Actis launches photography exhibition for tenth anniversary

To celebrate its tenth anniversary, private equity company Actis commissioned photographer Harry Cory Wright to capture the communities, projects and businesses the company has invested in worldwide. His photos, taken using a large format plate camera, are on display in a touring exhibition and book designed by London studio Rose.

Entebbe, Uganda

To celebrate its tenth anniversary, private equity company Actis commissioned photographer Harry Cory Wright to capture the communities, projects and businesses the company has invested in worldwide. His photos, taken using a nineteenth century plate camera, are now on display in a touring exhibition and book designed by London studio Rose.

A Vantage Point features photographs of a vast range of people, places and projects; from a tea estate in Mukono, Uganda to a hair salon in Mumbai and Johannesburg’s Nelson Mandela Bridge. The series offers a fascinating look at changing infrastructures, rural communities and local businesses, as well as promoting the company’s work in emerging markets.

George Goch-Johannesburg-Naledi Railway, S Africa

“The idea was very simple: to try and represent the breadth of the company’s work, which is very diverse, and shape that into a show,” explains Cory Wright. “It was important to represent the key markets [the company invests in India, Africa, China, Latin America and South East Asia] and key sectors but most importantly, the set had to work as a series … we wanted each image to capture not just the investment, but the life around it,” he adds.

Based in Norfolk, Cory Wright is best known for his landscape photography, such as Journey Through the British Isles, a series documenting the British countryside. His series for Actis, however, features a mix of portraits and still lifes, from close-ups of industrial machinery to scenes of chaotic cities, building sites, busy restaurants and medical centres.

“It’s quite different to the photography used in a lot of our branding, which is more people based [often featuring close-up portraits], but every picture tells a story,” says Actis chairman Paul Fletcher.

A picture of a jeweller outside his shop in Cairo, for example (below) represents the swathe of businesses in emerging markets switching from cash payments to card in a growing economy, while one of a family outside their home in rural Uganda (top) represents investments in the electricity poles and cables supplying power to the area. Insulated cables make it more difficult to tap into the power supply, while reducing the risk of death or serious injury when attempting to do so.

7 Days Inn, Beijing

Emerging Markets Payments, El Beeb jewellers, Cairo

Cory Wright travelled to India, China, Africa and Brazil to shoot the series, spending around two weeks in each country he visited. “I didn’t have to report back much [while shooting] – Actis put a lot of faith in me,” he says. “It’s quite an unusual project for them – and for me, having that level of freedom and no art director around – but they realised that if you allow people to just do their thing, the result is ten times better than it would be otherwise.”

The full set of over 60 images is compiled in a book, designed by Rose, which will be sent out to Actis’ key clients. Twenty-one have also been reproduced as large scale prints for an exhibition curated by Nicola Bunbury.

Investments in tractors, ATM machines and electronic payment systems may not seem like compelling subject matter for a photography series, but Cory Wright has captured some beautifully detailed scenes that offer a real snapshot of life in the areas where Actis invests.

Byculla Pharmacy & Stores, Mumbai

Images were shot on a large format plate camera, which Cory Wright has been using for over 20 years. “It’s very slow, and expensive [the cost of film and processing is around £50 per shot] but it’s very good at dealing with place and space – it affords everything a relevance in the picture,” he says.

“It’s very easy to compose in a way, as such a large screen, but [with this kind of camera], it’s not so much about the precision of how you take the picture. You can only ever get the notion of something – you can never read the scene closely when you’re there – so you just rely on what the camera will reveal later. It’s a very pleasing process. You know when the film comes back there’s going to be all this other stuff in the scene that you hadn’t thought about,” he adds.

One of the biggest challenges during the project, however, was transporting the camera and film, explains Cory Wright. “The biggest concern was travelling through airport security – as there was no guarantee the film would survive X Ray scanners [which can damage unprocessed images]. After travelling to India we had to come back to the UK, have pictures developed and restock with film before we went to China,” he says.

Following a display at London’s Saatchi Gallery this week, the exhibition will travel to Sao Paulo later this month, before visiting Mumbai, Beijing and Johannesburg.

Super-Max, Precious Hair Cutting Salon, Mumbai

Heritage Place, Lagos

Banque Commerciale du Rwanda, Kigali


Spread showing image of tea estate in Mukono, Uganda

Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm, Easter Cape

Exhibition invitations designed by Rose, who also created the identity and graphics for the show

Images on display at the Saatchi Gallery in London last week

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