Each year, British Journal of Photography presents itsOnes To Watch – a selection of emerging image-makers, chosen from a list of nearly 500 nominations. Collectively, these 15 talents 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 are sharing profiles of the 15 photographers, originally published in the latest issue of BJP, delivered direct through thebjpshop.com
Each year, British Journal of Photography presents its Ones To Watch – a group of emerging image-makers chosen from hundreds of nominations by international experts. Last year in 2021, BJP asked the Ones to Watch talents to nominate one other photographer from their network, forming the Ones to Watch: Community. We are excited to present Ones to Watch: Community 2022 – a four-part series that explores an ecosystem of artists in community together. The first chapter features Fransisca Angela, Lucia Buricelli and Yana Kononova.
Place, memory and the in-between characterise Fransisca Angela’s practice on multiple levels, from subject matter to creative process. In her project, What Remains (2018 – 2020), the documentary photographer examines the loneliness faced by elderly Chinese women living in Kolkata, India, whose local community is dwindling due to mass migration. Set against the silent scenes of Chinatown, Angela layers images from her collaborator’s family albums, to create a collision of history that memorialises their spouse, children, and families who are no longer there.
“As a Chinese-Indonesian, I was curious about how other Chinese diasporas live in other parts of the world,” Angela says. “The journey I went through with What Remains was transformative as it pushed me to look inward and explore my own family history.” Angela describes her new body of work, Then, The Orchids Turned Grey, as “an attempt to recreate a collective memory.” Through collaboration with family members and the Chinese-Indonesian community, she navigates the cultural loss caused by the revolution from 1965 to 1998 during which Indonesians with Chinese ancestry were banned from expressing their culture, tradition, and language publicly.
“The day I found out that my grandmother’s real name is not Elisabeth, but Souw Hong Nio, [but] it was already too late to ask questions,” Angela explains. “I realised part of us died with my grandmother’s [passing], and I still fear losing a sense of who we once were. I began this work to honour her while setting out to discover what it means to be a Chinese-Indonesian in the present day.” Then, The Orchids Turned Greyexamines the connective tissue of personhood, navigating loss while seeking out memories that have been lost for generations.
Debsuddha, who nominated Angela, adds, “The most important and inspiring aspect of Angela’s poetic and thoughtful way of seeing is how she explores human stories with tenderness and generosity.”
Bodies pressed against other bodies. Twisted limbs. Tense hands. White knuckles clamber over construction scaffolding in search of the perfect vantage point, while on the ground, foldable chairs stake their territory. The anticipation is palpable. These scenes by Lucia Buricelli depict the thrill of newfound proximity. Taken outside the Gilded Glamour’ themed Met Gala in April this year, on assignment for Paper magazine, Buricelli’s images reckon with celebrity culture in an era of cataclysmic conflict. I’m unsure if they mark a new dystopian era or a return to the familiar past, but these dioramas-like images feel akin to predators awaiting their prey.
“I love how photography helps create a visual archive of our lives,” Buricelli says. “How just one frozen moment can help us connect with the past.” This notion of reality being a stage for the complexity of human behaviour is the lifeblood of her work. Buricelli is searching for the spontaneous and unexpected. Her lens traces the ways we change when we are together to the moments when the polite performance slips, and we reveal our true selves. “I enjoy photographing different situations, but my favourite ones are where my presence is almost unperceivable,” she says. “I love watching people do their own thing.”
It’s not just people who fascinate Buricelli. Her portfolio reveals an array of uncanny animal observations. Playful depictions of sarcastic cats and dishevelled dogs sit beside a paddling of lost ducks and a racoon who gives great face. Centring this anthropomorphic energy, Buricelli opens a dialogue about the interconnectedness of living things and reminds us how much of our behaviour is rooted in primal instincts.
“I love the sheer amount of stuff in her photographs,” Jamie Lee Taete says of Buricelli’s work. “It’s the chaos and ephemera of our hyper-consumerist lifestyles, which usually makes me quite anxious. Yet, with her dreamy pastel colour palette, it looks quite beautiful. Like a painting by Monet or Pierre Bonnard.”
Yana Kononova was born in Pirallakhi in the Caspian Sea. It is a tiny island only four kilometres wide, off the northeastern shore of Azerbaijan. Kononova recalls the midday heat, desert landscapes, clouds of insects brought by the hurricanes, and the unexpected sight of frogs falling from the sky, all of which inform her obsession with the planet’s natural forces. Her practice focuses on notions of the outcast and the alien, often explored through our relationship to the environment. She does this through sensorial storytelling, reaching beyond the physical in search of a primordial presence that trades in the world of feeling.
During the First Nagorno-Karabakh War in 1988, Kononova’s family emigrated to Ukraine. They made a home in the surrounding forests of the Trakhtemyriv Reserve, another site of rich geological and cultural history. There, she continued making highly experimental works until her life was interrupted by the Russian invasion in February 2022.
“At the end of March 2022, I came to Kyiv,” Kononova explains. “I wanted to find opportunities to make work about the traces of war crimes and objects of the militaristic imagination. I didn’t have the appropriate permits from the Ministry of Defense so I ended up travelling to prohibited territories with journalists who had accreditation. When you arrive anywhere, the roads are riddled with pits from fragments of shells and mines. Broken columns of military equipment stretch out alongside the corpses of Russian soldiers, which have not yet been removed. The dank cold immediately eats under your skin as you look at the endless destruction—from the ghosts of blown-up bridges to the burnt-out crumpled skeletons of huddled civilian cars.
“I often interpret my focus in photography as an interest in relationships and the environment,” she says. “For me, it all became an existential journey – a personal, intimate experience of facing pain. For some reason, I assumed the reality of war would represent a specific environment, but being here, I’ve realised it’s just pure destruction. The anti-environment.”
Kononova is still on the road, making work in Bucha, Irpin and Gostomel. Her approach, which you can see unfold in real-time on her Instagram, sits somewhere between bearing witness and recording symbolic gestures that speak to the psychological implications of trauma. “I have long been fascinated by her work,” says Elena Subach, who nominated Kononova. “I respect her clear civic position, artistic language, powerful psychological portraits and how she develops themes which are all a remarkable display of her skill.”
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.