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Book Review: Amc2 journal Issue 10: LagosPhoto 2014


Book Review Amc2 journal Issue 10: LagosPhoto 2014 Edited by Archive of Modern Conflict Reviewed by Sarah Bradley Issue 10 of AMC2 from Archive of Modern Conflict brings together three disparate collections of images related to Africa. The first is a series from film sets in Nigeria, the second most active film industry in the world and bearing the industry nickname Nollywood.

Amc2 Journal Issue 10: LagosPhoto 2014.
Edited by Archive of Modern Conflict.
AMC Books, 2014.
 
Amc2 Journal Issue 10: LagosPhoto 2014
Reviewed by Sarah Bradley

Amc2 journal Issue 10: LagosPhoto 2014
Edited by Archive of Modern Conflict
AMC Books, 2014. 84 pp., 8¼x8¼".


Issue 10 of AMC2 from Archive of Modern Conflict brings together three disparate collections of images related to Africa. The first is a series from film sets in Nigeria, the second most active film industry in the world and bearing the industry nickname Nollywood. My first encounter with Nollywood was though the images of Pieter Hugo who removed actors from the context of their films to perform for his camera in the surrounding world. Here, we see actual shots from sets, depictions of scenes, and off camera moments, each presented with a brief description of the movie.

Amc2 Journal Issue 10: LagosPhoto 2014Edited by Archive of Modern Conflict. AMC Books, 2014.

In lieu of the movies themselves, these pictures are fascinating, presented here as disjointed fragments, depictions of something both larger but also independent. A dramatic flair and a love of tragedy is readable in both the images and their descriptions, and while part of me loves how dislocated the pictured scenes are from their larger narratives, I ultimately felt like there weren’t quite enough of these images. They piqued my interest, but I never quite made a connection. The Nollywood images are the most contemporary of the three series, but somehow they feel the most remote.


Amc2 Journal Issue 10: LagosPhoto 2014Edited by Archive of Modern Conflict. AMC Books, 2014.

An awkward transition pairs two black and white images, one of a woman on her knees praying and another of a stuffed chimpanzee. The woman looks up with pleading gaze while the chimpanzee stares outward with eyes that are terrifyingly dead; its hind feet curl inward making it appear unnaturally club-footed. This mid-century series pictures the workshop of a London taxidermist named Rowland Ward and depicts a horrifying number of dead African animals. It also quickly becomes clear that some of the people assembling these creatures had never seen them alive. Those with similar physiognomy to European animals seem to fare better in their re-assemblage, but a number of specimens remind me of the famously over-stuffed walrus of the Horniman Museum. We see a hyena that looks like a costume from An American Werewolf in London, a pitiable leopard that looks like a dim overfed house cat with eyes spread a little too far apart, and elephants that look surprisingly fake, despite being constructed from real parts. These images are begging for analysis. Beyond their function as tableaux fabrications of some European projection of Africa, dioramas bursting with strange companions, I am struck by the act of attempting to recreate a creature without being able to put life back into it. Instead, a strange artifice is enforced, the resulting specimens reflective of the perceptions of their mounters and designed to conform to a fantasy set by institutional concepts of what these creatures “should” look like, and in the process, creating a whole other reality, one of bloated, distorted animals, elongated and misshapen.


Amc2 Journal Issue 10: LagosPhoto 2014Edited by Archive of Modern Conflict. AMC Books, 2014.
Amc2 Journal Issue 10: LagosPhoto 2014Edited by Archive of Modern Conflict. AMC Books, 2014.

The last grouping of images are from a Cameroon photo studio that seems to have existed in some parallel, cooler and more flamboyant version of the later part of the 20th Century than I ever experienced (well, I guess that’s technically entirely possible). Photo Jeunesse was the first color portrait studio in the country, and as evidenced from these photos, it was very well used. Posing in front of painted backdrops and bright foliage we see awkward looking couples, a trio of girls in first communion dresses, some insanely cute chubby-cheeked children wearing matching outfits printed with “New York” and “America” and cans of 7-Up, Coke and Pepsi, a family of five each staring deadpan into the camera, all wearing sunglasses, a guy outfitted in Rick James-style splendor — I could happily described each image individually, but I’ll stop there. Each is wonderfully memorable in its own often subtle way, frequently presenting something that is a little strange to a Western eye, like the man in unfamiliar ill-fitting military garb or the child holding what may or may not be a real Uzi. The choices of self-presentation are celebratory and purposeful, and despite being taken in a portrait studio the images have the informal feel of snapshots. They are a complete joy.

Amc2 Journal Issue 10: LagosPhoto 2014Edited by Archive of Modern Conflict. AMC Books, 2014.

Issue 10 also served as a catalogue for the exhibition of these images at the 2014 LagosPhoto Festival and is designed with a beautiful double cover with a green and white Coptic binding. It ends with a statement from LagosPhoto Festival director Azubuike Nwagbogu whose description makes it sound like one of the more interesting photo festival offerings out there. Essays elaborate and give context — not that it’s really needed for this one. It’s one of the most straightforward offerings from AMC so far, and the theme “Staging Reality, Documenting Fiction” comes across plainly.—SARAH BRADLEY

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SARAH BRADLEY is a writer, sculptor and costumer, as well as Editor of photo-eye Blog. Some of her work can be found on her website sebradley.com.

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