Rhiannon Adam London, United Kingdom
I was born in Co. Cork, Ireland, and now reside in London. I was educated at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design (London), and at the University of Cambridge (where I studied English). My work sits predominantly within the social documentary remit, and my practice involves both experimental analogue processes, and archival research to bring hidden narratives to life.
My work is heavily influenced by my nomadic childhood spent at sea, sailing around the world with my parents between the ages of seven and fourteen. Little photographic evidence of this period in my life exists, igniting my interest in the influence of photography on recall, the notion of the photograph as a physical object, and the image as an intersection between fact and fiction – themes that continue throughout my work.
My long-term projects straddle art photography and social documentary, while subject matter is often focused on narratives relating to myth, loneliness, and the passage of time. The results of these explorations are captured almost exclusively in ambient light through the hazy abstraction of degrading instant-film materials and colour negative film, and are often contrasted with the stark reality of archive material.
In 2015, supported by the BBC/Royal Geographical Society, I travelled to the remote island community of Pitcairn in the South Pacific. Pitcairn measures just two miles by one mile and is home to just 42 British subjects, descendants from the Mutiny on the Bounty. A decade ago, the island’s romantic image was tarnished by a string of high profile sexual abuse trials, as a result, islanders are particularly reticent about accepting outsiders. With trip duration dictated by the quarterly supply vessel, there would be no way off for three arduous months. This project is the first in-depth photographic project to take place on the island, and made its debut at Francesca Maffeo Gallery in Spring 2018.
As a part of my varied practice, I am also an occasional publisher and curator. My imprint ‘Lost Cat’ was founded in 2013 with the release of Kevin Griffin's Omey Island: Last Man Standing, and until 2015, I was the resident curator and co-founder of Gallery One and a Half, a photography gallery in Hackney, London.
My work has been exhibited internationally as well as being widely featured in the press –including the New York Times, M Magazine/Le Monde, Art Review, The Guardian, The Telegraph, Huffington Post, BBC, Vice, Huck, Featureshoot, The British Journal of Photography, Fisheye, It’s Nice That, Dazed and Confused, Colors magazine, Harpers Bazaar and Loose Associations (published by the Photographer’s Gallery).
In addition, teaching is a key part of my practice. I can often be found leading workshops and giving talks at various universities and institutions – recent appearances include the Martin Parr Foundation, Royal Academy of Arts, the Photographer’s Gallery, Tate, V&A Museum, Royal Photographic Society, and the Barbican. In 2018 and 2021, my work was included in the British Journal of Photography’s Portrait of Britain exhibition and book, as part of the National Portrait Gallery’s Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize exhibition, as well as showing as part of 209 Women at the Houses of Parliament and Open Eye Gallery. In 2018, I was also awarded the Fractured Stories commission from the British Journal of Photography, exploring the issue of fracking (hydraulic fracturing) in the UK which formed the genesis of The Rift project. In April 2019, I was named as one of the winners of The Photographers’ Gallery’s inaugural New Talent Award, and her work showed at the gallery between June and October 2019. My work has also been a part of festivals such as Photo Vogue, and the Rencontres d’Arles.
My first book, Dreamlands, Wastelands (published by Jane and Jeremy) was released in 2014. In October 2017, Thames and Hudson first published my extensive resource on instant photography (history, tools, techniques) – Polaroid: The Missing Manual, The Complete Creative Guide (translated titles vary), which was rereleased in spring 2022. Big Fence / Pitcairn Island (Blow Up Press) was launched in May 2022 and has since been longlisted for Kraszna Krausz Foundation book awards.