10 fresh photographers to discover in new york
At Red Hook Labs, a new generation of global image-makers shares its lens on the world.
Red Hook Labs has dedicated its cavernous South Brooklyn gallery space to titans of fashion portraiture (Jamie Hawkesworth, Willy Vanderperre) and local high school students. On Thursday, the gallery opens its most ambitious group show ever, Labs New Artists. The exhibition collects work by 25 emerging photographers, selected among the 450 artists who submitted to Red Hook Labs's online open call.
A mosaic of aesthetics and approaches, the show features documentary (Aleksey Kondratyev's sculptural series of Kazakh ice fishers), collage (Lucie Khahoutian's found folktales), fashion editorial, and abstract portraiture. Some names — like Isabel Magowan or Grace Wales Bonner collaborator Joyce Ng — may be familiar to i-D readers. Others will present their work in a gallery for the first time. Here, we spotlight 10 artists to discover.
Can Dagarslani: In his book The Architecture of Happiness, Alain de Botton explores the emotional impact buildings can have on their users. Istanbul-based artist and architect Can Dagarslani's pictures bring to mind de Botton's passion for architectural humanism. His Serenity series — photographed at the Bauhaus in Dessau — is a playful exploration of symmetry, color, and space. The pictures feature an elderly couple, Adolfo and Gertrud, interacting with each other and their environment.
Joyce Ng: For Joyce Ng, photography is only one component of image-making. In addition to shooting editorials for Man About Town, Mushpit, and Buffalo Zine, Joyce has collaborated with Grace Wales Bonner on casting (the designer's epic V&A show among other projects) and art direction (Everything's For Real, a Ditto Press zine). Joyce developed her interdisciplinary approach to creative direction while enrolled in Central Saint Martins's Fashion Communication program. But her sensibilities existed long before she moved to London. "I grew up in malls [in] Hong Kong; nature kind of scared me," Joyce tells i-D. "Everyday was tied with shopping, bargains, and sales, so the romanticization of fashion had long left me." One of the pictures she's exhibiting at Labs New Artists — originally published in CSM's 1Granary — depicts a Sri Lankan-South American family of six. Like many of her subjects, Joyce met them on the street. She photographed the family at home, but worked with a set designer to incorporate props once things became more comfortable. "I need my photos to have facts and realness, but with a sprinkle of MSG."
Harris Mizrahi: Shortly after finishing high school, Brooklyn native Harris Mizrahi became obsessed with classic country music. Story-songs about the American West filled Mizrahi's mind, until a photographer he was assisting invited him along on a personal project. "I was there as a fellow photographer not an assistant," Mizrahi has said. "Only after I started doing trips of my own did I realize how generous this was of him, to let me into his process like that." The pair traversed West Texas, taking pictures all day and night. The trip made a transformative impact on Mizrahi, whose series Inside Out collects his own dispatches from the road. "Battling the deep depression and seductive mania of my bipolar disorder, I would drive as far as I could from home before tiring, much of the time with no thought of returning," Mizrahi tells i-D. He finds his subjects at motels, dive bars, gas stations, or simply by knocking on their doors. Mizrahi's cast feels like a blend between Harmony Korine and Mark Steinmetz subjects. "The trips serve as form of therapy where my own state of vulnerability and desire to be accepted allow me to sympathize with and photograph the people I meet with honesty, empathy, and an intimacy not typically awarded to strangers," he says.
Cécile Baudier: In Oaxaca working on a fashion project, Cécile Baudier developed a toothache. Through the photographer grapevine, she learned of a dentist who accepted pictures as payment. In his office, Baudier discovered images of Afro-Mexican fishermen — people she'd never seen before. Shortly after, she traveled to the remote village of Chacahua and began work on a new series, Diaspora. Baudier's portraits — made with an older Mamiya model in natural, golden light — capture a community not accustomed to being seen as beautiful. "It was not until 2015, that the Mexican government finally recognized its 1.38 million citizens of African descent," Baudier tells i-D, "signifying a tremendous victory for the Afro-Mexican community who had up to that moment largely gone unnoticed on the margins of Mexican society."
Jon Henry: Queens native Jon Henry has made photographs of athletes inspired by classical paintings and sculptures — seeing the basketball court as a Caravaggio canvas. The series Henry is showing at Red Hook Labs is also steeped in art historical tradition, but its subjects are not athletes. Stranger Fruit "investigates the mother/son relationship in various communities in the wake of the murders of unarmed African American men," Henry tells i-D. Each mother is photographed holding her son as if he were dead — a composition analogous to the Pietà, a sculptural motif in Christian art. The mothers depicted in Henry's portraits have not lost their sons, but "[understand] that this is a reality for families across the country," he explains. "No mother should have to endure this suffering."
Lucy Ridgard: The British photographer makes color film portraits of teenagers in and around her hometown of Bury St Edmunds — a Suffolk city home to The Magna Carta, 17th century witch trials, and just over 40,000 people. Ridgard admits that the work is informed by a fondness for her own 90s teenagehood, but her nostalgia is a quiet kind. We don't find her kids in the back of cars or bedrooms; they're not making out or fighting. They often stand alone, fully clothed. Ridgard's work seems less about interaction and more about individuality. Her kids — like any at your local mall — experiment with hair cut and color, plaster patches and pins all over their jackets. Ridgard's work is hyper-local, but simultaneously universal.
Theo de Gueltzl: French photographer Theo de Gueltzl has made pictures in Cambodia, India, Cuba, Mexico, Romania, Belize, and New York City. "I stay connected with a place and its people, believing and following my intuition, to then create both a personal and universal response that aims to raise awareness on important issues," he tells i-D. Photographs from his newest series, created in Namibia, will be on view at Red Hook Labs. The images — many of children, and twisting tree trunks — are rendered in rich, warm tones. De Gueltzl plays with light and shadow more seductively in this series than past work, and the effect is intoxicating. "I am fascinated with the people who live at the margin of modern society proposing different ways of seeing the world, while respectfully using nature's resources to live a peaceful and happy life," says de Gueltzl.
Scandebergs: Italians Stefano Colombini and Alberto Albanese form this London-based photography duo. The pair say they approach fashion portraiture from a cinematic perspective, incorporating landscape elements purposefully divorced from real-life geographic context. The results are ever-so-slightly surreal — "normal" in a strange way. Take for example one of the portraits they'll be showing at Red Hook Labs, originally published as a Prada editorial. In it, one of Miuccia's sailors wandered off the Milanese runway into a nondescript slice of suburbia.
Isabel Magowan: Speaking of suburbia, Yale MFA grad Isabel Magowan will also present her slightly sinister visions of American privilege at the show. A former ballerina, Magowan makes pictures of situations in which upper-class perfection, vanity, and materialism, skew in a darker direction. Photographer Gregory Crewdson praises her "ironic, sardonic twist" on turf familiar to Tina Barney. Magowan's composition — characterized by saturated color, at times severe lighting — lends her images a unique sense of uneasiness.
Justin French: New York-based photographer Justin French cites Nina Simone, Irving Penn, his mother's passion for classic cinema, Lauryn Hill, and his studies in economics as influences on his photography practice. Chiefly, though, French's work — fashion portraiture with a focus on dynamic skin tones — is shaped by social justice. "Social justice has really been at the core of nearly everything I've done in life, even economics. My interest is making an impact on lives," he told i-D last year. "We are in a culture where culture is so proudly expressed. My goal is to respectfully represent those stories for awareness, change, and progress."
'Labs New Artists,' benefiting Red Hook Labs Education and Jobs Initiative, is on view from July 20-30, 2017. More information here.
Text Emily Manning
Photography courtesy the artists