“The Nine” take Vijay Patel gallery by storm

By Ollie Heppenstall

A photography exhibition of work by final year media students yesterday(MON MAY13) was a huge success.

Titled “The Nine” and curated by Professor Lala Meredith-Vula, it featured work inspired by mental health struggles, black identity, femininity and fashion.

The students – Becca Feast, Yara Mahran, Ashleigh Lowe, Nicky Prempeh, Marvellous Igbokwe, Suzannah Gabriel, Suleiman Ismaila and Gladys Rwabuhemba – were given the brief of body and space to create their collections.

Gladys said: “Photography has always been a way to express myself ever since I was young. I was interested in drama and photography followed, it’s a really great way to tell a story.

Gladys Rwabuhemba, one of the nine

“My collection was titled “for the love of being black” and was inspired by issues I face as a young black woman – I’m originally from Uganda but travelled heavily. The main issues that went into my work come from accepting myself in the middle of Eurocentric beauty being much more prominent.”

She added: “I’m really interested in body photography, and the work of Edward Weston – being able to show vulnerability and being proud of it is something that I wanted to explore.

“The process of selecting what I wanted to display and actually taking the photos was about two months long, I used my coursemates as models – initially they weren’t very comfortable with it, but eventually they became more confident.

“It’s something I definitely see as a career going forward.”

Professor Meredith-Vula said: “I think these students are a really exciting and energetic bunch, and there’s some really strong and interesting work that’s well worth promoting.

“I really enjoy doing these pop-up exhibitions, I’ve done a lot of them throughout my career and I’ve always got a lot out of being able to give my students some exposure.”

She added: “The last one I did was in February, but my favourite was part of the Balkan Girl Power project, which was a project launched in five Balkan countries to better develop a vision of Balkan society where women have a greater role.

“I got into photography through university; having studied fine art I started incorporating photography to enhance my paintings – but I found that the photographs were strong enough on their own. It was something of a happy accident.”

Fashion designer Pam Dasanjh-Coningsby said: “I came tonight because I’m looking for photographers as part of my fashion business, I’m in need of someone who can offer a fresh perspective.

“I love how much variation is in the work on display, there’s so much that’s strong and it’s all so unique.”

She continued: “I love photography, it’s so important to what I do and I love being able to give graduates the chance to take what they’ve learnt and use it to think outside the box, and create something fresh and exciting.”

vijay patel the nine
Five of the nine; Professor Meredith-Vula is second from right.
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