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Happy Valley explores the toxicity of American culture

“When I started making Happy Valley, I was still struggling with the hangover of growing up there,” says Eva O’Leary of the series, which stems from the photographer’s experience of growing up in a town entrenched in many destructive aspects of American culture. “I realised that a lot of the things I had internalised as normal were actually toxic.” Happy Valley is the nickname for State College, a town in Pennsylvania. Its identity largely rests on being home to Penn State University, “one of America’s biggest party schools,” says O’Leary. Happy Valley is a slogan, almost a command, given by the university and emblazoned on t-shirts and merchandise, but there is a dichotomy between the idea of Happy Valley and the reality of the place. “The projected image is of a middle American, sporty, wholesome town,” explains O’Leary. “People see it as this place of eternal youth where nothing bad ever happens, because everyone there is a student and it’s very isolated.” Growing up in Happy Valley, however, proved very different. “Like a lot of America, …

Female in Focus Editor’s Pick: Breaking a routine

Our online editor has selected the best entries from last month’s applications to Female in Focus. Juliette Cassidy is the BJP team’s favourite of the Editor’s Pick selection, winning a feature on BJP-online. “I was amazed by Senegal,” says Juliette Cassidy, “the way the light shone on people’s skin, the country itself, and a lot of the clothes people wear.” Cassidy, a fashion photographer, took her second trip to Senegal last year. Shooting her series The Day I Went to Africa, the trip challenged her to step outside of her working routine and  photograph away from her usual environment, which was centred around studios and London’s fashion circuit. “I wanted to be emotionally and physically distant from what I was used to photographing,” Cassidy explains, “but at the same time, I wanted to maintain an element that felt familiar to me, which was fashion.” While in Senegal, Cassidy’s approach shifted. Instead of casting her subjects, as would be the case in London, she photographed  individuals that she met by chance. With no deadline or commission …

Laundry Art by Ho Wing Ka Jimmi

Ho Wing Ka Jimmi’s colourful images of Hong Kong show how residents of one of the world’s most densely populated cities are challenging the use of public space

Female in Focus: Acceptance or resignation?

“I became exposed to this completely different environment,” says Yagazie Emezi, speaking of her experience moving from Nigeria to the US. Having spent her whole life in Nigeria the photographer relocated to the US when she was 16 years old to study. The experience proved formative and has since become the focus of many of her photographic projects. “My work always stems from something personal,” says Emezi. This rings particularly true in the series Process of Re-learning Bodies, an ongoing project in which she explores the process by which people reclaim their bodies after becoming physically scarred. Looking at the fragility and endurance of the human form, and the acceptance of self within African communities, the project seeks to understand the emotional implications of being scarred, and how factors such as community, environment, and socioeconomic class can influence an individual’s psychological adjustment to their new, scarred bodies. “I have a very visible scar on my leg,” says Emezi. “Growing up in my hometown in Nigeria, I wasn’t self-conscious about the scar, because I was in …