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.
This has surely been the hardest year to study photography. Being and becoming a photographer is all about interactions with people and places, even if you take still lives it is a struggle to work in a bubble. So I really want to stress how impressed, reassured and excited I was by the work I have seen. Throughout I’ve witnessed evidence of how students have had to adapt and reconsider their projects. This isn’t easily done, but it does reflect and perhaps teaches a useful lesson on life outside of college, when working on commission or adapting to a change in circumstances. Interestingly I have seen a lot of work that looks into family archives, questioning memory, history and identity. I wonder if this is a reflection on the last year where so much of our time has been spent at home. I can’t say that I have picked the best here, instead I have chosen six excellent photographers whose work stood out and spoke to me.
Selector's Comment: I would love to step inside this installation by Hannah Barness. I imagine feeling an overwhelming sense of time and memories crowding in and pushing out all other thoughts, almost like drowning in somebody else’s life. Although cradled in a familiar domestic space, this is not a comfortable place to be. I like the idea of building a physical memory palace, which is both logical and absurd in its ambition. It is an installation of great complexity and ingenuity that questions truth in memory and confronts the impossibility of summing up a lifetime’s experiences.
Selector's Comment: Google Street View is ubiquitous, presented simply as a benign tool, but this work questions that by drawing into focus the human right to privacy. Emily James uses humour and performance brilliantly to tackle this. She turns unsuspecting figures, caught on camera, on their daily walk to work, or stroll to the shops, into stars of their own narratives. It is the kind of work that makes you look twice and sometimes chuckle – a snapshot of someone mid-step looks ridiculous when posed. James challenges the idea that facial blurring is enough to make someone anonymous and the series is a chilling reminder of how modern life is recorded and displayed for the world to see.
Selector's Comment: This is a beautiful and serene series that has mystical quality. The combination of monochrome, in gentle shades of grey, and the muted cool colours, lends a harmonious and other-wordly quality to the images. It is also a visual thermometer, these are not warm waters to splash around in but cool waters that require an almost meditative focus, calmly embracing the elements. By photographing her swimmers from the sea Corinna Nolan extends that shared experience to the viewer. The focus on individual swimmers suggests that this ritual attracts (or builds) strong characters.
Selector's Comment: This comprehensive study of a time, place and a group of individuals stands out for its generous approach and elegant execution. The project succeeds without question in its goals of shifting the expectations of skating. This is a much more inclusive and diverse world than old stereotypes might have us imagine. It is not immediately clear what images were taken by the participants, but that is part of the beauty of this project, which has at its heart the desire do away with egos, to treat people equally and bring them together.
Selector's Comment: The experience of first generation adolescent women is a story I have rarely seen portrayed. Certainly not in such a succinct and optimistic set of images. These are exquisite, powerful portraits that capture the preciousness of hope in youth. They rejoice in multiculturalism and the positive power of migration. Justyna Musialska’s choice of black and white film gives her subjects a gravitas, a quality often overlooked in young people. This project is also a lesson in looking for stories to photograph, often the best can be found on your doorstep.
Selector's Comment: Edel McGrath has done the opposite of what most people do when they cross a border, which is to rush and not think twice, instead she has stopped and considered the meaning inherent in that border. The centenary of the Partition of Ireland (as well as Brexit) has brought this contested border into focus, but the space itself belies that attention. McGrath presents this neglected area as a kind of hinterland that resonates with history and abandonment. Her approach is analytical and documentary and yet by photographing at night or on overcast days she lends these places an unreal quality, as if they do not really exist, but rather dwell in a parallel dimension.
Selection by Mariama Attah ▸
Curator, Open Eye
Selection by Ciara Moloney ▸
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