On first glance these portraits, with their faces punched out, may suggest the artist is making a statement of how certain people are treated by society or government; but these photographs have a much more functional explanation. They are all taken from the cutting room floor of a photography studio where people go to have their head shots taken when they are applying for anything from a passport to a compensation claim for damages caused by war.
The Gulu Real Art Studio in Uganda is one of a few photography studios in the region so people travel some distance to have their picture taken. Recordings of the reasons behind the need for a photograph can be listened to at the gallery: it’s a diverse range of back stories.
Many people don’t own a suit but want to look smart in their photograph, especially if they are applying for a bank loan, so the studio has one suit jacket that must be shared by everyone. The results are often comical as slight individuals put on a clearly oversized jacket, and discomfiture is evident in their body posture.
These ‘discarded’ bodies also echo the fact that in life many judgements are made based on something as simple as the way a person looks, rather than taking the entirety of that person into account.
Bacigalupo’s photographs of faceless Ugandans, coupled with their stories, makes for an insightful exhibition on the political, economic and social aspects of daily life in East Africa.
Martina Bacigalupo: Gulu Real Art Studio is on at Camilla Grimaldi, 4th floor, 25 Old Burlington Street, W1S 3AN until 25 April. The gallery is open Mondays to Fridays and admission is free.