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Ezekiel Empathy
Works from Empathy (2018)Courtesy of Ezekiel

Liberating photographs of British youth in uncertain times

Photographer Ezekiel captures his friends in moments of freedom, from balloons on Brighton beach to the bliss of young love

For photographer and London College of Fashion student Ezekiel, in our hyper-technology and widely desensitised world, photography is a way to revive human emotion. His recently released zine Empathy traces the universality of coming of age, and the human connection and self-reflection that comes with it.

Focusing on his experiences as a queer man of colour in London, Ezekiel draws on empathy as a tool to battle our current social and political uncertainty. “Empathy can be overwhelming for a lot of people, especially for our generation during the age of the internet,” reflects the photographer. “The internet has given us access to a variety of news sources that past generations didn’t necessarily have; of course this is great when it comes to educating us on global topics. However, I think I can speak for a lot of people when you almost feel a sort of sensory overload. Which in turn desensitises us to all these issues and injustices we see online. We still have some work to do, in regards to learning on how to deal with a bombardment of all this information.”

Every inch of Ezekiel’s photography elicits nostalgic feels for simpler times as he captures the intimate moments that unfold around him, from balloons on Brighton beach to blissful young love. In this sense, the photographer shows the changing shape of London’s youth culture. Liberated moments are aligned with the realism of being in your early 20s today, covering issues such as safe sex, activism, and queer rights.

“Photography is a reminder that I am alive. That a queer person of colour is living, breathing and thriving within this complex world” – Ezekiel

“The liberation in my work comes from a place of acceptance,” Ezekiel says. “Accepting the fact that life is not easy; so do I mope about and complain or can I turn this realisation into a positive thing? I’m really tired of being sad and creating art from a place of sadness; which is why I try and capture things through a hopeful and positive perspective. I will admit that there are definitely some dark undertones to my work, but that adds to the realism – there’s an awareness that there will always be dark times in mine and all of our lives, but we have to move on and get through it.”

After spending a year on the series, Ezekiel realised how Empathy was not only an exploration of his world, but a coping mechanism for dealing with his reality. As he reflects, “Photography is a reminder that I am alive. That a queer person of colour is living, breathing and thriving within this complex world, and is able to use photography in order to change an opinion or someone’s perception of a certain subject. I think for a lot of marginalised people, photography has become an outlet; similar to a diary. Where we are able to share our experiences with one another, while also reflecting on how this has affected us, move forward and grow from it.” As the liberation of Empathy shows, art is still a strong coming of age medium for personal and social change.