‘Inferno’ by Virgil Brill @ contra doc! #7

Inferno XIX

Inferno XIX

Flat and shimmering surfaces leaning toward the dark yet lit by a faraway gap.
Earth, everywhere pervasive: texture, the deep womb, telluric power, ominous and protective.
Sentinels of darkness, the beings watch for the oblique beams of the star.
They come from darkness in close order maybe to imbed within the wall of the world
Prisoners of the ellipse they wonder and walk on through the whirling rain and wind.
Night is fallen the pale stars and planets are motionless
the beings silently re-join before heading to the light they do not understand
they are watchful
for the warming of the planet.
They hold hands together to cross the steps.
They come to a white desert.
The motionless star is still very far.
At first the light was bright now it has dimmed.
Torment assails them.
Some seized with despair
in search of themselves
split between I and shadow
believe they see death in warriors of tombs, death.
oxymoron of white light and stygian darkness
whither they sink.
Others, seized by anguish,  draw near each other and seek the marches of their memory.
They have retraced their steps
and they see the star and the earth have changed imperceptibly.
As they themselves have.

by Monica Plaza & Virgil Brill

Virgil Brill – INFERNO
@ contra doc! #7
online version
printed version
pp. 167-185

‘Through the Light of the Entrails’ by Tao Douay @ contra doc! #7

© Tao Douay

This project is the result of the evolution of work I developed around the topic of death when I was younger. As far as I can remember it has always been an obsession, maybe because I grew up in a presbytery, in front of a graveyard and a church. I started it with video and went on with photography.

Very early I was fascinated by the look of long exposure: recording the time that passes in one single picture. It’s different than a video which shows a movement; here things are frozen. That way of working – using a special light – allows me to see through things and reveal the unknown and obscure part inside living things. The fact that the time passes while I’m taking the picture expresses the mortal condition of life. As Heraclitus said: „All things come to pass.“

In 2012 I began to include my father in my work. He represented a hidden part of my personal origins. In fact his mother was born in Poland but left for France at an early age. She died in 2012, soon after I wondered about my Polish origins.

This photography has a lot to do with my intuition, feelings and synchronicity – a lot of mysteries are connected with it. It is meditative work that I don’t control with my brain…

@ contra doc! #7
online version
printed version
pp. 107-127

‘Room 322′ by Francesco Ridolfi @ contra doc! #7

Room 322_Guests 531

Room 322_Guests 531

After my previous photo series, Chess Portraits, which – to be honest – obtained quite exposure and success, I would like to try myself in something different. Something more intimate and introspective. Something that could suggest a story and be opened to the viewer interpretation. After all I love the work of photographers like Erwin Olaf and Gregory Crewdson, the images and the worlds they create and that they are able to evoke.

The very first sparkle of the idea came when I moved to Brussels for some months. In my new home there was a bathroom with a bathtub (could sound strange, but it was something unusual for me, as I always had just a shower in the places where I lived), so I started to take some baths and enjoy the time for myself while I was having them. I quickly realised that nowadays, taking a bath, is one of the rare situations completely for yourself, where you can take time and a space, thinking, reflecting and maybe let emerge emotions deeply buried in your heart. It’s an opportunity to ‘immerse ourselves’ in our own thoughts and let feelings and deep memories ‘rise to the surface’…

Francesco Ridolfi – ROOM 322
@ contra doc! #7
online version
printed version
pp. 61-83

‘Evidence of Identity’ by Ida Strzelczyk @ contra doc! #7



I am looking at each of them separately, I am looking at parts of their bodies covered with ink inserted under the skin. The number of designs, a variety of tattoos and people wearing them turn out to be fascinating. But at the same moment a question of motivation arises as the tattooing itself – however rich in adrenaline and simply addictive – is often painful and the pattern is to remain on the body for ever. Then I think: the tattoos are their owners’ specific evidence of identity. They become their particular hallmark, their unique recognition element. The tattooed express themselves in this way: their fascinations, interests, views, emotions or aesthetic tastes.

Among many ways of self-expression, this one is the most durable and highly individualised. There might be diametrically different approaches to the tattoo: to some it is just a kind of fun with no special meaning, to others it is a kind of talisman or sign reminding of life events. Some give their tattoos a deep symbolic, personal and emotional meaning, whereas to others they are ways of expressing their passions. The body can be thought a story of life or just a piece of blank canvas to fill. It is certain, however, that the tattoo becomes an integral part of the body of the wearing it person. Even if sometimes it is an art for art’s sake, it will always remain an individual sign characterising  the person and harmonising with their personality…

@ contra doc! #7
online version
printed version
pp. 129-143

‘Between the Trees’ by Ellie Davies @ contra doc! #7

© Ellie Davies

What is a forest? Is it the trees or the space that exists between them?

„A forest is what exists between its trees, between its dense undergrowth and its clearings, between all its life cycles and their different time-scales… A forest is a meeting place between those who enter it and something unnameable and attendant… Something intangible and within touching distance. Neither silent nor audible.“*

These images explore the nature and meaning of ‘Forest’ by considering the experience of standing alone in the woods; the eerie and captivating sensation that time has slowed down and that the forest and everything within it exists in a different state. Somehow set apart from our usual perception of linear time the wind drops, the air cools, all is quiet and still and the forest draws in. To enter this other place is to accept a slowing of time and a shift in perception.

The swirling, hanging and drifting smoke allows us to observe time moving at an almost imperceptible pace, and to focus on the interior space that is very much part of the forest, guiding the eye away from the trees and allowing it to linger on this ‘betweenness’…

@ contra doc! #7
online version
printed version
pp. 43-59

* Hold Everything Dear: Dispatches on Survival and Resistance by John Berger (p.135-140; Verso, 2007)

‘Artists Did Try to Come, Willingly’ by Andrzej Świetlik @ contra doc! #7

Grzegorz Ciechowski (1988)

Grzegorz Ciechowski (1988)

Andrzej Świetlik is most associated with the neo-avant-garde group, Łódź Kaliska. Yet, the Artists Did Try to Come, Willingly series presents him as an artist creating portraits for advertising purposes. The series consists of images taken between 1983 and 2002, in the times when photographers had almost complete freedom of creating and portrayed icons of pop-culture were not seasonal celebrities, but artists of flesh and blood; in the times, when photographers didn’t have to choose – art or commerce.

Świetlik’s tiny studio was regularly visited by musicians, actors, set decorators as well as friends and family members. In front of his camera stood Kora Jackowska, Czesław Niemen, Maryla Rodowicz, Grzegorz Ciechowski and others. The meetings were usually more a sort of social gatherings. There was a great freedom of creation – an artistic carte blanche. During some of the sessions, traditional portraits were created, during others – the models were taken to an imaginary and staged world, in which Świetlik humorously improvised referring to the history of art, surrealism or the aesthetics of socialist realism. The characteristic portraits made on monochromatic, modest background could later be seen on the album’s covers, illustrated press and in advertisements…

@ contra doc! #7
online version
printed version
pp. 24-41

Also read an interview with Andrzej Świetlik -> A KIND OF MYSTERY @ cd! #7 (pp. 9-23)

‘Romani Click’ by Małgorzata Mirga-Tas & Martushka Fromeast @ contra doc! #7

© Małgorzata Mirga-Tas & Martushka Fromeast

Is there a picture showing poverty to represent Roma communities in the best way to outsiders? Who has a right to talk about the reality at the settlement? Who has the right to dictate the gaze? Let’s Roma become subjects. Let’s Roma children grow up to be problem-solvers for the world. Let the voice not to be ‘given’ to them any longer by the outsiders.

The society of tomorrow has to take new lens in order to find ways to accommodate in mainstream thought contrasting perspectives and battling systems of values. Photography has to encourage the power of the social rather than use instrumental systems focusing on a linear relationship between the photographer and a sitter to enforce creation of so-called ideal citizens. Photographers and artists have an obligation to contribute to tackling the most important challenges we face today. We have to start doing it immediately.

In order to negotiate out-of-stereotypes way of representing Roma communities, artists invited members of the Roma settlements to arrange illustrations of Romani stories and tales written by a Roma poet Jan Mirga. Project participants, mainly young people and women prepared the tales’ scenery and took photos with hand-made pinhole cameras.

Between 2007 and 2014, this participative project was executed in over 10 Roma settlements in southern Poland as well as in London, with Roma refugees from Poland and Slovakia…

Małgorzata Mirga-Tas & Martushka Fromeast – ROMANI CLICK
@ contra doc! #7
online version
printed version
pp. 145-165

Also see Martushka Fromeast’s I Am not Scared of Night – I Am a Bompo photo story @ doc! #19

‘Life Science’ by Eran Gilat @ contra doc! #7

© Eran Gilat

Being a neuroscientist, Eran Gilat’s research focuses on the study of the mechanisms underlying epilepsy, and the development of innovative cure for this illness.

In recent years Eran has found himself directing vast attention to still life photography in addition to conceptual portraiture, highly inspired by his long lasting confrontation with biological tissues and para-clinical constellations for the study of Neuroscience. Eran deals with the aesthetics of the scene, improvising various contexts, the tools and paraphernalia shown are not just the typical ones used in the clinical operating place. „It takes a while for a young clinician or a researcher to accommodate the laboratory or hospital scenes to enable good performance” states Eran Gilat. This is done by extensive training; some cannot adjust to the visuals. Eran feels, his photographic activity carries him to these regions too. His Life Science project is forcing the biological tissue into a relatively pleasant, sometimes artificial, scenarios contemplating disquieting issues of materialism and mortality, corresponding with the complicated and intriguing category of animal reminder in the visual arts…

@ contra doc! #7
online version
printed version
pp. 85-105

‘Inizio’ by Robert MacNeil @ contra doc! #6

© Robert MacNeil

© Robert MacNeil

Beauty surrounds us every moment even in the smallest of places. Inizio (the beginning in Italian) inspired me to look at beautiful places and sights that are missed in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Look into Inizio and tell me what you see. Life? Beauty? Or just a flower? When I first sat down to shoot the flowers I was mesmerised at the details and the simple beauty in each petal. I wanted to capture them but in a way no one else ever had to my knowledge. There I was sitting in the garden with thousands of watts of lights, trying to illuminate and change what the viewer sees while keeping the integrity of the flower, which we see every day.

by Robert MacNeil (cd! #1)

cd! #6 (pp. 179-197)

‘Sacrifice’ by Lia Dostlieva @ contra doc! #6

© Lia Dostlieva

© Lia Dostlieva

I hand over my vulnerability to thee, I throw it to thy feet, a silent sacrifice. I put myself at the mercy of thee, I get rope-bound and pin-crucified, I pin myself like a butterfly into the collection of souls and bodies that lie prostrate before thee. I expose my unshielded belly, my naked heart, I spread my soul like butter upon thy morning toast – eat me, drink me, then wipe me off from thy lips like a greasy, slovenly, shameful trace of a physical need just satisfied.

We are living in an epoch of total discommunication and insincerity. Our mouths are stuffed with cotton wool of social patterns, we are covered with an armour of fear and indifference. Our passiveness knows no bounds, our rare deeds are ridiculous and impulsive.

We are searching for each other, trying to break through our own tongue-tie, shame, body inhibitions, scarceness of feelings, fear of unreciprocity, we’re like children with their eyes tied, groping in the dark. Conditions change like traffic lights, passion, pain, despair, fright, red, yellow, go ahead, red. Deep inside we scream with horror and loneliness, yet what can be heard is no more than buzzing. In our condition, love is always a coming-out, the loving ones are doomed to exist with their stomach ripped open, their heart extracted and held forth to the other person…

by Lia Dostlieva

cd! #6 (pp. 155-177)