At once widely accessible and distinctly personal, street photography has the potential to bridge the divide between the idiosyncratic and universal, a possibility that’s long excited Gulnara Samoilova. A former Associated Press photojournalist and current fine art photographer, Samoilova realized that while the genre was affordable and convenient, the field remained largely dominated by men, an imbalance she sought to remedy when she founded Women Street Photographers in 2017.
In its fourth year, the ongoing project began with an Instagram account designed to showcase work from women around the world. “I soon began to realize that with this platform, I could create everything I had always wanted to receive as a photographer: the kinds of support and opportunities that would have helped me grow during those formative and pivotal points on my journey,” Samoilova tells Colossal, noting that expansion felt like a natural reaction to the positive response the project received.
Now a community of hundreds of amateurs and professionals, Women Street Photographers has burgeoned into a website, artist residency, series of exhibitions, film series, and now a book published this month by Prestel. Collating the work of 100 women from 31 countries, the 224-page volume is just “a tiny sampling of all that is out there,” Samoilova says, one that’s bound by the photographers’ desire to share their points of view and document the world through lenses that span a variety of races, ethnicities, creeds, ages, abilities, and sexual and gender identities.
Depicting an eclectic array of candid expressions and moments of intimacy and chance—whether through the red updo spotted in B Jane Levine’s shot featured on the book’s cover or the childhood exuberance captured by Regula Tschumi—each photograph is paired with a statement by the artist about both the image and their background. The elucidating text contextualizes the subject matter and person behind the camera and grounds the broader vision for the project, which Samoilova explains:
Street photography is both a record of the world and a statement of the artist themselves: it is how they see the world, who they are, what captures their attention, and fascinates them. There’s a wonderful mixture of art and artifact, poetry and testimony that makes street photography so appealing. It’s both documentary and fine art at the same time, yet highly accessible to people outside the photography world.
It’s still too soon to tell how projects like Women Street Photographers are shaping the larger ecosystem, Samoiolva says, although the contributions have rippled across the field. In the coming months, though, she intends to implement more opportunities for women in the field that might take the shape of an exhibition or travel-based project, although she hasn’t announced what those are just yet. “I love to dream, but I don’t like to plan,” she writes. “I go with the flow and all the current to guide me to my next destination.”
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2020 was a year of many realizations, but for Thomas Jackson (previously), the most profound was “proof of the adage that creativity thrives under constraints.” Known for suspending swarms of everyday objects on the rocky shores of the Isle of Man or desert locales across the southwest U.S., the photographer shifted his practice as lockdowns spread and limited his ability to travel beyond nearby landscapes.
The resulting series reflects these restrictions and focuses on a single location and adaptable material: swaths of colorful nylon float above the beaches and down the California coastline, creating compositions that juxtapose the natural environment with the bright, manufactured materials. “I chose tulle for its mutability—depending on how it’s arranged and how the wind catches it, it can morph from a solid to a liquid, to fire to billowing smoke,” Jackson says.
Shot on 4×5 film with little to no editing, the photographs convey a pared-down approach. Rather than hire people to help him install the sculptural objects in exact positions, Jackson utilized driftwood to prop up the lightweight textiles and the wind to infuse the fabric with movement. He explains:
On every shoot, Northern California’s offshore breezes were my collaborator, the force that transformed my installations from lifeless fabric to living things. As collaborations go it was a tumultuous one—of the twenty or so pieces I built and photographed last year, thirteen were failures—but along the way, I learned a thing or two about the importance of staying on nature’s good side. When I built pieces that obstructed or defied the wind in any way, I’d go home unhappy, but when my constructions respected and responded to the wind, interesting things would occur!
Jackson shares a wide array of his work that mimics the amorphous, self-organizing patterns of birds, insects, and other animals, along with behind-the-scenes shots and footage of his process, on Instagram.
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Staggering Photos Capture a Frozen Apartment Complex in Vorkuta, a Dwindling Russian City That's the Coldest in Europe
Photographer Arseniy Kotov is dedicated to documenting the changes in Russian life and architecture since the fall of the USSR, a commitment that brought him to the coldest European city last February. Located about 110 miles from the Arctic Ocean, Vorkuta is a small mining town that once held one of the largest and most grueling forced labor camps during Stalin’s reign. Often plagued by temperatures as low as -45 degrees Celcius, the city now has one of the fastest dwindling populations in all of Russia.
During Kotov’s visit, he toured various housing complexes built for workers, many of which were abandoned when the mines closed. One building in particular, though, is evidence of how desertion continues to unsettle the once-thriving city, an ongoing problem that Kotov captured in a stunning series. His photographs frame the dilapidated, five-story structure that’s entirely subsumed by feet-long icicles and mounded snow. Relics from former residents and the chipped, blue paint peek through the frost, much of which clings to the stairs and banisters and climbs the walls.
Kotov tells Colossal that often, buildings are transformed into similarly chilling caves when pipes burst due to lack of maintenance, leading to splashes of hot water, subsequent high humidity, and then ice growth on every surface. At the time of his visit, one family remained in the Severniy-district building, which was still connected to the central heating system that runs through Russian cities, making it easier to pass through some of the walkways thanks to warmth from the radiators. Although Kotov wasn’t able to meet the sole occupants, he did hear that they moved not long after his tour, saying:
As I know, locals said that after one week as I visited this building, he and his wife were resettled to another apartment, and this whole building was cut off from all the communications (water, heating, electricity). This is a usual story in Vorkuta: as less and less people are left, it becomes unprofitable to heat an entire building, and people are gradually moved to others where there are more inhabitable apartments. Local authorities call it a “managed compression strategy.”
Many of Kotov’s photographs are compiled in Soviet Cities: Labour, Life & Leisure, and his second book, which is full of images he captured while hitchhiking around the country, is slated for release in November. Prints are available from Galleri Artsight, and you can follow Kotov’s sightings and travels on Instagram.
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Next week, Magnum Photos (previously) is pulling more than 90 photographs from its archive for a print sale that pays tribute to chance moments and serendipity. The Unexpected launches March 22 with a range of compositions documenting more than seven decades worth of “under-explored issues, reporting of events unfurling in far-flung locations, or single frames capturing split seconds of levity.” All prints are 6 x 6-inches, signed or estate-stamped, museum-quality, and available for $100. See some of Colossal’s favorites below—including Ian Berry’s shot of children at play in Oman, Ernst Haas’s image of an energetic horse leaping on set of The Misfits, and René Burri’s wilting lotus flowers—and shop the full collection during the one-week sale.
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Suit-inspired landscaping, overgrown shrubs, and misaligned stripes are just some of the scenes that comprise Enoch Ku’s Ordinary Sacramento, an ongoing project documenting the visual language of the Californian city. Ku is adept at identifying humor and quirkiness among the otherwise mundane urban landscape, framing a street sign or bike rack in a playful manner. Generally taken during a quiet moment, the compositions are evidence of the photographer’s keen sense of awareness and ability to observe what others might not.
Prior to launching Ordinary Sacramento, Ku worked as an actor and wedding photographer, two jobs that required him to rush from one place to the next. The pace of that lifestyle, in addition to the performative nature of the work, sparked his desire to slow down and document the world through a different lens. He explains:
In an Instagram world of stylized photos, highly processed photography, advertisements, and emotional conditioning, I want to convey and elevate the beauty of the ordinary and mundane… Staying silent, going slow, and being present is going against the grain, and I want to encourage people that they can choose that. The world is a beautiful and funny place.
Prints of Ku’s photographs are available on the Ordinary Sacramento site, and keep an eye on his Instagram for his first book, My Neighborhood Rosemont, CA (우리 동네 로즈먼트), a visual love letter that’s slated for release later this year. (via Ignant)
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Dozens of Photographs Connect Racial Justice and the Symbolism of Flowers in an Exhibition by The Earth Issue
An online exhibition by The Earth Issue, an artist collective interested in the intersection of environmental activism and social justice, centers on the symbolic power and precarious nature of the flower. Considered both a sign of love and an offering to make amends, plants in bloom are often sites of cultural contradiction, a theme that runs through the dozens of photographs in Strange Flowers—the show is titled in reference to Billie Holiday’s anti-lynching protest anthem “Strange Fruit.”
“Beauty felled in its prime. Taken without consent, their stems ripped from the earth, their connection to life severed, petals pulled and crushed underfoot. Just like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless other innocent victims of racial injustice and police violence,” says a statement about the expansive collection.
The Earth Issue is selling prints of each of the works in its shop through April 11, and a portion of the proceeds will go to BIPOC communities. See some of Colossal’s favorites below, and peruse all the photographs on the collective’s site. (via Juxtapoz)
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Editor's Picks: Photography
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.