EXTREME PAIN, BUT ALSO EXTREME JOY BY MAGGIE SHANNON
Extreme Pain, but also Extreme Joy is an awakening series that chronicles the stories of midwives working hard to comfort and support during terrifying circumstances. The beauty of these images is their timeless setting. While the photos were taken throughout 2020 and 2021 the grain of the film, decor selected to feature, facial expressions and framing set the images in the mid 60s.
The project openly depicts the intense struggle of the mothers and honourable work of the midwives. Having to observe the pain and discomfort of her subjects as they experience birth in unfounded manners, Extreme Pain, but Also Extreme Joy is not only a sharp awakening for the current climate that we find ourselves in, it’s a wide awakening to the facts on childbirth and the impending pressures put on the staff.
FLYING STARS OF SIERRA LEONE BY TODD ANTONY
The civil war in Sierra Leone (1991-2002) not only killed more than 50,000 people, it also led to thousands of innocent civilians having legs, arms or hands forcibly amputated by rebel soldiers. Or from landmines and bullets. The Flying Star Amputees are a group of football teams across Sierra Leone born out of the adversity of this war.
In May of 2021 Antony travelled to Sierra Leone to spend two indelible weeks with players from the Flying Stars around the country as part of his latest personal project. His projects in recent years have taken him around the globe in search of ordinary groups of people who each lead extraordinary lives in their own way. And the Flying Stars are the very epitome of that.
All the players are victims of civil war amputations, and football has brought them joy, confidence and hope for a better future for disabled people in Sierra Leone.
Each portrait looks surreal and ephemeral, and the colours lend themselves to surrealism. Each player stands tall, some are kicking a ball, whilst others are standing still, looking the camera dead in the eye. Antony has successfully captured a group of people that have risen from adversity by doing what they love.
SOUTH OF THE RIVER BY NICO FROEHLICH
South-east London is home to some of the most ethnically and culturally diverse communities in the UK – from the multicultural melting pots of Lewisham and Southwark to the Brutalist blocks of Thamesmead and the estates. The need to celebrate this diversity is something that Froehlich only realised once he got older, and which he continues to explore in his work as a photographer today.
The result is part social realism, part biographical, but ultimately is a celebration of the working-class spirit and rich diversity of the place Froehlich calls home.
And as gentrification and change continue to tighten their grip on the area, Froehlich recognises that it’s now more important than ever to recognise the beauty of this diversity, along with the perseverance of a declining working-class community. “I have no ‘end date’ – I can imagine I’ll be working on this project for at least another ten years,” he says. “It requires a real investment in time to observe the gradual nuances and subtleties of change.”
ECOSYSTEMS OF HEALING BY SAMIRA SAIDI
Samira Saidi created her series Ecosystems of Healing to explore the ways in which Western frameworks have determined how mental wellbeing is interpreted and addressed. “The common understanding of trauma and mental wellbeing has been shaped by the experience of the West and often forms a bubble of misunderstanding towards different approaches,” she explains. In relation to wellbeing, she describes facing inwards and “oneness” as a product of Western societies, and situates ideas of family, spirituality and nature in African communities.
The photo series takes a broad view of mental health in the global south, but chooses West Africa as the site of exploration, namely Accra in Ghana. Saidi photographed models primarily in natural settings: the forest in Legon towards the northeast of the city, the oceanfront in the coastal district Jamestown, and the railway lines found in Dzorwulu.
Saidi has found that the pursuit of mental wellbeing is a journey people often attempt alone, whether because of feelings of shame or because we simply consider it our own mantle to bear. “We often want to go through our trauma and mental health issues by ourselves, or feel the absence of support in this journey,” Saidi says. “However, there are different understandings of support in different cultural societies. The images show the ambiguity of oneness and community in the area of healing and mental health.”