Overview: It has been an enjoyable and enriching experience to be given a glimpse of the near future of photography as expressed in this year's graduate works. I noted several tendencies: The decline in the use of found photography continues, whilst the use of and experimentation with traditional methods such as film and printing techniques appears to be as popular as ever. A large number of students are drawn to a personal and emotive style of storytelling which goes hand in hand with a similar tendency in publishing. I was also pleased to see so many works in the documentary/photojournalism category, much of which straddled two or more genres. This may be evidence of a greater flexibility in preparation for life as a photographer in a still very challenging professional environment. My choices are of course greatly influenced by my work as a photo editor: In any category I look for a clear concept or narrative and a confident, well thought-out execution that lets the work speak for itself. Where both are present, the written concept and the photography generally tend to be in tune.
Selector's Comment: The idea behind 'Scenic Tourist' is a very strong and creative one. This is the point where I have to confess to a problematic relationship with the phrase 'exploring the relationship'. All too often it becomes a get-out clause for a lack of a clear concept since it is easy to construe a relationship between any two or more things. In the case of The Scenic Tourist, the word juxtaposition would have been a more appropriate term for the holiday images from a distant past superimposed onto a lifeless present-day urban landscape. The execution could have been more self-explanatory throughout, such as in the style of the tea house, but the concept convinces.
University of Wales, Trinity Saint David, Coleg Sir Gar - BA (Hons) Photography
Selector's Comment: Nature is undoubtedly the world's most underrated artist, as these incredible images of the structure of bluestone show. Devine is clearly in tune with the natural world around him and, like a David Maisel in reverse, opens our eyes to something as small, ubiquituous and overlooked as it is exquisite.
Selector's Comment: The environmental portrait sits somewhere between portraiture and documentary. It is a great vehicle for human interest features, which is why magazines such as ours like it. Laurence Harding's project 'House of Cards' convicingly juxtaposes the dreams and aspirations of today's graduates with the stark realities of mass youth unemployment and an uncertain, insecure future, an issue which is much talked about but rarely visualised in such a striking manner.
Selector's Comment: Anyone building his own camera deserves recognition. But that is not why I chose Mark Hilton's series of portraits. I did so rather because of their unique aesthetic which is impossible to achieve with all the modern technology at our disposal. Clearly still at an experimental stage, Hilton's pictures transport us back some 150 years, to somewhere well before the era of the stars of silent movies. This technique, once perfected, could become a fascinating narrative tool.
University of Wales, Newport - BA (Hons) Documentary Photography
Selector's Comment: Oates's excellently observed images of self-absorbed and isolated participants in 'social' networking elicit a response of painful recognition: aren't we all doing that at times? What does it do to us as a society? And are we really better connected? The series involves, provokes and challenges the viewer and opens up an important debate. Street photography at its best.
UCA Rochester - BA (Hons) Photography (Contemporary Practice)
Selector's Comment: The personal experience of ageing, mortality and loss of someone close features in many works. The competition was strong, but my favourite here is Amy Simpson's project 'To Sheila'. In five evocative stills Simpson documents how the person she knew and loved quite literally 'fades away' until there is only a memory left. A personal story which anyone who has experienced dementia at first hand can relate to is narrated in a way that words almost cannot express.
University of Central Lancashire - BA (Hons) Photography
Selector's Comment: Gender issues were the subject of a number of works. Some projects were executed with great sensitivity and clear personal involvement, but none managed to inject humour into the debate as well as 'The Little Merman' by Gary Woods did. This reinterpretation of Anderson's tale is told in dreamlike images with a nod to Tim Walker. A story for our time, convincingly narrated and tapping directly into topical social issues still capable of raising eyebrows, such as gay marriage.
Dagmar Seeland has been the UK photo editor for the German weekly Stern magazine for 14 years. She has contributed to other titles, such as the youth magazine Yuno, View and the monthly travel magazine Geo Saison, as well as the bi-annual Stern Photography Portfolios.