Paz Errázuriz Evelyn, La Palmera, Santiago from the series La Manzana de Adán (Adam’s Apple), 1983, © Paz Errázuriz / Courtesy of the artist
The Barbican Centre presents Another Kind Of Life: Photography on the Margins, a selection of photographs touching on themes of gender, sexuality, subcultures and counterculture.
As Jane Alison, Head of the Visual Art Department, pointed out ‘ As one of the flagship projects of the Barbican’s 2018 season The Art of Change, Another Kind of Life could not be more timely or relevant. A show that tells 20 stories by 20 photographers who all approach their subjects with a humanity and empathy that is both empowering and inclusive’.
The exhibition showcases the work of 20 photographers such as Diane Arbus, Casa Susanna, Philippe Chancel, Larry Clark, Bruce Davidson, Mary Ellen Mark, Paz Errázuriz, Jim Goldberg, Katy Grannan, Pieter Hugo, Seiji Kurata, Danny Lyon, Teresa Margolles, Boris Mikhailov, Daido Moriyama, Igor Palmin, Walter Pfeiffer, Dayanita Singh Alec Soth and Chris Steele-Perkins.
Paz Errázuriz Evelyn, Santiago from the series La Manzana de Adán (Adam’s Apple), 1983, © Paz Errázuriz / Courtesy of the artist
First of all, I would like to focus my attention on the work of Chilean photographer Paz Errázuriz. Her series La Manzana de Adán (Adam’s Apple) documents the reality of transgender sex-working community during the military dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet (1982-1987).
The series narrates the story of two brothers Pilar and Evelyn and their mother Mercedes: the photographs both in colour and black and white depicts their daily lives with a touching sense of intimacy and strength.
‘Photography let me participate in my own way in the resistance waged by those of us who remained in Chile. It was our means of showing that we were there and fighting back.’, she recalled.
While she was working on the project, Paz faced a backlash from militar authorities. Despite this obstacle, she was able to finish because of the Salomon R. Guggenheim bursary, which she was awarded.
In 1990 when the regime was subverted and democracy reestablished, Paz could publish her photographs with a text of Claudia Doniso for the book La Manzana de Adán.
In my opinion, these photos enable the audience to think about queer past: we should remember that in these years transgender people were considered outlaws and then subjected to curfews, persecutions and police brutality.
The immediacy of the project lies in the fact that Claudia and Paz have been insiders and not external spectators, having lived in a brothel with the family for a short amount of time (‘I guess my point of view has been an anthropological one. I do not comment on their lives, I wanted to be more of an accomplice than a foreigner or an outsider.’).
Next up, Japanese photographer Seiji Kurata’s series of black and white photographs entitled Flash Up depicts the dark and dangerous yakuza culture (gang culture) in Ikebukuro and Shinjuku districts of Tokyo.
He started his career by doing workshops with illustrious masters such as Daidō Moriyama and Araki Nobuyoshi. He embarks on the journey of capturing the illegal underworld of Tokyo, awash with transgender sex-workers, threatening Bosozoku street fighters, greedy and horny businessmen and car crash victims.
To me, the gritty and bold photography of Kurata retains a documentary and journalistic flair without losing for that intimacy and clarity.
Casa Susanna Collection Attributed to Andrea Susan. [Susanna at Casa Susanna], 1964-1969 © Art Gallery of Ontario. Courtesy of Robert Swope and Michel Hurst.