With 8,000 submissions sent by photographers from across the globe, there was a wealth of talent to choose from. Now a guest panel has selected the work of 57 photographers for the 163rd International Photography Exhibition, opening at RPS Gallery, Bristol, in April 2022.
We have selected five highlights for you to discover. Each photograph tells of a contrasting experience – ritual celebration, reconciliation, fantasy, and protest. They begin with ‘The death of Actaeon’, pictured above, by UK artist Yushi Li.
Yushi Li (UK)
‘The death of Actaeon’
“In this series of photographs, I project my fantasies onto the male figure to continue my investigation of male representations as an erotic subject. By looking back at certain classical paintings in art history, I try to reflect on these representations of the staging of eroticism to make a more contemporary portrayal of the desired body.
“My desire, dreams and love for the desired body are illustrated in a photographic form, using animals and fantastic settings to imply the unconscious dimension of these scenes. Through taking an active rather than passive role in my work, instead of simply reversing the gender roles, I try to intervene within existing representations of erotic desire to question the dichotomy of active men and passive women that has been broadly embedded in art history.”
Lina Geoushy (Egypt)
‘Shame less (مش عيب)’
“عيب is an Arabic word and expression meaning ‘shame’ or ‘shame on you’. Sexual harassment is a widespread problem in Egypt – the country ranks second in the world after Afghanistan in terms of this issue. A United Nations survey in 2013 found that 99.3% of Egyptian girls and women reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment in their lifetime.
“Being an Egyptian woman and photographer, and having been verbally and sexually harassed in the streets, at home, and at work in Cairo, I am enraged by the problem’s prevalence and normalisation. One of the underlying problems that prevents women from speaking up and reporting assault is victim-blaming and shaming, which brings continuous trauma.
“I am drawn towards shedding light on and fighting the stigma around reporting assault, and opening up about such experience.”
‘Convene with ancestors’
“The images are the manifestation of a long-held desire to revisit and unpack formative cultural experiences from my childhood in Nigeria, in this case an encounter with an Egungun masquerade. Such experiences have lived through me into my adult life in the UK.
“In Yoruba culture, Egungun masquerades represent a collective force of the ancestors that facilitates communication between the living and the dead. So, this series of photographs is a response to my journey into recollection and the exploration of my diasporic identity and cultural heritage.
“The images reflect my recollection of my childhood encounters, and are entitled ‘Mo si ri omiran’, translated as ‘I saw giants’. They were created during a visit to the Republic of Benin in 2019, where I was privileged to witness an initiation ceremony.”
Thomas Duffield (UK)
“Bringing together photographs made over the past three years, my series Poppy Promises explores the way my father’s struggle with heroin addiction has shaped our family life. Despite having a charmed childhood, the entangled web of dishonesty and empty promises that came along with this addiction strained my parents’ relationship to the point of separation.
“Referred to by my father as ‘poppy promises’, these reluctant lies were made blindly in the pursuit of securing heroin. After a period of limited contact with my father, this series follows the renewal of our relationship as we reconcile the complexities of our shared experience and learn to be vulnerable with one another. Acknowledging the years my mother spent as a single parent, the work also shines a light upon her constant presence in place of my father’s time of absence.”
Javier Vergara (Chile)
“My image shows demonstrators protecting themselves with a shield from a water cannon used by the Special Police Forces during protests on 11 November 2019 in Santiago, Chile.”
The RPS International Photography Exhibition 163 opens at RPS House, Bristol, in April 2022.
The RPS Journal is available exclusively to members. Join us to receive our award-winning magazine and read more inspiring features. Explore full member benefits here
More In Focus stories you’ll love