Meet Our Curators

Olivia Arthur

Olivia Arthur, documentary photographer. Olivia has worked in India, Europe and Saudi Arabia. She is one of nine British photographers featured in our Magnum: Manifesto exhibition (Sat 12 Oct – Sun 15 Dec 2019).

Du Iz Tak by Carson Ellis

Beautifully illustrated and written in imaginary bug language, Du Iz Tak takes us on a journey through the cycle of life in the garden as well as showing us that words don’t need to be translated to be understood.


Sent a Letter by Dayanita Singh

Dayanita Singh’s Sent a Letter is a series of visual letters to friends from different places in India and is somewhere in between a book and an exhibition in a box. Each one, which can be set out on as its own mini-accordion exhibition, has a different feel and story but there is an overriding sense of longing and nostalgia.


A life full of holes by Yto Barrada

Yto Barrada’s book about the Straight of Gibralta and the dreams of those longing to cross is a beautiful and melancholy book about migration and what draws people away, as well as reflecting on what is left behind. This book and Barrada’s gentle but clear approach were very important to me when I was starting out in my own work.


The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris

A beautiful book of pictures and spells to reconnect children with words that were being left out of the Oxford Junior Dictionary and show them a bit of the world that they describe reminds us not to underestimate our kids.


On Photography by Susan Sontag

Sontag’s book exploring the aesthetics and ethics of photography, as well as the power games we are all playing, is something that anyone getting into photography should read. I read it whilst embarking on my first major project and it continues to be as relevant as ever today.


The Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abe

Given to me when I was making work about women in Saudi Arabia, Abe’s strange and desperate book about entrapment and a fight against ever-encroaching sand is also ultimately about finding a different perspective and perhaps even comfort in the (uncomfortable) familiar. Perhaps we are all just shovelling sand in our own versions of the houses in the dunes.


Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett

Pond is an unusual book, presented as a series of vignettes that are more physical and textural than they are narrative. The book is a lot about what is withheld from the viewer too and it feels to me like the closest thing to a series of photographs that writing can be. So this is almost a written photo-essay.


The God of Small Things by Arudhati Roy

A wonderful and tragic book about the ups and downs of life and love and the influence of family and culture. And in particular, of course, the small things that drive the bigger more dramatic events.


The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

I read this recently after working in California on the US-Mexico border and stumbling across an archive of photographs from a Pioneer family at the turn of the century. I was completely blown away by the immersive writing and Steinbeck’s way of bringing the struggles with – and for – the land to life.


Things fall apart by Chinua Achebe

Things fall apart is a book about colonialism and its effects, but it is also a book to make us think before we judge and reassess our ideas of strength and of right and wrong.