Trail: Inside and Outside by Gemma Padley

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about what photography can ‘do’, its purpose or rather purposes, usefulness, raison d'être, whether it has the ability to effect change or how it might make us think differently about the world around us. Scrolling through the projects here, I found myself drawn to work that for a moment stopped me in my tracks and caused me to consider something in a new way, or at least in a way that was new to me.

Perhaps I have been thinking about photography’s function (s) more than usual because in one sense photography came into its own during the UK Lockdown in Spring 2020. It was a tool that many people, both professional photographers and the everyman, reached for, often as a means to express, document, or process what they were feeling and experiencing. Photography has long been a tool of self-reflection, of looking inwards, as well as a way to look outwards, and each of the following projects does one of those things, I think, and occasionally both.

Elena Helfrecht’s work is a case in point: her work, on one level, is an expression of her interior world played out through her immediate surroundings. There are Barry Falk’s portraits of his friends and neighbours offering a glimpse into other lives, and Mattia Marzorati’s sobering body of work about the terrible price paid for economic advancement in Brescia, Italy. Tony Mak’s landscape survey looks at the notions of legacy, home and what it means to belong somewhere, while Jan McCullough creates minimalistic and strikingly beautiful installations from found materials in her studio, literally creating a new world. London Alternative Photography Collective's In and Of the Land taps into the natural world directly: photography becomes part of the land and vice versa. Elsewhere Mark Monk-Terry makes a connection between respiratory difficulties and the environment. Finally, Denise Felkin’s moving collection of portraits of women in the foetal position who have chosen not to have or not been able to have children, and Torz Dallison’s evocative portraits of eleven-year-olds as they move from primary to secondary school.

Each of these bodies of work (and there were others) allowed me to momentarily put myself into someone else’s shoes or think about things in a way I hadn’t before, and that, to me, is what makes photography the endlessly captivating medium it is.

Gemma Padley is a British writer and editor on photography. She has written for publications that include British Journal of Photography, Elephant magazine,, Foam, The Telegraph, Time LightBox, Port magazine, Photomonitor, The RPS Journal and 1000 Words magazine. Gemma’s previous published titles include Joel Meyerowitz: How I Make Photographs (Laurence King, 2020), From Above: The Story of Aerial Photography (Laurence King, 2019), 1001 Photographs You Must See Before You Die (Cassell, 2017), and Self Publish, Be Happy: A DIY Photobook Manual and Manifesto (Aperture/ SP,BH, 2015). Gemma is currently working on four books on photography due for publication in 2021. She has also worked as a writer and editor with Hoxton Mini Press on titles such as Portrait of Britain (volumes I and II) and Portrait of Humanity (volumes I and II), and has contributed texts to a number of photography books including Constructed Landscapes by Dafna Talmor (Fw:Books, 2020), New Girl Order by Iain McKell (Hoxton Mini Press, 2019) and Black Dots by Nicholas JR White (Another Place Press, 2018). Gemma has a master’s in the history of art (specialising in photography) from Birkbeck, University of London, and an English and Music BA (Hons) from the University of Leeds.