Messums London presented Laura El Tantawy (UK/ Egypt), Nii Obodoi (Ghana) and Yan Wang Preston (UK/ China) at Photo London 2022.
The photographers work with landscape to expand its narratives, uncover its spirit and of its people. Stemming from a personal connection to the land they document, often the poetic and political merge, that become new ways of reading history.
In the Shadow of the Pyramids by Laura El Tantawy is a first-person account exploring memory and identity. With images spanning 2005 to 2014, what began as a look in the mirror to understand the essence of her Egyptian identity expanded into an exploration of the trials and tribulations of a troubled nation. The result is dark, sentimental and passionate.
Created in Mozambique, Nii Obodoi’s most recent project Paradox of Paradise explores the environment as a living and mythological space bound by oral and historical stories, as well as narratives of self-determination. The natural environments photographed hold conflicted stories, shaped by colonial and post-independent histories and, at the same time, informed by the custodians of cultural and spiritual heritage.
Prompted by her discovery of the practice of unearthing ancient trees from villages to transplant into newly built cities, Yan Wang Preston spent eight years (2010-2017) investigating the politics of recreating forests and the ‘natural’ environment in new Chinese cities. Her observations developed into Forest, an award winning body of work that highlights the attempts and failures of recreating nature for urban consumption at a scale that is unsettling.
Laura El-Tantawy is an award winning British-Egyptian documentary photographer, bookmaker & mentor. She is a Canon Ambassador, representing the global camera giant’s vision and passion for visual storytelling. Her work explores notions of home and belonging and is recognised for its lyrical eye on reality. In 2005 she moved to Cairo and started her seminal work, In the Shadow of the Pyramids; this self-published monograph was shortlisted for the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize (2016).
Laura has self-published five highly regarded monographs. El-Tantawy is the first Arab and Egyptian to receive the prestigious Eugene Smith Memorial Fund Award and the PHMuseum Women’s Grant for her humanistic project I’ll Die For You — the series explores climate change and poverty through the experience of small farming communities and the intimate bond between and land.
Nii Obodai has had an extensive photographic career over the last two decades, deploying the medium to record and document the ‘unseen’ and every day in Africa. Photographing in black and white, his contemplative images bring attention to the remains, traces, and scars of the past on the land, especially in Mozambique and Ghana, where Nii Obodai grew up. The natural environments photographed by Nii Obodai hold conflicted stories, shaped by colonial and post-independent histories and,at the same time, informed by the custodians of cultural and spiritual heritage.
Nii Obodai’s work has been exhibited internationally, notably in the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Moesgaard Museum in Denmark, the Addis Ababa Festival in Ethiopia, the Alliance Française d’Accra in Ghana and the Bamako Encounters in Mali. In 1998, he co-established Nuku Café in Accra, which evolved into Nuku Studio and later the eponymous Nuku Photo Festival, Ghana’s first photography festival.
Dr Yan Wang Preston is a British-Chinese artist interested in the intercultural connections between landscape, identity and migration. Her work has won many international awards such as the 1st Prize, Syngenta Photography Award 2017 and the 1st Prize, Professional Landscape, Sony World Photography Awards 2019. She has exhibited widely and internationally at venues including Jeddah Photo 2022, Fotofest Biennial 2020, Houston USA, Gallery of Photography Ireland, the 56th Venice Biennale and Three Gorges Museum, Chongqing, China.
Current and Upcoming exhibitions include: Forest, in Biennale für aktuelle Fotografie, Mannheim, Germany, Mar-May 2022; Autumn-Leaves, in Rhododendrons: Riddle Obsession Threat, Inverleith House, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Apr-Jun 2022; and With Love. From an Invader. (solo exhibition), John Hope Gateway, also at RBGE, UK, May-Aug 2022.
Preston’s monographs are Forest and Mother River (Berlin: Hatje Cantz, 2018). She received a PhD in Photography at the University of Plymouth in 2018 and currently lectures at the University of Huddersfield, UK. She was originally trained in Clinical Medicine in Fudan University, China.