1854’s FastTrack programme promotes unsigned talent in the commercial sphere. Here, three winners discuss their practices, reflecting on teamwork, learning from new mediums, and the possibility for new queer photography
George Mcleod fell in love with photography when he was 16 while studying the medium at A-level. Soon after, he built a darkroom in his father’s attic and hasn’t stopped since. “I am always looking for compositions,” he explains. “I have an internal camera frame that I can’t turn off. Even when I’m not shooting, I’m always looking for the right balance.”
Mcleod is one of the 18 photographers selected for the second edition of 1854’s Fast Track programme. A global jury chose the artists to represent the best unsigned talent working in the industry today. Talent representation organisations, advertisement agencies and brands will champion the photographers, whose work will also be showcased in a special booth at LE BOOK Connections Europe and via 1854’s own global network.
Mcleod’s style is bold, vibrant and pristine. “A lot of my ideas come to me while I’m walking in the street,” he explains. In his personal project Ignition – a three-part series – the photographer captures the sculptural form of flames, making still-images that allude to natural shapes such as flowers, clouds and water. In his commercial work, he has “slowly built a small team of people” who help him deliver creative briefs. “When producing commissioned works, my driving principle is always ‘would I hang this on my wall?’” Mcleod says. “No matter what I’m shooting, it has my name attached, and it’s an opportunity to create something beautiful.”
“As soon as I began, the darkroom became my home,” says Aviya Wyse, another of the Fast Track selectees. Born in 1988 in Haifa, Israel to British parents, Wyse didn’t discover photography until she was 20 following the passing of her mother. “I’m interested in photographing women, which directly links to me losing my mother. The dark room became my home, and I’ve never wanted to be anywhere else.”
Wyse has been creating an ongoing series of portraits for over a decade, exploring the boundaries between life and death. The project has become an archive of womanhood. “I search for women everywhere,” she says. “I am drawn to the power that comes from each person: their untold story, their presence, how they move.”
Wyse channels spontaneity in her work, as she “constantly falls in love” with both subject and space. This approach lends itself to her commercial work. “I know I can break new ground in the commercial sphere,” she reflects. “I would like to bring diversity and real people to the spotlight. I feel both my commercial and personal work are completely connected. I bring the same energy and power to both.”
Meanwhile, Hidhir Badaruddin, who is originally from Singapore and now based in London, has focused on Asian masculinity and queer life in his work, specifically his series Younglawa, which was also his final project while studying at the London College of Fashion. ‘Younglawa’ is a play on English and Malayan words. “Both languages are native to me. ‘Young’ connotes youth and ‘lawa’, translates to ‘(someone) that is beautiful’ or ‘the beautiful,” he explains. “I hope [the work] sparks a dialogue about Asian masculinity today,” he adds. With a deeply intimate and gentle approach, Badaruddin’s analog images present queer life.
“I hope that through my work, I can champion more diversity, such as the representation of LGBTQ+ and BAME communities. Ultimately, my goal is for my work to reach a wider audience,” he explains.
Isaac Huxtable joined the British Journal of Photography in October 2020, where he is currently the Editorial Assistant. Prior to this, he studied a BA in History of Art at the Courtauld Instititue of Art, London.