A photographer's heroine: Alice Mann
A few months ago, I was in London and made a wee visit to the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize at the Portrait Gallery - and I’m very, very glad I did. Wondering through the rooms, gazing into the stunning array of portraits and carefully reading the stories behind each, I found myself in front of Alice Mann’s winning series ‘Drummies’. This series of images is the first time a group of photographs have won the £15,000 first prize which is normally awarded to one single portrait.
Alice is a 27 year old South African photographer, who is now based in London. Her series documents a group of all-female drum majorettes, fondly known as ‘drummies’, in her home country. The young girls in the photographs sit comfortable and perfect in front of the camera, wearing their vibrant uniforms with pride. Through charismatic poses and the way they look down the lens, you can read their unique personalities. ‘Drummies’’ practice routines are notoriously intense - and they are widely appreciated to be hard working and dedicated to their sport. Photographing the girls standing so wonderfully proud paints a perfect picture of strong females pursuing their dreams, which inspires younger girls to do the same.
No stranger to long-term documentary projects, Alice has created photographic work concerning race, gender inequality and individual identity. Her closeness to her subjects is clear in every body of work she makes. I love looking at photographs with a visible connection between the photographer and their subject. I think it captures a level of emotion and depth that can only be communicated through real trust, like Alice has with the girls.
Alice’s work inspires me in so many ways - she celebrates and empowers the special people she makes a genuine connection with, and documents issues of injustice in order to raise awareness and educate people around her. I think her images are visually perfect, and she clearly carefully choosing the exact moment and perfect corner that communicates exactly what she wants to say, they completely drawing you in at first glance. Every so often you see a body of work that drives you there and then to pull out your camera, to seek out and listen to peoples’ stories, to completely immerse yourself in a new project. ‘Drummies’ did that for me. And it really made me smile visiting one of the most prestigious photography prizes in the country and being introduced to the winning female photographer who uses her power to shine the spotlight on wonderful girls in sport.
Written by the incredible Scottish photographer, Kirsty McLachlan - check out her gorgeous images here.