Home » Emerging Photographers: Flash Forward 2008

Emerging Photographers: Flash Forward 2008

Last night, Magenta Publishing launched it’s latest issue of Flash Forward – an annual compendium of young photographers from the US, the UK and Canada. The launch kicked off with a well-curated exhibition of winners at Lennox Contemporary last night in Toronto. (Don’t let the image of a wax Celine Dion put you off!) The show runs until October 26, 2008.

I wrote the foreword, and in the coming days VoCA will be featuring a selection of our favorite artists featured in the book.

Jolie Dobson, Nuclear. Image: joliedobson.com

Jolie Dobson, Deadland. Image: joliedobson.com

Please see below for my introductory text:

From photography’s earliest days, when W.H. Fox Talbot experimented with Calotypes at Lacock Abbey, England, to the exotic imagery of 19th century travel photographers Maxime du Camp and Auguste Salzmann through to its application in 21st century news media, the camera has functioned, as Marshall McLuhan observed, as an extension of the eye. With this extension came a transformation of the world from a personal time-based experience into a series of singular, consumable moments whose original context is always lost to the ambivalent gaze of its recipient.

Transcending time and space – from ultrasound images of the unborn to historical events, from the local to the exotic – a photograph always implies distance. McLuhan theorized that a significant, if often overlooked, effect of technological extension is the amputation of other, established societal norms. The result is that after some time, technologically advanced societies seek to restore these amputated practices.

Curtis Mann, from Lesley A. Martin’s The Ubiquitous Image. Image: foto8.com

If it is possible to identify an overarching theme in the work of over one hundred emerging photographers from the U.S, the U.K and Canada featured in this year’s compendium, it may be an interest in the pursuit of the genuine and personal experience. This search sometimes appears through an exploration of the surreal or the gothic, or through the deconstruction of the theatrical, or the documentation of marginalized communities – whether local or in politically charged countries. One senses that the experience of engaging with their subject matter profoundly impacted these artists. It follows that this trend may be a byproduct of the photograph’s pervasiveness in Western society. One young photographer, JAMES NIZAM, tellingly describes his reconstruction of room-sized Camerae Obscura as a “relief from technology.”

Becky Comber, Motel. Image: beckycomber.com

The challenge for today’s generation of emerging photographers is to filter their view of the world through their experience of advertising, political and media imagery at a time when the internet, the ipod and online gaming technologies continually isolate society from its sense of itself. Much of this year’s documentary work, for instance, illustrates a concern for neglected communities and the ways in which they cope with daily life. YVONNE DE ROSA’s tender, beautifully coloured images of a now-closed mental asylum speak to the abandonment of those who once resided there. The series reflects de Rosa’s time spent as a volunteer in that same establishment. Similarly, GARETH PHILLIPS takes the viewer inside a hospice for the terminal ill, with haunting black and white images that invite the viewer to questions his or her ideas of mortality. IVOR PRICKETT presents his ongoing, award-winning project following the plight of displaced Serbian Croats and Tbilisi; Georgia-based photographer MOLLY CORSO records both the role of women in Georgian society and the laborious development of the countryside. 21-year-old L.A-based Canadian photographer ED OU, by contrast, captures the explosive energy in Sudan, Somalia, and the West Bank where the ongoing violence is a terrible daily reality for citizens.

Other photographers have sought out communities that retain, or reinstate, a traditional way of life. RYAN CARTER records the peaceful isolation in Old Crow, Yukon, while ALISON RICHARDS presents the elements of the traditional hunt in a remote Canadian First Nations community. LUCAS FOGLIA’s portraits and views of various off-the-grid communities across the United States depict a studied utopianism and EMILY BLAU’s portraits of people with autism probe the ability of photography to reveal human nature.

James Nizam, Winterscape in Room (lightjet print). Image: galleryjones.com

For those artists experimenting with the aesthetic possibilities of the medium, a sense of isolation and experimental surrealism persists. Many artists are using techniques like decoupage, collage, mixed media, constructed sets and digital manipulation to imbue the photograph with the warmth of human emotion, while other images possess a willffull painterliness. These techniques invite the viewer to explore the image beyond the surface. A deep, gothic beauty pervades the powerful landscapes by Canada’s JOLIE DOBSON and Chicago-based photographer CURTIS MANN locates figures within scorched, empty space with decoupage-style techniques. JAMES NIZAM has created room-sized Camera Obscura from the dingy rooms inside soon-to-be demolished houses, into which he projects, upside-down, the great outdoors. CALEB CHARLAND uses photography to document his dramatically lit chemical experiments that also speak to transparency and layering, while Canadian BECKY COMBER’s dark landscapes incorporate a palpable sense of awe toward nature, through the use of collage, re-photography and other forms of manipulation. This year’s Bright Spark winner, ADAM MARKENKO, uses constructed landscapes, dramatic lighting and a Gothic sensibility in an intimate, semi-fictitious exploration of the world of bees.

An image by Caleb Charland. Image: mainearts.maine.gov

Today’s emerging photographers continue their exploration, applying Proust’s truism that the real voyage of discovery is in having new eyes. Let the artists in the pages of this book take you beyond the image, unearthing compassion, concern and humanity in their imagery. From the first page to the last, savour the journey through the fresh eyes of a generation.

Purchase a copy of Flash Forward 2008 HERE.

The Magenta Foundation – bringing photography to the streets, literally. Image: torontoist.com

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