Laura Pannack

There’s a lot of trust imbued in Laura Pannack’s photographs. Her subjects, often young people and teen­agers, are depicted in quiet contemplative moments, seemingly giving little away.

In fact, partly due to the relationship Pannack fosters with them, they end up revealing much about themselves, shedding their outer layers both literally and metaphorically, and offering up a glimpse of what it is to be young in Britain today.

Pannack’s aim, she says, is to make images that connect with people; by offering the audience a subject matter they themselves can relate to. “All of the subjects I cover – adolescence, love, nudity, old age – are things that we all have an experience of in one form or another,” she says.

“If I can challenge stereotypes, I hope this gives the audience the chance to reconsider their judgement of what I’m presenting.”

The media’s portrayal of the British teen, for example, is something Pannack continues to tackle in her portraits. “Adolescence is a time of heightened emotions and naive invincibility,” she says. “It’s a stage where, through lack of experience, we tend not to consider the future and simply live in the moment.”

Pannack studied editorial photography at the University of Brighton but discovered an interest and a talent for the medium during a foundation course in painting at St Martins. Since graduating from Brighton in 2008, she has been shortlisted for 15 awards and was also awarded first place in the Portraits Singles section of the 2010 World Press Photo Awards for her image of Graham, a recovered anorexia nervosa sufferer, for the Guardian Weekend magazine. Again, with this work she continues to follow a subject matter that is, as she puts it, “either sensitive in issue or access” and the results are striking. “It can be a stressful process,” she adds, “but the most challenging subjects are often those who are protective as they feel so misunderstood. Spending time with people is the only way to understand the issues you’re recording.”

In particular, a recent project on young naturists has taken a lot of patience and research, not least in getting access to naturist clubs where photography is generally forbidden. Pannack also showed further dedication to the cause: in order that her subjects felt more comfortable, she also went naked in the pursuit of their unique story. “It wasn’t something that appealed, but in order to fully understand their lifestyle I needed to do it,” she says. “It’s also interesting as an artist to place myself in a more vulnerable position than my subjects.”

Pannack continues to take on more commercial projects through the Lisa Pritchard Agency’s LPA Futures programme, but is keen to develop her personal work. “I’d like to continue with the nudists project once the chill has faded!” she says. “But as long as I’m learning and producing new imagery, I’ll be happy.”


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