Anastasia Taylor-Lind

One of the dozen youngish photographers selected for this year’s World Press Photo‘s Joop Swart Masterclass was Anastasia Taylor-Lind, a graduate of the Newport photography course, currently based in Lebanon. She has produced some remarkable photographs of ‘ordinary’ women in conflict zones around the world which you can see on her own web site. There is also a Radio Wales interview with her about her work which is well worth listening to.

There is a story and video about her project ‘The National Womb’ produced for the masterclass which had the theme of ‘Respect’ on the Canon Professional site, and this, the web site and radio interview are the source for almost all I know about her.

I looked at the Taylor-Lind image on the front page of the WPP web site immediately after writing about the $4.3m sale of Andreas Gursky’s ‘Rhein II’ and my immediate thought was how much more her picture was worth than anything from his plastic universe.  Although I’d think the same about the work of many other fine photographers too.

Taylor-Lind also has an unusual story to tell about her home background, which seems to have been in many ways an ideal preparation for her work. Her Swedish mother gave up a career as a ballet dancer to travel the world after meeting her British father, following the hippy trail before returning to the UK, where Anastasia’s early years were spent travelling around in a gypsy wagon. The family settled in Devon when she was nine and she was able to go to school for the first time. Her father often told her that the worst thing you can do is to be ordinary, but at that age she desperately wanted to be like the other people, with a house, car and modern conveniences.

In their home they had no TV and didn’t take newspapers; almost the only early contact she had with the media came from an uncle who every year gave her parents an annual subscription to National Geographic as a Christmas present, and this was perhaps the main place where she saw good photography in her early years. It was a story that struck a chord with me, as when I was small I also grew up among piles of National Geographic magazines, though in my case they were issues from twenty years earlier, again donated to us from a wealthy relative.

She went on to study A level photography at East Devon College, but still didn’t have much idea what photography was about until one day at college she opened a book of Don McCullin’s work and immediately decided that was the kind of thing she wanted to do. Fortunately her tutor had the sense to tell her that if she wanted to take pictures like that she should go and take the course at Newport. There her tutor was Clive Landen, who she says not only taught her the basics about photography but that it would have an effect on her whole life, and this certainly has been true.

In her third year of study Taylor-Lind went to Turkey to photograph Kurdish guerillas, one third of them are women and you can see her pictures of some of them in ‘No Friends But the Mountains’ on her web site.  Her upbringing was certainly a great preparation for the kind of travelling that this involved, and for getting on with the people that she met.

One of the other projects on her web site is on cider makers from Devon. She told her Radio Wales interviewer that she feels more at home in unusual, alternative communities – ” I like crazy people” and that she is the opposite of those photographers who like to disappear into the background as she likes talking too much and “my pictures speak as much about my relationship with the people I’m photographing as anything else.” But really the whole of the interview, video and web site are worth a careful look.

Taylor-Lind’s The National Womb is one of the 12 projects from the Joop Swart Masterclass featured in the book Next #01 published by WPP:

·  Eunice Adorno, Mexico, There Is No Such Place
·  Antonio Bolfo, USA, Survival in Cité Soleil
·  Kitra Cahana, Canada, Nomadia: Young American Nomads
·  Alinka Echeverria, Mexico/UK, Becoming South Sudan
·  Alessandro Imbriaco, Italy, Angela’s Garden
·  Kuba Kaminski, Poland, The Whisperers
·  Sebastian Liste, Spain, On This Side of the Mountain
·  Leo Maguire, UK, Dark Strangers
·  Ivor Prickett, Ireland, Free Libya
·  Mohammed Salem, Palestinian Territories, In Honor of Death
·  Dimitri Stefanov, Bulgaria, Collapse
·  Anastasia Taylor-Lind, Sweden/UK, The National Womb

There are several in the list whose work I’ve seen elsewhere, and doubtless all are worth following up, and there are links to ther web sites on the WPP page.

It’s a volume that seems interesting and at a fairly reasonable price, although unless I get offered a review copy I can’t tell you more.

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