ALMUDENA ROMERO

Growing Concerns


Growing Concerns uses plants from formerBritish colonies as canvases to host images that reflect on the links betweenplant trade, colonialism and migration, and the legacy of these in modern-dayBritain. These photographic prints are made by the bleaching action of sunlighton the chlorophyll pigments of a plant leaf. The pigments are destroyed andoxidized to various degrees rendering a photographic print on a monochromegreenscale. This photographic process doesn’t require any additional chemistryor inks.

The series examines how the trade of coffee,tea, poppy, sugar, cotton and other plant-based products, facilitated thedevelopment, and continuation, of the colonial agenda.  The work highlights the impact of currenttrade routes on dispossession, migratory fluxes, and global inequalities. Itconsiders the parallel between the historic facilitation of the movement ofgoods and the increasing prevalence of restrictions on current movements ofpeoples. It underscores the unsustainable rift this parallel dynamic creates,even so more as climate-related migration to fertile and habitable intensifies.

In the series plant leaves become the subjectand object of analysis. The leaves are used as photographic substrate, whilebeing the central element of an image-based research methodology exploringsystems and histories of differentiation, exclusion and inequality. The worksbring together an experimental approach to sustainable photographic materials withthe scrutinization of a pressing social issue. It communicates the need for a reassessmentof past and future perspectives as a route to an equitable, sustainable future.

The title Growing Concerns refers to21st-century challenges, such as the creation of new borders, walls and policies,growing inequalities and global anger. It reelects on the raising awareness ofthe damaging force of populist movements and the need to strive for equity andjustice.  

The series utilizes historical imagery: pressand cinema images, fashion shots, portraits of abolitionists, Jamaican currencybearing the bust of Queen Elizabeth, photographs of contemporary sportspersonalities, photographs of lascars (sailors from Asia who settled in theUK), and ayahs' (women from Asia who worked as nannies in the UK).  An archive photograph of the protests againstracism sparked by the murder of Altab Ali (a young Bangladeshi textile worker,murdered in east London in 1978); an image of the “Empire Windrush” boat whichgives name to a community of people settled in the UK since 1948. In 2018members of the Windrush community faced detentions and deportations due to HomeOffice hostile policies, resulting in widespread outrage and politicalresignations.

The series also includes portraits of sportsand TV personalities native from former British colonies which held positionsonce exclusive to an established elite, a portrait of Rabindranath Tagore, and a photograph of black poppies holding firearms. This collation ofreferences weaves a multifaceted, wide-ranging exploration of global migrationand colonialism through the narrative of plant trade.  

Growing Concerns uses photographic processesnaturally occurring in plants to allude to historical and current facts andpeople. Testimony is ‘burnt’ onto plant leaves which have also been traded andcolonized.

The process of printing directly onto plants referencesquestions of origin, trade and exchange. It considers the definition of ‘nature’,‘natural, ‘native’’, and ‘culture’. What does it mean to be “of” a place? Thecenturies-old traumas and hardships, imprinted on the psyches and skins of manypeoples that the work alludes to through the use of archival materials, arejust as relevant today. The work speaks to the cyclical force of destructionand the potential for constructive renewal: the desire to seek and deliver positivechange towards  an equitable and sustainablefuture.

Growing Concerns has been nominated for the Prix PICTET and was displayed in a solo show in Photofusion in Brixton, as well as at RAW Labs and Unseen Amsterdam. It has been featured in  EXTRA magazine (FOMU, Foto Museum) Unseen Radio, Photomonitor, FOAM magazine, and other media.

Using Format