REVIEW: “Origins” at Heist Gallery — Celebrating Human Identity Through Fine Art Photography

Our Arts Editor Luciana Garbarni was present at the launch of Heist Gallery’s newest exhibition Origins, the evening unveiled a number of edifying fine art photographs –  capturing the cultures of places and people who have maintained the genesis of their traditional rituals and practices to this very day.

On display were works from internationally renowned photographers including fashion photographer and co-founder of Dazed and Confused Magazine, Rankin; Forbes 30 Brightest under 30 for Art & Design, Claire Rosen; Vatican commissioned interior photographer Massimo Listri as well as Jimmy Nelson, Mario Marino, and Jean Claude Moschetti, all of which were impeccably curated in the setting of a traditional Nigerian home that remained authentic to Heist’s alternative holistic approach.

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The basis of Origins sought to explore the effects of globalisation by holding up a mirror at the contemporary viewer in the form other-wordy indigenous cultures as a point of comparison. It goes without a fraction of exaggeration, that every single photograph achieved just that through the sheer authenticity exposed.

HEIST founder, Mashael Al-Rushaid, said of the exhibition; “We have found ourselves living on a planet whose citizens are slowly forming uniform pan-global identities, in which people are increasingly beginning to sound alike, act alike and believe in the same things. Despite the great contributions that the march towards modernity has made towards our civilisations, it has started to strip us of what makes us fundamentally unique, what makes us human.”

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The collection surpasses the audience’s initial interest in the novelty of the figures, tribes and people depicted, drawing them in beyond the visual vibrancy to the questions they pose and the all too human aspects they address. Though many would argue that these tribes face a crisis of survival in their primitive environments, the crisis of survival faced is as much ours as it is theirs, and many of the modern problems we face are, for the most part, a result of modern lifestyles. It can’t go overlooked that many of these cultures appear settled, rich, and fulfilled in an intensely real way that many Westerners may be able to appreciate, but find themselves unable to fully comprehend. It is this realness, something just outside the grasp of our immediate selves that allows for the contentment visible in these photographs. And contentment is a great beautifier.

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Particularly captivating was Jimmy Nelson’s “Kazakh” (below), a portrayal of the Kazakhs in Mongolia on a mountain top, a group of nomadic eagle-hunters who still follow a traditional way of life that has defied history, geography and political change. I observed on-lookers attempt several times to recapture the image on their own phones or devices and failing: at face value, this photograph refuses to reveal the truth of it’s own depth and can only be absolutely appreciated in person.


The Origins exhibition promises to leave a lasting impression on all those fortunate enough to visit, it runs until April 30th at Heist Gallery in Notting Hill, further information can be found on