London Art Spot: Maximiliano Braun

Meet Maximiliano. Born in 1983 in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, he studied at the University of Utah and then in completed his MA in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography in London where he now lives and works.

While I found his still life photography in the Elephant & Caste Community book published by the London College of Communication, his real interest lies in reportage photography. He is currently expanding on a project called Stay With Me, building a database of multimedia and photographic experiences from families and individuals who have been affected by brain injury.

Maximiliano has taken some time out to answer a few questions for this week’s London Art Spot. He talks about his experience working in the Heygate Estate in Elephant & Castle, lets us in on the expected outcome of his Stay With Me project and shares some of his wonderful photography.

LLO: Which aspects of London life most influence your photography?
MB:
I think the fact your have so many galleries, awards and other contests based in London, and the UK as a whole, helps seeing the diversity of work coming up from the young emerging photographers to those who are more established and, in many cases (like the Barbican’s This is War and the travelling World Press Photo exhibitions) works that are seldom seen in other cities.

LLO: I first came across your work in the Community book put out by London College of Communication as part of the Elephant & Castle project, an area that is now being regenerated. Tell us a bit about your experience working on the book
MB:
The book was edited by Patrick Sutherland and promoted by the London College of Communication and Southwark Council. As the book mentions, Southwark Council and LCC’s MA Photojournalism and Documentary Photography students are commissioned to produce a body of work about the Elephant and Castle area and the changes and life that develop there. The area, as you note, is being regenerated and the book helps keep record of the Elephant and Castle life, architecture and it’s citizens seen through the eyes of those attending the MA at LCC.

The idea from doing Cast Off came after a colleague of mine told me that apartments were being sealed permanently at the Heygate Estate. They do this to avoid squatters to populate the vacated apartments which, eventually, will be demolished to allow for new estate housing projects being developed. I always thought that objects possessed by people tell something about themselves. So I set out to document the objects left behind found in the vacated apartments to speculate about what kind of people lived there.

LLO: You said this still life work was a one off and you are now a reportage photographer. What have you gained both personally and professionally from switching your approach?
MB:
I began doing reportage, or trained for it, before the Elephant and Castle project. The idea of the work is not far, if at all, from the idea of producing a photographic reportage, though it does not contain the traditional approach to reportage. The viewer is welcome to assess the work however they want, but it would be misleading to imagine that I was not doing reportage before the Elephant and Castle project. There were other more traditional reportage ideas that I would have wanted to do during that term, but neither of them came to fruition.

LLO: Your most recent project is called Stay With Me, quite different from what you were doing in the Elephant. How did this project start?
MB:
Stay With Me has been a long running project that began during the MA at LCC. I would say Stay With Me, so far, and compared to my Dad series, is what I have always dreamt of developing since I began doing documentary photography. Roughly in 2004 I read an article in a newspaper about a mother who visited her child who was then, and maybe still is, in a persistent vegetative state (PVS). As my father is old (99 now),  I’ve had the experience of being in hospitals throughout my youth and I could clearly sympathise with the woman written about in the article. It struck me deeply and I never forgot about it. When, for our thesis project at LCC, I was given the chance to document whatever I was interested in, I remembered the article and I decided to find out what is life like for families who have a relative in a PVS. Stay With Me, since then, evolved into looking at family and brain injury as a whole and the way life goes on.

LLO: It’s a worldwide project. Where have been shooting and researching for it so far?
MB:
I have documented families in the US, England, Northern Ireland, South Africa and soon will do some work in Bolivia.

LLO: Tell us a bit about what you hope it will achieve and what will be the final result.
MB:
Stay With Me will, in time, become a segmented story of families around the globe and the lives they lead dealing with brain injury. Stay With Me’s own website will become more interactive not only for the viewers, but for the families that participated by allowing me to document their everyday. There will be a blog type page for every family for them to update the site and its viewers on the latest developments in their lives.

LLO: What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to face so far to get a shot you wanted?
MB:
I cannot recall specific shots I ‘wanted’. I pretty much go with the flow with everyone I document. Challenges come out every time when you are shooting. The real and constant challenge is to convey in a photograph what you see and make sure it is good enough the audience gets a hint of it.

LLO: Before completing your MA in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography, you studied Anthropology, Mathematics, French and Photography at the University of Utah and then Fashion Photography in London – an interesting mix. How does this background play into your interests and work today?
MB:
I think that all you do and have done in the past influences you in one way or another. Anthropology is useful in photojournalism, as well as speaking other languages. I did fashion photography because I like the idea of creating imagery from nothing. I liked the commercial aspect of it and thought of it as an interesting vessel to communicate ideas, dreams and lifestyles. I began doing documentary because I wanted a more interactive and investigative approach to things I was interested in. As you know and encounter several people around you during your life, you learn several things. All those I have know from the US and those I got to know in the UK and abroad have helped me in looking at things with a diversity of viewpoints. I think the most important aspect I have learnt is how to interact with different people when working.

LLO: You have some stunning and emotional images in a series called Dad on your website. Can you share one of your favourites and tell us a bit about this collection?
MB:
I just want to remember my father and my time with him. There really isn’t much to it beyond that.

LLO: Have you thought about other subjects you’d like to tackle photographically in the future?
MB:
I only tackle things photographically, I don’t know what else I can do, really. I have several subjects in my mind. I always run with at least 3 projects in my mind; the one I am shooting, one that I am about to shoot and one I am beginning to research into. Unfortunately some of these are time sensitive and I won’t be able to elaborate more on them.

Thanks Maximiliano!

For more about Maximiliano or Stay With Me:
http://www.maximilianobraun.net
http://www.staywithmeproject.com

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.

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Listen to a Londoner: Professor Femi Osofisan

Listen to a Londoner is a weekly interview with a Londoner – someone who lives in this city, born here or elsewhere.
If you want to be interviewed, email littlelondonobservationist@hotmail.co.uk.

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This interview was conducted by Efemena Agadama for Little London Observationist. Efemena is a poet and playwright, originally from Nigeria, who is working on his first novel. He normally contributes articles to his Amnesty International blog.

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Professor Femi Osofisan

Oh! See how the stage drums are welcoming Professor Femi Osofisan.  He is a renowned playwright, poet and novelist with the pen name “Okinba Launko,” who has won the Folon-Nichols Award, ANA prize(s) for literature and poetry, regional Commonwealth poetry award, City of Pennsylvania Bell Award for Artistic Performance and several other awards and appointments spanning several continents.  He has published over 50 literary works, and has also been part of the revered literary story of London.

LLO: What interests you most in or about London?
FO:
I am generally excited about big cities, about the environment they offer for creativity, experimentation, and adventure—as well as for their opposite, death, destruction and atrophy. You are constantly challenged, as an artist in a big city, by this threat of death and/or rejuvenation. London to me is like that.

LLO: You have published over fifty respected plays.  How does your inspiration come?
FO:
From politics, that is, from history as daily experienced. The aim is to make the present and the future better for all of us.

LLO: Tell us some of the countries where you have performed your plays.
FO: 
The UK, Germany, the USA, Sri Lanka, Australia, Canada, plus different African countries.

Taken while Professor Osofisan was directing JP Clark’s OZIDI at the Arts Theatre at the University of Ibadan.

LLO: Over the years, Nigerian and African writers have identified with London.  Do you find London as an interesting environment for Nigerian and African writers?
FO: 
It should be, given the large population of African and African Caribbean people in London. The city also has a long history of creative activism in the arts.

LLO: Do you find that literature from a different culture, such as English or Greek, tends to influence the themes and styles in the work of African writers?
FO: Yes of course, just as the reverse is also true. The best works anywhere always transcend their geographical and temporal frontiers, to speak to humanity all over the world and in all ages. Artists drink from all sources. That is how all cultures thrive, from the cross-pollination with other cultures.

LLO: What advantages can theatre professionals derive by performing their plays and organizing literary activities in London? 
FO: The usual advantages: well-mounted productions with skilled directors and actors; a good publicity; plus a fairly good pay.

LLO: Which London library interests you most?
FO: I have been using the same library for years—and this is the SOAS library, by Russell Square. Its collections on my area of interest are simply breath-taking!

LLO: What is your advice to inspire the new voices in African literature living in London to succeed as writers?
FO: 
The same as I give to all aspiring writers everywhere, whether African or not—namely, that the best way to write is by writing, and reading. Read as much as you can; and never stop writing.

LLO: Do you have upcoming events being planned for London to keep our readers timely informed?
FO: 
Not in the immediate coming months, I am afraid. But I shall probably be delivering this year’s Pinter Lectures at Goldsmiths in October. 

LLO: And kindly tell us how to purchase your literary works (poems, plays and novels).
FO: 
Most of them are published and sold in Nigeria, and can be purchased from The Booksellers bookstore run by Mosuro in Ibadan. They have a website, I believe. But in the UK, the best contact for my works is the African Books Collective, in Oxford.

Thanks Professor Osofisan and Efemena!

If you are interested in reading more about Professor Osofisan, visit his website: http://femiosofisan.org/default.aspx

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.

Elephant Parade 2010: Cako Martin

Bright and cheery ellie Colorful Hope is chillin outside of Harrods in Knightsbridge. I had the opportunity for a little chat with her enthusiastic creator Cako Martin who lives and works in Brazil. His work as been published in Cent Magazine in the UK and many others in the US, Brazil, Germany and Greece.

Read on for a bit about Cako’s elephant painting experience in Elephant & Castle, his participation in the Cow Parade in Sao Paulo and why London feels like a second home.

This is Cako:

And this is the lovely Colorful Hope:

As you can see, it was a teensy bit crowded over near Harrods with all of the weary tourists resting their feet. I went by a few times to get better pictures, but still the same.

Luckily, Cako’s letting me nick one from his website so you can see Colorful Hope more clearly.


(This one was taken by Murphyz on Cako’s site.)

LLO: First of all, tell us about your elephant.
CM: After my last exhibition called Peles/Skins that I used famous faces to compose my art, I’m studying more about it that how your skin can tell me something. In this moment, I composed this lines with maximum colors that I could use. Like my cow in Cow Parade, Brazil 2010, the Colorful Hope is so colorful. When I went to paint in London, it was funny ’cause we painted inside a “store” in a small mall in Elephant & Castle. You can find a thousand of different cultures there. Every day people asking me about my elephant, asking to take pictures. Well, lovely people interested in my work. It’s so nice! I choose the name thinking about this cause. My elephant is colorful and with this event we need to have hope for this elephant. I think Colorful Hope is a lovely name.

LLO: Since this is a London blog, what’s your favourite thing to do or see when you’re in London
CM:
I love London. I feel this place like my second home. I think London breathes fashion, design, history and architecture in every place. It is a big reference to me. Normally my favorite place is the museums. You have a lot of them and I love it.

LLO: You’re also participating in the Cow Parade in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where you live and work. Your cow has a very similar pattern to your elephant. Give us a bit of insight into the Cow Parade?
CM:
Yeah, my cow and elephant are living in the same world. The purpose of Cow Parade is similar of Elephant Parade – help a cause – but in this case, Cow Parade helps institutions here that take care of children.

LLO: What are you working on now and where can we see more of your work?
CM:
I’ve started my draws about next solo exhibition. It will be the part II of Peles/Skins but now with colors and Cow Parade and Elephant Parade I could show a little bit of. I’m Art Director/Illustrator of Young & Rubicam Brazil. It’s an advertising agency, and I am working in the design team. You can google it (laughs). Normally, I’ve posted my select works on Facebook, MySpace, CargoCollective, Society 6, Flickr and in my website: www.cakomartin.com


(Taken by Murphyz on Cako’s site.)

Location: Knightsbridge, outside Harrods

To read more about the Elephant Parade in London, click here

Leake Street Graffiti: Free Minds

This week is the week of politics (and graffiti).  I love this quote-in-a-cloud that I found over the weekend in the Leake Street graffiti tunnel so I thought I would share.

A Pledge of Undying Hostility

“I pledge undying hostility to any government restiction on the free minds of the people.” (Thomas Jefferson)

Ditto.

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