6.30.2014

Reflections on LOOKbetween 2014

From the series "Nigeria Ever After" © Glenna Gordon 

Post by Jessica Hubbard Marr 

Since 2006, the LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph has brought some of the best international photography practitioners, educators and industry professionals to Charlottesville, Virginia where "[the festival] transforms the historic pedestrian center into a public arts experience."1 The festival runs three consecutive years, followed by a fourth year in which it hosts the innovative and dynamic mentoring event, LOOKbetween2, that brings together some of the world's emerging photographic talents.

Out of the 75 participants, 22 countries outside the United States were represented. Among them: Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Italy, Poland, Slovenia, Russia, Tanzania, UK, and Yemen. Edwin J. Torres, a New York-based documentary photographer reflected: "LOOKbetween was an amazing experience because it allowed me to connect and have a dialogue with great photographers of my generation. It showed that we were in this industry together and not as competitors."

This sense of collaboration was fostered through workshops with practitioners and industry professionals such as David Alan Harvey of Magnum and the publisher of Burn Magazine; Megan Dhaliwal, photojournalist and Multimedia Projects Coordinator at the Pulitzer Center; and Paula Kupfer, managing editor at Aperture magazine, among many others.

The evenings closed with projections featuring work from each photographer, most of the projects on-going. There was a significant range of photographic work, from photojournalism to documentary to fictional/personal narratives. Pete Pin, a documentary photographer based in New York, reflected on the significance of sharing the work, stating  "Most importantly, it exposed me to new photographers and bodies of work that will continue to inspire me in the years ahead."

From the series "The Cost of Fashion" © Ismail Ferdous


From the series "The Cost of Fashion" © Ismail Ferdous

The young Bangladeshi documentary photographer Ismail Ferdous utilized the multi-media format3 of the projections to present his powerful series, The Cost of Fashion. Ferdous' documentation of the April 24, 2013 collapse of Rana Plaza in Dhaka, where 1,135 people lost their lives working for 38 cents an hour4, brought to worldwide attention the horrific working conditions, most often in the name of Western consumption. His haunting image of a deceased couple embracing beneath the rubble of the collapsed factory resonated worldwide and has since become an iconic image, not only of the event, but also for the struggle for human rights today and that of exemplary documentary photography. Ferdous, along with Nathan Fitch, continues to advocate these human rights issues through the campaign, Cost of Fashion, in order to bring fair compensation to the families of those killed and/or injured during the Rana Plaza collapse.

From the series "Nigeria Ever After" © Glenna Gordon 

Based between Nigeria and New York, documentary photographer Glenna Gordon presented her series, Nigeria Ever After, her photographs bringing the decadent, stylized world of Nigerian weddings into light. Gordon's imagery is immediately captivating but the photographs also serve as commentary about the disparate distribution of wealth in oil rich Nigeria. Gordon describes her series as an exploration of "what it costs to get married in Nigeria: what money can and can't buy, and the quiet moments during frenzied ceremony." Gordon continues to work in Nigeria, most recently producing the powerful series, Mass Abduction in Nigeria, in response to the 200+ missing schoolgirls from Chibok; this compelling overlap of documentary and conceptual work was featured in The New York Times blog, Lens, in May.

From the series "Guerreiras" © Adrienne Grunwald


From the series "Guerreiras" © Adrienne Grunwald

Since 2010, Adrienne Grunwald has been documenting the female football [soccer] players throughout Brazil5. Women's football was prohibited during Brazil’s military dictatorship (1964-1981), and although now permitted, the women and their sport face great challenges in the face of machismo. Entitled Guerreiras, the series explores the cultural barriers these women face. Grunwald elaborates on her project, stating: "My work seeks to document this period in a time in which female football players are stepping out onto the field, carving a space of their own, and arguably loosening the grips of a machismo football culture that has long since defined Brazil."

 From the series "Había una vez" © Manuela Marín Salcedo


 From the series "Había una vez" © Manuela Marín Salcedo

Manuela Marín Salcedo, a photographer, journalist and filmmaker presented her on-going exploration of Islote San Bernardo, Colombia, entitled, Había Una Vez. Marín Salcedo first visited Islote San Bernardo in 2010 as a tourist, only to find much of what she had heard about the island, false. "I had heard that it was the most populated place on Earth. I had also heard that 1,200 people lived there and that everybody was family, literally. One writer even said that Isleños, the people of Islote, slept so closely together that they all had the same dreams." The many narratives she has found, however, she has begun to document using photography, film and sound since 2013, to share "the story of a culture and way of life that is slowly disappearing."

From the series "Cambodian Diaspora" © Pete Pin

Despite many of the photographers being based in the United States, the projects dealt with a range of cultures and communities. Pete Pin, for example, shared his on-going project, Cambodian Diaspora, that he began in 2010. Pin describes his project as a multi-platform project rooted in photography; the aim of the project is to bridge the "generational chasm" in the Cambodian-American community by building space for a dialogue about the Killing Fields and its legacy.

From the series "La Funeraria de Abuela" © Edwin J. Torres

Edwin J. Torres presented a portion of his on-going project, "La Funeraria de Abuela"; a tribute to his grandmother, it recounts her passing and eventual funeral in Puerto Rico. Torres spent the past year documenting his family’s struggle throughout this difficult period. Torres hopes to use this project as a platform to document the struggles of more Latino families in New York and more specifically, The Bronx.

These projects reflect only some of the diversity of work presented at LOOKbetween 2014. Yet, regardless of the difference in genres, styles or intentions, the sense of overall community, camaraderie and collaboration was inspirational. The work of today's emerging photographers also served as a reminder that without their dedication and bravery, many stories across the world might never be shared; their efforts are not to be taken for granted, we are dependent on them. As Manuela Marín Salcedo reflected: "Attending LOOKbetween was inspirational, to say the least. In a world chock-full of problems and what seem like not enough solutions, I was reminded that many people still hope and work daily to make these issues and stories known."

From the series "La Funeraria de Abuela" © Edwin J. Torres
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Jessica Hubbard Marr is a specialist in photographic imagery with a focus on Latin America, an interest that developed thanks to many nights in the Manuel Alvarez Bravo/IAGO library in Oaxaca over the years. As a result, she subsequently received her M.A. in The History and Theory of Photography at Sotheby’s Institute of Art/University of Manchester in London in 2011; Marr previously earned her B.A. in English from Kenyon College in 2005. Prior to working in the photography field, Marr worked with the non-profit, 'Friends of Oaxacan Folk Art' from 2008-2010, as both a photographer and cultural liaison. 

Since 2010, she has worked for TransGlobe Publishing in London, researching and writing about contemporary art and photography in locations ranging from Brazil to the Middle East. In 2012, Marr was appointed to the Global Nominations Panel for the Prix Pictect Photography Prize as a specialist in Latin American Photography.6 Her original essay, "A Glimpse into Enduring Moments" was featured in the catalogue of photographer Nadja Massun's solo exhibition, Alice in the Land of Zapata, at the Hungarian House of Photography in Budapest in 2012.7

Marr resides in the US after spending the past 6 years studying and working abroad in Oaxaca, Quito, London and Mexico City. She credits these experiences to both expanding and deepening her appreciation for and knowledge about the photographic medium across cultures. 

She works as an independent photography consultant, researcher, writer, editor, and art advisor for both art/photography professionals and practitioners between Mexico, New York and London. 

Marr’s photographic work has been published internationally in a variety of art and literary journals. Her first published photograph was taken in Oaxaca in 2008. 
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1 http://www.look3.org/news
2 LOOKbetween was held at Deep Rock Farm, June 13th-15th, 2014
3 http://www.costoffashion.org/#
5 Grunwald traveled to Santos, Vitória de Santo Antão, Rio de Janiero, São Paulo, São José dos Campos.

From the series "Cambodian Diaspora" © Pete Pin