Introducing 1854’s Fast Track Vol. 2 winners: Kelly-Ann Bobb, Tayla Nebesky, and Hiro Tanaka

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1854’s FastTrack programme promotes unsigned talent in the commercial sphere. Here, three winners discuss their practices, reflecting on autonomy, intimacy, and playfulness

Calling the twin island state of Trinidad and Tobago home, Kelly-Ann Bobb originally studied medicine, completing medical school at the University of the West Indies at St. Augustine Trinidad and Tobago, ​​before moving into photography. “I lost my mother in 2018, and photography served as a catharsis for the healing process,” she explains. “[Photography]  became a form of creative expression, and then evolved into activism; a place in which I could explore Afro-diasporic identity, community and the world.”

Bobb, along with Tayla Nebesky and Hiro Tanaka, are three of the 18 photographers selected for the second edition of 1854’s Fast Track programme this year. Chosen by a global jury, the image-makers will be championed by talent representation organisations, advertisement agencies and brands, as well as being showcased in a special booth at LE BOOK Connections Europe and via 1854’s own global network.

© Kelly-Ann Bobb.

Bobb’s artistic practice works to “debunk” negative stereotypes imposed on Black people and their bodies. In her project, Sacred Bodies, Bobb “seeks to reclaim bodily autonomy and agency,” using spirituality and sexuality to challenge preconceived notions and understandings of Blackness. A liberation of femininity and masculinity informs the project, as Bobb imagines a Blackness void of expectation. “Medicine is a part of the practice, as I transfer what I learn from my relationships with patients to photography,” she explains. “I want my subjects to feel comfortable, I want them to be able to express themselves freely.”

Bobb has since branched out into the commercial sphere, bringing her intimate shooting style to fashion and portrait photography. When collaborating with Caribbean fashion brands such The Cloth and Mark Eastman, Bobb wanted to “create space” for unique perspectives within the commercial sphere, creating fashion editorial with the same tenderness found in her personal works.

© Kelly-Ann Bobb.

Hiro Tanaka – our second featured Fast Track winner – first travelled from his Tokyo home to the United States over a decade ago after winning a raffle. He boarded his free flight with a love for Rock’n’Roll but no knowledge of the English language, and found himself at First Avenue & 7th St Entry in Minneapolis, the venue in which Prince filmed Purple Rain. After befriending a local band, Tanaka followed them as they toured around the US, documenting the whirlwind surreality of life on the American highway.

© Hiro Tanaka.

After he was given an SLR camera Tanaka documented the gigs, road trips, parties and landscapes, as well as minute details in the strange and unfamiliar nation. Since then, Tanaka has not stopped – he has participated in residency programs in the US, Europe, and Asia, and received the Cosmos Arles PDF Award in 2018 and the TPD Book Award also in 2018, among others. In his photobook Chicharron (2018), published by Witty Books, Tanaka’s adventures are relayed through a series of diptychs, each image in conversation with another, building a nonsensical and playful account of music, comradery and wanderlust.

© Hiro Tanaka.

Another Fast Track winner is Tayla Nebesky, an American photographer based in Bristol. Originally a student of trumpet performance at Manhattan School of Music, Nebesky went on to study a Masters degree in photography at UWE Bristol, from which she graduated last year. “Photography offered me a similar ease of communication,” she explains. “Music taught me a lot about photography, especially regarding work ethic, and the dedication it takes to pursue your passion.”

Photographing anything that catches her eye, Nebesky’s process centres landscapes and objects, and their relationship to light. “I am guided by light,” she says. “A shift in light could change the scene completely, and dictates what the eye is drawn to. I observe the world through my camera, and it makes me appreciate the environment around me,” she adds. In her series Blue Tongue, Nebesky documents her stay on her parents’ ranch in California over a few months. Created a decade after leaving the ranch, the project follows Nebesky as she acclimates to the simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar landscape, searching for an “air of intimacy and honesty.”

© Tayla Nebesky.
© Tayla Nebesky.

Outside of these personal projects, Nebesky hopes to bring her attention to detail and intimacy to commercial projects. “People can become hyper-aware of the camera, especially when being photographed,” she explains. “Being a very socially anxious person, I sometimes find making portraits stressful – there is a mutual vulnerability required that is not always easy to achieve. This vulnerability is what draws me to portraiture,” she says. 

Nebesky works in an organic style, avoiding too much planning, and instead allowing herself to follow moments as they occur. “I have always been quite observant,” she adds. “I want this to come across in my work. In the commercial realm, I’m interested in fostering these same qualities; lyricism, quietness and subtlety.”

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

Isaac Huxtable

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.