Explorations of the self

The self has played a vital role in photography practices across the history of the medium. This is partly the reason why photographers, consciously or not, turn the camera on themselves directly and symbolically to present their view and the relationship between photography and the self.

Through our last open call, Intro:spective, we compiled a shortlist of students and recent graduates, who investigate extensively broad notions of being through their photography practices. These explorations reach a common ground, drawing our attention to the crudeness of the photographic process and the consciousness of material used in the process of making. The concept of the photograph as an object also emerges through a number of the works below, highlighting the importance of experiencing a piece, in order for it to fulfil its notions.

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Jake Gill is a recent graduate from the University of Westminster, whose photography practice revolves around the notion of digital communication which rules the world of today and the effects that has on mental health. Gill applies collage techniques to remove information from his photographs, turning the missing pieces into brightly coloured silhouettes. The artist attempts to negotiate the confinement of emotions which take place as a result of digital notification and effortless modes of communication. By removing the human figure, from his series ‘Toeing The Line’, Gill uses the void created as a vehicle to depict notions of failure, insecurity and hesitation.


The multidisciplinary artist Izaak Brandt employs dance, sculpture, painting, video, music and performance in his practice, predominantly investigating human experiences of movement. With a background in dance, Brandt explores the tension between live performance of Breakdance against the sculptural representation of the body during the activity. His 3D life-size cardboard rendering from ‘Fatigue’ manifests the nature of the street dance. Sustaining the body in a position, a freeze, in breakdance terms, Brandt draws our attention to the balance intensive stance, addressing his frustration with an injury whilst competing in 2016. Brandt graduated from University of the Arts London in 2017.


Szilvia Bolla is currently undertaking an MA in Photography at Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design in Berlin. Intrigued by photography as material and process, Bolla’s practice is based on darkroom techniques, such as the luminogram. While aiming to create a distinctive play between digital and camera-less processes, and their emergent content, Bolla experiments with light-sensitivity, colour mixing, scanning and UV printing. Using the process of thermoforming along with printing onto plexiglass with ultraviolet light, Bolla forms anxious organic shapes – luminograms. The speculative image substrates and formats raise questions of abstraction of human presence, through the use of thermoplastics and the synthesis of digital and chemical processes.


Turkish-born and London-based artist Gökhan Tanrıöver is currently completing an MA in Photography at the Royal College of Art. His work consists of constructed imagery that focuses on personal and cultural identity, and is informed by personal experience and memory. Tanrıöver recollects childhood memories linking those to current thoughts and behaviours in order to gain a deeper self-knowledge. The expression or performance of identity is informed by these memories: those that are recalled and those that remain hidden below the surface. “Confessionals” is a series of analogue still-life photographs rooted in his autobiographical memory. The studio and the darkroom serve as the physical space where a meditative state facilitates a form of auto-therapy. The accessed childhood memories, first voiced as a textual confession, are used to construct an image as a method of enriching his understanding of the self.


James Wilde is a photography graduate from London College of Communication, currently completing an MA in Photography at the Royal College of Art. Wilde’s practice explores the tensions between narrative complexities and the limitations of the photographic image. He works across photography, sculpture and writing which all hold a subtlety and darkness, referencing a return to a certain time. Working primarily within the darkroom, Wilde takes us from the familiar to the fictional, from the safe interiors of home to seemingly untouched landscapes. Between the romanticism of boyhood and the expectations of maturity, everything is worked upon, and brought together continuously oscillating around the subject.



Maria Makridis is a Dutch artist currently undertaking an MA in Photography at the London College of Communication. In her work, Makridis tends to use nature as a starting point,  after which she moves to photogrammetry as a process to transform and reconstruct reality, until it becomes something more artificial and alienated from what we already recognise. Interested in questioning the truthfulness of photography, Makridis plays with the viewer’s perception of fiction by testing the boundaries of the medium. Our growing dependence on technology is reflected through the replications of selves created through technology’s ability to simultaneously glorify and distort our perception.


Jessy Boon Cowler is a photographic artist graduating from Arts University Bournemouth with an MA in Commercial Photography. She explores her concerns with the conflicts and dislocations between the constructed versus the natural world, the intellectual versus the physical, and the digital versus the analogue through her use of different media and subject matter. Fascinated by the way destructive energy can be channelled into a creative process, Cowler’s work becomes a form of self-therapy. Her practice is process-led, an excavation of the subconscious, where meanings often surface in retrospect. Multi Love is a series of diptychs, re-appropriating images from beauty magazines which are rearranged to create different perspectives. This project was made using the energy created by the end of a relationship, since there are at least two sides to every story.


Dafne Salis is an Italian artist based in London, whose practice deals with the female body. Salis graduated from the London College of Communication in 2012 and received her MA at the Royal College of Art in 2018. Her work explores identity within the context of heterosexual relationships. Using herself as the starting point of this enquiry, Salis embarks on a journey to discover the self, trying to break gender essentialism within images. The work Vaginographies is made of photographs taken with the vagina. It is a work about maternity, in response to Courbet’s painting The Origin of the World, where a man looks at a Vulva without a clear visual reference to maternity. Salis’ response implies a change of perspective and an implication of the maternal, both because the picture has been taken within the birth canal and because the picture represents a newborn baby.


Having completed an MA in Photography at the University of Brighton, the Polish artist Violetta Liszka explores notions of identity and human relationships through her use of video, objects and installation alongside photography. Intrigued by Judaism as a religion and way of life, Liszka is interested in the inability to completely discard one’s past in the quest of adopting a new identity. Using various objects connected with our common space – religious, philosophical, as well as psychological, Liszka refers to personal and collective memories and cultural rituals.


Currently undertaking an MA in Photography at Royal College of Art, Ioanna Sakellaraki’s  practice develops constructed space of fantasy and loss within the magical potential of transformation and fiction the camera allows. Inspired by the ancient Greek laments, she dwelled within traditional communities of the last female mourners inhabiting the Mani Peninsula contemplating on the idea of inherited grief. The series highlights the performative and fictive aspects of the work of mourning.

Written by: Lina Ivanova