Stockholm Exhibitions 1: Jean-Marie Simon: Guatemala – Eternal Spring, External Tyranny [Fotografiska gallery]

This is the first in a series of blogposts about exhibitions I saw in Stockholm last weekend. The Fotografiska gallery is stunningly located on the tidal waterfront in Slussen. It has only been open for a year, and has four exhibitions running at a time. The downside to this exhibition is that the images were all shown as slideshows on plasma screen TVs [reflected in the poor quality of my photographs]. It would have been better to have seen prints.

These photographs – in turn harrowing, extraordinary or frightening – were taken between 1980 and 1988 during the most violent period of the Guatemalan civil war. Here’s some more info from the Fotografiska website.

In 1980, 26-year-old photojournalist Jean-Marie Simon visited Guatemala, for the first time, in order to complete a short reportage. She stayed for eight years. When Simon finally left, she had, via thousands of photographs, documented the most violent period in the country’s 30-year civil war. Simon’s images capture the cruel reality of war in one of the most compelling chapters of Guatemala’s modern history.

Jean-Marie Simon explains that the images are not intended to provide deep insights about the past or solutions to contemporary conflicts. Put simply, their greatest value lies in the fact that the photographs provide an opportunity to reflect on what was and what should never happen again. Being a young woman, a photographer, and a foreigner, in a culture rife with terror was an incredible challenge, especially when attempting to be as close as possible to the violence. The risk of being killed was great, and as a result, Simon was obliged to keep a constant look out. Simon goes on to relate that it took time to gain the people’s trust.

“Nobody trusted me at first. Either they thought I was an ‘ear’ to gather information or just an idiot. I was constantly afraid, but I considered this to be my job. I could either get out there and take the photographs or just go and hide under the bed.”

In 2010, the exhibition Guatemala. Eternal Spring – Eternal Tyranny was nearly banned from being shown in Guatemala City. Fotografiska is the first venue to exhibit the photographs outside Guatemala.

Film Review: Biutiful (*****)

Dir: Alejandro González Iñárritu

Country: Spain, Mexico, UK

Cert: 15

147 mins

This work is an accomplished, desperately harrowing tale of death and globalisation. It left me more distraught than I have ever felt at the cinema. 147 minutes of misery, I spent much of the film either sobbing for the plight of its’ characters or hating myself for having what I consider a good life.

Javier Bardem, arguably the Spanish language’s best actor of his generation, plays Uxbal, a man dying of prostate cancer who lives on the margins of society in a rough district of Barcelona. Uxbal ekes out a living for himself and his two children by finding work for illegal immigrants and taking a cut from their employers. Although some would argue that Uxbal is exploiting these people, the film makes it clear that he cares deeply about their welfare, certainly more than many of the other characters in the film. The Barcelona that we see is a far cry from the one that many of us in Northern Europe think of. It’s an industrial metropolis of dingy slums, sweatshops and police brutality. Bardem (in a stunning performance) is in almost every scene in the film, looking drawn and steeped in the agonies of his character. Scenes are shot in grainy, super-saturated colour, drenched in symbolism. Occasional ghostly moments blend with the grimy realities of the characters’ existences.

I couldn’t bear watching this film. However I can’t fault it either. It represents the pitfalls of the 21st century Western economy, which is why it’s so important that films like this are made.

I never want to see it again.

Original Trailer:


Polaroid ZINK manipulation…

My daughter and her mum gave me a polaroid ZINK (zero ink) PoGo portable USB printer for my birthday. It prints little pictures with a wonderfully lo-fi feel.

This is what happens when you mess with images by soaking them in water, and then drying them with a hairdryer and separating the layers…

It’s interesting how it seems to be divided into just two layers – an orange one and a cyan one. How does that work? And how does it work with no ink OR film? Quite baffling. I’ll look into that when I’m not Ditto-ing HARD…

There’s a sandpaper trick too, but I haven’t tried that yet – I’ll buy some sandpaper today and post the result later…