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Review of the Year 2015: Top 25 Photography

“Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still,” said Dorothea Lange. Our top 25 is a rich mix of editorial, documentary and urban photography.

  • Klaus_frahm_4th_wall_int_list Work / Photography Klaus Frahm's incredible photographs capture the unseen side of theatres

    Watching the grace and effortless-seeming style of a play, it’s intriguing to consider the flurry and bustle that happens behind the dark red curtain. For the last few years, Hamburg-born photographer Klaus Frahm has been stripping back Europe’s stages to take incredible shots of theatres from the other side. His photographs reveal cascades of seats framed by the structures that house the lights and mechanics of the show. 

    Rebecca Fulleylove
  • Martin_parr_nice_2015_int_list Work / Photography Martin Parr's unseen beach photography shot last week in Nice

    Since 1985 Martin Parr has been capturing the kitsch culture of seaside resort towns the world over. Starting with the tattered charm of New Brighton near Liverpool in his famous photo essay The Last Resort, the photographer’s anthropological take on beach culture has moved from Englands’ north-west coast to Italy, Spain, and as far as Peru and Argentina. A comprehensive travelling exhibition of his beach photography Life’s a Beach has been making international rounds and is currently on show at Le Théâtre de la Photographie et de l’Image in Nice.

    Alexander Hawkins
  • Arthurdrooker-merfest-main-int Work / Photography Arthur Drooker's photographs of an American mermaid convention, Merfest

    Cool Hunting used to be a place of current art and design, expensive watches, exclusive booze bottles, leather mountaineering accessories and cars you will never be able to afford. Nowadays it’s a place of exotic content nestled snugly in a brand new redesign that’s pretty ahead of the game. Recently it’s been championing the work of an American photographer called Arthur Drooker, largely focusing on his series entitled Conventional Wisdom. Arthur is something of a curiosity-lover, and his wild, weird series are the visual result of him being unable to resist the pull of “Bronies,” ventriloquists, clowns, re-enactors and taxidermists.

    Liv Siddall
  • Rebecca-scheinberg-itsnicethat-polanski-list Work / Photography Rebecca Scheinberg comes pretty damn close to making perfect photographs

    The funny thing about “perfect” images, where perfect means clean, or clear, or smooth, or lit from every which way, is that they take infinitely more energy to create than they do to consume. We’ve seen a lot of quite immediate photography work of late – street photography spotted and snapped almost instantaneously, or analogue images made based on instinct, but Rebecca Scheinberg’s labour intensive creations demand endless refining, relighting and altering, and her style is all the more bewitching for it.

    Maisie Skidmore
  • Maxime-ballesteros-itsnicethat-list-2 Work / Photography The bizarre, twilight world of Berlin-based photographer Maxime Ballesteros

    The French have a far superior saying for what we call twilight: “entre chien et loup,” which literally translates as “between dog and a wolf.” That half-lit window between day and night is ascribed all kinds of mystique, and for Berlin-based photographer Maxime Ballesteros, it inspired his dark and subterranean series Entre Chien et Loup. Looking to the in-between, his photographs show an underworld of figures shrouded in fur, leather and lingerie, musclemen and female bodybuilders and particularly jarring flashes of kitsch. As Maxime puts it, “the familiar takes an unknown face, and the limit between domestic and wild, comfort and fear get unclear.”

    Alexander Hawkins
  • Ian-hughes-love-boat-rejects-itsnicethat-2 Work / Photography Brilliant photographs of holidaymakers on cruise ships in the 1990s

    If ever you’ve raised an overloaded forkful of spaghetti to your mouth to be caught on camera unawares, or emerged sweaty and bewildered from a sauna to find your mum with her iPhone in your face, or been snapped from your least attractive angle while fearing for your life atop a camel, Love Boat Rejects goes out to you.

    Maisie Skidmore
  • List-its-nice-thativar-wigan_princess_2012 Work / Photography Ivar Wigan's pics of gangs and strippers have a sense of empathy and admiration

    Images of gangs and strippers are nothing new, and their creation is fraught with the risk of appearing insensitive and patronising at best, exploitative at worst. So for them to pique our interest, they have to be very special. The works of Scotland-born photographer Ivar Wigan are exactly that. Ivar’s recent work has seen him documenting the street culture of Miami, Atlanta and New Orleans, and their often seedy, rarely glamorous underpinnings. And while the images undoubtedly have a voyeuristic slant, central to them is a sense of admiration and empathy, rather than pity or profiteering.

    Emily Gosling
  • Izumimiyazaki-main-int Work / Photography Surreal Photoshop and selfie skills from Izumi Miyazaki

    Life can be pretty boring when you’re a teenager. Rather than turning to the gory allure of video games and SnapChat, 18-year-old Izumi Miyazaki decided to take matters into her own hands and make a series of selfies that make yours look absolutely rubbish. By utilising household items and foodstuffs as props, and sometimes going as far as building her own sets (see head in the clouds photos below) Izumi transports herself into far off lands, so far off that they’re on a different world entirely. Her fixed, deadpan stare throughout makes the project not just endearing but also worth much more than if she was just larking about. It’s art, man. FYI she also sells badges and other small merch items – get ’em while you can.

    Liv Siddall
  • Rachelthomas-itsnicethat-main Work / Set Design Rachel Thomas and Sandra Freij's imaginative shoot for Bare Journal

    The set designer that launched a thousand imitators, Rachel Thomas, has recently art directed, styled and designed the set for a hosiery shoot for Bare Journal. The magazine is a self-professed “ode to the raw beauty of realism and simplicity,” which perhaps explains why Rachel was roped in for the job: she’s the master of small details that fizzle together to form simple and engaging images. For this shoot, which she worked on with photographer Sandra Freij, Rachel’s task was to show off some of the best tights and stockings on the shelves at the moment, something that doesn’t sound that appealing. What she did with a bag of tights is far beyond the skill of anyone else, and she should be highly commended for taking something so mundane and making it genuinely covetable and exciting.

    Liv Siddall
  • Nadia-lee-cohen-list Work / Photography Embracing the uncanny with photographer Nadia Lee Cohen (NSFW)

    “Inspiration comes from cinema and cinematic photographers,” Nadia Lee Cohen, the 24-year-old photographer whose vibrant pseudo-sinister work has been ricocheting around the internet of late, tells us. “Anything focusing around suburbia with dark undertones usually has me sold.”

    Maisie Skidmore
  • Franccesa-jane-allen-itsnciethat-list Work / Photography Five up-and-coming photographers we can’t get out of our heads from FF+WE

    If there’s one thing the UK’s art institutions are doing right, it’s their representation of the youngest, freshest art and design talent emerging from education across the country. Freshfaced + Wildeyed is The Photographers’ Gallery’s annual exhibition dedicated to supporting young, up-and-coming photographers. Established in 2008, this year is the seventh instalment, and the 2015 selection is astonishingly impressive. Here are the five we can’t get out of our heads.h3. Craig Gibson

    Maisie Skidmore
  • Smiler-ica-its-nice-that-sophie-(ladbroke-grove)_-1980 Work / Photography Portraits of London’s squat communities from the 1970s, 80s and 90s

    Looking at Mark Cawson’s sublime portraits of London squat culture in the 1980s, what’s striking is how little has really changed. Some people today squat out of necessity – forced outside the housing system by the complex knots of bureaucracy, or simply unable to afford the capital’s sky high rent. Others choose to squat; signing themselves up for an alternative way of living built on foundations of community and eco-values, or drugs, or a romantic idea that squatting removes them from the shackles of conformity.

    Emily Gosling
  • Leo-cackett-cheerleading-its-nice-that-list Work / Photography Photographing the choreography and chaos of the England cheerleading team

    Some things we presume to be the preserve of the US: putting treacle on mashed potatoes, perhaps; or Bruce Springsteen, or cheerleading. And while we might be best off leaving strange pudding/mains configurations to our cousins across the pond, it looks like we can give them a run for their money in the perfectly coiffed, gravity defying acrobatics-fuelled work of cheerleading. Photographer Leo Cackett recently shot a brilliant series for Flaunt showing the England cheerleading team, conveying the emotion, tears and glory of the girls and boys brandishing pom poms for their country. The images of the carefully choreographed routines are brilliant, but where they really come into their own is in the unplanned moments – doing their hair, calling their mum or having a giggle off-stage.

    Emily Gosling
  • Cassbird-itsnicethat-main Work / Photography Cass Bird photographs the Met Gala Toilets for Vogue

    Cass Bird is so good she’s almost mythical. Sometimes I find myself just staring at her photographs, or writhing in jealousy thinking about the art directors who get to work with her to create some of the most memorable magazine covers in recent history. I get envious of companies like Vogue who have a long-standing relationship with Cass, and have the power to lean back in their shabby-chic chairs and say things like: “Get Cass on the phone, we’re gonna pay her big bucks to stand in the Met Gala bogs to take photos of celebs taking photos of themselves.” Genius. Well, that’s what has actually happened, and last night Vogue published Cass’ photo series on their site. BWI Magazine interviewed Cass about her time in the most decadent toilets in the world and she said she decided to photograph in there because “that’s where the fun’s at.” So true. Pity there were no pics of Rihanna trying to manoeuvre that dress in and out of a cubicle unsoiled.

    Liv Siddall
  • Aleksandra_kingo_la_monda_its_nice_that_list Work / Fashion Photographer Aleksandra Kingo’s surreal, Wes Anderson-inspired fashion shoots

    By now fashion photography has fully embraced awkward imagery. The tasteful and the kitsch sit side-by-side in such a way that strange juxtapositions, unnatural body language and odd props can all add up to make a successful image. Lithuanian photographer Aleksandra Kingo takes on some of these ideas in her eye-catching, surreal pictures.

    Alexander Hawkins