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Guy Martin PARALLEL STATES Book Review from Photo Journalism Now: Alison Stieven-Taylor An Important Publication February 22, 2019

Posted by bohdan.warchomij in : Metaphor Online, Photojournalism Now , comments closed

The pictures in Guy Martin’s new book The Parallel State are both documentary and pictures taken on the sets of films and television shows. Combining images that are polar opposites – one of fact the other fiction – acts to create a complex narrative around the rise of fascism globally, and in particular the political climate in Turkey, where Martin lived for several years.

This review has been edited and  reprinted  from the work of Alison-Stieven-Taylor Photo Journalism Now.

website www.theparallelstate.com


Martin, a British documentary photographer, explains that the phrase ‘parallel state’  “has become a byword for power grabs, populist rhetoric, and a police state on the hunt for an unfixed yet ever-present enemy…With factious political movements on the rise from the United States to the United Kingdom and beyond, the work has taken on a particular potency in its focus on Turkey as a model…(where) the deliberate shattering of citizens’ sense of security, community, and ability to distinguish between fact and fiction ensures only one state-approved narrative prevails.”


(Guy Martin explains the concept behind his book in this video)

It is an interesting concept to use images, many of which are difficult to define, in terms of what’s real and what’s fiction, as a premise for a story about the problems that face us in an era where truth in journalism, including photography, is being questioned at the highest levels of government.

In the book Martin quotes Timothy Snyder, author of On Tyranny who claims “Fascism says nothing’s true…if we don’t have access to facts, we can’t trust each other. Without trust, there’s no law. Without law, there’s no democracy.” In the pages of The Parallel State fact and fiction sit side by side in a non-linear narrative, creating a disturbing, hyperreal portrayal of what’s being played out in political arenas around the world.

The divisive politics of US President Trump and the resurgence of the far-right in that country, what’s happening in Brazil with the election of far-right populist Jair Bolsonaro, the unrest in the UK and in other parts of the world, are possible because of attacks on truth. Martin makes a compelling argument that the absence of truth, or perhaps more to the point, the propagation of a particular view of reality, has also fuelled the authoritarian rule of Turkey’s President Erdoğan.  What Martin’s pictures tell us literally, anecdotally and at times in metaphors where darkened windows and opaque curtains symbolise a lack of transparency, is how authoritarianism can creep “almost imperceptibly into the fabric of a society.” And establish itself in the guise of normality.

Martin wants us to ask questions of these pictures, to think critically about what we see, to consider what is truth, to look beyond the surface. It is an erudite visual conversation, one that requires an enquiring mind to understand what is being portrayed in this collection of pictures that talk of power, control, subterfuge and cultural chaos.

Alison Steven Taylor finds it fascinating that Martin, a seasoned conflict photographer, came to know Turkish society by photographing on the sets of soap operas and films. (Martin lived in Istanbul for a time after a near-death experience in Libya.) The cultural insights he’s drawn from being on set and behind the scenes, inform what is a very political narrative played out in visual tropes of pop culture. It is a brilliant treatment of a subject that is difficult to portray without deferring to what might be considered stereotypical photojournalistic imagery. While Martin does include documentary images of protests and violence, there is the underlying sense that these pictures could also be movie stills,  a blurring of art and reality in an arena where truth becomes perception. There are no captions either which further enhances the dichotomy of truth and fiction.

From a design viewpoint, there are aspects of the book that Stieven-Taylor loves, like the dust jacket that unfolds to become a movie poster from the 1970s or 80s. There are also five inserted sections that are smaller than the rest of the book, and are like mini zines, printed on glossy paper when the rest of the book is on a heavier semi-matte stock. One of these inserts features a transcript from the What’s App conversation between “a group of plotters from the failed Turkish coup.” In another are screenshots of heavily made up Turkish women in western dress, the “kittens” who appear on televangelist Adrian Oktar’s bizarre TV shows. There is a collection of movie posters too that feature raunchy images of naked women, men and women with guns, lovers in embrace, from films dating back forty years. The only negative comment I have about the design is that some faces are split by the fold of the book, which is detrimental to the image and impacts the narrative. Stieven-Taylor  would prefer to see a smaller complete image, but that’s a personal preference.

This is a book that you need to be prepared to think about. Flicking through the images, while visually entertaining, will not allow a deeper reading. Make yourself a cup of tea, curl up in an armchair, read the essays at the back of the book and give yourself time to explore. You might need a couple of readings, but it will be worth it.

The Parallel State Guy Martin

Published by: GOST Books £50.00

245 x 185 mm
232 pp, 135 full colour illustrations
Hardback, Paperbound with 5 different French folded jacket. 5 alternate sections on thinner stock
Essays by Pelin Turgut, Piotr Zalweski
ISBN 978-1-910401-22-4

Tami Xiang Exhibition in Taiwan: “Nüwa Reawakening” October 8, 2016

Posted by bohdan.warchomij in : Metaphor Online, Photojournalism Now, Tami Xiang , comments closed

Tami Xiang

Originally from China, photographic artist Tami Xiang now lives in Perth, Western Australia. Her series Nüwa Re-Awakening draws on the ancient legend of the Chinese Goddess Nüwa who was worshipped in a time when women were revered and powerful.“Nüwa was the person who created humans and she was worshipped by all people and held a very high position in ancient Chinese culture. Women were treasured and treated well and were considered higher than men. But that changed and in Nüwa Re-Awakening I’ve imposed my feelings to show my rebellion against the oppression that became part of Chinese culture and that lasted for centuries,” she says.This series was first exhibited at Head On Photo Festival in Sydney in 2014 where I met Tami. Since then she has been invited to showcase her series at other festivals and galleries in Asia. “Exhibiting at Head On gave me a great boost in confidence. I’m now working on new work and also organising exhibitions in my hometown of Chongqing”.

Tami Xiang

So far this year she’s curated three exhibitions featuring artists from all over the world. “We’ve done shows with sixty or more artists, so they are quite big and there’s a lot to organise”. She now splits her time between Chongqing and Perth.Currently a selection of images from Nüwa Re-Awakening is included in the Intimate Transgressions touring exhibition, which is a Center for Asian Pacific Affairs (CAPA) project curated by Fion Gunn from Ireland. The latest iteration of Intimate Transgressions opens in Taiwan next week under the guidance of local co-curator Leon Tsai.
While the subject matter of Nüwa Re-Awakening may be perceived as feminist, Tami is quick to refute that notion. “It’s not about feminism, but more about something that existed in history. I wanted to preserve that for future generations. I don’t want people to forget about how women were treated”.In Nüwa Re-Awakening Tami combines traditional Chinese masks with the naked female form to express her recognition of her culture’s art and her rebellion against male domination. She says the masks point to women being invisible in the culture and also in marriage; the mask in this instance is symbolic of arranged marriages where the woman doesn’t see or know the man she is to wed. Here the mask represents an uncertain future, as well as concealing the woman’s true nature.“I also chose to incorporate nude as one of the principle elements, as it symbolises the vulnerability and helplessness of females living in a society where control is paramount. The nude is also a taboo subject in ancient conservative China and so it is also symbolic of my rebellion and rejection of the feudal system of control. It’s a story of one woman, but also reveals the fate of many millions of women without freedom and rights in the ancient days,” she concludes.

Tami Xiang

20 October – 1 November
Intimate Transgressions
Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall
Taipei, Taiwan

This article was originally published in Photojournalism Now by Alison Stieven-Taylor.

 (Australia). A freelance journalist for over 25 years, Alison Stieven-Taylor has written for a wide variety of magazines from music bible Rolling Stone to Pro Photo. She is currently the features writer for Pro Photo, the Oceanic correspondent for L’Oeil de la Photographie and also a contributor to The Australian Weekend Magazine and Review. Alison has also worked as a magazine editor and columnist and is a book editor. Specializing in writing about photography, particularly photojournalism and social documentary, Alison has interviewed photographers from around the world covering a broad range of topics. She holds a Masters Degree in Media Communications (Monash University) and was awarded Honors for her 2013 thesis “Has the Critical Mirror Shattered – What is the Future for Professional Photojournalism in the Digital News Age?” Alison is also the author of three books including the best-selling biography “Rock Chicks: The Hottest Female Rockers from the1960s to Now”. In addition Alison has also studied photography at Photography Studies College (Melbourne) and her photographs are held in private collections.