The agriculture of sub-Saharan Africa and the labour of everyday life on the land is brought into focus in this new body of work from Jackie Nickerson, on display at Brancolini Grimaldi from 22 November to 25 January. Creating photographs stamped with the realities of farming life, yet shot through with an element of the absurd as faces disappear and shrubbery replaces personalities, Terrain makes a point of emphasising the role of agriculture in defining African culture and society.
A new kind of portraiture that skirts away from photojournalism, Nickerson’s collection refuses to simply illustrate statistics and document moral indignation. Instead, it borrows from artistic language to draw attention to thorny debates currently circling around crop specialisation, subsistence farming and food security. In the images, farm workers are pictured at the site of their labour, harvesting tobacco, maize or bananas, with all the elements of their quotidian life highlighted, from the cultivation techniques used to their dress codes and working habits. Raw materials consequently blur with the outlines of the body and skins and soils touch closely, making labour something that is both built into the mechanics of the human and dug deep into the earth.
Exploring how the human fits into the landscape and the changes agricultural work inevitably leaves on the land, Terrain modulates the preoccupation with identity Nickerson made in her previous work, Farm, into a new fascination with the synergy between cultivation, workers and the environment.
Jackie Nickerson: Terrain, 22 November- 25 January, Brancolini Grimaldi, 43 – 44 Albemarle Street, London W1S 4JJ.
1. Jackie Nickerson, Gift, 2013.