Catherine Edelman Gallery is excited to return to Photo London after a three-year absence, with featured works by Clarissa Bonet, Omar Imam, Michael Koerner, Lea Lund & Erik K, and Harry Fisch.
Clarissa Bonet (b. 1986, Tampa, Fl., lives in Chicago) will exhibit new pieces from her City Space series. As she states: “The urban space is striking – its tall and mysterious buildings, crowds of anonymous people, the endless sea of concrete. City Space is an ongoing photographic exploration of the urban environment and my perception of it. I am interested in the physical space of the city and its emotional and psychological impact on the body. These photographs reconstruct mundane events in the city that I have personally experienced or witnessed in public. Stark light, deep shadow and muted color are visual strategies I explore to describe the city. I use the city as a stage and transform the physical space into a psychological one. The images I create do not represent a commonality of experience but instead provide a personal interpretation of the urban landscape.”
Harry Fisch (b. 1952, Nice, France, lives in Madrid) will present work from The Art of Disappearing, a series that brings awareness of the Arbore tribe in Ethiopia where the last 2300 members are currently living. As he states: “The modernization of the roads and the easier access of visitors are changing their way of life. They've become "other," losing their identity. Cultural disappearance is brought about by changes in the traditional way of life, from the means of transportation to the pollution of modern lifestyles. I have watched them disappear for years. The roads, financed and built by the Chinese government, force their relocation. The trucks pass by, flooding people and cabins with dust. The perception of "other" is shaped and distorted by guides, visitors, photographers, and tourists. This work is intended to be a glimpse at the other side of the mirror; to understand what it reflects and how we interpret the "other" when it goes from being observed to being an observer. In this series, text, objects, and images are juxtaposed so that the conscious and unconscious are related, creating a conversation between parallel and convergent universes.”
Omar Imam (b. 1979, Damascus, Syria, lives in Amsterdam) will exhibit work from his Live, Love, Refugee series. As he states: “Live, Love, Refugee examines the mental state of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, asking how relations and dreams are affected by conflict and displacement. It is a visual evocation of the pain and desire of Syrians who struggle to survive in their new land. The people I met are in the worst possible conditions, but they have the desire to continue being human. I chose to make photographs that employ symbolism and surrealism in an attempt to approach the psychological situation of my subjects. I wanted to disrupt the audience’s expectations of images of refugees and to present them with questions rather than answers. For me this is the best way to express this horrible experience. It gives viewers the ability to imagine horrific and over-photographed (but under-seen) cases like the Syrian situation, where every related story is a copy of a copy of a copy. I like to surprise the audience without being aggressive, avoiding the low hanging fruit of political reaction and focus instead on a deeper human perspective.”
Michael Koerner (b. 1963, Okinawa, Japan, lives in Urbana, IL) will exhibit new tintypes from his series, My DNA, which we showed in 2019. As he states: “I am the oldest of five brothers. The next born son of my parents lived for only several days. The next son was stillborn and the next was miscarried late in the third trimester. The cause of each of these tragedies was traced to genetic abnormalities. My youngest brother, Richard, eventually succumbed to complications associated with two separate bouts of lymphatic cancer. He lived until he was 32 years of age. There is a tremendous amount of pain and guilt associated with these horrendous endings. It is almost impossible to eliminate or even subdue the feelings that something could have been done differently or avoided. About half of the 80 thousand deaths from the attack on Nagasaki occurred in the first day, while the other half of the deaths occurred from radiation sickness and burns in the following few months. Realistically, the ultimate death toll is at least ten times higher when you approximate the long-term effect of severe, acute exposure to gamma radiation. My mother and each of her four siblings died of rare genetic disorders and/or cancer at ages much younger than the median life expectancy. I remain hyper-vigilant towards my own cancer diagnosis and exhibit my own feelings of survivor’s guilt. These feelings, and family history and experiences, drive my artistic practice.”
Lea Lund & Erik K, a husband and wife team (live in Paris) create photographic collaborations about love, and a photographer finding her muse and a subject claiming his identity. Lea, born and raised in Switzerland, and Erik, born and raised in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), met twelve years ago on a street in Zürich and have been together since. Their photographs explore their relationship, the history of Zaire, and the effects of colonization on Erik and his identity. In 1971, years after Joseph Désiré Mobutu overthrew the government and took control, he banned women from wearing pants and men from wearing suits and ties, forcing all men to wear a Mao collar jacket. Today, Erik makes his own hats, dresses, ties, and other clothing, proudly defying the ban that was forced upon him. Together, Lea and Erik create images that place Erik in settings that challenge the norms in which black men are often seen: Instead of the chauffeur, he owns the car; instead of working the land, he surveys his property; instead of shining shoes, he is the shoe-wearing customer. Together, Lea and Erik call attention to the role of ownership, as seen through the poses and eyes of an elegant, black man.
Originally from the eastern Kasai, the diamond region, I come from the Luba tribe. Before colonization, my great-grandfather was one of the last kings of the Lubas, in the Mpiana tribe. The rest of the story up to my birth is long and complicated…I was born in Lubumbashi, in Katanga, the richest region of Zaire, thanks to its copper mines, on February 12, 1970. I say “Zaire” because when I left my home country in 1995, it was still called that. Now this country is the Democratic Republic of Congo.
My first memories… I am in Kinshasa, the capital city. Daycare and primary school are in a neighborhood called Lemba. It’s a student district at the University of Kinshasa, where my father is a medical student. The most striking thing was the absence of my mother, whom I did not know. Without anyone telling me, I understood that she was not with me. As a child, I was often displaced and uprooted because I followed my father wherever he was transferred as a doctor: Kisangani, Bunia, Aru – which is on the border of Uganda – Watshia, Isiro, etc… Aru marked me because of the war in Uganda between Idi Amin Dada, Milton Obote and Yoweri Museveni. My father took care of the war refugees who fled the fighting every night.
I studied math and physics and then went to law school for three years. I had two dreams; to make politics to help and develop Zaire and all Africa, and to become a lawyer to defend the oppressed. During the school holidays I worked for my father, who also did business. He made a good living. With my first salary, I went to the Aru market where I bought my first clothes. I will never forget that moment. Without knowing it, I discovered my first passion: clothing, elegance, the love of materials and work well done and the importance of clothing details. It was the beginning of my style, which continues to evolve over time. Today, I like to hunt and customize my clothes. I also work with touch-ups. If I couldn’t find the hat I liked, I created my own hat, the Erik K hat. I am often considered a dandy, that does not bother me, but I prefer to speak of elegance, quite simply.
Having become accustomed to spending my money at the market to buy clothes, I of course also bought ties, even though it was forbidden to wear them. This is one of the reasons why I became interested in the history of the colonization of my country by Belgium. Five years after decolonization, which took place in 1960, Joseph Désiré Mobutu made a coup d’état against Joseph Kasa-Vubu and became the great dictator that we know. In 1971, he gave the name of Zaire to the country, the river and the currency; it is the year of the three Z, of the Zaireanization. He changed the first name of the entire population by creating the “Post-name”. He banned women from wearing pants, and men from wearing ties and suits, and forced all men to wear a Mao collar jacket, the famous “abacost”, which means “à bas le costume”.
After my father died in 1995, I left Zaire for Cabinda, then Luanda, Angola. I lived there for three years, during the war between Eduardo Dos Santos and Jonas Savimbi, which traumatized me. In 1998, I managed to leave for Europe. I arrived in Switzerland, where I worked as a driver, then as a salesman in ready-to-wear and watchmaking. In 2011, I met Lea. After a few months, I resigned from my job to devote myself to our life of creation and travel. My encounter with engraving, which I discovered thanks to Lea, became a passion. It’s a kind of psychotherapy for me, I can immerse myself in my inner world. I make engravings for myself, and I also enhance our photographs by passing them in press.
(Erik, b. 1970, Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo)
Erik and I are a couple of artists, married. Married for and in life, creation, and travel. I will use Lea Lund’s ”I” for the ”We” of our artistic adventure, born on July 28, 2011 and destined, if life allows us, to stop only when we disappear. We met by chance in the streets of Lausanne. I was then fifty, and he forty. It was 11 pm, I noticed this elegant and unusual man. I walked up to him and said, “It’s fun to meet a man like you on the streets of this little town...”. He said, "I’m going to a wedding, do you want to come with me?" I agreed, we talked all night, and never left each other again. I am a graduate of the fine arts of Lausanne, with a long career as a visual artist, designer, illustrator, photographer, and graphic designer. He came from Zaïre at the age of 28 after many wanderings and was then a watch salesman. We were both recently divorced, it was a “collision” rather than a meeting…
The next day, I offered to shoot his portrait. He accepted and I was challenged by what he had released in these first photographs, a mixture of melancholy and detachment, an appearance of eternal stranger to the world. Very quickly, we made exhibitions, and continued to make photographs every day. Our life became a life of three; Erik, me, and the camera. A life of nomads in search of places, buildings, architecture – my father, mother, brother, and uncle are architects – or landscapes. Our work consists of two series; the series Nomads, photographs of travels, and the series Studio, photographs indoors, where the real decor gives way to our imagination. Over the years, an invisible link has been woven between our photographs, the discourse that is creates, and our life together.
I do not define myself as a photographer; our life is an artistic performance where photography is the medium. An infinite Vanity, a tireless search for places, a quest for meaning to the absurdity of our existences. But our work would be impossible if it were not also a love story, a love that is intended to be absolute and ambitious of eternity. We are outsiders in the world of photography. It is now almost ten years that we travel the roads of Europe and sometimes the world, our vehicle full of clothes, and photographic equipment. Small hotels or Airbnb dwellings, spending our days wandering around unknown cities and their suburbs, tracking places, atypical, magnificent, ugly or strange, and also running after light, mist or cloud... Our life is full of wonder and, but also of pain and frustration when, after running behind a cloud for hours, we miss the last ray of light of the day. We try to take a month-a-year trip to a country or a region to really dive into its identity and essence.
I quickly began to intervene on our photographs with mixed techniques; engraving, drawing, scratched papers, hatched, to give them a signature related to my first activity; drawing. Erik had never drawn in his life. Seeing me doing it, he asked me to teach him the basics. He then began to engrave at dry point, and to print his engravings on our photographic prints.
(Lea Lund, b. 1960, Lausanne, Switzerland)