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London College of Communication students take their photography to the streets

Sitting side by side on our billboard sites in Dalston and Haggerston are two very different projects that grapple with themes of nature and the human body. Both are unique and exciting, bringing the next generation of photographers and artists to the space with the biggest audience: the streets. For this project, we collaborated with students from the internationally renowned BA(Hons) Photography course at University of the Arts, London’s College of Communication.

The first piece of work, created by a group known as Hiber Nature (Sihan Cai, Noam Dee, Elena Inoue, Ametx Meneses Gonzalez), pulled together photos of green spaces–scans of hands grasping ivy, a bare tree alone in the woods–along with nature-themed poetry. Designed as a way of bringing light into the dark days, the project is a powerful reminder that there is green to be found, even in East London. The poem centres on the idea that, even as the leaves disappear, green ivy remains.

Sitting alongside it is a project by Butt Srsly (April Paice, Finley Gilzene, Alfie Barnes, Jenna Rubenstein, Millie Ghey), a group that formed at LCC and now wants to proceed as a serious collective. “This was the first time we worked in a group setting creating something together, which was the coolest part of this process,” they tell us. Like Hiber Nature, Butt Srsly’s work is more than photography, combining disciplines to convey their messaging. While photography is central to their project, they are also influenced by textiles, fashion, metalwork, and other elements. For this piece, they created a wearable sculpture of balloons, making the body look hypnotic and grotesque. “We had Fin photographed wearing the sculpture, but the images itself were its own separate thing alongside the performance element. We combined elements together that created a whole piece,” they tell us.


Words by Marianne Eloise


As for the balloon-suit itself, Fin tells us that it was “really fun” to wear it. “I’m very concept-driven with my work, where the idea and the story behind it is more important than the photos to me. You can see the textures come through,” says Fin. “Even in some of the photos, you can still see the ends of the balloons. You can see the way the balloons moved inside the suit. Sometimes I put them in certain places, and then I’d go to sit down, and they’d be on the other side of my body. It was very fun to see what happened and just let my body move with the balloons and let the balloons make the decisions.”

There is a playfulness to Butt Srsly’s work, but that they want to make you question your assumptions about the body. “We want to make you question these negative and positive stereotypes of the body. This artwork explores the boundaries of the body. We were able to experiment a lot with this project because our practice is based around the body and exploring the body in different mediums, especially things like textiles or sculpture. Alfie did an amazing job with the colour grading,” they say.

Elena Inoue, Interconnected, 2023

Sophy Rickett, artist and Senior Lecturer in Photography on the course, helped to set up this collaboration for her students. She says: “Thank you Khaly, Kate and the team at BUILDHOLLYWOOD for providing a such a valuable platform for our second-year photography students working on their recent professional development unit. The brief you set was perfect in that it encouraged our students to explore the positive impacts that creative work can bring to our communities. From beginning to end, the project has been genuinely enriching, emphasizing the importance of collaborative efforts, community engagement, and ethical practices in creative endeavours. Thank you so much for being a part of our second-year students’ journey – a transformative and inspiring experience for all! We look forward to future collaborations between BUILDHOLLYWOOD and University of the Arts, London.”

We caught up with members of both Butt Srsly and Hiber Nature to learn more about the collaboration:

What did you want to say with this work?

Butt Srsly: We were looking at the grotesque, and looking at that word not in a negative light, but as a way of looking at why we see conventional shapes as flattering or attractive. You don’t always have to stick to that. You can develop and change, you can mould things, you can have things growing out of places you wouldn’t expect because the body is unpredictable. As a group, we all have different thoughts about what we want to say with the body.

Hiber Nature: With the poetry, we were trying to touch upon the therapeutic aspects of being in nature and how that can uplift people. By putting the green spaces there and including the poetry, we wanted people that were walking past the billboard to get a sense of the therapeutic aspect of nature and to be more energised.

How did you come to work with BUILDHOLLYWOOD on this project?

Butt Srsly: Our tutor Sophie has been such a huge help throughout this process. She was the one who introduced this project to us because she has an affiliation with BUILDHOLLYWOOD. It’s such a cool opportunity and we’re so grateful that such an established company is so connected to students and aspiring artists and wanting to platform people that may not have that. We’re all incredibly grateful for this opportunity and hope to continue working alongside them.

BUILDHOLLYWOOD’s prompt, “Your Space Or Mine”, was really intriguing to us. We came up with a bunch of ideas and pitches and then when we did choose to go with one path, we invested so much into the project that we’re still working on it now. What’s been so great about this project is that being from all backgrounds and different walks of life, we have been able to use this to use our own voices and express our own selves through the body and through our art and have BUILDHOLLYWOOD promote that for us. It makes us want to work with them more because we’ve been able to use our voices on their platform.

Sihan Cai, Forest 2, 2023

What did you like about working with BUILDHOLLYWOOD on this project?

Butt Srsly: We love BUILDHOLLYWOOD’s ethos and the idea of challenging how you see bodies in traditional advertising spaces such as a billboard. We wanted to push the boundaries of conventional beauty and what you see and what’s shown and what’s not shown. We wanted to see how far we could push those lines, because it distorts what you would typically see and how bodies are usually used to sell something or to convey a message. We’ve disrupted that and had fun with the body and manipulated the way that you can perceive it and touch it and feel it. It really is a sensory project.

How did you come to work together as a collective?

Butt Srsly: This was our first organised collaborative work because it was for a project for uni, but I think subconsciously working alongside each other, our practices and processes joined together. Our different skill sets in different areas made this project really work and I think we have an equal drive to create something with a platform and use it. That’s why we’re going to continue Butt Srsly. This project has shown us how well we work together.

Hiber Nature: We have very different visual aesthetics. Two of us like to use medium format film and take photos of nature, so that works well together, but we were able to use everyone’s strengths because we had different visual styles. It was more about trusting each other and trying out different things. We tried out maximalist designs, and then minimalist. We tried both things until we found something that worked.

What does London mean to your creative process?

Hiber Nature: That was our first aim. We wanted to bring green spaces into urban ones. That was our shared vision. London has a lot of green spaces, but it’s not what you think of when you go into Hackney. Especially in winter, we wanted to show that greenery is still around, because London is a really great place for green spaces. We also wanted to touch upon seasonal depression and how not having green and sunlight can really affect us in the UK.

Have you seen the billboards out and about?

Butt Srsly: It’s quite a surreal thing to see. We’ve been working on a lot of Butt Srsly merch. We’ve been looking at mock-ups of badges, t-shirts, and claiming Butt Srsly as ours. We’re going to try to get the rights and continue with this. Seeing the billboard itself drove us to keep going.

Hiber Nature: We’ve never seen our work in a public setting, so having it in public where loads of people can see it was really exciting. This has been the most exciting project because actually seeing the outcome of our work up on a billboard has been really surreal.

Noam Dee, Wildwood Trees 2, 2023
Noam Dee, Wildwood Tree 1, 2023

What’s next for you?

Hiber Nature: We’d like to use this opportunity to try and get our work to reach more people. One of the things that we’re really grateful for is the opportunity that BUILDHOLLYWOOD have given us to share our work with everyone. We would like to collaborate with them again.

Butt Srsly: We’re having an event on Thursday to celebrate this project, and it’s going to be such a special opportunity to celebrate with everyone and let everyone see what we’ve been doing and announce to them what we are planning on next. We’ve made an Instagram, we’re planning on the website, we’re going to buy rights to the name, we’re really investing our time as a collective. It’s been a really fun experience. We want to take it a step further and have Butt Srsly as a platform where we can share our work and have a platform for our collaboration. We want everyone to have their voice and be free and expressive.

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