“What makes someone a successful photographer?” I once asked Ayesha Malik, the youngest sister of my best friend, MUUSE’s Sara.
There I sat on the couch of their midtown New York apartment, pouring over one of the coffee table’s photography books. At the time, Ayesha was a photography student at Parsons The New School of Design and I spent most of my working day with photographers; prepping, organizing and styling the next fashion shoot.
Together, we knew all the big names in fashion photography: Steven Meisel, Bruce Weber, Mario Testino, Helmut Newton, Annie Leibovitz, Steven Klein… And we also knew that there was hardly any room for lesser-known photographers to swim in a small pond with such big fish. These photographers were just as unlikely to give up their place in the industry, as actual fish are to walk on land.
“The only way they can become successful is if someone with influence notices them,” Ayesha said. She was right. It’s the same for all artists and fashion designers.
Having left New York to complete my MA at Central Saint Martins, I got to witness first-hand the amount of time, money and actual work the graduating MA Fashion students put into their collections last winter. Once their collections were finished, getting noticed is the one area that they struggled with the most.
So when I heard about Free Range, I had to go. The seven-week exhibition at the Old Truman Brewery allows graduates in a range of design fields (fashion, art, design, graphics, craft, photography) to freely showcase their work. No invitations needed, at a venue accessible to all. I walked in to the Dray Walk Gallery, one of several exhibition spaces, to see what students from Havering College were up to.
What I discovered was the familiar work of BA Fashion students Yan Zhang, Heena Meghani and Sameah Zahid, who presented their collection’s during London’s Alternative Fashion Week in April. Flipping through Zahid’s portfolio, I was able to see how she experimented with origami to create life-size dresses with appliqué butterflies in pale pinks and whites. For Zhang, the designer looked to futuristic design elements from Thierry Mugler.
Within the rest of the gallery were packaging labels, jewellery, furniture, paintings, photography and graphic design projects from other students. The entire gallery was a veritable marketplace of creativity and fresh ideas. I only wondered what students from other universities would present in the coming weeks.
Below, examples of student work at Free Range:
Free Range is a special project from May 28 to July 16, 2012, at the Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane in London. For more on the calendar of events, as well as visitor information, click here.