Photographer Claude Iverné’s photographs of both North and South Sudan offer a unique study of the historical and contemporary cultural clash in the region, primarily through landscape and portraiture. Through a variety of both formal and content based artistic choices Iverné’s images offer an open-ended gateway to a more complex exploration of both North and South Sudan, and deeper issues of lineage, alliances, land, and modernity.
Sudan, formerly the Kingdom of Nubia in ancient history, evolved, after approximately 2600 B.C., into the flourishing civilization known as Kush that was comprised of both Nubian and Egyptian culture, and later experienced an influx of Muslim Arabs around 350 A.D. In the 16th century, several African tribes, including the Dinka, Shilluk, Nuer, and Azande, settled in southern Sudan, and eventually Britain’s colonial project in Egypt landed in the Sudan. After claiming independence from Britain and Egypt in 1956, The Republic of Sudan experienced another shift in identity when The Republic of South Sudan gained its own independence in 2011.
The general public, viewing mass media, is probably most familiar with images of what was labeled the “humanitarian crisis in Darfur” in the first decade of the 2000s, however Iverné’s images offer a quieter take on the people and places that make up Sudan. A stylistic choice that helps viewer’s reflect on the split between north and south is the representation of North Sudan through images shot in black and white, and photographs that represent South Sudan shot in color. Associations with black and white photography, and Iverné’s anthropological approach to these images, imbue a feeling of the ancient almost immediately. Pure blacks and pure whites are not present in the images, instead a more muted palette range calms the viewer into an inviting curiosity, rather than a sensationalized news cycle.
In contrast, the color images on view in the exhibition break away from the colonial relationship to black and white anthropological photography as a studying of the “other”. Offering instead, a more personal and intimate view of distinct qualities through individual portraits and details that reveal traces of modernity, such as the emotional vicissitudes of immigration, clothing or graffitied walls. A series of color portraits, shot from the torso up, of men who have migrated to France offers a distinct counterpoint to a series of black and white full body portraits of Northern Sudanese people, shot at a distance, situated in voluminous desert landscapes. In the color portraits, a muted color palette is captured through Iverné’s decision to photograph his subjects at twilight in fog. As their upper bodies fill the frame of each image, they are removed from the disputed lands of their origin and portrayed in the transitory space of migration.
Claude Iverné: Bilad es Sudan is on view at Aperture gallery until November 9, 2017.