If America increasingly seems like a nation riven beyond repair politically, Peter van Agtmael’s Buzzing at the Sill (Kehrer Verlag £32) evokes that ominous sense of disunity in darkly poetic images and impressionistic prose. Over the past few years he travelled extensively across the country, spending time in a rehabilitation centre for traumatised soldiers, on a Native American reservation, with Ku Klux Klan members at a flag burning and in a black-owned Louisiana bar, where an all-white audience were attending a themed “white night”. An unsettling book for these uneasy times.
Likewise, in an altogether different way, Mathieu Asselin’s Monsanto: A Photographic Investigation (Verlag Kettler $55), an exhaustive look at the ways in which a multinational agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology corporation impacts on the lives and environments of hundreds of communities across America. Asselin spent five years delving deep into the company’s history, from the use of Agent Orange during the Vietnam war to the introduction of genetically modified seeds in the late 1990s. A book about corporate impunity that unfolds through the deft interweaving of Asselin’s own images and a wealth of found material, from personal testimonies to courtroom files.
Following in the footsteps of classic films like The Maltese Falcon and The Lady from Shanghai, veteran photographer Fred Lyon creates images of San Francisco in high contrast with a sense of mystery. In this latest offering from the photographer of San Francisco: Portrait of a City 1940 1960, Lyon presents a darker tone, exploring the hidden corners of his native city. Images taken in the foggy night are illuminated only by neon signs, classic car headlights, apartment windows, or streetlights. Sharply dressed couples strollout for evening shows, drivers travel down steep hills, and sailors workthrough the night at the old Fisherman’s Wharf. Stylistically many of the photographs are experimental the noir tone is enhanced by double-exposures, elements of collage, and blurred motion. These strikingly evocative duotone images expose a view of San Francisco as only Fred Lyon could capture.
5Confront “The Enemy” in this Virtual Reality Exhibition
What is the point of images of war if they don’t change people’s attitudes towards armed conflicts, violence, and the suffering they produce?
This question is the basis for a remarkable new virtual reality experience, called “The Enemy,” currently on view at the MIT Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “The Enemy” was conceived, designed, and directed by Karim Ben Khelifa, a war correspondent and photographer who has spent the last 20 years traveling through zones of conflict. During this time, Ben Khelifa’s work has been driven by an urgent need to understand the necessity, efficacy, and inevitability of war documentation—and an impulse to discover (or create) potent experiences that can do more to shift external perceptions of distant conflicts. The virtual exhibition at the MIT Museum is his most recent response to this interrogation.
I stood in the lunchroom doorway with my friend Kevin, bewildered. It was our first week at the High School of Music and Art, a West Harlem public school, and we had become instant friends. Still, I did not know where I belonged in a room that had casually self-segregated into racial camps where “minority” teens gravitated to one side, whites to the other.
Apparently, in 1971, the choice was simple for most of our classmates. But less so for me. I knew I wanted to sit with Kevin. But while we both lived in low-income housing projects, we differed in one significant way: Kevin was black and I was white. After a white student told us we did not belong on her side, my mind was made up: We headed to the “Black Side,” as we called it, where we ate until the lunchroom gradually integrated during our freshman year.