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Emily Rose England
Photography Emily Rose England

Three photographers give tips on how to ensure your work is authentic

Last month, Dazed hosted a panel discussion with Photo London which invited three photographers to discuss how they uplift and stay true to their communities

The word ‘authenticity’ has taken on a new value in today’s world. The endless cycle of fake news and hyper-curated Instagram feeds have left many in search of unfiltered, truthful representations. There has also been a push towards telling the lesser-known stories of communities and subcultures from around the world which have long been left out of the mainstream’s gaze, proving just how important the medium can be as a tool for elevation and representation.

Last month, as part of a partnership between Dazed and Photo London, Dazed’s Lexi Manatakis hosted a panel called “Representation Through the Lens”, and invited photographers Vicky Grout, Emily Rose England, and Mahtab Hussain to discuss what authenticity means to them and how they remain true to their work and subjects. Below we recap what we learned.

“I’m a part of the community I document... the people in my photographs aren’t only friends they’re family to me” – Emily Rose England


Emily Rose England: I’m a part of the community I document – I run queer nights, I work in a queer space, the people in my photographs aren’t only friends they’re family to me. When I started documenting the queer community it wasn’t something I set out to do, it started as a documentation of the life around me which over time has organically grown into this insight into our beautiful community.


Mahtab Hussain: It's about making sure that the sitters are happy with the work, so there is this definite exchange with them while I’m making. We’ll look at the portrait and the back of the camera, and have this discussion about what they feel about their portrait, which ones they’re happy with and which ones they’re not. We’ll have this critique of what they think it’s showing and representing; all of this takes time and it’s important because of the danger of misrepresentation.


Vicky Grout: As I got older and started going to more raves and underground gigs, I would always take my camera and try to get a portrait of the artists as well. I guess after a while they started to recognise my face as someone who was always attending those raves and asking me for press shots and to shoot their events.


Emily Rose England: Mainstream and right-wing media have a massive history of doctoring photos or using photos out of context in order to spread misinformation, fear and hatred of minorities in order to control us. By saying and showing that we do exist, we are proud and we are beautiful, we are directly challenging these hateful ideologies and letting them know that no matter what they do, they cannot erase us.


Vicky Grout: Representation for me means visibility, acceptance and positive documentation. It’s important for people from all backgrounds to be able to watch a film, see a photograph, look at the TV and to be able to see themselves, but also in a positive light.


Mahtab Hussain: Headlines that have been pumped around for the last 15 to 20 years have caused this incredible backlash and hatred towards Britsh Muslims, but also to Muslims globally. I feel like as an artist at the moment, I need to be able to challenge these perceptions, and call out as much as I can the lies and the fake news.

Photo London runs 16 – 19 May 2019. Dazed readers receive a 30 per cent discount on tickets