Photographs

Spotlight: In Leah Gordon’s Empathetic Photographs, Haitian Carnival Culture Bursts Forth in a New Show Spanning Decades


Every month, hundreds of galleries add newly available works by thousands of artists to the Midnight Publishing Group Gallery Network—and every week, we shine a spotlight on one artist or exhibition you should know. Check out what we have in store, and inquire for more with one simple click.

What You Need to Know: Ed Cross, London, is currently hosting the solo show “Leah Gordon: Kanaval,” which will be on view through February 18, 2023. The selection of black-and-white photography is drawn from a long-term series that Gordon begun when she first visited Haiti in the early 1990s. With images taken over a 25-year period using a vintage analog camera, the works together offer insight into the rich and complex culture and history of Haiti’s southern commune, Jacmel. The exhibition follows the recent reissue of the book Kanaval, by Here Press in November of last year; it features more photographs, as well as oral histories centered on the Carnival season in Jacmel. Later this year, Gordon’s documentary film Kanaval: A People’s History of Haiti in Six Chapters will be shown in select cinemas in November, as well as on BBC 4’s Arena on November 27, 2023.

Why We Like It: What sets Gordon’s work apart from straightforward documentary photography is her reciprocal approach—which has been referred to as “performed ethnography”—to the subjects of her images. Engaging directly with the people and places she focuses her lens on, and communicating through the shared language of Krèyol (also known as Haitian Creole), the sitters maintain their authority and are paid for their time. {Fittingly, 5 percent of the profits from the current show will be used to purchase art materials for Atis Rezistans—Resistance Artists—a collective based in Port-au-Prince.) Collecting oral histories alongside capturing the costume, dress, and setting of the participants and attendees of Jacmel’s annual Carnival celebration over decades has resulted in a dynamic, multi-perspective visual exploration of the vibrant community and culture. Additionally, through this project Gordon has been able to engage with broader themes of history and politics, and bring to light the influence the past—from precolonial society to 18th-century revolt and 20th-century U.S. interference—on modern-day Haitian culture. Of the project Gordon said, “This is people taking history into their own hands and molding it into whatever they decide. So, within this historical retelling we find mask after mask, but rather than concealing, they are revealing, story after story, through disguise and roadside pantomime.”

According to the Gallery: “We are honored to be working with Leah Gordon to present this show. Her iconic work, carried out over two decades, painstakingly and respectfully reveals the layers of meaning behind an extraordinarily rich cultural phenomenon, the study of which unlocks the unique and important history of Haiti, with all its tragedies and triumphs.” —Director Ed Cross

See featured works from the exhibition below.

Leah Gordon, Lansè Kòd | Gason Bó Lanmé-a (Rope Throwers | Boy by the Sea) (2000). Courtesy of Ed Cross, London.

Leah Gordon, Lansè Kòd | Gason Bó Lanmé-a (Rope Throwers | Boy by the Sea) (2000). Courtesy of Ed Cross, London.

Leah Gordon, Madanm Lasirén (Madame Mermaid) (2003). Courtesy of Ed Cross, London.

Leah Gordon, Madanm Lasirén (Madame Mermaid) (2003). Courtesy of Ed Cross, London.

Leah Gordon, Pa Wowo (The Way of Wowo) (2004). Courtesy of Ed Cross, London.

Leah Gordon, Pa Wowo (The Way of Wowo) (2004). Courtesy of Ed Cross, London.

Leah Gordon, Nèg pote Wob fè Fas Kache: Deye (Man Wearing a Dress Hiding his Face: Front) (2004). Courtesy of Ed Cross, London.

Leah Gordon, Nèg pote Wob fè Fas Kache: Deye (Man Wearing a Dress Hiding his Face: Front) (2004). Courtesy of Ed Cross, London.

Leah Gordon, Lanmò (Death) (2019). Courtesy of Ed Cross, London.

Leah Gordon, Lanmò (Death) (2019). Courtesy of Ed Cross, London.

Leah Gordon: Kanaval” is on view at Ed Cross, London, through February 18, 2023.

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Legendary Cinematographer Roger Deakins on Getting Rejected from Film School and Releasing His First Book of Photographs at 72


Shortly before Roger Deakins sat down for this interview about his new book of photographs, Byways, the cinematographer received an email from director Denis Villeneuve, with whom he’d worked on Blade Runner 2049.

“I can see it’s you,” Deakins recalled Villeneuve saying about the book, meaning that he recognized the eye behind the images. 

I can too. Embedded throughout Byways, published this month by Damiani, are many of the Deakins hallmarks made famous by his lens work for directors including Sam Mendes and the Coen brothers, and in such acclaimed films as The Shawshank Redemption and Skyfall. In the book, the yawning highways and wind-whipped hills from a set of shots taken outside Albuquerque seem to recall the landscapes of No Country for Old Men, for instance, while a handful of bleached-out Norwegian vistas put Fargo front of mind. Occasionally, the connections are more overt: here, the tree from the parting shot of Mendes’s 1917 makes a more permanent cameo on the page.  

As a cinematographer, Deakins looms large: he is, for many movie peoples’ money, the greatest person doing the job today (witness his 15 Oscar nominations, with two wins). But his reputation as a fine-art photographer is far less developed. Not only is Byways his first monograph, it’s also the first place many of these pictures have ever been shared publicly. 

It’s for this reason that, as satisfying as the similarities between his films and these pictures are, the differences are just as revealing. Comparing the two bodies of work is an exercise in comparing the essences of film and photography, and an uncommon opportunity at that: rare are the practitioners who are equally accomplished in both formats.

The central difference between Deakins’s two bodies of work makes spending time with Byways a special pleasure. Whereas a film is a collaborative endeavor, one routed through the mind of its director, this collection of still images represents a wholly personal project. It may be the purest distillation of Deakins’s vision—stark, plaintive, and reverent of land and light—we ever get.

Roger Deakins. Courtesy of the artist.

Roger Deakins. Courtesy of the artist.

There are 150-some photographs in the book, representing roughly five decades of work. How many pictures did you go through to come up with that selection? In other words, how big is your archive?

Not very big—I don’t really keep much, you see. I mean, I take a lot of photographs when I’m working on a movie, but they’re just a reference for the film. The photographs that I take for my own pleasure are quite few, really. I don’t have the time when I’m working, and thankfully I’ve had quite a productive career.

So you’re not somebody who carries a camera with you at all times? 

I’m not that obsessed by it, I must say. I do have a camera with me most of the time when I’m shooting a film, but I think it’s a very different thing to spend your own time with a stills camera, looking for something that grabs you.

Roger Deakins, <i>Albuquerque Cemetary Rainbow</i> (2014). © Roger A. Deakins.

Roger Deakins, Albuquerque Cemetery Rainbow (2014). © Roger A. Deakins.

Do you use the camera to record memories, or is it more of an aesthetic instrument for you, a tool to make art?

I don’t like the word ‘art,’ really. [Laughs] I’ve obviously been on holiday and taken snapshots of a memory, but the photographs that are in the book, they just grabbed my attention. I liked the frame or I liked the light. Often I liked the slightly surreal quality of the image, a juxtaposition of things in the frame. It’s not art; I’m not a photographer and they’re not memory aids. I don’t sketch with a pencil. I sketch through the camera, I suppose.

 

In the foreword to the book, you write, ‘The choice of when to take a picture, and which of the resultant images has a future, reveals something of us as individuals. Each of us see differently.’ Do you think someone who knows your film work could see these images and know they were made by you? What are the ‘Deakins-isms’ we might see here? 

I think there’s definitely a sensibility. That’s true even when I work on a film. I’m not the author of the film, obviously—I’m working for a director and with anywhere up to a couple of hundred people—but I do think you stamp your point of view, your taste, on the work you do. When I shoot films, you can see there’s a continuity, that there’s an individual behind the camera. I look at some other people’s work in film and that’s true, too. I could always recognize a film that was shot by Conrad Hall, for instance; there’s a certain sensibility that he had. That’s the case for still photographers as well. 

Looking back through these photos, I wondered if my eye had changed, and I don’t think it has, really. The photographs I took back then are really quite simple; they’re pared down in terms of what’s in the frame. I guess that’s what I’ve been doing ever since. [Laughs]

Roger Deakins, <i>Teignmouth Dog Jumping</i> (2000). © Roger A. Deakins.

Roger Deakins, Teignmouth Dog Jumping (2000). © Roger A. Deakins.

Why haven’t you shared these pictures before now? 

I don’t know, really. The earliest photographs I took in North Devon, and they’re part of a public archive. But the other images are just things I’ve shot over the years. Some of them were taken in Berlin, for instance. When we were over there working on a movie, I’d go out and explore the city on the weekend. I had my camera and would snap the odd shot. There’s probably three or four in the book from Berlin; maybe I only ever took a dozen total. I don’t take many photographs. It has to be something that grabs me, and then obviously you have to be able to get it at that moment. There are a lot of things that grab your attention but you miss the shot.

These are just photographs from here, there, and everywhere. There’s not really any structure to the book. There’s no rhyme or reason to it, other than the fact that they’re all shots that I like. Some people had asked, ‘Well, why don’t you do a book?’ And eventually I just thought, ‘Yeah, why not?’

One of the first jobs you had out of art school was as a photographer. Can you take me back to that gig? How did it impact the way you saw the world?

Originally I wanted to be a painter, a bohemian! [Laughs] Then, while I was at art college, I discovered photography. My paintings were fairly naturalistic, just based on things that I’d seen, so it made sense to have a camera and photograph the things I saw. A great photographer, Roger Mayne, was teaching at the school; he would come in for a few days every now and again. He was quite an inspiration, him and his work. So I thought I would become a photographer. But then I was talking to a friend who was applying to the National Film School, which was just opening the year that we were finishing at art college. I had always been interested in film, especially documentary filmmaking, and so it seemed like that might be a great opportunity.

Well, I didn’t get in the first time I applied. But in the interim, I was offered this job recording country life in North Devon. I was really hired as a recorder, not necessarily a photographer. I didn’t do a very good job, I don’t think, because I’m not very skilled at recording. I took a lot of photographs, but they weren’t great in terms of documenting a historical moment. Nevertheless, it was a great learning experience for me. I just spent all day every day with my camera, experimenting with framing and other things. It was a great time to play. 

Roger Deakins, <i>Weston - Super - Mare, Looking for Summer</i> (2004). © Roger A. Deakins.

Roger Deakins, Weston-Super-Mare, Looking for Summer (2004). © Roger A. Deakins.

I was going to ask you about your relationship to painting. I know that you’ve always had a love of the medium. Does it influence your work behind the lens?

It’s funny, when somebody asks, ‘What are your influences?’ I don’t know what to say. Surely your influences are every experience you’ve had. There’s so many painters whose work I love and know quite well, whether it’s Francis Bacon or Edvard Munch or Giorgio de Chirico. I studied many of them in college. But to say how much they’ve influenced me, that’s hard. There’s a couple of photographs in the book that remind me of de Chirico, maybe, but is it an influence or just a coincidence? I’m just as influenced by growing up in South Devon and spending my childhood out at sea, fishing. These things accumulate.

All of the photos in the book are black and white, which might come as a mild surprise to people familiar with your work in film, where you have displayed such a mastery of color. What is it about black and white that interests you when it comes to still photography?

I’ve been trying to work in color and I just can’t do it. I just find it uninteresting! [Laughs] Black and white is much more about the content, the frame, and the light. Color can be so distracting. There are very few photographers that really work in color and use it well. Alex Webb is a great example of someone who can use color to his advantage.

Maybe it’s just because I grew up in love with the work of Brassaï and Bill Brandt and Alfred Stieglitz, all these great photographers that worked in black and white. Maybe I’m a bit of a dinosaur.

 

Roger Deakins, <i>Paignton Lion and the Gull</i> (2015). © Roger A. Deakins.

Roger Deakins, Paignton Lion and the Gull (2015). © Roger A. Deakins.

The relationship between film and photography is something I think about often. It’s a question I’ve asked many photographers in interviews like this one: ‘How has film informed your pictures?’ Every time, without fail, they play it down. 

I believe it.

Why do you think that is? Do you feel that there’s a line to be drawn between the work you do as a cinematographer and your experiences taking photographs?

Obviously, there are things that you learn in one that help you in the other, technically speaking. But I do think capturing a still photograph is very different.

I say at the beginning of the book that I’m not a photographer, and I’m really not; I’ve just taken some pictures. But I think with great photographers, you look at their photographs and there’s a story within them. You can’t really do that in a movie because those frames keep moving. You can’t make the frames too complex, because you’re telling the story as a composite. It’s a different way of communicating, you know? 

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Artists Are Selling $140 Photographs Online to Support India’s Depleted Hospitals as It Battles a Coronavirus Surge


India, the world’s second most populous nation, is in the throes of a deadly coronavirus surge that has claimed the lives of more than 4,000 people in just the past 24 hours. And according to reports from the health ministry, the number of daily infections has exceeded 300,000 every day for the past two weeks.

Now, the arts community is rallying to support overwhelmed hospitals facing dire oxygen shortages.

Art for India, which launched earlier this week and runs through May 9, is a grassroots project selling photographic prints for $140 each by 11 artists from India and its diaspora to raise money for the coronavirus relief group Mission Oxygen.

The project, founded by the London-based Heta Fell, Vivek Vadoliya, and Danielle Pender, will donate 100 percent of its proceeds to the relief organization, a group of more than 250 entrepreneurs in India working to import oxygen concentrators for the hardest-hit hospitals in the country.

In an email to Midnight Publishing Group News, Fell said she was “absolutely distraught” watching the death toll rise, and was “compelled to create something to support people living through this nightmare.”

Fell then reached out to Pender, founder of Riposte magazine, and Vadoliya, a photographer and filmmaker, for help. The trio organized the initiative in just three days.

Artists including Bharat Sikka, Prarthna Singh, Ashish Shah, and Kalpesh Lathigra are contributing to the project. So far, Fell said, they have raised over $27,800, with orders coming in from around the world.

When hot spots in the United States and Europe had similar surges, the art world mobilized with initiatives like Pictures for Elmhurst, which raised $1.38 million for the New York hospital. A similar fundraiser in Italy raised nearly $800,000 to benefit the Pope Giovanni XXIII Hospital in Bergamo.

“We are all united around the urgent need to raise funds for India,” Fell said. “It’s also been beautiful to see the sense of community among the artists involved.”

See some of the works for sale below.

Artwork by Avani Rai. Courtesy of Art for India.

Artwork by Avani Rai. Courtesy of Art for India.

Artwork by Kuba Ryniewicz. Courtesy of Art for India.

Artwork by Kuba Ryniewicz. Courtesy of Art for India.

Ashish Shah, <i>Life and Death by the Ganges</i>. Courtesy of Art for India.

Ashish Shah, Life and Death by the Ganges. Courtesy of Art for India.

Artwork by Bharat Sikka. Courtesy of Art for India.

Artwork by Bharat Sikka. Courtesy of Art for India.

Artwork by Devashish Gaur. Courtesy of Art for India.

Artwork by Devashish Gaur. Courtesy of Art for India.

Artwork by Kalpesh Lathigra. Courtesy of Art for India.

Artwork by Kalpesh Lathigra. Courtesy of Art for India.

Kalpesh Lathigra, <i>Dinosaurs and Cameras</i>. Courtesy of Art for India.

Kalpesh Lathigra, Dinosaurs and Cameras. Courtesy of Art for India.


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These Photographs of the Parthenon Covered by a Rare Snowstorm Like a Magical Ancient Wedding Cake Are Going Viral


Best known for its ancient architecture and balmy clime, the city of Athens, Greece is currently blanketed in inches of snow, with temperatures dipping into the negative digits. The city has not seen this much snow in a decade—and it’s all happening in the midst of another two-week lockdown.

With schools closed, local children took to the streets for impromptu snowball fights while photographers captured the unusual view of the city’s ancient monuments, including the Parthenon and the Acropolis, in a winter wonderland.

See more images of the blanketed city below.

The Parthenon temple atop the Athenian Acropolis hill is pictured during heavy snowfalls in Athens on February 16, 2021. (Photo by ARIS MESSINIS/AFP via Getty Images)

The Parthenon temple atop the Athenian Acropolis hill is pictured during heavy snowfalls in Athens on February 16, 2021. (Photo by ARIS MESSINIS/AFP via Getty Images)

The popular tourist area of Plaka in the snow. (Photograph: Miloš Bičanski/Getty Images)

A member of the presidential guard stands outside the Greek parliament during a snowstorm. (Photo by Socrates Baltagiannis/picture alliance via Getty Images)

People take photos during a snowstorm on the Areopagus next to the Acropolis. (Photo by Socrates Baltagiannis/picture alliance via Getty Images)

ATHENS, GREECE – FEBRUARY 16: The Academy Of Athens monument of ancient greek philosopher Socrates (R) and Plathonos (L) is covered by snow. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)

A man walks past Roman Agora during heavy snowfall over Athens, on February 16, 2021. (Photo by LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP via Getty Images)

16 February 2021, Greece, Athens. (Photo by Socrates Baltagiannis/picture alliance via Getty Images)

An aerial photograph the ancient Acropolis is covered by snow. (Photo by ANTONIS NIKOLOPOULOS/Eurokinissi/AFP via Getty Images)

A statue of Thodoros Kolokotronis covered by snow after a heavy snowfall on February 16, 2021. (Photo by Konstantinos Zilos/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Snow falls on the ancient Agora during a snowstorm. (Photo by Socrates Baltagiannis/picture alliance via Getty Images)

The hill of Lycabettus as people are seen on the top. (Photo by ANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP via Getty Images)

A snowman is pictured in front of the Parthenon temple atop the Athenian Acropolis hill during heavy snowfalls in Athens on February 16, 2021. (Photo by ARIS MESSINIS / AFP) (Photo by ARIS MESSINIS/AFP via Getty Images)

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Archaeologists Are Using the Incredible Photographs From This Cold War-Era Spy Satellite to Unlock Secrets of World History

Satellite imagery from the Corona project, a Cold War spy program that acquired military intelligence about the Soviet Union for the US, is proving useful in ways its creators could have never imagined—including for archaeologists.

“Corona is like a time machine for us,” Jason Ur, a Harvard University archaeologist who works with Corona images, told the New York Times. “In a lot of cases, they lead us to landscapes that are gone, that don’t exist anymore.”

A trove of some 850,000 images were taken by Corona satellites between 1960 and 1972, after President Dwight Eisenhower approved it as part of the world’s first space imaging program. A spy satellite offered an unprecedented view of the enemy and its missile sites, warships, and military bases.

Today, those high-resolution images represent a snapshot of an earlier planet, making visible global ecosystem transformations that happened right under our noses, including from the effects climate change. Spanning nearly the entire globe, the photographs were declassified in the mid-1990s.

Examples of recent land use changes detectable on CORONA imagery: A) Western Mexico City, Mexico, where massive urban sprawl has destroyed archaeological remains; B) Indus River Valley, Pakistan, where intensified irrigation agriculture has obscured archaeological sites; C) Three Gorges Dam, China, where construction of the world’s largest dam project has submerged countless archaeological sites. CORONA imagery courtesy United States Geological Survey; Modern satellite imagery ©ESRI and DigitalGlobe.

Examples of recent land use changes detectable on CORONA imagery: A) Western Mexico City, where massive urban sprawl has destroyed archaeological remains; B) Indus River Valley, Pakistan, where intensified irrigation agriculture has obscured archaeological sites; C) Three Gorges Dam, China, where construction of the world’s largest dam project has submerged countless archaeological sites. CORONA imagery courtesy US Geological Survey; Modern satellite imagery ©ESRI and DigitalGlobe.

Archaeologists are particularly interested in what Corona images reveal about areas of the near and Middle East that have undergone rapid development in recent decades, destroying archaeological sites and ancient roads and irrigation systems.

Corona has been an invaluable tool for Ur in what he calls remote sensing, using aerial photographs and satellite imagery to view the landscape from above, and identify lingering evidence of features from the ancient world.

Analyzing Corona imagery, Ur has spotted “communication networks of the Early Bronze Age, state-sponsored irrigation under the Assyrian and Sasanian empires, and pastoral nomadic landscapes in northwestern Iran and southeastern Turkey,” he writes on his website. These large-scale features, if still in existence today, would be all but invisible on the ground, without the aid of the full picture.

Ur’s findings even inspired an exhibition, “Spying on the Past: Declassified Satellite Images and Archaeology,” at Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology in 2011.

CORONA imagery courtesy United States Geological Survey; Modern satellite imagery ©ESRI and DigitalGlobe.

CORONA imagery courtesy US Geological Survey; Modern satellite imagery ©ESRI and DigitalGlobe.

To date, only about five percent of the images have been scanned (and each photograph costs $30 to digitize). Because the perspective of the satellite distorts spacial accuracy of the terrain, images require orthorectification before geographic features can be seen in their true position. But the software used to correct the images has improved in recent years.

At the University of Arkansas, the Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies has compiled a publicly available image database of 2,214 Corona photographs that identify 803 archaeological sites. Researchers there have developed Sunspot, a free open-access system for mapping Corona imagery to terrain as captured in modern Google Earth imagery.

Corona’s 20th-century images are a valuable supplement to today’s satellite shots, drone photography, and imaging technology, such such as LiDAR, a once prohibitively expensive means of gathering topographic data that is now being increasingly funded by government agencies, yielding an unimaginable wealth of archaeological discoveries.

Over two thousand years after its construction, a one-hundred-meter-wide canal near Bandwai is clearly visible in the satellite image. Photo by USGS/Jason Ur, 1969.

Over 2,000 years after its construction, a 100-meter-wide canal near Bandwai is clearly visible in the satellite image. Photo by USGS/Jason Ur, 1969.

Corona imagery has also been used by Romanian forest engineers studying landscape history, biologists tracing the destruction of Chinese mangroves, geoscientists forecasting water levels in a Nepalese lake, scientists measuring rock glacier movements in central Asia, and biogeographers tracking marmots’ nesting habits amid destructive agriculture practice in Kazakhstan.

“We can use imagery in the past to inform the future,” University of Leeds geoscientist C. Scott Watson, told the Times.

At the time of its creation, Corona also represented an impressive feat of engineering, requiring the development of film that could survive space radiation and high air pressure—not to mention be retrieved from a satellite orbited high above the atmosphere. After a dozen failed launches, the first successful Corona flight managed to make eight passes over the USSR. An Air Force plane retrieved the 20 pounds of film in midair as it floated down to Earth by parachute.

The program was phased out after the invention of satellites that could beam imagery back to Earth digitally, following 145 missions (120 of which successfully delivered their photographs). And while many photographs are unusable due to cloud cover, atmospheric conditions, or other technical difficulties, much remains to be learned from Corona’s historic archive.

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