One of our favourite things about Arles is the promotion of new talent, the pinnacle of which is the Discovery award. Five individuals, established names in the photographic community, nominate three lesser-known photographers and curate exhibitions of their work for the fair. From these fifteen exhibitions, one individual is awarded 25,000 euros, on the basis that their work deserves international recognition.
In part four of our Arles coverage, we take in the nominees of Anne Wilkes Tucker, Curator of Photography at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, heralded by Time magazine as America's greatest curator. She chose three photographers, each with a very different approach to the discipline. Read about each of the three below, and click on the images to see a selection of photographs from their exhibitions.
Washington-based Mills' work is horrifying but at the same time deeply intriguing. His photomontages combine superb technical craftsmanship with a surreality that is often vulgar, yet strangely familiar. Tucker expresses this bizarre impulse perfectly, 'the success of these images lies in the fact that that they are anchored in reality just enough that we are placed on the edge between reality and surreality. While we don't want it [the image] to be real, it looks so seamlessly real and appealing; the pictures exist precariously on the edge of horror and beauty.'
Liao's New York city scenes and scapes are grouped under the title Habitat 7. The inspiration behind his work goes further than simply charting the diversity of daily life as he sees it between Times Square and Queens. Based on the socio-geographic formation of major civilisations, founded along river valleys, Liao drew a parallel with New York's 7 Train- the 7-mile subway that connects Times Square with seven communities in northwest Queens. Explaining further, Liao says, 'I set out to photograph the 'habitat' of the 7 Train as I came to see it, not with a focus on the individual but the people as a whole, as well as their relationship with their environment.'
'Portrait Projects' is the title of Gay Block's exhibition, encompassing a range of photographs from different projects undertaken throughout the last three decades. From 'Rescuers' (for which she interviewed and photographed 105 rescuers from 10 countries) to the pictures she took of girls at Camp Pincliffe 25 years ago, that she's now re-photographing, there's a striking humanity in her subjects. Block says of her work, 'My portraits are my truth, not necessarily the truth,' and if there's a thread running through each project it's in the connection one feels with Block, the photographer, more than the subject.