This year Joseph Ball, graduate of the BA photography programme at Falmouth University, was selected as the best in show at the Free Range Graduate Shows by BJP’s editorial director Simon Bainbridge. In addition to Ball, photographers Nic Rue and Ross Parker were highly commended.
Despite only recently graduating, Ball’s work is self-assured, focusing on the way images are absorbed in contemporary society and how that affects man’s relationship with the natural world. “There’s a constant onslaught of information through advertising and television and the internet and social media, so I’m reacting to that in my own way just by shooting impulsively at things I find strange.
“Then I layer process upon process onto these images and leave artefacts of each process behind to hint at this confusion and just how deceptive and other-worldly images can be.”
His grainy, bleakly monochrome photographs push the limits of an image’s capabilities to draw the viewer’s attention to the deceptive qualities of photography.
“If you look at something like Google Street View, there are these seemingly objective presentations of the world; you can sit at your computer and explore almost anywhere and its meant to give you this mirror image of the world.
“But photography just isn’t that kind of medium – there’s always choices being made by the technology and by the person operating it. I want to react to that, [to] make the strangest images possible and leave these artefacts in there to make the viewer think about what they’re actually seeing.”
This dissonance between what the camera views and what the photographer sees is crucial to Ball’s approach. For Dead Ghosts on TV, the winning project of the Free Range Graduate show, Ball, took advantage of this split perspective.
“I started going on night walks with one of my housemates who’s also a photographer. It’s a different kind of world when there’s limited light. The initial idea was to only shoot using flash and find the darkest areas possible to walk – as a metaphor for this overwhelming imagery that we’re exposed to, only being able to see the world through the images that we’re shown. I thought you could apply that to only seeing the world physically through the flash of the camera and the tiny LCD screen.”
Ball is particularly inspired by the formal and intellectual rigour of Japanese photographers, especially Daido Moriyama. “The way he works, just prowling the streets at night. He’s very instinctive in the way he shoots and the processing he does on his images.”
“There’s an essay on aesthetics called In Praise of Shadows by Junichiro Tanizaki, and it’s a beautiful piece of writing that talks about how there’s a strange beauty in not being able to see everything clearly.”
While Ball wears his influences proudly, as his career progresses he’s keen to move past the student perspective, as he admits. “The aesthetic can be a little naive. The conversations Moriyama and Eikoh Hose were having have already been had 50 years ago; I’m trying to move beyond that and apply it to the digital world.”
In addition to Ball, two photographers were highly commended – Nic Rue, whose series Phototaxis employed the traditional technique of cyanotype to explore the dangers facing British moths and Ross Parker, who combined his twin loves of sport and photography to capture the intensity, athleticism and emotion of his subjects.
All three photographers exhibited at the Free Range Graduates Shows, the UK’s number one showcase for new creative talent.
The winning work is available for sale via The Hub, a new online ordering system from theprintspace which allows users to store their images online for easy reprints and create customised branded online art stores to sell prints of their work directly to the public.