The Producer’s picks for this week’s news relevant to the photography, art, design and production industries:
1) Is There Such Thing as an Activist Photographer?
The idea of the photographer as activist is an appealing one. It means that photographs really matter, that they can lead to changes in representation, attitudes and policy. Labelling photography as activism elevates the camera from being a functional tool in the service of a publisher to something altogether higher. It transforms the photographer from a shutterbug to a prophet, someone with real vision and moral standing in the world, someone with power.
In this series of posts, many photographers have distanced themselves from the term. There is an understanding that to be an activist in something involves far more than simply being concerned about something; that very often the effect that images have on public opinion, on social attitudes or even policy are limited or exaggerated. There is an understanding that to be an activist is a long-term commitment in which your life might be at risk.
2) A New Pictorial Language for Post-Apartheid South Africa
Thabiso Sekgala documented the born-free generation living in the shadow of apartheid. A new exhibition surveying the late photographer's work highlights his unique approach
Thabiso Sekgala’s work stands apart from the straightforward documentary images most often associated with apartheid: explicit depictions of the inhumane living conditions inflicted by a system of institutionalised racial segregation. Photographs characterised by their urgency — the drive to expose the hardships endured by South Africa’s nonwhite population. “Sekgala’s images have a very accessible and universal feel to them,” reflects Tarini Malik, the curator of Sekgala’s first UK solo exhibition Here is Elsewhere on show at the Hayward Gallery, London. “They speak beyond their subject-matter and draw us into what is a deeply emotional experience.”
3) The Photography of Margaret Bourke-White
Margaret Bourke-White was born in New York City in 1904, and grew up in rural New Jersey. She went on to study science and art at multiple universities in the United States from 1921 to 1927, then began a successful run as an industrial photographer, making notable images of factories and skyscrapers in the late 1920s. By 1929, she began working for magazine publishers, joining both Fortune and, later, LIFE. She spent years traveling the world, covering major events from World War II to the partition of India and Pakistan, the Korean War, and much more. Bourke-White held numerous “firsts” in her professional life—she was the first foreign photographer allowed to take pictures of Soviet industry, she was the first female staff photographer for LIFE magazine and made its first cover photo, and she was the first woman allowed to work in combat zones in World War II. Gathered here, a small collection of the thousands of remarkable images she made over a lifetime—Margaret Bourke-White passed away in 1971, at age 67, from Parkinson's disease.
4) Women Were Photography Pioneers yet Gender Inequality Persists in the Industry Today
Photography remains stubbornly male-dominated. In terms of commissioning, exhibition and publication of work, there is a conspicuous lack of equality in the industry. Data collected by Women Photograph – an initiative to promote and support female photographers – shows that between April and June 2019, eight of the world’s leading newspapers printed far fewer lead photographs by women than by men. Figures ranged from just 4.2% (three out of 72 photos published) in Le Monde to 47% (44/92) in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Go deeper into the photojournalism industry and it gets bleaker. Looking at UK National Union of Journalists (NUJ) membership, the photography sector is partiularly lacking in gender balance.
5) The Forgotten ‘Wolf Children’ of World War II
Dr. Michelle Mouton, a professor of History at the University of Wisconsin, when describing geopolitical decision making at the end of the World War referenced a 1944 statement made by the British Labor Party. In the statement, the party expressed its anticipation of an impending “depth of hatred against Germans in occupied countries in the early Post-war periods” and a belief that Germans may have to face the choice between “migration and massacre.” Mouton says that, at least officially, “the Allies didn’t want massacre so they agreed with migration.”
The chaos created by both legislated and unofficial expulsions of Germans made it difficult for families to reunite and had a heavy impact on the fates of children of East Prussia. Some were sent to Soviet children’s homes, others fled to Lithuania and some to a new and divided Germany. In countless cases, the remainder of childhood and adolescence would be marked by pressures to assimilate to unfamiliar and often times unaccepting environments.
6) The Phoblographer’s Favorite Cities for Street Photography
Diversity is a beautiful thing. Different cultures, attitudes, and values make the world go round. It’s because of our varied approaches to life that street photography can flourish. So much compelling content can be created because of the fact there’s an abundance of things to learn about the world. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting many nations, and almost all of them have provided me with their own unique experience. Some incredibly inspiring, and some, not so much. But while there’s a conversation to be had about the uneventful cities, I want to share with you some of the best!
7) The Modern Trap of Turning Hobbies Into Hustles
Last year, at a friend’s wedding, I sat across from the perfect dress. Rendered in a warm, dusky orange and a just-revealing-enough neckline, it hugged every curve of the cousin of the groom as we chatted. When I mentioned it, she beamed. “Thanks, it has pockets!” she replied, because of course it did. And something about the way she touched the hem made me ask if she made it, and if she was beaming before, now she was radiant: “Yes!” she replied.
“Wow!” I said. “It’s gorgeous. Do you have an Etsy shop or…?” And suddenly, it was like all the light went out of the room. She looked down despairingly. “No,” she sighed. “Everyone keeps telling me I should, but I just wouldn’t know where to start.” I recognized the look of a woman suddenly overwhelmed by people’s expectations of her.
“You don’t have to,” I assured her. “You can do something you love, just because you love it.” (When did I become Ask Polly?) And suddenly the sentence that both of us needed to hear came out of my mouth: “You don’t have to monetize your joy.”
8) 10 Creative Audiobooks to Artistically Inspire Your Mind Through Your Ears
Chances are that you already listen to a podcast (or two or three). But have you tried audiobooks? If you eagerly await for your favorite shows to post new episodes each week, then an audiobook is perfect for you—it’s like getting eight, nine, or even ten podcast-lengths episodes all at once. This makes an audiobook perfect for binge listening, as it allows you to get fully engrossed in a subject and story.
Although we often think of audiobooks in terms of the latest fiction, they can be a valuable resource for artists and creatives as well. With books like Art, Inc., you can educate yourself on the business side of art making while you’re commuting to work. Likewise, with selections like Broad Strokes and Daily Rituals, you’ll learn the fascinating stories behind incredible individuals who have shaped our world—all while you’re cleaning your kitchen. What an enriching way to multitask!