Archive for August, 2020


Sunday, August 2nd, 2020

This little clip contains images excerpted from an ongoing series of photographs about my neighborhood in New Delhi. Nizamuddin at Night is juxtaposed against Akhil Katyal’s recent poem, An evening walk, written for a friend who is in prison.

Beginning in the year 2005, I would sometimes wander around at night, taking pictures using black and white film with a large manual rangefinder camera, which I would handhold without a tripod. I did this for five or six years. Then other things came in the way. Here’s something I wrote in the journal Civil Lines in 2010: ‘Returning home late at night, I would notice things that I didn’t in the day. Lit up by streetlights, house lights and moonlight, sometimes diffused by the rain and fog, Nizamuddin became another place. One of the first pictures I took was of a white van. Its precise location on the road, its mysterious alignment with the shadows imprinted on it, transformed it from an ordinary van into another creature altogether. It was as if I had passed through a door into another world. Sometimes, I imagine a conversation between the two halves of Nizamuddin: the West side which houses Baba Auliya’s dargah; piece of old Delhi in New Delhi, alive with qawwali singing, pilgrims, beggars, tourists, migrants, butcher shops, filth and prayer — and the genteel East side, with Humayun’s tomb; grand, isolated and austere. The Saint and the Emperor.’

On reflection, I did the East a slight disservice; indeed, it is often eclipsed by the vitality of the West. The East has some very romantic old homes, initially built by refugees, expressing humility and elegance. Many are now being razed to the ground and converted to nondescript builder flats, so it also reflects the city at large. There is Arab ki Sarai, perhaps the most beautiful gate in India, from which the last Mughal emperor, the poet Bahadur Shah Zafar, was brought out when he was captured by the British. It has had a tradition of barsatis, or inexpensive terrace flats, and of artists inhabiting them, from VS Gaitonde to Mrinalini Mukherjee. It has the front views of houses which are all dressed up, and the back lanes, or ‘service lanes’, which flip your perspective. And for me, it has a great deal of personal history and reminiscence.

After the lockdown began in Delhi in late March this year, I began to head out for evening walks, in the late evening dusk. My eyes were refreshed from not having stepped out in some time, and I began to make more pictures, this time in color, using only my phone. The neighborhood has changed, and so have I.

Akhil Katyal’s poem is dedicated to his friend Natasha Narwal, a student activist who is one of the founding members of the women’s collective Pinjra Tod, and is currently a prisoner of conscience for expressing dissent against the exclusionary CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) earlier this year. Delhi had a series of peoples’ protests that went on for most of this past winter. They were followed in February by the Delhi riots, enacted primarily as punishment for the protests. Nizamuddin had a small but active protest site that I visited a few times, along the edge of the West side. This became an eclectic gathering place for people to come and share their views, express solidarity, speak from the heart. One night when I was walking back from the dargah, where I had gone with a friend, we were waylaid by a very gentle and beautiful silent candle lit protest, walking its way through the streets. Suddenly, with Covid-19, all that is over. I saw recently that the small shamiana of the protest site has been dismantled. The long days of the pandemic are a tunnel of silence, and silencing. Yet, even in the darkness, hope persists, and a stubborn belief in ‘the inevitability of your freedom’.

Gauri Gill was born in 1970, in Chandigarh, India. She earned a BFA (Applied Art) from the College of Art, New Delhi; BFA (Photography) from Parsons School of Design/The New School, New York; and MFA (Art) from Stanford University, California. She has exhibited within India and internationally, including the 58th Venice Biennale; Museum Tinguely, Basel; MoMA PS1, New York; Documenta 14, Athens and Kassel; 2016 Kochi Biennale; 7th Moscow Biennale; Wiener Library, London; and Whitechapel Gallery, London. Her work is in the collections of prominent institutions worldwide, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate Museum, London; the Smithsonian Institution, Washington and Fotomuseum, Winterthur. In 2011 she was awarded the Grange Prize, Canada’s foremost award for photography.


Sunday, August 2nd, 2020


Chantal Akerman and her mother
Moyra Davey replicating Akerman, thinking of her empty nest.

Kafka’s travel journal is a photograph.
That photo of him on the beach.

Her delicate swipe of eyebrow. Her thick eyelashes. Her feathery cheek.

A writer acquaintance, also 40, with a toddler, writes to me, “If I died now, she wouldn’t remember me.” This haunts me.

But she will never remember this mother (me) regardless.

The need to not illustrate a book on photography with photography. What a photograph does that language does not.

Austerlitz – photo as a child

A photograph will not remember how cold and slightly wet her butt is – only a journal?

A photograph is not a moment.
A photograph is a room of light.

The “photography” book – Barthes
The Missing Photograph – Duras

I’ve written 10 journal pages about photography as she hangs on my side, in the morning light. I read the entries to John. A book thinking through discovering photography. A book of fragments. The writing is like the morning light, he says.

Kate Zambreno is the author of seven books, most recently the novel DRIFTS (Riverhead Books, May 2020). Forthcoming is TO WRITE AS IF ALREADY DEAD, a study on Hervé Guibert, from Columbia University Press, and she is at work on an essay collection, THE MISSING PERSON.


Sunday, August 2nd, 2020

Thursday, July 20, 2020; 4:20 pm

I have boxes of disposal cameras with images locked inside of them. Last week, I took five cameras to the Walgreens with no expectation of what I’d find or from what periods of my life the photos would be. One camera produced nothing at all. The others produced only a few clear photos. Because I am currently writing a memoir and this week I’ve been trying to work out something between eros and sexual violation, I’m struck by the images of an old lover and me. I’m struck now by how I’m suddenly aware that all of my writing is trying to tease out this knot between eros and sexual violation, between the love and hate of eros as Anne Carson puts it, the way it [the wrap up/the warp up] grows and morphs from when infantile toward whatever monster it becomes/became. In this photo, I am the one standing naked on the threshold. I only half believe this. The body’s gender has a curve, a drape. I’m expelled. I don’t remember who took the photo. It’s 2003 and we’ve taken some of the money I got from an artist’s grant to spend two weeks in Provincetown. During the day I try to write and take a workshop at the Fine Arts Work Center; I don’t recall the instructor. I’m supposed to be writing my dissertation. At night my lover—K, who is white—and I go to bars and try to pick up girls, which we do on this one night with a degree of success that astonishes me. I can’t be one-hundred-percent sure who the woman is kneeling in front of that me. On the night of astonishing success K and I meet a woman at the dyke bar—a femme black woman with long braids and a tattoo that fills the entirety of her back—and invite her and another woman, who is white, back to our rental. We’re seeking balance of whatever sort.

There’s a daily cleaning service at the rental but always when we return the sheets are damp from humidity. The horns from the sea or the bay. The wind at night. The disparaged straights and day trippers. The bright assault of any walk through town. If play were always a thing unbound. I feel like this photo was taken from inside myself.

Dawn Lundy Martin is an American poet and essayist. She is the author of four books of poems: GOOD STOCK STRANGE BLOOD, winner of the 2019 Kingsley Tufts Award for Poetry; LIFE IN A BOX IS A PRETTY LIFE, which won the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Poetry; DISCIPLINE, A GATHERING OF MATTER / A MATTER OF GATHERING, and three limited edition chapbooks. Her nonfiction can be found in n+1, The New Yorker, Ploughshares, The Believer, and Best American Essays 2019. Martin is the Toi Derricotte Endowed Chair in English at the University of Pittsburgh and Director of the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics.


Sunday, August 2nd, 2020

Born in a century lost to memories
Falling trees, get off your knees
No one can keep you down

During this iffy period I have been writing a lot and been listening to lots of dub reggae, juju and high-life music like Lijadu Sisters, Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey, Admiral Dele Abiodun, Jennifer Lara, Hugh Mundell, Solomon Ilori… the list is endless. Also in the mix are indie musicians; Weyes Blood and Jessica Pratt. Happy solitude with deep soulful contemplation.

In the dying days of May 2020. Hannah came to South London to take my portrait beneath the shade of a fig tree in the shared garden. Hannah and I are present students at RA Schools in London and because of COV-19, all lectures and artist talks took place online from mid April to late June. Because of remote work, time seemed to be so flexible, yet a little intangible. Anxiety plagued at the start but now in July, there is a great thirst for knowledge and much optimism.


Hannah arrives at 1pm (sharp) and Ayo pours Hannah a glass of coconut water. Hannah prepares her 4×5 field camera. They discuss the previous months of enforced solitude. Ayo asks: ‘denim shorts rolled up or rolled down?’ (They both agree: rolled up.) The sun beats down.

HL: ‘Cause this camera is really hard to focus you have to stay in exactly the same position, pretty much
AA: I love this portrait… Wolfgang’s…

AA gestures to her phone screen which shows a portrait taken by Wolfgang Tillmans

HL: It’s funny
AA: It’s at the ICA
HL: I can’t picture his work though. What’s his work?
AA: Who?
HL: The guy in the picture
AA: Richard Hamilton?
HL: Oh yeah, graphic-y pop art
AA: Yeah
HL: [hands AA a light meter that is sync’d to a flashgun]
OK put this in front of your face and press the button
AA: [points to a button on light meter]Oh now? This one?
HL: No the one on the side

AA moves her finger to another button

HL: That one
AA: OK so when I go [AA presses the button triggering the flash]

the flash triggers

HL: Yeah
AA: Have you got it?
HL: [looks at light meter reading] OK that’ll be alright

HL dials settings into the flashgun

AA: Is that dress from COS?
HL: No it looks like it is doesn’t it. It’s from Arket, pretty much the same place. I’ve decided I’m not shopping at Cos anymore
AA: Why?
HL: I feel like it makes everyone look the same
AA: Where else would you get your clothes from?
HL: I don’t know. Is that top from Cos? Oh yeah I was with you when you bought it. Press the button again
AA: I clicked it
HL: What number does it say on the right?
AA: 2.89

HL changes the dial on the flashgun

HL: Do it again what number does it say now?
AA: 4.0

HL changes the dial on the flashgun

HL: What does it say now?
AA: 5.6
HL: 5.6 woooohoo!

HL: What?
AA: You could drive to hers
HL: Where is she?
AA: Newham. Like, towards Ilford, kind of thing
HL: Where’s Ilford? I don’t know London at all
AA: Like past Stratford, like maybe 20 mins after Stratford
HL: So that’s like really East. That would take ages wouldn’t it
AA: Yeah. Even from Hackney it took like an hour
HL: Really? So I couldn’t really do it from Ealing could I?
AA: Yeah you could. A day trip

HL: Maybe we’re not getting enough of the leaves in here. Maybe if we move towards that one
AA: This one? [gestures towards another branch of the fig tree]
HL: Yeah and then the light will come in over you
AA: You know we could go from this other way? Like if you go over where the sun is?
HL: That might be better mightn’t it

AA and HL walk over to the opposite side of the fig tree

AA: Like here?
HL: So if you just stand there. That light is so nice. I’ll go back and get the rest of my stuff
AA: The sun is fierce
HL: What is?
AA: The sun. All the sunrays
HL: Ah I need some fabric to go over my head so I can see what I’m shooting

AA picks up the house keys that she has placed on a rusty BBQ and hands them to HL

HL: What should I get?
AA: Oh I have something green. I have something

AA takes the keys off HL and runs inside, a minute later she returns with a brightly coloured blanket

HL: OK if you could stand in that pool of light. Do you want it to be full body or not?
AA: I do
HL: Yeah? OK
AA: [takes phone out of her front pocket and places it on the BBQ] I’ll just move my phone
HL: Can you look directly at the camera? Just so I can focus your face. Maybe we can do two, one of you looking directly at the camera and one not
AA: [gestures to the camera] Have you been using this outside?
HL: Yeah I have, I’ve been walking around my neighbourhood with it. Not with the flash as much
AA: Why do you need flash if it’s sunny?
HL: It just pops everything. It takes certain shadows away. Look at the camera
AA: What?

camera clicks

AA: Oh why?!
HL: [laughs] I hadn’t loaded the film don’t worry
AA: Oh my gosh, oh good
HL: Why good?
AA: Because I was too relaxed
HL: It’s good to be relaxed! You don’t want to be posed
AA: Well sometimes you can look kind of dumb if you’re not posed. I want to have a pose with my hand on my hip
HL: Do you? I like catching you mid-pose
AA: You have two shots right?
HL: Yeah. Look away. Then I’ll say look at the camera and then you look
AA: But then my expression
HL: It’s better than having a posed expression
AA: [sighs] OK
HL: Look over there [gestures to AA’s left] …Now look into the camera

HL removes the darkslide. The camera clicks

HL: That’s a really nice shot!
AA: Did you take it?
HL: Yeah. I like the way you’ve got your eyes folded, I mean your arms folded. Usually like the first 9 photos aren’t good and then the tenth will be really good
AA: Usually
HL: Yeah… I mean we will both just relax more and more as we get into it

HL replaces the dark slide, turns around the film cassette in her camera and pulls out the second dark slide

AA: It’s so nice isn’t it [looks to the sky]… the birds

camera clicks

HL: That’s beautiful. Maybe I’ll do one more out here

HL takes another pre-loaded film cassette from her bag

AA: [holds up her little finger, it’s wrapped in a plaster] Can you see this in the pic?
HL: Yeah. Show it in the pic, just go like that [puts her hand close to face]

AA copies HL

HL: I hope you’re not blocked by this branch
AA: Should I do a staged one? [points at the large stop sign ring on her finger]
HL: Yeah you could do that; you could put your hand so the shadow covers your eyes

HL sets setting on camera

AA: [takes a fig in her hand without pulling it off the tree] There is dust on these
HL: Yeah you just give them a rinse. When they go purple they are delicious

HL: [puts her head under the fabric that AA has lent her and focuses the camera] This is well good this blanket

AA: I just feel like this is just such a strong pose.
HL: Do you? Do it then! Definitely do it if you feel like that. I’m just gonna read the light again so I know I’ve got it spot on [HL puts the light meter in front of AA’s face and presses the button] f16!
AA: Ah so different to last time. Maybe the sun has changed
HL: Yeah maybe

camera clicks

HL: That looks nice you know. This is so nice. The first ones might be a right off but…
AA: You have ten exposures. So 8
HL: Yep

AA: I was talking to an Uber driver
HL: Are you in the same position? Oh go on…
AA: and he said that if you’re sick and you go to hospital it’s game over
HL: What? Who was saying that?
AA: An Uber driver
HL: If you’re sick and you go to hospital it’s game over? What That’s nonsense. I can see the logic in that but it’s not like it’s game over for everyone
AA: He was like, if you’re sick just stay at home. He says even if you have it don’t go. It’s a death sentence
HL: People like to make people scared. They love the scare factor

AA: When does your portfolio go on your website?
HL: I haven’t got a website
AA: But when if you do
HL: I don’t know. Maybe third year. Maybe in 10 years. How’s your website going?
AA: *James is meant to do it but he’s taking so long so I’m hoping…
HL: Where did you find him?
AA: I’ve known him for years

HL: Right. Put your head down like this and then look up. OK. Put your body to the side like that and look up. Does that feel natural to you?
AA: So like this
HL: Yeah I think that’s good. Only if it feels natural to you though
AA: It feels natural! [Laughs]
HL: OK let me just put the film in
AA: People will probably laugh at my crocs but I love it!
HL: They look good. The red goes well with the green

[the sound of sirens in the distance gets louder and then gradually fades]

AA: So loud! Did you buy any of the art editions?
HL: No. I was waiting for the William Eggleston edition to be released but I’m not too keen on the image. It’s a young girl in the seventies
AA: He’s still alive isn’t he?
HL: Yeah I think he is. Look right to the back of the garden. Ok then turn round and look into the camera

camera clicks

AA: Did it work?
HL: Yeah. We’ll do another
AA: Taking photos is very… oh hi [AA nods to a neighbour that has appeared on the first floor balcony]
HL: [HL turns around to see what has caught AA’s attention] Oh hi [she waves at the neighbour then looks back to AA] Taking photos is what?
AA: It’s very… you have to… go in
HL: Intimate

AA pauses to ponder this

AA: I don’t know how celebrities do it

camera clicks

HL: That’s nice. That’s really nice. Do you wanna do one more?
AA: How many more have we got?
HL: Six
AA: I really like outdoors. Maybe one more outdoors and five indoor
HL: I should have maybe brought more film but it’s good to set yourself a limit
AA: You have the same camera as the artist called Deana Lawson
HL: Oh… her work is interesting. What sort of camera?
AA: It looks like the same as yours but it’s very detailed

camera clicks

HL: Right…should we go in then?

AA and HL begin to gather their belongings

HL: Your neighbour seems really friendly

HL: What time is it?
AA: I think it’s 4.20. Oh gosh we’ve got the artist talk…

They dash back into AA’s flat. The conversation continues…

Ayo Akingbade is an artist, writer and director. Her work addresses notions of urbanism, power and stance. She has exhibited and screened widely, including presentations at Institute of Contemporary Arts, South London Gallery, Birkbeck University, Walker Art Center, Somerset House Studios and Instituto Tomie Ohtake, amongst others. She lives and works in London, United Kingdom.


Sunday, August 2nd, 2020

Jody Rogac was born in England and raised in Vancouver, Canada where she studied photography at Emily Carr University of Art and Design. She currently lives and works in New York.