Photography, we know, is not just a recording tool, but one of our most vital modern art forms. So where is it going now? The Arts Council believes we should find out and has designated 1998 the Year of Photography. This 12 month-long photofest starts with "Shine", an exhibition at Bradford's National Museum of Photography showing the work of 15 young photographers. The intention of curator Greg Hobson was to find "new voices": he found them at college degree shows and on the recommendation of "colleagues who are passionate about photography".
The one strongly unifying thought emerging from the photographers' work is that young people are anxious about their life and about their place in society's bigger picture. This sense of isolation has been one of the century's greatest obsessions, and as we approach the year 2000, the freshest voices in photography are still mulling over the same uncertainties.
David Lewis shoots in hospital corridors, documenting the effect that clinical surroundings have on his mind while caring for his wife following her nervous breakdown. Clare Strand's solo show, held in conjunction with "Shine", portrays teenagers dressed up as sexually aggressive Spice Girls. "Strand" weaves the plastic pop group with real-life sexual awakening.
Katrina Lithgow's naked pregnant woman is described by Hobson as "explicitly uncomfortable, yet still beautiful". Roy Metha captures chance shots of lovers parting in an out-of-season seaside town. Pauline Squibb's girl guide portraits remind us that organised fun still goes on in church halls, but, as Hobson says: "The girls look uncomfortable and somehow isolated from the world around them."
Gordon McDonald's Common Complaints shows uncomfortable images in close- up of spots, athletes foot, dandruff and cold sores. These are afflictions that most of us experience at some time or other, but photographed at close quarters they take on a new form: recognisable, yet frighteningly different to anything we have seen before. Nicole Veash
"Shine" is at the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television in Bradford from 23 January to 22 March. Call 01274 727488 for details. Top row, from left: from Visage, by Ben Edwards; Ferry Goes to the Aran Islands, by Roy Metha; Common Complaints, by Gordon McDonald; Stoke Newington Brownies, by Pauline Squibb; Tarn Pregnant, by Katrina Lithgow.
Middle row, from left: from Tokyo+, by Michael Danner; Untitled, by Hannah Starkey; from The Day the Sky Fell in the Window, by John Asken; from The Festival of Ashura in Bradford, by Tibor Kormoczi.
Right: The Spice Girls: Scary, Sporty, Ginger, Baby and Posh, by Clare Strand.
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