Each year as part of Graduate Photography Online we ask a number of professionals from the world of photography to review all the BA work submitted and choose their favourites. We hope this makes an interesting introduction to the project as a whole.
I came to this judging process with a refreshed and open mind not having juried a student competition as comprehensive as this one for some time. I was intrigued to discover what new printing practices students were pursuing. I was looking for work that was brave, experimental or that shared strong well-defined narratives. This jury has been a privilege. To be able to spend my time working through the many diverse portfolios and narratives entered this year. The work is consistently well executed with high production values. I was compelled to investigate further photographers’ websites, previous bodies of work and backstories. The series that I have chosen demonstrate this kind of important contextual photography that has the prowess to exist beyond campus.
Selector's Comment: This work sits well within the new documentary tradition with the use of forensic artefacts, in this case a written letter, the co-authoring of a portrait and beautiful symbolic documentary images that build a deeply personal narrative. There is so much to unpack in this body of work, which shares aspects of trauma, grief, illness - family dynamics so common to the human condition. It is a brave series of great intimacy. I appreciated the participatory nature of the portrait production, again, this is really smart way of working, as it adds a unique layer of psychological meaning to an already heart-breaking story.
Selector's Comment: This body of work for is a pure photographic mission, to be read as a curated series of documentary colour images in dialogue with each other. The visual language is rich with subtle codes of consumption. There is a presence of absence, an empty glass, a cover chair that speaks volumes about what has passed, gone, is no longer. The photographs are each carefully crafted to have a similar gentle tone and poignant composition. You get the sense that the photographer is allowing the viewer to step back, to really interrogate each. I think what is interesting to consider is how this body of work could be read within differing cultural parameters and contexts. A picture is worth 1000 words, an adage that Ryan so successfully contests in his photography. Each image is communicates so much more.
Selector's Comment: What strikes me about this series is how successfully it manages the difficult balance between process and concept. The work is about the regeneration of London and focuses on sites of social housing around London that are being rebuilt. This is a really important socio-economic subject, which would lend itself to traditional documentary practice. However, Sonam adopts new methods of production by using drone and 360 cameras, which elevates the subject to the experimental and vanguard. There is a strong sense of rhythm and time in the work, that mirrors the urgency of the regeneration building work. An ebb and flow between the fast-paced digital origination of drones versus the slow hand printed process of the final cyanotype output. The personal statement was extremely well written and explains every consideration from the theoretical through to the political themes in the work.
Selector's Comment: Shanice Petilaire's body of work is particularly poignant right now, as we contemplate the bias that BAME citizens encounter in their daily lives during this unprecedented pandemic lock-down. The simple premise behind the work resonated with me on many levels, it is an unfussy photography portrait series that looks at how multiculturalism coexists within smaller societal structures like towns. Shooting from a distance, as the subjects seek out fresh air from windows and doors, there is a strong sense of isolation, of the voyeur and of confinement. At the same time, the body of work is divided into a series of studio portraits of great energy, colour and the joy of the subjects dancing in their traditional clothing. This spoke to me of precisely the kind of dichotomy of experiences that I have been hearing about of life under lock-down.
Selector's Comment: Savannah Bracewell's body of work is brave and experimental using performance and self-portraiture to raise important questions of identity politics within the digital world. The work is well executed, the portraits of "Anna" are convincing because of their simple construction using disguises and props to create five different characters of the same person. The unfussiness of the portraits provides a feeling of the familiar and believability, which is critical to the success of the project. I was left intrigued to know how the work would conclude. There is potential to expand the series and lots of avenues to develop this work.
Selector's Comment: This work surprised me and really grabbed my attention on many levels, it really shouted out at me. I appreciated the unapologetic blasts of color in the portraits, bright and bold overlaid to create mini worlds. Also, the use of abstraction, working with flaws within the camera, depth of field and focal points, obtuse camera and frame angles. However, the most appealing aspect of the work for me and it's major strength is in it's co-authoring, the photographer collaborated with her subject to co-produce the body of work. This breaks down stereotypes and creates powerful and genuine art-direction. I really loved this approach to a such a sensitive subject.
Selection by Brenda Fitzsimons ▸
Picture Editor, The Irish Times.
Selection by Nicola Shipley ▸
Director, GRAIN Projects, Birmingham.
View Submission Guidelines ▸