The world right now is a strange place to navigate, making sense of our surroundings can feel like a full-time job. With an increasingly volatile media landscape and a toxic fake news climate, the role of the documentarian is more important than ever before. Supporting and celebrating the next generation of photographers is a necessity.
The prestigious annual Magnum Graduate Photographers Award sees ten of the best emerging photographers who’ve recently completed a photographic degree course in the UK given their due recognition. The subjects captured by this year’s winners are as diverse as ever: Jamaican dancehall in the midlands of England, drought on the American West Coast, the fleeting innocence of young womanhood.
The finalists win mentoring from a Magnum photographer, as well as a portfolio review and a presentation at Photo London. Here the photographers explain, in their own words, the work that’s been picked out as the very best of a new generation. They’ll be the names to watch now and for years to come.
Carl Bigmore – There It Is. Take It.
‘There It Is. Take It.’ weaves the past, present and possible future to explore California’s relationship with water, climate change and possible migration on the west coast of America.
Much has been made of the drought gripping California in recent years; the impact on the state’s huge agricultural industry and the plummeting levels of its vast network of dams is well documented. It is part of the fabric of everyday life, but is also a narrative submerged in the state’s history and mythology.
Traveling along the waterways of California and into the Pacific Northwest the project builds a narrative based around water and drought; how the decline of the environment reflects a much broader decline in contemporary American society; the corrosion of the American Dream and the people that this is impacting upon. As the narrative progresses images of every day life shift to form an epilogue of the possible future; a landscape and its people on the brink.
Georgs Avetisjans – The Longest Village in the Country
Homeland is a story about the sea, land and memory in the longest village in the country and also of how time affects and changes our sense of place. It is a multi-layered narrative within a self-published book in 2016 and serves a nostalgic representation of the place and also its recent history from World War II until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 via interviews, notes and archival imagery.
As the curtain fell, the local economy changed, and in 2004, upon joining the EU, it changed again. These historical shifts made a huge impact on the society and its dreams, many of which the younger generations abandoned.
Kazuma Obara – Exposure
This series of pictures represent the last 30 years of the life of an invisible girl who has been affected by the Chernobyl disaster. Five months after the world’s worst nuclear accident happened in 1986 at the Chernobyl nuclear site, a girl, Mariia, was born in Kiev which is located 10 km south of Chernobyl. Her disability which have been caused by chronic thyroiditis is not obvious to the other people. Her scar is invisible and nobody can understand her harsh life without explanation.
The title ‘Exposure’ has triple meaning. As a technical term of photography it means to expose a photographic film to light. The term also signifies to reveal an unknown fact to the public. And last but not least, the exposure to radiation caused by the Chernobyl nuclear accident. Just as Mariia’s existence remained obscure and her stories did not see the light of day, the film I used for this project were kept in the darkness for thirty years with radioactive materials in Pripyat. I, as a photographer, pour the light into the exposed film to reveal her existence to the world.
Lua Ribeira – Noises in the Blood
Noises in the blood is a photographic work inspired by the Jamaican dancehall ritual, that I started to produce in the beginning of 2015 in the British city of Birmingham. The work reflects on the representation of a different cultural expression, embracing the impossibility of fully understanding it, and dealing with the limitations of photographic representation in this pursuit. The result has become a collection of photographs fruit of a cultural collision and collaborative process between myself and a group of British Jamaican women.
In the Dancehall celebrations occurs a spectacular representation of Jamaican identity, where performance, ritual and self-expression reach high levels of sophistication. I do not intend the images to comment on this ritual, but to become the ritual itself. It is an aura of particular mysticism, an idealisation of the colours and the power of their transformations, the reasons why women are more innovative and provocative, with manners that often clash with Western ideas of femininity.
Matthew Broadhead – Heimr
An interaction with geology, astronomy and photography as critical subjects developed to encompass history, mythology, religion and technology in Iceland. The story of Heimr started in 2016, between the fiftieth anniversaries of scientific field-trips organised by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey. Groups of U.S. astronauts and personnel from both government agencies arrived in Iceland in 1965 and 1967.
NASA considered Iceland to be “Probably the most moon-like of the field areas” in a document that functioned as a field-training schedule, and it’s clear that they were allies in human exploration. This relationship was made tangible in an address in June 1967 from the Icelandic president at that time Ásgeir Ásgeirsson. In writing he gave the astronauts a warm welcome to Iceland shortly before their rendezvous at Keflavík International Airport where the U.S. military had a base from World War II until 2006 as the U.S. Navy and NATO.
Michael Vince Kim – Aenikkaeng
aenikkaeng /ɛ.ni.kɛ͈ŋ/ n. [Korean 애니깽; from Spanish henequén.] a Mexican agave found chiefly in Yucatán, used especially in making twine and rope.
In 1905, around 1,000 Koreans arrived in Mexico aboard the SS Ilford. They had departed an impoverished country falling under the crutches of the Japanese Empire, and were promised future prosperity in a paradisiac land. However, once they arrived in Yucatan, they were sold off as indentured servants. They were set to work in henequen plantations under harsh conditions, harvesting an agave known as Yucatan’s green gold. They worked side-by-side with local Mayans, often learning the Mayan language in preference to the Spanish of their masters, and many went on to marry local Mayans.
By the time their contract ended in 1910, Korea had already been incorporated into the Japanese Empire. With no homeland to return to, they decided to stay in Mexico. Some went on to seek work elsewhere in Mexico and in Cuba.
Taking from stories told by the descendants of Korean henequen workers in Mexico and Cuba, this project provides a poetic account of their memories.
Monica Alcazar-Duarte – The New Colonists
My work uses ambiguity and tests the relationship between context, interconnection and conclusion. I believe that the more we embrace ‘contradiction’ as an integral part of how we experience the world, the more we can understand and challenge the highly complex web behind some of the issues that we face today.
My work draws attention to how much we all need to develop a more ‘curatorial gaze’.
The work consists of a series of UK scientist’s portraits which are part of a 100-person worldwide shortlist of candidates for a one-way trip to Mars in 2030, in conjunction with everyday mundane images from a little town called Mars, USA, and film clips on the activity that may take place in Earth’s lower orbit. The film clips are embedded in the images and are accessed via an App specially designed for the project.
Sam Ivin – Lingering Ghosts
What does it mean to be an asylum seeker in the UK? This was the starting point of Ivin’s research, which began at a drop in centre in Cardiff, Wales and continued all over England. It seeks to raise questions about how the UK’s migration system treats those who arrive in our country seeking safety.
Once arrived in the UK, these people find themselves in a state of limbo, having to await news of their application for asylum for months or even years. They become Lingering Ghosts.These physically scratched portraits attempt to convey the the cruel loss of self, and the frustration that befalls them as they wait to learn their fate.
Despite being represented without their eyes, these people do have an identity and we recognise them as fathers, mothers, sons and daughters. Human beings after all.
Sian Davey – Martha
‘Why don’t you photograph me anymore?’ This is what Martha said to me in response to my camera being focused so often on her sister Alice. It took me by surprise. I wasn’t aware that she would care, but clearly she did.
The work began when Martha was 16 years of age, a time when a child is on that cusp of being and becoming a woman. It’s a particular period of time, when for a brief period you are both a young woman and child in the same body, before the child leaves and the young woman stands on her own to meet the world. It’s a complex and potentially confusing time.
During this period of transition, there is a very short human space when a person can behave free of the weight of societal expectations and norms. Before long that window closes and we can easily forget how it felt to be ‘untethered’.
But the work is also, inevitably, about Martha and myself. I am always there as the photographer, as her step- mother, as mentor and friend, but where I am and where I place myself become a more questioning issue as she grows and moves further away from her childhood. The exchange of looks between us, that complex reflected gaze, begins to shift as she tries to define her own sense of self, to decide who she is becoming.
Martin Seeds – Assembly
After a decades of street violence, bombings, shootings, thousands of deaths, psychological trauma, tribal politics and a large British military presence the 1998 Good Friday Agreement brought peace to Northern Ireland. One of the outcomes of the peace agreement was the creation of a local parliament, the Assembly, which attempts to bring together all rival communities to jointly govern the province.
The Assembly consists of a coalition of members elected by proportional representation. All elected parties have to take part of the Assembly in order for it to function – everyone has to have a say or no one does. In reality the Assembly consists of single identity parties who, for the most part, have antagonistic agendas – either nationalist and for the unification of Ireland or unionist and against a reunification.
‘Assembly’ is a body of work set in the Stormont Estate, the home of the Northern Ireland Assembly. The work uses the power of photography to generate allegory – letting the plants, trees and foliage deliver a message from the grounds surrounding the Northern Ireland parliament building about the struggles embedded in a polarised and fragile political landscape.
The Magnum Graduate Photo Award 2017 is a collaboration between Magnum Photos and Photo London, supported by RBB Economics.