We live in an age that is saturated with photographic imagery. Thanks to our smartphones we shoot, we crop and we share, while we constantly encounter all manner of pictures through this same device.
In this atmosphere of constant creation and consumption, it can be difficult to step back and consider the current state of photography, to enjoy its best practitioners and question its future direction. Luckily, this is where Foam comes in.
The Amsterdam-based gallery and magazine runs an annual talent issue, billed as “21 artists who define the future of contemporary photography.” Hundreds of photographers from around the world apply, the only strict criteria being that they must be under 35 years old.
Manon Wertenbroek: Tandem (2014) Courtesy of the artist.
But there are obviously things the judges look for as they move through the daunting task of whittling the entries down to a final selection, as Foam managing editor Elisa Medde explains.
“It does not matter if someone focuses on street photography, documentary, pure narrative, or constructed experimentations,” she says. “The important thing for us is that the work is consistent and well-constructed.
“We do not look for photographers who have already arrived at their destination, but for ones that know their path. We also look for photographs that challenge what is out there already, rather than corroborating it. It is important to see evidence that a strong choice lies behind every aspect of the body of work.”
In this way, the Foam team curates an eclectic selection of artists that together create a snapshot (pun intended) of where photography is at the moment. This week a showcase of this year’s selection arrives in London, with Foam Talent opening at London’s Beaconsfield Gallery Vauxhall (sponsored by WeTransfer).
Heikki Kaski: Tranquility (2014) Courtesy of the artist.
There are many highlights in the exhibition, and the breadth of styles on show allows you to compare, contrast and contextualise each artist within the group. From the graphic experiments of Sara Cwynar and Manon Wertenbroek to a fascinating study of abandoned Soviet research silos (by Danila Tkachenko), there are many ways into the show.
Among more than 100 works on display, there are image-makers who revel in a riot of colour, and those who work in black and white. There are obviously-pleasing images and some that make you work a bit harder. There are traditionally-styled still-lifes, and installations that stretch the boundary of what photography could and should be.
The connecting thread, the organisers say, is relevance. “With such a crowded landscape the idea of relevance inevitably assumes an even stronger position; it really becomes a necessity,” Elisa says. “I believe that someone’s work is relevant when it speaks its own language, but in a way that is understandable to others.
“I am drawn to work that has something to say and that expresses it in a way that makes it stand out from the crowd, occupying a niche that was completely overlooked or underestimated by others.”
Foam Talent runs from 22 April to 22 May at the Beaconsfield Gallery Vauxhall in London.