This month we introduce our annual Ones To Watch. Selected out of 750 nominations made by our global network of experts, our June issue features 19 emerging talents drawn from across Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas.
This year’s selected photographers are: Aishwarya Arumbakkam, Raphaël Barontini, Uma Bista, Nydia Blass, Alessandro Bo, Valentine Bo, Olgaç Bozalp, Alejandro Cegarra, Gabriella Demczuk, Seunggu Kim, Mous Lamrabat, Shuwei Liu, Molly Matalon, Jerome Ming, Luis Alberto Rodriguez, Charlotte Schmitz, Dustin Thierry, Kyle Weeks, and Karolina Wojta.
Seoul-based photographer Seunggu Kim portrays South Koreans at leisure, capturing the capital as a packed urban playground, its people in search for a patch of rural space to take some precious downtime. “There’s a strong nostalgia for the natural environment we used to live in – a side-effect of growth, overcrowding and urbanisation,” says Kim. The idea of nature as an escape underpins the photographer’s work, making it more than just another whimsical project on the spectacle of the urban leisure complex.
“His images, with their vibrant colours, playful and powerful, extremely personal aesthetic, are the most tangible proof that when cultures interact and cross-pollinate, something unique happens,” comments Chiara Bardelli Nonino, photo editor at Vogue Italia, speaking about one of her nominations. Born in Morocco and raised in Belgium, the intersection of African and European identities certainly provides fertile ground for Mous Lamrabat.
Kiev-based photographer Valentine Bo creates an imagined fictional narrative, fuelled by his interest in Raëlism – a cult-like religion founded in 1974, which believes that humans were put on this Earth by extraterrestrials. “I’m taken by the ability of people, faced with estrangement in modern society, to find some kind of transcendence in such cults.”
“Karolina Wojtas’ works are hypnotising,” says Magnum photographer Rafal Milach, talking about his Polish compatriot, who he nominated for this year’s Ones To Watch. “It’s like diving into a cloud of ideas, humorous and disturbing at the same time.”
Across the Atlantic, Washington-based Lebanese-American photographer Gabriella Demczuk takes an obtuse look at US politics. “Going beyond the theatrics and finding moments of reality is the real challenge,” she says. “I find that people will always show their cards if you watch carefully.”
The world of Nydia Blas is one imbued with a belief in magic. Not the trickery kind performed by an illusionist, but rather the many subtle yet vital manifestations of love and beauty that enable hope. “In order to make it through hard times, or to face a struggle, you need to have some sort of magical outlook,” says the African-American artist. “Otherwise the circumstances weigh you down.”
Luis Alberto Rodriguez’s photographs are informed by his past life as a professional dancer, and saturated with vivacity. The body is used sculpturally, often draped in layered fabric and items of clothing employed unconventionally, or decorated with objects. There is movement and tension throughout, accentuating sinewy muscles or framing an invisible shape.
Uma Bista’s work confronts a range of issues and traditions – from familial rape and spousal abuse to menstrual taboos, sex- selective abortion and the neglect of female children, to name just a few of the problems facing her homeland, Nepal, and the wider region of South Asia. And through her studies at Pathshala in Bangladesh, and subsequent workshops with mentors such as Sohrab Hura, Antoine d’Agata, Mads Nissen and Katrin Koenning, she has developed a range of experimental visual approaches.
Elsewhere in the issue we preview Photo London and Peckham 24, which both return to London this month.