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I just wrote, for Vantage a review titled The Portraits In This Book Are Only Visible When You Hold It In Your Hands of Carina Hesper’s yet-to-be-made book, Like a Pearl In My Hand.

The book is printed with thermochromatic ink (yes, the same stuff used to make 90s Generra Hypercolour Tshirts) and so it changes from pitch black in a resting state to emerging portraits of blind Chinese orphans the next.

I’ve never seen anything like it. Of course, the book hasn’t made full production yet, so I’ve not held on in my hands, but the dummy and the vids look impressive.

The degrees to which Like a Pearl In My Hand plays with metaphor and reconfigures our use of sight and touch further distinguishes Hesper’s book.

Disability is a hidden problem. Blindness prevents sight. By literal description or by strategic manipulation, everyone is in the dark. But when sight is denied, other senses compensate. Hesper plays with this truth.

Hesper is currently raising Kickstarter funds to get the project into book form (it’s already shown at numerous festivals as single prints on the wall.)

Read my review in full and see more pictures: The Portraits In This Book Are Only Visible When You Hold It In Your Hands.

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Wendy Watriss, co-director of Fotofest, really digs Chinese photography. In 2008, Fotofest set up camp in China reaching out for the sakes of diversity, discovery and commerce.

Today, Fotofest announced its International Discoveries II. They include Alejandro Cartagena, Wei Bi, Minstrel Kuik Ching Chieh, Christine Laptuta, Rizwan Mirza, Takeshi Shikama, Kurt Tong, MiMi Youn, and Vee Speers (although Peter Marshall points out Speers isn’t that “new”).

The most comprehensive information available remains the Fotofest Press Release (PDF)

The most tantalising prospect for me personally is Wei Bi. Partly because of his project and partly because there’s nothing out on the web about him.

I skanked this screenshot of the Fotofest website. Sorry FF!

Wei Bi, Untitled, 2008

Wei Bi, Untitled, 2008

Here’s the blurb: “Issues of justice are embedded in Chinese artist Wei Bi’s re-staging of his 80–day experience in a Chinese prison — a sentence received for making a photograph. His large black and white photographs are minimal, showing a surreal relationship between near expressionless guards and disoriented prisoners. Despite the constructed nature of his work, Mr. Wei insists his “photography is not aimed to reveal, but to record, recording the existence of my life.” Wei Bi’s work was “discovered” at the Guangzhou 2009 Photo Biennial in Guangzhou, China.

How can we not be drawn to this work? He was imprisoned for his photography! Potentially, it is a narrative against adversity in which creativity triumphs.

If anyone reading this makes it to the exhibition please get in touch and tell me what you think of Bi’s prison photographs.

Munkhbayar is the director of the women's prison just outside Ulaanbataar, her background is in Law. © Grace Gelder

Munkhbayar is the director of the women's prison just outside Ulaanbataar, her background is in Law. © Grace Gelder

Grace Gelder is building a portfolio with some impressive images. She graduated with an MA from Bolton University in International Photojournalism , Documentary & Travel Photography. I am chuffed to promote her work because Bolton is one of many mid-sized cities of England’s Northwest that has been the brunt of dismissive attitudes during my childhood and adolescence.

The University of Bolton is helping reshape those ill-informed attitudes and building a reputation for its photojournalism department. This is helped by its partnership with the Dalian College of Image Art, China. Which helps to explain how Gelder came to work on her far-flung series Professional Mongolian Women. Mongolia is just next door, right?

As the Metro puts it, Gelder “counteracts misconceptions of Mongolia as an under-developed country. Her series of striking colour portraits, each depicting one woman in her professional context, follows up a UN report last year that placed Mongolia first in a league table for women’s participation in the workforce.”

I think particularly with her portrait of Munkhbayar, Director of the women’s prison just outside Ulaanbataar, Gelder succeeds in quashing stereotypes that exist regarding Non-western nations, Mongolia itself, and women in those societies. I am just glad Gelder had a prison warden as one of her subjects; as to provide me an excuse to promote her well-informed work. I recommend reading Gelder’s own description of gender relations and equalities in Mongolia.

(Via PhotoMABlog)

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