“It all came together very organically,” says Cheryl Newman, appropriately enough for a project about small-scale, low-impact farming. Initially signed up to work on We Feed The World for 12 months, she’s ended up spending three years on the project, commissioning nearly 50 world-class photographers to shoot agriculture around the globe, including renowned image-makers such as Stefan Ruiz, Susan Meiselas, and Graciela Iturbide.
The aim of the project is simple – to shift the public perception of small-scale farming, which is often considered synonymous with subsistence farming but which in fact produces around 70% of the world’s food, according to a report by the United Nations.
“Photography is the language of our age and it has the ability to shift consciousness and effect change on a scale beyond any other form of communication,” says Newman, who was photography director of the Telegraph Magazine for more than 15 years.
“A lot of people have thought of marking the centenary,” says Tracy Marshall, director of development and partnerships at Open Eye Gallery and co-director of Northern Narrative arts initiative. “But they just haven’t managed to do it.”
We’re talking about the 209 Women initiative, in which 209 photographers are taking portraits of the 209 women MPs in the UK parliament. It does seem like a project that was asking to happen, with 2018 marking both 100 years since (some) women got the vote here, and also the year that the first female MP was elected in this country. But, with 418 photographs and politicians to co-ordinate plus many, many other stakeholders and committees, actually achieving it has been quite a feat. What’s seen it through has been teamwork, with the photographer and academic Hilary Wood, who came up with the idea, getting together with hundreds of other women – and men – to make it happen.
“It’s been a huge collaborative effort,” she says. “We had to take it to the Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art to get it approved, and we then had to ask each MP individually if they wanted to get involved. The fact that they overwhelmingly gave their support shows how relevant this project is. And what I was really pleased about was that we got cross-party support – every single party is involved.”
It’s show time for a new batch of graduates, with photographers and artists around the UK showing off the last work they’ve completed as students. The BA Photography and BA Photojournalism & Documentary Photography shows have already taken place at the London College of Communication, for example with strong portfolios by Herman Rahman and Freya Clayton-Payne, among others; the University of Westminster’s MA Documentary Photography and Photojournalism and MA Photography Arts students are showing their work at Ambika P3, London from 23-28 June, meanwhile, with new graduates including Cheryl Newman, former photography director of the Telegraph Magazine.
Free Range at London’s Old Truman Brewery, meanwhile, offers institutions based outside the UK’s capital the chance to show work in it, taking over the East London warehouses for two photography weeks – 22-25 June, and 29 June-2 July. Exhibitions are free and open from Friday-Monday both weeks, and institutions taking part include Falmouth University, Arts University of Bournemouth, and University of East London. Here BJP picks out our selection of the works that will go on show.