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.
Selecting these works has been a joyful process which brought back memories of my own student days. I was intrigued that many of the same themes that we were working with back in the late 1990s/early 2000s when I graduated are still very present for this cohort of students, though today’s photographers are bringing exciting new takes. Fascinating themes which have developed since my student days, include dementia, ecological collapse, queerness, repurposing of family photographs, exploration of older photographic processes, and microscopy. Claude Cahun, Madame Yevonde, Francesca Woodman and Helen Chadwick seemed to be inspirations for several photographers and I was delighted to see female and gendernonconforming photographers having such an influence.
Selector's Comment: This body of work depicts a friendship group of older women in a working-class community. Rather than reinforce negative stereotypes, Middlebrook’s sitters are laughing, subversive and individual. I am fascinated by depictions of older women in photography so this work immediately caught my eye, and reminded me of Grace Robertson’s mid-fifties series ‘Mother’s Day Off’ from the Picture Post. The image of the woman with black lenses or spheres over her eyes, her expression of suppressed laughter seeming to include us in her strange joke, I found particularly beguiling.
Selector's Comment: Gorgeous, painterly hues of colour come through in this series documenting a young family. I saw echoes of Tom Hunter’s ‘Woman Reading a Possession Order’ both in terms of the palette and subject matter. Tigoglu’s charismatic sitters, Grace and Tom with their baby Billie share intimate moments of family life with the viewers, seeming fierce, tender and exhausted in equal measure. I was particularly struck by the image of the family sat in a field, redolent of 19th century paintings until one spots Tom’s smartphone.
Selector's Comment: These portraits celebrating Black British identities radiate joy and confidence and draw strongly from the Black British photographic tradition for inspiration. I loved the image ‘An Ode to Brixton’ of the young Black woman in an orange outfit, which I read as an homage to the 1970s fashion photography of Armet Francis, taken in the same neighbourhood, though the size-inclusive model makes this authentically contemporary too. The ‘Ode to Windrush’ images are particularly straight-up gorgeous fashion photography, as well as being reflective of Black British history.
Selector's Comment: As someone with an interest in both photographic typologies and rural photographic practice, this body of work appealed to me. Livestock photography has arguably received little interest from the photographic community – at least until the infamous ‘Absolute Unit’ tweet from the Museum of English Rural Life went viral in 2018 – but has a rich history of its own which these photographs draw upon. The proto-scientific approach to photographing a Highland cow is at once funny and surreal but also raises questions of the ethics of photographic complicity in classificatory systems.
Selector's Comment: I loved this body of work, which I read to have been inspired by the style of pioneering colour photographer Madame Yevonde. Though rather than Yevonde’s White debutante sitters (who included noted Fascist Lady Diana Mosley) Gurba showcases the beauty of young Black models, creating a new pantheon in the same vein as Maud Sulter’s Zabat series. Pierre et Gilles and Cecil Beaton may also have been influences, as the portraits have a similar over-the-top fairytale glamour, covered in pearls and organza fabric.
Selector's Comment: Current ventures from Muslim hiking groups to Black2Nature activities seek to open up the British countryside to more British identities and I see this body of work as a meaningful contribution to that journey. The landscape settings chosen by Patel speak to the pastoral photographic tradition embodied by the work of John Hinde, but her own presence as a British South Asian in the landscape, performing the ritual of Puja, brings in other traditions of being in nature. The use of fabrics perhaps hints at the longer histories which connect the English landscape with its colonial past.
Selection by Keith Cullen ▸
Founder, Setanta Books
Selection by Louis Chapple ▸
Founder, Studio Chapple.
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