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 have selected these six young artists/photographers — You Liang, Matilda Baxendale-Kirby, Amber Gent, Heather S. Roberts, Rica Tumanguil, Maya Brasington — because they all have a unique visual language and a strong sense of conceptualisation. Most of the projects selected evolve in the space of identity politics; and most of them use the photographic medium as a way to explore ideas around nationality/heritage/diaspora and do so always at the intersection at gender/race and even ability. These young photographers all seem to be in the process of crafting and shaping their own subjective feminist lens to tackle their subject of interest. Whatever the genre or style, they are all irreverent in the best way possible. Inspired by the history of their medium, yet non-conformists, I feel like they will all be able to further develop their practice into sustained and solid photography-based paths.
Selector's Comment: Matilda Baxendale-Kirby’s project entitled 'The Picasso problem' is a photographic exploration of Modernism’ complex history. In her work, Baxendale-Kirby uses the medium as a critical lens, where she visually alludes to the painter’s iconography and yet uses her camera and processes as a way of debunking the idea of the sacrosanct “master”. In recent years, journalists and art historians have been shining light on what lies behind Picasso’s “artistic genius” i.e. a tyrannic, bullying, misogynist. Here, Baxendale-Kirby opposes a contemporary female gaze onto an objectifying one. This body of work is informed, well conceptualised and extremely well executed.
Selector's Comment: Amber Gent’s project visualises a speculation: what if the anti-capitalist and anti-sexist revolution took the form of the goblin? Grotesque and monstrous, goblins are creatures which populate various folklores and are here adapted to the 21st century. Goblin’s mischievousness and maliciousness make them perfect contemporary disruptors. Gent’s work proposes to see in goblins’ shapes and attitudes a metaphor for non-conformity, anti-authoritarianism, anti-corporatism, etc. Through a series of staged portraits and still lives, Gent creates a whimsical and punk aesthetics. I hope Gent will push forward and further develop this concept.
Selector's Comment: Heather S. Roberts’ project 'The Bones I’m Made Of' invites the viewer to think at the intersection of gender and ability/condition. Both these social constructs intend to impose norms or a value of ‘normality’; however Roberts challenges such normative assumptions. This resistance to dictated behaviors is embodied in the use of steel on which to print the images. At the junction of self-portraiture, staged-images and performance. Roberts decided to quite literally turn herself into a warrior. With 'The Bones I’m Made Of', with texture, shapes, light, Heather S. Roberts becomes a armored soldier which reconsider social norms.
Selector's Comment: With 'The Fairest of Them All', Rica Tumanguil proposes a political take on the 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ famous phrase addressed to the mirror. First released by Disney in 1937, nine years before the end of the American rule in the Philippines, here Tumanguil weaves in the US’s ideological soft-power and it’s colonial history. With this project, Rica Tumanguil explores the traces of coloniality especially in the realm of beauty standard imposed on women in the Philippines. She is using photographic medium to perform effects of whitening where individuality disappears behind white gauze-like filter. In ‘Lemon Negatives’ becomes so white that the figure is almost ghostly; like the haunting of a pervasive past that doesn’t want to go away.
Selector's Comment: In Maya Brasington’s ‘Magic Isle’ the Caribbean land is surrounded by water yet connected to distant archipelagos as far as Europe. The magic — or magic thinking — there might be referring to the powerful nostalgia created around the idea of the homeland which is incredibly prevalent in diasporic lives and families. Combining found imagery, family photographs, and her own images, Brasington recomposes her own complex photo album between her Barbadian/Bajan heritage and her British present. Brasington focuses on creating atmospheric images that evoke more than they declare. She uses the real and works around it creating almost a visual fable. The young photographer pays great attention to details: mysterious elements and objects seem to bear hidden meanings. We are left wondering about the Bajan symbolism of shells and water.
Selector's Comment: You Liang knows how to compose an image and work with color. In ‘Our Only Guide is Our Homesickness’, Liang draws inspiration from the many aspects of the personality of Harry Haller, Hesse’s main character in Steppenwolf. This fonctions as a starting point to convey the multiplicity of Chinese cultures. Working with the real, but taking poetic liberties, Liang depicts oppositions and entanglements between tradition and contemporary lives in today’s China. Liang seems to have an eye for the odd or the absurd i.e the photograph of two men seated as if in a green and lush park but actually in the middle of a (de)construction site. She also spots the fleeting tender moments of daily lives such as a transgenerational dialogue with hands.
Selection by Chris Boot ▸
Curator & Book Publisher
Selection by Sebah Chaudhry ▸
Creative Producer & Curator
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