Notes On: Crossing Borders
As I wrote at “The Portrait I, a brief history of.“, the concept of the portrait started in Renaissance, mostly sponsored by the Catholic Church, including the Pope himself who was probably the most important of the Art Patrons by the time, even if the portraits to be made of them were mostly a question of vanity and worship. And this is quite curious if we see other cultures and faiths, as for example the Islam, in which depictions of humans and animals were never well accepted, even forbidden for the same reasons: to avoid vanity and worship.
Islam had it quite clear, but with the discovering of photography it seems that few rules changed allowing portraits as far as they’re not for worship reasons (nor immorality, hatred or satire) – only for good purposes, like remembering someone or medical studies. (source)
Iran has a great history of photography that you can read about at “Notes On: Persian Photography“.
Mali has been for me an old dream of trip, one of those travels I like to do with a one-way ticket and forget the world to be in it, to feel the culture. But till now it’s not more than a dream, yet.
Mali has also a great history and relevance in photography and wonderful photographers to be proud of. And if you’ve never heard about the Bamako Encounters – African Photography Biennial, you should pay attention to it as in 2013 we will have the 10th edition.
“The Bamako Encounters, African Photography Biennial, have come to play a major role in the cultural life of Mali and the entire continent. As the years have passed, the Encounters have developed into the essential Pan-African event for photographers on the African continent and in the Diaspora, offering artists exceptional opportunities to meet not just one another but also photography professionals from around the World: commissioners, gallery owners, exhibit curators, collectors and journalists.
As the exhibits have travelled around the world, they have contributed towards establishing an international image of African photography in all its creativity and dynamism. The Bamako Encounters have also promoted the emergence of national and regional photography events. And so, little by little, the work done has raised photographic creativity to the level of one of the most talked-about contemporary forms of artistic expression.” (source).
From Mali is also a master in portraits: Malick Sidibé, who received the Hasselblad Award in 2003:
“Malick Sidibé has documented an important period of West African history with great feeling, enthusiasm and commitment. In his portraits and documentary photography, he has uniquely captured the atmosphere and vitality of an African capital in a period of great effervescence. From the very beginnings of the postcolonial period, he has been a privileged witness to a period of tremendous, euphoric cultural change. As a young but already well-reputed photographer, Malick Sidibé captured a time of paradigm shift and youthful insouciance, curiosity about the rest of the world, pride, and confidence in the future. The work of Malick Sidibé, largely devoted to Malian youth in the 1950s and 60s, is a unique memoir and testimony. These photographs, originally intended for an African audience, are now available for the admiration of all.”
Sidibé is mainly and widely known by his black and white studies on popular youth culture in the 60’s, in Bamako, but then he specialized in studio portraits. Lensculture wrote down a wonderful interview that Sidibé gave to GwinZegal few years ago.
The whole Africa and Middle East are still a great discover for us in photography, as we have not much information about it, in exception to some more contemporary art photographers like the Irani Shadi Ghadirian or the South African Pieter Hugo.
But above all what always made me dive deeper in African and Middle Eastern photography is the humanity, the personalization of the culture(s) brought by a humble cultural pride when they have so much to teach and share with us.
Even when our society is vomiting repetition in this digital era in which everybody does the same in its own comfortable area of the fast-life-food. A western society where the people don’t dare to cross borders afraid of their own differences.
Some essays that made 2HeadS even better:
The Underground New York Public Library;
Jorge Molder: The King, The Captain, The Soldier and the Thief;
Genesis, by Sebastiao Salgado;
The Neighbours of Blazej Marczak;
Alchemy, by Sarah Moon;
Katharine Cooper’s White Africans;
Martin, his sister and her camera;
The Roma Project, by Kieran Kesner.
on Gonzalo Bénard:
Un Soir Place de la Bastille;
The Self, the Mirror, our Shadow and its Fear;
How to Cook Humans;
The Hard Softness (NSFW);
The Awakening of the Self;
An Interview With The Incredible Photographer Gonzalo Benard for MutantSpace;
Pain should never be an excuse, but a tool for you to create with;
B Shot by a Stranger: Beyond Loneliness.