At first glance, the suburban district of Southall, West London seems the epitome of harmony. Home to 70,000 people, nearly half of whom were born outside the UK, it boasts Sikh Gurdwaras, Christian churches, Islamic Mosques, and Hindu temples. The dominant population is Asian, earning the area the nickname Little India and bilingual English/Punjabi signage. But for Manny Melotra, who was born in the area and still lives there, that apparent harmony is an illusion. “If you’re a resident, you know a completely different Southall,” he says.
At 28, Zsolt Ficsór is part of this new generation, using his collective, MAMA Photobooks, to help promote local artists’ self-published work. In October Ficsór brought MAMA to Photo Book London at The Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, for example, while in September, he was invited to take part in the five-day Magnum workshop at the Capa Contemporary Photography Centre in Budapest. Lead by celebrated Magnum photographers Antoine d’Agata and Matt Black, this workshop was a masterclass in developing his style of urban documentary photography, he says, which stems from his fascination with “interacting with this surreal and unreal world that we are living in right here here, right now”.
“The exhibition just becomes this transition point. There will be new artwork created by the exhibition. I think that’s exciting: it means it becomes alive. These often tragic stories will continue living in other forms, whether through painting or through music, so it’s about making the exhibition a place of life and a celebration of that life,” says Giles Duley, the photographer who has spent months travelling Europe and the Middle East to document the refugee crisis with UNHCR. Taking images from his photobook, I Can Only Tell You What I See, the display will feature artists in residence, a soundscape from Massive Attack and will host an evening supper so as visitors can sit and discuss the work and the wider problems surrounding the refugee crisis.