ARTSPACE London Showcases Photography Of Iraqi Artist Halim Al Karim

Artspace LondonARTSPACE London is one of London’s lesser-known art venues for out-of-town visitors. It opened in May of 2012 and focuses on Modern and Contemporary Arab, Iranian and Turkish art. The original ARTSPACE is in Dubai, and the owners decided to open a London branch to expose these Eastern artists to a Western audience.

The latest London exhibition is of Iraqi photographer Halim Al Karim, opening this year to mark the tenth anniversary of the invasion that led to the downfall of Saddam Hussein’s Baathist government.

Al Karim felt the oppression of that regime as much as any Iraqi. He was an opponent of the dictatorship and refused to serve his compulsory military service. To avoid being imprisoned and tortured by Saddam’s goons, he hid out in the desert for three years, where he lived in a hole in the ground and was fed by local Bedouin.

How that experience morphed into the surreal yet delicate image shown here is for the viewer to resolve. His show, “Witness from Baghdad,” displays a range of works from throughout his career. Many confront the issues of war and oppression head on, yet always in a creative and distinct way.

“Halim Al Karim: Witness from Baghdad 2013 runs until February 23. If you won’t be in London in time to catch it, show up at ARTSPACE London anyway. It’s fast becoming a landmark on the London art scene.

For more on contemporary Iraq, see our series on traveling in Iraq.

[Photo courtesy ARTSPACE London]

Explore Papua New Guinea Through The Lens Of A Photographer

Looking to improve your photography skills while exploring one of the world’s most beautiful countries?

Asia Transpacific Journeys
recently launched a new photo excursion tour of Papua New Guinea, led by renowned photographer Michele Westmoreland. Called “Papua New Guinea Through The Lens,” the 12-day adventure journeys from Port Moresby to Mount Hagen, Kumul, Nondugi, Karawari, Kundiman and Tufi. Highlights of the trip include a cruise along the Sepik River; sea kayaking in coastal Tufi and an excursion to the Wahgi Sing-Sing Festival, which showcases traditional cultural performances from the Wahgi Valley.

Westmoreland’s tour will not just be an introduction to Papua New Guinea; it will also be an introduction to photography for both veterans and newbies, with expert advice on lighting, composition and editing.

The package costs $10,695, and the next one kicks off in June 2013. For a sample of what’s in store, check out the photo gallery below.

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[Photo Credit: Michele Westmoreland via Asia Transpacific Journeys]

Gadling Gear Review: Lowepro Urban Photo Sling 150 And Flipside Sport

Lowepro Reviews: Urban Sling 150One of the biggest challenges for travel photographers, both amateur and pro, is finding a way to comfortably carry all of our gear while also keeping it well protected. As digital SLR’s have become more affordable and ubiquitous, more and more of us find ourselves carrying extra lenses, filters, tripods and other equipment when we hit the road. After all, we definitely want to have all the right gear with us to capture those amazing sights on our far-flung adventures.

Lowepro is a company that makes excellent bags for all levels of photographers and we’ve written reviews of several of their packs in the past. But some of those were definitely designed for a more professional shooter, while most of us have decidedly more modest needs. Here are two more options from Lowepro that will likely be of interest to amateur photographers looking for an efficient and safe way to carry their precious photography equipment on their travels.

Lowepro Urban Photo Sling 150
The Urban Photo Sling is a versatile and compact bag that puts an emphasis on comfort and convenience. As with all of Lowepro’s bags, the interior is fully customizable for carrying a variety of equipment including a single DSLR body, multiple lenses, an external flash, extra batteries and other personal items. The Urban Sling even has a nicely padded pocket for an iPad or other tablet, which is definitely a nice touch for a bag that isn’t particularly large to begin with.

One of the surprising things about this pack isn’t just how much it can carry but also how easy it is to get to your gear when you need it. The Urban Sling provides access through both the top and front, which means that you can easily get to you camera and an extra lens without ever taking the pack off and yet when you do need to dig deeper it isn’t a cumbersome or frustrating process either.

Lowepro incorporated a number of other nice touches into the design as well including a dedicated memory card pocket, a stow-away waist belt that adds extra stability and side pockets that provide additional organization options. The bag is even designed to be worn on the front, back or side depending on which is more comfortable and convenient at the time.While testing the Urban Photo Sling I was consistently impressed with its comfort and versatility. I loaded it up with my Nikon D90, three lenses, an iPad, extra memory cards and a few other small items and it carried the load very nicely. I loved having all of my photography gear close at hand when I needed it, but also appreciated the ability to quickly tuck it out of the way when I didn’t. It is a lightweight, yet durable, bag that many photographers will find useful no matter where their travels take them. Don’t let the “urban” in the pack’s name fool you either; this is a sling that is more than capable of accompanying you on your adventures to remote corners of the globe.

The Urban Photo Sling carries a price tag of $84.99, which is actually surprisingly affordable for a pack that will serve most photographers exceptionally well for years. It also makes a great secondary bag that serves in a support role for professionals looking to scale back at times.

Lowepro Flipside Sport 10L AW
Lowepro Flipside SportIn our last Lowepro review we took a look at the Flipside 500 AW backpack, which is specifically designed for a pro photographer who needs an option for carrying heavy gear through all kinds of conditions. That pack is simply fantastic but it is also not exactly the best option for most of us, who never have the need to carry a 500mm lens. For us mere mortals, Lowepro offers the Flipside Sport line of packs, which are smaller and more compact while still maintaining the same level of quality and versatility as their big brother.

The Flipside Sport 10L AW is designed to comfortably carry a DSLR body with an attached telephoto lens, an additional 1-2 lenses, an external flash, extra cables, memory cards and other accessories. The pack features a dedicated external tripod holder and provides access to the fully customizable interior through either the padded back panel or a zippered side door. In short, it has everything an amateur photographer needs to carry his or her gear on a globetrotting adventure.

This pack was definitely designed with the adventure traveler and outdoor enthusiast in mind. For instance, the Flipside Sport features a side pocket for carrying a 1-liter water reservoir, which is always handy for staying hydrated while on the trail. It also has a built in weather cover that protects the pack and its expensive contents from the elements including rain, snow and sand. Trekking pole and ice axe attachments are a nice addition as well, rounding out a great package for active photographers who need to easily carry their gear while hiking, climbing or running through remote locations.

Of all the Lowepro packs I’ve tested this is by far my favorite. It is comfortable to wear, handles a heavy load with aplomb and has a fit that keeps it locked in place even while hiking or mountain biking a difficult trail. The Flipside Sport feels less like a photography bag and more like a daypack, and I mean that in the best possible way. It is a fantastic option for active travelers who need more from their camera bag than simply a way to stay organized while on the go. The price is right too. The Flipside costs just $124.99, which puts it into the same price range as other daypacks from outdoor gear companies that are not specifically designed for photographers.

If you’ve been searching for the right camera bag to fit your needs, Lowepro will certainly have something of interest. If it isn’t the versatile and comfortable Urban Sling or the active Flipside Sport pack, then perhaps one of their other models will meet your expectations. All of their bags are durable, designed with the photographer in mind and priced right. Check out the entire catalog at Lowepro.com.

Images of Paris in La Belle Époque

Paris, AtgetParis has always captured the imagination with its architectural beauty and interesting inhabitants. La Belle Époque from the late 19th century to the start of World War One is considered a high point of Parisian life, and this life was captured by an eccentric photographer named Eugène Atget.

Atget started taking photographs of Paris in the 1890s. Working in the early hours of the morning with large-format negatives in order to catch as much detail as possible, he photographed many fine old buildings that have since disappeared. He photographed people too, preferring street vendors, shopkeepers, prostitutes, and the homeless. Instead of the rich and famous, he focused on people you’d commonly see on the street in those days, like this little girl singing along to an organ grinder, courtesy the Gilman Paper Company Collection.

Atget continued to work after the war until his death in 1927, documenting a Paris that even then was beginning to disappear. He was a bit of an anachronism, using the same equipment and same techniques he had thirty years before. A photo of him from the 1920s shows him as a shabby, hunched old man. He must have been an object of fun among the Bohemian set, for his looks, mannerisms (in old age he only ate bread, milk, and sugar) and outdated photographic style. The art world never really appreciated him until after his death, but now he’s renowned as one of the most important artists of the era.

Atget’s work is now the subject of a free exhibition at Madrid’s Fundación Mapfre, one of the best private galleries in the city. Eugène Atget, Paris 1898-1924 runs until August 27.

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London Q & A: Photographer Philippe Sibelly

london photographer philippe sibellyMarseille-born, London-based photographer Philippe Sibelly has an inspiring and very international mindset. Two of his projects, both detailed in the interview below, provide exciting and remarkable interventions in the ways that we understand contemporary cities, cultures, and even economics.

Sibelly’s The World in One City depicts London as a vibrant, multicultural city by including photographs of London residents from over 200 countries and territories. His Irish subject can be seen at right. Sibelly’s ongoing project, The Other Africa, overturns notions of Africa as essentially destitute and impoverished by showcasing the lives of middle-class Africans.

These projects provide deep commentaries on globalization and culture. They also provide a delicious kind of social candy for travelers and cosmopolitans.

Q: Sum up your profession.

A: In a perfect world I could give you a straight answer: if only I knew where my camera was, I could say I am a photographer. I am a qualified teacher of art, but teaching is such a demanding profession I had to stop as it was taking over my entire life. My last teaching spell is probably the reason I can’t find my camera any more. I am a househusband right now and I use any opportunity the kids give me to promote my photographic projects: The World in One City and The Other Africa.

Q: The World in One City is a fascinating look at London’s intense diversity. Describe the project briefly for our readers. What prompted the project? How do you feel about it now, a few years on?

A: When I arrived in London, in 2004, I was amazed by this diversity, especially after two six-year spells in Sydney and Dublin. Both are great cities but not the most diverse in terms of cultures. In London a lot was made about multiculturalism in the media before the 2012 Olympic Games announcement. I thought it would be a great challenge to search for Londoners from every Olympic nation. There were 202 at the time. It was also a great opportunity to meet people from every country of the world. After London got the Games, multiculturalism came off the front pages for a while.

As the 2012 Games are now fast approaching, the subject of London’s diversity is back at the top of the agenda. Prime Minister David Cameron’s recent speech on multiculturalism has also reignited the debate. I don’t think you can say it has failed, but asking if it works is a valid question.

The work has spent the last few months exhibited. It is currently at the Irish Cultural Centre in Hammersmith, West London.

Q: You’re from Marseille, which I believe is France’s most ethnically diverse city. Do you return often? Do you miss it? Did growing up there shape the way you interpret the world?

A: I go back to Marseille as often as possible, but it is getting much more difficult with the kids. So many logistical issues! After living for nearly seven years in London I find Marseille quite frustrating now. If you think public transport and traffic are bad in London, check out Marseille!

Growing up in such a working class melting pot definitely has an impact on the way you interpret the world. I remember being shocked when I first arrived in Sydney, in 1991. It was such a contrast from Marseille. Very “Anglo-Saxon middle class.” Interestingly enough I find Marseille (and France in general) very conservative now. London is so dynamic, a place where pretty much anything goes. In spite of being so diverse Marseille remains very much “old France.”Q: Talk about your current project, The Other Africa.

A: If The World in One City was my way of meeting people from every country in the world, The Other Africa is my excuse to go to Africa any chance I get. I grew up discovering Africa through depressing news headlines, like pretty much everybody else in the West. I was about 15 when Live Aid happened. I glimpsed the Africa that Bob Geldof was going to save, images of dying kids covered in flies.

There is no doubting this Africa exists but it contrasted greatly with the image I discovered traveling to West Africa. My friends in Dakar surely don’t suffer from malnutrition, more the opposite. Very rarely is it reported that millions of Africans go to work everyday, produce and consume, just like “us” in the West. It is all the more regrettable because changes for the better in Africa should and will come from this African middle class and not via foreign aid.

In 2005 I decided to start documenting this emerging middle class through a simple series of portraits of professionals and images of cities at night. I do not seek to say that everything is fine in Africa. My goal is to try to correct the perceptions we have of the continent.

Q: Where do you like to travel?

A: I just love getting out of the house. Discovering a new part of London can be just as rewarding as going to a new country a 12-hour flight away. It is also quite difficult to travel with the kids, which makes London explorations particularly appealing. I love Surrey and the South East of England as well.

I traveled a lot in Asia and the Pacific when I lived in Sydney. They are great places for independent travel but Africa has got the edge. I am always looking for opportunities to go and live there. Dakar, Libreville or Accra would be great places for the kids to live in while they grow up.

Q: What’s the most amazing thing that’s ever happened to you on the road?

A: Without the shadow of a doubt meeting my partner. I was traveling overland from Sydney to Europe. I bumped into Loretta in a cafe in Xi’an, China. A week later we ran into each other again, in Beijing. A few days after that we met by chance for a third time, on a train platform, in Irkutsk, Siberia! She gave me her Irish phone number from the step of her train carriage as it was leaving for Moscow. I decided to go to Ireland. 14 years later we have two kids together, two little Londoners.

Q: That is an amazing story. Do you have any travel secrets you’d like to share, either secret destinations or tips for other travelers?

A: I have perfected the art of traveling light. Unless I go to Africa to photograph for The Other Africa, I don’t even bring a camera! Too often you spend so much time taking souvenir photographs that you only see the things you were photographing when you look at the photos once you’re back home. I have cut down on everything. I have a special traveling wallet, which is in fact just a small purse, as you rarely need any of what’s in your wallet when you travel. Most of the time I don’t even need what’s in my wallet when I’m at home!

I have come to realize that if I really need something on my journey I can always buy it there. Unless I’m traveling in Norway it’ll be cheaper than it would be in London anyway, and going to a shop to buy something other than a souvenir is actually a great way to discover a place. Buying a toothbrush in a supermarket in Jakarta tells you an awful lot more about life in Indonesia today than does climbing Borobudur.

Apart from the importance of traveling light the best tip I can give to any traveler is to always try to look as smart as possible when crossing borders.

Q: You have a month to travel anywhere and your expenses will be paid by a mystery benefactor. Where do you decide to go?

A: Can the mystery benefactor also mind the kids? If my expenses were paid I would be tempted to go back to Japan as it is not the cheapest place to travel but it is such an interesting one. Iran is another place I would absolutely love to go back to and discover more. It wouldn’t cost my benefactor much either as it is such an inexpensive place to visit. Iranians are simply the most welcoming and friendly people I have ever met. Of course I would be tempted to go somewhere in Africa but I’ll go there whether or not I have a benefactor’s help.

You may find it surprising but if I had to choose one place to relax for a month, enjoy culture, great food, people with lots of character, sceneries second to none and a whole range of activities, I would go to Corsica.

Like this Q&A? Check out previous Gadling Q&As with inspiring travelers like Benji Lanyado, Zora O’Neill, and Jodi Ettenberg.