WORDS BY: SARAH WILLIAMS
EST READ TIME: 4M
End of year shows for photography graduates are a vital stepping stone into a career in the industry. But if you graduated during the pandemic, the chances are you were stripped of the opportunity to showcase your work and meet valuable new contacts.
Celebrity photographer Rankin wanted to give 40 graduate photographers from different universities and backgrounds an opportunity to showcase their work at Visual Noise – the first art fair dedicated solely to the nation’s diverse emerging photography talent.
Visual Noise Curator Ellen Stone says of the fair “The reason we’re such strong advocates for diverse voices to be heard, and for giving them the chance to compete early on in their careers, is because if we support diverse artists now we can shape what representation looks like across the art market of the future.” We couldn’t agree more.
We spoke to Rankin and some of the talented photographers chosen to exhibit about their work, how they got through the pandemic and what they’re hoping to gain from the show.
RANKIN: WHAT WAS YOUR MOTIVATION BEHIND SETTING UP VISUAL NOISE?
The idea of giving back and collaborating with younger photographers is always invigorating to me. I had been discussing doing some form of fair or festival with Ellen and she suggested that we do something around graduate students who hadn’t got the opportunity to show during the pandemic. I immediately thought it was a good idea and we began the process of putting it together.
WHAT DO YOU HOPE PEOPLE WILL GET FROM THE EXHIBITION?
Inspiration and a bit of excitement. The world needs positivity like that right now and I think this show offers that.
WE HEAR YOU WERE INUNDATED WITH APPLICANTS. WHAT SURPRISED OR DELIGHTED YOU THE MOST ABOUT THOSE WHO SUBMITTED WORK?
It’s fresh. Fresh perspectives and lots of brilliant topics are being covered. Also there is fantastic level of quality!
HOW DO YOU HOPE THIS EXHIBITION WILL BE ABLE TO HELP THE PHOTOGRAPHERS INVOLVED?
Looking at new photographers and what they’re up to is as important to me as celebrating the talent of the past. So doing a project like this is always very rewarding as well as trying to be supportive. Exposure obviously and feedback from industry professionals. We’re really keen for art buyers, curators, creative directors and commissioners to come to the show. That’s the goal!
But how did the photographers involved feel about the experience of the past few years and this opportunity to finally exhibit their work? We speak to Mathushaa Sagthidas, Safeen James, and Katie McCraw.
HOW DID THE PANDEMIC AFFECT YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY PRACTICE?
MATHUSHAA: The pandemic completely changed my process and what I create. It was stressful and confusing, but I grew a love for still life and self-portrait work as well as collaborating more creatively with my mum on projects.
SAFEEN: I think it affected my practice in a positive way, even though I didn’t feel like it at the time. I was pushed to think of ways that I could carry on creating – despite the physical restrictions. For example, my final major project at uni required an IRL shoot and of course, on this side of the world a good many of us couldn’t even leave our houses! So, my next resort was calling on some great creatives in Nigeria and I ended up directing a shoot that happened there, all the way from my home in the UK.
HOW DID YOU MAINTAIN MOMENTUM & MOTIVATION?
SAFEEN: I thought about what I would do if I didn’t create things and the answer is nothing. I get really itchy fingers if I don’t have a project to chew on. So, the thought of doing nothing scares me.
MATHUSHAA: Honestly it was the determination to get through university and complete the course – this drive is something that I have not let go since graduating in 2021.
TELL US ABOUT THE WORK YOU’RE EXHIBITING.
KATIE: Sheila is an alternative archival project, layering family photographs from 1927 to 1970 with landscapes shot from moving vehicles in 2020-21. It questions Western concepts of time and history and embraces the hallucinatory nature of memory. I was particularly interested in seeing images of my late-grandmother, Sheila, who died when I was twelve, as I have few recollections of her
SAFEEN: I’m exhibiting photographs taken for cult brand EIGHTY%. Their values include recognising the need to continuously grow, and acknowledging that the best can get better. These are the feelings that are explored through the images in the exhibition.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE OTHERS TO TAKE FROM YOUR WORK?
MATHUSHAA: A genuine and authentic glimpse into a life of south Asian/Tamil artist and person. Some of these are a reflection on history and heritage: showcasing an embracing and a reclaiming our culture.
KATIE: The work is a leap into the actuality of fantasy in my own life, and one that I hope will challenge others to consider the collective ambiguity and madness of this world.
SAFEEN: I want people to be given a fresh perspective on young black men, to see them through my eyes and theirs [black men] as bold, powerful and relentless.
AND WHAT ARE YOU HOPING TO GAIN FROM THE EXHIBITION?
KATIE: I hope to network with and be inspired by other artists and industry professionals, as well as showcase my work and connect with people who are intrigued by my practice
MATHUSHAA: I’m hoping to meet more and more talented creatives and industry people to showcase the capabilities of south Asian creatives.
VISUAL NOISE OPENS ON SATURDAY 9TH APRIL UNTIL SUNDAY 10TH APRIL
(10:00 – 18.00)
MARYLAND STUDIO, 29 MARYLAND ROAD, LONDON, E15 1JB
TICKETS ARE AVAILABLE HERE