“I meet people with more empathy and more care towards one another in war situations or in conflict around the world than I have ever experienced in Europe. People want to share the little they have with me because I have talked to them and shown an interest in them,” says Jan Grarup. His work has taken him to the sites of the worst conflicts – from obvious examples such as Iraq and Iran, to forgotten areas like the Central African Republic. Each place he visits, he stays to learn about the culture and customs of the people before taking their photographs. In these places of despair and destruction, Grarup often finds hope and resilience. But the Western world needs to be more active and share the responsibility to help these regions return to a peaceful existence.
“I believe that the great strength photography has, and in particular documentary photography, is content. So much of what is published today, seems to me to be content less. I hope my photography illuminates and resonates with viewers and tells how British society was. And, of my more recent work, of how society is,” says Homer Sykes. he has been photographing British society for five decades, including major social and political events, such as The Battle of Lewisham. Now, some of his work is set to be featured in a Burberry show this month.
“People might not have a lot, but they will give you what they can. That’s true of so many Irish people. They’re a very warm and friendly and welcoming people. They will tell you stories and their lives and give you their time.” Josh Adam Jones, a student at the University of West England, Bristol, developed his project 99 Peace Walls whilst volunteering at Belfast’s photo festival this summer. The youth of the city helped him to understand the divides that are still ingrained into the culture there, and how, in spite of this, there is a warm community to be found throughout the city.
“It was also about reshaping that American icon: everyone thinks of the cowboy as this white American hero who has come to slay Native Americans. Actually the word cowboy is a racist term. It comes from when slave masters called all their slaves ‘boys’ and so the cow boy was the boy who looked after the cows and the horse boy was the boy who looked after the horses.” Cian Oba-Smith journeys to Philadelphia at a politically charged time during the 2016 U.S. election to meet with an infamous group of horsemen dealing with this ingrained racism on a daily basis.
“Just a few days after the opening, soldiers entered the gallery and removed some of the photographs,” says Harit Srikhao, a runner-up in this year’s BJP Breakthrough Awards. The Thai photographer, whose series Whitewash uses the military crackdown in 2010 as its starting point, questions government control, censorship and propaganda. “You are able to talk about politics in public, but if you talk ‘bluntly’, you would be arrested,” says Srikhao.
For two months last April and May, Aurore Valade isolated herself in a remote village in the Haute-Bigorre region of France. The result? Her photography project Se Manifester, which has been awarded this year’s Photo Folio Review at the Rencontres d’Arles festival. “Etymologically, ‘to manifest’ is the action of making visible. I feel that could be a beautiful definition of photography too,” says Valade.