Laura Pannack’s series Island Symmetries connects the similarities of youth culture across the globe

From Dudley to Tasmania, Island Symmetries beautifully distills the character and unpredictability of youth finding their place.

20 April 2020

The world has changed drastically since we last spoke to London-based photographer Laura Pannack in 2016, as has Laura’s work. Back then, it was her Romanian folk tale inspired series Youth Without Age, Life Without Death: Chapter 1 which formed the basis of our conversation but, in a less mythical turn of events, her latest series Island Symmetries finds Laura exploring the Black Country, in an anthology of individual stories twisting together to form a greater commentary.

The work originated in a commission by Multistory, Laura explains. “I spent eight months concentrating on The Cracker; [a series documenting] a wasteland that stands between the two estates – ‘Tibby’ and 'The lost city’ in Sandwell and Dudley.” Laura turned her lens on the youth culture found there, finding “nostalgic imagery that focussed on the friendships in a small community,” resulting in an incredibly striking set of scenes that are immediately recognisable despite appearing so unfamiliar. Finding uncanniness and unpredictability is a recurring element across Laura’s practice, which she finds most enticing. “I like portraiture as there are endless limitations and unravelling a portrait can take time and be challenging,” she says. She also thrives on the opportunity “to collaborate with another person and connect with them” as it “can lead to work that cannot be created from just observation.” In pursuing this process this, Laura produces work that is instantly engaging, transporting the audience to the scenes she depicts providing a platform for discussion, “reflection and engagement” in a delicate and unmatched blend of psychology and photography.

After completing the Black Country commission, Laura decided to continue pursuing a project on youth, heading to Tasmania for four weeks. After returning, she found the term “island symmetries”, which is defined as “the appearance of similarity between any two places is directly proportional to the distance between them,” whereby “what is nearest seems absolutely dissimilar” and what seems familiar can be found worlds away. It was in the discovery of this term where Laura found the assurance in defining her work, telling us “I had shot on two of the furthest places geographically possible yet the similarities in the content of the imagery was uncanny.” In particular, she noticed minutiae such as the same energy drinks being shared and the replication of “the way they showed affection or respect towards one another.”


Laura Pannack: The Cracker

“It struck me that my interest in youth is universal, forming a connection with strangers is imperative to what I capture,” Laura concludes, meeting “creative, interesting and charismatic young people” across her travels from “both sides of the planet.” The exercise of this series made Laura reason that “I can only photograph people I am interested in with real passion,” a passion we see brimming from the images she produces. Within them, we feel the unpredictable energy and warmth that Laura found in her subjects and her ingrained curiosity of where she is. Drawing on themes of “youth, time, community and nostalgia,” Laura’s work strikingly embodies an awareness and excitement for developing youth who are yet to find the place they belong, so are making their own instead.

Laura now intends to find a residency that can push her to make work that focuses her practice further, explaining, however, “I had planned this outside my flat...” Trying to remain “inspired and productive”, Laura is researching her next project and working on her sketchbooks. Throughout her practice, highlighted especially in this latest series, is Laura’s gratitude – from showing affection for the young people she got to know in her travels to the act of making itself. “I feel very fortunate to have found something that has the ability to make me so content,” she tells us, despite the “gruelling and torturous” quest for ideas, she is excited by the practice of “walking in a foreign land with the sun on my face and being filled with fresh visual feasts.”

Upon reflection, Laura tells us she adores “how every project teaches me something new,” including a universally useful conclusion she made whilst photographing Island Symmetries, which was “not to stand around when people are throwing rocks... that was a bad moment.”

GalleryLaura Pannack: Island Symmetries

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About the Author

Harry Bennett

Hailing from the West Midlands, and having originally joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in March 2020, Harry is a freelance writer and designer – running his own independent practice, as well as being one-half of the Studio Ground Floor.

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