Stephen Iliffe finalist in global travel photo awards

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Stephen Iliffe’s striking image of Zanzibari women has caught the attention of the judges for the prestigious Lens Culture Afar awards 2018.

With 20,000 entries from all over the world, Stephen is one of just 25 finalists making it this far.

As a result, Stephen’s work will have global online exposure along with other finalists from India, China, Brazil, Brazil, USA and Europe.

“In Zanzibar’s more remote areas,” says Stephen, “a lack of transport infrastructure means local women carry their groceries in large bundles expertly balanced on their heads.”

“It was early evening,” he recalls, “yet the sunlight was still intense. It picked out the women’s radiant colours while also casting long blue shadows along the street. Despite the heavy bundles, the women flashed by at great speed, as if in an Olympic walking race. I had little time to compose the shot. That’s why I always keep a camera in my bag in case the unexpected happens!”

“This image borders the edge of abstraction,” say Lens Culture Afar. “Isolation and shadow are powerful here.”

The elite judges panel includes New York Times’ Stacey Baker, National Geographic’s Ami Vitale, Magnum’s Carolyn Drake, and The Guardian’s Caroline Hunter.

Stephen’s current projects include Audiovisabilty, London’s Kings Cross district and Leicester’s Diwali celebrations.

Stephen Iliffe shortlisted for Britain’s top photography event

I’m delighted to share thrilling news that two of my images have been shortlisted for Britain’s most prestigious photography event.

Here follows, text for the UK press release…

Stephen Iliffe’s two portraits of a six-year old deaf child asylum seeker have caught the attention of an elite panel of judges for A Portrait of Britain 2018.

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A Portrait of Britain 2018 is the third annual event run by the British Journal of Photography. As a shortlisted entrant, Stephen’s photos will also feature in a globally-distributed book (with an intro by acclaimed novelist Will Self) published by Hoxton Mini Press, an award-winning independent publisher.

“I’m thrilled to be included in Portrait of Britain 2018,” says Stephen. “My images highlight the plight of deaf child refugees. It’s traumatic for any child to flee their homeland and seek asylum in a distant country with an unfamiliar culture and language. For deaf children, it’s a double whammy as they can lack access to appropriate support.”

“For me the photograph of Lawand – and his brother Rawa – is symbolic,” adds Stephen. “Living in barely-furnished temporary accommodation in Derby, the kids use their imagination to pass the time. As Lawand climbs up his bedroom walls to touch the ceiling, it metaphorically suggests his family’s desperate desire to be granted asylum in Britain now they have a tentative foothold here.”

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Stephen was commissioned by the Audiovisability project to help raise awareness of six-year old deaf boy Lawand Hamadamin’s case.

After a traumatic journey from northern Iraq to UK, Lawand was supported by Deaf Kidz International and referred to Derby’s Royal School for Deaf Children where he learnt to communicate via sign language.

Despite his dramatic progress at Derby School, the UK government planned last year to summarily deport Lawand and his family without even formally considering their asylum request.

Following a public outcry and a campaign supported by Audiovisability, a High Court judge upheld an appeal by Lawand’s family to remain in the UK for the time being to allow their asylum request to be properly considered.

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The boys’ uncertain future and their longing to find a new home that will accept them is also captured in a second image as they gaze out of their window looking across the Derby back streets.

The judging panel includes key industry leaders Caroline Hunter, Picture Editor of The Guardian Weekend Magazine; Olivia Arthur, Magnum Photographer; Martin Usborne, Co-Founder of Hoxton Mini Press; and Simon Bainbridge, Editor at British Journal of Photography.

The final winners for Portrait of Britain 2018 will be announced in August.

The Audiovisability project gratefully acknowledges the financial support of Arts Council England and Decibels.

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Stephen is available for interviews or quotes via: Stiliffe@aol.com or 07535 79631 (text messages only)

Lawand’s full story I have a dream…

Stephen Iliffe www.stepheniliffe.com

Audiovisability: www.audiovisability.com

Deaf Kidz International: www.deafkidzinternational.org

Copies of Portrait of Britain 2018 book can be pre-ordered via: www.thebjpshop.com

 

Instagram – reality or illusion?

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Is Instagram a reality or an illusion? Does it feed or kill human creativity? Harmless pastime or serious addiction?

Three urgent questions tackled by art photographers Natalie Christensen and Jim Eyre in their first joint exhibition alteredstates/alteredscapes.

Like many of us in the 21st century, Natalie (above left) and Jim (right) – who live 5,000 miles apart in New Mexico, USA and London, UK – initially made contact via social media. Both share a fascination with street scenes reduced to starkly beautiful abstractions of shape, line, colour and light.

From there, Instagram’s algorithms for matching ‘users’ with like-minded profiles, hashtags, followers and – you know the score – connected the dots.

Over time, the pair began to swop messages in cyberspace;  likes, comments and ideas for collaborating together.

For alteredstates/alteredscapes – Natalie and Jim selected elements of each other’s work and collaged them into single images.

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The above example blends Natalie’s fascination at faded 1950s Americana with Jim’s love for the nondescript corners of Lewisham. A empty swimming pool, deliciously pink concrete, a sun lounger. An unruly burst of weeds, a road cone and steps leading to nowhere. An ominous shadow cast by an object outside the picture frame.

Despite its superficially banal content, there’s a hidden psychodrama at play here – poised between nothing’s-going-on and something-dramatic-lies-around-the-corner. As if blending Jim’s original training as an architect with Natalie’s part-time day job as a psychotherapist.

During the exhibition’s Q&A session, I speculated which individual elements in the image came from New Mexico or London? Half of my guesses were wrong. Which just goes to show how playfully Natalie and Jim tease our senses, challenge our assumptions about what’s what?

The image can be read on so many levels and it’s available to view in cyberspace 24/7 wherever you are in the world – by logging into Instagram, of course. That oft-maligned platform where people show off their haircuts, cleavages, ice creams, while advertisers prospect for your likes.

“Yeah, I admit, Instagram is… let’s use that word… an addiction”, confesses Natalie, with a knowing smile. “But Jim and I want to use it, not abuse it. We’re asking questions about what is real and what isn’t. It’s kinda surreal to be collaborating from half way across the world via mobile phones and laptops, so that naturally leads to surreal images too.”

“Sometimes people may think we’re cheating when we Photoshop stuff,” adds Jim. “But we’re challenging people to think about what we see, who we engage with. And,  Instagram is a just app. Is any of it real anyway?”

As with any philosophical line of enquiry, some dilemmas arise: “Do Natalie and I stay true to our original intention – to share and create meaningful art?” quips Jim. “Or do we allow it to get interrupted by a never-ending dopamine rush in the quest for the most “likes”?

In this context, it was inspiring to see Natalie and Jim’s Instagram work occupy a public space at Peckham Levels – a new arts, shopping and eating venue hosted in a former multi-story car park.

I loved how the architectural content of their floor-to-ceiling-sized prints merged seamlessly into the building’s own structures of concrete walls, walkways and ramps.

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As shoppers and families strolled past (including those who’d never normally set foot inside an art gallery), I was struck how often they’d pause to take a closer look, and occasionally take selfies in front of them. Who knows, maybe some of these ended up on Instagram too?

During a photowalk after the Q&A, I decided to have a little fun with this myself and took a few candid shots with passersby blending into the images (above). Art into life into art, as it were.

For me, a key lesson from altered states/alteredscapes is that Natalie and Jim are showing it is possible to strike a balance, to be artful and well-liked too (Natalie has 33,000+ Instagram followers). To inhabit cyberspace while physically interacting with people. And that’s a humanising message for all of us art photographers and Instagrammers alike.

Natalie Christensen at nataliechristensenphoto.com

Jim Eyre at germaine.co.uk