Dominic Hawgood: Under The Influence

Art, Photography Free
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4 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Photographer Dominic Hawgood met evangelist Christian pastors all around London – predominantly from the capital’s African communities – while researching his latest series ‘Under the Influence’. The recent Royal College of Art graduate, and 2014 winner of the British Journal of Photography’s prestigious International series award, did so in part to observe the churches’ intense exorcism rituals (often peculiarly livestreamed on to huge in-house screens), and in part to further his own search into the eternally fascinating subject of faith.

Printed on vinyl in noir-ish monochrome, one image shows an enraptured woman dribbling on to a tissue. In another, an arm grasps theatrically at the feet of a microphone wielder. This set contrasts with a number of backlit, garishly hued, but similarly unsettling pictures. A pointing hand clasps a spray bottle of holy water, for example, while a sheet of scrunched paper simply levitates.

The images of these dramatic, energetic ceremonies feel like something of a culmination for Hawgood. For previous projects, he photographed roadside church signs in Texas and locals that speak in biblical tongues.

Hawgood also has previous in advertising photography, and its highly-staged, sometimes questionable tropes chime perfectly with the more dubious strands of religious ceremony. Hawgood explores the crossovers while questioning photography’s apparent authority. He refuses to say whether the images in this series are ‘genuine’ photographs or computer generated – he varies his output across straight photography and CGI. What matters, it seems, is the work’s intoxicating power. But in case that all seems too evangelical, gallery goers are required to don plastic shoe coverings, as if examining evidence in a crime scene. Could prove handy in case of rapturous dribble.

Peter Yeung

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