Issue 102: Signs and Symbols

  • Kate Simpson

The 2021 August / September issue considers the difference between “looking” and “seeing” – the signs and symbols with which we view ourselves and the world around us.


- Hybrid Architecture: The Santa Fe landscapes mixes contemporary modernism with adobe tradition. We consider its hybrid architecture, and decades of artistic inspiration, from Georgia O’Keeffe to James Turrell.

- Mapping the Climate: A survey of Richard Mosse’s new large-scale project, Tristes Tropiques, which maps the environmental destruction unfolding across Brazil’s “arc of fire.” The series is an example of what cartographer Denis Wood has termed “counter-mapping” – a form of resistance mapmaking that exposes endangered landscapes, depicting the extent of human activities that threaten our climate and ecosystems.

- Cultural Iconography: An interview with Namsa Leuba, a Swiss-Guinean photographer and art director who focuses on African identity as seen through the western gaze, challenging the legacies of colonial perspectives. Each image includes bold backgrounds, authentic props and original styling, exploring the various signs and symbols of mixed cultural heritages.

- Modes of Fabrication: Artists have long sought inspiration in found photos – dissecting, manipulating and reassembling to create something new. We consider the ethical and aesthetic implications in an age of visual abundance.

- Across the Nation: We look at the critically acclaimed TheBritish Islesby Jamie Hawkesworth, which offers a portrait of Britain from 2007 through to 2020. The photographs, shot across those 13 years, capture the beauty and diversity of the UK. The title is highly relevant as the continued struggle for equality resonates now more than ever.

Image Features:

- Disparate Geographies: Massimo Colonna is an Italian photographer, post-producer and retoucher who invents new spaces that play with our sense of reality. His captivating portfolio is defined by vast expanses, all shot on level playing fields

- Playful Camouflauge: Gerwyn Davies is an Australian photographer who explores this concept with images that both empower and camouflage, combining hand-made costumes and strategic digital edits. Tessellating white folds, curved orange cones, glittering yellow ribbons and golden pyramids protrude from bodies as if they were a second set of skin.

- A Fresh Perspective: Thandiwe Muriu has been widely lauded for her distinctive style, showcasing Africa’s unique heritage of cultures and vibrant colour palettes, including being featured as one of CNN’s African Changemakers in 2019.

- Shooting Hyperreality: Magical Realism Nihilism Pole, is, for Benoit Paillé not only a photography series, but a “revolutionary act” – demonstrating how photography doesn't capture reality, but is an active creator of reality, elevating the most perceivably uninteresting object into something desirable and ultra-magnified.

- Piecing it Together: Karen Navarro’s El Pertenecer en Tiempos Modernos (Belonging in Modern Times) series is instantly captivating. Laser-cut prints – cast in bubble-gum pink and pillar box red – portion models’ faces into concentric circles, vertical strips and checkboard tiles.

- Complex Narratives: As part of Aesthetica’s ongoing collaboration with London College of Communication, University of the Arts London, we present 10 talented photographers who explore these challenging questions. This compelling selection of images focuses on aspects of privacy and intimacy, challenging the viewer’s gaze through moments of intervention and interruption.