GRAIN are delighted to be working with artist Mark Neville to make a unique photography project with young people from the Ukraine who are new residents in Birmingham. The project is delivered in partnership with Centrala.
In this new project commissioned by GRAIN, Neville will be engaging with the young people to think about their experiences over the last 12 months, to explore their lives before the conflict juxtaposed with their recent arrival in Birmingham and attempts to settle and feel part of the city and its communities. Mark’s home is in Kyiv, Ukraine.
“Mark Neville has re-imagined what documentary photography could be, should be. Instead of the bland ‘deconstructions’ that pass so lazily as ‘critical’ in contemporary art, he makes extraordinary pictures and finds extraordinary ways to get them back to those he has photographed.” – David Campany
Mark Neville works at the intersection of art and documentary, investigating the social function of photography. He makes lens-based works which have been realised and disseminated in a large array of contexts, as both still and moving image pieces, slideshows, films, and giveaway books. His work has consistently looked to subvert the traditional role of social documentary practice. Often working with closely knit communities, in a collaborative process intended to be of direct, practical benefit to the subject, his photographic projects to date have frequently made the towns he portrays the primary audience for the work.
In 2016 Neville began work on a book project called ‘Stop Tanks With Books’. The concept was to weaponise the medium to effect change. He aimed to garner international support for Ukraine in its’ continuing fight for independence, help end Russian aggression in Donbas, and call for the withdrawal of Russia from Crimea. The second aim was to counteract the wealth of fake news and racist disinformation the Kremlin was generating – material that Western media was often perpetuating and reproducing unchallenged and unchecked – by presenting real portraits of Ukrainians. The book has been sent out for free to a target audience of diplomats, politicians, peace negotiators, celebrities, NATO and EU members – everyone, in short, who had it in their power to help Ukraine. By 2019, and after several intense editing sessions with David Campany, the book was ready in embryonic form. The book was published by Nazraeli Press in California, who immediately recognized the urgency of the book and the threat from Russia.
In 2012 The New York Times Magazine commissioned Neville to make the acclaimed photo essay ‘Here is London’, which examined wealth inequality in the capital, and which they subsequently nominated for The Pulitzer Prize. This was quickly followed by a commission from the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, America, which also looked at social inequalities. These two bodies of work were brought together in the touring solo exhibition ‘London/Pittsburgh’.
In 2011 Neville spent three months working on the front line in Helmand, Afghanistan, with the British Army as an official war artist. The films and photographs he made there featured in a major solo show at The Imperial War Museum London in 2014. More recently this war experience has resulted in The Battle Against Stigma Book Project, the overall aim of which is to challenge the stigma of mental health problems in the military. Neville’s book combines written testimonies about PTSD and adjustment disorder from serving and ex serving soldiers with the photographs he took of troops in Helmand, as a means to give some insight into the issue of adjustment disorder which he found he had fallen victim to on his return from the war zone. Throughout 2016 Neville personally disseminated 1,000 copies free to prison libraries, probation services, homeless shelters, and veteran mental health charities, in order to encourage more troops to come forward and seek treatment for adjustment disorder.
Neville’s work exists in different forms in many public and private collections, including those of the Arts Council of England, Kunstmuseum Bern, National Galleries of Scotland, Imperial War Museum, and Scottish Parliament. He has had major solo shows at venues which include The Photographers’ Gallery, London, Multimedia Art Museum of Moscow, Foundling Museum, London, QUAD in Derby, and the Imperial War Museum, and participated in group shows at Tate Britain, Jeu de Paume, Paris, and Haus Der Kunst, Munich. ‘Fancy Pictures’, the monograph published by Steidl, is the first commercially available book about Neville’s work and was one of Time Magazine’s best photo books of 2017, and also nominated for Aperture Photo Book of the Year 2017. Neville’s last book, ‘Parade’, was nominated for the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2020.
Image Credit: ‘Masha, 17 years old, with her mother Nina, just after de-occupation of Termakhivka in Kyiv Region’ by Mark Neville 2022.