Date
1 July 2021
Reading Time
5 minute read
Tags

From prison rehabilitation to fantastical new worlds: David Uzochukwu and Nigel Poor on storytelling through photography

At June’s Nicer Tuesdays Online we dived into original ways of storytelling with photographer David Uzochukwu and artist Nigel Poor.

Share

Date
1 July 2021
Reading Time
5 minute read

Share

Since Nicer Tuesdays moved online last year, we'd love to hear your feedback on the transition. Whether you attended regularly, just once, or not at all, we’d love you to take part in our Nicer Tuesdays survey and gauge your thoughts on our monthly creative event. We massively appreciate you taking the time to help us out, so as a thank you we’re offering five lucky winners an Extra Nice membership for one year! We'll ask for your email address at the end of the survey if you'd like to enter.

To coincide with our first ever guest edited series on the site – a series diving into the power of storytelling with Yinka Ilori – we wanted to further celebrate this theme with June’s Nicer Tuesdays. Inviting two fascinating speakers to talk about the methods of storytelling in their work respectively, we welcomed author and artist Nigel Poor and photographer David Uzochukwu to the online stage.

Both artists examine notions of storytelling very differently. Nigel, on one hand has been addressing how photography can be used to rehabilitate in prisons in her new book The San Quentin Project. The Bay Area-based author took us through a project where she’s collaborated with incarcerated people at one of America’s oldest and largest state prisons. Telling us about this unique and original project which tracks the experiences of incarcerated people, Nigel sheds light on the prison system in the US, asking questions of its rehabilitation processes and whether they truly work.

Journeying from the American West Coast over to Berlin, we then met David Uzochukwu; a photographer and visual artist seeking out ideas of belonging, identity, strength, masculinity and resilience. Taking us through his recent projects including Mare Monstrum / Drown In My Magic as well as I, Other, we quizzed David on how he creates his magical images layering a multitude of concepts which nod to his fantastical inspirations and overall vision. Find out more below on what we learnt from June’s Nicer Tuesdays.

Left

Copyright © David Uzochukwu

Right

Nigel Poor: The San Quentin Project (Aperture, 2021)

Above
Left

Copyright © David Uzochukwu

Right

Nigel Poor: The San Quentin Project (Aperture, 2021)

Above

Nigel Poor: The San Quentin Project (Aperture, 2021)

How photography can be a prompt for memory

A couple of months ago, we interviewed Nigel Poor on her new book. Featuring a largely unseen archive of daily life inside San Quentin State Prison, the project showed how photography can be a “bridge for conversation”, and a mode of expression for the incarcerated. First up to the online stage, Nigel took us through how she first became involved with prisons, with work dating back to 2011 and a prison university project. She talked about photography as a way of “triggering and populating memory”, a way of accessing information for others and “driving back into [one’s] own recollection”.

Through various exercises, Nigel worked with incarcerated people to divulge important memories. By acknowledging the powerful language of photography, an image that acts as verbal description, she encouraged the incarcerated to use a different kind of language to participate in memory. When Nigel came across a vast archive of prison photographs, the collection became an important tool in mapping present inmates experiences. By writing on the archival imagery, the inmates were able to communicate the prison experience from a deeply human experience. Whether their mapping was rooted in reality or not, the exercise allows those on the outside world to gain perspective on what it is like to be imprisoned, and view this experience with compassion and consideration.

Ultimately, Nigel’s work is not only about storytelling but showing connections and examining details which give light to new conversations and ways of thinking. Utilising the ubiquity of photography – a language we are all familiar with in the digital age – she highlights how “photography creates a sense of commonality” and cites the etymology of the word meaning “writing with light”. In this beautifully poignant talk, Nigel pointed out how “to be seen by other people mean to tell stories,” and how crucial this is when it comes to giving a voice to the invisible, the imprisoned. It gives them a sense of power. To be able to change a point of view on how society views those incarcerated and in turn, the world, is no small thing. And with this in mind, The San Quentin Project also addresses the importance of arts education and the delight that goes hand in hand with the desire to create.

Above

Stabbing in gym, September 24, 1963, mapped by Ruben Ramirez; from The San Quentin Project (Aperture, 2021). © Ruben Ramirez, courtesyAperture. Archival image courtesy San Quentin State Prison

Above

Nigel Poor at Nicer Tuesdays

Above

Nigel Poor: The San Quentin Project (Aperture, 2021)

Escaping into a fantasy with photography

At June’s Nicer Tuesdays Online, David Uzochukwu revealed how he first got into photography. It’s something he only realised recently: “I developed a crush on someone that was into photography and I absorbed their hobby,” he told our editor-in-chief Matt Alagiah. Talking us through his career beginnings, David took us through his staggering career to date which kicked off at the tender age of 17 which blew up with the iconic shoot of FKA Twigs for Nike. A major moment for David which opened both doors and recognition for the young artist, he soon began to develop his personal practice, founded in his childhood passion for fantasy.

As a child, he told us, he escaped into different worlds through fantasy books. The interest stems from an inner place which has never been interested in “pre-shaped things”. He liked the idea of creating things that are pointedly not linked to everyday life, “a breath of fresh air” as David put it, or something that makes you feel alive. At the crux of it, this is what David’s work is about. The everyday controls of life are stripped away, revealing a mysterious and ethereal world full of creative wonder.

It takes the photographer a while to come up with these fully formed ideas. He fills sketchbooks with ideas gradually, some of these ideas sticking around for years. With this in mind, he has a pretty good idea of what he wants to achieve by the end of a shoot, visualising something that meets his idea of a parallel universe. Currently studying for a degree in philosophy, David also discussed how the subject has influenced his practice amongst a range of other topics which include the logistics of developing ideas and the contextual layers that go into the work too.

Above

Copyright © David Uzochukwu

Above

David Uzochukwu at Nicer Tuesdays

GalleryCopyright © David Uzochukwu

GalleryCopyright © David Uzochukwu

Supported by

Pinterest

Pinterest is all about bringing creative inspiration to people’s lives. Graphic design. Photography. Boozy vegan breakfast... Whether you’re wooing a tricky client or feeding your friends, Pinterest has ideas to spark you into action.

Supported by

Ace & Tate

Ace & Tate believes inspiration is everywhere if you just open your eyes wide and Take Another Look. The Amsterdam-based eyewear brand endeavours to support the creative communities that fuel the world with inspiration and make it a brighter place to live in!

Supported by

Tate Modern

One of the most innovative artists and designers of the 20th-century avant-garde, Sophie Taeuber-Arp (1889-1943) challenged the borders between abstract art, design and craft. Tate Modern’s major exhibition will be the first in the UK to trace Taeuber-Arp’s accomplished career as a painter, architect, teacher, writer, and designer of textiles, marionettes and interiors. Showing from 15 July - 17 October 2021, the exhibition brings together over 200 objects from collections across Europe and America, the exhibition will show how she blazed a new path for the development of abstraction.

Share Article

Further Info

Nicer Tuesdays Online is our monthly event of creative talks. You can find out more here.

Did you know that if you join Extra Nice, It’s Nice That’s new membership programme, you’ll automatically receive a ticket every month for Nicer Tuesdays Online, for the entire year? That’s just one of the many perks that makes Extra Nice so special. To find out more about this and all the other benefits of joining Extra Nice, head over to the dedicated part of our site.

About the Author

It's Nice That

This article was written by the It’s Nice That team. To find our editors and writers, please head over to our Contact page.

It's Nice That Newsletters

Fancy a bit of It's Nice That in your inbox? Sign up to our newsletters and we'll keep you in the loop with everything good going on in the creative world.