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Photography students show their range of skills and subjects

Free Range exhibition showcases thought-provoking projects 

By Kiera Hay

From street dancing in California to goat milking in Bulgaria, photography graduates from the University of East London (UEL) showcased a mesmerizing mix of subject matter at this year’s Free Range graduate exhibition.

UEL’s Surface show marked the tenth time the University’s photography students have shown at Free Range – a respected art and design show that draws top universities to east London’s Truman Brewery every year. 

Minna Kantonen, Principal Lecturer in Photography, said, “The kind of people you get through here is quite unique. People from all walks of life come in: fashion designers, collectors, someone from a gallery.” 

She continued, “Having their work shown for this many people and this kind of audience is a good experience for our students. It’s about learning new skills and networking and working together as a team.”

This year’s Surface show featured 38 participants.

Samantha Dyer’s The Unspoken focused on Essex residents who fought in the Second World War. Her project included portraits, recorded interviews and old pictures.

Samantha said she wanted to show a more “traditional” side of the county that contrasts with the fun-loving lifestyle depicted in television shows such as The Only Way is Essex.

Samantha said, “The younger generation soon won’t have a chance to speak to these veterans anymore and I thought my way of keeping the memories going was to make a book of them all.”

Dragos Ionescu showed a selection of portraits of his Romania-based grandfather. Dragos’ accolades this year include making the finals of the prestigious Association of Photographers (AOP) Student Awards competition.

Josh Rumbold journeyed to California to photograph and film street dance culture. His A Westcoast Story was partly funded by a UEL Going Global bursary, which gives money to students for study-related overseas trips.

Josh, a dancer himself, said travelling around the Golden State and interviewing the dance movement’s founders and pioneers was a powerful experience.

He said, “Lots of guys had it rough. Street dancing and hip-hop culture is the only way they could escape the real world and be their own person.”

He said he hoped the photographs and short documentary that resulted from his trip would inspire people to take a closer look at street dance. Showing at Free Range has been a massive honour, Josh said.

“It’s a big gallery and known space, and there’s thousands of people travelling through. Hopefully they’ll see my work and follow it up and like it,” he said.