Each year as part of Graduate Photography Online we ask a number of professionals from the world of photography to review all the MA/MFA work submitted and choose their favourites. We hope this makes an interesting introduction to the project as a whole.
I am always on the lookout for new perspectives in a field that can feel more and more ubiquitous each year. As greater numbers of people have access to cameras on their phones and ways of creating lens-based work—I think subject matter and nuance is so important to stand out. I always encourage artists to identify stories only they can uniquely tell before documenting something they think they should. Zeitgeists in photo styles happen often, but wholly original series are a rarity. The submissions for this year’s MA photography graduates reflect the importance of individuality across so many genres of the medium. I was impressed and surprised by the narratives I came across in my six choices as they deal with issues of the artist’s gaze in portraiture, how we construct memory, and how we choose to tell the history of a place. All approached in a way that really made me look deeper into the projects and how the photos were constructed. I know this year is a wild one to matriculate in—but we need new ways of seeing now more than ever. These students offer just that.
Selector's Comment: We are living under a very anti-immigrant administration that often forgets to acknowledge that the United States has one of the largest immigrant populations in the world. I know this series was started before Trump was in office, but viewing these portraits of the children of immigrants shows the importance and tension of maintaining cultural identity in America. I think Quetzal offers a powerful opportunity for the subjects to speak about how they’ve been misrepresented, but also share what they feel is important to know about their individual history.
Selector's Comment: Sam’s images of the Alton Estate, despite being both archival and contemporary, blend together to create a timeless portrait of these housing projects. I love his meticulous approach to capturing structures that were created to reflect the same kind of conscientiousness and weaving in portraits of, again, current residents, makes you unsure of what point in history you’re viewing.
Selector's Comment: On The Brink forces the viewer to confront social housing that would often be looked over through both the clever and subtle addition of bricks. As Sarah states the buildings are ‘closing their eyes to the gentrification that surrounds and will replace them.’ I feel like anything that can make the viewer linger and think about the communities that have and still are living within many of these spaces is crucial. With this small shift they eerily come to the forefront of every frame in every neighborhood Douglas visited, forcing us to see them as more than just the ‘eyesore’ they’re perceived as.
Selector's Comment: Ioanna’s beautiful series The Truth is in the Soil, shows what layers of grieving look like from her perspective and that of the Greek death rituals she sought to capture and explore after the passing of her own father. What I responded to first was how time, figures, and landscape seem to be flattened in a lot of her imagery. When reading about the series more, it really struck me how she was able to communicate what it looks like when a loved one passes and how they appear in your memories. Do they fade, or do the images of them blend into something new altogether in the process of grieving?
Selector's Comment: Several months into quarantine, I look at Zheng’s incredible photos with a sense of reprieve. I know they represent the hypocrisy of how we seek nature in controlled and constructed ways – especially if you’re an urban dweller. However, after many of us have had to experience the world inside, they show our desire and need to be outside more than ever. They are lush visions that make me appreciate and miss my access to the natural world in a socially distanced time. The color pallet and ethereal quality immediately drew me in and made me want to live in this world Zheng created.
Selector's Comment: What immediately drew me to Xanthe’s project was the idea of collaboration in a long term portrait series. Oftentimes we cannot separate our gaze when documenting a subject – we apply a narrative that may leave out important details or over-simplify parts of a story that weren’t the photographer’s to begin with. In this series Mika chooses the parts of himself he wants to show in his own transition. Sometimes they are more straightforward, but sometimes they are shown through visual metaphors like construction in architecture. Xanthe and his voice meld together and offer a powerful look at evolution in the year of someone’s life.
Selection by Sarah Allen ▸
Assistant Curator, International Art - Tate.
Selection by Kirstin Kidd ▸
Picture Editor, The Economist
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