Natural Red Hair
As every first-year art student knows, red and green are complementary colours and combining them produces huge optical impact. Put a red dot on a green plane and something special happens: the image starts to move and vibrate.
In 2004, Hanne van der Woude eyed the landscape around Nijmegen (a city in the east of the Netherlands, near the German border) with this knowledge in mind. She stood in the floodplain beside the River Waal and thought how she could make the green washlands look even greener. Her mind turned to redheads.
It was the start of a quest to find models with red hair. To begin with, it wasn’t easy. She started to hang around outside primary schools and go up to people in the street; the search gradually turned into obsession.
After reading in an English newspaper that people with naturally red hair are a vanishing breed, Van der Woude got the idea of photographing as many of them as possible and producing a book of the photographs.
Unlike the photographs in earlier books on this subject, such as the famous Redheads by the American photographer Joel Meyerowitz (1991) and a book with the same title by German photographer Uwe Ditz (2000), Van der Woude’s pictures are not simply straightforward portraits of people – often children – with red hair and pale, freckled skin; Hanne van der Woude remains true to her second love: the Dutch landscape.
She adopts a narrative, almost cinematic style that is very different from the ‘straight photography’ of documentary photographers. Each photo-shoot is carefully planned and prepared. Van der Woude travels far and wide in search of the right setting. And during the shoot she uses artificial lighting to bring out “the flamboyant qualities of redheads”, as Joel Meyerowitz puts it in his book.
—Wim van Sinderen
Editor’s Note: The pictures of 150 redheads throughout the Netherlands are published in the book MC1R – Natuurlijk rood haar. (MC1R is the gene that controls skin and hair colour). The accompanying texts are by Wim van Sinderen and Erik Sistermans.
Hanne van der Woude was one of three photographers chosen to represent the Netherlands this year at the nightlong projection of photographs from 27 European countries at the Rencontres Festival in Arles. Wim van Sinderen served as curator for the selections from the Netherlands.
The photographer Roman Sakovich has gotten some heat for his project Half, a series of images detailing the effects of drug abuse, particularly with respect to methamphetamine addiction; his subjects stand, face forward, their lefthand side polished, even proud, while on the right, their bodies are ravaged by scars and scabs characteristic of addiction. The jarring split-personas are achieved not through photoshop but with expert make-up and styling.
The artist has been criticized for his simplified portrayal of drug dependency; by his own admission, the images, in their shocking nature, exclude a more nuanced exploration and rely in part stereotypes. Problematic for some is the fact that the non-addict self is styled professionally in suits and crisp button-downs, while the addict wears more urban attire, the implication being that class and drug use are profoundly connected.
Regardless of the controversy (and perhaps even because of it), the shocking series inspires much-needed and critical discussion on drug addiction, an illness that plagues tens of millions nationwide. Avoiding blaming and scapegoating individuals, the artist provides an intimate approximation of selfhood torn by addiction, one that inspires empathy, not disgust or prejudice.
Sakovich’s subjects, their identities split in two, are as you and I, lead by hopes, fears, and complex yearnings. A doctor, stethoscope slung over her shoulder, hair in a tight chignon, directs a placid glance comfortingly at the viewer; only after allowing our eyes to drift across the print do we see this figure of heath and safety cruelly overtaken by substance abuse, her eye downcast and purpled, a dried lip furrowed and lined. We read these bodies from left to right like strange texts, imagining personal and intimate narratives in order to reconcile the two faces before us. Ultimately, we are left with the powerful warning, “This could happen to you.” What do you think?
“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)
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
Big Up is an impressive array of portraits featuring rappers, actors, boxers, dancers, skateboarders, children, and other street characters. London-born photographer Ben Watts started this collection in 1990 when he came to New York from the Sydney College of Arts. Fascinated by the faces and energy of New York’s urban youth culture, the book started as a collection of personal snapshots that continued to build over a dozen years.
And the title? “Big Up is a Jamaican expression used in dancehall music to give respect”, Emil Wilbekin explains in the forward. The book’s design pays full homage to the subjects by matching their completely cool aesthetic, the stylized pages scrawling with sharpie notes, ticket stubs, tape and other mixed media. Big Up was published in 2003 through Princeton Architectural Press.
Ben Watts is a regular contributor to publications such as Interview magazine, The New York Times, Rolling Stone, and Vibe. His work can regularly be seen in advertisements for Nike, Polo Ralph Lauren, Kodak, Sony Music, and several other iconic American companies.