PHOTO50 at London Art Fair 2023 — Selections
Curated by Pelumi Odubanjo and Katy Barron, Photo50 is London Art Fair’s annual exhibition focused on contemporary photography. It provides a critical space for examining some of the most relevant topics existing today. During the fair, a series of interesting panels were hosted by professionals of the sector that are currently shaping the contemporary photography landscape. The talks reviewed issues related with the idea of home as a place where memory can be activated or how photography can be curated from a feminist perspective, among others.
The theme for Photo50 was Beautiful Experiments which showcased the work of women photographers whose practice revolve around their diasporic backgrounds and heritage. From a multigenerational perspective, their works explore domestic and life in community, not only as somewhere physical but also as a space of generational exchange and memory.
The lockdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic redefined the idea of home and our interpersonal relationships. For Rubee Samuel and all the people that had to isolate themselves in a foreign country, spending time with their families online was fundamental to maintain these relationships and try to reproduce the wellbeing of feeling like home.
Samuel’s and her family, which are located in the UK and Nigeria, were in contact through facetime. The images show Samuel’s family through her laptop. A series of black and white photographs that redefines the family portrait genre, revealing new ways to reconnect with family and questioning the meaning of “home”.
Adaeze Ihebom has been researching through photography her own identity as an Igbo-Italian woman. From the commodity of her home she carefully composes these series of self-portraits that evidence the impact of colonialism in Igbo women. ‘Home’ for Ihebom acts as a safe space where she can have full control of her narrative and spread it clearly.
Taken in her bedroom, Ihebom’s self-portraits are the study of her own identity and sense of belonging. She tries to understand the ways in which we see images and reclaim the control of herself and how she is perceived. In this particular work she is surrounded by art and literature that connects her directly with her heritage as Igbo-Italian woman.
The Body as an Archive born out of Sofia Yala’s personal interest in her grandfather’s childhood stories and archives when he was a member of the Portuguese Merchant Navy. Mixing collage and her own body, she reconstructed her family history drawing on ideas of both personal and collective memory.
Sofia puts the focus on these stories defined by a decolonial perspective and diaspora. The use of collage is really significant as it allows Sofia to reformulate the story and present two realities: hers and her grandfathers, layering a new significance to the archive material found in the domestic space.
The first thing that comes to my mind when I think about “home” is a safe place, a space where anyone can be themselves. Bernice Mulenga began #friendsonfilm without any large pretension. Mulenga started to shoot their friends and their experience as a queer Black person in London’s club scene.
By documenting their surroundings, Bernice created an extense archive that highlights the lives of Black and queer communities in the British capital. All these parties and nightlife photos reveal the importance of these places when it comes to establishing a space of safety where joy, freedom and happiness shape an alternative understanding of “home”.
Renowned African American performer Aida Overton Walker challenged, at the beginning of the 20th Century, the role of black performers. She popularised the Cake Walk, a dance that used to be performed by enslaved people who mimicked people from high society. Around those years, vintage postcards were distributed across Europe portraying the dancers.
The series by Heather Agyepong follows up this tradition standing out the self-appreciation of people of Afro-Caribbean descent. The works, presented also in postcard formats, accentuate its domestic character without diminishing its firm message regarding the power of change images have.
Being part of a local community allows people to be surrounded by a group that shares common values. Sierra-Leonean-British photographer Adama Jalloh captures private moments of her own community, configuring the collective memory of these particular societies.
Adama Jalloh documents the traditions and culture of a local Islamic community in London, capturing not only the celebrations and cheerful moments, but also how they deal with grief and loss. Jalloh’s work is an honest window of the daily life in these communities, usually considered too private or difficult to access.
The section was curated by Pelumi Odubanjo and Katy Barron and included several photographic projects by: