We asked Bruno Ceschel, Director SPBH Editions and Self Publish, Be Happy, to reflect on the ending of the artistic partnership between Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, as announced this week. Read on to find out more about the creative community they fostered.
It was a warm spring when I joined the editorial team of COLORS magazine as an intern. On the top floor of a beautifully alienating Tadao Ando building in the Venetian countryside, I would hear people talking about Adam and Olly, the two recently appointed editors in chief of the magazine. They had taken over from the controversial and newly ousted Oliviero Toscani and as both had been his disciple the stories of the succession sounded like a Greek tragedy. When I first arrived in the office the pair were in Cuba, documenting the community of a psychiatric hospital for what would become the lead story in the issue of COLORS entitled Madness (December 2001).
People talked about them with affection and not a little irritation, like you do about smart, but mischievous children. When they returned, the office was immediately sucked into a storm: drama, big ideas, conflicts, affairs and drunkenness, but above all, a sense of a higher purpose. For a few years on their watch the magazine bounced back to international prominence, thanks to a new and carefully imagined approach to visual storytelling: beautiful portraits and landscapes were shot using large-format cameras by a small army of young photographers documenting marginalised communities forgotten by the mainstream media.
In their time at COLORS, Adam and Olly effectively created an informal collective of talented and then little known photographers, including Pieter Hugo, James Mollison, and Stefan Ruiz, and journalists, such as Sean O’Toole, Arianna Rinaldo and Rose George. That office in the Veneto became a creative crossroads, a place where people and ideas mixed and crashed into each other, a community that they sprung up around them quite naturally, maybe because they were a duo with an innate collaborative practice.
Others can write eloquently about Broomberg and Chanarin’s artistic output, their love-hate relationship with photography and appetite for provocation, but I’d prefer to celebrate what to me is their real legacy: us, the creative community they have brought together over the course of their career.
Over the past two decades, as I have become a close friend and sometime collaborator of them both, I have witnessed how they have functioned as a catalyst, bringing to life around their work a publishing house, gallery, and academic course.
Posterity should not only judge their career by the magazine they edited, the photographs, books and artworks they made, but also by people they supported, aided, educated and loved, a process that was – and will remain – a fundamental part of their practice.Read more about the artists here