Stills Gallery: Until January 17th
Mhairi Law has been announced as winner of the 2015 Jill Todd Award, displayed this year at Stills Gallery.
Established in 2012, the award commemorates promising young photographer Jill Todd, who died of cancer in her twenties. Todd first interned as a photographer at Stills Gallery, and so, in a particularly poignant speech before the awards ceremony by her father, he noted that the award had found its way home.
Law’s work, entitled ‘Eilean I Island’, gives an insight into the small island of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. In her own words, the photographs demonstrate the “visual timeline of the history of Lewis and its people”. Law’s presence in this particular work is almost imperceptible; she has managed to capture convey a sense of wilful isolation to great effect. At first glance her collection, particularly one photo showing dilapidated football goalposts in an empty landscape, is rather bleak. Although somewhat uncomfortable to look at, the photo in question is also her most captivating. On closer inspection, the work demonstrates a symbiosis between man and the land that is quite comforting. An encouraging win, for a very promising young artist.
That is not to say that the other shortlisted entries aren’t deserving of praise.
In ‘The Long Glen’, second prize winner Matt Hay explores the Romantic view held of rural Scotland, that is perhaps now based more on nostalgia than any perception of reality. He does this through the examination of relationships between animals and people, as well as between people and the land. Although his entire collection is meaningful, the image of a small building adjacent to a patch of deforestation is especially moving. His ability to convey quite complex emotions is unparalleled by the other entries.
Tucked away at the back of the gallery, Sam Wood’s submission would be easily missed. In ‘Have you a Camera’ he examines the power relations inherent to photography, demonstrating that historically, it has been tied up in the male gaze. It would not be unreasonable to say that his is the most easily underappreciated entry on display. His work is perhaps less polished than the other entries, but all the more purposeful for that.
This award is designed to encourage recently graduated photography students to create an entirely new body of work. With no set theme, entries to the competition are diverse and potentially give a more interesting insight into the artists themselves. Although currently quite small, the competition continues to expand, with around 90 submissions this year. It aims to overcome the scenario of promising trajectory followed by a post-graduation slump that affects so many students, not least in photography. An aim evidently achieved, if the quality of work on show is anything to go by.
Image: Mhairi Law