The photographer teamed up with 24 emerging artists to narrate the experiences shaping the lives of young Londoners
“I wanted to create something that shines a light on homegrown talent and brings together a creative community,” Sophie Wedgwood explains to Dazed over email, “inspiring young Londoners to realise their potential alongside peers.”
A photographer and director from Camberwell, Wedgwood cut her teeth as a photojournalist for the BBC. Commissioned by BBC picture editor Phil Coomes, she travelled across the UK to document the different realities defining the identity of her country.
Using her lens to portray the evolving nature of British youth culture, Wedgwood won her first photography award for Growing Up Young, a series reflecting upon the struggles faced by teen girls as they make their way in a social-media-dominated world.
The winner of this year’s Magnum Photography Award for Emerging Photographer, in her latest project, the artist turns her camera on young local talents to create a zine that celebrates youth’s sense of belonging to London and its many faces – from Peckham to Camberwell, Finsbury Park to Brixton.
“I’ve always loved how London throws different people together” – Sophie Wedgwood
“It’s been really inspiring to see everyone working together and staying connected with the city too,” Wedgwood says. “One of my biggest ambitions for this project was to help create a network between these people. In light of the 2020 quarantine, this message has now become more important than ever.”
The result of the collaboration between 24 emerging artists aged 16 upwards, the zine was created as part of Converse’s ongoing Spark Progress series: an initiative that sees the brand providing artists with the means necessary to realise their own creative ideas.
Granting designers, illustrators, stylists, and more the opportunity to express their potential, Wedgwood’s project takes a tender look at London’s new generation of creatives – whether it be high school students, recent graduates, or freelance artists – by merging the emotional and aesthetic aspects of their artistic production into one unique body of work.
Below, we speak with Wedgwood about the contradictions of today’s creative industry, the making of the zine, and how this helped her stay connected with others amid coronavirus.
Your online zine project features the work of 24 creatives aged 16 upwards. Can you tell us about the idea behind the project?
Sophie Wedgwood: The zine came about really naturally. I wanted to work with young Londoners to create something that would last. I told Converse about the idea and they said that they would love to support it under their Spark Progress initiative. The zine is all about shared experiences and community. Even though lots of people (who contributed to it) haven’t been able to meet up, I still wanted the city to come through in a tangible way, enabling real-life connections. To heighten the sense of place and belonging to London, we chose to add a map to the design of the zine. My idea was to create something that the people involved could actually make use of and give out to potential clients, universities, or friends.
Some of the younger artists I worked with had never been part of anything like this before, so this might be their first credit on a project too. I think it’s important that young creatives see the art world as accessible. There are so many preconceptions about who you must be and how you should create art, which can often be intimidating especially for newcomers who don’t come from established art backgrounds. I’ve always found this conformity to be ironic in the art world. Creativity should be an outlet for change and innovation. The idea that all young artists should go down the same path seems contradictory to me.
How did you cast the 24 artists featured in the zine?
Sophie Wedgwood: It was a mixture of word of mouth, neighbours, chance encounter. Indiana Lawrence (the designer) found Marvis (who worked on the back and front cover illustrations) through a school. I wanted to recruit people based on their genuine keenness to be involved.
How do the artworks featured in the zine reflect the ‘community’ theme?
Sophie Wedgwood: Everyone involved in the project is at different stages in their lives and careers but, at the same time, they are all co-existing in the same city, London. I’ve always loved how London throws different people together. In this sense, I think the concept of community, which is the foundation of the zine itself, came naturally. It wasn’t something that had to be nurtured – much like it happens in London. It ended up that the zine was like an A-Z of artists.
How would you like this project to influence aspiring artists and emerging creatives who are going through quarantine right now?
Sophie Wedgwood: I think telling people what to do in times like this can be difficult. We all develop in different ways and at different times. For me, (quarantine) has been a good opportunity to think about why I love art and why I started making art in the first place. I would say my main suggestion would be to try to work with other people.
A couple of weeks ago Converse asked me if I wanted to be part of their Create At Home project. I ended up working remotely with 20 creatives from my community to make a video. It really helped me to see the situation differently by creating something positive together.
You mentioned that 90 per cent of the creatives taking part in the project hadn’t meet in real life. What were the challenges of working on the zine remotely?
Sophie Wedgwood: When I first saw how working remotely on the project was bringing us closer together, I was really surprised. The zine kind of became our way of staying connected to each other, to our experiences, and to our city, London.
How has this initiative helped you cope with the current situation?
Sophie Wedgwood: There will always be challenges in life, so I think that learning how to adapt and sitting with that uncomfortableness can be a really good exercise. Sometimes, when you are more patient with yourself, amazing things come up that you wouldn’t have expected to happen. I think it’s been really interesting to strip things back and think about what the value of art actually is. Personally, I believe art should make you feel good, while also sparking reflection.
“The zine became our way of staying connected to each other, to our experiences, and to our city, London” – Sophie Wedgwood
Can we expect more issues of the zine or is it going to be a one-time project?
Sophie Wedgwood: We will see! I like zines because they’re physical. Social media is so important in the arts but I think the nature of its quick turn around can rob a project of its withstanding impression. I love all my art books because, time after time, I can return to them and draw new inspiration. I don’t think social media has the same effect.
The captions of your zine touch on the importance that art and music have for youth self-expression. How have those helped you explore and define your own sense of identity and how is this reflected in your work?
Sophie Wedgwood: Working with young creatives has been really inspiring because they are expressing themselves in a very pure way. When you’re working in this type of industry, you can be pressured into creating work that reflects what others want you to do, rather than your own personality. So I think it’s always good to be aware of what you really love and stay true to that.
The focus in the zine is on the feelings that connect them to their own community and how such feelings shape their experiences as Londoners. What would you say is the relationship between emotions and artistic production?
Sophie Wedgwood: I think creating art is always going to be emotional because it’s so personal. You put a lot of yourself into it as an artist. Taking photos of other people is also a very emotive job: your aim is to really pick up on someone’s mood, or feelings, and convey those. So I think it would be impossible to separate art and emotions.
Creative Director, Photographer, Director: Sophie Wedgwood, DOP & Editor for video: Sophie Farrell, Music for video: Ashley Noel-Hirst, Senior designer: Indiana Lawrence, Designer: Marvin Anozie, Stylists: Alain Suárez, Soleaux, @knwgd, Casting: @rebecsaw, Production Development: Holly Hart