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Thursday, September 13, 2012
Westminster MA photojournalism course leader Max Houghton states that the genre is freighted with ideas of quests, adventures and great narratives; bringing important stories from the world out there for the consumption of an audience back here.
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While many fascinating stories can be found ‘out there’, the impetus to follow them often originates very close to home, rooted in the personal.
This year’s graduates have traveled widely and to such diverse destinations as Russia, Belarus, France, Cyprus, Poland, Brazil and Saudi Arabia.
It is from this last country that the winner of the prestigious Metro mentoring scheme prize awarded at the opening comes from.
Marwah Almugait is a Saudi student whose series of symbolic images are of a fellow Saudi patient who has suffered from anxiety and OCD for many years. The powerful and intimate photographs try to depict how she perceives life during her bipolar mood swings.
I asked Marwah, who did a MBA in business before turning to photography, how easy it was for women in her country to cope with that condition.
“I was trying to expose the depth of the struggle that many patients in Saudi are facing in terms of understanding mental illness,” she said.
I suggested that given the success of the Paralympics, this was probably a good time to continue her project and publicise the plight of those patients back in her country. “I hope to exhibit these images back home and raise awareness of the issues involved”, was her brave reply.
Another story about mental health topics, but shot much closer to home, is the subtly shot but poignant photo-essay by Michael McGuiness -‘Monday comes very quickly - photographing the unseeable’.
Here photography is used to demonstrate how people with mental health issues are being positively supported in their ‘wellness’ treatment plans within the Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust, enabling them to live and work as part of the community leading purposeful and fulfilling lives.
Tobin Jones coverage of the Yemen’s dwindling indigenous black population is shot in a more traditional reportage style, but his insightful photos portray the inequalities of that country’s now almost defunct class system that forces them to live on the fringes of society.
In contrast, Brazilian Livia Bonadio offers a departure from the more traditional aspects of the genre by using photojournalism and mixed media. ‘And babies’ is a curatorial exercise in which she conveys a personal commentary on US military misconduct.
She said: “I followed the disclosure of classified and unclassified information and footage, and, by choosing images of the infamous Abu Ghraib prison and of indiscriminate killing of civilians in Iraq, I try to reflect on the impact of military operation and casualties of the so-called War on Terror’.”
Lecturer Ben Edwards agrees that photojournalism has moved into a different level, with students focusing on more intimate projects and less on newsworthy items. He said: “This generation have grown saturated by 24/7 news coverage and social networking, and are taking a step back to become more reflective in their work.”