For over four decades, the documentary photography course has forged a reputation as one of the UK’s leading photography teaching destinations. In fact, the very first photography class can be dated back even further to 1912, when it was introduced by the head of the school of art at Newport Technical Institute. The course, however, was set up in 1973 by Magnum photographer David Hurn as a 12-month Training Opportunities Scheme to ‘re-skill’ miners and steelworkers.
In the Middle Ages, it was widely believed that pandemics, such as plague and cholera, were caused by breathing in impure air, poisoned by decaying matter. Now, Polish-born Gosia Cwiech has decided to resuscitate the obsolete hypothesis in a series which explores the contemporary, post-truth framework.
The classic British butterfly house acts as the backdrop to Alexander Mourant’s Aurelian, an evocative study of the passing of time and the slippery nature of memory. “These hot, artificial environments are used through the work to probe the nature of experience, such as an assembly point, or an artist’s studio, as an envisioned idea where time is not absolute but continuously contained and all-encompassing,” says the 23-year-old, who recently graduated from Falmouth University.
From the dimly-lit back alleys of Belfast, right into the interiors of its inhabitants’ homes, Chad Alexander’s graduation project Entries takes us on a reflective journey through the streets where he grew up. The 27-year-old first picked up a camera after seeing an exhibition that combined scenes of the Northern Ireland conflict with vignettes of daily life; he has since been developing his own take on documentary in this series. “It was work that I had always wanted to make, but until that point I wasn’t exactly sure how to approach it,” he explains.
“I try to use photography to investigate the aspects of my family life that have been deliberately set aside,” says Thomas Duffield. His final-year project, The whole house is shaking, pays tribute to an idyllic childhood on a small farm on the outskirts of Leeds, while simultaneously confronting a darker enclave of family history. Composed from small details of everyday life and portraits of his mother, sister and grandfather, the project also dwells on his father’s clandestine heroin addiction, hidden from the children while they were growing up.
For Lisa van Casand, photography provides carte blanche to investigate places and people she would otherwise not have access. Her projects often revolve around waarheidsvinding, a peculiarly Dutch term best – if imprecisely – translated as ‘truth-finding’, an interest she attributes to her upbringing. “I grew up with people around me that had quite a variety of strong beliefs,” says the 26-year-old from Eindhoven. “Which is not necessarily a bad thing in itself but it did confuse me at a young age – how people could believe so strongly in opposite things?” Though interested in the idea of photography as evidence and document, it was the fallacy of the tools we use to order reality, and the limitations of seeing, that she often reflects on in her research-led projects. “I am drawn to things that are shrouded in mystery. The bigger the impossibility of reaching the object of investigation, the better,”says the final-year student at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague. Clarity and knowledge are not the desired outcomes of her research: it’s the …
In our third annual edition focusing on photography education, BJP visits schools around the world to discover what it takes to “see photographically”. From one of the oldest photography schools in the UK, to pioneering institutions in Germany and Denmark, tutors stress the need to appreciate the mechanics of a photograph – light, shape, space and perspective. “Our bodies learn to adapt to the camera that is shaping our experience,” explains Thomas Sandberg, photographer and co-founder of the Ostkreuz School for Photography in Berlin.
BJP’s Breakthrough Sessions are open from 23 June – featuring leading industry speakers such as Vivienne Gamble (director, Seen Fifteen), Hamish Crooks (licensing director, Magnum Photos), Jaki Jo Hannan (senior creative producer, AMV BBDO) and Dominic Bell (Webber Represents) and the BJP Breakthrough Awards exhibition, featuring Ryan James Caruthers, Jocelyn Allen, Todd R Darling and Cathal Abberton
With a Lebanese-American mother and an Emirati father, Farah Al Qasimi has lived much of her life between the United States and Abu Dhabi, where she grew up. Now completing a Master of Fine Arts at Yale, she is still oscillating between her two home nations, and producing work that explores home, belonging, representation and clarity.
“I like it when you can tell they had fun making it, that they did it for themselves before anyone else,” says photographer Juno Calypso. “That criteria probably doesn’t apply well to documentary projects but I take pictures of myself in wigs and tacky lingerie, so what do I know?” She’s a fast-rising star in photography who launched her career with a series of self-portraits playing a fictional character named Joyce, but she’s also helping out as one of the judges of this year’s BJP Breakthrough Awards. She likes underdogs and “a photographer or a subject that isn’t already over-represented in the history of photography”, she says but, having been on the other side of the fence, adds that she knows how scary it can be to enter a prize. ”I know how it feels to place all your hopes into a single competition,” she says. “I don’t want to make lazy decisions [when judging]. What I will say though, is even if you do get rejected – keep applying or just do your own …