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Francesca Allen
Photography Francesca Allen

The UK photography graduates on Magnum’s radar

As the legendary photo agency prepares to announce the winner of this year’s Graduate Photography Award, we profile seven potential luminaries

The name Magnum is synonymous with some of the world’s most daring, inquisitive, story-seeking and striking photographers. Bruce Gilden, Alec Soth and Martin Parr are just some of the names that come to mind when you think of the work that has been given a home by Henri Cartier-Bresson’s legendary photo agency.

In the age of the internet, more photographers than ever are able to showcase work, and, more often than not, are working without agents and gallerists, instead publishing and exhibiting on their own, through blogs and DIY publishing and show spaces. Aware of this shift, each year, Magnum asks editors from varying publications, curators and photo book publishers to collectively shortlist 100 recent UK graduates for their Graduate Photography Award in association with Photo London – supported by RBB. The list is ultimately narrowed down to just 10 of the brightest graduates who are judged by names including Magnum’s own, Mark Power. The 10 winners see their work displayed in a slideshow on Thursday 19 May at Somerset House for Photo London, alongside a portfolio review and mentoring. This year, I was asked to nominate a selection of the brightest photographers to have graduated in the past three years from a photography related course, below we profiie some of them.

ADAMA JALLOH

I first came across Adama Jalloh’s work through her series “You Fit The Description”, a series that profiles young black and Asian men in London who have been subject to stop and searches. Jalloh accompanies black and white portraits with environmental shots of the locations where the young men were stopped in a visual accompaniment to the 2014 statistic that black men are 28 times more likely to be stopped than their white contemporaries. Graduating from Arts University Bournemouth with a BA in Commercial Photography, Jalloh’s work focuses on issues of race, culture and identity within the UK.

CIAN OBA-SMITH

A graduate of the University of the West of England, Cian Oba-Smith’s work led him to the infamous Andover and Six Acres Estate in north London's Holoway – a hotbed for drugs, violence, and prostitution, particularly in the 80s. Three decades later and that stigma is still attached to the community and through his eponymous series, Oba-Smith observes the lives of its residents and its location.

FRANCESCA ALLEN

Looking towards her circle of friends for inspiration, London College of Communication graduate Francesca Allen uses her lens to capture an almost diarist account of their lives by immortalising that gap between adolescence and womanhood in her series "GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS!".

LEWIS KHAN

Spotlighting the NHS in his series “Our NHS”, the UWE Bristol graduate lifts the lid on the work of the doctors and nurses at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital in London. By focusing on the human aspect of the NHS, Khan gives a face to the statistics we are so used to seeing.

MEGAN DOHERTY

Northern Ireland photographer Megan Doherty flips small town banality on its head by turning it into its own alternate universe that is a staged celebration of youth, subculture, and freedom. The University of Ulster graduate says she uses the series, “Stoned in Melanchol”, as form of escapism for herself and her friends – telling us, “Essentially I am imposing my ideas of youth, freedom, beauty and rebellion on to the landscape of small town life.”

SOPHIE WEDGEWOOD

Sophie Wedgewood’s series “Waithood” puts an increasingly displaced youth through the filter of photography. Opening up discussions about unemployment within her frames, Wedgewood captures bored and frustrated youths in their homes as they patiently wait for the gap between adolescence and adulthood to close. 

Magnum's Graduate Photography Award winners will be announced on 17 May, ahead of the slideshow event at Photo London

BEX DAY

Bex Day is a London-based photographer and recent graduate of UAL. She is also the Photo Editor of PYLOT – a publication that champions all-analogue photography, even through to its advertisements. This no retouch approach is evident in Day’s own personal work where she trains her lens on characters that she crosses paths with, whether in her home town, or in unique communities across the world. The series you see here, “Casa Do Povo” (“House of the People”), took her to Portugal and is an exploration of a sense of cultural identity within the community of Santa Luzia.