“On my thirtieth birthday, my wife left me,” Rafael Mantesso said. She took her cookware, furniture, photos, her decorations. She left me alone in an empty all-white apartment. The only thing she didn’t take was my bull terrier, whom she’d named after her favorite shoe designer: Jimmy Choo,” Rafael said.
Shanghai-based artist Maleonn (aka Ma Liang) has travelled around 25 Chinese provinces, photographing 200,000 people in a mobile photo studio.
It took him seven months to prepare for the project, which included painting the sets and backgrounds, preparing costumes, purchasing a truck, and arranging locations – and collecting old photographs, papers, posters, certificates, letters, receipts and notebooks for props.
Over a period of 10 months, in a battered truck and a minivan, Maleonn visited 35 cities in China, taking 1,600 portraits of people in fancy/fantasy dress.
He established a set of guidelines, such as a minimum of eight people per city who would provide him and his team with food, somewhere to stay and a space to work.
The subjects dressed either in clothes from Maleonn’s van or brought their own outfits. Subjects ranged from tank drivers and police officers to Tang dynasty scholars. People from all walks of life turned up to be photographed.
Maleonn launched the project after losing his studio in Shanghai’s Weihai Road 696 arts community, following a government eviction of artists, and getting divorced. Having completed the huge project in China, Maleonn suggested he might next be taking the roadshow to the UK. ‘I have friends in Swansea,’ he said.
Here are some more examples of Maleonn’s work which melds photography and theatre with remarkable results…
In 2007 John Maloof, a 26-year-old real estate agent involved in historic preservation of Chicago’s Northwest Side, strolled into an auction house and placed a $380 bid on a box of 30,000 prints and negatives from an unknown photographer.
Realising the street photographs of 1950s/60s era Chicago and New York were of unusually high quality, he purchased another lot of the photographer’s work, totalling some 100,000 photographic negatives, thousands of prints, 700 rolls of undeveloped colour film, home movies, audio tape interviews, and original cameras.
Bomb blast, Libya
© Benjamin Lowy – Reportage by Getty Images
Ben Lowy is an award-winning conflict photographer and photojournalist considered controversial by some because he captures his images with an iPhone.
Of his work, Ben says:
For years, I have worked with bulky digital cameras, always mindful of the technical manoeuvres from setting the shutter speed and aperture to editing and toning on a computer screen. In the last two years I have discovered that my iPhone has allowed me to capture scenes without feeling that I am once again on the job. To “point and shoot” has been a liberating experience. It has allowed me to rediscover the excitement of seeing imperfections and happy accidents rendered through the lens of my handheld device. I am able to create imagery, edit, and transmit all these images, creating a modern and efficient workflow for the most inefficient of pursuits – self expression.
Here are some more images that Ben shot while on assignment in Libya last year…
I can’t recall feeling moved by photographs featuring the wedding of strangers before. Then again, I guess I rarely browse the wedding photographs of people I don’t know!
As special and significant as weddings are to those involved, they’re everyday occurrences, and I suspect that it’s having a personal connection with the couple that imbues wedding photographs with much of their emotional charge.
At least, that’s what I’d have assumed… until I discovered the incredibly emotive work of Brisbane-based wedding photographer, Jonas Peterson…
When does personal style morph into self-repetition?
My query paraphrases one posed by Varga in his book Three Questions for Sixty-Five Composers, but it’s obviously equally relevant for us as photographers.
In pondering the dilemma, I was reminded of an overseas photographer whose work I followed with interest for quite some time. The photographer lived in a struggling rural settlement, home to marginalised people with few worldly goods. Their faces were furrowed with the hardships of their lived experience, and they made wonderful subjects for the photographer’s lens.
The resulting head-and-shoulder portraits were powerfully emotive, the solemn demeanour and direct unsmiling gaze of the subjects thrown into sharp relief against incongruously bright-coloured backgrounds. Technically the images were very good, and the photographer’s engagement with the subjects was clear.
The photographer’s personal style of portraiture was instantly recognisable, even from small thumbnails in mixed online galleries. So recognisable in fact, that I felt somewhat guilty when I realised I’d become bored with the work, despite its obvious merit, and I soon stopped following their portfolio. It seemed to me the photographer’s personal style had morphed into self-repetition.