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What Lies Below the Surface

POSTED: 10 September 2021


 See new work by London students exploring how photography can be used to represent the depth and diversity of our identities



ABOUT The Project

Autograph’s learning and participation programme has always focused on supporting young people to think differently about the urgent social issues that affect their lives. We have a history of working with teachers and schools to share the ways in which visual representation intersects with issues of race, identity and human rights, and how students can make profound commentary on these questions using the camera and their creative minds.

In today’s uncertain climate this feels more necessary than ever. With heated debates on racial justice and the continuing impacts of the pandemic on our lives, we think it’s crucial for young people to have the space for creativity and self-expression, and to be supported in asking critical questions about the world around them.

In April 2021 we took our Thinking Differently project to City & Islington College, working with 30 photography A-Level students and professional photographer Alejandra Carles Tolra. The goal was to empower the students to explore their own identities and work towards representing themselves, and the issues they care about, using photography.

The project started online with the teachers, setting up a training session on race and identity in the classroom. Students then joined us for online talks introducing them to works from Autograph’s collection by artists including Rotimi Fani Kayode, Zanele Muholi, Mahtab Hussain and Omar Victor Diop.

As we moved out of full lockdown the project moved into real life and we were able to conduct workshops at the college, with students working collaboratively to set up photoshoots using studios and outdoor spaces. Alejandra shared her documentary photography practice giving the students an insight into creative and sensitive ways of representing communities, a first-hand account of the life of a professional photographer. She then set a photography challenge, for each student to create a series of images that reveal 'what is below the surface'.

Each student produced a body of research to inform and shape their photographs and help them reach their coursework goals. They also produced identity mind maps to connect all their complex aspects of identity from race, gender and religion to the experiences of their upbringing, interests, cultural expressions and future aspirations. The students’ new works are a striking demonstration of the plethora of ways in which the subject of identity can be captured. Self-portraiture expressing wide ranging experiences and emotional states. Still life images using symbolic objects to create narratives of the self. Documentary photographs capturing family and the life of the community. Mixed media works combining drawing and other mark making to construct surreal and imaginative digital imagery.

We are proud to present the results of the project below.

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IMAGES From the Project

Lilian

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Aaliyah

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Liz

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Amy

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Deansha

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Leanne

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Kianna

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Naijah

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Rowan

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Yusuf

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Yande

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Ettie

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Ellie

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Max

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Belen

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Marle

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Jasmin

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Maisie

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Tye

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Samiha

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Zhanae

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Beniece

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Lilian

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Ibraheem

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Mimae

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Amber

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Laiba

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Tamsin

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Ruby

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Scarlett

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS

Can you spare a few moments? Autograph is carrying out a survey to better understand who our digital audiences are. The survey should take no longer than five minutes to complete. Anything you tell us will be kept confidential, is anonymous and will only be used for research purposes.

The information you provide will be held by Autograph and The Audience Agency, who are running the survey on our behalf. In compliance with GDPR, your data will be stored securely and will only be used for the purposes it was given.

You can take the survey here. Thank you!

Banner and project images all © and courtesy of the artists.

Discover More images: 1) Benjamin Salmon, EJ [detail], 2021. © and courtesy of the artist. 2) Maxine Walker, Cleansing. From the series Black Beauty, 1991. © and courtesy of the artist and Autograph, London. 3)Hanou Amendah, Future - Etsɔ, video still, 2021. © and courtesy of the artist.