The following piece is published as part of our TLM Young Writers series, a dedicated section of The London Magazine‘s website which showcases the work of exceptional young talent aged between 13-21, from the UK and beyond.

Katie Burge

Arts University Bournemouth’s Graduate show ‘aesthete’

Nestled within the capacious studio space of the Hoxton Arches, ‘aesthete’ is a true cornucopia of talent. In the cumulative exhibition for this year’s graduates from Arts University Bournemouth’s Commercial Photography class, there was a vast array of styles and approaches, ranging from a focus on fashion and beauty to advertising shots and documentary-style stills.

Despite the wide scope of work, the photographs carried a shared sense of pride that permeated throughout the show with each final piece the embodiment of three years of hard work and personal growth. This artistic development is implicit in the confidence of each striking composition and concept shoot, drawing on disparate influences in their work whilst retaining their original style and individual approach. As such, the title of the exhibition – ‘aesthete’ – certainly feels fitting, their juvenilia already displaying an appreciation and sensitivity to art well beyond their years.

Upon entry, one is thrown into a hallucinogenic, flower-power haze by the photographs of Georgie Wilding and Ruby Siena. Both are marked by a distorted, almost dizzying quality of focus that is only amplified by their adjacent positioning, presenting nature as if in a dream state. This phantasmagoria continues in the lucid blues of Natalia Palmer’s The Experiment, hanging opposite, in which the model’s mouth is pulled painfully wide apart by an unsettling dental contraption whilst her eyes interrogate the viewer, daring a reaction amidst electric blue light. Further along the wall, the strange and fantastical continue to leave their mark, from the piercing portrait of an Adonis-like figure adorned with gold in Beth Leatt’s Beauty of the Universe, to the cascading tulle of Clara Barroso’s Lady of Light, an image straight out of a fairy tale. Milly Letcher expands on this theme in her whimsical prints that are reminiscent of Claude Cahun, demanding and bold in the narrative as the photographer’s imagination is compressed into the binary of black and white. Elsewhere, the work shifts in the opposite direction and chooses to embrace the mundane, capturing a raw facet of being human that is rooted in the everyday and often overlooked. Aged hands clutch a notebook full of scribbles in Charlotte Percy’s Geocaching; an old man welds metal in his shed unaware of the camera’s presence in Lois Hill’s work; and a man lies on his skateboard in a car park, gazing at the sky in a moment captured by Matthew Trapp.

Throughout these photographs, there is an overwhelming sense of solidarity in what can only be described as a tumultuous year. The effect of the pandemic is undeniable, a force of confinement and isolation, and yet hope is the most prominent feeling to emerge from the photographs captured in lockdown – a celebration of fellowship and perseverance suspended in time. Taking us into the privacy of the domestic space, Alice Medlock sneaks a glimpse of a girl all dressed up but with nowhere to go, gazing into the distance with a look that is both coquettish and resolute. Michael Farra captures a poignant moment of silence within a desolate synagogue, a single man sitting in prayer and clutching the Torah. What stands out are the truly minute details, from the blue paper mask looped under his chin to the two right socks on his feet, the little things in life that make the whole experience exciting.

Throughout the exhibition, the photographs bristle with creative energy that is laden with hope, and this is epitomized in Gabriel Bush’ Lockdown Artists – vignettes of the daily lives of creative people who continued to create whilst stuck inside. There is no quelling creativity, and this exhibition proves just that, an impressive showcase from an equally impressive group of people.



Katie Burge is a 17-year-old student studying at St Paul’s Girls’ School in Hammersmith, London.



The ‘aesthete’ exhibition was shown at Hoxton Arches from the 1st to the 3rd July 2021. 

More information about the show and photographers can be found here.

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