Photo Stroll – Jessica Morris selects her favourite photo series from Ideastap Photographic Awards with Magnum Photos 2013

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Ideastap Photographic Awards with Magnum Photos 2013

Thanks to recently-graduated BA photo student Jessica Morris for this write up of the  Ideastap Photographic Awards with Magnum Photos 2013. I managed to grab an hour with her at the show before heading off and it was fab to see some very strong work on show. Thanks to Jess for taking the time to review the works, take some snaps and choose some of her favourites. I leave you with Jess.

Jess Morris: On the evening of Halloween (31 October) a crowd of photography enthusiasts, professionals and creatives gathered to celebrate the works of 18 photographers all hoping to go through to the next stage of an illustrious competition. Ideastap and Magnum Photos offer an incredible opportunity with the aim of uncovering and rewarding those with talent and the ability to demonstrate a unique outlook and understanding of the photographic medium.

The judges had to choose 18 from 600 entries to take part in the show and then select nine (three from each age category) to receive £1,500 with three eventually receiving £5000, plus two internships for two young photographers. The age categories are 16-22; 23-30; and 31+ with no upper age limit. Each artist was required to submit four images as a series.

The event was held at Mother London, Shoreditch, which is a great space to exhibit works and despite the great turn out it never felt too crowded to be able to stand and leisurely ponder each image. Before the winners were announced, I looked at each photographer’s work and chose a few that stood out for me although all of the work was of a high standard.

16-22 category Clementine Schneidermann with a project about the lives of burlesque dancers.
“My project aims to shed light on who these women are beyond their three-minute routines. With both evocative and still pictures, I intend to portray a hidden perspective on this environment – one which usually represents women only as an object of desire and destitute of sensibility.”
Of the four portraits, two were ambiguous, in terms of the anonymity of the subjects, while the others were bold. The portrait that stood out from the set, however, was of a scantily-clad curvaceous woman sitting on what is perhaps her own bed at home with her cat. She is adjusting a flamboyant headdress with royal blue plummage, which matches her beaded, nipple tassels and what little we can see of her decorative knickers. The woman looks poised and confident, and her expression is full of determination. The lighting is soft and natural and there is a consistency in the colour pallete used in this set.

23-30 category Kotryna Ula Kiliulyte’s series is about a secluded village in Lithuania with only five residents and is as beautiful as it is haunting.
“Population 5 is a project about the place in transition. Dubininkai (the village) is a setting for memories of the past and quiet anticipation about an uncertain future.”  – K.U
There is an overwhelming air of melancholy about the images and the washed out organic colors adds to the bleakness. Of note is a portrait of an old lady sitting on a bench looking out into the distance amidst an unkempt field and stream.

Lee Price
His series ‘Sex with Strangers’ explored the lingering social stigma surrounding homosexual promiscuity and how many people still feel threatened or scared of being ostracized enough to conceal their actions within the realms of secret set ups.
“Sex with strangers delves into the underground world of gay cruising areas and bathhouses, viewed as a product of society’s considerably negative perception of homosexuality.” – L.P
Price’s photographs stood out for me because of how completely unique and brave they were. There was no consistency in the colors, nor did there need to be. Each image stood alone as a powerful statement and all four worked together to create a strong set of images There were two voyeuristic shots; one taken through a gloryhole in a wall, through which we can make out the lower body of a person; the next image is of a male threesome in a park, two of the participants are out of focus and almost look as if they’ve been painted on. The most powerful of the set is taken from a ground point of view of two pairs of male feet in one cubicle. The bottom of the toilet door is in view at the top of the image and the shadow from this frames it perfectly. The idea is simple and yet effective.

Owen Harvey project is called ‘Mod UK’ and is based around his interest in the current UK Mod scene.
“The word Mod is short for modernist, which would indicate something new and exciting, although the subculture is based on something that first existed in the late 1950’s. Due to this the images try to hold a timeless quality to them, with no real indications to a time period in which they were made.” – O.W
Harvey chose to shoot in black and white for this project – and rightly so. This could have looked gimmicky, but the velvet blacks and crisp white tones worked well with his choice of lighting. The pairing of a single portrait with a portrait of a couple worked too. All four boasted excellent composition, not to mention subject matter.

Robert Omerod‘s project ‘Doomen’
Doo flying is a Scottish historical pastime still practiced today whereby people train birds and set out to catch neighbor’s birds in a sort of game.
“Parents introduce the past time in the hope of keeping their children out of trouble. For the young, doo-flying provides focus, structure and a reason to stay off the street in areas where crime, substance abuse and teen pregnancy are high.” – R.O
The portrait that stood out was a shot of a man lying on a bed in a dimly lit room with a dove or white pigeon on his chest. It’s the simplicity that is rather beautiful here as are the tones of grey and lilac. Again, the series worked well being split into two pairs of images

From the 31+ category there were three leading ladies:
Denise Myers
“Rather than focusing directly on the geographical sites of conflict, or the physical brutalities of battle, ‘All England Waits’ offers the audience an opportunity to reflect on the realities of war from the perspective of the Women who are left behind. The work brings together text and imagery in a poetic response to actual history; it articulates something of the experience of women in wartime, yet also transcends this context to speak more generally about love and the fear of loss.” – D.M
‘All England Waits’ was about the harsh realities of war for women in WW2 who had been left behind by loved ones. Myers combines love letters she found in the Imperial War Museum with images taken in places related to the letters. The photographs are soft landscapes full of nostalgia and loss. The artist clearly has an eye for composition and has chosen elegant natural pastel shades to emulate an air of feminine longing. Denise mentions an interesting fact that there was an increase of 40,000 weddings in the first year of the war.

Abbie Traylor-Smith is no stranger to the photography world and with her series ‘The Big O’ it’s not hard to see why.
“The psychological effects of being fat in a society valuing thinness above all else concern me more than the obvious health effects. Being overweight or obese is deemed to be self inflicted, or even a lifestyle choice, and the ‘culprit’ labeled, fat, lazy, greedy, thick. Obesity has taken over from cancer as the thing to fear, he big ‘O’, with its stigma and discrimination following the overweight from the schoolyard to the workplace and beyond.” – A.T.S
This body of work explores the complex world of children being affected by obesity in today’s society. The work was not only a study into the lives of others but also a confrontation for the artist herself with issues she had previously buried about how obesity blighted her teens. There are two strong portraits, however the one of a girl with wet blond hair wearing a grey vest stood out for me. Her hair blends in with the long dry grass in the background and her vest with the concrete fence post by which she stands. She looks troubled and somewhat forlorn and the gloomy clouds above her loom.

Last, but certainly not least, is my favorite series by Aletheia Casey’s ‘The Disappearance of Lake Urmia, Iran’
“In 2012 it was suggested by environmental experts that in order to save Lake Urmia from drying completely water should be pumped all the way from the Caspian Sea to the Lake. It seems to many that this may be the only chance of saving Lake Urmua from drying totally and becoming a massive ecological disaster.” – A.C
This is a project surrounding how the said lake, which used to nourish the local wildlife and nature, has now been hugely jeopardized by irrigation and the building of dams. The lake is emptying out at a worrying rate and could one day disappear completely. It is not only the wildlife that is being affected by the changes, but the people of the surrounding villages are worried that dangerous salt and dust will plague them when this happens. Casey has photographed some of these people in their habitat and the landscapes they have grown up with.
This series stood out for me. Firstly, because of the truly beautiful indigo palette, complemented by rich tones of pink, red, orange and green; you can almost touch, taste and smell what you are seeing. Secondly, each image was flawless in choice of subject matter and each stood alone as excellent examples of documentary photography. Where others may have put together four strong portraits, Casey displayed maturity in her varied approach. The most aesthetically pleasing of the bunch, if I had to pick just one, is a portrait of a young girl in front of a lake. She is wrapped up in a pink coat and old-fashioned headscarf which is in stark contrast to the mystical lake in the background, which frames her perfectly. The girl’s expression is hypnotizing; your gaze is drawn to her furrowed brow and her troubled deep indigo eyes.

To find out who went through to the final round, visit the Ideastap website.

Chaired by IdeasTap chairman Peter De Haan, the judging panel consisted of Stuart Franklin, Magnum photographer; Amy Christian, Stories, Film and Photography Project Manager at Oxfam; Fiona Rogers, Cultural and Education Manager at Magnum Photos; Ben Edwards, photographer and MA Photojournalism course leader at the University of Westminster, and Emma Bowkett, Photo Editor at the Financial Times FT Weekend Magazine.

2 responses to “Photo Stroll – Jessica Morris selects her favourite photo series from Ideastap Photographic Awards with Magnum Photos 2013

  1. Pingback: aletheiacasey

  2. Pingback: Review of Exhibition at Mother Gallery as part of the Magnum and Ideastap Photographic Award | aletheiacasey

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