A couple inhabit a bed together, but seem a world apart. A perfectly filled glass of milk sits atop its overspill. A girl holds her head under the water.
Millennium Images, a photography agency based in Hackney, opened Peaches & Cream at the Dreamspace Gallery, Hoxton in early October. The exhibition was part of a wider competition for emerging photographers. Prizes ranged from a three-year contract with Millennium Images, and the chance for the winning photographer to see their work published on the cover of a best selling novel. Alongside this were two cash prizes: £500 for the overall winner and £100 as a special Graduate Prize.
The most striking thing about the exhibition is the narrative, the story-telling quality of the images selected. Brendan Baker and Daniel Evans’s images are sharp, witty, and concise: they tell jokes that crack like whips and are set off beautifully by their titles. ‘Obviously Hidden’ (see below) could become a threatening or abusive image without its glib and caustic title.
By contrast, Luke Pajak’s miniatures read like short stories or vignettes, neatly encapsulating the life of a single individual. Pajak plays upon the evocative power of empty rooms and personal objects like shoes to evoke a personality, and it is the absent figure that seems the subject of these images.
The winner of both prizes was announced after the audience at the private view had had time to fully peruse the exhibition. The standard of the work was very high and the winners were not easy to predict. The Graduate Prize was taken (to my mind, deservedly) by Baker and Evans, but the overall winner was Richard Tuschman, whose image you can see on the flyer for the show. Tuschman’s work was certainly excellent: whimsical, surreal and dreamlike with often psychedelic colours and wistful, far away female subjects (see below). However, his work lacked the immediacy and intensity of some of the other works on show.
Particular highlights included Laura Steven’s portraits of couples, again for their narrative element and complexity. Steven’s images give access to a moment within a relationship that occupies the strange space between intimacy and dramatic dynamism. They create a tension in the viewer between transgressive voyeuristic pleasure and the feeling of watching a staged encounter, enhanced by the theatrical lighting. Thus, the images push themselves in contrasting ways, and compel both the gaze and the mind for longer than Tuschman’s.
Another strong candidate was Neil Craver, whose underwater portraits were arresting, occupying a fragile place between threat and beauty. Lydia Panas’s single portrait of a confrontational yet economical female subject who endlessly holds the viewer’s gaze was also a very exciting image.
The task of judges Jason Shenai (director of Millennium Images), Richard Kalman (Crane Kalman Brighton) and Richard Evans (Atlantic Books) was not enviable. As a show, Peaches & Cream was compelling, thought-provoking and consistently strong. This blogger will be keeping an eye out for all the photographers featured – they will be ones to watch.
To find out more about Millenium Images and the photographers featured, click here.