Launched over fifteen years ago, Foam Talent has become a cornerstone of the Amsterdam Museum’s mission to promote contemporary photography. It is recognized internationally as a photography contest whose awards (publication in the FOAM Magazine, an exhibition, and entry into the Art Collection Deutsche Börse) and reputation serve to propel the winners to the forefront of the photography scene. Twenty portfolios have been chosen from among 1853 applications submitted by artists under thirty-five from 74 countries. The twenty Foam Talent 2019 winners, most of whom describe themselves as artists rather than photographers, represent different ways of utilizing, exploring, and even deconstructing the photographic medium. Most of these artists cut their teeth on Instragram or Tumblr, and every one of them has pushed the limits, and expanded the diversity, of the photographic medium.
We present a short survey of ten Foam Talents:
1. Carmen Winant (United States)
Carmen Winant is an American artist working with archival, often anonymous, images. By assembling over a hundred images on the same theme, Winant questions the way a photographic series is constituted. In addition to the formal aspect of photographs, her work aims at highlighting unspoken words and silences. Most notably, in her series My Birth, exhibited at the MoMA in 2018, Winant has created a visual language borne out by personal experience, but which aspires to universality.
2. Stelios Kallinikou (Cyprus)
Stelios Kallinikou’s series Studies in Geology is part of a larger body of research on the landscapes of Cyprus. His work comes close to reconciling photography and painting. Although he works with a camera, the colors and textures evoke an earthy palette. While Kallinikou’s subject could not be any more real, the resulting images conjure up a nearly fantastic universe. It is these tensions—between photography and painting, reality and imagination—that make Kallinikou’s work so intriguing and, above all, topical in the age of the Anthropocene.
3. Durimel (France)
The Durimel brothers, natives of a rather remote island (the Guadaloupe), are an artistic duo who have already won over, and worked with, major fashion labels, such as Kenzo, Levi’s, and American Apparel. In the series presented at the FOAM, images with saturated, warm colors are nearly cinematographic, and each seems to be telling a story. The Durimel brothers use photography to create an imaginary world which, in contrast to the real one, celebrates blackness. The subjects are mostly people met in the street and posed in theatrical, romantic scenes that also speak to the dignity of emancipation.
4. Salvatore Vitale (Italy)
While Switzerland is often described as a “neutral” and “peaceful” country, the Italian artist Salvatore Vitale shows us that the appearances conceal a culture of national protectionism and security. His images reveal the hidden and explicit logics deployed by the government to implement its policies of military security. Working on the project since 2014, Vitale subverts the very notion of investigation: normally conducted in secret, its goal is expose. Through images of weapons (bordering on the sublime) and guard dogs, he seems to challenge nationalism.
5. Maisie Cousins (U.K.)
Aged 25, Maisie Cousins has already exhibited her work at Tate, among others, and collaborated with the famous feminist artist Petra Collins. Cousins’s colorful images are modern still lifes: electrifying and alive, they evoke women’s nature, cravings, and sexuality. Using macro imaging, Cousins plunges the viewer in her world, taking advantage of high-definition photography. She says she likes photographing what appeals to her, whether repulsive or beautiful.
6. Valentine Bo (Ukraine)
Perhaps because it consists of photographs, the work of Valentine Bo makes it difficult to tell the real from the unreal, truth from falsehood. Her latest series, Your Next Step Would Be To Do The Transmission, is inspired by the Raëlian movement which explores cloning, immortality, and sexual liberation. Without being documentary in nature, Bo’s images constitute a labor of interpretation that straddles science fiction and the photographer’s personal imagination.
7. Florian Amoser (Switzerland)
Although Florian Amoser is now a photographer, his training as an architect has had a clear impact on his visual work. His images recall those of one of photography’s pioneers, Anselm Adams. In contrast to wide-open expanses, however, Amoser explores subterranean galleries, questioning the ways photography captures spaces. His immersive images evoke analog practice through black-and-white contrasts, as well as three-dimensional modeling thanks to the light which traces topographic isolines.
8. Gregory Eddi Jones (United States)
Eddi Jones began his series Flowers for donald in the aftermath of the election of Donald Trump in 2016. At first glance, the images are reminiscent of David Hockney’s iPad paintings; however, upon a closer look, one can discern the process of transformation and manipulation the flowers have been subject to. Both emblematic of art history and symbols of protest, every bouquet has a story to tell. Even though the impression of anarchy reflects the turmoil in contemporary American politics, every detail in Flowers for donald is meaningful and evokes a concrete recent event. The work of Eddi Jones questions the role of the photographer as a manipulator of reality and the role of the artist in times of political crisis.
9. Senta Simond (Switzerland)
The series Green Ray by Senta Simond consists of portraits of women close to the artist. Shot in black-and-white or color, often in close-up and playing with light, the images are earnest portraits that subvert the history of the role of photography in the objectification of images of women. Simond’s intimate relationship with her subjects translates into refreshing visual honesty. Her images bring to mind the portraits of Dorothea Lang, except that the women in Simond’s photographs are not just subjects, but active collaborators.
10. Eric Gyamfi (Ghana)
Eric Gyamfi’s series A Certain Bed is a collection of photographic collages created in 2017–2018, when the artist was homeless. While the work explores the notion of “home” and the role of memory, the assemblage of images laid out on a table—a symbol of the hearth—constitutes an emotional journey of rare beauty and fragility. The images depict beds, no two alike, beds that belong to anyone and no one. What is Gyamfi’s relationship to these places? How do we, as viewers, relate to these interior and outdoor scenes, which, on final analysis, are but fragments of an imaginary entity?
The complete list of the 20 emerging artists selected by Foam:
Florian Amoser (Switzerland ), He Bo (China), Valentine Bo (Ukraine), Chen Ze (China), Maisie Cousins (UK), Sylvian Couzinet-Jacques (France), Durimel (France), Sophie Gabrielle (Australia), Eric Gyamfi (Ghana), Thomas Hauser (France), Greogory Eddi Jones (United States), Stelios Kallinikou (Cyprus), Takashi Kawashima (Japan), Dima Komarov (Russia), Lilly Lulay (Germany), Jaya Pelupessy (the Netherlands), Daniel Shea (United States), Senta Simond (Switzerland), Salvatore Vitale (Italy), and Carmen Winant (United States)
By Claire Debost
FOAM Talent | New York
From March 22 to April 10, 2019
Red Hook Labs, 133-135 Imlay Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231