ICP Infinity Awards 2017 Recipients
By Baylee McKeel
Along with ICP Infinity Award recipients Henry Benson and Sophie Calle, other honorees included Michael Christopher Brown, Michael Famighetti and Sarah Lewis, Edmund Clark and Crofton Black, Vasantha Yogananthan, and For Freedoms.
Michael Christopher Brown’s project Libyan Sugar, released in 2016 by Twin Palms Publishers, documents war, ethnical difference, and the macabre obsession we have with being close to conflict. Raised in a farming community in Washington state, Brown experiences warfare for the first time, capturing close up the blood, sweat, and tears of the 2011 Libyan revolution through the lens of a phone camera. His work includes photographs, journal entries, and written correspondence with family and friends that map out his road trip through a war zone. A deeply engaging record of the artist’s life in Libya throughout that year, the project takes us on a journey, through a country in revolution, a people in search of something better, a man in search of something he has yet to find, both edging closer to danger to discover something about themselves, about himself. Complete with a film and mixed media instillation, Brown’s project is truly an immersive experience, one that will help us discover something too.
Critical Writing and Research
Along with guest editor Sarah Lewis, Michael Famighetti, editor of Aperture magazine, has dedicated a special issue to photography of the black experience, “Vision & Justice” (Aperture; no. 223, summer 2016). The issue addresses the role of photography in the African American experience, and the inseparable nature of vision and justice. It explores a personal matter for Lewis, whose grandfather was expelled from high school for asking where African Americans were in the history books. Vision is intertwined with justice, our perception of the world, of gender, race, ethnicity, and the shifts that come with it, have redefined and revaluated the term “justice” in our society. The issue marks an unprecedented visibility for the black experience, released in the last year of Obama’s presidency, on the heels of the Black Lives Matter Movement, it represents a photographic legacy that was missing for far too long, one that Lewis’ grandfather would be proud to have inspired.
Documentary and Photojournalism
Crofton Black and Edmund Clark’s Negative Publicity: Artefacts of Extraordinary Rendition, supported by the Magnum Foundation and published by Aperture, compiles five years of work by Black and Clark. They explored secret detention sites, and the structures and people within them, producing a complex depiction of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, their secret detention practices, the war on terror, and their investigation techniques. Merging the research and writing skills of Black, a leading expert on the CIA’s rendition, detention, and interrogation program, and Clark’s photography, which links history, politics, and representation, the project creates a full documentation on modern warfare and the invisible strings of state control.
Vasantha Yogananthan’s ongoing work, A Myth of Two Souls, is a work spanning seven years, and will be published in seven books. In 2015 he received the IdeasTap/Magnum Photos Award, helping him to embark on the physically and artistically demanding journey of covering 3,500 miles by 2019. The first book in his series, Early Times, was published in May 2016, and the next, The Promise, April 2017. His work is a journey in time, a modern telling of the epic tale, The Ramayana, which has been told and retold, continuously evolving. Intertwining fiction and history, Yoganthan shapes a narrative journey through mythical landscapes, staged portraits shot in black and white and colored using the ancient “hand-painting” technique, and photographs illustrated with the mesmerizing geometrical patterns of Madhubani painting.
Online Platform and New Media
For Freedoms is the first artist-run Super PAC, which uses art to inspire profound political engagement. Co-founded by Hank Williams and Eric Gottesman, their goal is to encourage citizens who want to have a greater impact on the American political landscape, empowering art as protest. Thomas, a photo-conceptual artist, works mainly in themes of identity, history, and popular culture, exploring their interconnectedness and complexities. Gottesman uses art in all of its forms to spark critical conversations about the things we often ignore, either by choice or ignorance. Together, the two form a powerful duo, encouraging continuous questioning of our society, pushing boundaries through art, challenging us to be better.