Looking In: Photographic Portraits by Maud Sulter and Chan-Hyo Bae

On view through September 22, 2013
Ben Uri Gallery @ The London Jewish Museum of Art

I’m so excited because it feels like it’s been a while since I’ve found photographers or photographic artwork I didn’t already know about…

In retrospect, I know realize that I discovered the work of Maud Sulter in 2010 during my first visit to the V&A museum’s photography collection. Sulter unfortunately passed away in 2008 from a long-term illness, but she left behind a photographic legacy that includes Zabat, a series of Cibachrome photographic portraits of contemporary black artists, musicians and writers, posed as a theater of ancient muses.

Urania (Portrait of Lubaina Himid); from the series Zabat by Maud Sulter

Sulter’s staged portraits and their focus on ancient culture remind me of the work of her contemporary, fellow Black British photographer Rotimi Fani-Kayode. Through a magical combination of models, props and manipulated light, both photographers were able to evoke transcendent spirits with the very concrete medium of studio photography.

Almost twenty years after Sulter’s work, photographer Chan-Hyo Bae begins to stage his series Existing in Costume (2005) as a reaction to the exclusion he felt as an immigrant from the East (South Korea) trying to live in the West (UK). A series of self portraits, the work speaks both to alienation and also challenges the viewers definition of masculinity and British nationality.

From the series “Existing in Costume” by Chan-Hyo Bae

Presenting these works by Sulter and Bae, Looking In: Photographic Portraits by Maud Sulter and Chan Hyo-Bae is the first photographic exhibit at the Ben Uri Gallery that will address themes of identity and migration. In this post I present an image from each photographer that I would LOVE to add to my humble but growing photography collection!

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