Review: Habeas Corpus Westminster MA Photojournalism graduation show
16:56 12 September 2011
Max Houghton, the MA Photojournalism course leader, said today’s press photographers are not necessarily capturing the first draft of history since legions of ‘citizen journalists’ are often broadcasting first via Twitpix as an event happens. But there remains an essential role to fulfill in documenting the consequences of world events.
This year’s graduates have traveled widely and reflected deeply in order to do so and have sought to portray the world in all its beauty and cruelty.
The author of one of my favourite portfolios, however, did not have to travel farther than Mayfair to produce a powerful set of intimate images on prostitutes in the capital. Sasha Joelle Achilli treated her subjects, who hail mainly from Eastern Europe, with dignity and discretion. There is a subtle shot of one of the ladies’ wardrobe displayed in a dimly lit room that captures the subject with elegance. To compliment the images, she built up a replica of a sexual worker’s room opposite her photos, complete with a small TV playing interviews on a loop.
‘Transit’, by Caroline Bruyninckx shows the faces of drug addicts who decided to enter an emergency centre for a period of 13 days to get psychosocial help. These are strong close-ups of people who are kicking the habit and the extreme tension of their inner struggle is reflected in their faces.
Samar Hazboun is trying to break a long-standing taboo with her stark black and white images of a Palestinian women’s shelter, where victims of domestic abuse dwell. Gender-based violence remains a tricky subject in Palestinian society as most of the attention is given to political and military issues and little time and energy is left for what they dismiss as mere domestic disputes.
“On arrival her passport is taken away. The maid is told to wait in an area specially designed for the arriving migrant domestic workers, while her passport is handed to her employer. She will only get it back before leaving the country, years later, if ever.” Lucas Pernin documents the plight of thousands of domestic workers who migrate to Lebanon in an understated fashion, with the images blurred to protect the subjects, thus giving his project a mysterious halo that underpins the theme.
Lecturer Ben Edwards agrees that Photojournalism has moved into a different level, with students focusing on more intimate projects and less on newsworthy items. “This generation have grown saturated by 24/7 news coverage and social networking, and are taking a step back to become more reflective in their work.”
Ex-course leader Colin Jacobson, a distinguished former picture editor of The Observer and The independent Magazine, would still like the new generation of photojournalists to take a more blunt approach. “There is some good work here, but I still haven’t seen that ‘wow’! image that captures the imagination. But there is potential there. Maybe it needs a bit more maturity. Time will tell”.
But time is on the side of these young hopefuls, who certainly emanate a lot of creative energy and thoughtfulness. Good luck to them.
The exhibition is at Ambika P3, 35 Marylebone Road, London NW1 5LS. The exhibition is free to view and is open on Monday to Friday, from 10am to 6pm. The nearest tube is Baker Street.