alone together

The poet John Donne famously said, no man is an island. Genetically, we are social animals, seeking friends, mates and partners of all kinds in order to share interests. But our social lives are not all smooth sailing. Misunderstandings, conflicts of interest, the pressure to conform versus the desire to stand out from the crowd: we crave to be ‘fashionable’ yet recoil when we are told we are ‘sheep’, blindly following popular crazes. The essential human condition is to be alone—as we come into the world and will go out of it. But whilst we are alive, we live collectively. Photographs both demonstrate and reinforce our interdependence.

10 | Alone Together

Eason Tsang Ka Wai

Rooftop No.1

2011

from series Rooftop

Courtesy the artist and Blindspot Gallery

Tsang’s hunting ground is Hong Kong, particularly the older districts where a mishmash of buildings of different architectural parameters (heights, ages, styles) allows him to find vantage points which look directly down on privately furnished rooftop spaces. The photographers admits to a form of photographic trespass, sneaking into buildings and climbing to considerable heights to find his subject matter. Living space is at a premium in this bustling city; every square metre counts, and the thoughtful use of space is both a testament to the creativity of people and a reminder of extreme population pressure in most Chinese urban concentrations.

14 | Alone Together

Katy Grannan

Anonymous, Fresno, CA

2012

from series The 99

Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

Grannan’s subjects are caught in the harsh glare of the California sun, restless and seemingly on their way somewhere – but she does not say where, and perhaps even they do not know. All have agreed to be photographed. Grannan has therefore relinquished the power of the candid shot in favour of a collusion with her subjects. The story of shared human experience is ultimately more important than the myriad cases of individual struggle – hence the ‘anonymous’ of the title. The photographer searches for the traces of small victories and defeats etched on faces and bodies.

15 | Alone Together

Hong Hao

Book Keeping of 2007 B

2008

from series My things

Courtesy Pace gallery

Picasso said: ‘You are what you keep’. The My Things photography series is the result of daily observations of Hong Hao’s own life, being a record of the accumulation of things over time – ‘like a laundry list’. Begun in 2001, the series was made by scanning, one by one, the items he consumed or used each day, then saving the images as digital files in computer folders, and then waiting until the next year to create a link of highlights. Hong describes this as ‘the daily repetitive work of an accountant’, work which gave him ‘an anchor in a fast-changing material world’. Could we not all do the

16 | Alone Together

Katy Grannan

Anonymous, Modesto, CA

2013

from series The 99

Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

Grannan’s subjects are caught in the harsh glare of the California sun, restless and seemingly on their way somewhere – but she does not say where, and perhaps even they do not know. All have agreed to be photographed. Grannan has therefore relinquished the power of the candid shot in favour of a collusion with her subjects. The story of shared human experience is ultimately more important than the myriad cases of individual struggle – hence the ‘anonymous’ of the title. The photographer searches for the traces of small victories and defeats etched on faces and bodies.

17 | Alone Together

Kim Taedong

Day Break-034

2011

from series Day Break

Courtesy the artist

Kim Taedong is an observer of the bleak in-between moments that characterise modern city life. Since 2011, he has been photographing fellow dwellers of Seoul encountered during his own walks about. Darkness characterises the pictures of the series, Day Break. Commuters traversing cracks in the metropolis, functional zones that break from the flashy populated areas – reminding us many moments take place in out of centre places. He intends to capture the spirit of these moments of aloneness, an individual frozen in time, bringing them together in a ‘repetitive history of lives of (these) people, which dance around the centre and outskirts of a city, day and night, now and the past’ neither coming nor going.

18 | Alone Together

Katy Grannan

Anonymous, Los Angeles

2008

from series Boulevard

Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

Grannan’s subjects are caught in the harsh glare of the California sun, restless and seemingly on their way somewhere – but she does not say where, and perhaps even they do not know. All have agreed to be photographed. Grannan has therefore relinquished the power of the candid shot in favour of a collusion with her subjects. The story of shared human experience is ultimately more important than the myriad cases of individual struggle – hence the ‘anonymous’ of the title. The photographer searches for the traces of small victories and defeats etched on faces and bodies.

19 | Alone Together

Benny Lam

Trapped – sub-divided 01

This 50-square-foot cubicle is a multi-function space for the Leung’s family, it’s their sleeping room, dining room and even their kitchen. Children curl up on the upper bunk bed, doing their homework or playing, the father who has moving difficulty stays on the lower bunk bed reading newspaper and constantly reminding the children not to disrupt their neighbours, the mother sits beside him folding clean clothes.

2012

from series Trapped

Courtesy the artist, Benny Lam’s photographs are used by the Hong Kong Society for Community Organization to arouse public and government concern over issues of urban slums and inadequate housing conditions. Concept by Kwong Chi Kit and Dave Ho.

‘Fifty square feet can be the size of a toilet, a kitchen, or a balcony. It is just enough for three or four people to lie down, four or five chairs or about seventy sheets of A4 paper. But for some people in Hong Kong, it is the size of the entire house that they call home.’ Benny Lam’s photographs of his home city show us the cage-like spaces within high-rise buildings within which the island’s citizens are trapped, due to an exorbitant real-estate market. His unorthodox viewpoint, from above, captures scenes for the most part invisible to outsiders. Photographers are often drawn to record the lives of hidden communities.

20 | Alone Together

Katy Grannan

Anonymous, San Francisco

2008

from series Boulevard

Courtesy raenkel Gallery, San Francisco

Grannan’s subjects are caught in the harsh glare of the California sun, restless and seemingly on their way somewhere – but she does not say where, and perhaps even they do not know. All have agreed to be photographed. Grannan has therefore relinquished the power of the candid shot in favour of a collusion with her subjects. The story of shared human experience is ultimately more important than the myriad cases of individual struggle – hence the ‘anonymous’ of the title. The photographer searches for the traces of small victories and defeats etched on faces and bodies.

21 | Alone Together

Florian Böhm

48th Street / 5th Avenue

2005

from series Wait for Walk

Courtesy the artist

Böhm is striving towards what he considers a novel visual urban vocabulary, working as an anthropologist with a sharp eye for the transient. What better strategy to ‘freeze’ a moment than a crowd waiting at a red light, with the passing traffic acting as the shutter? Here the busiest New Yorker must come to a standstill – resigned or agitated. Böhm imagines the street corner to be a momentary stage, the motley group of actors unaware of being in a colourful urban pageant. Does that central figure realise how closely she conforms to the model on the poster in the distance?

22 | Alone Together

Walter Niedermayr

Yazd, Iran 23 2005

2005

from series Iran

Courtesy the artist and Galerie Nordenhake Berlin/Stockholm and Galerie Johann Widauer Innsbruck

Niedermayr’s work involves extensive travel, bringing to his audience a quiet reflection on social groupings and behaviours that are often different from his own Western European context. He tells us, ‘I like to imagine the creation of an image in which the observer is able to define their own point of view; that is to say, diversity in regard to content, diversity in regard to form and diversity in regard to further concern

23 | Alone Together

Pieter Hugo

from left to right

Nandipha Mntambo (4)
Lebo Tlali (2)
Manuela Kacinari
Hayden Phipps
Ashleigh McLean
Matthew Hindley (1)
Pieter Hugo
Themba Tshabalala

2012

from series There’s a Place in Hell for Me and My Friends

Courtesy Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg; Yossi Milo, New York; e Priska Pasquer, Colonia

Pieter Hugo’s There’s a Place in Hell for Me and My Friends is a series of close-up portraits of the artist and his friends, individuals of different ethnicities, either born in South Africa or who have moved there and made it their home. Through a photographic conversion process, pigment (melanin) in his sitters’ skin, blemishes and latent sun damage are drawn out. The resulting portraits are the antithesis of the airbrushed images that commonly determine the canons of beauty. This series of images draws attention to skin and skin colour with the intention of placing emphasis on the complexity of belonging, the impact of environment on skin, as well as the absurdity of the parameters at the base of systemic privilege and disempowerment.

24 | Alone Together

Adam Ferguson

from the top

Skyping Soldier 4
Skyping Soldier 3
Skyping Soldier 2

2011

from series Skyping Soldiers

Courtesy the artist

When we think of photographs taken of soldiers, what usually comes to mind are formal portraits of men presenting themselves as paragons of discipline and bravery. Ferguson has instead chosen quiet moments to remind us of their humanity; he shows his subjects off-duty, absorbed in communications with their loved ones many thousands of miles away. And yet, is there not a strange disconnect? Despite the supposed ‘wonders’ of modern communications, his silent subjects seem very aware that they are not in the same ‘space’ as their loved ones – literally and figuratively

25 | Alone Together

Ann Mandelbaum

from left to right

Audience 2012 III #1
Audience 2012 III #6
Audience 2012 III #8

2012

from series Audience

Courtesy the artist

Ann Mandelbaum’s Audience series has been made in a concert hall, looking downwards at the well-heeled folk who have come for the pleasure of high culture. Mandelbaum’s interest is not, however, out to document individual idiosyncrasy; her interest is more anthropological: how we (because those people could be us, too) behave in a public setting (both looking at, and knowingly being looked at), and how we come to terms with others in close confines. But Mandelbaum also transforms her pictures in a painterly manner, and her tight, exclusionary framing enhances the emotional character of these otherwise banal encounters: violence lurks under these polite surfaces: could that man be actually strangling his wife

26 | Alone Together

Lauren Greenfield

High school seniors (from left) Lili, 17, Nicole, 18, Lauren, 18, Luna, 18, and Sam, 17, put on their makeup in front of a two-way mirror for Lauren Greenfield’s Beauty CULTure documentary, Los Angeles, 2011.

2011

from series Generation Wealth

Courtesy the artist

Greenfield’s Generation Wealth is an ambitious attempt via photography and documentary film to come to grips with the phenomenon of excessive wealth in America – a popular shorthand for which is ‘the one percent’ – in all its glamorous, even calculated vulgarity. But beyond her immediate subjects, Greenfield’s study is a critique of contemporary American culture, where youth, celebrity, technology, politics, new forms of social communication and cascades of new money make for a heady cocktail that transfixes the entire world, where no one is entirely immune to the siren chants of consumerism.

27 | Alone Together

Michael Wolf

from left to right

Tokyo Compression #39
Tokyo Compression #35
Tokyo Compression#75
Tokyo Compression #80
Tokyo Compression #05
Tokyo Compression #109

2010

from series Tokyo Compression

Courtesy M97 Shanghai

Earlier we saw one of Wolf’s signature soaring Hong Kong tower blocks. Here, in a selection from another extensive series, we see the stresses and strains of an equally great Asian city, Tokyo, from underground. Big-city commuters all over the world will recognise this nightmare: a crush of bodies so intense it presses them against the doors and the windows, which steam with the heat and humidity. Eyes close, trying to keep the horror at bay or to escape inwardly, as the hapless passengers count the seconds to the next stop and momentary release.

28 | Alone Together

Wang Qingsong

Work, Work, Work

2012

Courtesy the artist

Wang Qingsong’s Work Work Work may elicit a smile, as its apparent theatricality is evident. The picture is a curious mix of order and chaos, as uniformed workers apply themselves feverishly to some form of urban planning. The pace seems feverish, as if the city they are conceiving is springing up almost as they work. For many years Qingsong has used photography to critique the rapid changes that are sweeping through Chinese society. Yet the critique has relevance for us all: is work to be worshipped, at the expense of other human needs?

29 | Alone Together

Olivier Christinat

Figurations II

2016

Courtesy the artist

In 2008, humanity passed a milestone, with more of us living in urban centres than in the countryside. We live together yet experience much of our lives alone. Christinat believes he is privileged to have been born in what he considers ‘a golden age’ of civilisation, having access to education, culture, comfort, security, and freedom of movement and thought. He has photographed many crowds in many cities, like these people descending an escalator, and he searches out private, unguarded moments: the prayer-like gesture of hands, the furrowing of a brow, a smile directed to a friend. The artist describes as ‘ephemeral signs … punctuations from which imagination can wander’.

30A | Alone Together

Dona Schwartz

from left to right

Bobby and Kevin, Waiting to Adopt, 2012
Desiree and Karen, 68 days, 2006
Liz and Deedrick, 14 days, 2007

2006

from series Expecting Parents

Courtesy Stephen Bulger Gallery

Schwartz’s two series, Expecting Parents and Empty Nesters, may be seen as interlocking parts of a whole. Schwartz takes as her subject parents and children – though the latter are notably invisible; the work is all the more powerful for it. The first series deals with couples anxiously or serenely awaiting the arrival of a new human being. The expectant parents are posed in the rooms of their progeny, and the environments they have created speak eloquently as to their hopes and aspirations. The second series shows parents struggling to come to terms with the moment when their adult child flees the nest.

30B | Alone Together

Dona Schwartz

from left to right

Pam and Bill, 2 months, 2010
Kathy and Lyonel, 18 months, 2010
Jean, 2 years, 2011

2007

from series Empty Nesters

Courtesy Stephen Bulger Gallery

Schwartz’s two series, Expecting Parents and Empty Nesters, may be seen as interlocking parts of a whole. Schwartz takes as her subject parents and children – though the latter are notably invisible; the work is all the more powerful for it. The first series deals with couples anxiously or serenely awaiting the arrival of a new human being. The expectant parents are posed in the rooms of their progeny, and the environments they have created speak eloquently as to their hopes and aspirations. The second series shows parents struggling to come to terms with the moment when their adult child flees the nest.

31 | Alone Together

Paul Bulteel

Untitled (Figurants series)

2010

from series Figurants

Courtesy the artist

Unlike many photographers, Paul Bulteel professes not to be constrained by choosing to work in a ‘series’. The general theme of the urban environment and the human presence in it is a sufficient terrain. The photographer is particularly intrigued by the relationship of the collectivity to the individual, and the tensions which often result. He pictures people of all ages in many different situations, with varying degrees of formality, and his titles them all figurants, as if to say we are all players on the social stage, and have more in common than we realize.

32 | Alone Together

Ahmad Zamroni

Muslims pray at a mosque during the Friday noon prayer in Jakarta, 14 September 2007, as devotees observe their holy fasting month of Ramadan. Practicing Muslims desist eating, drinking, smoking and any sexual activities from dawn to dusk during Ramadan. More than 90 percent of Indonesia’s some 220 million people follow Islam, making it the worlds biggest Muslim nation.

2007

Courtesy the artist

Zamroni is both a photojournalist and a photo editor, and so thinks a great deal about the communicative power of any single image. A central focus of his work is Islam and its rich history, while being cognisant of the many tensions that exist within the religion and with the other major faiths. This work demonstrates the depth of faith felt by devout Muslims, along with the focus, order and discipline required for the spiritual odyssey that is at the core of the religion.

33 | Alone Together

Michele Borzoni

Foligno, 2014. Open competitive examination for recruitment of 860 non-commissioned military officers. 7672 people applied to the examination which took place in the recruitment center of the Italian army in Foligno.

2014

from series Workforce

Courtesy the artist

The format might be collective (an examination room), but the experience is individual; each candidate is thrown back on his or her own skills and lessons learned. The photographer has set his camera where the commanding officer would be expected to place himself: the seat of authority. Borzoni’s perfectly symmetrical image is a worthy successor to Renaissance perspectival painting. The ordered, carefully spaced rows and columns suggest military discipline. Yet each candidate is far from the conventional image of a well-disciplined soldier; each comes across instead as a distinct individual, anxious yet hopeful.

34 | Alone Together

Trent Parke

all the works

Untitled

2006

from series The Christmas Tree Bucket

Courtesy Magnum Photos

In this series, Parke shows the beauty and boredom of everyday suburbia through the documentation of a family Christmas gathering in Adelaide. The photographer himself became ill with food poisoning during the course of the festivities – eventually vomiting into the red bucket that had previously held the Christmas tree, hence inspiring the title for the series. As Parke explains, ‘It was there – while staring into that bright red bucket, vomiting every hour on the hour for fifteen hours straight – that I started to think how strange families, suburbia, life, vomit and, in particular, Christmas really was …’

35 | Alone Together

Evan Baden

from the top

Emily
Jacob

2010

from series Technically intimate

Courtesy the artist

Baden’s starting point is that although change may be constant, the way we experience it today is different from how it has been experienced in previous eras. For the younger generation, so-called ‘digital natives’, change occurs within the context of a technology they have never been without. Even the notion of intimacy is different now for young people. In Baden’s eyes, young people embody change, adopting any identity they choose and, just as quickly, discarding it for something new. The ways young people alter themselves and the world around them have a lasting effect on every aspect of the culture in which they live.

36 | Alone Together

Larry Sultan

from left to right

Topanga Skyline Drive #1, 1999
Sharon Wild, 2001

1999

from series The Valley

Courtesy Estate di Larry Sultan

Visual pornography is a growing industry, with estimates of its revenues being in the billions. Most curious adults know what the films and photographs look like, but Larry Sultan set out to document a side of the industry no one sees: the rather ordinary behavior of the men and women who make their living as actors in the films, caught killing time between takes. By photographing them in quiet moments, Sultan strips away the sordid connotations of their work, suggesting they are, at the end of the day, people like the rest of us, doing their best to earn a living.

37 | Alone Together

Raimond Wouda

Damstede Amsterdam

2003

from series School

Courtesy the artist

Wouda has made an extensive study of teenage life at school, both inside and outside his native Holland. Working with a large-format camera, set on a tripod, he patiently waits for the students to tire of its novelty (and his adult presence), and at this moment of his ‘invisibility’, begins his serious picture-taking. The camera and the precise timing of his shots ensure the capture of a wealth of information, as the teenagers interact – preening, jostling, flirting, competing, observing and generally doing their best to learn and conform to the unspoken codes of youth culture