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Of Darkness and Light

Peter van Agtmael is one of the younger generation Magnum photographers. At an early age he felt enchanted by documentary photography, and a decade later found himself on his first trip to Iraq. Since then he has returned several times – his trips resulting in one of the most powerful series of war photography ever seen.

Disco Night Sept. 11 shows U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also after they return home. Van Agtmael’s work goes on to tell the story of the families who have lost their sons and fathers to these war zones.

Spanish Txema Salvans photographed sex workers who wait for clients beside highways in the bright afternoon light – unprotected from both the sun and people’s gaze. Salvans considers himself an anthropologist of sorts, and wore a disguise to photograph the women without disturbing them.

Salvans has managed to capture something bleak and authentic in his unposed images. The women become a part of the urban landscape, and this invisibility also symbolizes their social standing. Salvans’ devious shooting method raises a question of morals: In the name of art, is it permissible to use unethical solutions, like hiding your profession as a photographer? This is a complex issue, but it seems to me that in this case the end justifies the means. Salvans photographs the women with respect, and offers a fresh point of view on a profession that operates hidden from mainstream society.

Personal memories are often linked to objects. Ferit Kuyas, a Swiss photographer who trained as a lawyer, collects and photographs objects of personal importance. What he ends up shooting is strange: an ex-wife’s shoe collection, Swatch wristwatches from the 1980’s, Chinese cigar buds and luggage tags. His series goes by the insightful name, Everything you didn’t want to know about me. Still, it is precisely these trivial things in life that make us human and interesting. Kuyas regards his series as social observation, examining the past with a twinkle in the eye. The objects tell a story of identity and change.

The seasoned British curator Cheryl Newman also approaches her topic through humor. For the curated section of this issue, she selected works by eleven photographers who are redrawing the jaded borderlines between photographic genres. We need to look at photographs that feel alien, provoke anxiety, or make us laugh. Emotion is everything.

Newman’s own interest in photography grew from strong feelings evoked by her family photo albums. Although she loves the work of many renowned masters of photography, she has one passion which surpasses everything else, and is made apparent in her curated section. This curator has a broad-minded approach to the photograph. It doesn’t matter if the story is true or constructed, as long as it makes her feel something in her gut.

“I love seeing how people can go to the same place and tell the same story in completely different ways. Somebody deals with misery or pain, somebody deals with happiness, or dogs, and somebody photographs flowers.”

 

Hannamari Shakya

Editor-in-chief and founder of Raw View