The Jerwood Photography Award this year is a stunning example as to the standard of emergent graduate talent in the UK. Standards are high, clarity, definition and a broad array of subject matter is approached in sensitive and creative fashions. When walking about the Jerwood Space, one cannot help but feel in awe of the talent and dedication of these young artists
Selectors for the 2008 Jerwood Photography Awards were: Dewi Lewis, Director, Dewi Lewis Publishing (Chair of Panel); Gloria Chalmers, Editor of Portfolio Magazine; Neeta Madahar, Visual Artist; David Scull, Director of Hoopers Gallery, London; and Marta Weiss, Curator of Photographs, Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
The work can be seen as an example of how the standard of photography in the UK is rising ever higher. The work of Kurt Tong and his images of the desolate yet intriguing Communist Era People’ s Parks are an example of the thoughtful and political ways in which artists today are working and provide inspiration for the ways in which photography can be used as a vehicle of social comment critique.
In contrast the work of Nicky Walsh and studies of mundane office objects in pale, minimalist and pure form allow the viewer to begin to appreciate the value and beauty that can be seen in the mundane. Such clarity can also be observed in the works of Alice Myers and her stunning series; Rocket (2008). Hung in such a way that the viewer could allow themselves to think they are watching a series of young hopefuls embark on a swimming race, the vivid blue tones allow us to dive further into a sea of deeper meanings, raising questions as to the fading of youth, sudden independence and the realities of making it on your own in a the stormy sea that is modern life.
The sultry dark works of Martina Lindqvist allow us again to be transported to another world. The artists work is deceptive and cunning. Playing with our eyes and initial perceptions, only on subtle revelation do we realise that the image we are viewing is indeed part staged model, creating illusion and multilayered meaning as to levels of transparency and depths of reality and perception. Disconcerted and satisfied with the high quality of her work, I was pleased then to compare such dulcet tones to the high colour and detailed clarity of Ladykiller series (2008) by James Pogson. Initially I was unsure as to how to respond to these fierce yet vulnerable women in all their glory and sweat. His portrayal of their appearance is innovative and evocative in some ways to the art of the ‘school photo’ with the subject stood, tall, strong and unconcerned, not looking the camera, focusing upward, out and to the winning sight line. These women provide a critique of a feminism and strength of the female form, a strong statement from a male artist, femininity of the subjects can only be grasped on close investigation, the sweat beads, the nervous look in the eye, the scratch on the hand, these women are hard, and as a viewer I feel both fear and awe as I speculate them. Pogson places the viewer in challenging position, raising issues about spectatorship, sporting etiquette and challenging male dominance.
The awards this year are provocative and innovative; the exhibition forms a symbol of pride and certainty as to the strength of young British photography.
Review by Beatrice Jarvis.