zaterdag 17 maart 2018

Christophe Collas 15 best Belgian photoBooks Second Edition of the Liège Photobook Festival Photography

Being the preferred medium of many photographers nowadays, the photobook lies at the heart of this festival. This event aims to bring together, for the second time in Belgium, the best of the current independent photographic publishing world.
The programme includes: a photobook market with international independent publishers; artist talks; panels with specialists from the publishing sector; projections; portfolio reviews for visual artists; Bring Your Photobook (self-published photobook award); the Fusée de la motographie de Bruxelles…
The festival will take place in a friendly and festive atmosphere in order to foster exchange and encounters between all kinds of audiences.
Full program and more details available at the festival’s webiste.

Liège Photobook Festival will be running from Saturday 17th to Sunday 18th of March, at Liège’s La Boverie.

Christophe Collas’ 15 best Belgian photobooks

In honour of the second edition of the Liège Photobook Festival running this weekend, we’ve asked photographer and curator Christope Collas to round up a 15-strong list of this year’s best contemporary Belgian photobooks. As expected, the range from intimate portraits to jaw-dropping landscapes encompasses the breadth of photography today. From the Dutch Golden Age inspired scenery by Dirk Lambrechts to Julie Van der Vaart’s attempt to breakdown bodily taboos, we’re covering all things monochrome, vibrant and hand-crafted curation.

Written by Sam Brooks published on march 12, 2018 in Neighbourhood life / This is Belgium

Christopher de Béthune, Knights in white satin (2017)

If you’re seeking a photobook to give you that warm and fuzzy feeling inside, Christopher de Béthune is probably not for you. Known for his gritty, eery and always dark photography, his latest work Knights in white satin features urban twilight in all it’s glory. Best enjoyed with an open-mind and a sombre disposition.

Anne de Gelas, Mére et fils (2018)

Sometimes the only way to portray life is in monochrome – at least, that’s how Anne de Gelas felt obliged to capture the aftermath of the sudden death of her partner and father of her son. What follows is an intimate portrait of the relationship between parent and child when grief is tearing both at the seams. Raw, experimental and moving.

Mère et fils by Anne de Gelas- from Tipi Bookshop on Vimeo.

Dieter de Lathauwer, I loved my wife (killing children is good for the economy) (2017)

Dieter de Lathauwer award-winning photobook aims to shine a light on the parts of our past most would like to try and forget. I loved my wife (killing children is good for the economy) portrays the elimination of incurable physically and mentally ill patients, both children and adults, between 1939 and 1941. Framed as “mercy killings” or “euthanasia”, these murders served as a precursor for the Holocaust. Through a highly organised structure, 70,000 patients were murdered in Austria because they did not contribute to the society – the goal was to cut cost. From Austrian care centres and psychiatric institutions to stills from Nazi propaganda movies, the design of the book has references to a medical file. Every folder has a manually signed red cross on the cover just like the doctors did when judging someone to be incurable hence to be eliminated. Asking pertinent questions about the price of social security and the power of images Lathauwer’s work is sure to create an impact.

I loved my wife (killing children is good for the economy) • by Dieter De Lathauwer from Dieter De Lathauwer on Vimeo.

Annelies De Mey, Black Mountain Conversations (2018)

The Black Mountain is the archetype of a mountain that seems unmountable and indestructible because of its steep mountainside. The past and future can have no influence on its power and immortality. Annelies de Mey has respect for the absoluteness of the mountain. She believes in the moment of encounter and waits for the moon, the sun and the snow. Black Mountain Conversations offers the possibility to look at and experience the book in three different ways. If we flip the book backwards, we only see the soft, blue sky. If we flip the book from front to back we only see the Black Mountain. But if we just leaf through the book, the images of the mountain and the sky alternate each other. We experience the interaction between the enclosed landscape and the open sight of the sky. It makes the mountain appear and disappear and makes it possible to meet it over and over again. A truly immersive experience.

Jean-François Flamey, Non-dits (2017)

It’s rare to find an artist so pre-occupied with the reaction of their audience. So it’s only more refreshing to find in Jean-François Flamey’s Non-dits a consistent desire to create a visceral reaction for the reader. From capturing low-light human wonder to faded memory-like slogans carved into the ground, Flamey’s passion for music has been transformed into a visual artefact for our benefit. Mind-blowing.

Non dits by Jean-François Flamey from Tipi Bookshop on Vimeo.

Geert Goiris, Peak Oil (2017)

Geert Goiris addresses our contemporary oil culture: commissioned by the Rubis Mécénat cultural fund, Goiris was granted access to the Rubis Terminal sites in Rouen amongst other European locations, including Antwerp. He tackles the subject from the outside, limiting himself to that particular moment when oil is seemingly without drama. This is not about the technical feat of extracting the oil from the earth, nor about the economic, social or geopolitical effects generated by its existence; but rather deals with the in-between phases, the moments when oil is only potentially active.

Tine Guns, The Collector (2018)

Huis Van Wassenhove is one of the most important examples of brutalist private architecture in Belgium – but if this villa is known for its open structure, the whole photo series of Tine Guns contradictorily emphasizes the feeling of being trapped. You can’t escape the gaze. We see the shadows of the trees on the outside of the building, inviting us to take a look inside. The readers have to become voyeurs themselves to find clues of what’s going on. Time passes, the shadows of the trees are moving. The Collector is a meta-book on photography and voyeurism and the male-versus-female gaze. Not to mention, the fluidity of time and perception are beautifully weaved through the readers interpretation.

SERIES - videoverslag Tine Guns from KUNSTWERKT on Vimeo.

Dirk Lambrechts, Flemish Light (2017)

Drawing inspiration from the painters of the Golden Age, Dirk Lambrechts pours decadence and depth into these landscapes. Flemish Light is all about observation, historical inspiration and technical experimentation. The result is breath-takingly simply, yet striking. From the Dutchman Rembrandt Van Rijn to the iconic Englishman William Turner, Lambrechts is following in the footsteps of great artists and carrying the torch of passion to update the humble landscape for contemporary viewers. It’s about time we see Flanders in a fresh perspective.

Matthieu Litt, Tidal Horizon (2018)

Nowadays people throw around the concept of sublime over a delicious slice of pizza. However, turning back time this all-encompassing word was at the forefront of philosophical and scientific interrogation. Calibrating sublimity, Matthieu Litt has laboured over Tidal Horizon from his Norwegian residency. As always, the interplay between Man and Nature is tantamount. You have to see it to believe it.

Thomas Nolf, Peculiar Artifacts in Bosnia & Herzegovina (2017)

Mystery is the main appeal of this intriguing exploration into Bosnian-Herzegovinian history: Thomas Nolf’s work dives headfirst into a historical conspiracy theory, tapping into the artifacts of by-gone generations intermingled with contemporary life. Questioning the place for objective truth, all that’s left is an alternative biography in a country full of post-war misconceptions.

Rachel Sassi & Florence Cats, Contre-lame (2017)

Flipping through Contre-lame is like taking a peak inside the minds of Rachel Sassi and Florence Cats. Coming together through Sassi’s raw and poignant phrases and brought to life through Cats’ intricate visual details. A living testament to life, love and sadness in contemporary Belgium.

Titus Simoens, For Brigitte (2017)

Working closely together with his sister Lieve, who wanted to surprise Brigitte for her seventieth birthday, photographer Titus Simoens created a book out of old photographs and clippings of her college years. Leaving the design partly up to chance, Simoens builds an accidental and surprising narrative. Photo-album meets artist’s book in a story at once original and coincidental. The final product recounts a personal tale of femininity and youth.

Gaël Turine, En bas la ville (2017)

Reclaiming the portrayal of Haitian life beyond the tragedy on the news, Gaël Turine dives deeper into the colourful community of Port-au-Prince. Humanity appears to be a side-note in these jaw-dropping characterful shots of rundown buildings. One thing shines through: the resilience of individual spirit against the odds.

En-bas-la-ville-v8_1 from Gael Turine on Vimeo.

Julie Van der Vaart, Beyond Time (2017)

Nudity can be found everywhere, from the darker parts of the Internet to bus-stop ads for lingerie. Yet, the nude human form can still be considered taboo. Julie Van der Vaart combines her signature monochrome tonality with bodies and landscapes that forces the audience to reconsider our collective embarrassment of the natural. Straying away from any sexual connotations, all that’s left is an atemporal scientific exploration.

Bastiaan Woudt, Mukono (2018)

Silhouettes of an under-represented community, Bastiaan Woudt siezed the opportunity whilst travelling through Mukono, Uganda. Hauntingly beautiful portraits, still-lifes and landscapes that beg the question, “Why haven’t we seen more of this spectacular country before?” Part documentary investigation and part artistic expression, this collection is a feast for the eyes.

vrijdag 16 maart 2018

Views & Reviews A Life Full of Holes / The Strait Project Yto Barrada Books on Migration Irène Attinger Photography

A Life Full of Holes / The Strait Project
Published by (London / Brighton): (Autograph, ABP / Photoworks), (2005), 2005
4to (244 × 190 mm), pp.[72]. Colour photographs. Texts by Yto Barrada and Nadia Tazi in English and Frrench. Design by Claudia Roethlisberger. Plain endpapers. Yellow cloth-covered flexible boards, spine and sides lettered in brown. Black-and-white photo-illustrated three quarter wraparound band. Fine. First edition. Yto Barrada was born in Paris in 1971, and spent part of her upbringing in Tangier, Morocco. Her work explores issues of migration, diaspora, access, and exclusion. These photographs, which were taken between 1998 and 2004, are concerned with examining the Strait of Gibralter between Europe and North Africa, which became one of the main gateways for illegal immigration into Europe. ‘Her vision of this tension is significant, as her dual Moroccan-French citizenship allows her perspective and mobility, unlike most Moroccans, who face strictly closed borders. The photographs in A Life Full of Holes recognize the emotional effects of such desperate longing and imagination, frequently ruminating on empty or negative space that provides a metaphorical place in which viewers can project their stories’ (Guggenheim).

Issue 16 The Sea Winter 2004/05
Artist Project / A Life Full of Holes
Yto Barrada

People say “it’s better to have no life at all than a life full of holes.“ But then they say: “Better an empty sack than no sack.“ I don’t know. 
—A Life Full of Holes, Driss Ben Hamed Charhadi, 1964

The collapse of the colonial enterprise has left behind a complex legacy, bridging the Mediterranean and shaping how movement across the Strait of Gibraltar is managed and perceived. Before 1991, any Moroccan with a passport could travel freely to Europe. Since 15 European countries united their borders under the 1991 Schengen agreement, frontier states like Spain require Moroccans to present special visas, which are almost impossible to obtain. As a result, visiting rights have become unilateral across what is now legally a one-way strait. A generation of Moroccans has grown up facing this troubled space which manages to be at once physical, symbolic, historical, and intimately personal. The word strait, like its French—and as chance would have it, Arabic—equivalent, combines the senses of narrowness and distress palpable here.

Today, the strait is the main gateway for northbound illegal immigrants, who have their own vocabulary, legends, songs, rites, and language. For example, people no longer say, “He migrated” but “h’reg,” meaning “he burned”—burned his papers, his past, the law. Over the past decade, the Spanish coast—only nine miles away and visible from Tangier on any clear day or night— has lured some 6,000 would-be immigrants to their deaths in what has become a vast Moroccan cemetery. Yet throughout Africa, the streets are abuzz with the exploits of “the burnt ones“ or “the burners,” and Tangier has become the destination and jumping-off place of a thousand hopes.

I try to expose the metaphorical character of the strait through a series of images that reveal the tension—which restlessly animates the streets of my hometown of Tangier—between its allegorical nature and immediate, harsh reality. My work attempts in part to exorcise the unspoken violence of other people’s departures. I too left Tangier for more than ten years. By moving back, I have placed myself amidst the violence of homecoming. There are no flâneurs here, and no innocent bystanders.

The subject of my project is one that is never frankly discussed in Morocco. Yet everywhere I pursued my photographic record of northern ennui—along the “Wall of the Lazy,” in the vacant lots and housing projects, around the Port—I came to recognize this fatal drive to leave that is today inscribed in a whole people.

Le Détroit, Boulevard Playa, Tangier 2000.

Advertisement Light Box, ferry port transit area, Tangier, 2003.

Factory 1, shrimp peeling in a facility in the Free Trade Zone, Tangier, 1998. The shrimps are brought to Morocco from Europe to be peeled and returned for consumption.

Container 1, rust holes in the top of a shipping container, Tangier, 2003.

Girl with Red Hair, ferry from Algeciras, Spain, to Tangier, 2002.

Colline du Charf, site of the tomb of the giant Antaeus who was killed by Hercules, Tangier, 2000. Photos courtesy Galerie Polaris, Paris.

Yto Barrada is an artist based in Tangier and Paris. Work from her “Strait Project” (1999-2003) has been exhibited at the Fondacion Tapies, Barcelona; Witte de With, Rotterdam; the Villa Medici, Rome; and the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Barrada is a founder and director of programming of the Cinémathèque de Tanger, Morocco’s only movie theater for independent cinema and repertory programming, which will open in the spring of 2005. Her book, A Life Full of Holes, will be published in 2005 by Autograph, London.

Cabinet is published by Immaterial Incorporated, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. Cabinet receives generous support from the Lambent Foundation, the Orphiflamme Foundation, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Opaline Fund, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the Danielson Foundation, the Katchadourian Family Foundation, The Edward C. Wilson and Hesu Coue Wilson Family Fund, and many individuals. All our events are free, the entire content of our many sold-out issues are on our site for free, and we offer our magazine and books at prices that are considerably below cost. Please consider supporting our work by making a tax-deductible donation by visiting here. Thank you for your consideration.

A Life Full of Holes
19 Dec 2007
This small and simply designed publication features work by the French/Moroccan photographer Yto Barrada, a member of the Autograph agency. A Life Full of Holes, a project involving photographs, film, text and installation, explores the unique character of The Strait of Gibraltar, the main route for illegal immigration from Africa into Europe, using Barrada’s native city of Tangiers as the focal point. Issues such as migration and diaspora, access and exclusion are touched on in these photographs, which have gained her a place on the 2006 Deutsche Borse Prize shortlist.

Barrada’s style is documentary but at its most artful, capturing the atmosphere of this transitory place in oblique images. Mostly square format and colour, her lyrical pictures are simply reproduced with small captions on individual pages. At the back of the book two short texts, reproduced in both French and English, one by Barrada and one featuring the artist in conversation with a philosopher, explore the issues raised by the project.

Many of the faces and identities of her subjects are hidden, their backs turned towards us – as if they are moving away, drawn towards the promise of a better life by the water of the Strait. Ennui and frustration are portrayed in pictures such as “Man Sitting – Boulevard Mohamed V. – Casablanca, 2001” in which a youth sits waiting, his face a blank gaze, his back to the closed metal shuttering of a shop – he appears to be shut out and going nowhere. She is fond of such visual metaphors. In another, two boys exit a football field through a hole in a fence, echoing the more direct image of escape depicted in “Illegally crossing the border into the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, 1999”. Barrada also documents the city itself in transition, a limbo of vacant lots, dereliction and half-finished development. “Foundations – Abandoned construction site – Asilah, 2003” is a clever landscape composition of rusting steel pilons that follow the edge of a waterway like reeds. Another surreal amalgam “Vacant Lot – Tangiers, 2001” depicts a pastoral scene – a sheep-strewn field, with animals dozing in the sun – overlooked by a rock face of raw unfinished wall from a housing development.

In her intriguing, dreamlike compositions, Barrada has successfully captured the strange mix of tension and lethargy in this peripheral location. In one of her texts she asserts that “A Life full of Holes” is full of unresolved violence and that “there is no pleasure in these images”. However, this cannot be interpreted literally. There is a sense of the unresolved in her compositions of the half finished and partially hidden, but these images are still too beautifully composed and reproduced for one not to take pleasure in them. This is no urgent manifesto, more a gentle meditation on the nature of migration and transition, its pace suiting the subject of her exploration.

Sophie Wright

A Life Full of Holes
Yto Barrada
27 juni - 22 augustus 2004

Yto Barrada
Catherine David
The Mead Gallery

Zelfs een leven vol gaten, een leven van niets dan afwachten, is beter dan helemaal geen leven.
A Life Full of Holes, Driss Ben Hamed Charhadi, 1964

Ook al is de koloniale droom uiteengespat, hij heeft ons toch de erfenis van een onrechtvaardig regime nagelaten dat de mobiliteit tussen het noorden en het zuiden van de Middellandse Zee beheert en observeert. In deze flessenhals, die bekend staat als de Straat van Gibraltar (de Strait), zijn bezoekrechten tegenwoordig unilateraal.

Dit tussengebied bezit de verbijsterende bijzonderheid dat het gekenmerkt wordt als het toevallig samenvallen van een fysieke ruimte, een symbolische ruimte, een historische ruimte en, ten slotte, een vertrouwde ruimte.

In het Arabisch, net als in het Engels, omvat strait de begrippen nauwte (dayq) en verdriet (mutadayeq). Bij helder weer is de horizon vanaf de Marokkaanse kust Spaans, maar de Strait is een enorm Marokkaans kerkhof geworden. De huidige immigratie verschilt van de vorige. Deze heeft zijn eigen vocabulaire, zijn legendes, zijn liederen en rituelen. Men zegt niet meer: ‘hij is geëmigreerd’, maar h’reg: ‘hij verbrandde’, hij verbrandde zijn papieren, zijn verleden. De heldendaden van de verbranden komen overal naar boven, de verhalen wakkeren het verlangen naar elders aan. Tanger, een enclave waaraan nationale investeringen lang voorbijgingen, is nu een stad waar de hoop van duizenden verzandt. Ik wil niet zozeer heimwee naar een internationaal getto weergeven, maar allereerst die ingebeitelde, koppige drang om te vertrekken, die het volk zo kenmerkt.

Ik heb in deze serie foto’s getracht het metonymische karakter van de Strait aan te geven, door in mijn beelden de nadruk te leggen op de spanning tussen allegorie en momentopname. Strait is een ander woord voor de verleiding van het weggaan en een alledaags begrip (wat een gemeenschappelijk begrip is geworden) dat de straten van Tanger voortdurend in beroering brengt. Deze verschuiving in betekenis geeft de straten de vorm van een denkbeeldige ruimte waarin alle weerbarstige dromen van het verlaten van je land liggen opgesloten. De emigrant in spe creëert hier een collectieve identiteit vanwege de wettelijke belemmering om de Strait over te steken. Deze hindernis heeft als gevolg een toestand van berooidheid en van vernedering die hiermee samenhangt. De nieuwe immigratie (een tijdelijke, incidentele beweging) wordt in Europa gezien als iets dat meer weg heeft van migratie (een massale volksverhuizing). Wij bevinden ons in een tijdperk van achterdocht.

Marokkaanse steden zijn gevormd door stadsmigratie, maar ook door en voor toerisme; de twee grote, massale bewegingen die direct verband houden met de mondialisering. Deze transformatie maakt een aanpassing van de geografische spreiding van verschillen noodzakelijk. Nieuwe levenslopen (de exodus van het platteland, de terugkeer van Marokkaanse emigranten die ‘s zomers op bezoek komen) impliceren nieuwe identiteiten, identiteiten die gevormd worden om weerstand te bieden aan processen van indeling van ruimte die onvermijdelijk plaatsvinden.

Wanneer ik in Tanger foto’s maak, kan ik er niet omheen dat ik in de geboortestad van mijn vader verblijf, waar mijn moeder zichzelf kwijtraakte. Ik probeer niet om de spanning en de gevaren van vertrek als ondramatisch voor te stellen. Toch heb ik nooit echt geweten waar ik zelf ben wanneer ik door deze stad wandel, in welke geschiedenis. Ik kan alle inwoners die er weg willen fotograferen, maar zelf kom ik steeds weer terug en ik woon daar in de vertrouwde omgeving van mijn ouderlijk huis. In mijn beelden ban ik ongetwijfeld de heftige emotie van vertrek (het vertrek van de ander) uit, maar ik stel mezelf bloot aan de emotie van terugkeer (naar huis). De vervreemding is die van een valse vertrouwdheid. Ik fotografeer verleidingen, en niet echte pogingen, in een reportageachtige stijl. Zodra ik in Tanger terug ben, verkeer ik weer in een toestand van afwezigheid, ik word afwezig. Misschien is er een verband tussen mijn heel persoonlijke ervaring en de situatie van een bevolking die tracht haar land te verlaten omdat ze hun plek niet hebben kunnen vinden. Ik begon met het fotograferen van het huis van mijn moeder, de heftige emotie van huiselijke betrekkingen; en natuurlijk, wat ik vlakbij vind, zijn de mensen die van afwezig zijn dromen.

Yto Barrada

Lummelen op grens van Afrika en Europa
Een gaatje van niet meer dan vijftien kilometer scheidt Marokko van Spanje. Op luchtfoto's is helemaal goed te zien hoe smal de slotgracht is rondom Fort Europa op die plaats is. De tentoonstelling A Life Full of Holes van Yto Barrada in het Rotterdamse Witte de With opent met zo'n bovenaanzicht van de Straat van Gibraltar. De Française fotografeert al zes jaar Noord-Afrikanen met migratie-ambities. Daarbij laat ze zich leiden door de dubbelzinnige betekenis die het woord `strait' heeft in het Engels, Frans en Arabisch – de drie talen die in Gibraltar samenkomen.

Edo Dijksterhuis
26 juli 2004

Allereerst betekent het natuurlijk zeestraat. Vrouwen kijken naar de boten die hun familieleden naar een beter bestaan voeren. Of juist terugbrengen na een mislukte poging voorbij de douane te glippen. Maar de meeste straten die Barrada fotografeerde zijn gemaakt van half gesmolten teer of opwaaiend stof. Van links naar rechts doorkruisen ze het beeld. Ze gaan nergens naartoe, net als de voetgangers die erop rondlummelen.

Barrada prefereert brede totaalshots boven close-ups waardoor de sfeer afstandelijk en haast anoniem is. Maar in de compositie toont ze zich een verhalenverteller met oog voor detail. Op een bovenaanzicht van een straat – een lap asfalt grijs van ouderdom – vangt ze in de rechter benedenhoek een jongetje met een modelzeilboot. Linksboven steekt een groepje hoofddoeken schichtig de straat over. De afstand tussen hoopvolle landverhuizer-in-spé en in traditie gevangen meisjes is klein en toch onoverbrugbaar. Ze worden onherroepelijk gescheiden door die dikke, grijze streep.

Maar `in het nauw zitten' – de tweede betekenis van 'strait' – is van toepassing op grote delen van de bevolking van Tanger en Cassablanca. Groepjes dagloners staan wezenloos op de hoek van de straat te wachten op werk. Een koffiehuisbezoeker zit weggedoken achter het biljart. Twee mannen op de Rue de la Liberté – weer die straat – omhelzen elkaar. Het gaat stijfjes, de handen in halve vuisten gekromd, de armen als onhandig scharnierende klapdeurtjes om de, naar de kijker gekeerde, ruggen. Alles gaat moeizaam.

In sommige foto's ligt de symboliek er iets te dik bovenop. Zoals de voetballertjes die zich door een gat in het hek rondom hun trapveldje wurmen. Of de paar witgesausde balkons die geperst zitten tussen plakken grauw, blind beton. Maar vaak weet Barrada precies de onbestemde sfeer van armoede en moedeloosheid te treffen. Zoals in een fabriekskantine waar garnalenpelsters hun lunch nuttigen uit plastic zakken waar hun hoofd achter schuil gaat.

De fotografe omzeilt het al te gemakkelijke sentiment door haar onderwerpen niet exotischer voor te doen dan ze zijn. In haar foto's is niets omfloerst of aangedikt. Het is zoals het is maar dat is meer dan je op het eerste gezicht ziet. Dat geldt ook voor het enige videowerk in de tentoonstelling. In het filmpje vertoont Sinbad, een treurigmakende goochelaar op leeftijd, zijn kunsten. Met luide `voilà's' tovert hij scheermesjes uit zijn mond, laat hij een duif verdwijnen en – ,,de moeilijkste truc die ik ken'' – hypnotiseert hij een haan in slaap. De illusionist die zelf nooit het land van de dromen mocht betreden, houdt zich staande met gammele magie.

Tentoonstelling: Yto Barrada - A Life Full of Holes: The Strait. T/m 22 augustus in Witte de With, center for contemporary art, Witte de Withstraat 50, Rotterdam. Di-zo 10-6. Inl. 010-411 0144,

donderdag 15 maart 2018

Views & Reviews God s Allies Hans Bol Photography

Hans Bol - God's Allies
Kester Freriks
Publisher Recto Verso Publications
ISBN 9789080876743

Crows, with their black plumage, their sparkling, bright eyes, and dark, shimmering beaks, belong to the night and to witches, heralds of doom and disaster. But their playful and unpredictable behaviour has also made them widely symbolic. In ancient times, they were even worshipped. The god Odin was accompanied by two ravens, representing “memory” and “thought”. The concept of the crow as a symbol of the two principle faculties of humans is irresistible. You are never alone when crows are present. Photographer Hans Bol presents a tribute to the crow family, from the smallest jackdaws to the larger rooks and ravens, illustrating a fascination with these mysterious birds.

70 p, ills bw, 12 x 17 cm, pb, Dutch/English

Vogels in grofkorrelig zwart
Fotograaf Hans Bol maakte een compact fotoboek over kraaien en raven. ,,Wat ik zie zijn intrigerende beesten: slim, speels, alert.”

Rianne van Dijck
14 maart 2018

Wat als eerste opvalt aan het fijne, compacte fotoboek dat Hans Bol maakte over raven en kraaien, is hoe mooi die vogels in zwart-wit afsteken tegen de achtergrond van weidse luchten en zachte wolkendekens. De dieren lenen zich goed voor grafische beelden: met hun diepzwarte verenkleed en glanzende snavel lijken ze op sommige foto’s wel getekend en daarna ingekleurd; hun ranke vormen lopen soms helemaal dicht in het rauwe, grofkorrelige zwart. ,,In plaats van pixels wilde ik weer korrel zien; de ziel van de afdruk.”

Op 15 maart opent bij Galerie Wouter van Leeuwen in Amsterdam een tentoonstelling met de foto’s van kraaien en raven die fotograaf Hans Bol vanaf 1996 maakte in India, Amerika of gewoon bij een tankstation langs de Nederlandse snelweg. Op diezelfde dag verschijnt ook God’s Allies; een door Willem van Zoetendaal vormgegeven boekje met deels dezelfde beelden als in de expositie.

,,Kraaien horen bij nacht en heksen, bij onheil en rampspoed,” schrijft Kester Freriks in het boek. Dat unheimische gevoel dat zwarte vogels ons kunnen geven herkennen we, sinds we huiverden bij de horrorvogels in The Birds van Hitchcock. En in het iconische fotoboek The Solitude of Ravens van de Japanse fotograaf Masahisa Fukase staat de zwarte vogel ook vooral symbool voor een gevoel van somberheid en zwaarte. Is dát het wat Bol zo aantrekt in deze vogels? ,,Ik associeer ze niet per se met de dood – alhoewel ik die gedachte natuurlijk wel herken. Wat ik zie zijn vooral intrigerende beesten: slim, speels, alert, mooi om te zien met hun zwarte verendek”, zegt Bol. ,,Ik wilde iets maken dat ook licht en luchtig is.”

De keuze voor het kleine formaat van het boek en van de afdrukken in de expositie heeft te maken met het feit dat Bol ,,een beetje moe is van al die megalomaan grote afdrukken die we de laatste jaren zien. Ik wilde terug naar het kleine, het intieme, het handwerk. Dat je zo’n foto gewoon in je hand kunt pakken. Dat je er met je neus bovenop moet staan om het goed te kunnen zien. ”

Rianne van Dijck

God’s Allies van Hans Bol. 27,50 euro. 70 blz. Recto Verso Publications.

Werk van Hans Bol is, samen met vogelfoto’s van de Amerikaan Raymond Meeks, van 15 t/m 17/3 te zien in Galerie Wouter van Leeuwen in Amsterdam. Inl:

zondag 11 maart 2018

Views & Reviews Xiaofangjia Hutong Xu Yong Parr Badger II Photography

Xiaofangjia Hutong
Yong, Xu
ISBN 10: 7800076113 / ISBN 13: 9787800076114
Published by Beijing, 2003
Beijing, 2003. Paperback. 8 1/4 x 10 1/4 inches, 86 pages, 68 colour photographs and 1 drawing. Introduction by Xu Yong. Edited by Hai De guang. On August 18, 2002, Xu Yong photographed over one hundred residents of xiaofangjia hutong. Two months later, the hutong, like scores of others in Beijing, was razed, and the residents were gone. Cited in Martin Parr ,The Photobook vol 2, page 125. Xu Yong’s work contrasts the historical with the contemporary. In this book he documents one of the old hutongs--ancient city alleys and lanes--of Beijing, taking his lens to the traditional small lanes of Beijing, where he photographed the peace before the storm – the Hutong before their final demolition. In this book, as he explains, "On August 18, 2002, I photographed over one hundred residents of Xiaofangjia Hutong as they freely formed different groups in a random manner. Each resident held a card with his/her name, date of birth and identification written on it. Two and a half months later, the Xiaofangjia Hutong and scores of hutongs in the vicinity disappeared from the map of Beijing.".

Beijing’s Changing Face
In conversation with artist Xu Yong, much-feted contemporary artist who captured the ‘Vanishing of the Hutongs’ on photograph

All manner of sins may be committed in the name of progress. In some cases, of course, progress is actually achieved: the Romans, for example, were definitely onto something with the invention of central heating and indoor plumbing – even if it lacked the traditional charm of a bearskin rug or drawing water from a well or a stream.

In Beijing this has seen the architectural face of the city transformed with major building projects and high-rise structures taking the place of the traditional hutong districts with their narrow lanes and single-storey courtyard houses. The sense of loss is a very real one, and people have sought to come to terms with it in different ways.

Noted restaurateur David Yeo memorably sought to immortalise them in his Hong Kong fine dining restaurant Hutong, using reclaimed and salvaged materials from the original hutongs to brilliant effect. Others, like Beijing-based photographer Xu Yong, have documented the changes to leave a visual record of the city that was.

We spoke to Xu on the eve of a major retrospective at the Hua Gallery in London to hear more about his relationship to the hutongs and his fascinating but enigmatic images.

Hutongs have been part of residential life in Beijing for many hundreds of years. How would you describe their cultural importance?
‘Hutong’ is not originally a Chinese word, but a word taken from Mongolian, which means ‘water well’. Seven hundred years ago, Mongolians from Northern China occupied almost the whole Han ethnic area. They established the Yuan dynasty in ancient China and set the Peking [Beijing] central area as the capital city called ‘Yuan Da Du’. Since then Beijing has been the capital city in China.

Unlike the Forbidden City, the hutongs represent the culture and lifestyle of traditional Beijing citizens
Xu Yong, Artist

Mongolian people lived nomadic life in northern grassland and often gathered to live near water sources. The royal Yuan family built their palace in the central area of Yuan Da Du, according to the culturally advanced Han ethnic town planning, and then drew tic-tac-toe pattern roads around the palace. Moreover, feudal residences were located on both sides of the road. The roads and houses were completely designed according to the Han ethnic cultural tradition’s etiquette system. These traditional Chinese courtyard houses, or siheyuan, became famous, and the roads were named hutongs after the Mongolian pronunciation.

Since the Yuan Dynasty, hutongs and the Forbidden City were preserved over five dynasties until now. Unlike the Forbidden City, the hutongs represent the culture and lifestyle of traditional Beijing citizens, the common people. As a result, the hutongs can be seen as a continuation of Beiing’s history and culture.

What specific historical events and modern developments have led to the demolition of the hutongs?
As with every important city in the world, Beijing’s urban changes are an enchanting story. Since the beginning of last century, the traditional courtyard houses and hutongs gradually lost their importance once the Qing dynasty was overthrown during the Chinese bourgeois revolution. The members of the Royal family started to rent out or sell courtyard houses due to the loss of their income, and the pattern of residence in the hutongs started to diversify and became disordered.

A lot of hutongs and courtyard houses were mercilessly torn down
Xu Yong, Artist

One hundred years have passed since then, and Beijing has gone through many vicissitudes. During the Cultural Revolution, the hutongs and courtyard houses as historical and cultural heritage were seriously damaged by vandalism. In the late 1980s, many Western-style and modern design buildings were established and developed. A lot of hutongs and courtyard houses were mercilessly torn down and replaced by various cement and glass buildings driven by a totalitarian culture, which is based on lack of respect for the traditional Chinese historical culture. The number of hutongs in Beijing was severely reduced from more than 3,000 to 200 today, and is continually decreasing.

Do you feel that loss personally?
If Beijing looked like a perfect classic oil painting in 1949 when the People’s Republic of China was founded, the colour of this painting has now faded. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the history of Beijing’s urban construction development is a history of destruction of Beijing’s historical and cultural heritage. Sadly, the disappearance of hutongs for Beijing is like a person losing their genetic makeup or their ancestors.

Did you feel you had a mission to immortalise the hutongs through your photographs before they vanished forever?
I did not feel it a mission when I shot the hutongs around 20 years ago, nor do I today. I chose the hutongs as my subject because of my special feeling for them, which might be related to the history and reality of Beijing. In '101 Hutong Portraits', the photos were taken from early summer 1989 to the spring 1990. I was using the images of the hutongs to describe several Beijing stories I had in my mind.