A notable wave of emerging photographers is crashing into exhibition spaces, pushing the boundaries of artistic research and hurdling over the limitations of the camera lens to bring together subject, photographer, and viewer as one entity. They are the active participants in the world of contemporary photography: a world that’s slowly opening up, leaving behind its obsession with exclusivity, academia, and closed doors. These photographers and makers are the next generation of storytellers – and today, we’re discovering what they have to say.
From personal to commercial projects, take in new perspectives through the lens of 10 emerging young photographers from around the globe.
MARIA JOÃO SALGADO
In 2019, Portuguese photographer Maria João Salgado travelled to the Western Sahara refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria to document the impact of women on the Saharaui community. The project, titled O Sahara Delas, was later published in the national Portuguese newspaper Jornal Publico in 2020 and became a finalist in the Encontros da Imagem 2020 festival. Mainly focused on Document Photography, Salgado centres her research on human rights and alternative living communities. Salgado was one of five selected artists for this year’s Bienal Fotografia do Porto, a platform for artistic research, production, and intervention in the medium of photography.
Courtesy of the artist and Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York
Through the medium of collage, Guanyu Xu invites viewers to consider the imagery that accompanies, influences, and adds to everyday life. Having moved to Chicago from Beijing, and today working as a lecturer at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Xu’s work brings to the forefront the contrasting relationship between the freedom and illusion of the American dream and the conservative surroundings of his youth in ‘90s China as a gay man. His works will be shown in the following group shows Floating Museum: A Lion for Every House, Art Institute of Chicago, Beyond the Frame, Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, and The Intimate Revolt at the Goethe Institut in Beijing.
KARIM EL MAKTAFI
A delicate exploration of portraiture and landscape, Moroccan-Italian photographer Karim El Maktafi researches identity through generations, territory, and culture. His talent has been supported by scholarships from Magnum Photos and Fabrica, and he was also part of a mentorship program with Maggie Steber. In a particularly personal project, El Maktafi investigates his own experience being viewed as a foreigner and outsider while growing up in a country where his Moroccan identity is negatively viewed. The project entitled Ghorba - غربة is a collection of black and white portraits of men of Moroccan heritage finding themselves on the cusp of inclusivity in Italian society.
Milan-based photographer Hugo Weber explores the tender side of the brutal reality of life for those considered outsiders. He develops close relationships with his subjects and locations, infiltrating past the polite and getting to know the at-times violent or raw underside. Having initially preferred the collateral aspects of photography rather than photography itself, Weber was later inspired to set out on his own photographic ventures. The project Monika follows the life of junkie and transexual painter Monika living in Paris' Banlieue – where Weber himself also moved to gain their trust – with other artists.
Alexandra Howland set out to Iraq in 2017, and the destination became the beginning of a five-year photographic project materialising in both an exhibition at FOAM, Amsterdam, and the book entitled “Leave and Let Us Go” (2022). The work stitches together a realistic portrait of a post-war country: documenting its many facets using a variety of photographic mediums, collecting photographs from over 50 Iraqi citizens, and recalling at times selfies and Snapchat filters yet with sober acts of military presence and conflict. Howland questions the imagery that often accompanies geopolitical conflicts and debate.
Acrobat, Fading Senses, 2020
Polish-born Ligia Poplawska studied Photography at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp, and has been the recipient of numerous recent awards including First Prize Winner of Decade of Change 1854 British Journal of Photography (2022), Helsinki Photo Festival, Finalist (2022), .tiff - Emerging Belgian Photography, FOMU Fotomuseum Antwerpen, Finalist (2022), and First Prize Winner PhMuseum Days, PhMuseum (2021). Focusing on the ever-mutating (Post) Anthropocene, Poplawska investigates environmental change and sensory ecology. She is also the co-creator of Intimate Structures, a digital collection of visual stories relating to the theme of intimacy.
Max and Mel, Modern Love, 2022
Shortlisted in 2022 for the Portrait of Humanity award by the British Journal of Photography & Hoxton Mini Press, after winning the past two consecutive editions and consequently featured in Portrait of Britain Volumes 3 & 4, Curtis Hughes recognises an intimacy when working with portrait-led images. Hughes’ most recent exhibition titled Modern Love investigates love, dating online, and the tools at our disposal in today’s digital age.
Josh Kern is the author of three publications: “Räuber“ (2021), “Love Me” (2020) and “Fuck Me” (2018). Currently based in Leipzig, Kern has been the recipient of several photography awards including Young Portfolio 2022 Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts, shortlisted for Belfast Photofestival, and nominated for the C/O Berlin Talent Award – all in this year alone. In the project “Räuber”, Kern places his younger brother as the protagonist, using the camera as an excuse to get to know his sibling even better; an ode to his own childhood and the calling of nostalgia.
Falcon. Diachronicles, 2019/2022
Analysing the use of photography as a means of documenting the truth, and motivated by the medium’s scientific uses, Giulia Parlato questions myths, histories, and cultural heritage. A visual artist based between Palermo and London, Parlato studied Photography at the London College of Communication followed by the Royal College of Arts. She has exhibited in both solo and group shows including recent exhibits at Fotograﬁa Europea in Reggio Emilia (2022) and Mucho Mas in Turin (2022). Parlato is one of the founding members of Ardesia Projects, a curatorial platform dedicated to contemporary photography.
Self-taught photographer Lesha Berezovskiy investigates simplicity through the lens – human interaction in nature and its consequences, cycling trips around the country, under- and overground rave culture and its followers in the Ukrainian capital, and more. Berezovskiy presents his subjects and spaces for who and what they are, developing a minimal quasi-documentary photographic style. Kyiv-based Berezovskiy is currently part of the online exhibition Ukrainian.Photographies along with 17 other Ukrainian creatives. The project consists of a living archive, exhibiting works by Ukrainian photographers and commentary on Ukrainian photographic practices.
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Cover Credit: Curtis Hughes
Writer | Glesni Trefor Williams
Glesni Trefor Williams is a Bologna-based art journalist/translator from North Wales, who focuses her writing on contemporary art and interlinked exhibition spaces. She has written for Lampoon, Spinosa Magazine, and is an arts contributor on BBC Wales radio. @glesniw