Posts by: Elizabeth Sulis Gear

When humans are gone, this is what our homes might look like


In a house where man lives no more, nature encroaches. Before long the crevices that once were the narrow gaps between skirting boards give in to plant life. But when does a house cease to be home?

Photographer Gohar Dashti was born in the border town of Ahvaz in southwestern Iran, though now lives between Boston and Tehran. “The first steps of my childhood were during the bloody Iran-Iraq war,” explains the artist. “Growing up during the war has taught my generation to live in a constant state of fear.”

New Photo Book Breaks Down Stereotypes of Muslim Men in the UK

“We are all in this together. And in the long term, revenge and violence will not work against extremists. Terrorists want us to huddle in our houses in fear, closing our doors and our hearts. They want us to tear open more wounds in our societies so that they can use them to spread their infection more widely. They want us to become like them: intolerant, hateful and cruel.” -Deeyah Khan at TedxExeter talk ‘what we don’t know about Europe’s Muslim kids.”

I look to the blurb of You Get me? for an introduction about what I am about read and the photographs I am about to look at; in gold, capital letters reads “MUSLIM THUGS BURN POPPIES. Sickening scenes on British streets—Daily Star, 12th November 2010. This headline is followed by many others like it. Is it any wonder young Muslim men often feel disenfranchised?

British-born artist Mahtab Hussain’s new photobook You Get Me? provides an introspective portrait of the community of young Muslim and/or Brown men caught between two worlds. “In the UK they are constantly stopped and searched, labelled as a terrorist or an extremist, and told England wasn’t their home. When they returned to their homeland, they were told they didn’t belong there either. “In a way, You Get Me? is all about hiding,” explains the artist, “pretending to be someone else, something else and then having to face the reality of who one truly wants to be.”

Alec Soth’s Iconic ‘Sleeping by the Mississippi’ 13 Years Later

Alec Soth, ‘Peter’s houseboat, Winona, Minnesota’ from Sleeping by the Mississippi (2017). Courtesy of the artist and MACK

Alec Soth, ‘Maiden Rock, Wisconsin’ from Sleeping by the Mississippi (2017). Courtesy of the artist and MACK.

“Over and over again I fall asleep with my eyes open, knowing I’m falling asleep, unable to prevent it. When I fall asleep this way, my eyes are cut off from my ordinary mind as though they were shut, but they become directly connected to this new, extraordinary mind which grows increasingly competent to deal with their impressions.” -Charles Lindbergh, aviator (epitaph to Alec Soth’s Sleeping by the Mississippi)

“I live near the beginning of the Mississippi and have always felt a pull to it,” Soth tells writer Colin Pantall of the British Journal of Photography. “I used to run away when I was 5 or 6, pack a suitcase with books and run away from home. I’d only get a few blocks but it was the whole Huck Finn process, where the north is home and the south symbolises the exotic.”

A Glimpse at Life in Kyrgyzstan

“Today, no one has time for feelings, they’re all out making money. The discovery of money hit us like an atom bomb…”

Svetlana Alexievich, Secondhand Time: An Oral History of the Fall of the Soviet Union

The citizens of former USSR belonged to one of the most powerful forces in the world, and now they don’t. The Russian language, and the Soviet culture that accompanied it, were all many of them knew. As the USSR dissolved, changes came fast, leaving many feeling lost in the new world in which they found themselves, mourning the world to which they were born. In his latest series A Shaded Path, Parisian photographer Elliot Verdier portrays the generational disparities between those in Kyrgyzstan who are nostalgic for the abolished USSR, and the youth who are forging a new cultural identity for themselves.

Stories Made of Solitude: a Walk in the Woods in the American South

“How surely are the dead beyond death. Death is what the living carry with them. A state of dread, like some uncanny foretaste of a bitter memory. But the dead do not remember and nothingness is not a curse. Far from it.”
-exert from Cormac McCarthy’s Suttree

In Cormac McCarthy’s semi-autobiographical novel Suttree, the protagonist of the same name escapes into the woods for weeks at a time and lives on the margins of an outcast community there—in these breaks from reality he also experiences visions.

Until recently Virginian photographer Morgan Ashcom was living in New York city, a far cry from the rural setting where he was brought up in the American South. Around the same time he left the farm where he grew up, his family entered a period of turmoil. He found himself travelling back on forth between his family home and New York on a regular basis. 

A Poetic Reminder of What Korea Used to Be Like

Described by ICP curator Christopher Phillips as “the long-lost Korean cousin of Magnum photographers such as Henri-Cartier Bresson” is the lesser known Han Youngsoo.

South Korea’s rapid economic development during the past half century is unprecedented. The country went from being one of the poorest countries in the world to being the 4th largest economy in Asia. Han Youngsoo was one of the few artists working during that time to document the country that was soon to change beyond recognition; his photographs transport the viewer back to a time when Seoul was an impoverished city, devastated by the Korean war.

An imagined elderly couple reflect on the dreams that went unfulfilled

“And in silence, where time seems to stand still, they ponder what life may have been… ‘What happened to the time, where we chased our dreams? ’ ‘When we were young, what did we know about fulfilling a life together?’ Love comes and goes like the ebb and flow of the ocean” – Annabel Oosteweeghel.

Annabel Oosteweeghel was walking near her house in Noordwijk, a small coastal town in the Netherlands, when she stumbled upon a perfectly-maintained bungalow from the 1960s. “It seemed as though time had stood still there” she writes. In her mind she imagined the story that had taken place inside behind those walls, envisioning it as the lifelong home of an elderly long-married couple.

Her Everlasting is a melancholic, poetic reimagining of what might have taken place there.

A two-minute walk from the beach, “the bungalow was the perfect filmset”. The interior too was still furnished as it was in the ‘60s. The location inspired her to write and storyboard with the idea of creating a staged series of images using her own narrative.

The story that the artist dreamed up centres on unfulfilled dreams, loneliness and dwindling communication in long-term matrimony. “The couple are ending life together here, but in their minds still feel quite lonely” she explains. “They wonder whether life could have been different had they chosen another path”.

All the images here are carefully staged. The protagonists in this series are the older husband and wife—Oosteweeghel hired models to interpret these characters in staged scenes, but the models are also a married couple in real life. The photographer also hired a stylist to ensure that everything fit in with the period style of the bungalow.

An eerie journey through the peripheries of Vilnius

“I support the idea that all photography is fiction” writes Vilnius-based photographer Simas Lin, “Every image is a visual expression of one’s philosophy and experience so it can never be absolutely true or objective. And I love to use fiction to create photography”. His series Been there traces the sensual experience perceived by the photographer while journeying into the city’s atmospheric, eerie peripheries.

Powerful portraits confront the politics of race and representation

‘I’m reclaiming my blackness, which I feel is continuously performed by the privileged other. My reality is that I do not mimic being black; it is my skin, and the experience of being black is deeply entrenched in me. Just like our ancestors, we live as black people 365 days a year, and we should speak without fear.’  -Zanele Muholi

Photojournalists and editors know it—some consumers do too—exoticism sells. People in the west are fascinated by images that reinforce their preconceived ideas of what a culture “out to look like”, seeking poverty, isolated traditions and stereotypes such as African women adorned with cowrie shells and color. Their quest for “authenticity” is so narrow in scope that its seekers often ignore the complex, modern realities experienced by black people in different regions of the world.

Visual activist photographer Zanele Muholi has her first solo exhibition opening this month at the East London gallery Autograph ABP. For more than a decade, she has focused on documenting black LGTBQI people in South Africa. Her ongoing portrait series Somnyama Ngonyama was inspired by her experiences on the road and the socio-political events she encountered along the way. Using her body as a canvas, her psychologically driven portraits confront the politics of race and representation.

Photographer seeks solitude in some of the world’s remotest wildernesses

Nature is beautiful, though also capable of arousing fear in those who have settled in densely populated areas where comfort is found in numbers and light. Many of us have gotten used to a more restrained nature in fields and city parks, a far cry from impenetrable dark forests and wildernesses where only animal cries and running water break the silence. We’ve severed ties with what shaped us.

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