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
With each new edition of Ones to Watch, we seek out new, emerging talent. In the years that follow, many photographers that were featured in our Talent issues have continued to grow their careers, taking an array of different paths. But developing and sustaining a creative, photographic practice is not without its challenges. In the first of a two-part series, we caught up with Max Pinckers, Diana Markosian, Kennedi Carter, our past nominees, and asked them about their career highlights, challenges and lessons learned so far.
Max Pinckers is an award-winning photographer, researcher, teacher, publisher and writer, with an artistic practice “grounded in a documentary attitude or gesture based on conjecture rather than knowledge”. In 2018, he founded The School of Speculative Documentary with fellow artists An van Dienderen, Thomas Bellinck and Michiel De Cleene. That same year, Pinckers won the Leica Oskar Barnack Award. He has participated in over 45 group shows, eight solo exhibitions and self-published four books in the last five years. In 2021, the esteemed art critic and collaborator, Hans Theys, published a monograph of Pinckers’ work spanning the past 10 years.
Max Pinckers: In the last decade, my focus hasn’t changed but my process is endlessly in flux. I continue to make work that attempts to reconcile a critical self reflexive attitude towards photography while at the same time emotionally and empathically engaging with people and their stories. Collaboration has become central to my practice, not only with the people I make documentaries with, but the process of making work with other artists, historians and researchers. Coincidence and intuition have also come to play an increasingly important role; incorporating elements whose significance is not immediately obvious as a way of extending the documentary gesture, incorporating shared meaning that stand outside accepted definitions of reality.
Having the opportunity to work in North Korea on assignment for The New Yorker in 2017 was a unique experience. I was there with my assistant Victoria Gonzalez-Figueras and American journalist Evan Osnos during the height of political tensions and the looming possibility of a nuclear war. Kim Jong-un was considering a missile strike on Guam while Trump was taunting “little rocket man” on Twitter. During the four-day visit, we were strictly monitored and guided by government officials at all times. The work made on assignment later became a book and exhibition installation titled Red Ink, which was awarded the Leica Oskar Barnack Award in 2018.
Two significant recent highlights in my career presenting my first museum solo exhibition, Double Bind, at FOMU Fotomuseum Antwerp, which brought together work from the past six years produced during my time as a doctoral researcher.
Since 2015, I’ve been working on Unhistories, a long-term documentary in collaboration with Mau Mau war veterans, Kenyans who survived colonial violence, historians, artists, activists, writers, archivists, universities and museums. Together we aim to (re)visualise the fight for Kenyan independence from British colonial rule in the 1950s. With most of the colonial archives deliberately destroyed, hidden or manipulated, we attempt to create new “imagined records” that fill in the missing gaps of historical archives. A collaborative attempt at reimagining possible futures of reparation and reconciliation. There is currently a presentation of this project at Hamburger Kunsthalle in the group exhibition Give and Take: Images Upon Images, on show until 28 August.
Over time I’ve learned the importance of always maintaining the integrity of my work and the ethics surrounding its consumption. More than ever, it’s crucial to be conscious about the larger frameworks and power structures in which work is presented. Where does the money come from? Who ultimately benefits from it? Is it used to propagate certain ideologies that we may not agree with? Or are we mere ‘content providers’ in an attention economy driven by content marketing to create venture capital and future growth potential with the aim of generating profits from advertising for its investors?
Being able to make documentary projects with my partner Victoria for the past 10 years has been the highlight of my career. Her role as an assistant, researcher, logistical expert, book distributor and sparring partner has been invaluable. As life and work partners, it’s an enormous privilege to share this experience together, which has been the most beautiful part of making this work.
Diana Markosian is an Armenian-American photographer working with documentary and film. Her practice blends truth and fiction, constructing stories of family and relationships, memory, heritage, culture and migration. She holds an MA from Columbia University in New York. Markosian is a multi award winning artist and her work has been exhibited worldwide, including at the ICP in New York, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, FOMU in Antwerp and this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. She became a Magnum Photos nominee in 2016, and her debut monograph, Santa Barbara, was published by Aperture in 2020.
Diana Markosian: I’ve felt a real desire to be a different kind of photographer for a while now. There was a shift happening within me regarding the work I was interested in making — and the past few years have solidified that feeling. I think my last project changed me as a person – my values, my interests all together shifted. I think the challenging part of this shift is being comfortable with the uncertainty of what is next.
When I was nominated for OTW in 2015, I was 25, and now I’m 32. I’ve gone through so many different versions of who I am and that’s reflected in the work I create. I’ve changed and that’s forced me to reconsider what I enjoy creating.
Inventing my Father: the project I did about my dad, which I’m also now making into a book, has been the most significant project that I’ve worked on since. It is the series that really shaped me. It’s a story that I still haven’t figured out; a painful reality that I’m still existing in. It’s significance stems from the experience of creating it and the courage it took to find a person I had been missing for so long.
Showing my project, Santa Barbara, at the International Center of Photography (ICP) in 2021 was really significant for me. I studied photography in New York and was living there, and my first book Santa Barbara, on which the exhibition was based, had just come out. The show brought me full circle. It was also about the process. I took the time to create it and to really be with the team that made it. I don’t think it’s every day that you have that.
I’m starting a project on love, and I’m in Paris for that now. Honing in on things I experience is what I’ve slowly come to realise is the focus of my art practice. But, also just taking my time and making work, not rushing it. I want to do one significant project that says something. And, if I am lucky, it can give back.
My dream project would be to direct a feature film or scripted series.
The highlight of my career so far has been the people who have believed in me. I don’t think this is an easy profession, even if you have success, you’re still behind. It’s difficult sustaining yourself and not feeling the pressure to be like everyone else. I’m really working on this because I want to go at my own pace and be authentic. I think it hits me more and more as I get older that I’m just making this up as I go along, and there’s something quite remarkable in that.
In 2020, at the age of 21, Kennedi Carter became the youngest photographer to shoot the cover of British Vogue, with Beyoncé as her subject. Based in Durham, North Carolina, Carter’s personal work is a rich narration of the Black experience, celebrating its beauty and community. She has had extensive commercial success too; her clients include The New York Times, Wired, The New Yorker, GQ, Vanity Fair and Time.
Kennedi Carter: The last few years have flown by. I shot Beyoncé for the cover of British Vogue (December 2020) and a couple more that I am proud of. I’ve shown my work at the Nasher Museum of Art (in the group show Reckoning and Resilience), and at Rosegallery (the group show Into The Blue). I was also part of the Photo Vogue Festival in 2021. I now want to work towards getting more of my work placed in galleries.
I’d say my practice has changed a great deal since I was nominated for Ones to Watch in 2020. I feel more confident in running a set, as well as building an idea for life. My favourite commission was one for Icon Magazine, titled Democratic Body. I collaborated with a wonderful stylist, Julie Ragolia, and built an editorial surrounding bodybuilders. Having magazines and brands trust me with developing ideas has been a career highlight so far. I gave birth to my son a few months ago – so right now I spend my time mothering, as well as working on my first book.
My dream project would be a very honest and intimate shoot between Rihanna and her child. I’m so in love with maternal imagery currently.