The Obscura Collective - PVD Degree Show Catalogue 2019

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The Obscura Collective


8- Paige Henderson 10- Jay Smith 12- George Collins 14- Connor Ellwood 16- Pati Kupiec 18- Jake Carley 20- Andrew Thompson 22- Plamena Ganeva 24- Kieran Keeton 26- Luke Nickerson 28- Aine Dvileviciute 30- Andra Trandaf 32- Sophie Ellingworth 34- Megan Dorin 36- Tom Lorimer 38- Jack Bramley 40- Scott Gallagher 42- Ti Hirst 44- Carolyn Stritch 46- Bronya Harrison 48- Matthew Sommer 50- Alex Costin 52- Isabel Mathias

The Obscure Collective

Photography Degree Show 2019 As a documentary photographer working with visual narrative who comes in to teach at the University of Sunderland for only a few hours a week, I am in the privileged position of seeing the students as they start their second year and then again as they come to the completion of their final year. The shift in the level of work, the ambition and the control of the medium is always extraordinary to observe, and although often, the students have not noticed the developments they have made, it is really evident to me, as someone who only sees certain moments during their journey. Studying photography can take people in so many different directions as they come to terms with the complex, often daunting array of skills, the need for a broad visual understanding and also the development of their own voice in a cacophony of photographers that call for attention across the virtual world and beyond. Our practice and knowledge is even more relevant today with the advances and uses of digital image making and social media, challenging the more established analogue-based photographic productions. Working with the final year students during their last semester is a real pleasure, as they struggle to define, control and take ownership of their ideas, one eye on their aspirations for a final exhibition, the other on what lies beyond being a student. The social necessity and economic importance of creativity has never been more relevant within and throughout the educational framework. Through their work these soon to be graduates are questioning our perceptions of people and society, addressing our place within history and confronting social stereotypes. They are well placed to understand the future uses of photography and through this understanding be able to challenge and disrupt, in an informed way, a society that requires that creative thinking. My own practice, in which I spend a great deal of time building up relationships with individuals and visualising the complex stories that have got them to where they are, has often been informed by the dialogue and exchange of ideas with students as they too develop their approaches to visual story-telling. Whilst each photographer creates their own approach to making images and testing out what works for them, it is vital that students are given access into that process, recognising that there are no perfect answers, but some really compelling questions and challenges. Peter Fryer

Image credit: Aine Dvileviciute, from the series ‘Feathers’

Photographer/Associate Lecturer Northern Centre of Photography


The Blue Hue Hangs Over You Paige Henderson

During a dark spell in my life, I found days become increasingly slow and lifeless. Mornings were the worst, even on the sunniest, it did not will me to get up and face the day. Depression is the number one mental health problem worldwide, 300 million people have been diagnosed with depression (World Health Organization, 2019). This series documents the recreated moments, a constant blur over my eyes, the clawing reality seeping in every photo of having to live, but struggling to. The crawling sensation of retreating to a safe place, somewhere warm, somewhere familiar. I wanted this series to replicate the coldness of nothing I felt everyday, for those who are experiencing the same or have done, that it gets better and it doesn’t last forever.



What happens next? There are things we know we know and things that we know we don’t know. Such as what happens next. Will you be greeted by: - The Light at the end of the Tunnel - The Greek Underworld - Reincarnation - Nothingness - Judgement - Reconnecting with the Universe Or something else entirely?


As Bright As Night George Collins

As Bright As Night is an exploration into the overuse of light within the urban environment. The work examines the dystopian landscape and looks at how humans and wildlife interact within brightly lit areas. The project stemmed from a news article about the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist’s annual report. The report is an annual assessment of how close humanity is to a man-made global catastrophe. It gave three reasons for the Doomsday Clock to be so close to midnight; an increase in nuclear weapons testing, disregard to climate change and an increase in information warfare.


Still from a Video Installation


Connor Ellwood ‘So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.’ - (Genesis 1:27, emphasis added) Technology is advancing faster than ever before but at what point will it affect us as individuals in a progressive society. With current advancements in the field of Artificial Intelligence such as artificial limbs being controlled by our mind to bionic eyes that can be replaced to cure one’s blindness to the complex dialogues with Alexa, the issue of control of or by humans needs to be addressed and investigated. However, is there a finite point of development in AI and what are the ethical questions needed to be asked in relation to this development? What runner would want organic legs if they could have legs that never get tired? We have seen over the past twenty years an incredible advancement in robotics and digital technology throughout industry, the domestic environment, health care, the sex industry, cars, schools and robots created in human form and delivered to your door via Amazon. ‘When Japanese scientists make robots, they like to make them as lifelike as possible, believing that this is the best way to encourage the interaction between humans and machines – and, indeed, to understand what it means to be human’ (The Telegraph – The Men that create Robots in their own image) At what point do these advancements affect our identity? The notion of science fiction cyborgs is not so much science fiction anymore. All of this leads to a need to question a complicated relationship with technology, as seen in the film Metropolis and in the TV series Westworld. Ultimately, this becomes an issue of control raising the question do we control the digital technology or does it control us? ‘According to Genesis, we were created in the image of God then quickly exercised our free will to rebel against Him. Today, in our heightened frenzy to engineer humanlike robots, I see a disturbing recapitulation of the Creation story.’ (FAITH- Published August 5, 2016 Creation 2.0: The promise (and perils) of creating robots in our own image By Michael Guillen, Ph.D., | Fox News) In light of all of this do we need to address the concept of the soul, the spiritual or immaterial part of a human being, regarded as immortal or are we merely talking about objects discarded at will, unwrapped in the corner of our rooms? “Will we choose to behave selfishly – for profit; to be waited on hand and foot; to create slavish beings simply because we can, not because we should?” (Robots in Our Image: Three Critical Questions by Charlee New, 18th January 2018)

To Die For? Pati Kupiec

Growing up I was oblivious to cruelty-free products, until campaigns exposed me to what really goes on behind the scenes. 500,000 animals still suffer and die testing mascara, foundation, lipstick and other cosmetic products every year. This series documents the stages of each experiment. My work recreates scenes that are blindsided by reality, ignored and avoided by society. No animal needs to suffer from the choice they can’t make.


The Speed of Time Jake Carley When you look at the sky and up to the stars it appears like drops of white against a black canvas, totally still and vast, but in fact these drops are often whole galaxy’s, planets and stars. Almost all of these are moving towards and away from us in every direction at hundreds of thousands of miles per hour. As well as this we’re constantly spinning, while rotating around our own star which is intern rotating around the supermassive black hole at the centre of our own galaxy. We can’t see these movements from our perspective as human life is so momentary when thinking in an intergalactic scale. In a million years the night sky could be completely different. But its likely the human presence is this universe could be over before we get the chance to see. This begins to bring up questions about what else we would miss being restrained to such a short existence. In the Orion constellation there is a star named Betelgeuse. this star is close to going supernova and when it does it will explode spectacularly fusing its hydrogen and helium fuel into oxygen and carbon. When It does, this explosion will be about as bright as the brightest full moon in the night sky, so bright it will even be visible during the day time. This event could happen as early as the next 1000 years, but due to our distance from this event it may have already happened, and we’d have no idea. Light is often described as the physical speed limit of the universe, it can travel at 229,792,458 meters per second. This same light, through the use of undersea optical cables, is responsible for the transfer of every Byte of data you’ve ever consumed or will consume. They can move information from here to Sydney Australia in under a minute. But when considering the distance of interstellar objects, this same light takes billions of years to cover the span of the observable universe So, in a way when you’re stood looking up at the stars, you’re getting a snapshot of a moment in time, but not of our time, a time millions of years into the past. Light that began its journey when our planet was just a collection of rock, ice and gas floating in space. Light which is both ancient and instant.


Finding Peace Andrew Thompson

We live in a 24/7 world, sometimes we struggle to find the time to relax and de-stress. I spent time exploring places where I could relax, which were only a few minutes away from the busy shopping streets, work places and roads that surround us, capturing the sights and sounds on video.


Still from a Video Installation

All We Leave Behind Plamena Ganeva

“Losing your life is not the worst thing that can happen. The worst thing is to lose your reason for living.� Jo Nesbo



Our delusions of space, in accordance with perception, give visuals an untrustworthy shape; but there are laws outside ourselves that hold as the bones of the universe. The base levels of form, light, weight, sound and time. Is it possible to map these potential outer truths, when we are caught in the holding experiential circumnavigation through our caves? These works are recorded reliefs of tonal data, shaped by light, form and time, but they are entombed with a singular shaping vision. A singular within the all of the universe. Mapping the anthropocosmic vision entails a conjoining of the seamless fabric of being, and yet in my seamed medium, the futility of recording anything but singular sight renders the anthropocosmic vision as an impossibility to reach. But the singular soul is formed by the shaping universe, and we reshape the universe in return; this constant cause and effect is the seamlessness we experience when opening to the anthropocosmic vision. The attempted universal sensory understanding; an anthropocosmic vision, has driven a path through human creative communication; through magic, mythic, rational, integral, and transcendental. These chronological epitomes have been used through our history for filling the spaces of unknown. Magic denotes to original man; in worship of the sun through pigment. Mythic is the construction of stories as understanding; language changing from sound to physicality. Rational holds our dissection and recording; our sciences. Integral is the awareness of self enacting on understanding; the human mind overcoming the animal. And transcendental is the pushing past into newfound mentalities. The works displayed cycle through these understandings in a rumination on the anthropocosmic vision. Here, works are created using Chiselhurst caves as an allegorical and topographic groundwork. They were carved into human ownership as flint mines, and represent the reappropriation of reality; as myths, nature and history were given to these pocket spaces, once unfilled. Archaeological evidence stands through the architectural remains left by communes of thousands that dwelled within during the war, with campfires roasting the stone black and placing a scent upon its inhabitants. Flooding caused clay deposits to leave wave indentations upon the ground of clay, and sound can be tracked as it travels here and back within the stone restraints, ricocheting and mapping the walls. Mushrooms were cultivated in its soil, a symbiotic relationship with the bowels of the earth. Historians have falsely claimed that druids sang within the depths of these caves. Flint is the primal tool; layered time, near two dimensional when alone, a mass conjoined; mimicking the photographic collective of imagery given formation. Materiality grounds concept to an earthen body, its seamless connection within our visual path has led these works to being made by hand, of stone, silver, botanicals and skin. The anthropocosmic vision is what links all, and in its wake the void vanishes.

The Beautiful Game Luke Nickerson

59,827 Photos Taken 101 Goals 61 Games 30 Wins 22 Draws 20 Clean Sheets 9 Defeats 2 Trips to Wembley 1 Unforgettable Experience This is a collection of the work that I have produced throughout the 2018/19 season with Sunderland AFC. I have worked with the club as a photographer for most of the season and these are a collection of my best photos taken throughout that journey.



Aine Dvileviciute

If you ever wondered what it’s like to feel weightless and drift in the limitless aether, come in and connect with the intangible in the astral realm. Astral Projection, also known as Out of Body Experience is the perception of awareness outside of the physical body. It is said that people go out of body every night during sleep, but imagine if this could be self-induced; an out of body journey that a person is able to control. The Aether is said to be the Air of the Gods, the 5th element, an all-permeating invisible substance that holds all creation together. It is not only the earthly spacesuit that defines a human. This short movie reflects a regular mundane life and the existential questions that are triggered by it. Upon more meticulous investigation one’s reality might experience quite a rapid paradigm shift.


Still from a Video Installation

The Visual Stories of Constanta Andra Trandaf

My home city, Constanta, lays on the coast of the Black Sea and was founded in 600 BC, making it the oldest city in Romania. The city celebrates its multiculturalism, and due to the central location, it is apparent why it has become a blend between both Middle-Eastern and Western civilizations. The main port of Constanta is the largest in the Black Sea and has always facilitated large amounts of trade and travel, making it of particular historical importance. Now considered the historical area of the city, it is the home of many buildings that are still architectural marvels, even decades after they were built. Unfortunately, the history is slowly fading away as many of these buildings are destroyed to make room for new construction, or simply fall apart from neglect. Every time I have gone home on holiday, there has always been something that has changed. It was easy to notice the new buildings, but I realized how quickly the older ones were disappearing. My aim is to showcase the beauty of Constanta’s historical architecture before it’s gone forever.


1 in 10

Sophie Ellingworth

For too many young girls dealing with their period each month is a challenge and in 2019 this shouldn’t be the case. We need an open approach to tackle the taboo of menstruation as well as an educational approach which gives more personal information other than the science of what happens. Such an approach would allow for the much-needed extension to discussions relating to the unethical ‘luxury’ tax on sanitary products and the resulting social divisions and personal dilemmas for women. Growing up I was never made to feel periods were not normal, although I was made to feel they were secrets that only girls can know. Periods always had an emphasis on pain and making sure I kept clean during this time as they were considered unhygienic. Friends at school often wouldn’t go ask the nurse for sanitary products so I had to be the one to go and get them for my friends and hand them over discreetly.


Still from a Video Installation


Megan Dorin

‘Momentary’ is a project exploring escapism and the methods we take to find an escape from our own minds. This escapism is fleeting, momentary and often short lived but offers us space to breathe and to heal. These images are inspired by my own personal therapeutic space where I leave behind the anxieties and stresses of everyday life. Nature has always been my escape, a place where I can take a step back and breathe. A place where I can forget and leave behind dark thoughts and feelings. A therapeutic space, with its everchanging seasons, vivid colours and abstract shapes.


Sentimental Tom Lorimer

Sentimental adjective 1. of or prompted by feelings of tenderness, sadness, or nostalgia. 2. having or arousing feelings of tenderness, sadness, or nostalgia, typically in an exaggerated and self-indulgent way. In this digital age, it is infinitely easier to store, share and access information. Extremely detailed images, video and large bodies of text can be sent around the world in an instant at the click of a button. Is this ease of transfer making us less inclined to value these things? Before the supremacy of the internet, images and videos were stowed away carefully; pressed into leather bound albums and stored cautiously in a drawer somewhere until they were ready to be retrieved again. They were treasured, prized collections of memories, fleeting moments and achievements. Today these moments, these treasured reminiscences and memories, are a scattered collection of ones and zeros in an unmarked folder within a fictional cloud. Do we still value the past? All of these images are constructed from photographs that have been discarded by their owners, despite their potentially sentimental value. Take a moment to consider.... How many memories have you cast aside?


A Natural Escape Jack Bramley

Being in nature is when I am most relaxed. When I can just sit and think about everything and nothing all at the same time. That sense of tranquillity is what makes nature beautiful. When in natural spaces I always like to think about what makes nature pleasant to be in and it always comes down to the feeling of isolation and in a strange way, the existential terror which comes from looking at this vast world we live in and how small people are in the grand scheme of things. A Natural Escape is a meditative space which is made to generate a sense of tranquillity and promote the idea of allowing yourself to cleanse your mind by escaping to natural spaces.


Still from a Video Installation

Spectacle of Pride Between Two Divides Scott Gallagher

Considered one of the most powerful cities in the world, London is undoubtedly not short from culture, history, power, and integrity. Never a short blink away from the next iconic landmark, London prides itself on its diverse culture, not only with its people, within its architecture and framework too. Denoted as one of the most powerful cities, it leaves to wonder what is it that makes London so powerful? Monarchy or Industry and Business? “Divorced, beheaded, died; divorced, beheaded, survived�. Thankfully no longer used as a prison, or place of torture; The Tower of London once was an institution that represented power to its core. Standing as a tourist destination in present day, does this defy its previous stature of power; has it been transferred to the business industry, or do they coincide together?


The Empty Chair TI Hirst

Genocide: Intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” Raphael Lemkin When we hear the word ‘genocide’ we often think of historic events that took place between 1941 – 1945 in Nazi Germany; whereas we often don’t discuss the prior and post world war. These events took place across the globe and affected a variety of people, changing lives forever in immeasurable ways. In Jewish culture, it was traditional to have an empty chair by a table to symbolise the lives lost in the holocaust, and to have the chair filled by another Jewish person to celebrate Jewishness. The empty chair is now used as a symbol of strength and resilience but to also remember the lives lost. It is also an invitation to contemplate tragedies of yesterday, and reflect upon the people who are no longer with us because of genocides. In a modern world filled with division, where we see groups under threat in ways that emulate those of the past, it is vital that we never let our society fall back into the ways of old. A plastic film camera, with no viewfinder, was used to create the images - the resulting soft focus becoming representative of a collective way of reflecting upon a disturbing history in which we can only try to understand - but never know - the reasons why such terrors are allowed to happen.


The Object is to Change the Soul Carolyn Stritch

The powerful but often hidden controlling force in all our lives is the economy. The neoliberalism of Thatcher and Reagan caused an extreme change in the Western self. This was always Thatcher’s intention. In 1981, she made this deeply sinister, deeply troubling comment: ‘Economics are the method; the object is to change the soul.’ From the 1980s onwards, the individual increasingly took priority over the group as globalisation and freemarket capitalism created an environment in which human life became a competition: self versus self. Strange things happened. Parents gave babies increasingly exotic names to make them stand out from their peers. The fitness craze encouraged us all to have the bodies of professional athletes. The self-esteem movement told us we could be whoever we wanted to be. Psychological studies attest to the enormous power of environment. So the everyday day lives of you and me and everybody we know are profoundly affected by this environment of competition. We ask ourselves the same question over and over again: who do I need to be in this place to get by? The economy says that means being increasingly individualistic, selfserving, and ruthless. Politically, societally, it feels like this disfiguring of the Western self is reaching some sort of crescendo. I wanted to attend to that. THE OBJECT IS TO CHANGE THE SOUL is a visual prose-poem made using archive footage and 2D-modelling. It alludes to a direct line between the culture of neoliberalism and the concurrent rise in narcissism and mental health problems among young people, zero-hours contracts and the gig economy, the widening gap between rich and poor, the crisis in public housing, declining democracy, abuses of power … in short: our current condition. The question I’m asking is this: if the economy stole our souls, changed us from collectivist to individualistic, transformed us, disfigured us, what can we do to put things right?


Still from a Video Installation

Sport of the Mind Bronya Harrison

A documentary based video upon the career of a past British Kickboxing Champion, Craig Harrison. Following the journey from being in his prime, this work focuses on the achievements gained, life-long friendships made and life lessons learned. This narrative has inspired me since growing up as a child, hearing stories of my Dad’s fighting career. I wanted to create something that could put a visual to these stories. For me, they were what sparked my interest in the fighting arts.


Still from a Video Installation

Spectrum Matthew Sommer

Is what we see with our own eyes all there is? Our eyes can only see a narrow band of visible spectrum and with this limited amount of information we try to build our world view. But what if there is more? Technology is allowing us to look into a world that is not accessible to us on an every day basis. How does a chance of seeing a different view of things affect us? Something that may not look the same in our eyes, may not look so different in other light. But is spectrum a term that is only limited to our vision?


The Loud Generation Alex Costin

Often, the media can contribute to discrimination by spreading false information about trans people being dangerous, which leads to people fearing trans people as we are made to believe that the media doesn’t have an agenda. As more trans people come out, the more the media (and society) make false claims that trans people are ‘turning people trans’, or that it is a ‘trend’. However, more people are coming out due to trans identities being talked about more openly, them feeling comfortable to be themselves and knowing a word to describe themselves. The six people photographed are trans-masculine or nonbinary and were asked “what is your most memorable trans related experience?” The responses tell real stories of real people, all of whom have experienced some type of negative attitude towards them. However, they also have positive memories that vary from being gendered correctly and forming supportive friendships.


Due Anni Dopo’ (Two Years On) Isabel Mathias

‘Due Anni Dopo’ examines the visual remnants of the catastrophic destruction that took place on the nights of 24th August and again on 26th and 30th October. The whole region is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site and is nicknamed ‘Balcone di Sibillini’, (Sibillini’s mountain balcony). This village and the region of Marche was to suffer greatly and left many homes and areas uninhabitable. Thousands of residents were made homeless and even today, nearly three years later, many homes, churches, museums and restaurants remain empty, locked and barred to their owners, diners and worshippers. There is however, an incredible sense of community and belief in the town’s resurrection and there are many scenes of how broken buildings are being restored through engineering techniques informed by local knowledge. This is so important to such an architecturally historic and beautiful town which although suffering physically and emotionally has the ability to rebuild itself.


Kieran Keeton

Luke Nickerson

Aine Dvileviciute

Andra Trandaf @aa.nd.ra


Sophie Ellingworth @sophielouiseuk

Megan Dorin

Tom Lorimer

Jack Bramley

Paige Henderson @paigeclairephotography

Jay Smith

George Collins

Connor Ellwood

Pati Kupiec @morningtwilight_

Jake Carley

Andrew Thompson

Scott Gallagher @mister.sentimental

Ti Hirst @being.ti

Carolyn Stritch @theslowtraveler

Bronya Harrison

Matthew Sommer

Alex Costin

Isabel Mathias

Andrew@AndrewThompson. Photography AndrewThompson.Photography

Plamena Ganeva

The Obscura Collective @theobscuracollective @northernflames

Artists would like to express their thanks to the Staff at the Northern Centre of Photography: Arabella Plouviez, Craig Ames, Dave Harvey, Peter Fryer, Clive Jackson, Carol Mckay, Helen McGhie, Marjolaine Ryley, Alexandra Moschovi, Stephen Turner and Michael Daglish The artists would also like to thank everyone for their extremely generous donations. Without your incredible help and generosity, the Obscura Collective Opening Night would not have been such a great success. Thank You.

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images and text copyright to the featured artists. 2019 Design by Jay Smith & Jake Carley

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