Daniel Stier: In My Country at Stour Space
Daniel Stier’s previous photography work has included portraiture of cultural icons such as Helen Mirren, Boy George, Giorgio Armani and Amy Winehouse. He has worked on enormous advertising campaigns for the likes of Volkswagen, Orange and Sony Bravia. ‘In My Country’ at London’s Stour Space gallery is a collection of photographs of complete unknowns; the hidden immigrants of London who live unseen all over the city. However, these photographs appear to represent British culture as much as Stier’s shots of celebrities and are characterised by the same sharply revealing humour which is so apparent in his commercial work.
Much of Stier’s work seems to focus on what is human within the urban environment; those bright and vivacious aspects of life that allow us to connect with others as well as feeling empathy towards a stranger. In My Country does just this. Entering the exhibition we are informed that 40% of London’s population was not born in the U.K. Stier astutely comments that during the Olympic Games, while all eyes may have been on the city, “the world is already here”.
The portraits of In My Country reveal the world within London. Each subject appears in vividly coloured native dress, against a dreary urban backdrop. Though the backgrounds – a tower block, a street corner, a kitchen – are familiar and comfortable to the subject, their dress depicts a proud expression of identity. There is a sense, in each portrait and across the exhibition as a whole, not of a split identity, but of a cohesion between the London that is their home and the sense of selfhood formed through identification with the absent country. In this way, Stier has brought out the individuality of each subject and seems to hint at complex identities constructed across time and place – no subject is reduced or labelled.
The portraits are simultaneously timeless and inherently connected to our era. The subject’s expressions of their history and heritage lends an agelessness to the photographs but, like Stier’s celebrity portraits, also roots them in the now. Each subject stands out from their background; their combined confidence and remarkable appearances contrasting in the frame.
This is a remarkable exhibition from one of London’s most successful photographers. It is illuminating, intimate and gloriously optimistic. In My Country is a proud portrait of our capital, which simultaneously celebrates inclusion and champions difference.
In My Country is at Stour Space from 5th – 29th October 2012. For more information visit Daniel Stier’s website here.
For further information and future events visit Stour Space’s website here.