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Labs New Artists II
Photography Chris Smith

25 emerging photographers to put on your radar now

New York’s Red Hook Labs will open the second iteration of Labs New Artists this week – here are some of our favourites

Update: Labs New Artist II opens in Oslo on 11 October 2018, more details here

New York’s Red Hook Gallery returns with the second iteration of its seminal, now annual, show, Labs New Artists, which opens tomorrow with 25 of the most exciting and emerging photographers currently working. In March, the gallery posted an open call, encouraging photographers who are unrepresented by a gallery or agency to submit their works for a chance to exhibit in the space. A jury of industry leaders and professionals then whittled the entries down from hundreds of portfolios in order to select a wide-range of talent, from the United States to the United Kingdom, Australia, China, Germany, South Africa, Mexico, and Canada.

As the show prepares to open its doors (running until 24 June), we catch up with a handful of the photographers showing to find out what drives their work.

TYLER MITCHELL, NEW YORK, NEW YORK CITY

What is it that inspires you to take photographs?

Tyler Mitchell: Really, I’m more interested in movies, moving images, and bigger on-going stories about cultural identity. But right now, I find that pictures are the most effective way for me to get out some of those ideas I have in my head about my own personal identity, blackness, and those sorts of things. I’m interested in how a picture can be like a gut punch. How can it be aesthetically beautiful, and real, and also considered a moving work of art all at once? And how can it feel young and fun at the same time This is what I’m working toward in my photographs.

Can you tell us about the work included in the Labs New Artists II show?

Tyler Mitchell: I have seven prints in the Labs show. I like how together they feel like a mixtape because that’s how I look at my photographic output. I don’t try to separate the commissioned from the personal – I want it all to have a similar visceral impact. So these seven works come from a variety of different places; some shot in Cuba, some in California, some in New York, but they all attempt to tell stories or evoke the freedom and beauty of the black body. Specifically of black males.

“I’m interested in how a picture can be like a gut punch” – Tyler Mitchell

What do you hope people feel or see when they look at your work?

Tyler Mitchell: My work attempts, on some level, to depict black men and black people first and foremost as not just ‘things’. And I employ aesthetic beauty to do that. We have been ’thingified’ in this country – bodily, sexually, emotionally, and socially. The works try to break free of any notion of this ‘thingification’. It tries to just breathe. There’s a softness that I like to evoke, that isn’t sexualised, or sensationalised, it just is. It’s inherently human; being black.

What advice can you give to emerging photographers?

Tyler Mitchell: One thing I want in life is to make pictures that enable other kids to feel themselves and feel all of themselves. Especially kids who historically haven’t felt that before. I would say just embody the complexity of yourself and your personality, and let that shine through in the photos. For emerging photographers, it’s astonishing how easy it can be to get tied up in this idea of being a ‘working photographer’, what that takes, or what trends you could indulge in. But in my opinion, you aren’t a working photographer if the work is not first and foremost you –all of you and full. Let your work be full. The same way you are a full person.

Follow Tyler Mitchell here

PEYTON FULFORD, ATLANTA, GEORGIA

What is it that inspires you to take photographs?

Peyton Fulford: It often is the overlooked moments that inspire me. I find the instances when I stop looking and just see the rawness of life happening in front of me to be the most beautiful. I then attempt to piece these intimate experiences together and translate them into a visual story. 

Can you tell us about the work included in the Labs New Artists II show?

Peyton Fulford: The work is a selection of photographs from my ongoing project titled “Infinite Tenderness”.  As a result of my religious upbringing, I did not feel comfortable coming out as queer until I was 21 years old. As I came to terms with my own identity, this photo series came to fruition. In 2016, I began exploring the notion of intimacy and identity among the LGBTQ+ community in the American South. Through this work, I have documented the exploration of one’s body, sexuality, and gender that comes along with growing up and identifying oneself.

“With my photographs, I strive to convey that identity is an ever-changing landscape” – Peyton Fulford

What do you hope people feel or see when they look at your work?

Peyton Fulford: I hope they feel a sense of tenderness and connection to the subjects. With my photographs, I strive to convey that identity is an ever-changing landscape. My intention is to empower others and create an accepting space for queer kids that grow up in small towns and rural areas. 

What advice can you give to emerging photographers? 

Peyton Fulford: Keep making work, no matter what. Try not to let your circumstances or lack of resources hold you back. A camera is just a tool. It is up to you as the photographer to create images that produce a visceral reaction. There may be thousands of people out there making work and striving to reach the same goals as you, but many of them are going to quit; you are not.

Follow Peyton Fulford here

CHRIS SMITH, SOUTH AFRICA, AFRICA

What is it that inspires you to take photographs?

Chris Smith: At the moment, I take self-portraits in my bedroom. I started doing them when I was 16 because I wanted to learn how to take pictures and I haven’t really stopped doing them since then. Now, I think I use my images to escape the ordinariness of my everyday life so each image is really motivated by the desire to see lives that are more interesting more than my own. I actually think they’re all representations of my own fantasies of glamour, sex, and violence.

Can you tell us about the work included in the Labs New Artists II show?

Chris Smith: They are a selection of my self-portraits taken between 2016 and 2018 which were all done in my bedroom at home. I have shared them on Instagram before, but this is the first time that I have printed and framed them for an exhibition – which is really exciting for me.

“I don’t really mind if people like or dislike (my photos), but I would hate for anyone to feel absolutely nothing when they look at them” – Chris Smith

What do you hope people feel or see when they look at your work?

Chris Smith: I hope they feel anything but indifference. I mean, I don’t really mind if people like or dislike them, but I would hate for anyone to feel absolutely nothing when they look at them. It’s interesting how varied the interpretations are, I like that everybody sees different things in the pictures, and they like (or dislike) them for those reasons.

What advice can you give to emerging photographers?

Chris Smith: Start taking as many pictures as you can on your own (away from social media) and keep looking at images every day to discover what you like and more importantly, what you don’t.

Follow Chris Smith here

Full list of participating artists include Antone Dolezal, US; Eli Durst, US; Peyton Fulford, US; Matthew Genitempo, US; Rudi Geyser, SOUTH AFRICA; Li Hui, CHN; Andrew Jacobs, US; Brendan George Ko, CAN; Kovi Konowiecki, US; Maria Lokke, US; Daniel Jack Lyons, US; Pat Martin, US; Chase Middleton, AUS; Tyler Mitchell, US; Diego Moreno, MEX; John Francis Peters, US; Luis Alberto Rodriguez, GER; Scandebergs, UK; Marcus Schaefer, UK; Hugo Scott, UK; Christopher Smith, UK; Renate Ariadne Van Der Togt, UK; Drew Vickers, US; Juyan Wang, UK; Logan White, US

Red Hook Gallery’s Labs New Artists II runs from June 13 – June 24, 2018