Essay

A Young Person Recommends...[SUR]PASSING

Fatima Shirazi reviews the exhibition [SUR]PASSING which runs from 16 Apr - 17 Aug 2019 at Autograph

Lola Flash is an American portrait photographer whose work covers themes such as feminism and the LGBT community and is currently showcasing her project [sur]passing and others such as Cross Colour in London. Born and raised in New Jersey, Flash identifies with the LGBT community and seeks to challenge stereotypes through her work, bringing attention to gender and racial issues.

Held at the Autograph which is situated by the thrilling sights of East London, upon arrival you’re surrounded by the life-sized portraits against urban skylines. The subject’s name, country and the year the photo was taken found directly next to each photograph. The project [sur]passing mainly emphasises black identity and consciousness with each image having a personal feel, as it showcases each person to such a size making one feel like they’re truly in front of them. There’s plenty of space to walk around and has a very open atmosphere, which perhaps links to the message Flash time and time again goes to show; that one should be open about how they feel.

Walking further into the exhibition, [sur]passing is left behind and Flash’s other works such as her project Cross Color is on display in a different room, now investigating different sexualities and gender identities. The exhibition progresses as all the different projects on display do indeed link with one another, each portraying a different issue in today’s world.

My personal favourite photograph from [sur]passing was Thato, Cape Town, 2002 because the natural lighting captured a beautiful honey-glow on the subject Thato, and the blue sky differs from the other pictures that mainly use urban backgrounds and skylines. His stance is firm, with a hand on his hip, head held high and making direct eye contact with the camera which depicts the exact image of confidence. This really stuck out to me as people of different gender identities (Thato identifies as non-binary) are often heavily scrutinised, however, Thato presents himself with pride, proudly showing himself to the world.

Overall, I don’t think Flash’s work is displayed just for aesthetics, but to illustrate a deeper meaning and to tell a story through each photo. The photography industry is the perfect place to bring up conversations that need to be discussed in our rapidly changing world. In general, Flash takes this opportunity to display topics that include the LGBT community and race, and to challenge people’s opinions. I would recommend this exhibition for people to open their mind to the many different types of people that exist.

- Fatima Shirazi

Images: Courtesy of Autograph Gallery