Laura, from the series Dyke of our Time © Tania Olive, who just graduate from Westminster University. Olive won the Best in Show prize at Photography Week One at Free Range this year.
It's final show season and Free Range, Britain's largest collection of student shows, is in full swing. This year BJP was invited to Photography Weeks One and Two to pick out two Best in Show prizes. Week One was held from 14-18 June, and Tania Olive fought off stiff competition to pick up the title, with a project called Dyke of Our Time.
Featuring deadpan portraits of young gay women photographed at home and looking straight at the camera, Dyke of Our Time is a fresh look at an often stereotyped group, and will feature in the July edition of BJP. "I wanted to do a project that showcased the diversity of the lesbian community," Olive told BJP. "I have always found the butch and femme labels with which lesbians are associated to be antiquated. In fact, I find the idea that gender is a distinct dichotomy unrealistic. I wanted to show the fluidity of gender in the lesbian community.
"I am a huge fan of typologies and photographers influenced by the New Objectivity era such as the Bechers or Thomas Ruff," she continued. "I wanted to do a typology of lesbians, capturing a group of people at a certain time in history and giving them a voice. August Sander's work form the early 20th century on Germans is so interesting to look at in terms of style and type; his work, Face of Our Time, is where my title came from."
Olive has just graduated from Westminster University, which impressed with a very strong set of final shows. Four other Westminster students made the final shortlist - James Miller, Tina Remiz, Ryan Dalton Rodrigues and Daniel Mayrit. Miller's Aleatory Encounters, a set of three highly coloured images, impressed with their sheer aesthetics, while Remiz' project, Krievi, showed a talent for finding a good story (on the Russian-speaking Latvian community) and an excellent set of portraits. Dalton Rodrigues' Under World was an intriguing attempt to capture the spirit of listening to music, while Mayrit's project, Suburban Scenes, managed to interweave fine art references and Google's Street View.
Elsewhere Kate Parkinson, from Plymouth College of Art, displayed a project on American cowboys called Way Out West, which showed her great skill in capturing some very difficult and fast-moving subjects. Joanna Fetch Cooper, also from Plymouth College of Art, showed a very different series called Momento Mori and Vanitas, a very appealing set of still lifes. Fabiano Almeida Hall from Cleveland College of Art & Design showed two clever large-scale prints which broke the images down from pointillist into abstraction, depending on how close you got to them. Sophie Boleyn's show From the Series Under the Bed did exactly what it said, meanwhile, focusing in on a little-regarded but strangely revealing space.
Special mention goes to Nick Paton from Edinburgh Napier University, though, for the series Touched, which came a very close second to Olive's winning show. Shooting a series of studio portraits, Paton managed to conjure up an intimate atmosphere by sharing one of his memories with his subjects. He wrote: "They responded by trying to touch something significant to them we shared the moment and went on our separate paths." Beautifully photographed in lush black and white, the images reveal something of each sitter's personality through body language and gesture, a theme Paton is also pursuing through shooting and filming sign language.
Paton and his fellow students also impressed with their energy and dedication – with no tutors able to make the trip, they organised the show themselves and brought fantastic Scottish fudge plus cheese from Dunlop Dairy in Ayrshire for the private view. If there had been another prize for best canapes in show, Edinburgh Napier would have walked it.
Free Range Photography Week Two runs from 21 June - 25 June and BJP will be back to award another Best in Show www.free-range.org.uk.
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