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Hanna Moon & Joyce Ng: English as a Second Language

Hanna Moon & Joyce Ng: English as a Second Language

This winter, Somerset House presents Hanna Moon & Joyce Ng: English as a Second Language, a new photography exhibition celebrating the work of two of the most exciting photographers working in fashion today, Hanna Moon and Joyce Ng. In an increasingly globalized and interconnected world, English as a Second Language celebrates the vitality and importance of fresh perspectives within fashion photography.

English as a Second Language sees acclaimed Asian-born, London-based photographers Moon and Ng, responding directly to Somerset House's historical setting with a new series of film photography works commissioned by Somerset House. Employing an otherworldly and playful approach to their practice, the photographers incorporate cultural signifiers, set design and fashion to present their unique take on Western aesthetics and fashion ideals. 

Working collaboratively with stylists Agata Belcen and Makram Bitar, the exhibition features international designers and established brands such as Molly Goddard, Vivienne Westwood, Philip Treacy, Ovelia Transtoto, Yohji Yamamoto, Paula Canovas, Orient 499 and National Theatre Costumes.

Curated by Shonagh Marshall, the exhibition explores the artists' feelings of being 'lost in translation'. As immigrants based in the UK, navigating different languages and shifting landscapes, this feeling informs Moon and Ng's search for capturing beauty in the often overlooked and unseen narratives in our everyday lives. As two pioneering fashion photographers operating within the Western fashion system and bringing distinct Asian perspectives to their work, Moon and Ng challenge the concept of 'otherness' and reflect upon the power fashion photography holds in shifting our perceptions of beauty, style and taste.

Upon entering the exhibition, visitors first encounter the work of critically acclaimed fashion photographer and founder of A Nice Magazine, Hanna Moon. In 'Heejin and Moffy', Moon utilises the neoclassical architecture of Somerset house to capture imagery of her two muses; Moffy, from London, and Heejin, from South Korea, whom she shares with Joyce. Taking inspiration from classical portraiture, Moon created bespoke sets on-site incorporating cultural signifiers from her homeland - a facemask, Heejin's mother's wedding dress and Korean make-up to create a series of personal and intimate works which reimagine the neo-classical setting of Somerset House.

English as a Second Language continues with Joyce Ng, a rising star with today's fashion landscape, who uses street-casted models, natural environments and props to create images whihc feel both familiar, yet surreal. For this exhibition, Joyce cast solely from Somerset House's vibrant community across a six-week period, inviting visitors and residents to take part in a series of shoots on-site. Drawing inspiration from the renowned sixteenth century Chinese novel Journey to the West, a story of the epic fabled pilgrimage of Xuanzang, a Buddhist monk journeying West in search of sacred texts, Joyce selected participants, all of whom had no prior modelling experience, to become characters in a fragmented narrative through the hidden and public spaces of Somerset House.

The exhibition also invites visitors to explore works from Moon and Ng's fashion photography archive from the past four years, with imagery taken from magazines and fashion brands such as Dazed, i-D, Modern Weekly, Numero China, Re-Edition, 1 Granary, David Casavant and Supreme x Comme des Garçons. Showcasing the photographers varying stylistic approaches side by side in their original print form, the works present a fresh new wave of image making that celebrates differing world views.

English as a Second Language is part of the Charles Russell Speechlys Terrace Room Series, a free exhibition series based in Terrace Rooms at Somerset House, from Friday 25 January – Sunday 28 April 2019.

The Charles Russell Speechlys Terrace Room Series is a series of free exhibitions, which profile the work of living artists in one of the most accessible spaces at Somerset House, bringing the public into contact with a diverse and engaging range of creative thinkers. Find out more about the series here.