Posted Wednesday 7 February 2024
The aesthetic paradox of plastic, the connection between human beings and nature and the impacts of urbanisation have been captured in some of the visual interpretations on display in a new exhibition showcasing work from MA Photography students at Espacio Gallery in central London.
The week-long show, titled Atlas to reflect the global themes represented in the exhibition, sees 20 students from the course come together to display their final project work. It runs until 8 February.
The urban development trends of two very different destinations – Shenzhen in China and Margate, located on the Kent coast – are among the topics explored in the exhibition. Yunfeng Zhou's work has taken images of urban and natural landscapes from both geographical areas and merged them using an artificial intelligence tool, producing scenes that are unfamiliar and familiar. The approach aims to raise awareness and encourage reflection on the consequences of rapid urbanisation.
Growing up in Shenzhen, Yunfeng experienced the city's rapid growth and the rise of technology and finance first hand. Yunfeng observed that, while the economic growth had a positive impact, it also led to significant loss of natural green spaces and a lack of cultural and historical heritage. "In contrast, Margate's development path is markedly different," the23 year-old said. "Faced with the decline of tourism and economic challenges, Margate chose to focus on developing its cultural and arts industry. Through my photography I wanted to consider the impacts of urbanisation and explore a possible balance between economic growth and the preservation of culture and the environment in urban development."
Another of the student projects looks at the infiltration of plastic into modern life and how it affects the environment and human health. The images created by Giancarlo D'Amico are reminiscent of X-rays, revealing how unpredictable and uncontrollable synthetic materials can be while reflecting on their widespread influence. "I collected plastic waste from over-wrapping usage and, without using a camera, created a new language where patterns and vibrant colour allowed these materials to transform into dynamic, almost living entities within new dimensions," the 31 year-old from Trapani in Sicily, said.
Giancarlo's exploration of plastic challenges conventional perceptions, inviting viewers to confront the paradox of beauty coexisting with potential dangers. "This contrast highlights the urgency of addressing both environmental concerns and the impact on human well-being," he said.
Meanwhile, Zhiwei Liu's project, Whispers of the Wasteland, examines the connection between waste and the natural environment in the Sahara desert. By employing the cyanotype process of camera-less photography, she combines specific discarded objects to symbolise the impact of human activity on the natural environment. "My project evokes the connection between human beings and the natural world, encouraging respect and reverence for nature," she said. "The title is intended to portray the process of waste concealed in an unproductive place, surreptitiously altering the natural environment over time."
The 24 year-old student from Yantai in China, gathered waste from desert areas, placed it on fabric and exposed it to sunlight. She also collected seawater to cleanse the fabrics and create the images. "When the fabric covered in ferrocyanide is exposed to UV light, the waste objects imprinted their shapes on the canvas alongside shadows from the sunlight," she explained. "These patterns serve as emblems of human activities, while the blurred forms epitomise human indifference to the traumas and concealed dangers they inflict upon nature."
MA Photography course leader Sean Wyatt said the artists had approached a number of challenging themes in a thoughtful, inquisitive and innovative manner, using different techniques and styles to tackle a broad range of social and political issues. "We encourage our students to demonstrate a real-world application in their work and they have used a range of different approaches to do this, including using artificial intelligence, camera-less photography and video," he said.
The students have each produced a publication to accompany their images, allowing the viewer a unique insight into the amount of research needed to produce the pieces while expanding and clarifying the themes of their work.