MANU DE CALUWE
Manu’s website presents a quote by Dziga Vertov – “I am a mechanical eye. I, a machine, am showing you a world, the likes of which only I can see”. It’s not one I had heard before, but a wonderful reference point for photographers – a mission statement to show an audience what they haven’t seen before, be it new subject matter, or old subject matter in a refreshing way.
It’s also a brilliant descriptor for this image from his series “Tribe Done Gone” – a strange and striking composition of Indian children of many indigenous tribes sat on stadium bleachers. The negative space of the flat sky and muted earth, contrasted with the strip of visual information is arresting. We define civilization by our tribes, and this is one such representation.
Kirstin describes her ongoing series shot in Cuba ‘El Mundo Por Adelante (The World Ahead)’. This particular image struck us with the elegance of her technique – it’s an assured, technical portrait – and the haunting subject, dressed in bright white against the flotsam and jetsam of our throw-away culture, and the distant glow of city lights. He stands on the fringes of the city, and perhaps that’s a metaphor for the man himself, and for everything that we harbour behind our exteriors. I think of youth and the world they have inherited – the messy, confusing and lonely place it can be. It’s a gorgeous, meditative image.
Alessandro’s image is perhaps not the most original response to the theme – urban ruin and decay was a common thread in the entries received – but it is no less striking because of it. We see a sea of building rubble and debris, with modern structures rising out of the ground behind, and a lone figure surveying the destruction, his posture thoughtful and reflective. What has caused such annihilation we can only speculate – a natural disaster, or a controlled demolition in the pursuit of human progress? Pondering this kind of question is what makes an image like this so powerful.
MANFRED DAAMS AND METTE HANSEN
Manfred and Mette’s image is a complex digital montage, composed from their own photographs and stock images. There is therefore something intriguing in both the process and the result – an image that has a romantic and painterly quality – not a painting, nor a photograph, but something in between.
It’s a beautiful, gentle composition and an ode to simple civilization away from the industrialised world; the colours and textures have been carefully chosen as an antithesis to fast-paced urban life, and it questions our relationship with nature, and how many of us increasingly idealise such a modest existence. They note ‘marketing influencing our view of nature’ in their statement, and there is certainly something of that here – a flawless, ‘too good to be true’ utopia? I can’t help but think of Adam and Eve, and it makes me wonder what other symbolism this image might be imbued with.
This image pops with an energy and controlled chaos. Light trails are perhaps an obvious trope in images of urban life, but here they play nicely against the mess of overhead power lines higher in the frame to describe the pace of our modern civilization – the unrelenting movement of people, objects and information. It’s a technique that Bivas uses in much of his work, focusing on the velocity of modern life in India, and here it is employed to great effect, the dawn-time light carefully selected to bring color and clarity to the frame.
What’s interesting in this image is the decaying mansion how as a symbol of past wealth, and the single figure bent near the pavement wall, presumably rummaging through litter. He is almost lost in the scene, which elegantly describes the layers of urban life: for every advancement and increase in pace, and for every display of wealth and power, there are invariably those who are left behind.
Ingvar’s portrait of Per and his dog Tinker shows a man on the fringes of civilization – a non-conformist and true individual who has chosen to shun the prescribed American domestic life. It’s a masterful portrait, elegantly framed and with the setting sun casting a gorgeous golden light across the subjects. I would love to know where the adventure goes next.
Edoardo’s image immediately caught our attention – a dynamic abstraction of the urban environment, with well-controlled blur and gorgeous, painterly tones. It speaks of our cities scaling higher and higher, proliferating at an ever-faster rate; the dark, muted colors and distortion describing an anxiety apparent in an urban world too big for any one individual to comprehend. It’s highly evocative – a dystopian and haunting representation of the urban environment, but one that any city-dweller can relate to.
Tim’s image is wry and amusing – his tongue presumably firmly in cheek as he captures these Chinese couples posing flamboyantly against the replica western church in ‘Thames Town’, a development in China’s Songjiang district modelled on British Market towns. There is certainly something of Martin Parr’s observational humour in this image, and it’s undoubtedly indebted to his iconic book ‘Small World’, but regardless it’s a strong frame and speaks to the theme – to how western culture transcends the globe, to the importance or otherwise of authenticity, and how some of the context can get a little lost in translation.
This minimal composition of an arctic settlement makes me think of our doggedness in striving to explore to the edges of the earth. It’s a very simple frame, and one that perhaps doesn’t play by the usual rules of composition, but it works well – the clean black contrasting against the bleached white, naked environment, and not a single figure in view. Catherine photographs a place that no life truly inhabits – you can almost feel the formidable silence.
PAUL WENHAM CLARKE
Paul shows us the layers of urban construction – this small home dwarfed by the menacing concrete overpass and tower blocks rising at back of frame. It might be described as a bleak scene, were it not for the three children finding fun and adventure in their environment. It’s a strange and perplexing civilization that they will inherit, but they’re making it their own.