Every summer, University of the Arts London holds physical showcases for their graduates. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, everything for 2020 has been moved online, to UAL Graduate Showcase – a virtual platform created with IBM, hosting work from thousands of students across art, design, fashion, communication, media and performing arts.
Throughout August, VICE UK will be spotlighting projects from graduates across the six colleges that make up University of the Arts London.
Below are three different projects from each using photography to explore the concept of identity as it intersects with sexuality, gender and race.
James Greenhalgh (London College of Communication)
"The Best Part of Me Is You
The Best Part of Me Is You is an artist’s attempt to decipher his identity as a man through the people he photographs. The project, which took three years, focuses on the home environment as a safe space to explore masculinity. The location also allows for a single source of natural light to bring out warm tones, texture and shadows in a way that adds depth to the portraits.
“I feel that, for my generation, fluidity is just accepted and you can be whoever you want to be,” says James. “Through this series, I learned that it’s OK to not understand what masculinity means. I was under a lot of pressure to be able to put words into my identity and justify the way I look, the way I do anything.
“Through doing these photographs and meeting new people, you realise that it’s totally OK not to know what’s going on. You don’t have to know exactly who you are at 21 – I’d be surprised if anyone did.”
Marita Upeniece (London College of Communication)
Her Night City
Who owns the night? This is the question London-based artist Marita Upeniece investigates in Her Night City, a series featuring women photographed near their homes and places of work at night time. The photographs capture the tension and conflicting emotions women experience in occupying familiar spaces at night.
“I come from Latvia, which is one of the least densely populated countries in Europe,” says Marta. “I really like the idea of solitude and meeting spaces – we all need space and time to be by ourselves, but I was thinking: do women have space to go and occupy spaces in the city [at night] if they need that moment of solitude? It’s a simple act, but it’s not that simple, because at any moment someone could appear somewhere and then you can never relax.”
“It made me angry when I was researching the project. I looked at Google search terms for things like ‘woman in the night’, and I was struck by how many images feature a woman photographed from behind. It’s like a stalker’s point of view, which implies she’s actually not alone and is being followed.”
Hidhir Badaruddin (London College of Fashion)
When Hidhir Baruddin first moved to London from Singapore, he was always asked what kind of “Asian” he was. Frustrated by the question, the artist created the Younglawa photography series to examine the diversity of Asian masculinity and challenge the Western stereotype of the Asian male.
Baruddin photographs friends of different Asian ethnicities, sexual orientations and social backgrounds in a way that allows them to express themselves outside of traditional values and embrace identities often seen as taboo. The use of bubbles is a celebration of Asian masculinity within a context not familiar to the viewer – one of merrymaking and joy.
“You hardly ever see a leading Asian male fronting campaigns or films within the media,” says Hidhir. “They are often typecast as either ultra-masculine or geeky, but the other aspects within Asian masculinity are almost never portrayed. I had to look back at my childhood in Singapore and reflect on the things I did when I was younger – blowing bubbles through this plastic thing was really popular back in the day. It was fun.”
Discover more at the UAL Graduate Showcase.