Leeds Photographer Wins English Heritage Commission ‘England’s New Lenses’

Megan Mechelle Dalton has been commissioned by Photoworks and English Heritage for England’s New Lenses, and her body of work will re-tell The War of The Roses in a Yorkshire castles inspired fashion editorial.

Three other artists aged 18 – 25 have won commissions:

London-based Kemka Ajoku will work with Wrest Park, Bedfordshire to create work reflecting on history, tradition and colonisation and which also documents Black British youth, intertwining tradition and modernity.

Mia Parker-Tang, living in Cambridgeshire, will work with props and light at coastal English Heritage sites including Tintagel Castle to produce works inspired by studio portraiture.

Abena Appiah, a London-based photographer and filmmaker, will reflect on the role of African Romans in Emperor Hadrian’s Britain, uniting the viewer in a shared history.

The artists made their own personal choices of English Heritage site and will explore their choices remotely until they are able to visit safely in person. Their new bodies of photographic work will explore alternative narratives to draw out ideas about identity and shared history.

Ashton, 2020

Leeds-based England’s New Lenses participant Megan Mechelle Dalton: “I am delighted to be selected for England’s New Lenses, and to be given the opportunity to explore such a rich subject matter within the grounds of a historic castle in Yorkshire. Reflecting on the ‘Wars of the Roses’, I hope to examine the causes of these conflicts, from the socio-economic breakdowns of the period to the lack of clear leadership, and create a new fashion editorial that positions the ‘War of the Roses’ narrative in modern culture; juxtaposing the visual iconography of war with the romanticism of my subjects coming together in the face of hardship.

The successful commissions were chosen by an esteemed panel of judges including artist Mahtab Hussain and Stuart Lawrence of the Steven Lawrence Day Foundation as well as Shoair Mavlian and Julia Bunneman, Director and Curator, Photoworks and Dr Dominique Bouchard, Head of Learning and Interpretation, English Heritage.

in Absence, 2020

England’s New Lenses judge Stuart Lawrence: “I am honoured to be a part of this initiative. Photoworks, Shout Out Loud and the Heritage Lottery Fund are offering a great opportunity for young photographers who are starting off in their careers to secure a paid residency and exhibition opportunity. I think it is a fantastic way to help them, through knowledge gained and publicity. An opportunity like this is priceless!”

Both organisations believe the artists chosen will present a diversity of perspectives on heritage, and the notion of heritage sites as places of significance and meaning, where past and present interact.

Dr Dominique Bouchard, Head of Learning and Interpretation at English Heritage: “We were so impressed with the response to our open call, with over 200 applications, and inevitably it was incredibly difficult to narrow down to the four successful artists. We are delighted to work with Abena, Kemka, Megan and Mia over the coming months to help facilitate the creation of new photography. Across more than 400 of the country’s most important historic places, English Heritage’s sites have been offering inspiration to artists for more than 6,000 years. Now, we are excited to get a new perspective on these places through the lenses of these exciting young artists. I can’t wait to see how they use their creative energy to engage the next generation with the stories they have to tell.”

Eddy, 2020

Shoair Mavlian, Director, Photoworks: “This project is a fitting ending to our theme of alternative narratives in photography. The quality of applications was incredibly high and a heartfelt congratulations to the artists who have been selected. The work of all four artists captures a mood and feeling within the younger generation about ‘Englishness’ which I am excited to see unfold in their new bodies of work. ”

The commissions are part of England’s New Lenses, a broader partnership between Photoworks and English Heritage’s Shout Out Loud national youth engagement programme. Shout Out Loud is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and supported by the Government’s Youth Accelerator Fund.

Photographs by Megan Mechelle Dalton. Feature photograph is ‘Louis, 2019’.

Leeds Living