Jerwood Photography Awards 2004

Emma Hamilton, Travis Hodges, Sarah Lynch, Richard Page, Léonie Purchas
Open Eye Gallery, Wood Street; 8th April - 4th June 2005

Reviewed by Adam Ford

The Jerwood Photography Awards were established in 2003, to highlight the work of up-and-coming photographers. Last year's winners received £2000, had their work published in Portfolio magazine and booked their places on this touring exhibition.

Emma Hamilton's series - 'Flores Carneus' - explores 'mortality and the beauty of the body' through her still life images. The horrifying but strangely alluring 'flowers' were sculpted from animal organs, a project which must have distanced Hamilton from her friends. The eye is alternately attracted and repelled by the brilliant reds, glistening surfaces and expertly crafted folds of each de-composition.

Travis Hodges' 'Dead Time' shows adolescent males hanging around the streets of Brixham as evening draws in around them. The subjects look like the type who play at being gangsters and frighten old ladies, but their expressions betray the vulnerability of boys with nowhere to go. Shunned by their elders and shunning their juniors, they sit and wait for whatever is supposed to happen next. Hodges has certainly done well to portray this normally unseen side of familiar fixtures in our towns and cities.

'Suspended Realities' is the title of Sarah Lynch's works, and indeed someone seems to have lost touch with reality when they described the pieces as addressing 'questions of human will and determinism'. Pieces of soft fruit are balanced on bits of wire and other splints to create 'dramatic poses', and the whole process seems like it took all of five minutes.

Richard Page's 'Suburban Exposures' leads us on a forbidden forage through the cosy gardens of Middle England. The photographs have an uneasy, hazy quality that suggests frantic motion and drug-fuelled chaos. Quiet streets are stalked by something threatening and predatory, and the viewer is left feeling decidedly uncomfortable in their own skin.

Last but not least, 'Escape in Israel' by Léonie Purchas glimpses a quieter life behind the screaming headlines of Arab-Israeli conflict. People are shown engaging in secular and religious acts of relaxation, seemingly a world away from the helicopter gunships, bulldozers and suicide bombers that dominate media images of the region.

The awards selection boasts many striking and thought-provoking images that show great artistic promise and deserve the attention of a wide audience. Unfortunately there are also a few that are just bits of fruit on old coathangers.

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