Author: Beth Ryan

Female in Focus: Jess T. Dugan’s empowering portraits of the ageing transgender community

When photographer Jess T. Dugan was 13, she started to question her identity. Over the next few years, she came out as queer – a process which, at the time, was isolating; there was nothing in the mainstream media that reflected her experience. In fact, she had never seen an image of a queer or gender nonconforming person at all, until she stumbled across one in a photography book – a discovery she describes as having a profound influence on her. We spoke to Dugan, who identifies as non-binary (but uses the female pronoun), in light of Female in Focus, a new award seeking to elevate exceptional work by female and non-binary photographers. Our aim is to take steps towards a more diverse and inclusive photography industry. Dugan’s work, which focuses on the untold stories of marginalised groups, encompasses the values at the heart of Female in Focus. “I think that representation – and seeing oneself represented in the larger culture – is incredibly important,” says Dugan. “Images can function as possibility models, validating an …

2019-03-14T13:43:46+01:00

A portrait of the real Brexit Britain

Documentary photographer Danyelle Rolla is proud of her roots. That much is clear from her portfolio, which reads like a guide to working-class Britain. Rolla grew up in Norris Green, one of Liverpool’s poorest towns – the type of town, she says, that the press misrepresents as a hotbed of crime and social decay. Out of frustration at this, Rolla has made it her mission to rewrite the narrative of the people and places that have shaped her, by photographing them in a more flattering light. The photograph that won Rolla Portrait of Britain 2018 captures Dotty, an older resident of Norris Green, Liverpool, outside the local pub. She is sporting a perm that might be from the Eighties, with shoulder pads to match. In fact, many of the scenes that Rolla photographs could be from other eras: from kitsch village fetes, to groups of skinheads in bomber jackets. In her playful, sometimes garish, images, she captures a Britain that seems to be longing for the past. This is the same Britain, Rolla’s photographs suggest, …

2019-04-11T11:46:15+01:00

A Portrait of Queer Britain

Britain, for all its charms, can be dominated by grey skies and gloomy headlines. So it’s uplifting to come across the work of Charley Williams, whose portraits of drag queens and LGBTQ party-goers show Britain as the joyful and free place it can be. Her work is rooted in Bristol, where she lives. This small city, in England’s West Country, is famous for being progressive, and it has a vibrant and liberating spirit that abounds in Williams’ work. Dominique Fleek, the image that made the Portrait of Britain 2018 shortlist, captures a drag artist transforming into character. Williams tends to find her subjects in nightclubs and at festivals, and as such, her portraits explore a queer and carnivalesque world. Ahead of Portrait of Britain 2019, we spoke to Williams about how photography can tackle intolerance and can move us towards becoming a more open and accepting society. What did you want to capture about your subject, and about modern Britain, with the portrait that you entered into Portrait of Britain 2018? The subject of my …

2019-03-04T13:00:54+01:00

Portrait of Britain: Carly Clarke on documenting a life-changing journey

Documentary photographer Carly Clarke has shot a remarkable array of subjects. One of her projects explores the modern epidemic of India’s ‘forgotten elders’, a generation neglected and abused by their adult children. An earlier project, in contrast, explores the lighter topic of a Sussex brewery, while a third gives a behind-the-scenes view of a group of UK fishermen at work. Though her subjects differ hugely, the common thread is Clarke’s fascination with the way communities live across the globe. Clarke creates her most compelling portraits, however, when she turns the camera on herself. Last Day of Chemotherapy, the image that was shortlisted for Portrait of Britain 2018, is part of her series Reality Trauma. Clarke started the series after being diagnosed with cancer, and the result is an unflinchingly honest stage-by-stage account of her chemotherapy treatment. This deeply personal, contemplative work, is proof of Clarke’s absolute dedication to photography, the art form that gave her hope during an extremely challenging time. The image that was shortlisted for Portrait of Britain 2018 is a self-portrait taken …

2019-04-11T11:45:36+01:00

“Incredible and inspiring”: stories of success from Portrait of Britain

Portrait of Britain 2019 is open for entries. Now in its fourth year, the groundbreaking award has grown an enormous following both at home and abroad; last year, it was featured across international media outlets, from The Guardian to Sky News. Portrait of Britain is now the largest exhibition of its kind in the UK, and each year 100 winning images are displayed on outdoor screens right across the country, with 200 shortlisted images collated into a Portrait of Britain book. Calling for portraits that capture the face of a nation in a historic moment, the award is set apart by both its unique scale and its timely subject matter. The kind of exposure that Portrait of Britain brings is invaluable for photographers. But how does it actually feel to be included in the biggest exhibition of contemporary portrait photography the UK has ever seen? To have your work celebrated in the press and on TV? And to be featured in a hardback book that people across the globe will cherish for years? We spoke …

2019-03-01T10:02:37+01:00

Calling all photographers to enter Portrait of Britain 2019

“These magnificent photographs capture at once the great diversity and the inescapable identity of the British people,” writes Will Self, in his introduction to the Portrait of Britain 2018 book, “Gay, straight, bisexual and non-normative; male, female and non-binary; old, young and in between – how can it be that these – every one a compelling identity in its own right — are nonetheless trumped by a Britishness as heavy and irresistible as a Dundee fruit cake?” Portrait of Britain – the biggest, most inclusive photography event in the country – is back. Now in its fourth edition, the award will again culminate in a nationwide exhibition, with the winning images displayed on JCDecaux screens in public spaces across the country. Following the success of the Portrait of Britain book, which we created for the first time last year, we will compile 200 shortlisted images into a book, to be published by Hoxton Mini Press and distributed across the globe. Since its inception in 2016, Portrait of Britain’s profile has grown exponentially. Last year it …

2019-02-15T10:44:39+01:00

Meet Hakan Kalkan, our Portrait of Humanity People’s Choice Winner

Hakan Kalkan has been featured as one of The Guardian Editor’s Picks of the best Portrait of Humanity entries so far, but it took a while for him to discover his aptitude for portraiture. The Istanbul-based Turkish / British photographer nurtured an amateur interest in photography alongside a career in finance, but he initially focussed on landscapes. Gradually, his interest shifted to portraiture, and he now uses his camera to tell people’s stories. The image that our British Journal of Photography followers voted as their favourite of The Guardian Editor’s Picks show a young Turkish boy tending to the rams on his family’s farm. It’s bright and busy, and a perfect example of what Kalkan calls ‘capturing the soul of moment’. We spoke to Kalkan about the story behind the picture, and what being part of Portrait of Humanity would mean to him. Can you tell me about the photograph you entered into Portrait of Humanity? What is the story behind it? Turkey is a large and diverse country, and I’ve been trying to capture …

2019-01-11T11:48:26+01:00

Meet Fabiana Nunes, our Portrait of Humanity People’s Choice Winner

Fabiana Nunes is a Brazilian photographer based in Zurich, Switzerland. Having worked in the fashion industry for years, she frequently jets off to glamorous locations (including Paris, London, and New York) to cover industry parties as well as concerts, festivals and nightlife. Her favourite subject, however, is everyday life. The image that The Guardian editors picked as one of their favourite Portrait of Humanity entries shows a mother and child collecting shells on a Tanzanian beach. Though a daily routine for the subjects, it was an unusual scene for Nunes, who spends most of her days in hectic European cities. This encapsulates Portrait of Humanity’s motto: what’s ordinary to you may be extraordinary to someone else. We spoke to Nunes about the story behind the picture, and what being part of Portrait of Humanity would mean to her. What are your key interests as a photographer? I have always dreamed of visiting the places I’ve seen in pictures. My favourite subject is the diversity that I find while travelling around the globe. For me, photography …

2019-01-11T15:45:26+01:00

Meet Leander Varekamp, our Portrait of Humanity People’s Choice Winner

Portrait of Humanity provides photographers with the chance to share portraits of everyday life around the world, with the world. The aim is to explore and celebrate the many faces of humanity. That’s also the aim of Holland-based documentary photographer Leander Varekamp, whose image was selected by The Guardian editors as one of their favourite Portrait of Humanity entries so far, and voted by our followers as their favourite of the picks. The image, a crisp black & white portrait, is part of a series on Burrneshas – Albanian women who have chosen to live their lives as men. With only a few dozen Burrneshas left, the tradition is quickly dying out, and Varekamp is using portraiture to ensure that this little-known phenomenon is not forgotten completely. Since Varekamp discovered a talent for photography at the age of 17, he has used his camera as a means of investigating communities – such as Burrneshas – that intrigue him. As he puts it, ‘the camera opens doors that would otherwise remain closed’. We spoke to Varekamp …

2019-01-10T13:11:23+01:00

Portrait of Humanity: The Anonymous Project is restoring our collective memory, one colour slide at a time

When filmmaker Lee Shulman bought a box of vintage slides from Ebay, he was hoping for some blurry snaps to flick through on a Sunday afternoon, and maybe a picture or two to keep. But when they arrived, ‘I nearly fell off my seat.’  What he saw amazed him: here were hundreds of snapshots of strangers’ lives. The poses were instantly recognisable: children grinning over birthday cakes, couples squinting on the beach – the simple magic of unstaged life, captured in rich Kodachrome colour. The price of colour photography plummeted in the early Fifties, allowing people to snap away with newfound freedom. But the chemicals that produce the slides fade over time. If the photos were to disappear, then with them so would the memories of our collective human experience – and Shulman didn’t want to let that happen. With the help of a friend, photo publisher Emmanuelle Halkin, Shulman created The Anonymous Project. A Paris-based nonprofit, its aim is ambitious: to collect, scan and catalogue all colour slides produced since the Fifties. Since starting …

2019-01-10T13:09:57+01:00

BJP Staff