InselWesen by Mila Teshaieva

In 2013, the superb book « Promising waters » took us around the Caspian Sea to discover new post-Soviet states located around this inland sea. The new work of Mila Teshaieva reverse, this time, the proposal to make us discover an island and its inhabitants. Result of a two-year residency at the Museum Kunst der Westküste on the German island of Föhr in the North Sea, with this new series, Mila tries to understand what gathers and unites the people in their insularity (the title of the book is literally « being insular »).

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It is never easy to arrive as a foreigner on an island, to enter a community without having acquired the codes. Thus you should take your time, give pledges to be accepted, and clearly, Mila has earned the trust of the islanders. She met locals and began his photographic work. A text, written by Marcus Lenz, in the book sums up this way to depict a territory : « The darkness sharpens your senses, suddenly you can hear the tiny sounds and you know where they’re coming from. You can see at night ». This is how we enter this world, Mila chose to literally paint with light his subjects. The photographs are made at night, they are very dark and we have to pay attention to explore the scene with characters and objects that are, in the darkness, revealed by a light brush. The photographic time is long, the image stretches and we are transported back in time. The characters are frozen, beyond all eternity, each focused on its task as if generations mingled to tell us the island. At no time we will cross a look and if sometimes it seems that one of them stare at us, his gaze pierces us and is already far behind us.

The choice of costumes and the use of light transform those images into paintings, particularly due to the effects of light and shade as found in Caravaggio or in some Flemish painters, but the reference to the painting also appears in a sense of déjà vu, like in Cezanne Card Players or Women at their toilette by Picasso, a sort of revisiting the history of painting ! Representation is clever, there is no need to show everything to say things. On the contrary, to represent is already taking sides, choosing what will be seen and deleting what is of no interest, putting in light, to finally understand what unites these men and women, to reach this timeless dimension, which, from universal becomes singular on this island and wwhich were the fundamentals of the community. A dimension that appears only to the one who will take the time, who will remain silent in the middle of the night to watch every gesture, every movement, to listen to every sound. The characters are revealed and nature comes to life, we discover the ancestral activities that were hunting and fishing, seasons, events, everything that was specific to the island despite the development of a seaside tourism resort in the early XIXth century. Any modernity is erased, as if the light only reveals that what lasts.

We leave this book as an imaginary world. We do not know if the story told was real or if we were asleep, just for a moment, while our imagination wandered. It remains however a few pictures, slightly unclear, of these bodies and objects that can be seen in the dark, and the feeling of coming back from a long journey in time.

The only frustration that remains at the end of this book is the desire to see the photographs in a larger size and high print quality. As for paintings, after seeing the book, we would like to see the work for real, to appreciate all the details and finesse. Of course, the offset process has difficulty to render the subtleties of lighting used.

Hardcover book published in 2016 by Kehrer Verlag, 23 x 21 cm, 96 pages, 38 color photos, texts in German and English by Marcus Lenz.

More info : http://www.milateshaieva.com/books

And : http://www.artbooksheidelberg.de/html/en/program/detail.html?ID=1027

A previous review of Mila Teshaieva’s Promising Waters : https://whoneedsanotherphotoblog.wordpress.com/2014/09/20/promising-waters-by-mila-teshaieva/

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David’s House, by Alex Ingram

St Davids is a small village, at the end of the world (1841 inhabitants) where Alex spent a part of his childhood. Well, in fact, St Davids is a city ! I remember years ago, talking to an English friend about what is the difference between a city and a town, and he told me a city is a place with a cathedral. So St Davids is the smallest city of the United Kingdom, located at the westernmost point of the Pembrokeshire in Wales. The place takes its name from the settlement around the monastery that David, Saint Patron of Wales founded in the VIth century. The Welsh name « Tyddewi » means literraly David’s house, which is the title of the book.

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As often, the places in recluse areas are like islands, and the people who live there form an united community surrounded by a strong landscape, mainly of rocky coasts facing the sea. The landscape is both a constituent element and a unifying element. The landscape and the people become one. The community consists of a delicate mix between a landscape that shapes men and men who shape the landscape. There are however no struggle here, but rather a sort of ballet, a dance of seduction, a common love between Man and Nature.

As a native from this city, Alex returned to his hometown to meet the locals. A neighbour, Dai Turner, was the starting point of this work : a desire to go to meet the people and to better understand them. During a slow work, we go side by side with Alex. We stop for a chat with someone we met, a proud man standing in his workshop, his tools on a wall, talking about his former life as a coxswain on a lifeboat, and who can, now, spend hours looking out at the sea ; or a retired farmer explaining his first date with the girl who’s gonna become his wife, on a boat to collect seagull’s eggs ! Both the portraits and the texts are touching and full of empathy. The portraits are very successful, and the texts provide some « extra time ». They are a complement which creates a synergistic effect. The quality of Alex as portraitist makes them beautiful, but mostly manages to make us understand that community. Photographed in situation, we perceive a link, something intangible that makes them part of a whole. All generations mingled, from older, settled on the land for generations, to younger, who have recently moved and have chosen this place by love. All of them stand proudly and look straight at us and say: yes, we are here and nothing will make us leave this city.

And between these portraits, we traverse the moor, we walk through the countryside, we follow a stream … and always come back to the sea. It must be said that three quarters of the area are made of rocky coasts. Life here is punctuated by the tides. We leave the Cathedral and we go to the fields, pass by a housing estate, we see an old abandoned caravan, toilets close to mobile-homes, farms… There is no doubt that this work is a representation « from the inside », which is offered by someone initiated to roads and detours. Again, the texts come back to mind, they form a kind of soundtrack that accompanies our walk and then, some words become evident : how could it be otherwise ?

The main economy of the town is tourism, but we do not perceive tourists, neither the area around the cathedral or some souvenirs shops. St Davids, as presented to us here, is the one those tourists who spend breezed along the beautiful coast of Pembrokeshire, will probably never see. They will not take the time necessary to understand this place. They will never see the bulb on a ceiling, or green beans freshly picked from the garden beside a cup of tea. Neither they will see all the villagers gathered in the village city ballroom around a mulled wine and the Welsh flag proudly hanged on the wall. Then the night finally falls on St Davids when silence settles. We perceive a light behind the blinds of a house, we look at the starry sky above the village and the sea remains in mind, as it all began and where it ends, as a final tribute to the missing at sea, common tragedies for such territories.

I might as well continue, talking about each image, listening to these stories, but the best is to preserve a little mystery. You will need to take the time to discover Tyddewi ; and with Alex Ingram as a guide, we can feel we have all grown up here!

Limited Edition Hardback (edition of 20) + 10″x8″ archival print, handmade , 21,5 X 28,5 cm , 114 pages, 55 colour images and paperback edition of 50, perfect bound.

« David’s House » has been shortlisted for the South West Graduate Photography Prize! The project will be exhibited alongside 6 other photographers at the Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane between 13th-16th October, with the opening night on Thursday 13th October, followed by further exhibitions in Bristol and Falmouth.

More info : http://www.alexingramphoto.com/

Another book by Alex Ingram previously reviewed : https://whoneedsanotherphotoblog.wordpress.com/2015/05/09/the-sociology-of-football-an-unconditional-love-by-alex-ingram-and-fc-volga-united-by-sergey-novikov/

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More cars, clothes and cabbages, by Torsten Schumann

Torsten Schumann is a German photographer, born in 1975 in Dresden. Thus, until the age of 14, he grew up in German Democratic Republic. It has been said a lot about the communist bloc countries, but I have absolutely no idea what it could have represented to live in one of these countries. However I think that having experienced the transition of the unification of Germany leads to a very personal way of looking at the world. He started photography in the 90s, following various courses and began exploring public space, mainly in Germany.

Torsten could be considered a humorist, which is the sense of the foreword written by Hannes Wanderer, who published the book through his excellent publishing house Peperoni Books. Torsten likes to play with reality. He walks through the city, like everyone else, but it seems not to see the same things. He’s the kind of guy who, when you point your finger to show him something, turns his head to look at the other side. Nothing is more boring for him than the obvious!

This way of looking at the world transports us into a fantasy world. I can not help but think of Lewis Carroll’s Alice, in which Torsten would be the mysterious rabbit that we want to follow and let it guide us in this mysterious world that is behind the scenes. It is a story passer, a revealer of the world. He allows us to understand what hitherto remained mysterious to us, what we do not see because of lack of understanding. We look at the world with distance, as spectators behind the mirror, and thus we discover the « behind the scenes » of these public spaces we travel regularly without paying attention.

There is a kind of minimalism of the ordinary in the photographs in the book. And yet the compositions are very sophisticated. One wonders how the photographer have gotten there, and what patience it took him to capture these moments. The colors are right, framing affirmed. Everything or everyone finds his place. Obviously, this work questions once again the relationship between beauty in representation and beauty in life. The subjects of the photographs are not beautiful, far from it. This is an apology of nooks, waste, poorly finished bricolages, all the little abandoned places that bother us, that « spoil us the view », to turn them into paintings with precise compositions that we think just coming out of the workshop of a painter who would patiently reconstructed the scene from still moments. The captured characters are timeless, frozen for eternity in this pose somewhat ungainly and clumsy, but that makes them so endearing.

Torsten is a precise colorist who manipulates color values subtly, from a shimmer of bright colors to images of such neutral gray that you would think they’re black and white (one of my favorite is the one of a lower part of a building and garage with a bent woman who melts into the gray values of the building). And of course, he also cleverly uses the light that comes to saturate a detail or reveal the transparency of a shadow. Each photograph is so « rich » that it takes time to read and reread this book. With each reading, we discover a detail that we had not noticed before. We have to take the time to fully understand this representation of the world.

Really, this little facetious rabbit still holds some surprises!

Published by Peperoni Books in 2016. Beautiful pearl effect hardcover book, 24 x 28 cm, 96 pages, 55 color photographs.

More info : http://torstenschumann.de/

And the publisher’s site : http://peperoni-books.de/cars_clothes_cabbages_en.html