Introducing 1854’s Fast Track winners: Bubi Canal, Emanuele Moi & Anthea Spivey

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1854’s career accelerator for unsigned talent is back! Apply to 1854 Fast Track Vol. 2 to get in front of global brand directors, advertising agencies and industry figures at LE BOOK Europe this September.

A new “career accelerator” for unsigned artists, 1854’s FastTrack open call promotes fresh talent in the commercial sphere. Here, we meet three of this year’s 18 winners: from black magic to local myths, they explore the stories that shape us from childhood

As a teenager, I loved taking portraits of my friends, and my bedroom was my studio,” says 41-year-old Bubi Canal. “I experimented a lot, and over time, I felt most comfortable with photography, because it allowed me to combine elements from other disciplines.” After studying fine art at the University of the Basque Country in Bilbao, he went on to further studies in Madrid, and then in 2011, he moved to New York. As a winner of 1854’s inaugural FastTrack initiative – launched earlier this year as an open-call for fresh, unsigned talent – Canal was selected to have his work championed amongst talent representatives, advertising agencies and brands at LE BOOK Connections Europe and throughout 1854’s global network.

Born in Santander in northern Spain, Canal describes his homeland as “a region full of legends and myths,” and this upbringing has shaped his interests. “I photograph characters and still lives, and my work explores recurring themes of mythology, identity, and personal history,” he explains. We see this manifest in his project Into the Gloaming — a bold and graphic series of highly staged portraits utilising a spectrum of primary and secondary colours and an array of shapes and strong lines. With hand-made costumes, upcycled outfits and masks fashioned from everyday materials, humans become creature-like in them. “I shot this work at sunset in New York and Cantabria,” he says. “I’m fascinated by the quality of the light; the contrast, colour, and dramatic sky. The characters are constructions; the models are family, friends, and myself. These images reflect an exterior and interior world, and intuition takes the lead in their creation.”

'Panorama' Bubi Canal

There is an alluring darkness to Canal’s images, but a sense of playfulness too; a balance that is important to his process. “Having fun while working allows my creativity to flow!” he remarks. Recently, he’s been collecting and assembling objects that he hopes will find their way into a new body of work. “It’s exciting not knowing exactly what I’m working on and being surprised. That’s what keeps me creating.”

'Gloaming' Bubi Canal
'Island' Bubi Canal

Fun is also central to the photography practice of 26-year-old Emanuele Moi; another hotly-tipped name on this year’s FastTrack roster, who often gets hands-on with his subjects. Frequently mocking up sets, creating props and adding surreal backgrounds in post-production, Moi describes his approach as “reality, but with a digital twist.” For his project Wunderkammer – a series of rainbow-hued still lives made as his graduate project at Middlesex University in 2019 – he wanted to feature objects that explore the visual language of symbolism, and ones that might already be loaded with certain associations for the viewer. Fruit and flowers recur throughout the series, as do eggs and references to body parts like eyes and skulls.

“The skull I bejewelled myself, and the eggshell I made out of plaster,” he says. Some of the images are straightforward in their message – “you can see I’ve touched on ideas of life and death, for instance” – while others are more obscure, leaving space for others to impose their own experiences upon them. “You could say my strategy was to hint and suggest rather than spell out plainly.” The title of the project neatly encapsulates the idea, recalling curiosity cabinets crowded with icons of both personal and collective significance.

Born and raised in Rome, Moi is deeply motivated by the richness of history and culture there. “One element of my background that tends to spill onto my work is the coexisting influence of classical literature and mythology with Catholic culture,” he says. “Mythology is something that many share as a cultural substrate, and myths can also be stripped down to a few archetypal elements, making them extremely suited to be manipulated while already being the foundation of so much of what has been produced in terms of art and literature.” The array of connections this produces is what really excites him. He is now working on a new project that shares some elements of Wunderkammer. “I’m exploring ideas of iconography again, but this time in relation to gender representation,” he says.

'De Origine Idearum' Emanuele Moi
'Endless Sleep of Splendour' Emanuele Moi

Joining Canal and Moi in our lineup of emerging talent to watch, 24-year-old FastTrack winner Anthea Spivey cites blues skies and bright colours at the heart of her vision. “Most of the time, colour evokes exactly the right feeling I want the viewer to experience,” says the Paris-based artist. “I’m also tremendously spoiled in that I’ve grown up in places that are so rich in colour.” An Australian-New Zealander by birth, Spivey’s family left home when she was just six months old to live in Indonesia, before moving to Tanzania. “I spent six years immersed in the culture and traditions of this spectacular place and learned a great deal from the Maasai tribe, who I spent a large part of my childhood with,” she recalls. “After Tanzania, we moved to Senegal, a country I still call home. That’s where I believe my love for what I do truly started.”

From India to Ethiopia, Spivey has immersed herself in communities as varied as remote tribes, pigeon trainers, and bullfighters. In her project They Don’t Die, They Disappear she photographed people living with albinism in Africa. “It all started in Tanzania. I had been introduced to the concept of ‘black magic’ in Africa when I was young, but I never saw the link between it and albinism,” she says. “I remember seeing children with albinism walking in pairs and never understood why. As I got older though, it became apparent it was because they felt unsafe.” People with the condition are sexually abused, murdered, and used in rituals in many African countries, so through sensitive portraiture, Spivey sought to illuminate the lived experiences of the people she met.

Elsewhere, in the series Lac Rose Lutteurs, she documents the strength and self discipline of Senegalese wrestlers. In the end, stories of resilience are always at the core of her interests, she says — both physical and emotional. “I could have a project on the physical resilience of a Senegalese wrestler, but I could also photograph a young person with Albinism, who endures scrutiny and pain in their life, but is still able to hold their head up. Because that’s resilience too.”

Anthea Spivey

Find out more about 1854’s FastTrack open call here.

Joanna Cresswell

Joanna L. Cresswell is a writer and editor based in Brighton. She has written on photography and culture for over 40 international magazines and journals, and held positions as editor for organisations including The Photographers' Gallery, Unseen Amsterdam and Self Publish, Be Happy. She recently completed an MA in comparative literature and criticism at Goldsmiths College, University of London