A Kaleidoscope is the perfect theme for this exhibition. With the rotation of another year, a fresh crop of graduates emerge after three years spent looking, listening and learning. This cyclical pattern is destined to repeat, yet each year we find some new spark or perspective to demand our attention. The theme perfectly reflects that ever changing, unpredictable and intriguing moment as graduates step out into the shape-shifting world of photography. Their work is varied and subject to change, charging this moment with a sense of urgency. Notwithstanding its position as that most democratic of artistic mediums, photography is forever in flux. As new and improved technologies develop, they advance hand in hand with the evolving process of photography. Yet, at its core, the taking of a photograph remains a simple event - whether analogue or digital – it uses light to capture visual moments in our world that would otherwise be lost.
Like the many glass shards within a kaleidoscope, each student uses the light to find their visual voice, themselves becoming the mirrors reflecting our world back at us. Throughout this process they find their own ideas, aesthetics and viewpoints to investigate. These projects are the fruits of such labours, exploring a diverse range of personal themes using a genus of lens-based genres, styles and techniques. They dig deep, unearthing what is so often right in front of us and barely given a second glance. Some have looked back to help clarify the present. Others have demanded change and shown us what that may look like. There is a sense of community here, as optical counterpoints complement one another, allowing every project to shine both individually and collectively.
These images challenge stereotypes and present alternatives to seasoned archetypes. Many themes are explored here and lightweight they are not.
Rallying against gender, societal and patriarchal bias, three different approaches challenge the unrealistic norms of the fashion world. Using self-portraiture, Bethan Charles embodies fictional characters to strengthen her resolve using 1960’s styling, echoing a time of female empowerment and revolution through fashion. The domineering forms of Brutalist and Modernist architecture act as a backdrop to Laura Deakins work to challenge male dominance in the built environment. Andi Davies uses fashion as a level with which to prise free the grip of gender bias, presenting tomboys in her personal collection of brightly coloured streetwear.
Many of the insecurities and pressures of modern life are studied here, framed in the context of personal experience. Bethany Kimber looks at the shallow, misleading and confidence-crushing worlds of social media and online dating. She reflects on her life as an adolescent, questioning the waning potential for romance. The psychological effects of isolation are faced by Bethan Eckley whose self-portraits document the positive things she has done to boost her self-esteem at a time, when more than ever young adults struggle with their mental health.
Realising the importance of home since leaving it, as the oldest of seven children, Sam Stevens with the help of his four youngest siblings, presents the rural idyll of a small holding farm in Llangeitho. Thomas Geoffroy looks to his mother for inspiration, sharing insight to her life by re-interpreting the family archive using 23 family Super-8 films to construct her narrative from childhood to that of a young woman. The importance of heritage passed on through family and a great grandfather’s journey to Cardiff from the Caribbean drew Kai Flowers to discover more about the influence his culture has had has upon their own and Cardiff’s cultural landscape.
Coming to terms with rejection by the Christian community they grew up with and losing continuity with the past due to their LGBTQ+ status, prompted Booker Skelding to take a new path through the ever-diminishing places of worship in Wales to search for a way back to their faith. This journey of discovery and hope encouraged them to help others in the same situation. A perilous journey of another kind was found when the documenting of a dangerous convergence of five roads known for a proliferation of accidents collided with the much older history of the site itself. Tom Keighley’s images intersect the gruesome past of the site where two Catholic Priests were hung drawn and quartered in 1679 to the present danger of this spot known locally as Death Junction.
Whether internal or external, each narrative reaches close to home as we are invited to share the observations of this collective of graduates. In this brief moment, they all reside together, finding their own light to refract and project. With the smallest rotation of the barrel, new connections form and everything can change.
These fresh voices are all on the cusp of new adventures. It is my pleasure to invite you to look back and reflect with them via these pages as they rotate upon an axis with no beginning, middle or end. Sit back and enjoy but keep the circle turning.
© Laura Noble
Artist & Director of L A Noble Gallery / FIX Photo Festival
Laura Noble is an artist, collector and Director of L A Noble Gallery and FIX Photo Festival. She is also a curator and writer known for The Art of Collecting Photography, with primary essays in numerous monographs. Laura is a proud feminist and activist for equality across the arts sector. As a nominator and judge on many photographic prizes, awards, competitions and residency programmes her commitment to photography includes a volunteer program, regular portfolio reviews, mentoring and consultations for photographers at every stage of their career. She is often curating, reviewing and attending photography exhibitions, fairs and festivals around the world and lecturing internationally at universities and institutions on all aspects of collecting photography, professional and gallery practice. She continues to write extensively in numerous books and journals globally and is always keen to see new talent.