All images © Ochi Reyes
Last Saturday, I met up with my fellow judges and the participating photographers from this year’s Fresh Faced and Wild Eyed at The Photographers’ Gallery offices for the follow-up portfolio reviews and slideshow. Now in its fourth year, the competition celebrates the breadth and dynamism of photographic work produced by recent graduates from across the UK. Following an online application process, the 20 selected finalists were exhibited in an online gallery. To see the list of those photographers who were included, and their respective works click here. This year’s judges were Edmund Clark, photographer; Louise Clements, Artistic Director, QUAD and Format International Photography Festival; and Brett Rogers, Director, The Photographers’ Gallery and yours truly, (Editor-in Chief, 1000 Words Photography Magazine).
At some point during one session with a particular finalist, Ochi Reyes, a voice in my head started to channel the words “She’s got something special” for these indelible self-portraits hit me hard. Their dry humour and deadpan compositions and style remind us of better-known female practitioners from the past such as Jo Spence but also speak in the more contemporary photographic language of say Marina Abromovic or even Catherine Opie. Poignant and political, Reyes’ work examines the influence of the other on the self. She is interested in how our identities are culturally constructed, and her photography explores how conceptions of gender distinctions, love and desire are imposed on our bodies from outside. More often than not, the characters in her photographs are actors, and she questions how we become actors in our own bodies, playing out the roles already scripted and prepared for us. Her photographs question the nature of representation, often exploring the mise-en-abîme effect of using one sort of representation inside another. In her artist statement for the project Revelations, shown above, she writes:
“My own body and thoughts are the basis for a critical examination of society’s expectations to do with identity, surrounding issues of age, gender and family. All of the thoughts scratched onto my skin are related to not fitting in and the feeling of anxiety arising from this displacement. The surface of my body portrays how these thoughts, which come from outside, find their way not only into my psyche but also into my own body image.
My skin condition, dermographism, means that the surface of my body can be inscribed as if it were a slate. In the same way that early morning thoughts linger for a short while before they disappear, leaving a slight trace that remains throughout the day, my skin slowly goes back to normal over the course of the day and is ready the following morning to be re-inscribed. It is not only this malleability of the skin, that interests me, but also the idea that skin absorbs information from the outside world; it is the interface between the self and others, both separating us and becoming the physical link between our bodies.”
Ochi Reyes was born in Madrid in 1974. After studying at Murcia School of Art she moved to London and completed a degree at Westminster University in Photographic Arts in 2010. In 2005 her project Photographs of an Amorous Discourse was shortlisted in the category Descubrimientos in PhotoEspaña. She is currently studying for an MA in Photographic Studies at Westminster University. Definitely one to watch.