly remember seeing her work in Naarden in 1994. Her book 'A hundred summers, a hundred winters' was displayed on the counter of the venue, but I was a poor student and didn't buy it, something I regret to this day...

Even then her work was very popular among my fellow students and my guess is that now it is the same among the current students. I will have to check that, but until then I will give a few pointers of why I think that is the case. Please feel free to comment on my blunt prejudices!

It's freedom

I mean, who doesn't want to travel the world with a small camera, light as a feather and have many sleep-overs in various interesting places and just take pictures!? The romantic notion of travelling and freedom is also very visible in her work, where you see beautiful long, golden sunlight combined with the sharp, short flash of her Olympus mju. It doesn't look like hard work at all! And students like that very much. I don't mean that they don't want to work hard, but it has to look like it's very easily done. That, of course, is a hard lesson to learn: how to photograph in such a way that it looks easy, but is still carefully and, sometimes, hard work?

It's analogue

The whole 'analogue reborn' thing is vibrantly present in the photos of Bertien and I know several students that will find that very appealing. Today it distinguishes the 'everyday digital' photographer from the 'really in to it' photographer. For short: they think it makes them a professional. It's not Instagram baby, it's the real thing!

It's people

I think this is far more important than the two pointers above: the work expresses an authentic and sincere way to connect with people. No Facebook, no Skype or other virtual, long distance way of connecting, but real, in your face. I think that is the ultimate value of what the images show us. And I think what students (and of course every human being) are craving today is exactly that: a way of connecting with other human beings in such a way that language, borders and beliefs are no longer a restriction. That you can share knowledge, joy, beauty and grief in such a way that you can catch it in a single image. We are all the same, all over the world. And who doesn't want that?

Robert Philip is a photographer and course leader at the Utrecht School of the Arts.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Talent at Unseen

The deadline for the Foam Talent Call 2012 is fast approaching. After 16 April, the judging panel will close the doors and start deliberating on a final selection of the best Talents of this year.

But some of you still might be umming and aahing about whether to enter at all. Well, if you still need some kind of incentive, how about this? The work of the fifteen artists who make the cut will feature not only in the Fall issue of Foam Magazine, but also in an exclusive Talent exhibition in Amsterdam's Westerpark. If we get our way, the work will go on billboards around the park.
Very nice, you might say (and you'd be right). But what if we said that both the exhibition and the launch of the magazine all happen at the same time and in the same place as Amsterdam's first international photography fair, Unseen? That's pricked up your ears, with any luck.

In September this year, 50 international galleries, and no doubt some serious collectors, will be falling over each other to find out what's hot in photography. That's quite a good time to make an appearance on the scene. So, unless you're in the habit of looking a gift horse in the mouth, make sure you get your entry into the Talent Call 2012 by 16 April. It's a great opportunity to get maximum exposure for your work. So don't be undiscovered, be Unseen.

Good luck!

Monday, 2 April 2012

Hellen van Meene

Hellen van Meene talks with Kathy Ryan, Marcel Feil and Erwin Olaf about the perils of photographing celebrities for The New York Times Magazine.