Ones to Watch Community 2022: Leonardo Scotti, Aishah Kenton, Fares Zaitoon and Arun Vijai.

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© Leonardo Scotti.

Each year, British Journal of Photography presents its Ones 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, the 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 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 Leonardo Scotti, Aishah Kenton, Fares Zaitoon and Arun Vijai.

Leonardo Scotti

Nominated by Zhong Lin

 

Human vulnerability and the idiosyncratic nature of everyday life are the heroes of Leanardo Scotti’s visual world. From a king cobra and a sunlit crotch to crying babies and confused dogs, his portfolio lands like a sucker punch to the chest. Playing with signs and symbols, the Italian photographer encloses infinite messages that speak to the frenetic experience of modern life and how it imprints on our psyche. For Scotti, photography is less about reproducing reality and more an attempt to reach for the emotions and experiences that our language, visual or otherwise, has limited ways to describe. The result is an irreverent stream of consciousness that disarms and delights in equal measure.

In his latest series, made for biennial art magazine (90)antiope, he collaborated with artist Emanuele Marcuccio. The duo focused on their approach instead of the outcome, liberating their creative process. “We decided to go to a remote place in the middle of winter,” Scotti explains. “We spent a timeless week surrounded by calm and desolation. We were interested in everyday domestic intimacies that could somehow reflect our feelings [at the time].” The images feel unexpected, even sometimes absurd, uniting seemingly disconnected experiences from a painful bike accident to an exploding milk carton. Together they unravel notions of cause and effect with schadenfreude undertones. 

It’s not just his astute observational work that defines his unique aesthetic. Scotti’s carefully constructed fashion images prioritise mood and emotionality over clothing and style, culminating in a playful and unexpected approach to storytelling. Scotti brings his joyful photographs to the masses without compromise, working for the likes of Burberry and JW Anderson, and T Magazine and Vogue Italia. “I like how the attention to detail is captured,” says Zhong Lin, who nominated Scotti. “It feels like an underlying statement in a silent protest is being advocated for.”

leonardoscotti.com

© Leonardo Scotti.
© Leonardo Scotti.
Armani Silos© Leonardo Scotti.

Aishah Kenton

Nominated by James Bugg

 

“Photography is a family album of sorts,” says Aishah Kenton. “My work is my history, story, life – there is no separation. It is a direct result of my experiences, more-so than my memories.” Kenton divides her time between her practice and a collaborative project named Kenton Davey with her photographer husband, Sean Davey. “There is no ownership [in the collaboration],” says Kenton. “It doesn’t matter. There is freedom in working this way. The images become their own [enterties] in the world.” Kenton Davey’s collaboration is grounded in a traditional documentary approach, while Kenton’s work is more hybrid, privileging a sensorial response over a descriptive one.

In Humidity, she describes her emotional response following her 3000km move from Canberra to Cairns in the tropics. In one image, beads of sweat drip down her husband’s back, his skin overwhelmed by the unrelenting heat. In another, layers of flora and fauna lean across the photographic plane, creating a tropical tunnel that is simultaneously beautiful and intimidating in how it encroaches upon personal space. “In this part of the world, when the heat confuses your mind, it can be hard to fathom what it is I am doing here,” Kenton says.” The thick air reminds me of Malaysia where I grew up, of the family who now – out of reach in the pandemic – feel like they are a whole other world away”. This ongoing project is a space for Kenton to contemplate and question the sensate experiences of her new environment.

“Aishah’s work is deeply personal,” says James Bugg, who nominated Kenton. “I love how it deals with her own experiences with a dreamlike quality full of raw beauty. Her fleeting and, at times, casual aesthetic sits somewhere between documentary and cinema, giving the viewer a glance into a fragmented but real world.”

aishahkenton.com

© Aishah Kenton.
© Aishah Kenton.

Fares Zaitoon

Nominated by Salih Basheer

 

“My journey as a photographer began when I got clean eight years ago after being a drug addict for 10 years,” Fares Zaitoon shares. “Once I figured out how the camera worked, I couldn’t stop documenting the new world I found myself in.” Born and raised in Cairo, the self-taught photographer unravels the intersection of drug addiction, mental illness and family. Every project is rooted in a personal connection. And collectively, his work collates his life and community from multiple perspectives. “I have learned that sharing means helping. Once you open up and share your own story, it can be empowering for others. It feels important to give an inside perspective to life as a recovering addict in society and to dismantle the harmful stereotypes and cliches the media perpetuate.”

 

Hardship, trauma, pressure, loss and boredom have led to one-fifth of the adult population in Egypt using drugs. In I Found Home, Zaitoon examines why people start taking drugs and how they can find a pathway to recovery. The project captures the atmosphere of an all-male rehabilitation centre in Cairo, exploring how it helps people like Zaitoon get back on their feet. 

“Seeking help in a country that largely regards drug abuse as a taboo is not easy,” Faitoon says. “What the numbers cannot portray, however, is the mindset of the addict whose thoughts and body are possessed by self-destruction. There is a common belief that within rehabilitation centres are isolated cells, with people in straight jackets and inmates awaiting electroshock therapy sessions. I, too, once had that image, but what I found was not what I had imagined. I was greeted with warmth, trust and community. It was a safe place, free of judgment but full of support. A home.”

Salih Basheer, who nominated Zaitoon adds, “Fare’s work spotlights addiction with such a nuanced perspective. He accesses these universal problems through the lens of his personal experience bringing a fresh and insightful perspective.”

fareszaitoon.com

Can I breath Again © Fares Zaitoon.

Arun Vijai

Nominated by Abhishek Khedekar

 

Arun Vijai is a hybrid creative exploring the current and historical implications of India’s caste system. Based in Kanyakumari, Vijai is an engineer-turned-photographer with a computer science and design background. He harnesses photography primarily as a communication tool, employing social documentary to unravel environmental and human rights issues. Images, for him, are a way to open up difficult conversations about the fraught reality of modern life in India. One particular focus is the plight of Dalits, an oppressed community known as the untouchables and subjected to inhumane working conditions, often mistreated and excluded from society.

In Millennia of Oppression, Vijai describes the brutal reality of the Dalits who work in unsanitary and unregulated conditions in the country’s medical facilities.”Unlike the highly skilled surgeons and technicians who typically perform autopsies worldwide, carefully reconstituting the body with no visible incision seen, the reality in India is shockingly different from our perception,” Vijai says.

“In almost all hospitals, ill-equipped [Dalit] workers perform heroic tasks in dismal conditions with outmoded refrigerators and crude implements. They suffer from several occupational ailments and work-related infections from handling the decomposed, verminous bodies. Tasked with endowing dignity on the dead, they face a social death. They are untrained and underpaid. Dalits cannot tell their friends and neighbours what they do for a living,” Vijai continues. “It was necessary to show the mortuary to the viewers so they could truly understand how the Dalits are treated.” 

By exposing this unimaginable oppression, Vijai hopes to provoke a better future for the oppressed. “Arun Vijai’s intriguing visual language is used to navigate social and political issues that are often difficult to talk about, says Abhishek Khedekar, who nominated Vijai. “He’s unafraid of facing deep issues about the caste system and how it fractures society.”

arunvijaimathavan.com

Millennia of Oppression © Arun Vijai.
Millennia of Oppression © Arun Vijai.
Millennia of Oppression © Arun Vijai.
Gem Fletcher

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.