Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Walter Bosshard: China brennt

Seit ich 2002 ein Semester lang in China unterrichtet habe, betrachte ich Chinesisches mit anderen Augen. Neugieriger und skeptischer. Und mich immer wieder fragend, wie man über dieses riesige und höchst vielfältige Land überhaupt Verbindliches aussagen kann. Und mich überdies wundernd, dass eine paar wenige Auslandkorrespondenten unsere Sicht von Ländern, die wir nicht aus eigener Anschauung kennen, mitbestimmen. Was unter anderem mit ein Grund ist, weshalb uns die wirkliche Welt, die sich von der Medienwelt erheblich unterscheidet, immer wieder überrascht.

Ich bin damals mit Voreingenommenheiten in Fukkien eingetroffen, die mir wenig bewusst waren und ich gehe davon aus, dass es Walter Bosshard, als er sich 1933 in Peking niederliess, auch nicht viel anders erging. So nahm ich zum Beispiel an (meine damalige Naivität erstaunt mich noch heute), dass die Jahre, die ich in Thailand verbracht hatte, mich auf China, das schliesslich auch ein asiatisches Land ist, gut vorbereitet hätten – doch weit gefehlt: China ist eine ganz andere Geschichte. Nie war mir offensichtlicher als dort, dass es immer ums Überleben geht – da wurde, meist freudlos, um jeden Millimeter gekämpft. Von seinen eigenen Voreingenommenheiten berichtet Walter Bosshard nichts, stattdessen präsentiert er sich (das haben Auslandskorrespondenten so an sich) als Abenteurer.

"Ich habe in den letzten  zehn Jahren China von den unerforschten Gebieten des Kunlun und den Wüsten Zentralasiens bis zu den überfüllten Hafenstädten am Yangtse, von den mandschurischen Wäldern bis zu den Bambushainen des Südens bereist und kennengelernt. Ich habe die bedeutendsten Staatsmänner und Generäle getroffen. Ich bin den Massen des arbeitsamen, alten und doch ewig jungen Volkes begegnet und habe mit dem gewöhnlichsten Kuli die Mahlzeit geteilt. Ich habe mit Banditen Witze gemacht und ich zähle Priester und lebende Buddhas zu meinen Freunden." So klingt es heutzutage auch bei CNN. Anders gesagt: Erfolgreiche Medienleute verstehen vor allem das Sich-Selber-Anpreisen.

Mit den obigen Zeilen hat Walter Bosshard am 12. Juli 1935 seinen Vortrag im Kasino-Saal des Ullstein-Hauses in Berlin eingeleitet, wie der Herausgeber Peter Pfrunder dieses höchst aufschlussreichen Bandes Walter Bosshard / China brennt, Bildberichte 1931 - 1939 – schreibt. Der letzte von Pfrunder zitierte Satz dieser Einleitung zeugt von einer Voraussicht, die sich mit den Jahren immer mehr zugespitzt hat. "Jedes Mal, wenn ich China verlassen hatte und dieses Reich von aussen betrachtete, wurde mir klar, dass in diesem Volk eine Energie steckt, die uns im alten Europa eines Tages gefährlich werden wird."

Im Anschluss an Peter Pfrunders einleitenden Überblick, gliedert sich das Buch in die folgenden, chronologisch angeordneten Kapitel. 1931: Eröffnung der chinesischen Nationalversammlung. 1931-1933: Japanische Besetzung der Mandschurei. 1933-1936: Reisen ins Landesinnere. 1934-1936: Kühles Grasland Mongolei. 1937: Beginn des Zweiten Sino-Japanischen krieges. 1938: Im Roten China - Besuch bei Mao Zedong. Mobilisierung der Landbevölkerung. Song Meiling (die Gattin von Tschiang Kai-shek). Der Fall von Hankou.(der provisorischen Hauptstadt).

Bosshards stilvolles Auftreten sei legendär gewesen, lese ich, und die Bilder, auf denen er in diesem Buch zu sehen ist, bezeugen das. Attraktiv, jovial, der perfekte Gastgeber sei er gewesen (auf mich wirkt er Dandy-haft), doch habe er auch eine andere Seite gehabt, eine durchaus fragile und sensible. "Bosshards Einsamkeit mag mitunter erklären, weshalb der ruhelose Fotojournalist immer wieder von Neuem einen unerhörten Aktivismus entwickelte und gerade getrieben war, sich den Gefahren und Risiken auf Expeditionen oder an der Front auszusetzen."

Besonders interessant (nicht zuletzt, weil solche Ausführungen selten sind) fand ich Peter Pfrunders Aufklärungen zu den Bedingungen des Fotojournalismus jener Jahre und darüber, wie das Medium Film sich auf die Art und Weise wie Reportagen gestaltet wurden auswirkte. Und ebenso die Anekdoten um die Freunde und Rivalen Bosshard wie etwa Robert Capa, denn sie beleuchten in der Tat, wie Pfrunder schreibt, "die komplizierten Arbeitsbedingungen und den Druck, dem Fotojournalisten ausgesetzt waren." 

Auf den letzten Seiten dieses eindrücklichen Werkes geben Herausgeber Pfrunder und Madleina Deplazes, Research Curator (was es nicht alles gibt!) der Fotostiftung Schweiz, Hinweise auf den fotografischen Nachlass, welche erahnen lassen, was für eine Herkulesarbeit hinter diesem Projekt steht. Für an Fotografie und Weltgeschichte Interessierte ist dieses Buch ein wahres Juwel!

WALTER BOSSHARD / CHINA BRENNT
Bildberichte 1931 - 1939
Herausgegeben von Peter Pfrunder
Limmat Verlag Zürich / Fotostiftung Schweiz 2018

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

In and around Ljubljana

Ljubljana

The only thing that I associate with Slovenia when I arrive end of September 2018 in Ljubljana is the fact that Peter Handke, one of the heroes of my youth, once translated a novel by the Slovenian writer Florjan Lipus into German. No, I haven't (yet) read it.

Differently put: I had no preconceptions except that I had liked the small Ljubljana airport when I was in transfer on my way to Tirana some months ago. And of Maribor and Jesenice I had heard, the names, that is.

It is a small country, I learn, and easy to get around by train or by bus. Trains are slower but the scenery is much more diverse. I take a train to Kranj and, the following day, one to Litija. What I can see through the windows looks pretty similar to Switzerland or the Black Forest.
Ljubljana

How far is it to downtown? I ask at my hotel. A thirty minutes walk, I'm told. It was about an hour and the walk along the main thoroughfare wasn't too pleasant either yet the old town was beautiful – and full of tourists like me.

At a bakery I ask what would be a Slovenian specialty not to miss. The young woman shrugs and says "nothing really" and then suggests  donuts. 

My hotel room (the shower cabin is so small that I'm glad I had lost half a kilo before my arrival, I would otherwise probably have got stuck inside – this was before I found out how to properly use it) is not made when I return in the evening. "You need to place the 'Please make up room now' on the door handle for Slovenian law requires permission for staff to enter your room", I'm informed. The imagination of the legal profession is endless when it comes to inventing new ways of making money. Or maybe this is yet another attempt of saving costs for cleaning staff.
Kranj 

"My English is much better when I don't speak", smiles the waitress when struggling to find the right words. Most people I've talked to spoke English well yet almost nobody spoke German. This surprised me for I had assumed that because of the border with Austria people would generally be more inclined to speak German and not English (It was the same, I recalled, when I visited Bratislava).

What amazed me most during my few  sunny days in Slovenia were my various talks with very different people. Once again, it seemed to me that, regardless of age and gender, we all are struggling with the same kind of self-created "problems" – should I do this or that or what if ...? To me, there is no doubt that the so-called cultural differences are more likely to be differences in personality and character.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Soul R&B Funk 1972 - 1982

"Taking a photograph of a singer onstage is the easy part. The hard part is gaining their trust", introduces photographer Bruce W. Talamon Soul R&B Funk Photographs 1972 - 1982. And he adds: "This is a book about R&B, funk, and soul music, as seen through the lens of a young African American photographer at the start of his career. From 1972 to 1982, I was documenting the rehearsals and sound checks, the recording sessions and costume fitting, the TV shows, life on tour, and, of course, the wild photo sessions and memorable performances."

"I've always thought of my photographs as documents that went beyond screaming into a microphone. My body of work has been about the whole unvarnished process, as opposed to just that portion that publicity machines and record companies want you to see. I chased that fleeting visual record for 10 glorious years."
AL GREEN
Soul Train, Los Angeles, 1974

"Can I get an Amen?" is the conversation between Pearl Cleage and Bruce W. Talamon entitled. When asked what the biggest difference in the music business now is, he responds: "Access is gone. Publicists used to let you shoot. They didn't snatch the Jack Daniels' out of the artists hand or dare to take the spliff out of Bob Marley's mouth. Now someone's at the door saying, 'Wait until they change out of those wet clothes and wipe the sweat off.' There was a spontaneity at concerts. Someone could come in unannounced and sit in, and you could photograph the whole time. But now they say you can only shoot the first song and you've got 15 seconds. Fifteen seconds ...".

Glancing through the pages of this book you're about to make surprising discoveries. For instance, you get to see Muhammad Ali and Gil Scott-Heron at The Roxy in Los Angeles. Or Elton John at Soul Train in Los Angeles. Or, one of my favourite shots, Patti Labelle sitting on a table in the CBS Records conference room in Century City, California.
ARETHA FRANKLIN
Hollywood Bowl, Hollywood, California, 1974
@taschen

The photographs come in black and white and in colour and offer the opportunity to travel back in time. Many of the pics radiate a joy that I rarely sense today. Soul R&B Funk documents passion, dedication and a somewhat innocent time.

Diana Ross; Earth, Wind and Fire; Donna Summer; Barry White; Smokey Robinson; The Temptations; Stevie Wonder and and and ... "I want people to look at these pictures", says photographer Talamon, "and remember how badass James Brown. Michael Jackson, B.B. King, Natalie Cole, and Maurice White were, and what they looked like when they were being badass. And I want them to be seduced by Chaka Khan like I was. I want them to think about where they were when they first heard 'Love and Happiness'. I want people to remember it all. And Smile." So be it!
THE JACKSON 5
Motown company basketball game, Los Angeles, 1974
Katherine, Janet, Michael, and Randy Jackson with Bill Bray.
Bray was a retired police officer when he began working as 
security chief for the J5 in the early 1970s. Her worked with
Michael during his iconic Thriller days and beyond.
@taschen

This tome is a grandiose document! I'd definitely suggest to listen to the music of one of the artists when spending time with these pictures.

Bruce W. Talamon
Soul R&B Funk 
Photographs 1972 - 1982
Taschen, Cologne 2018

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Mexico between Life and Death

Man and Long Shadow from Above, Taxco, 2009

When thinking of Mexico, Yona, who hails from Havana, comes to mind for Mexico was the land of her dreams. That was before she set foot on Mexican soil, for the Mexico on her Cuban television screen and the real Mexico were not even remotely comparable. Mexicans, as far as she was concerned, were tall, wearing moustaches, sported gel in their hair, and were gentlemen; the real Mexicans however were constantly whistling after her so that she felt she couldn't cross a street without being bothered. By the way, she loved being whistled after (she missed it in Switzerland) but in Mexico (this was in Oaxaca) it was simply too much.

What I also relate to Mexico is Malcolm Lowry's novel „Under the Volcano“ (the story of an alcoholic British consul in a small Mexican town on the Day of the Dead in the late 1930s) and quite often pictures of that movie appear in my mind when looking at Harvey Stein's photographs.

And then, there's Octavio Paz's „Labyrinth of Solitude“: „The word death is not pronounced in New York, in Paris, in London, because it burns the lips. The Mexican, in contrast, is familiar with death, jokes about it, caresses it, sleeps with it: it is one of his favourite toys and his most steadfast love. True, there is perhaps as much fear in his attitude as in that of others, but at least death is not hidden away: he looks at it face to face, with impatience, disdain or irony.“

For the full review, see here

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Verão em Santa Cruz do Sul






Fevereiro 2018, Santa Cruz do Sul

Framing Egersund






Egersund is a small town on the coast, an hour and ten minutes by local train from Stavanger (in the South of Norway).

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Venice Beach

Dotan Saguy has lived in Los Angeles since 2003. In 2015, he decided to focus on his lifelong passion for photography. He attended the Eddie Adams Workshop, the Missouri Photo Workshop and studied photojournalism at Santa Monica College. His book Venice Beach. The Last Days of a Bohemian Paradise was edited by Gail Fisher, Sr. Editor at National Geographic and the Los Angeles Times.

I’ve been to Venice Beach, “a residential, commercial, and recreational beachfront neighborhood within Los Angeles, California” according to Wikipedia, but that was almost forty years ago. I do remember similar scenes but not as spectacular as the photographs in this tome and that, I guess, has something to do with the fact that with a camera in hand one tends to look at the world differently, and especially more focused.
Venice Beach, I’m quoting Wikipedia again, “is located within the urban region of western Los Angeles County known as the Westside. Venice was founded in 1905 as a seaside resort town. It was an independent city until 1926, when it merged with Los Angeles. Today, Venice is known for its canals, beaches, and the circus-like Ocean Front Walk, a two-and-a-half-mile (4.0 km) pedestrian promenade that features performers, mystics, artists and vendors.” It is the performers, photographer Dotan Saguy has decided to focus on – and the result is often stunning. I’m however not always sure whether it is because of the subject matter or the photographs. I would think it is because of both because of how a subject matter in a photo is perceived depends to a large extent on how it is framed.
For the full review, see here