Iam Burn is a photographer and photo-based visual artist based in Sunderland, UK.
Burn exhibits a responsibility to the social and political capacity of photography – applying his own traumas, experiences and curiosities to evoke a wider public discussion. In his reflective, research-led photo-based practice, Burn combines visual strategies, genres and media. Employing photography as therapy is a significant and influential element with Burn’s work. His bodies of work Only I am I (2018), behind grey walls (2017) and In contrast… (2018) demonstrate this approach.
Using photography, multimedia and archival imagery, Burn has focused on various aspects of mental health. He uses his personal connections to the subject matter to create work which generates an emotional response but also prompts discussion and encourages greater understanding of mental health issues.
Only I am I tackled the emotional subject of suicide. This work combined archival ‘domestic snapshot’ imagery with text from actual suicide notes shared by families in the public domain. A projection (six feet high in enclosed space) without audio, it allowed the viewer to absorb the challenging and emotional feel of the work in quiet contemplation.
Burn drew on his personal experience to produce his work In contrast…, a series of 11 images, which was exhibited at Priestman Gallery, Sunderland in 2018. Focusing on a difficult period of his life, it explored his connection to the sea and its impact on his wellbeing. It also featured in the Art and Liberation exhibition, examining arts and mental health, at The Holy Biscuit, Newcastle upon Tyne in 2018. The work has featured in publications including The Royal Photographic Society Contemporary Photography Journal in 2019.
His work, The Lion and the EUnicorn (2019), continues to show his appreciation for archival imagery and embracing the written word as part of his practice. Tackling the issue of Brexit, Burn chose a challenging topic in which to respond photographically. His understanding of the situation, both politically and socially, mixed with in-depth research, allowed Burn to create a publication which took a neutral stance. This allowed the reader to draw their own conclusion regarding his opinion. In doing so, the reader demonstrated their own views on the subject subconsciously.
Burn’s latest work, Once (2020), explores the subject of loss. Often associated with life events, such as bereavement or a relationship breakdown, loss has many facets. A loss of innocence, loss of identity, or independence all have an emotional, physical and/or mental impact. We share this connection, although we experience our losses in diverse ways. The Earth is something we all share also. Humans have been affecting the planet for many years. Habitats are being lost, polar ice caps are melting, and many species we cohabit with are rapidly vanishing. These devastating losses are shared by over 7.5 billion individuals simultaneously daily.
Once explores these aspects, considering the threads that connect us all. Combined with haiku verse, a meditative form of poetry, Once is a response to different strands of loss, asking the viewer to pause, reflect and consider how it has impacted on their own life, and may affect them someday.
Burn was commissioned in 2018 to undertake an online project called Spanish Flu Now as part of 14-18 Now, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary. Mixing imagery and text, Burn told the story of Nathan, a cycle food courier. The story was told in real time on Instagram, mixing facts and stories from the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, knowledge of modern pandemic planning and our modern way of life. Burn embraces detailed research around the subject he is exploring, something prevalent in this body of work.
He has recently finished studying an MA in Photography at the University of Sunderland. He achieved a First-Class degree when completing his BA (Hons) in Photography, Video and Digital Imaging at the same institution.