Merrie Albion: Landscape Studies of a Small Island is a concise compendium of Britain over the past few years and is an excellent visual survey of the run-up to Brexit. The photographs examine rich and complex variations of Britain that are now even more poignant after last year’s vote. Images of election campaigning in clean and tidy suburbia, protests, the aftermath of riots in London, diamond jubilee celebrations, rock concerts, a family enjoying Brighton beach, computer screens of the trading floor of Lloyds – the list goes on. Roberts has managed to capture all the major events in juxtaposition with minor situations that are large with meaning, from the dead of the Iraq war being saluted by Army veterans through Wootton Bassett to an depiction of impoverished mothers and children at a youth club in Blackburn. Contained within each photograph are mini dramas, cheap-looking high streets with pound shops set against Victorian architecture. Roberts shows a Britain at odds with itself. Rather than a harmonious society, we sense fragmentation and awkwardness and a yearning for a glorious past that never existed.
Eva Roefs has an affinity for capturing bizarre moments in exceptionally mundane situations. The young Amsterdam-based photographer grew up in south Holland in a small town called Loosbroek, and says the monotonous surroundings spurred her search for the absurd as soon as she started photographing at age 13. A decade on, Roefs’ latest series West Flemish Coast applies her signature ethereal stylings to documentary subject matter. “I started thinking, ‘Why go to Australia, Canada or South America when beauty can also be found at my neighbour’s house?’” says Roefs. “So I decided to go to Belgium, where people have smaller holidays that aren’t particularly fancy. It’s just family, the sea, food – not very good food – and animals, all together. It’s not at all like going to surf in Australia or going to Dubai to see big buildings. It really is the root of holidays and how they began.”
“Gentlemen, for what came ye into the wilderness? Not for conventional scholastic training; not for ranch life; not to become proficient in commercial or professional pursuits for personal gain. You came to prepare for a life of service, with the understanding that superior ability and generous purpose would be expected of you.” Located on an isolated desert ranch, east of California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range, Deep Springs is an all-male, liberal arts college founded a century ago by Lucien Lucius Nunn. The entrepreneur, who with his brother built the power station at Niagara Falls, devoted the last two decades of his life to what The New Yorker describes as “a novel form of education, an anomalous admixture of Christian mysticism, imperialist élitism, Boy Scout-like abstinence, and Progressive era learning-by-doing, with an emphasis on self-governance, leadership training, and the formation of strong character”.
Born in 1983 in the United States, Lucas Foglia grew up on a small farm some 30 miles east of New York city. His family grew their own food and lived a life away from the bustle of shopping centres and the surrounding suburbs. “The forest that bordered the farm was my childhood wilderness,” he says. “It was a wild place to play that was ignored by our neighbours, who commuted to Manhattan.” But in 2012 Hurricane Sandy charged through his family’s fields, flooding the farm and blowing down the oldest trees in the woods. “On the news, scientists linked the storm to climate change caused by human activity,” Foglia recalls. “I realised that if humans are changing the weather then there is no place on earth unaltered by people. I looked through my archive and set aside some photographs that became the seeds for my third book.”
It can be tough breaking into an industry known for its dog-eat-dog reputation, but a good attitude goes a long way – as long as its accompanied by talent. Based between Exeter and London, 22-year-old photographer Harry Cooke is taking on the fashion world with an open spirit, a sharp eye, and a pinch of salt. “The fashion industry is a weird one – I am always hearing stories of bad experiences,” says the Arts University Bournemouth graduate. “But I always think the concepts, teams and shoots that I put together are relaxed and fun. Taking life too seriously is a dangerous thing, and that’s what I aim to bring to the world of fashion. Goodbye seriousness!”
Katie Burdon’s ethereal fashion images make no secret of a childhood spent outside in the English countryside. A Cornish native, the 20-year-old first began taking photographs when she was 14, using her friends as models and the picturesque fields, woods, and seaside of her surroundings as her backdrop. Now a graduate of the University of Bournemouth, her practice has evolved into an intimate and considered portrayal of femininity through fashion photography. With a rich yet hazy 1970s-inspired palette and surreal undertones, Burdon’s photographs are elegant in their composition, yet still capture something of the raw and playful nature of youth. Determined to counteract the impossible beauty standards of the imagery she grew up with, the young photographer prefers being real and “celebrating women”, choosing models with big personalities.
When approaching Mathieu Pernot’s 20-year-spanning work on a Roma family settled in southern France, you should leave all misconceptions and prejudices aside, as he did, and read the introduction to Les Gorgan, the photobook published by Editions Xavier Barral to accompany his critically-acclaimed exhibition at this year’s Rencontres d’Arles festival. When he began, the French photographer writes, he didn’t know anything about the Gorgan family, nor was he aware that its members had been living in France for over a century. It was to be a transformative experience, one that led Pernot to witness the birth of a child for the first time, attend funerals and engage in a type of intimacy that only time and surrender can offer.
NOOR, the prestigious photo agency and foundation, has signed up three new nominees – Sanne de Wilde, Arko Datto and Leonard Pongo. Hailing from Belgium, India and Belgium/DR Congo respectively, all three are known for their cutting-edge work, rooted in documentary but pushing the aesthetic boundaries of image-making.
When Veronica Viacava moved to London, straight out of high school in Milan, she had never studied photography. But she had developed an interest in the concept of the photographic image, beyond the physicality of manually taking pictures, and seeking independence from her family, who didn’t approve of her desire to study the arts, enrolled at the University of Middlesex. Viacava has just graduated, and her work has been deeply personal throughout. When she was 17, her mother passed away, which led to intense musings on old family photo albums. By the end of her second year at Middlesex, she had begun to think about the materialisation of memory and “the idea of photography turning the past into an object”, she says. “So that you can look through it.”
The Parisian curator Quentin Bajac has spent the past two decades working in three of the world’s leading cultural destinations – starting out at the Musée d’Orsay, he moved to Centre Pompidou, and then the most coveted post of all, chief curator of photography at MoMA in New York. Here he shares his insights into photography and life with BJP editorial director Simon Bainbridge