1. Mathieu Asselin & Sergio Valenzuela Escobedo - The Camera as Political Apparatus
The Camera as Political Apparatus: Protest and Engagement in Documentary Photography
This workshop invites participants to think, discuss and challenge their beliefs on what critical documentary photography is and can be. As photographers, how does our point of view and engagement affect how and what we photograph? Is documenting enough in today’s world? Are we in danger of succumbing to a certain aesthetic laziness in the way we photograph pain and misery, and is there an alternative? We believe that documentary photography still has an important role in criticizing, revealing and in other ways actively catalyzing change in today’s world. The way we as photographers approach what we do can mean the difference between visual tourism, a cry of outrage or effective criticism.
From planning and developing to promoting and funding a project, the participants will have an opportunity to clarify the next steps for their existing politically or socially engaged long-term work.
Part I. From outrage to productive criticism
Where to aim and how to create an efficient critique? We’ll discuss how to navigate the seemingly endless possibilities – from coming up with ideas, to developing a coherent storyline and form, collaboration, access to the subject, planning, visualizing and more.
Part II. Delivering the message and the form of the project
As the project develops, its final form and presentation should be kept in mind. The options are many, but we will talk about how to “set your own rules” by pinpointing what is most suitable for a specific project.
Part III. Show me the money
Funding is the Achilles heel of documentary photography. Photographing climate changes with a grant from Shell Oil Corporation – a disaster or a possibility? There is little money to go around, and what there is not always “clean”. Sponsors, prizes, grants, print sales – navigating these unclear waters is key in making choices that can affect the ethics of your work.
Participants should be working on or have recently completed a long-term project. Bring your work-in-progress (small/medium prints are recommended as well digital files), as well as your portfolio.
Mathieu Asselin (FR / VEN, 1973) works and lives in Arles, France. He began his career working in film productions in Caracas, Venezuela, but shaped his photographic practice in the United States. His work consists mainly of long-term documentary research projects, such as his latest book 'Monsanto: A Photographic Investigation', which received international recognition by winning the Kassel PhotoBook Festival Dummy Award in 2016, the Aperture Foundation First Book Award in 2017, was selected for the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Award in 2018 and the Prix de l'Elysee 2018/2019. His work has recently been exhibited at venues including Les Rencontres d'Arles in France, the Photographer's Gallery in London, the Fotomuseum Antwerp in Belgium, the Museum of Modern Art in Frankfurt and the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Mathieu Asselin holds a master's degree from the École National Supérieure de la Photo in Arles, France
Sergio Valenzuela Escobedo (CH) - Independent artist and curator, currently completing his PhD at the National Photography School in Arles, France (ENSP). After one year at the National School of the Arts in Johannesburg, he graduated in Photography in Chile and completed his Masters of Fine Arts at the Villa Arson in 2014. Since 2005, he has been designing and curating exhibitions in Chile and Europe, including Mapuche at the Musée de l'Homme in Paris and Monsanto: a Photographic Investigation at Les Rencontres d'Arles. His photographic research is focused on the critical and historical understanding of the introduction of the photographic medium in South America; and the complex intersections of identities in ancient cultures. His work focuses on interdisciplinary theories that have shaped knowledge, techniques and beliefs, by which societies have re-configured the concepts of imagination, representation, embodiment, and identity.
2. Anthony Luvera & Vincen Beeckman - (Un)Making Images Together: Photography and Collaboration
Making photographs has always been a collaborative act. A myriad of creative decisions, social interactions, divisions of labour, and many other forms of contribution are usually buried in service to the photographer’s ‘unique vision’. But what takes place when these processes of collaboration, co-production or social encounter are positioned as an integral part of the work presented to an audience? When the ‘subjects’ are recast as ‘participants’ taking part in a socially-engaged, community, collaborative, or participatory photography practice?
(Un)Making Images Together will bring together a community of practitioners invested in photography and collaboration. Together we will explore some of the practical, theoretical, methodological, and ethical issues that can arise when working in this way. This workshop is an invitation to experiment with ways of engaging individuals, groups of people, and communities, as active participants in the process of creating work about their lives, experiences, and points of view about the world around them. At the heart of this workshop is a focus on the dynamic between the photographer and subject. To view this relationship as a scale of interaction marked by degrees of collaboration, ranging from fleeting and short-term interactions, sustained strategies of facilitation, co-production and pedagogy, through to longer-term relationships and collective action. Who stands to benefit from collaboration? Who determines the parameters of an invitation to participate? Whose needs, intentions or ambitions can be fulfilled, and to what ends?
We will begin by spending time discussing and sharing feedback on each other’s work. Collectively we will determine ways to learn from each other throughout the workshop – tutors, participants and collaborators alike. We may create work in collaboration with the local community of Zaļenieki. Together we will find ways to chart our process of working alongside one another, and the questions, observations and experiences we exchange throughout the workshop. Themes of authorship, agency, consent, and representation will be considered. Strategies of dialogue, play, chance, and failure will be explored and discussed. In this workshop we will seek to expand our understanding of the implications of photography and collaboration, and to experiment with new ways of working.
Technical and prior requirements
There are no specific technical requirements for taking part in this workshop. Participants are asked to bring examples of socially-engaged work they have made with individuals or communities, created through strategies of participation, collaboration or co-production. Examples need not involve photography only. They are invited to bring along any kind of equipment (photographic or other) - such as disposable cameras, phone cameras, digital sound recorders, digital SLRs, collage materials, or instant film cameras. Most importantly, participants should be open to meeting new people from all kinds of backgrounds and walks of life, including the people living in Zaļenieki whom we may encounter and get to know.
Anthony Luvera is a socially engaged artist, writer and educator who has collaborated with people who have experienced homelessness in cities and towns across the United Kingdom for over fifteen years. The long-term collaborative projects he creates with homeless people and other community groups have been exhibited widely in galleries, museums and public spaces, including Tate Liverpool, London Underground’s Art on the Underground, British Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Belfast Exposed Photography, Australian Centre for Photography, PhotoIreland, Malmö Fotobiennal, Goa International Photography Festival, and Les Recontres D’Arles Photographie. Anthony is an Associate Professor and Course Director of MA Photography and Collaboration at Coventry University. He also contributes to the public education programmes for the National Portrait Gallery, Tate Britain, Royal Academy of Arts, The Photographers’ Gallery, Barbican Art Gallery, Magnum, and community photography projects across the UK.
Vincen Beeckman (1973, Brussels) – Artist, photographer and curator at Recyclart Art Centre, Brussels. Vincen Beeckman works with still images and people to create intimate stories. By exploring the notions of identity and society, Beeckman discovers new dimensions and opens up new definitions. Through analogue media and conversation, he investigates what it means to exist, to just be in the everyday, without being exceptional or beautiful, or complex. Paradoxically, he finds what is special in the ordinary; normality - on the borderline. His work has been shown at Fondation A, Fomu Antwerpen, WIELS, Centrale Electrique, Bozar, Le Botanique, Photo España, Les Recontres d'Arles, Pavlov's Dog Berlin. He is also responsible for the programming for the Recyclart association in Brussels, a dynamic laboratory and art center generating socio-artistic experimentations, meetings and urban initiatives.
3. The Cool Couple - Astronauts vs. Poets: Utopia, Dystopia and Visual Ecology
This workshop is addressed at artists, curators and writers whose work deals with photography and who are interested in deconstructing the boundaries of photographic practice. Working as a group, we will analyze the potential of images to become stimulating tools for an active and critical reflection on the widespread ecological crisis characterizing the planet today.
Fifty years ago, the first astronauts seeing the Earth from outer space said that NASA should have sent poets to space, instead of scientists, because they lacked the words to describe the view. A key problem with the perception of the crisis, the feeling that the world as we knew it has ended, lies in its imagery. Photographs of natural disasters and political turmoil clash with the peaceful landscapes usually available as default backgrounds on our laptops and smart devices, producing a kind of stasis that makes judgement complex. The first picture of Earth taken from space in 1968 fueled the ecological movement and gave birth to the first Earth Day. Today, however, it seems that images are struggling to draw our attention to urgent issues, such as mass extinction, landscape destruction and resource depletion.
During the workshop, each participant will develop a personal project, starting from a concept related to environmental issues and the ways in which human beings can relate to the bio- and geosphere. We will guide each participant through a series of steps, exploring research strategies, languages and channels for developing the idea, as well as artistic practices dealing with the Anthropocene. A series of practical exercises will be undertaken both indoors and in the field. Every step will be discussed collectively to try to answer questions concerning photography’s efficacy today. We will also present case studies featuring a multidisciplinary approach to images and their dynamics. The resulting projects will be presented collectively at the end of the week.
The participants are invited to arrive with a project idea or an already existing series of images.
The Cool Couple is an artist duo based in Milan. Established in 2012 by Niccolò Benetton and Simone Santilli, TCC develops research on the friction points in the daily relationship between people and images. Their projects adopt a variety of languages from performances to fine art photographs, video installations, 3D sculptures and videogames, all exploring the role of visuality in the present. TCC’s work has been exhibited at institutions such as: Center for Contemporary Culture Strozzina (Florence), Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa (Venice), Unseen Photography Fair (Amsterdam), Centquatre (Paris), Les Rencontres des Arles (Arles) and MACRO (Rome), Museo del ‘900 (Milan), MAMBO (Bologna). The Cool Couple combines their artistic research with an interest in teaching. They have been lecturers at NABA (Milan), IUAV University (Venice), AplusA gallery (Venice), University of South Wales (Newport), IED Turin, ISSP (Latvia).
4. Natasha Caruana - The Personal as Political
Where is the border between the personal and the political? When does the personal stop being just personal and start reflecting structural flaws/forms of oppression in society? How can we leave emotions and ego behind and use the personal to articulate a political statement?
One of the ways to respond to the injustices and power imbalances happening around us is to turn the camera inwards: facing the lens towards ourselves to explore how our own experiences can be a powerful form of political activism. During this workshop, we will reflect upon the role of the photographer as an individual, and techniques in which they can share the current global state. For example, the process of “bearing witness” - a term, used in psychology, but often used within the language of photography - refers to sharing our experiences with others as a valuable way to process an event, happening, or incident. The process allows one to obtain empathy and support, lighten emotional burden, and start the healing process.
In this workshop, we will explore the ways that we can effect change from documenting moments of our everyday life, relationships, and routines. How we can utilize personal pain, anger, and frustration in order to see our own situation as a reflection of wider political realities, reflect on it objectively and use our work to engage others. We will draw inspiration from photographic artists like Richard Billingham who turned the camera on his own family, and in doing so inadvertently explored British unemployment and the impact of factory closures during the mid-nineties; playful Pixy Liao whose performative self-portraits with her boyfriend explore power dynamics and the cultural pressure of growing up female in China. Further reference can also be made to the work of Latoya Ruby Frazier, Tereza Červeňová, and Catherine Opie.
The workshop will be delivered across a mix of lectures and discussions, as well as practical and reflective exercises. All the activities will encourage an individual, playful, supportive, and collaborative approach.
The workshop will suit those with an interest in autobiography and documentary in reference to a broader social context. Due to time constraints, attending with prior research and work-in-progress will be more beneficial.
Natasha Caruana is a London-based artist and educator. She works across photography, moving image and installation. Her work begins autobiographically, exploring narratives of love, betrayal, and fantasy, underpinned by a performative and playful approach, exploring performance and perception in relation to gender roles and changing cultural expectations. The work draws from archives, the Internet, and personal accounts. The series Married Man breaks with traditional portrayals of infidelity, whilst later works grapple with the institution of marriage—its promise and defeat. Caruana has an MA in Photography from the Royal College of Art, London. She is Senior Lecturer of Photography, University of the Arts London, and the founder of Work-Show-Grow. Since 2016 Caruana has run the self-funded NC mentorship scheme.
5. Alfonso Borragán - Photography and Ritual: The Revealing Machine
In this workshop we will take a step away from the traditional understanding of photography as an image production tool to reveal its potential as a relational device, a magical toolbox, and a means for community engagement. Photography will be activated as an instrument able to catalyse situations, transform daily routines, reveal meanings and create new perspectives of the reality around us. It will become a strategy to infiltrate reality, expand the bonds of normality and transform our relationship with our surroundings.
The workshop is structured as a collective experimental laboratory and research space to exchange ideas and try out the ways in which photography can become a relational technique. Our time will be divided into group discussions, explorations of the immediate environment in the campus and the village, and implementing ‘actions’ or ‘projects’, both as a group and individually. The first ‘action’ to be performed together as a group will be the construction of a camera obscura in the forest, using collected natural materials. The camera will expose an image for the whole duration of the week. It will work as an everyday gathering centre for the group, becoming our collective observatory.
Our aim will be to activate various relational situations or ‘experiences’ in connection to the local village and the surrounding natural environment. Using a variety of photo-based technologies, from classical portraits to camera-less photography and photosensitive surfaces, we will create objects, performances and collective rituals, in which both creators and spectators will be indivisibly involved, and thus transformed.
There are no prior requirements for the participants. This workshop welcomes any kind of practitioners interested in opening up their understanding of photography and engaging with the immediate environment - including artists, anthropologists, social geographers, filmmakers, writers, and more.
Alfonso Borragán – a multidisciplinary artist whose practice is articulated between research, teaching and production. He has been investigating along the edges of photography for the last 15 years. Studied at Fine Arts Faculty, Barcelona and the Slade School of Fine Arts, London. His work can be interpreted as the development and tracking of an irreproducible experience - he creates situations and devices that are born to be consumed and that seek to change in some way the perception of reality, to broaden or interfere in it. He has carried out and shared his projects in Spain, Portugal, Germany, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Norway, Canada, USA, Colombia or India. His latest works have been exhibited at Kontajner, Zagreb (Daguerrolito); Miro Foundation, Barcelona (la Grieta); Palmadotze, Barcelona (No man’s Land), Plataforma, Bogotá (Fosfofagia 04) or GYCF, South Korea (Apnea: the City of Dreams). He has also taught and delivered workshops and lectures at Slade School of Fine Arts, Camberwell College of Arts, London College of Communication, Plymouth University, La Colegiatura Colombiana, Barcelona University, Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (Iaac), and Institute of Photographic Studies of Catalonia (iefc). He lives and works in London where he is a Lecturer at University College London.