If you will be in the Montreal-area this weekend, you should certainly stop by for the book-launch/exhibition of two talented, collaborating photographers: Frédéric Chabot & Mercè Rodriguez.
Sunday, December 9th 2012. between 5pm and 8pm.
At the restaurant - Les Temps Nouveaux 815 Boul. de Maisonneuve Est, Montréal.

view Fred's work here.
view Mercè's work here.

Leanne Surfleet

The beautiful work of UK-based photographer, Leanne Surfleet.

Christoph Neumann

It is 36 degrees celcius (96 f) and I am sitting on a floor, interviewing Berlin
based photographer, Christoph Neumann.

When did you start photographing?
When I was younger, my father was a crazy guy who collected a lot of photographs. He also frequented highways and took a lot of photographs of police cars and other vehicles. I suppose this inspired me as a child. Then when I was nine years old, I found my first skateboard on the street. At this point, I picked up an analogue camera that my father had given me and I started to document the times that my friends and I spent together- mostly taking pictures of the tricks that would be accomplished, and sometimes portraits as well. After the images were created, I would get physical prints done of the image and share them in a tangible album. This was a time where there was no facebook or online networking websites. Just friends, myself and a stack of prints.- documenting the good times that we shared together.

When you’re a skateboarder, you easily become exposed to a lot of underground scenes- other cultures, really. I started to discover new forms of art and music, and also came to realize that I was more creatively disciplined than I had expected.

After I finished my high school studies, I realized that I would like to be in a creative field.

And then what happened after you finished high school?
I then got a vocational education as a printer for 3 years. In my old city, they printed really large labels such as Madonna and wu tang clan . and this was fascinating for me. So I wanted to get an offset printer. It was nice to have received the technical background that I did after doing this job.. but it was not sitting right with me because I was constantly just reproducing work of other people- not doing my own.

After this, I started to study media communication and was mainly working in film and graphic design. Following those studies, I started print and media technology.

But, at this point, it was clear for me that I wanted to study photography. But, as many know, it’s quite a difficult and intimidating process to go into art schools for interviews. I didn’t have a ‘proper’ portfolio prepared at this point, so for the next year, I instead studied print and media technology while working on my portfolio- and the next year, I attended Dortmund and studied photography until 2010.

After my studies, I found myself travelling for a year. For the sake of work and pleasure. I was also exploring new places to see where it would be ideal to make a ‘home base’ for myself. I ended up choosing Berlin.

Why Berlin?
I had originally travelled to Berlin and lived here for a very short period of time in 2008. I felt it was the best place for me
to stay- to expand my work and to grow. It’s much different from other cities. I also quite enjoy the fact that there are so
many international artists who have come here and built their own communities and shared their own cultures with others. Also, you are also in the middle of Europe and can easily travel anywhere you’d like.

Do you remember the first photograph you took?
I am not 100% sure, but I think it was a polaroid. An old teacher gave us a pack and we did a self portrait of me and a friend. I think was 10 years old.

The first band you photographed?
It was a band who was not so famous at the time. White walls. I think. I also did a photo interview for Guitar Wolf, which was awesome.

What your first ‘official’ publication? 
I think it was in the newspaper. Though, these images obviously had a more photojournalistic approach.

Who are some of your favourite photographers, artists, writers..? 
Jürgen Klauke, Paolo Roversi, William Eggleston, Warhol, Nobuyoshi Araki, Susan Sontag, Wolfgang Tillmans, Walter Pfeiffer, Helmut Newton, Casper David Friedrich, Eichendorf.

Your favourite image or shoot that you have done?
Some shoots were really crazy for me. The Rolling Stones and the shoot with Jürgen Teller were interesting… but I also really enjoy when I shoot humans that aren’t famous, too. In one way it’s interesting if it’s a famous person but in another way, fuck off, we’re all people. You can find a very true and natural beauty in those who are unknown. And sometimes, they are more famous than the celebrities, in another way.

What can we find you doing in your spare time?
Reading, enjoying life, feet in the sun, meeting people… I hope these answers are not too normal.

How many pairs of shoes do you own?

I hate to ask this question… but how would your describe your own work?
My work is about doing good things with good people on the planet. When it’s possible I like to reflect the personalities of the people I shoot, too. Also, I like to play with colours. I like the feelings they portray and they can sometimes even act as therapy for myself. They show us life, they add character. And maybe this is also why I enjoy very hard blacks
and whites. Colour is full of life, but black and white is more of a portrayal of someone’s soul. That’s also why I sometimes like to combine the two. During a shoot, I like the energy and the silence of myself and the people I work with. The dynamic of the shoot. The explosion of things. And the quiet moments after a shoot. It’s always up and down.

When did you start to develop your distinct ‘Chris-Neumann-style’…?
My style became more clear to me near the end of my studies. In 2008 or 2009.
Do you always try to portray a balance between your commercial and artistic background?
When it’s possible, I try to bring my artistic view into my commercial pieces as well.

What do you think of the zeitgeist in photography?
A person can call themselves a photographer if they own a camera. They invest money in expensive gear and don't think twice about the history and theory of photography- or even pay respect to traditional formats or exactly how photography has grown over the years. It's so easy for someone to open a file in photoshop or hipstamatic, quickly edit it, and share it immediately. It's almost ignorant for one to not pay respect or show some kind of appreciation to the fathers/masters of the craft.

A lot of people want to stand on the big stage but never want to give respect to those sitting in the audience. It's similar to the art & music industry in this way as well. People steal albums from the internet but never attend a live show or offer any respect to the artists. They somehow make it to the top without providing any support for the industry itself- just themselves.

I would prefer to give before I take. I think this is important if you want to succeed in photography (or art, or music..).. I like going to exhibitions, buying work or publications and speaking with the artists. Supporting them and interacting with them.

Closing statements?
The interesting pages in the book are the empty ones.

View more of his work here!

Data Scavenging : Petra Valdimarsdóttir

"Petra Valdimarsdóttir uses her design background as a foundation to produce photo, text and video works as well as interactive installations that dissect the space between data consumer and the data itself. Often using the internet as a fountain of material, Valdimarsdóttir scratches at copyright boundaries by re-appropriating information and images to reveal the raw humanity that belies it."

Here are a few words about her and her latest project- "Data Scavenging."

Where did you grow up, and where are you living now?
I grew up in a few different places. I was born in Iceland. My father is an Icelandic viking and my mother is a little kiwi-lady from New Zealand. Me and my siblings grew up in a cocktail mixture of Iceland and Holland.

Right now at this very moment i'm every where and no where, the past 2 years i've been traveling back and forth between New York, Berlin, Reykjavík and Rotterdam. At the moment I'm in Warsaw, I told myself to get grounded to one place within a year, this was 3 years ago.. But I do have a little bit of a place called "home" in Berlin and tend to come back to that after a few months of traveling. So far it's a bit of a gipsy existence.

Did you attend any postsecondary institutions? If so, what did you study?
Yes, I have a degree in Interaction design but I've always had a big interest in printed media. Books are one of my biggest addictions. I love artist books and I enjoy making them and implementing them with installation works. Sometimes they go together very well and sometimes there's no added value to the combination. But when there is, it makes me happy seeing them side by side.

How much have you found that your aspirations have changed from when you were younger? Did you originally want to pursue another career?
I don't think they have really changed, I think the aspirations grew and moulded along the way. I guess I was a very curious child and always wanted to seek out things that I didn't know or found a bit odd and that's kind of what I do now as well- seek subjects that make my head turn a little and translate them into something understandable or highlight it through the language of design/art.

What about your free time? How do you spend it?
I spend my free time on the internet, that sounds a bit sad.. BUT IT'S NOT. I have a big love for the internet, it contains the entire universe and I like spending hours being fascinated with things I find in this completely overloaded strange universe. I simply could not live without it. Well, maybe I could, but I wouldn't be the same and I wouldn't make the same work as I do now. So I must say I'm very grateful for the internet. If I could marry it, yea I would.

But, I do do other things as well you know.. yes.. I like to spend hours in bookstores and cafe's, when there's a book store with a cafe, you know I'll be their number one customer.

Can you tell us about your latest project- “Data Scavenging”..?
Data scavenging started this past winter on a rainy evening in New York, I was browsing the internet for archives on american culture I was actually looking for material related to cowboys. Out of no where came this beautiful archive of these native american tribe portraits. When you find something like that you just simply can't let it go- so I started saving all the images and dissecting them, and finally translating it all into a book and an installation piece.

How long did it take you to complete the project?
It took me about 2 days to finish the book. I have no patience whatsoever. So when I start a project, I will work on it non-stop with almost no sleep till the very point I get distracted and start working on something else. But the installation took a while. I didn't have the right space to set it up and I like using a very clean background, but now while in Warsaw, a massive white wall came my way and it was just perfect for this project. Putting up the piece doesn't have to even take that long but i tend to divide it into a few evenings. I think it took 5 evenings of simultaneously listening to documentaries and sipping on cold beers while hanging up the prints. I took my time, and I don't want it to feel like work- it should be a fun experience.

What do you think it is that originally drew you to these past collections and archives?
I think being able to visualize something that has been hidden away and simply showing a large amount of data designed with a few simple rules, and giving the information overload a touch of humanity. Drawing a face on a faceless person, I guess.

And I think it's just me having a hate for most infographics I come across. I usually can't read shit from what they're trying to visualize. The information is a bit of blur in a beautiful graphic. So I think the installation pieces I make are kind of analog infographics shown in a different or maybe unfamiliar way.

Could you tell us about some of your other projects/books? Do you have a favourite?
My favorite is "Come & go", this project consists a book and an envelope wall. So each envelope contains a person that has been executed on death row in one specific jail in the U.S and the word stated on the front of the envelope is the very last word the prisoner said before being executed.

Inside the envelope you find all kinds of personal information like their name, age, weight, mug shot, location and what murder they committed. On the back of the envelope you're able to read their full last sentences. The wall is made chronologically stating from the prison's very first execution in 1982 till this very day.

The wall keeps on growing as the executions keep on taking place.

This is one of my favorite projects because it actually grows each month and year and the meaning of the piece grows as the wall becomes taller and taller.

Favourite Artists or Designers?
There are a few, my favorite artists would be Taryn Simon, Radek Szlaga, Pieter Hugo, Adriaan van der ploeg. I'm trying to dig up a few names but I'm absolutely dreadful with names. Forget them from the word go.

My all time favorite designer I would say would be Stefan Sagmeister, though. I really like the covers of his books and his german accent does the trick as well.

What do the next few months hold for you?
I'm going to Iceland this summer and finishing a project I started last christmas- and at the same time I'm going on a road trip with a few friends we'll be driving around Iceland and camping wherever we can.

The project I'm finishing is about my uncle who lives on a horse farm. I used to spend summers helping on the farm and milking cows when it was a cow farm. I must admit i wasn't very good at it. Scared as hell of these animals. The way they look at you as if they know something you don't. Makes you feel a tad stupid for some weird reason.

View more of Petra's work here.