Archive for February 2015
Tom Seymour from The British Journal of Photography writes about Dominic Hawgood’s solo show opening and video
“Staging is not the same as faking.” That phrase, from photography academic David Campbell, was the bedrock for Dominic Hawgood’s Under the Influence, a highly conceptualised look at faith and meaning in a world of images. The series scooped the series category of BJP’s International Photography Award, and Campbell’s phrase is now helping shape the 27-year-old’s approach to the exhibition he won, which opened today at London’s TJ Boulting Gallery.
The series examines human behaviour in contemporary African churches in London, “and the merchandising of these modern rituals”; inspired to start it after witnessing an exorcism first-hand, he also explores “the theatrical practice of deliverance”. These techniques suggest a certain cynicism about religion but Hawgood says that wasn’t his intention. He’s simply considering whether we can experience something authentic in a knowingly constructed environment – or via carefully crafted imagery.
The question, What is real? has been asked about photography since its invention, but Dominic Hawgood asks it again today in intriguing and fresh ways. His new project, called Under the Influence, explores the rituals of Christian worship in evangelical African churches around London, including exorcisms conducted via live satellite sermons, then broadcasted on giant screens.
Hawgood won this year’s British Journal of Photography’s international prize for best series, which is now on show at TJ Boulting in London. Unlike a documentary photographer, he has little interest in locations, or the cultural contexts in which religious practices flourish. His curiosity lies in ambiguities: the border between the real and the supernatural, photographic fact and fiction. “I want people to think about what is being presented to them,” he said on winning the award, “and to ask questions: where were these images taken? Is this a studio setup or a documentation of real life? I want people to make up their own minds.”