Young Westminster graduate Tereza Zelenkova's spooky images were at high point at this year's Free Range show. Image © Tereza Zelenkova.
25 Jun 2010
The kids are alright no.2
Free Range is big, busy and an excellent way of seeing what this year's crop of photographic students have been up to in their final year
Free Range, the annual graduation shows shindig, kicked off at the start of June, so I went along to the private view on the 17 June. It opened the second week of photography shows, so I caught the exhibitions from the University of Westminster, University Campus Suffolk, Nottingham Trent, Roehampton, University of East London, University of Brighton and more. The first week of photography shows was 10-14 June, and included colleges such as University for the Creative Arts, Farnham and Amersham & Wycombe College.
Held in the Truman Brewery’s warehouses, Free Range is big and occasionally bewildering – I spent the last half hour trying to find my way out – but it is an excellent way to see a lot of work. That’s probably why I bumped into Niall O’Leary from Millennium Images there, who looked like he was doing a very thorough job. I can’t promise I was equally exhaustive, but I spent a very enjoyable few hours, and noted down quite a few students.
Josh Sweet from University of Brighton really stood out because he presented a wall of mini photobooks rather than the more standard framed prints. Attractive and well designed, the books worked both as showcases for his images and engaging objects in their own right, with a mischievous sense of humour at work. One of the books was called Appropriation, for example, and was made up of other photographers’ work. I liked the barefaced cheek of it but also the fact Sweet’s been boning up on his peers – something surprisingly absent from some other students’ work. But Brighton’s show was impressive all round, in fact, with Kristina Salgvik’s portraits also shining through for me.
Nottingham Trent’s show looked good too, although their policy of selecting the best students must be tough on those excluded. I liked Adam Woodfield’s pastel-tinted portraits, which took shots of glum young people and treated them with a hand-painted, almost hand-drawn, look. Very graphic and very appealing, I’m interested to see what he does in future. Joseph Coope’s delicate portraits and still lifes also caught my eye, as did Helen McCabe’s shots of military personnel. She managed to get access to men fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, and pulled off the story well.
Over in the University of East London’s section I enjoyed Lizzy Stewart’s large, nostalgic prints – taking family photographs as a starting point, she created blotchy, rather touching images. As ever, though, the University of Westminster’s show really packed a punch. They’re partly helped by circumstance, bagging the huge, airy space at the top of the warehouse (where most people end up having walked through everything else), and able to completely fill it with work from two courses, the BA Photographic Arts and a BA Photography course. That’s not to take anything away from the work though, which is of a consistently high standard.
In particular it was good to see Clare Smart’s Club Liberty portfolio on show – Smart got to the final of the BJP’s Project Assistance Awards with those images this year, and one of them also found its way into the National Portrait Gallery’s Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize. A very unsnobby look at a sometimes glitzy scene, shot in what must be difficult circumstances, they deserve all the success she’s had with them. Monika Marion’s portraits of young men with their eyes closed also pushed conventional stereotypes, showing the softer, sweeter side of an often vilified group. But at the other end of the scale, something about Tereza Zelenkova’s spooky images really appealed to me. Dark in both senses of the word and framed in nice old-fashioned wood, they were an eccentric take and a nice way to round off the trip. Zelenkova's put together an artist's book on the project she showed, Supreme Vice, which also will be published later this year by Morel Books, publisher of Boris Mikhailov, Ryan McGinley and Miroslav Tichy. Some of the kids really are doing alright.
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