Growing Concerns

Growing Concerns uses plants from former British colonies as canvases to host images that reflect on the links between plant trade, colonialism, migration, and the legacy of these in modern-day Britain. These photographic prints are made by the bleaching action of sunlight on the chlorophyll pigments of a plant leaf. The pigments are destroyed and oxidised to various degrees rendering a photographic print on a monochrome green-scale. This photographic process doesn’t require any additional chemistry or inks.

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

In Growing Concerns plant leaves become the subject and object of analysis. The leaves are used as photographic substrate, while being the central element of an image-based research methodology exploring systems and histories of differentiation, exclusion and inequality. The works bring together an experimental approach to sustainable photographic materials with the scrutinisation of a pressing social issue. It communicates the need for a reassessment of past and future perspectives as a route to an equitable, sustainable future.

The title Growing Concerns refers to 21st-century challenges, such as the creation of new borders, walls and policies, growing inequalities and global anger. It reelects on the raising awareness of the damaging force of populist movements and the need to strive for equity and justice.  

The series utilizes historical imagery: press and cinema images, fashion shots, portraits of abolitionists, Jamaican currency bearing the bust of Queen Elizabeth, photographs of contemporary sports personalities, photographs of lascars (sailors from Asia who settled in the UK), and ayahs' (women from Asia who worked as nannies in the UK).  An archive photograph of the protests against racism 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 which gives name to a community of people settled in the UK since 1948. 

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

Growing Concerns uses photographic processes naturally occurring in plants to allude to historical and current facts and people. Testimony is ‘burnt’ onto plant leaves which have also been traded and colonised, referencing questions of origin, trade and exchange. It considers the definition of ‘nature’,‘natural, ‘native’’, and ‘culture’. What does it mean to be “of” a place? 

The centuries-old traumas and hardships, imprinted on the psyches and skins of many peoples that the work alludes to through the use of archival materials, are just as relevant today. Growing Concerns speaks to the cyclical force of destruction and the potential for constructive renewal: the desire to seek and deliver positive change towards  an equitable and sustainable future.

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