08 Jun 2021

10 Photographers to Watch in 2021

Unframe London

10 Photographers to Watch in 2021

Over time, the medium of photography had become defined by new technology and formats. Above all, colour photography, large-scale printing and digitally manipulating images have become the most dominant techniques in the world of contemporary photography. More and more, photographers use these processes to depict fresh perspectives on traditional imagery and subjects used. Without a doubt, the division between both documentary and fictional photography is blurred. However the world of contemporary photography continues to promote new, experimental and radical visual thinking.

This week, we explore the compelling work of 10 photographers pushing boundaries within the medium of photography. All of which, they each evoke new perspectives on the medium right now. These include Adrienne Raquel, Maisie Cousins, Unframe artist Nikolas Ventourakis and Stephen Tayo, to name just a few.

Kapajeva Contemporary Photography
’10 Ways Not To Become the Invisible Woman After 40′, 2020. Maria Kapajeva

Maria Kapajeva

Estonian photographer and filmmaker Maria Kapajeva was born in the Soviet Union, raised in Estonia and educated in the UK. As a result of this, she finds herself in a positioning of ‘the other’. However, as an artist she has embraced this in her artistic practice. Eventually leading her to explore a varied spectrum of gender issues and cultural identity. Both within contemporary and historical contexts. Kapajeva primarily focuses on the position of women in contemporary society. In her practice, her aim is to inquire how identities are formed due to subconscious effects. These include advertising, movies and pop culture. Most of all, transitory states inspire Kapajeva to make her intriguing pieces.

Maria Kapajeva Photography
‘Group Photo’, 2017. Maria Kapajeva. Courtesy of the artist

In her practice, she uses research as her basis and mostly gathers materials and stories. Subsequently, within this material she searches for connections, similarities or differences between each one. Above all, Kapajeva’s work is driven by her obsession with people, their belongings and personal narratives. By combining them in her work, she highlights overlooked stories, championing them in her contemporary photography.

Adrienne Raquel
‘Rain Dance’, 2020, Adrienne Raquel. Courtesy of Elephant

Adrienne Raquel

In her work, the US-based photographer Adrienne Raquel grasps the beautifully seedy world of strip joints. In particular, she focused on Houston’s ‘Club Onyx’ where, at the age of 17 she photographed resident female strippers. Raquel’s photographic work is glossy and seductive. Most often, her work embodies an all-encompassing and consuming insight into a fantasy world. Without a doubt, Raquel harks to a 1990s and early 2000s style in her visual narratives. This time in particular inspired her when growing up. All in all, this is visible in her vibrant and exposing work.

Raquel Contemporary Photography
‘Cash Out’, 2020. Adrienne Raquel. Courtesy of i-D

She uses her photography to touch upon controversial themes through vibrancy and considered details. Above all, Raquel’s work is inspired by femininity and soulfulness. Her colourful depictions of her subjects are rooted in nostalgia and fantasy. However, her compositions remain contemporary in narrative.

My Husband and I Are Separating in Part Because We Can’t Take the Stress Anymore

Samuel Fordham

My Husband and I Are Separating in Part Because We Can’t Take the Stress Anymore

Chromogenic print, mounted and oak-framed, w/ 3mm UV / anti-reflective glazing, 2018

150 x 100 cm

Samuel Fordham

Multi-disciplinary artist Samuel Fordham works predominantly with photography, text video and sound. The Bristol-based artist has developed a research-based practice. Subsequently, he focuses on the telling of intimate and hidden stories. Within these narratives, he highlights issues surrounding childhood, family welfare and equality. In particular, Fordham’s series ‘C-R92/BY’ explores the lives of families that can not physically or geographically be together. The mobile phone in this striking image symbolises this.

I Thought I would Sit Here and Look Out Over The Fjord for the Last Time

Samuel Fordham

I Thought I would Sit Here and Look Out Over The Fjord for the Last Time

Chromogenic print, mounted and oak-framed, w/ 3mm UV / anti-reflective glazing, 2018

150 x 120 cm (print size)

Subsequently, divisive family immigration policies contribute to this situation in the UK. Fordham addresses how they keep families apart, in different countries. In essence, for ‘C-R92/BY’, he seeks to investigate the effects on a family when members are physically and geographically removed. In turn, this political artwork series gives a voice to the suffering families, also know as ‘skype families’, that are left reliant on virtual communication.

Maisie Cousins Photo
‘Grass, Peonie, bum’, Maisie Cousins. Courtesy of Creative Review

Maisie Cousins

Within her practice, British artist Maisie Cousins visually redefines femininity. Crucially, she celebrates the elements of the female form that many photographers choose not to feature. Her photography is visceral, seductive and repulsive all at the same time. Cousin’s boldly approaches her photography work in a hedonistic and self satisfying way. Through exploration of nature, power, femininity and the realms of technology, Cousins portrays her obsession with texture and colour. Cousins says she’s “obsessed with shooting nature with disgusting things, because I think it’s impossible to make nature look ugly.”

Maisie Cousins Contemporary Photography
‘Dipping Sauce’, Maisie Cousins. Courtesy of AnOther

Cousins left her studies frustrated with the overt traditional approach to photography and went on to create an experimental practice. In many ways, through experimentation she has rapidly shaped a distinctive style for herself. Her work features intimate details such as stretch marks, pubic hair as well as natural ephemera. In her photographs, she celebrates the everyday through playfully defiant imagery. All in all, as an artist she champions the overlooked and normalises the demonised.

BRDG 5

Nikolas Ventourakis

BRDG 5

C-type print on di-bond, unframed, 2020

150 x 120 cm

Nikolas Ventourakis

Greek photographer Nikolas Ventourakis creates contemporary photography that challenges the assumptions of his viewers. Fundamentally, the central point of his work is the denial of a resolution. As well as this, they are also an invitation to consider artworks that might have a documentary value as abstract creations of situations. Eventually, we then project onto these what is recognisable and familiar to us. Importantly, Ventourakis’ fascination lies in our need for stories to be conclusive.

Untitled (Hair Dryer 2)

Nikolas Ventourakis

Untitled (Hair Dryer 2)

Fibre Based B&W Print, 2021

20.32 x 25.04 cm

Ventourakis took these photographs whilst in Los Angeles for his Fulbright Scholarship in 2014, and this series relates to his time in the US. Within these works, Ventourakis portrays domestic interiors steeped in photographic history. In this case, the details he captures come together as a reassembled room. For his monochrome and colour urban photographs, ‘Untitled (Hair Dryer 2)’ subsequently becomes a projection of memory and stems from abstracted private experience.

The work sits between being art and documentation, this in turn questions the status of the image. As an artist, he fascinates himself with narrative and conclusion in his work, as well as evidence within photography. In his photographic series ‘Motel’, he leaves viewers to fill in missing blanks and take their own interpretation of the imagery.

Untitled #2, Nico series

Alicja Dobrucka

Untitled #2, Nico series

C-print, 2016/2020

41 x 51 cm

Alicja Dobrucka

London-based Polish photographer Alicja Dobrucka’s interest focuses upon topics concerning cultural identity and cultural transfer. Initially, rather intrigued by the point where cultures meet and merge, first and foremost, Alicja’s artistic practice explores the new possibilities that come out of such encounters. Alicja places importance on the fact that the work can move and be understood by a variety of people with no knowledge whatsoever of critical theory. Importantly, her projects pose questions about vulnerability, youth, motherhood, domesticity and finally, the passage of time.

Untitled #9, Nico series

Alicja Dobrucka

Untitled #9, Nico series

C-print, 2016/2020

41 x 51 cm

Dobrucka celebrates architecture at night-time in the photography of her Nico works. The photographs  were all taken in 2016, when she lived in Tokyo. She takes as her subject both the buildings at night and the characters she meets in her favourite bar, Nico. The juxtaposition of the two presents a world where the inside echoes the outside. The light and shadows of the streets create a calm, eery and magical world full of possibilities. It becomes a stage where the action is about to start.

Petra Collins
‘Untitled (24 Hour Psycho)’, 2016. Petra Collins. Courtesy of Dazed Digital

Petra Collins

The artist, photographer and model Petra Collins celebrates female strength and vulnerability in her contemporary photography. Her distinct aesthetic makes her one of the leading voices of the movement of New Wave Feminism. Her pastel portrayals of her subjects most often focus on the female experience. As well as this, she explores the reveal of body based cliches within the media using experimental compositions. All in all, Collins offers a new perspective on contemporary womanhood.

Petra Collins Contemporary Photography
‘Anna and Anya (Hungary)’, 2016. Petra Collins. Courtesy of Feature Shoot

For her ’24 Hour Psycho’ series, Collins turned her lens to the realms of mental health. She celebrates the complexities of the female psyche in her vibrant and considered portraits. Using close up portraiture, she captures intimate and personal depictions of each subject. She explains “women’s emotions are constantly labeled. Any slight deviation from ‘pleasantness’, and we are labeled as hysterical. When we are angry, sad, depressed, or manic, we are immediately seen as unfeminine, or ugly, or weak.”

Stephen Tayo
‘Untitled’, Stephen Tayo

Stephen Tayo

Nigerian-born, Lagos based artist Stephen Tayo champions the telling of authentic stories through vivid photography. His visual insight into Nigeria gives a romantic snapshot into everyday life in West Africa. In his energetic photographs, he captures the culture giving us a deeper understanding of West African culture. His series ‘IBEJI’ explores the sacred quality of twins in Yoruba culture. As well as this, for his ongoing project, he captures the beauty of ‘geles’. These are meticulously made women’s head wraps tied for special occasions.

Tayo Contemporary Photography
‘Untitled’, Stephen Tayo

Tayo’s inspiration derives from understanding his roots. Above all, his work derives from being proud of his heritage and this is visible in his photographs. In his process, he depicts the beauty in small details that are often missed. Tayo’s visionary photographs grasp at a world of nostalgia and intrigue in the city of Lagos. As well as his Lagos project, Tayo uses documentary style photography in his practice. This includes Lagos’ drafts subculture which is a sensitive topic in Nigeria. Here, LGBTQ+ rights are not recognised and there is no legal protection against discrimination.

Lea Colombo
‘Untitled’, Lea Colombo. Courtesy of 10 Magazine

Lea Colombo

Self-taught photographer Lea Colombo is originally from Cape Town, South Africa, now based in London. Colombo portrays intimacy above all in her alluring photographs. For her intimate depictions, Colombo often plays with light. She exclusively refrains from using flash in her practice. As a result, her wistful and saturated photographs become dream-like in their finish. Colombo has a distinct style and she explores colour in an inherently contemporary way. Without a doubt, her choice of subject has secured her unique presence in the art world.

Colombo Photography
‘Untitled’, Lea Colombo. Courtesy of Fucking Young

Her varied work is almost exclusively embedded in the fashion world. At the beginning of her career, Colombo worked backstage at fashion shows. This lead her to become entwined with a world that enabled her to capture intimate portrayals. She pushes the boundaries of fashion photography in her entirely experimental approach and use of colour.

Untitled 20

Judith Stenneken

Untitled 20

Archival pigment print., 2014

70 x 90 cm

Judith Stenneken

German artist Judith Stenneken works primarily in photography, video and installation. She uses book-making and photo-prints, as well as video-installations and interactive pieces as means of expression. Stenneken uses metaphors of the journey, the voyager and the transitory spaces (such as hotel rooms) in her tonal photography to create a realm of impermanence. “It is almost banal to say so, yet it needs to be stressed continually: all is creation, all is change, all is flux, all is metamorphosis.”

Untitled #7

Judith Stenneken

Untitled #7

Archival pigment print., 2017

73 x 91 cm

‘Untitled #7’ is part of Stenneken’s series ‘a mountain is only a slow wave’. The evocative piece illustrates a sense of nostalgia in it’s softness and textural quality. Stenneken emphatically portrays an alternate perception of the world in this example of her profile photography. In essence, she creates the black-and-white series as a whole body of work. However, Stenneken uses metaphors to address issues of through perceptive photography. Stenneken creates a perceptive world of photography characterised by constant renewal and shifting physical states. From fixed to fluid to vaporous; a world where inside and outside merge, where rocks turn into water, identities are fluid and time collapses; its spaces and inhabitants mirroring the ever-shifting state of this world.