Each year, British Journal of Photography presents its Ones To Watch – a selection of 20 emerging image-makers, chosen from a list of nearly 450 nominations. Collectively, they provide a window into where photography is heading, at least in the eyes of the curators, editors, agents, festival producers and photographers we invited to nominate. Throughout the next few weeks, we will be sharing profiles of the 20 photographers, originally published in the latest issue of BJP, delivered direct with an 1854 Subscription.
Nominated by our Ones to Watch 2021, we present the second chapter of our Ones to Watch Community featuring Heather Glazzard, Nada Harib, Jenica Heintzelman, Rita Khin, Polina Rukavichkina, Thy Tran and Farhana Satu
“Recently, I think the camera has become an exploitive medium for outsiders to document and exploit queer and trans bodies,” Heather Glazzard says. “I’m interested in the camera as a tool of authenticity and empowerment.” In their latest project Tender Zine, collaborating with stylist Nathan Henry, Glazzard set out to empower trans and non-binary people through fashion. Born out of their experience observing problematic shoots and modes of representation, the images propose a new way of seeing – one built by the community, for the community. The result is a striking vision of beauty and grace that centres joy as an act of resistance.
Using photography as a mode of self-actualisation sits at the heart of Glazzard’s practice. They grew up in a small town in Yorkshire with little proximity to a queer community. They were introduced to photography by their dad, who had a small darkroom in their pantry. “Photography allows me to encapsulate queer experience at this time, and through my own interpretation and experience,” they explain. “Reflecting on the legacy of images made by queer people that have come before me and how it informs how I see myself, motivates me to make work that I wish I had seen as a child growing up in those small towns.”
“I think Heather is changing the game,” Asafe Ghalib says, who nominated Glazzard. “Not only because of their point of view, but what it represents for the time we are living in.”
The sheer lack of representation of women in Libya made Nada Harib determined to become a photojournalist. Despite the inherent risk of photographing in conflict zones and living in a country where the freedom of movement afforded to men is not reciprocated for women, she persisted. “Growing up, I didn’t understand the hidden layers of life in Libya,” Harbib explains. “After the revolution, these layers began to crack open. Every day as a photographer, I learn more about my own country, its people and also about myself.”
Harib’s practice is rooted in her desire to bear witness to the country as it attempts to heal after years of unrest. Part of this approach is seeking out beauty amongst the chaos, often centring on the lives of the marginalised and underrepresented. Women of Libya, an ongoing series shot in the mountain town of Yefren, explores the profound bond between women and their country. The poetic photographs speak to the ways in which treasured traditions shape identity, building important rituals that bond communities together over time. “
Her work in Libya is so personal and highlights what has been happening there over the last decade,” shares Rehab Eldalil, who nominated Harib. “Her depiction of Arab and Libyan women offers a vital alternative narrative than what is seen through the western gaze.”
In her upcoming book Down a Stream, Jenica Heintzelman explores the complex reality of metabolising trauma. Fascinated by mind-body healing modalities such as hypnotherapy and restorative contact, the project animates the relationship between the body and the subconscious through a series of tender re-enactments. She approaches the body more like a sculptor moulding clay – limbs are fraught with tension, awkward and stiff. Bodies support other bodies, but nothing ever feels stable. The work is imbued with a kind of friction – an amalgamation of discomfort, insecurity, surrender and hope. It confronts the unsettling reality that there is no comfortable resolution to healing and asks if the destination can ever be reached.
Heintzelman’s poetic images cut deep into the pervasive nature of trauma, disrupting the toxic shame narrative responsible for our increasingly alienated society. The success of the work is due to the personal nature of the subject matter. As part of her research, the photographer explored various healing modalities to understand the process and psychological exchange.
“I grew up in central Florida in a very conservative, religious environment and decided to break away from that life in my early 20’s,” says Heintzelman. “My transition away from faith into a world of doubt is at the core of my practice.” Jenny Kim, who nominated Heintzelman adds, “She takes real-life occurrences and creates an unsettling world that makes the viewer delve deeper into their own complicated emotional state.
In 2017, Rita Khin co-founded Thuma, the only all-female photography collective in Myanmar. The group – Thuma means “she” in Burmese – was born out of a desire to cultivate opportunities for marginalised photographers in Yangon and beyond. Together they fight harassment and discrimination while curating exhibitions, zines and workshops that support new modes of storytelling. In her own practice, Khin moves between traditional documentary tackling specific issues including child labour, women’s rights and LGBTQIA visibility, while her personal work explores notions of interiority. What unites her work is a desire to centre the complexity of human experience.
In Soulless City, Khin turns to Nay Pyi Taw, a once barren land but now Myanmar’s new capital home to parliament and a million people forced to relocate to serve their country. Built on the ethos ‘One Command, One Voice,’ the military took over the government in a coup on February 1st 2021. Khin’s photographs describe this foreboding sense of instability as the country faces an unknown future.
Shwe Wutt Hmon, who nominated Khin, adds, “Rita’s sensitivity, honesty and community efforts make her a storyteller whose works deserve to be seen.”
The Moscow-based image maker Polina Rukavichkina is interested in our innermost capabilities. Her work is influenced by the work of two radical Russian documentary filmmakers who have revolutionised the medium. Marina Razbezhkina and Alexander Rastorhue – whose original approach combines intimate proximity to the protagonist with raw observational aesthetics – elicit a yearning for an unmasked reality. They seek to challenge Russia’s censorship laws and its highly mediated mainstream media. “I was in awe with how their cameras were a continuation of their bodies,” Rukavichkina says. “It’s a controversial process, and it took me time to find the courage and endurance to experiment with it, but the results are alive and magical. It’s about patience, persistence, curiosity and trusting your intuition.”
I Will Rip Your Heart Out, Rukavichkinas first book, embraces this approach to disarming effect. Shot entirely in her apartment, the immersive and intimate work charts the life of her ex-flatmate Polina S and their relationship. A story of trust, love, power and overcoming pain – it blurs the boundaries between Rukavichkina’s role as observer and participant.
“Polina’s approach is very human, sensitive and sincere,” explains Masha Svyatogor, who nominated her. “I’m impressed how she manages to convey the subtlety and elusiveness of the present moment.”
In Cacher (French for “to hide”), Thy Tran uses the camera to convey sentiments to her former girlfriend that she struggled to communicate with words. Taken between 2015 and 2017, the moving series traces the intimacies of their relationship while accessing a mode of communication that is vulnerable and uninhibited. The book is an invitation into her world. The images shift between the intimate and the mundane, playing with ideas of public and private and illustrating how space informs the performativity of love. The title references Roland Barthes A Lover’s Discourse, an influential text for Tran who says, the work is an “act of opening up myself to vulnerability that the photographs release”.
Tran’s subject’s face remains obscured throughout her work, a decision the photographer says allows her to focus on body language and physical contact. “The act of mystifying a person’s identity has always been my obsession, “Tran explains. “For me, portraiture does not mean I have to present that person’s face to present my view of their essence.” The result is dream-like images that animate intricate connections between sexuality and activism through a queer lens. “Every image that I know from her makes me emotional,” shares Fee-Gloria Grönemeyer, who nominated Tran. “Her work is very personal, and I love the way she portrays women.”
Farhana Satu grew up in a low-lying coastal area of southeast Bangladesh – a place often framed as the most climate-vulnerable in the world. Nestled between the worlds largest mangrove forest, Shundarbon, at the confluence of Brahmaputra River and the Ganga river, the villages are surrounded by a crisscross network of waterways and expansive delta. “People share a never-ending relationship with water, nature and forest from the day they have been born,” Satu explains. “The people from my hometown and nearest villages had taught me how to survive in extreme conditions.”
Satu’s relationship to nature and the urgent reality of climate change is what drives her photography. In Water/Life, she documents the immediate impact on people’s everyday lives throughout the country. “Climate experts predict that by 2050, rising sea levels will submerge 17 per cent of Bangladesh’s land, and 25 per cent land of Bagerhat district will be submerged, she shares. “Yet people are persistently fighting this crisis and trying to exist.”
Satu’s photographs reflect the intersection of social, economic and environmental disorder and the stark long term implications. Her tender and intimate approach is one that could only manifest from the lens of an insider.
Creative director, writer, podcaster and photo director, Gem Fletcher works across visual-cultural fields, focusing on emerging talent in contemporary photography and art. She is the photo director of Riposte Magazine, and hosts a photography podcast, The Messy Truth.