The Print Series is a charitable venture that launched this Spring – an evolving collection of affordable photographic prints that aims to showcase the work of established and emerging photographers. Each series is affiliated with a relevant charity that will receive 30% of each print sale. For the first series, that charity is Rewilding Britain – an organisation dedicated to reconnecting us with the natural world, sustaining communities and tackling the climate emergency and the extinction crisis.
“The idea for The Print Series came at the start of the first lockdown, when we were all stuck at home,” explains curator, Rachel Vere. “Collectively, I think we turned to nature for comfort and reassurance, which gave us the idea to curate a series of images that celebrate nature, whilst at the same time raising awareness of the work of Rewilding Britain.”
Rachel worked with the picture editor, Kimberly Hoang, to commission the first series of prints – a selection of six arresting images from the personal archives of six photographers. Here, we speak to the photographers about their work and the images they have selected for the series.
Nick Ballon is an award-winning documentary and portrait photographer. For the past decade, his personal work has focused on his Anglo-Bolivian heritage, exploring socio-historical ideas of identity and place, with a particular focus on the concept of “foreignness” and belonging.
For this series, he has contributed an otherworldly image of the Atacama Desert in Chile. “The Atacama is a desert plateau strip of land that sits neatly between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes,” he explains. “It has the most perfect atmosphere for astronomical observations because of its high altitude, nearly nonexistent cloud cover, dry air, and lack of light pollution and radio interference. People come here from all over the world to study outer space.”
The area is rich in metallic mineral resources such as copper, gold, silver and iron, as well as nonmetallic minerals including important deposits of boron, lithium, sodium nitrate and potassium salts. “This richness in the earth produces the most fascinating, dusty colours and unusual crystal-like textures,” he explains. “The image shows a crust of sodium nitrate and represents the type of otherworldly landscapes I was looking for with this project.”
Through photographing this unique landscape, Nick realised the central irony: “I love the idea that people come to the Atacama Desert to search the skies for something that looks a lot like the very earth they are standing on.”
The portrait and documentary photographer, Elena Heatherwick, will be familiar to regular readers of TOAST Magazine. Her timeless images bring to life many of the stories on these pages. “Conversations are at the heart of how I approach photography,” she explains, revealing an innate ability to capture the essence of a person – sometimes with nothing more than an abstract detail: a tangle of limbs, the bend of a wrist. “After that, I rely a lot on what the light is doing that day ...”
For this series, Elena has contributed a transportive image of sea buckthorn, taken whilst visiting her friend, Willow Walker, who harvests the berries on the east coast of Scotland. “I visit her whenever I'm in Scotland,” Elena explains. “We often sit together in the long grass surrounded by this magical landscape. We watch the birds filling up on berries before migrating South – she's happy she can share the harvest with them. Willow is full of stories and has a wonderful sense of humour – it is always an honour to spend time with her. I take few pictures when I'm there: this is one of them.”
The self-taught Iranian photographer, Solmaz Daryani, has contributed a poignant landscape to the series that seeks to raise awareness of the devastating effects of water mismanagement. It forms part of an on-going project entitled The Eyes of the Earth – a investigation into the environmental and human impact of the drying of Lake Urmia in northwest Iran.
“The project explores the connections between climate change, environment, water security, geography and human identity in Iran and neighbouring countries,” Solmaz explains. “The near-six-million people who live in the Urmia basin have deep social and economic ties with this shrinking body of water. The lake has lost about 88 percent of its surface area over the past three decades due to climate change and intensive agriculture. The extreme drying of the lake will increase the frequency of salt storms that sweep across the exposed lakebed, diminishing the productivity of the surrounding agricultural landscape and causing noxious dust storms that inflame the eyes, skin and lungs of local inhabitants.”
Despite this, people from nearby cities visit the lake at weekends, arriving on the shoreline with their inflatables and cameras. “People are still trying to enjoy the lake even as the water disappears,” she explains.
Stephanie McLeod is a freelance photographer who has recently relocated to New Zealand after five years in London. She studied Human Nutrition before segueing into photography. She has gained a reputation for still life photography, but admits that her main inspiration “will forever be food and our relationship with it.”
For this series, her poised, elemental image of an egg balanced on a slab of pink salt is the result of a painstaking attempt to “move away from cluttered compositions and create more sculptural forms.” The objects were moved millimetre by millimetre to achieve “the perfect point of balance.” The calmness captured in this image speaks of Stephanie’s solitary creative process and newfound fascination with the hazy sunlight of her native New Zealand. “My goal is always to create perfectly imperfect light, bringing soft textures and a natural quality to my work.”
Ameena Rojee is motivated by the spirit of adventure, the outdoors and our relationship with the natural world. For this particular image, the adventure unfolded in her own back garden at the start of the first lockdown. “This was one of those surreal moments,” she explains. “One gorgeous, blue-sky day, a magpie somehow got stuck in our living room. My mum rescued the bird and set it free. It was a timely metaphor – a moment of struggle and panic that, with some help and kindness, was followed by freedom.”
Personal participation is key to Ameena’s practice. “I feel a need to be more than an observer – to personally understand the topic I’m photographing or exploring.” Alongside her work as a photographer, Rojee writes a bi-weekly newsletter, Notes on Freelancing, and runs an online photography journal, Of the Land & Us, which explores our relationship with the natural world.
Yilin Shi grew up in Changzhou, a small city in south-east China. “The apartment I grew up in was full of plants and surrounded by vegetation, so I always get a sense of security and belonging from plantlife,” she says. Her image for The Print Series was taken in an underground garage in her local community. “I became fascinated by the plastic structure and the texture of the plants outside so I started to take my camera with me each time I visited the garage. That’s how this image was born.”
Yilin is a recent graduate of the Royal College of Art and is now a freelance photographer based in Changzhou. Her practice focuses primarily on connections between individuals and their surroundings. A sensitive and detail-oriented photographer, Shi specialises in capturing specific moments in surreal atmospheres. “Through photography, people can be exposed to different perspectives of observing the world,” she says. “They can then apply these different perspectives to other problems in life. In this way, photography is surely inseparable from life. I hope that my photography can make more people realise this, and that it can bring some comfort and strength.”
Words by Nell Card.
Images from top: Solmaz Diryani, Nick Ballon, Elena Heatherwick, Ameena Rojee, Stephanie McLeod, Yilin Shi. Each collection from The Print Series will be themed and each image available for a limited time. For series one, 30% of each purchase will go directly to Rewilding Britain, a charity dedicated to reconnecting us with the natural world, sustaining communities and tackling the climate emergency and the extinction crisis. The remainder of the profit from each sale goes to each photographer.