The Free Range 2009 Art & Design Degree Shows are exhibiting currently at the Old Truman Brewery and other smaller galleries off Hanbury Street in London until mid July. Now in its 9th year the Free Range exhibition is a showcase for graduates from all over the UK to display their work. It’s a great place to discover the talent of the future in every medium of Art & Design. Each week features different disciplines, from graphic design, contemporary art, photography and architecture. I visited the first of two photographic weeks featuring photography from colleges all over the UK.
The gallery spaces are interesting, the largest being housed in the old converted brewery, all painted white, or off white with age. The gallery space is divided up into large areas for each college or university. The work itself is a real mixed bag, anything from large individual images to tiny small Polaroid pictures, all with a story to tell.
All the work on show this year was of a high standard throughout and there was little to disappoint. Despite a comment I overheard saying that it’s, “all been done before”, I felt there was some real thought and energy in some of the panels on show. It is all too easy to criticise, and you must not lose sight of the fact that the work on show is from graduates; young men and women with fresh eyes that are probably seeing and recording things through their camera for the first time.
If you remember my article about the show last year, I featured the work of Zemamnesh Campbell whose portraits of women in various costumes and poses were superb. This year I was fortunate to spot several panels worth featuring, all portraits that I felt had something to say. They are nearly all shot against a black background, which was not planned I assure you, and a complete coincidence, but I have to say it does create a more intimate and interesting portrait. Of course this is only a snapshot of the exhibition and as I said the quality of work throughout the show was brilliant.
Each of the four students featured told me about their work and the inspiration behind it. Four very different ideas that produced a range of fine portraits using very different camera formats – from 5x4 to 35mm and digital.
It was very interesting to hear the stories behind the images; the themes and emotions that each photographer was trying to convey. But, they are images after all and no words should be necessary to justify them. That’s why I chose this selection, because they are all fine images in their own right, whether or not you know the photographers intentions. Knowing the inspiration of the photographer does put the work in context of course, but the images stand up for themselves.
The first work that I saw was a very striking series of portraits showing ex members of the armed forces shot by Emily Harris. Emily is 21 and has attended the UCA at Farnham for the last 3 years. Emily told me:
“The project started with great influence from formal military portraiture found in Officers’ Mess’. I began by visiting a pub in Aldershot and started to talk to veterans about their experiences and how they found the transition between army life and ‘civvie’ street life, an experience that they told me was often very hard. The stories were told to me mostly at the pub, but aesthetically, when it came to decipher how to represent these guys in the right way for me personally, I decided on a black background as I wanted no distractions in the image so that the focus could remain on pride. Another reason I chose to exclude the pub was to remove the possibility of the veterans not being taken seriously.”
Emily’s portraits were shot with a Cambo 5x4 camera with a 180mm lens and to light her subjects she used Bowens Esprit lights with a soft box. All the images were shot in a very confined space at the back of the pub in Aldershot. I think you will agree that Emily has captured the pride and dignity of these men beautifully.
You can contact Emily Harris via her website at. www.emily-harris.co.uk
I found the work of Jeannie Berridge very, very interesting and she has kindly let us show three of her portraits here. Jeannie is a mature student in her 40’s who is on a full time foundation degree course in Photography and Digital Printing at Amersham and Wycombe College. The inspiration for her series of portraits ‘Parental Choice’ was from one photograph from the ‘Heads’ series by Philip-Lorca di Corcia. Jeannie said:
“I wanted my project to show how people who had a close connection, for example parent and child, can actually appear quite contrasting. I wanted to show it from a perspective of affection which is why the couples are looking at each other, rather that at the camera.”
Jeannie shot these images with a Canon EOS 50D digital SLR with a 24-105mm lens at f11, using Bowens Gemini 500’s with a silver brolly for a main light, the background lit with a reflector, honeycomb and barn doors. I liked the combinations of the subjects and agree with Jeannie that her subjects don’t need to be looking at the camera to create a fine image.
You can contact Jeannie Berridge via her web site at. www.jeannieberridgephotography.com
Another panel that caught my eye was the work of Nicola Litson. Nicola is 22 and studied at the University for the Creative Arts in Maidstone where she has just completed her BA (Hons) degree in Photography and Media Arts. In the summer of 08 Nicola arranged an internship with a commercial photographer that helped her focus her talent towards the fashion and beauty industry. When I asked her about her work, she said:
“I have dedicated the last year to enhancing my photographic and retouching skills and have been able to build up a portfolio of substantial work that I’m proud of. My passion lies within the freedom of creativity within my images; you open yourself to the element of surprise when photographing a new model, to achieving an outcome that you may not have expected. This is the beauty of photography.”
I also asked Nicola about the future. “At the moment I am regularly shooting new material in order to heighten the standard of my portfolio, as quality and consistency throughout my photographs is vital in pursuing a career in the beauty and fashion industry.”
Here are the images that I saw at the exhibition, I think they show great promise. Nicola shot these images using a Mamiya RZ67 with a Leaf Valeo back. To light the images she used Bowens Gemini 500’s with various accessories including a beauty dish, Softlite reflector and softbox. I also like the way that Nicola has cropped the images to create real impact.
You can contact Nicola Litson via her web site at. www.nicolalitson.co.uk
Madeleine Zilke is a BA (Hons) student from Amersham and Wycombe College and she is studying Photography and Digital Imaging. The series of 6 portraits’ I saw at the Free Range show were quite stunning and I asked Madeleine about the work, this is what she had to say:
“Reminiscing (2009) is a series of six portraits that raise questions rather than answers. The subjects reminisce about past achievements and viewers are invited to make their own assumptions about character, career and identity. The body of work explores body language, facial expression and gesture in communication. However, the content of conversation is trivial. The performative nature of the photographs seems genuine and gives us a sense of intimacy. My subjects are aware of me, the photographer, and my camera, yet we get a sense of an idiosyncratic and genuine representation of an individual’s private moment. The work is meant to inspire the viewers to assess and explore the hidden truths of the individual.”
All the images were taken with a Hasselblad 503 CW with a 70mm lens and Madeleine used Kodak Portra 160NC, a film that she feels gives her the most accurate definition in terms of colour and skin tone. All the images were shot in peoples homes, so Madeleine set up a Bowens lighting kit using a soft box and honeycomb to achieve the very intimate lighting that works so well. The black background was achieved without a backdrop or Photoshop, just very intelligent use of lighting and a small f stop. I liked the use of lighting in these images which has certainly created the intimate look that Maddie was aiming for.
You can contact Madeleine Zilke via her web site at. www.ByMadddie.com
Please let me know what you think of these images via my email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note all the images in this piece are shown with the kind permission of each photographer. The copyright of these images belongs to the photographer and they cannot to be used without the written consent of the photographer.
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