The aim of this project is to trace the constant expansion and re-shaping of Mexico City in ways that are drastic and subtle, temporary and permanent. The result is a meditation on the way that a city functions as a palimpsest— a hunt for remnants of the past, hidden within multiple historical layers of concrete and brick, images and text. This is not meant to be any sort of definitive catalog of the city, but rather a point of departure to assess the ephemerality and the permanence of the built environment of this megalopolis.
These photos were taken during 2008 and 2009 in many locations throughout the metropolitan area, including Iztacalco, Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl, Ecatepec, Colonia Polanco, Colonia Juarez, Coyoacan, and Santa Fe. They are a result of my work with El Taller Internacional de Arquitectura, Urbanismo y +, as part of my fellowship from the Stein Institute at Cornell University.
"Palimpsesto Urbano" was a solo exhibition in Mexico City during September 2009 at BORDER, and selections from this body of work were included in CUBEOpen 09 at the Centre for the Urban Built Environment (Manchester, UK) in November and December 2009. This work was also selected for GOOD Magazine’s web-based Picture Show in September 2009, and for the Personal Projects section of the British Journal of Photography in May 2010.
“Morgante” interweaves the personal stories of individuals linked by a common denominator: being dwarfs. “Morgante”, ironically nicknamed the Giant in the poem of the same name by Louis Pulci, was the most famous of the five dwarfs at the court of the Medicis in Florence. According to the codes of the time, the dwarf Morgante was portrayed as a “monstrum”.
Thus dehumanized and stripped of his personality, he appears in paintings of Bronzino and sculptures of Giambologna. Progressively he becomes an idea, an archetype, and a looking glass through which “the human family” will regard diversity for centuries to come. Using the literary and artistic inspiration photographer Nicola Lo Calzo has created “Morgante”, a moving gallery of portraits depicting the universe of little people, a highly marginalized category in some African countries. Often associated with witchcraft, people with dwarfism live in a semi-clandestine state, subjected daily to all kinds of psychological violence.
Lo Calzo photographed his models in private situations, at home, at work or in the street. In Lo Calzo’s photographs, Fidel, Kwedi, Babel are not victims of their size. On the contrary, they are the primary agents of their lives, protagonists of the scene represented.
In these terms, the photographer questions the conventional representation of diversity, self-esteem and self-acceptance: his models gaze directly into the camera as if intentionally searching the eyes of their viewers. They fully assume the role of actors and directors of their own lives. In some African societes still deeply polarized around the concept of normal and abnormal, good and evil, tradition and modernity, “Morgante” is an invitation to break this archetype of “monster” and come to full recognition of diversity. (artist statement)
This photographic project, Plane Watchers, follows the lives of a group of people who have, after the collapse of the USSR, kept living in Estonia in accordance to the old ways. I call them the plane watchers, because their Soviet-era shanty-town is located right next to the Lennart Meri airport in Tallinn, and the air above it is constantly abuzz with landing and launching airplanes.
About 40 years ago the workers of former military factory Dvigatel were given plots of land for growing vegetables. This arrangement was intended only for temporary use but also for an unspecified period. That was the beginning of a weird cabin colony, where the local people spent decades cultivating their vegetable plots and erecting new additions to already numerous hovels.
From early spring to late autumn this is a place for sweet idyllic village life, only a short distance from the bustling and noisy city – true Soviet people keep busy weeding and watering, the sounds of Garmoshka fill the air in the evenings, and children run around barefoot. Come winter, the residents of dacha-district more or less hibernate and wait again for spring.
The collapse of the Soviet empire brought about certain changes even in the life of the Soodevahe shanty town. Capitalist rule deepened social stratification. The younger generation was no longer interested in idyllic country life. The shanty town became the “property” of old-age pensioners.
Soon after the younger generation moved away, different types of residents moved in. Almost overnight the area became exposed to the poor and the homeless, classes of people who were not supposed to exist under the fertile conditions of the Soviet rule. Such people found refuge in the cabins near the airfield. However, their attitude distinguished them clearly from the permanent habitants. They would occupy an empty shack and after the place was completely ravaged or even burnt down they moved to another abandoned dacha.
Although Tallinn Airport became the new owner of the land of the former collective farm, it took years to figure out what to do about this weird urban region. The first impressions of those arriving to Estonia by plane were rather creepy and made them feel insecure.
Today the decision sealing the fate of this area has finally been made. Demolition of dachas and improvement of the aerial perspective or “visual calling card” puts an end to this stuck-in-time district raised decades ago. The spring of 2014 will be the last one for Soodevahe shanty town…
New life is a possibility only for the newer generations. Destroying allotments rearranges peoples’ lives. People can’t be forced into learning to live in a new way. Land left empty and houses falling apart reflect the feelings of Russians living in Estonia: you’re at home, yet you’re homeless, your system is not part of the general system.
My aim is to show the last phase of vanishing and disappearing community who has lost sympathy and compassion from the younger generations due to the reason that the time is just going on. With these portraits, I hope to to save the memory of these simple and common people who continued their trust in a non-existing power.
— Annika Haas
Orchard Beach: The Bronx Riviera
Although New York’s Bronx is considered one of the most diverse communities in America out of which many subcultures originated, such as Hip Hop and Salsa, it’s still viewed as a no man’s land by many of the city’s inhabitants. Perhaps it is a matter of simple geography that many refuse to venture to the northernmost of the city’s five boroughs or, quite possibly, it may be the Borough’s malevolent reputation lingering from its tumultuous past.
From its earliest years, the Bronx has been a hotbed of immigrant working class families, but its image has largely been defined by the urban blight of the late 1960’s through to the 1980’s when arson, drug addiction and social neglect decimated many of its neighborhoods. For the families who have called this scarred landscape home, Orchard Beach, the only beach in the borough, was and remains a treasured respite from the sweltering confines of the concrete jungle. Built in the 1930s by urban planner Robert Moses, the beach carries the stigma as being one of the worst in New York and is commonly known as Horseshit Beach or Chocha Beach.
I began shooting portraits of Orchard Beach’s summertime regulars in 2005 shortly after moving to New York, realizing that the stigma attached to this oasis was largely unjustified - I felt compelled to engage with this community of working class families and colorful characters. The photographs in ‘Orchard Beach – The Bronx Riviera’ celebrate the pride and dignity of the beach’s visitors, working-class people.
Immediately catching the viewer’s eye is the extravagant style of many of the photographs’ subjects – a quest for identity and sense of belonging. Some individuals carry scars and markings that hint to their own personal histories, which often reflect the complex history of the borough itself. Within the gaze of those portrayed we see a community standing in defiance of popular opinion.
The six years I spent photographing Orchard Beach have not only given me the time and space to reflect on the importance of family and community, but also a sense of belonging and purpose. After having experienced the most profound grief when my older brother was brutally murdered, photography has not only offered me an opportunity to give a voice to a community often misunderstood but also a means of healing from the loss experienced.
— Wayne Lawrence / INSTITUTE