Reviewing this season's crop of graduate work from across the UK and Ireland, I must confess I found it hard to select my final seven from the brief descriptive paragraph and five images. I admire students for successfully navigating a path through contemporary photography's various dualities - between documentary and conceptual practices, between abstraction, formalism and more narrative approaches, between the ephemeral and the material, between digital and analogue processes. Some students seem happy to wear their photographic influences on their sleeves, others strive for that illusive new concept or a fresh treatment of an old idea. The prevailing tendencies or predilections of the art school in question are sometimes discernible in the work presented, either as something to emulate or something to challenge. I would have liked to have included some additional 'honourable mentions', but I hope you enjoy my selection.
Selector's Comment: I particularly like the colour saturated images documenting Medieval rituals which persist in contemporary Romania, and they bring to mind a certain type of tourist orientated photo book from the Soviet era which sought to romanticise 'peasant culture'. The Ritual book shown on the artist's website is nicely put together, although some of the individual portraits create a visual typology of exotic costumes which is perhaps a little too close to Charles Fréger's work.
University of Huddersfield - BA (Hons) Photography
Selector's Comment: Just a few images to go on here (and no website), but I like the critical awareness of how cultural stereotypes are created and perpetuated in the way she has art directed the models, but also her disruption of that by the inclusion of certain elements that do not quite fit the airbrushed cliché, such as the small facial scar, and the subtle disjuncture between subject and background.
Selector's Comment: The artist is certainly not the first to look at how various technological developments have an impact on our notions of visual representation, but I enjoy the the ironic way he highlights the flaws in the system and inherent inadequacies of available technology. For all its potential, the 3D printing process more often than not falls well short of rendering a new object with any real likeness to that which it seeks to represent.
University of South Wales, Newport - BA (Hons) Documentary Photography
Selector's Comment: The 'Nordic' feel of these black and white photographs brings to mind the work of her Danish counterpart Jacob Aue Sobol, but there is a visual consistency and emotional sensibility about the series which takes the intimate subject of the relationship between mother and daughter and broadens its scope into a poetic meditation on landscape and femininity.
Harrogate School of Art and Design - BA (Hons) Lens Based Photo Media
Selector's Comment: A modest, but well executed photographic investigation of the sometimes hidden areas of the home where young children intentionally or unintentionally alter their environment through the placement of small inanimate objects in dusty corners and beneath furniture. There is a gentle surrealism and humour to the work, as the viewer is gradually drawn into the child's world as found in these typically unseen domestic nooks and crannies.
Selector's Comment: Like Catherine Yass and Stephen Gill, the artist has used the strategy of exposing the negative to natural elements through interment, allowing micro-organisms to corrupt and degrade the film and thereby leave their trace. The resulting series of images is visually engaging and quite painterly, lying somewhere between abstract expressionism and a form of poetic evocation of the natural landscape and its ongoing life cycle.
Nottingham Trent University - BA (Hons) Photography
Selector's Comment: With great skill and panache, the artist examines the relationship between photography and objects, specifically through photographically rendered sculpture created with manufactured and altered materials. This territory has most recently been explored by contemporary artists such as Darren Harvey-Regan and Becky Beasley, but reflects a practice which goes back to Russian Constructivist experiments of the early Twentieth Century.
David Drake is the Director of Ffotogallery, the national development agency for photography and lens-based media in Wales. He initiated and is the artistic director of the biennial event Diffusion - Cardiff International Festival of Photography. Ffotogallery is the lead agency for a new pan-European project called European Prospects, and will be curating and presenting the Wales in Venice platform at the upcoming Venice Biennale 2015. As well as leading all curatorial and publishing projects at Ffotogallery, his 30 year arts career includes extensive curatorial, publishing, management and production experience for organisations as diverse as Watershed Media Centre, Pimlico Arts and Media and FIVE magazine.