ECA Degree Show 2016: Photography

Whether through modern digital means or good old-fashioned film, Photography offers a blurring of boundaries between disciplines and ideas

Feature by Gemma Batchelor | 17 May 2016

The Edinburgh College of Art’s Photography department is physically hidden away from those within the art school, locked behind unknown doors, a maze of dark rooms and studios. So it's difficult for those outside the department to know what's going on – are Photography students always out on location shoots? Or are they gloved and goggled around dark room chemical fumes?

Behind these doors there has been a rush of activity as final year students scan negatives from reshoots, touch up images and plan presentations for the long-anticipated Degree Show. The studio-turned-gallery spaces are now dedicated to a varied display of photographic formats, from installation to moving image, proving the broad approach to this medium. The bodies of work presented speak of political history, individual narrative and memory, as well as exploring the visual in a more experimental way.

Certainly, photography is not as strict a discipline as it might seem. Both digital and traditional analogue methods are popular, especially when the ease of digital print is combined with the glorious colour of film. Likewise, just as sculpture can verge into performance and painting can be moulded into moving image, the photographic arts blur boundaries. At times the camera might not ever be used: the only necessary tool is light.

The intimate is explored through a collection of handmade books exhibited alongside black and white wall prints produced by Joe Glover. With a recurrent theme of the in-between and a sense of confusion, Glover allows us an insight into personal diaries. Through the creation of imagery inspired by extracts of these written memories, this work becomes a creative mode of self-reflection. 

A soft, slow reflection on the world around the artist is also found in Lottie Hampson’s delicate colour photographs. Through a focus on her mother, the artist explores fertility, femininity and growth in a way that creates a connection between the artist, the subject and, most powerfully, a female viewer.

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More on ECA's 2016 degree shows:


 Landscape Architecture

Another student, Rozee Colton, explores the personal at its most intense, with the naked body. With the body as her tool, Colton blurs the boundary between the photographic medium and sculpture, creating figural interactions within a space.

Staged set-ups are also created for Eden Hawkins’ photography. With an assemblage of items from the "peripherals of the everyday," Hawkins explores domestic space within her own home in a colourful, playful manner, embracing the commercial aesthetic.

In a different vein, Joe Wilson’s work investigates historic narratives through his black and white landscape photography. Wilson ponders on the past and possible future changes of a woodland landscape in Ashington, Northumberland. Being local to this area, Wilson refers to it as a "peculiar arcadia," altered hugely by man’s activities. His photographs are subtle in their reference to this history, demonstrating the power context has over an image.

Landscape is involved in the work of Nikoletta Majewska in a more experimental manner. The artist uses collage of photographs and other materials such as mirror pieces to present a landscape that speaks of hope and fear, a paradox depicted in two contrasting parts of an image.

From this selection of soon-to-be graduating ECA students, it's clear there is stimulating variation found in the Degree Show; thematically, visually and in material. Yet each body of work is made more powerful by the closeness of the project to the artist themselves, as personal and intimate elements come into play in different respects. After much time spent drawing together final threads of ideas and seeing images in new ways as they fall into place, the work on display promises a great deal from this new generation of artists.

Go with the Glow – Wanshu Li

Want to know more about this year’s ECA degree shows? Read our guide:

ECA Photography Degree Show 2016, Main Building, Lauriston Campus, 28 May-5 Jun