Aryan’s perfectly balanced street image glistens with an eerie beauty, the broken shards of glass catching the sun like diamonds in the urban rough. And the colors – strange and alluring – suggest that this is something more than a spontaneous street shot. It’s one of those images that finds splendour in the mundane. A magic in the everyday. It’s one you want to step into, and peer into the darkness…
This is a brilliantly executed portrait of a Cambodian mother and child. Doug uses the full frame to great effect, carefully balancing the composition with still and moving elements, and by stepping back he gives the viewer a window into their world, giving equal prominence to his subjects, and the life they lead. The framing is one of several clues to Doug’s craft – the lighting is elegantly controlled, and the positioning of mother and daughter in front of the dark tarpaulin is a subtly-handled way of isolating her from the corrugated iron building, and thus avoiding a muddle between her striped dress and the vertical stripes of metalwork. In his statement, Doug talks of juxtaposing the genre of precise studio portraiture with the gritty living conditions he encountered, and it’s a pairing that works wonderfully – a tender, imaginative portrait.
Dillon’s image – a glistening CGI orb placed into a crater of a rocky landscape – is undoubtedly striking and very contemporary. It’s well-executed, with the complementary colors of the rusty, shimmering ball and the bright green pool catching the eye, and the superb level of realism achieved in the shadowing and reflections. An image like this can risk falling a little flat beyond its initial wow-factor though, especially when such techniques are currently quite fashionable in photography and the digital arts. Fortunately, there is a conceptual thread to back-up the aesthetic appeal. Dillon describes in his statement how the image comes from a project about the mining industry – the landscape is a South African mine scarred by the copper extraction industry, with the ball carefully scaled to represent the 302,791 tonnes of copper removed across its operational lifetime. It’s a brilliant way of visualising something that can be fairly abstract, offering a hook to prompt questioning about environmentalism, and the merits and shortfalls of mining. It’s a layered image that both delights visually, and engages cerebraly.
This image is stunningly executed – the single window of light in a deep and uniform sea of blue repetitious geometry. We see a sprawling, lifeless (and soulless) urban canvas, with the smallest signs of human activity. It plays on ideas of modern loneliness, of loss of social connection, of feeling alone and alienated, despite being surrounded by other city dwellers. Of voyeurism and surveillance. These are grand and relatable themes for those of who live in cities. It’s a meticulous composition, and the product of scrupulous, skilful digital editing – the result is spectacular, and well worth the effort.
Hannah’s self-portrait is a bold and colourful reaction to a dark and weighty theme – the diagnosis and coming-to-terms with her Multiple Sclerosis (MS). The shot is beautifully executed, full of mesmeric tones and absorbing textures. For me at least, it speaks of being completely helpless but not without a sense of hope – a beauty that will emerge from the disorder. It’s a brave and creative response to a personal subject that I admire, as well as enjoying the result.
Michalis’ wintery portrait is incredibly striking. He describes in his statement how it’s from a series about human identity, and of loss, loneliness and isolation, whether as actual immigrants (his series is shot in Crete, where many have arrived) or in one’s own homeland. As albino, this man will be familiar with feeling different, with existing on the periphery of society, and those themes are elegantly explored here, with him gracefully shot against the snowy suburban backdrop. It channels basic ideas of survival – shelter and warmth – as well as more emotional concepts of belonging, and does so with tenderness and subtlety. It’s a memorable scene.
Does Andrin’s image from his series ‘Monument’ have a deep meaning? Probably not (he doesn’t provide a statement) and yet does it matter? It’s striking and memorable – the irregularities of nature turned satisfyingly regular. Disorder replaced with clean order. It imbues ideas of science-fiction in the scale and the bewilderment – strange and powerful. There’s certainly some missing craft – the untouched shadow not matching the distorted rocks, and the obvious ‘stretch-marks’ on the right-hand side are give-aways to the processes used – and Andrin could learn a thing or two from those that do this so well (I’m thinking the likes of Asger Carlsen and Victor Enrich, even if their subject matter is very different), but overall, this wins out on charm and impact.
What I think works so well in this image is its childlike naivety. Of course, the subject is a child, but there’s something wonderfully spontaneous and innocent in the execution – the odd framing and the unexpected focal range, the swathes of unused space. It breaks the rules and is all the more charming for it. There’s a quiet peace to the image, a reflection on the “solitude of our being” which Iris refers to in her statement. It’s beautifully nostalgic, there’s a gentle longing to it, but not in a forced way.
Frederic’s staged environmental portrait of parents and children is an exercise in controlled chaos – a wonderful interpretation of the tension between adult aesthetic taste and childish exploration and disorder. It’s perfectly framed (with careful attention to the edges) and lit, and there’s a delight in the expressions he’s elicited – the baby’s curiosity, the little girl’s confident swagger, the mother’s strength and the father’s (perhaps) exasperation. It’s a masterful shot.
LISA VAN CASAND
I was immediately pulled towards Lisa’s image. It’s beautifully structured, and the vivid reds and oranges of the leaf tips are foreign and striking. It’s a tactile, physical image and my first thought was that the fiery colors were heat prints left from human touch – a comment on our heavy-handed relationship with nature. I feel like it plays with the long and familiar tradition of still life photography (and painting) of plants and flowers, but with a bold and contemporary spin. From reading the statement, I understand that it’s the result of stressing the plant with external elements (drought, hot water, chlorine…) and then capturing the infrared energy released, normally imperceptible to the human eye. It’s a considered way of depicting that fragility – how our actions as humans can damage our environment in ways that are often invisible. Warning signs hidden and so easy to overlook. There’s a subtle irony at play too – how that damage manifests itself in something so beautiful. It’s an experimental image, borne of investigation and process, and that’s to be admired.