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geography

Cat Ladders of Bern

Cats love climbing, and they certainly need no human help to navigate precarious-looking structures. But in the Swiss city of Bern, cat owners are extra concerned of the wellbeing of their pets. All around the city you will see structures built specially for cats to climb. They look like fire exits, but of a more dangerous kind, attached to the outer walls, creating a path from the upper floor balconies or windows down to the street.

Switzerland-based graphic designer and writer Brigitte Schuster chronicles this unique phenomenon in her new book Swiss Cat Ladders.

bern cat ladders

Categories
culture

Horsing around: a wild weekend at Appleby Fair

One week every year, the tiny town of Appleby in Cumbria host the largest gathering of Gypsies and Travellers in Western Europe. Around 10,000 members of the travelling community pour into the Eden Valley to trade horses, party, gamble, meet friends, and even find love.

Increasingly, horses are being brought to the three-day fair for leisure rather than for trade, and the vast majority of visitors are there as part of a traditional family holiday. Hundreds of horses are seen being ridden around the town, washed in the river, groomed, and exercised (the best way of showing them off).

I’d known about the Appleby fair for years – it’s been around since 1775 – but last year was the first time I got to visit. It was amazing: there was so much going on. I was surrounded by incredible faces everywhere – young boys riding cobs around, long-haired girls wearing beautiful outfits, and men dealing horses of all shapes and sizes.

Everyone was welcoming and charming. As a photographer, I always look for permission from people I shoot, and the majority of attendees were fine with me taking their photo. That said, I did receive a few nos – I felt some people were a bit suspicious of me, which I completely understand given the ignorance and prejudice these communities have faced in the past. I would probably be sceptical of photographers too.

 

See more of Stefy Pocket’s work on her official website, or follow her on Instagram.

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culture

Meet the African chief who leads a double life in Germany

Céphas Bansah works as a self-employed car mechanic in the German town of Ludwigshafen. But in his spare time, he oversees the development of his hometown – Hohoe, capital of Ghana’s Gbi Traditional Area – through WhatsApp and Skype.

“Being a king is not a profession, it is my life’s work,” says the 70-year-old. “My happiest moments are when I can help in Ghana through my efforts here in Germany.”



Technically, the Gbi Traditional Area is not a monarchy and the title Ngoryifia literally translates as ‘development chief’, an honorary position bestowed on people thought of as respectable and believed to be capable of helping an area.

For Bansah, that could be securing sources of clean drinking water, redeveloping prison infrastructure for women and young men – “Until recently all inmates, whether male or female, were housed in a single room! I think you can imagine how they had suffered.” – or helping to fund life-saving treatment of a child with heart disease.

The path to this point is not exactly typical where Bansah comes from. But back in the 1970s, moving away and developing a trade felt like the only viable option to him. “My goal was to learn from the Germans themselves – the virtues of their work ethic, their understanding of technology, etc. – and bring this to my people in Ghana,” he says. “Many of my German friends today say that I am fussier than any German they know of.”


Bansah met his wife, ‘Queen Gabi’, when she came into the shop one day with a malfunctioning car. “The problem itself was found quickly but I told her that she had to come back a few more times over the next few days, that I had to test everything again,” he says. “I liked her and thanks to this trick – which I think she saw through quickly – we got to know each other.”

Those at home in Ghana struggled to understand the move, Bansah explains, but once the first of his relief projects became successful, people began to understand and respect his decision. Back then, offering support and orchestrating projects from afar required constant long-distance calls and faxes via his brother, Fredolin. But even today, over 30 years later, Bansah makes the trip back to Africa every winter.

That’s how he came to know the photographer Christina Czybik. Over the years, she’d heard stories about Bansah as an apprentice photo-editor at a news agency in Germany. When she approached him for a project in 2015, he invited Czybik to lunch and later suggested she join a delegation of family and friends travelling to Ghana and Togo later that year (at her own expense) to document his work – culminating with a visit to the Agbogboza Festival, an annual celebration of the Ewe people’s ancestral history.



It proved to be a transformative experience for Czybik. Growing up, she was constantly taking pictures of her family: first with her mother’s waterproof camera and later with the professional equipment that her father – a private investigator – bestowed to her in a metal suitcase.

After transitioning from apprentice to photo editor over the course of 10 years, Czybik moved to Los Angeles to work for different German agencies as a correspondent, which inspired her to pick up a camera again.

First she wandered the streets alone, taking pictures of LA at night, or drove out to the desert searching for relics of Americana. But she wasn’t interested in photographing people until she saw War Photographer, the 2001 documentary about photojournalist James Nachtwey.


“It was a turning point; it moved me so much,” she says. “I decided that I needed to step away from working full-time in the entertainment industry, so I took a chance and moved back to my hometown of Hamburg in 2013 when my father passed away – starting as a freelance photojournalist and photo editor.”

By the time Czybik embedded herself with ‘King Bansah’, she’d completed an award-winning project on the Small Nambas tribe of Malekula, an island in the Pacific Ocean. But travelling from Accra in Ghana to the festival in Notse, Togo, proved a different kind of challenge. The bus broke down before it even started. Then came days of traversing dirt roads, cramped together with no tangible sense of time or distance.

“You realise, quite suddenly, that travel feels different there,” she says. “I learned a lot: not only about the value of patience, but about respect, about helping people. Even though people in Germany might find [Bansah] funny, my approach was to show the hard work he’s doing to support his people in Ghana, how important this person is and what he is capable of achieving.”



Wherever the delegation went, Czybik explains, Bansah took on a full schedule of events with gusto – shaking hands and spending time with as many people as possible – while making a point of never smiling or looking directly into the camera as long as he wore his crown.

It was heartwarming to see he and Gabi so personally invested in all of their projects, she says, and rewarding to be able to soak up a different culture from such a unique vantage point.

But asked what image she feels connected to from their time together, Czybik singles out a moment taken back in Germany: Bansah standing in his colourful Kente dress, alone in the garage.


“It just doesn’t need any explanation about who he is and what he does,” she says. “For me, it’s also the symbol of bringing together two cultures, two different worlds. It’s about learning; about integration; a symbol against bias; about what you can archive if you work for it and to never give up.”

Find out more about photographer Christina Czybik.

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Categories
culture

Documenting the unseen side of the Black Panther Party

In 1968, the Black Panther Party (BPP) stood 2,000 strong; armed not just with firearms, but a knowledge of the Constitution, state, and local laws. Initially organised to fight police brutality, the group quickly organised to institute community social programs. Leadership understood the power of the press and began working with writers, artists, and photographers to get the word out.

That year, Kathleen Cleaver met husband and wife photographers Pirkle Jones (1914-2009) and Ruth-Marion Baruch (1922-1997), and gave them unprecedented access to the inner circle of the BPP.  Of the work they made, Baruch said: “We can only tell you: This is what we saw. This is what we felt. These are the people.”

The photographs – first printed in The Black Panther weekly newspaper – were immediately well-received, and an exhibition of the work, Black Panthers: A Photo Essay, opened at San Francisco’s de Young Museum shortly after. More than 100,000 people attended the show, despite City Hall’s best efforts to pressure the photographers to delay or cancel it.

This historic body of work is the inspiration for Vanguard Revisited: Poetic Politics & Black Futures, an exhibition that places Jones and Barruch’s archival photographs in dialogue with the work of four contemporary black artists and collectives: Kija Lucas, Tosha Stimage, Chris Martin, and 5/5 Collective. The exhibition is the culminating project for the students of the Collaborative Practices Course, which was taught by Jeff Gunderson, Librarian and Archivist at San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI) during autumn 2018.

Pirkle Jones, Black Panthers drilling before Free Huey Rally, DeFremery Park, Oakland, CA, #23 from A Photographic Essay on The Black Panthers.

Pirkle Jones, Black Panthers discussing their reading material, Bobby Hutton Memorial Park, Oakland, CA, #101 from A Photographic Essay on The Black Panthers. Commissioned by Swedish magazine, Vi.

Gunderson met Jones when he began working at SFAI’s Anne Bremer Memorial Library. Over the years, they spoke frequently about photography and politics, as well as his time as a student at SFAI on the G.I. Bill, studying photography under Ansel Adams in 1946, where he first met Baruch.

“Ruth-Marion received the very first MA in photography in the US in 1946 from Ohio University, doing her thesis on Edward Weston,” Gunderson remembers. “Afterwards she enrolled at SFAI, where she met the luminaries on the faculty: Adams, Weston, and Dorothea Lange, as well as Minor White, Lisette Model, and Imogen Cunningham.”

“Both Pirkle and Ruth-Marion had become radicalised in the late 1950s and into the 1960s, being anti-war, pro-civil rights and members of the Peace and Freedom Party. Ruth-Marion approached Kathleen Cleaver about photographing, explaining how she wanted to debunk the demonisation of the Panthers and to show the side of the Panthers not being shown in the media.”

After receiving an invitation to photograph a Free Huey Rally in Oakland’s De Fremery Park, Jones and Baruch were introduced to Kathleen’s husband, Eldridge Cleaver.

Pirkle Jones, Three men carrying Free Huey banners on court house steps, #71 from A Photographic Essay on The Black Panthers.

“Pirkle and Ruth-Marion were eager to have their photos shown in The Black Panther newspaper. The Panthers had a great grasp on communication: whether it be in their rhetoric, artwork, their confident style, and most of all their message, which resonated with a wide group of radicals, not just left-leaning African-Americans.”

“When they showed their first images to the Cleavers, the couple responded enthusiastically. Eldridge asked, ‘Why do your photographs have a feeling that none of the work I’ve seen of us by other photographers has?’”

Jones and Baruch stood in solidarity with the BPP, openly using photography to support and amplify the message. “They would never have considered themselves photojournalists – not even documentary photographers. Their photographs took a stance,” Gunderson says.

“Even though they worked together and their intentions were ‘to tell it like it is,’ in the parlance of the times, they photographed individually and then edited the set of photos into a joint essay. As one of the Panther founders Elbert ‘Bigman’ Howard would later say, Pirkle and Ruth-Marion, ‘had a great eye for humanity; nobody was posing; we were all part of somebody’s family.”

Pirkle Jones, Free Huey rally, Bobby Hutton Memorial Park (formerly DeFremery Park).

Pirkle Jones, Black Panthers in formation during drill, DeFremery Park, Oakland, CA, #57 from A Photographic Essay on The Black Panthers.

Pirkle Jones, Black Panthers from Sacramento, Free Huey Rally, Bobby Hutton Memorial Park, Oakland, CA, #62 from A Photographic Essay on The Black Panthers

Pirkle Jones, Free Huey rally, DeFremery Park, Oakland.

Pirkle Jones, Bullet Hole in plate glass window of Black Panther Party National Headquarters, Oakland, CA, #1 from A Photographic Essay on The Black Panthers.

 

Vanguard Revisited: Poetic Politics & Black Futures, co-organised with the University of California, Santa Cruz, is on view at San Francisco Art Institute through April 7, 2019.

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Categories
culture

Where sex therapy meets art: the magic of Shelby Sells

Talking to Shelby Sells is like catching up with an old friend. Squirting hot sauce into an avocado, she spoons at it with manicured fingernails painted the same fiery shade as her Sriracha. “I’m gonna stalk your Instagram for beach pics!” she cackles, after learning that I’m calling from vacation.

Speaking over Skype from her cluttered New York flat, the 27-year-old is disarmingly open and animated. Every so often, she waves a green juice around to emphasise a point. It’s easy to see why Shelby Sells (her real name) has become Internet Famous for intimate interviews with people about sex and relationships: she’s a great talker, and an even better listener.

What’s harder to believe is that frank communication didn’t always come easily. Having grown up in a religious Idaho household, today she explores topics once deemed off limits.



“I had the fear of God in me,” she says, her face framed by wavy blonde hair, her upper arms covered in tattoos. “From a young age, I associated fear with sex. Sex was only to be had between husband and wife – end of discussion.”

As a rebellious teenager who liked to sneak out and party with friends, Shelby was sent to a “lock-down emotional-growth boarding school” for her behaviour.

The impact of that experience – combined with her religious upbringing – proved traumatic. “I don’t think my family was aware of the extent of mistreatment there,” she says. (After Shelby graduated, the school was shut down for child abuse.)


Later, when she finally had sex for the first time, Shelby couldn’t help but feel ashamed. “It took a while to come to terms with what sex meant to me, what my definition of it was, and that it’s okay that my definition might be different than others.”

Moving to Los Angeles for college began to undo some of that. There, Shelby dropped out of her fashion marketing degree in its final year (“I was 19 and said, ‘Fuck it’”), choosing instead to work in vintage clothing stores around the city. She began socialising with an ever-expanding circle of friends, driven by curiosity.

“I was always like, ‘Who are you dating? Who are you hooking up with?’ And everyone would always tell me. Girl and guy friends would come to me if they had a crazy sexual experience, and then we’d talk about it.”




With a little encouragement from those around her, Shelby realised her knack for communication could be useful for more than just prying gossip. So in 2013, she started a blog featuring interviews with people about their experiences of sex and relationships. “I thought I’d just document it and take their photo,” she says with a shrug. “And that’s how I got started.”

The blog, Pillow Talk (now titled Perv on the Go), quickly gained momentum. It blended images of cam girls, rappers and “full-time bad bitches” – all shot on 35mm film – alongside detailed exchanges about turn-ons, kinks and romantic histories.

We meet Megan, a 35-year-old actor from Massachusetts, who reflects on the impact of being engaged only for the six-year relationship to unravel the closer they got to the wedding. Nicky, a 19-year-old club kid from LA with bright green hair, reveals that he has only dated bisexual people, is turned off by masculinity and keeps his platform shoes on in bed.


David, a babyfaced musician who grew up on a farm in Arizona, talks about needing to masturbate at least twice a day as a stress reliever. Then there’s Max, a 22-year-old model and artist who attended a home for troubled teens in Utah. He’d experienced issues with feeling loved as a kid and questioned his sexuality when he began to travel at 18.

As the site continued to grow, amassing more stories, Shelby decided to take a breather from the LA scene and moved to Detroit. She began to make a living as a freelance writer-cum-sexologist, contributing to titles such as Vice and Paper while shooting for the likes of Nylon and fashion brand Nasty Gal.

Her Instagram presence, too, grew in tandem with her output: across two accounts – one public, one private – she now has close to 60k followers. (The separate profiles are a strategic move to skirt Instagram’s censorship rules around nudity.)



For a while, Shelby kept expanding her skill-base: branching into lingerie design, radio and filmmaking. Then she decided to get back to basics. In order to be a true source of knowledge in this field, to really promote greater transparency in relationships, she decided to pursue a degree in psychology and human sexuality.

“There are a lot of great people out there who are giving back and educating,” she says. “And I would like to be one of those people. Education is power.”



Turning her interpersonal skills into a career as a therapist feels like a natural evolution. Half an hour into our call, the conversation seems less like an interview and more of an impromptu counselling session. Shelby asks, “Why?” and “Like what?” just as much as I do.

“It’s empowering to witness someone open up,” she says. “I learn something new about myself in every interview; I always relate to each of my subjects on some level. The more we open up to each other, the more intimacy we create.”


That approachability has turned her into an agony aunt, of sorts, for the online world. Men in her DMs aren’t after nudes, but advice – often when it comes to issues of consent and respect. “I’m like, ‘Yes!’”, she says, clicking her fingers for emphasis.

“One thousand per cent yes! …We’re working towards equality here in every sense of the meaning and I realise that a lot of times people just need someone to talk to about this kind of stuff.”

She pauses for a moment. Her earnest, pixelated face leans closer towards the webcam before breaking into a smile. “…And I’m here for you, too.”

This article appears in Huck: The Flying Lotus Issue. Buy it in the Huck shop or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.

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Dream Catching at the Ends of the Earth in the Name of Art

Dream Catching at the Ends of the Earth in the Name of Art

© KAHN & SELESNICK

Some minds are cornucopias; sources of creative ephemera. Such is the case for artists and photographers Nicholas Kahn and Richard Selesnick, a dream team bringing fairytales to life for the new millennium.

Categories
culture

A surreal American love story, captured in photos

Michael E. Northup has been capturing the idiosyncrasies of everyday America for over four decades now. During that time, the Maryland-based photographer has become known for his stark, surreal aesthetic – capturing moments in time that are laced with irony, mystery and a mischievous sense of humour.

Northup’s latest book, Dream Away, is released this month on Stanley / Barker. His third solo publication, it tells the story of his love affair with Pam; his former wife, who he was married to throughout the ’70s and ’80s.

“It’s an intimate book not so much about our marriage, but about how Pam’s image was a part of my growth in this medium,” the photographer tells Huck. “I was enamoured by her beauty and her willingness to be such an important part of my life and work. The images of her are from our daily lives. They are rarely planned.”

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Dream Away tells the story of their relationship – including Pam’s pregnancies and the eventual birth of their children – through 66 images, all of which were taken over a 10-year period. It’s a body of work that Northup says he’s been sitting on for more than three decades. “I thought it was time to put that focus on her as muse and have it all under one cover. It’s happening now because I finally found a publisher, who found me, who wanted to do it.”

“[Photography] can grab so much information in 1/500th of a second, and at the same time take 1000 words to describe,” he adds. “My mind is travelling so fast when I photograph that I actually don’t know what I’m getting until after I take the image and have time to really look at it. I’m more percept than concept. To me, most of my images are experiments in that ‘I wonder what that will look like as a photograph…’ Click.”

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Dream Away is available from Stanley / Barker now. See more of Michael Northup’s work on his official website

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Photographs of Dr. Zhivago’s Lost Russia that Could Have been taken Yesterday

Photographs of Dr. Zhivago’s Lost Russia that Could Have been taken Yesterday

Can you believe these photographs are over one hundred years old? I go through a lot of historical archives– I think I’ve lost count– but I don’t think I’ve ever looked at a photograph from the past and felt its subjects come alive so vividly, as if they’ve almost just blinked at me, as if it were just yesterday.

In 1948, the Library of Congress purchased this collection of over 2,000 images from the sons of Sergey Mikhaylovich Prokudin-Gorsky, a Russian chemist and photographer whose pioneering work in colour photography captured early 20th-century Russia like no one else could

His photographs offer a vivid portrait of a lost world—the Russian Empire between 1905 and 1915, on the eve of World War I and the coming Russian Revolution.

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culture

An intimate portrait of a woman’s ‘second puberty’

In 2013, photographer Jennifer Loeber began photographing Lorelei Erisis, a middle-aged trans woman in the midst of what she called her “second puberty.”

Loeber – based in New York – first met Lorelei in the ’80s when they attended summer camp together as teens. Although they retained several mutual friends, the two eventually lost touch during college and remained out of contact for over 20 years.

“I ended up reconnecting with her on Facebook,” Loeber explains. “And it was then that I found out that she had transitioned from Robert to Lorelei.”

“At the time, I was shooting a nude series, so I asked her if she would be interested in posing for that. Considering we hadn’t spoken in 20 years, I expected her to be like ‘no’, but she said yes immediately.”

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At the time, Lorelei was due to visit New York to perform in a comedy show, so it was arranged that she would stay at Loeber’s apartment for the weekend she was in town. When she eventually arrived, the two old friends wasted no time in catching up.

“By the end of that weekend,” Loeber continues, “I was like, ‘I think your story is more than just this one image – would you be interested in having me follow you with a camera?’ …She was like, ‘yeah, sure.’”

The subsequent series – titled Gyrle – ended up encompassing five years of shooting, with Jennifer making three to four trips per year to Lorelei’s home in Massachusetts, as they simultaneously rekindled their old friendship and renegotiated a new one.

As a body of work, the project explores and questions different ideas of gender expression: Loeber places photographs of Lorelei alongside archival images of herself as a teen, illustrating two individual journeys of girls navigating the universal experiences of womanhood.

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Visually speaking, too, the two journeys mirror each other as they intersperse – be it a certain pose, expression or event depicted – further entangling their two stories.

“It wasn’t until we started shooting that I started to see so many similarities to my own adolescence, and puberty, and all that stuff you go through as a girl: figuring out how to be a woman in the world,” Loeber says.

“When it comes to [depictions of] trans people, especially some of the photography projects I’ve seen, the differences seem to be the things that are most important. I don’t think that’s what it should be. I think the similarities help reframe people’s ideas of gender.”

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See more of Jennifer Loeber’s work on her official website

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culture

The Gidi Tribe: Nigeria’s most exciting new youth movement

Chinedu Okeke and Oriteme Banigo started Gidi Culture Fest back in 2014, after feeling increasingly frustrated by the lack of community spaces available for young, culturally savvy Nigerians.

Now, five years later, the annual one-day festival has established itself as one of the biggest music events in the country: doubling in size with each outing, and shifting the world’s perceptions of young African culture.

“Gidi Fest started out of frustration of there not being enough outdoor events that brought the youth together,” explains Okeke. “We wanted to create a safe place that would allow the youth to channel their energy towards something positive. More than a festival, it was about a movement.”

The multi-sensory art, music and cultural experience took place in Lagos at the end of March this year, with over 10,000 fans in attendance. According to Okeke and Banigo, these fans are known as the ‘Gidi Tribe’ – a group of young, impeccably dressed individuals who are uniting to “push boundaries”, refresh Nigeria’s cultural scene, and “rewrite the status quo.”

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The festival hopes to transform Nigeria into a major cultural force, not only by inviting global artists to play in the country, but by helping to strengthen the backbone of Africa’s live music business. Ticket sales will help fund new initiatives, and will go towards driving sustainable “economic growth” on the continent.

“There are so many reasons why Gidi is such a unique experience,” says Everyday Africa photographer Tom Saater, who attended the festival for the first time this year, taking portraits of the hyper-stylish crowds for Huck. “When I arrived, the atmosphere was colourful and festival goers were really energetic. As the night drew in the vibe of the festival became more electrifying.”

This year’s lineup included some of the biggest names from across the afrobeat, hip-hop and gqom worlds, with Diplo, Burna Boy and Nneka all headlining on the main stage this year. “The first thing you notice about the crowd is how they were all very fashionable looking,” adds Saater. “Interestingly, the audience was quite diverse. Lagos has quite a big wealth and class disparity but it seemed that festival brought everyone together.”

“People from all sorts of backgrounds were partying next to each other having an amazing time.”

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Learn more about Gidi Culture Festival on its official website.

See more of Tom Saater’s work on his official website, or follow him on Instagram.

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