“If I could tell the story in words, I wouldn’t need to lug around a camera.” —Lewis Hine
In an age of iPhone photographers and Instagram artists, the photograph as a means to tell a story has become commonplace—not so common, however, is the mastery of this skill. We highlight three contemporary artists who create unique, poignant works of art through photographic means to tell stories about American culture, immigration, and international conflicts.
Finnish artist Markus Henttonen’s photographs offer forlorn portrayals of cities and suburban neighborhoods in Europe and the U.S., casting them in melancholic light. Images of urban rooftops in cities including Berlin and Barcelona in his “Night Time Stories” series, taken at dusk, emphasize the smallness of the individual within the vast scope of society. Likewise, his “Silent Night” series—nighttime scenes of Los Angeles homes decorated with Christmas lights—convey solitude and artificiality. Henttonen’s practice has shifted from documentary to narrative over the course of his career; he explains, “I wish to provide the viewer stories, not guiding too much, just subtly giving hints on what might be.”
To create the photographs for her recent “War Games” series, Greek artist Lydia Venieri collected angelic dolls, captured closeups of their faces, and altered them by projecting images of strife and warfare onto their large eyes. The resulting images juxtapose childhood innocence with tragedy and political turmoil, casting negative connotations onto the dolls, which become bystanders to and conductors of evil.
Danish artist and filmmaker Nikolaj Bendix Skyum Larsen creates works in response to issues of cultural conflict and immigration, engaging with individuals and capturing images to reflect their physical and metaphorical journeys toward safety and livelihood. Larsen’s video and photographic portraits connect viewers with stories of immigrants crossing the Aegean Sea, Palestinians in Jerusalem, and second-generation immigrants in European suburbs, among others. Last fall, Larsen presented a film, Arise, at the Tate Modern, which followed four young men, in outskirts of London and New Delhi, and their daily encounters with adversity.