Photo students get to the heart of the matter

Phil Coomes
Picture editor


In The Forest Of Things is the title of this year's final show by students on the MA Documentary Photography and Photojournalism course at the London College of Communication.

The title is derived from a quote by Polish journalist and author Ryszard Kapuscinski, who called for the telling of authentic stories by being part of them and also to penetrate to the heart of the issue.

Here is a selection of the students' work.

Lynda Laird

Image source, Lynda Laird

Laird's work is not only drawn from the land but is part of it. Her prints were created by the peat bogs and moorlands on the Isle of Lewis. By placing the photographic paper in the boggy water Laird has allowed the elements to permanently imprint themselves.

"Although the pure poetry of the moor would be a worthy documentary subject in itself, my desire to represent the moor was also driven by a political imperative," says Laird. "Through the eyes of big business, the peat lands of Lewis are seen as desolate and unworthy of preservation."

The work is presented as an audio slideshow, bringing the sounds alive and just to add another dimension, 50kg of peat is placed next to the installation.

Yunya Yin

Image source, Yunya Yin

One of the great joys of being a photographer comes when travelling, with potential images around every corner. Yunya Yin spent more than 120 hours on the Trans-Siberian Railway going from Beijing to Moscow via Siberia for her final project.

"I defined my experience as a timeless journey, attributing an unregulated feel to my images," she says. "The work consists of nature, architecture, landscapes and people. It is not a travel diary, nor is it related to any social issues. The project explores the relationship between time and space, humans and their environments."

"Similar to a dreamlike state I provide the viewer with scattered fragments, giving them the power to try and make sense of my images in their own way."

As well as being beautiful objects, the pictures reveal the highs and lows of a long journey - but more than that capture something of the displacement and uncertainty of lives on the move.

Seb Heseltine

Image source, Seb Heseltine

Seb Heseltine's work is more of a straight documentary style and looks at the coal fires that have burnt out of control for around 100 years in mines in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand.

The fire and the poisonous smoke mean the area is not fit for habitation yet people work in these conditions and some scavenge for coal.

"Reports are suggesting that it is no longer possible to stabilise the land through sand slating, which could lead to the entire area of Jharia being evacuated," says Heseltine. "Mining corporations estimate that the number of families affected would be around 67,000 but according to local protesters the amount requiring rehabilitation is closer to 100,000 families (700,000 people)."

Jadwiga Bronte

Image source, Jadwiga Bronte

Jadwiga Bronte's pictures explore the lives of those living in Internats in Belarus. Bronte describes these as "something between an asylum, orphanage and hospice".

"These photos are a story of those people as human beings; as people who suffer and struggle against injustice in everyday life and as people who look after each other, build long lasting friendships and even fall in love," says Bronte.

"These invisible people stay invisible. There may be nobody to remember them after all and a picture might be the only proof of their existence."

Amy Smyth

Image source, Amy Smyth

Smyth travelled to Jordan to document the lives of children who have found themselves caught up in the conflict in Syria.

"These children have been coined the Lost Generation of Syrian children, those who find themselves in a state of flux, disrupted and disturbed and having lost years of their childhood to war," says Smyth. This is the start of the a project that will follow four children as they grow up.

Kazuma Obara

Image source, Kazuma Obara

Kazuma Obara's work is fascinating as it was shot using film found in Pripyat, the abandoned town a few miles from the nuclear reactor in Chernobyl, Ukraine, scene of the world's worst nuclear accident in 1986.

Obara said: "Just five months after the disaster, a girl was born in Kiev which is located to the south of Chernobyl. The wind included a great amount of radioactive elements blown from the north to the south-west. Finally, it spread widely to areas including Europe and the girl became one of the victims of the tragedy. This series of pictures represent the last 30 years of the life of that invisible girl."

Janette Scott

Image source, Janette Scott

Scott's work delves into the the lives of residents in Deptford Creek in London.

"The journey by Docklands Light Railway between Deptford Bridge and Greenwich takes sixty seconds," says Scott. "It traverses 2,000 years of human settlement and industry that began far below along the marshy banks of Deptford Creek."

Her pictures bring those traces of lives lived, and being lived, to life. Combined with interviews and text, Scott's photographs are a delight.

An exhibition of these pictures and those of other students can be seen at the London College of Communication until 23 January 2016. You can see more on their website, In the forest of things.