Joy Gregory

Joy Gregory (b. 1959) is a prolific British photographer and artist. She is recognised as one of the leading women in photography today, particularly for her experimental, interdisciplinary approach.

Her remarkably diverse oeuvre includes digital and analogue photography, video, and Victorian printing processes. A graduate of Manchester Polytechnic and the Royal College of Art, London, her work has been published and exhibited internationally.

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Many of her projects are housed in the permanent collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, the UK Arts Council, the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia, and Yale British Art Collection, among others.

In 2010, Impressions Gallery (Bradford, U.K.) hosted the first major retrospective of her work, Lost Languages and Other Voices. Detailing Joy’s career from the 1980s to the 2010s, the collection was named for two projects –  Gomera (2008), a short film, and Kalahari (2010 –) – through which Joy explored the relationship between landscape, language endangerment, and local knowledge.

The works advocate for the cultural preservation of African indigenous languages, specifically N|u – South Africa’s oldest surviving language – which was initially declared extinct in 1974 and is spoken by an estimated twenty people.

The result of a long term research project which Joy began after receiving the NESTA Fellowship in 2002, Gomera premièred at the 17th Sydney Biennale in May 2010 to critical acclaim.

Joy is also celebrated for her integration of early photographic processes into her creative work. Her recent installation series, Invisible Life Force of Plants (2020), stemmed from a similarly research-led foundation.

For this work, Joy explored ‘economic botany’ – the human use of plant materials for survival and tradition – from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries. The series pairs Joy’s strong anthropological focus with deftly crafted aesthetics; the ‘life force’ of each plant is figuratively realised via the ‘aura’ which limns each specimen, a consequence of Joy’s use of cyanotype and lumen printing.

While these processes evoke a sense of historicity, the vitality of the glowing lineaments suggests each species’ continued significance to modern living. The series maintains Joy’s dedication to reviving attenuated practices and presenting them anew in unexpected contexts.

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