Caught on camera: Britain's best crime photography

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

What's more harmful – prejudice or war? Pollution or bullying? The finalists in a major new art contest tackle these difficult issues in arresting style

The photograph captures a fleeting moment of violence, but it tells the story of far-reaching abuse. In the dusty streets of Simlana, a small village in Uttar Pradesh, northern India, a man is attacking a 12-year-old boy.

The boy's name is Pardip and he suffers from a neurological disorder that developed when he drank contaminated water sourced from the polluted Hindon river. But whose is the greater crime – the man hitting Pardip, or those whose disregard for the environment first led to his condition?

The Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, an educational charity based at Kings College London, has just announced the winners of its photographic competition, sponsored by the Wates Foundation, which asked for visual answers to the question "What is Crime?" The resulting exhibition, to be mounted in association with The Independent, includes Pardip by Alex Masi. One eminent competition judge, the film director Ken Loach, named it as his favourite entry.

Rather than traditional images of criminality and justice, such as prison bars or policemen, the competition organisers asked for photographs that would "stimulate thinking about harm, injustice and crime". The exhibition contains a series of powerful images in three categories – Environment, Finance and Violence – all of which ask the viewer to recalibrate their sense of what is, or isn't, criminal. Open to anyone, the competition attracted participation from a range of amateur and professional photographers.

"The entries weren't necessarily judged on the excellence of the photograph," says organiser Anna Gilmour, "but on whether people had understood the ideas and themes and executed their response well. Of course, the professional photographers produced some particularly excellent examples, but we had fantastic entries from amateurs, too." The judges were also happy to find that they had attracted images from around the world.

The overall winner is Reyaz Limalia, who took his image, of Israel's wall across the West Bank, while on a trip to Bethlehem. "At first glance it looks like the graffiti on the wall is the crime," Limalia wrote. "But the true crime is the oppression of the wall itself ... The great tragedy is how the wall not only affects life for those there, but the impact it has on others around the world." Another photograph of the wall, taken by Jim Bulley, won in the Violence category, for its representation not of actual violence, but of "the continued violence against the Palestinian people".

Closer to home, the winner in the Finance category was Davy Jones, for May's Legs, his photograph of the damage wrought on his mother's body by years of working long hours for little pay. It recalls the brutally confessional family photography of former Turner Prize nominee Richard Billingham.

"My father died when I was 13, leaving my mother to bring my sister and I up by herself in Liverpool during the Thatcher years," Jones explains. "She worked two jobs; despite this we were on the breadline. Now 86 and crippled with arthritis this shot, for me, sums up the unrelenting work she has done for low wages and with little help." The finance category was inevitably dominated by images of the current recession. Four shades of blue in sixty-eight shut down shops, by Gregory Levitt, shows the effect of the crunch on Britain's high streets, where the shuttered stores starkly reflect the dire state of the nation's economy. "The rose-tinted notion of Britain as a 'nation of shopkeepers'," says Levitt, "is fading into the past."

Meanwhile, the Environment category included not just places, but faces too. Laura Pannack's Gemma was one of a series of sympathetic images of young people. Society, Pannack explains, "has a tendency to enforce blame on the younger generation for crime and violence. These negative stereotypes encourage further rebellion and prevent young people from gaining self confidence and aspiration; they fuel a lack of self-worth and anger.

"I have intentionally left it unclear whether my subjects are offenders on probation, pupils with special needs, private school attendants or other young people I have encountered. The forename of each young person gives the viewer a hint as to their identity without attaching stigma – and emphasises the fact that each of my subjects is unique."

Larry Gibson is not so anonymous. Photographed by Jo Syz at his home on Kayford Mountain in West Virginia, Gibson is the head man of the Stanleys, who have lived on the mountain since the 1700s, and are the only family there who have refused to sell their acres – 50 of them – to the MTR coal mining company. Gibson, the founder of a local environmental organisation that campaigns against MTR, travels the globe to raise awareness of the damage cause to the environment by the company's mining methods.

Some people chose to photograph the aftermath of violence rather than the action. The moving Jack Large, Chigwell 2008 by Phil Bedford shows the spot outside a closed police station on the Limes Farm Estate in Grange Hill, Essex, where, on 30 November, the 14-year-old Large was beaten and fatally stabbed after allegedly racially abusing another boy.

Alex Masi was named the winner of the Environment category, though not for Pardip, but for Dark Waters, his stunning image of the contaminated Krishni river's jet-black surface. "The river flows through the Indo-Gangetic plains of Uttar Pradesh, India," the photographer explains. "Where discharges from numerous industries enter watercourses and penetrate underground reservoirs, endangering the health of local communities and the environment."

Dark Waters suggests the crime preoccupying Masi was not – as one might first have assumed – the violence visited upon individual children by their elders, but the ecological destruction destined to impact not only on today's children, but on their children and grandchildren.

What is Crime? is at 198 Gallery, 198 Railton Road, Brixton, London, SE24 0JT, 9 July-28 August

Arts & Entertainment
Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones now
tvMajor roles that grow with their child actors are helping them to steal the show on TV
Arts & Entertainment
Customers browse through Vinyl Junkies record shop in Berwick Street, Soho, London
music

Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
ComedyCollier was once told there were "too many women" on bill
Arts & Entertainment
Ian Anderson, the leader of British rock band Jethro Tull, (right) and British guitar player Martin Barre (left) perform on stage
music

VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
film

Arts & Entertainment
Don (John Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré) Draper are going their separate ways in the final series of ‘Mad Men’
tvReview: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatre

Review: Of Mice and Men

Arts & Entertainment
art

By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work

Arts & Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio will star in an adaptation of Michael Punke's thriller 'The Revenant'
film

Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar

Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film

Arts & Entertainment
Down to earth: Fern Britton presents 'The Big Allotment Challenge'
TV

Arts & Entertainment
The London Mozart Players is the longest-running chamber orchestra in the UK
musicThreatened orchestra plays on, managed by its own members
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
film

Arts & Entertainment
TV
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
art

What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?

Arts & Entertainment
artGraffiti legend posts picture of work – but no one knows where it is
Arts & Entertainment
A close-up of Tom of Finland's new Finnish stamp
art

Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings

Arts & Entertainment
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in 2002's Die Another Day
film

The actor has confessed to his own insecurities

Life & Style
Green fingers: a plot in East London
TV

Allotments are the focus of a new reality show

Arts & Entertainment
Myleene Klass attends the Olivier awards 2014

Oliviers 2014Theatre stars arrive at Britain's most prestigious theatre awards
Arts & Entertainment
Stars of The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park

Oliviers 2014Blockbuster picked up Best Musical and Best Actor in a Musical
Arts & Entertainment
Lesley Manville with her Olivier for Best Actress for her role in 'Ghosts'

Oliviers 2014Actress thanked director Richard Eyre for a stunning production
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit