MARISA CHAFETZ // JENIA FRIDLYAND // DEMETRIS KOILALOUS X ALEC SOTH
Following juror Alec Soth’s verdict announcement FotoFilmic is pleased to share an in-depth look at the work of SOLO II Exhibition Award Winner Marisa Chafetz, as well as of Runners-Up Jenia Fridlyand & Demetris Koilalous.
FOTOFILMIC//SOLO EXHIBITION AWARD II juried by ALEC SOTH presents
WINNER & EXHIBITOR: MARISA CHAFETZ
Alec Soth: foreword on the work of Marisa Chafetz
“Often now we hear that there are too many photographs, that we are buried in them. Growing accustomed to the burden of this accumulation has made it difficult to imagine what photographs we might still need.” Those are the opening sentences from Peter Galassi’s introduction to his seminal 1991 MoMA exhibition, The Pleasure and Terrors of Domestic Comfort. Over a quarter of a century later, this burden has accumulated exponentially. But the most satisfying creative response to this burden remains the same: making pictures with heart.
Marisa Chafetz’s work is a perfect example of the way the cream of emotional connection rises to the top. When looking at her pictures, I forget about the ceaseless digital onslaught and enter a physical space. Her filmic and fleshy pictures pulse with life. They make me remember what it’s like to first fall in love – not just with photography, but with life.
Marisa Chafetz is a New York based artist who works primarily in photography. Her work explores the blurred lines between fictional tableaus and traditional documentary photography. She often deals with topics such as family life, American suburbia, and coming of age. In 2017 she received a grant from the Michael P. Smith fund for Documentary Photography, as well as a Georges Lurcy Grant. Additionally, a photo she made for New York Magazine’s ‘Sex on Campus’ cover story won an American Photography Award and was published in American Photography 32.
I had an idyllic upbringing; I grew up in a commune of sorts, with three moms and three dads, and seven brothers and sisters. Our story is serendipitous, unlikely, and beautiful. I relive my memories like reading a novel, as if our past might still be taking place in the present in some alternate universe. In recent years, our family has fallen apart in monumental ways. We mourned losses one after another, as if the tragic momentum was unstoppable. I grew up knowing that falling backwards would mean two dozen hands, outstretched to catch me, and suddenly falling means descending into cold, empty air.
This series, ‘We are Ugly but We Have the Music’ is my attempt to understand what is left. My childhood meant knowing, it meant being sure. Now, right in the thick of it, I’m still staring out at what feels like a sea of uncertainty and change. If my childhood was easy to know, a series of stories so magnificent, they sound like fiction- how can I understand my family’s present: often full of heartache, loneliness, and banality? What is the reality of what we are now, after our fall from grace?
Photographing on film allows me meditation and honesty while making my work. While shooting on film, I cannot judge my own work, and my subjects cannot judge themselves, and therefore we all produce more truthful, instinct-driven art. I benefit most from this process: losing myself in a shoot, allowing myself to follow what I am drawn to, and then after some time away from making the work, spending time in the studio scanning the negatives and analyzing what I’ve produced. Scanning my own negatives is also important to my process, as it allows me to spend more time with each image, and I feel more connected to and more in control of the work. I can’t imagine my practice without shooting on film.
FOTOFILMIC//SOLO EXHIBITION AWARD juried by ALEC SOTH presents
RUNNER UP: JENIA FRIDLYAND
Jenia Fridlyand (b. Moscow, 1975) studied photography at Centre Iris and Université Paris VIII, and is a 2016 graduate of the University of Hartford’s International Limited-Residency MFA program. Fridlyand’s work has been exhibited in the United States and abroad, and her book self-published this year was shortlisted for the Paris Photo Aperture First Photobook Award. She currently lives in New York City, where she teaches middle school photography and continues to work on her long term projects.
“Entrance to Our Valley” is a body of work in progress conceived as the story of Anton Chekhov’s “Cherry Orchard” transported to another time, reversed left to right and flipped upside down on the ground glass of my view camera. A century later, on the other side of the globe, descendants of Eastern European Jews, who were not allowed to own land in Imperial Russia, take the place of hereditary Russian aristocrats, and are attempting to create what the characters in the play lost: an inhabited piece of land, a home, an identity. As the project continues to evolve, the narrative of our family as first-generation immigrants starting a new life on a farm in New York’s Hudson Valley becomes entwined with the history of this wondrous region itself.
My commitment to the analogue process is an intuitive decision rather than a logical one. Not just photographing on film, but also developing it myself and making silver gelatin prints provides a continuity of physical connection to the work. This type of uninterrupted attention – like leading someone unseeing by the hand without letting go for a second – seems essential to uncovering what the photographs can tell me.
FOTOFILMIC//SOLO EXHIBITION AWARD juried by ALEC SOTH presents
RUNNER UP: DEMETRIS KOILALOUS
I was born in Athens where I live & work as a photographer, specializing in portrait, theatre and advertising photography. I think that my love for photography originates and my enthusiastic passion to observe curiously –a obsession which I inherited from my father- a keen philatelist. My childhood memories from the mysterious landscape of the Campos of Chios -residence of the Genoese and the local aristocracy of the C17th & 18th- shaped my conception of the Landscape and ever since I am looking for the mystery and ambiguity in every space that I photograph. I came across photography in Oxford in 1982 as a student. The same year I got my first camera and my first photographic books: “Les autres Ameriques” by Sebastiao Salgado & “Ordeal by Roses” by Eikoh Hosoe & Yiukio Mishima; both influenced my oeuvre decisively. I studied Town & Country planning and Geography in Edinburgh & London. I was photographing passionately throughout those years, but I was also thrilled by my studies through which I found out how to correlate diverse disciplines like politics and philosophy with Art. In the early 80s I got introduced to the secret and allegorical space of Theatre -a world of underlying relationships and invisible coordinated threads of interaction. Ultimately, exactly like in Theatre, photography for me poses questions about space, people and their hidden relations. Photography is about exposing the hidden layers of reality. It is a series of optical philosophical questions; enigmatic and ambiguous.
Literally speaking Heterotopia is defined as the ‘other’ space: the reflection mirroring of an authentic, at the same time existent and fictional. It is an underlying layer beyond reality –an ultimate space of meaning behind the world of appearances and definitions. Fouceault’s Heterotopia is the point where Utopia meets reality and does not necessarily refer to a specific physical geographical space, but rather to a space of underlying relationships of culture and power, which regulate contemporary societies. In an epoch of juxtaposition Heteropias provide a sort of mixed and joint experience, which geographer Edward Soya has defined as the ‘third space’. A state of experience and meaning, beyond the physical (visual) and the conceptual (mental) space. It is what Italo Kalvino HAS described as a world of interactions and allegoric interwoven threads, which “…mark relationships of blood, trade, authority, agency etc…” and sustain a city’s life.
The archetypical Garden of Eden in ancient Persia was at the same time an actual physical space –a microcosm of all species- providing shade and coolness to the visitor, as well as a sanctuary; a Paradise on earth which symbolised eternal life, euphoria and ultimately catharsis and redemption. Perhaps as a consequence of this mythical connotation it appears that in the course of history the garden has evolved to represent the fiction of an idealistic and utopian landscape.
The creation of primeval –archetypical- artificial settlements into the harsh and ancient desert of Palestine wasn’t just an architectural and landscaping achievement -a technical challenge, which was superbly and ingeniously accomplished throughout time. Desert settlements –the Kibbutz- symbolize the ultimate and absolute dominance over the barren and hostile environment of the desert, while at the same time they epitomize faith, determination and stamina of the first Kibbutzim. Thus, the social gathering around a fireplace more than anything else signifies the type of relations in this prototype community. If an empty table’s connotation is about the relationships which are implied between the participants of a metaphoric and imaginary banquet, then interaction around a primitive hearth cannot be confined to the identity of those sitting around it forming a fundamental community; It also represents an unbroken, interconnecting circle (the fundamental shape in the history of civilization) relating the sitters equally between themselves and also coequally/equitably to the fireplace; to the nucleus.
However, social and economic development in Israel is not only incident to major technical accomplishments. The establishment and the entrenchment of contemporary Israel has primarily been a philosophical and a political attainment, where memory, history and religion, as well as the institutions which sustain them [like Museums, Synagogues, Cemeteries, Schools, Universities, Army camps, Public -national and religious- Feasts etc] have been playing a major role in the creation, the consolidation and the reproduction of national and political identity, in a system where Israel is the mirror imaging of the Land of Promise –or vice versa.
In the same frame of reference, museums constitute a typical example of very important and influential Heterotopias as they represent those sacred places where knowledge is institutionally exposed, cultivated and reproduced. They are the temples of culture, where civilization, knowledge and tradition are accumulated and exist beyond time. Famous architects have been employed, in order to create ‘shelters’ for these ‘monuments of all time’, which praise and glorify the content. Collections have been carefully and meticulously gathered from all around the world; “…museums are heterotopias in which time never stops; they are places of all times which in themselves are outside of time…”
But also the people of Heterotopia are not ‘common people’ as they represent more than they physically are. (Having gained –almost- an iconic status), their role and their duty is to support and preserve the political, the social and the cultural environment of Heterotopia. They are the citizens who command, control and reproduce knowledge, memory, history and religion.
Focusing at the environment of Heterotopias allows the viewer to reveal the imprint of contemporary Israel especially in connection to the mechanisms through which the notions of power and identity are incubated and reproduced. Through a process of deconstruction and a projection at a spatial level, I attempt to re-address those fundamental elements, which determine the identity of contemporary Israel: religion, history and memory.
For me shooting on film is an intentionally slow process, which allows me the time to think and analyze before I shoot. Often I make final decisions while I prepare my shooting session, while when I am on digital I often go on an automatic mode. Shooting on film requires a pace that I feel comfortable working at.
Using film is often a little more inflexible at the technical level and needs precision. Again, this process makes me think longer and more thoroughly, and give solutions seemingly about technicalities, which however affect the aesthetic level. However, aesthetic and conceptual are interlinked. For instance, for me it is very important thinking and choosing the colour palettes beforehand, rather comparing and deciding along the way -as it can be done in digital photography. This, is not simply an aesthetic choice –it is also conceptual.
More than anything, it is the element of surprise during the shooting process which fascinates me. Nothing can be checked or corrected until the film is developed. After seeing the developed film is very late to fix anything and have to go along with this game of luck –or misfortune, and make it part of your narration.
Finally, it is the material nature of the film, which reminds me that more than anything photography for me is a world of small and personal fetishes.