I have just completed a new project, Gun Nation – The Return.
A revealing and unsettling journey to the heart of America’s deadly love affair with the gun.
The 30-minute film is now available to view on the Guardian online, and the magazine feature was published at the weekend, here.
film and photography project
Gun Nation - The Return
16 years ago I published my first book, Gun Nation – a disturbing reflection on America’s deadly love affair with the gun.
Since then, 500,000 Americans have been killed by firearms in the USA. Half a million people dead – and many more injured.
I decided to return, to find out why.
Mike & Kaitlyn, 1998
I tracked down the people I met those years ago, re-photographed and interviewed them, and made a film about my journey.
When I met Mike and his baby Kaitlyn, she was six months old.
Kaitlyn is now 21.
Mike & Kaitlyn, 2016
“Travelling through states still reeling from recent school shooting rampages, Nelson tracks down the gun owners who he met and photographed nearly two decades ago, asking why – despite the enormous death toll – there is such fierce resistance to even moderate gun control laws in the USA.”
You can view the film on the Guardian site, here.
NOTE: click the ‘HD’ button if you want to see it in focus.
The Guardian Weekend Magazine (UK) published the story on Saturday.
See the complete magazine feature in greater detail here.
Gun Nation cuts to the core of America’s gun culture, observing the mainly white, middle-class Americans who sell and purchase guns in vast numbers, fuelling the nations insatiable appetite for firearms.”
Gun Nation is a revealing and disquieting journey into the minds of US gun owners, as they cling to the notion of a centuries-old ‘right to bear arms’ in a fast-changing contemporary landscape.”
Vicky Sykes, 1997
Vicky Sykes, 2016
“The project explores the paradox of why America’s most potent symbol of freedom is also one of its greatest killers.”
Nelson’s seminal project Gun Nation was published as a book and awarded five major international photography prizes (including First Prize in the World Press Photo Competition, the Alfred Eisenstaedt Award, and the Visa d’Or, France.)
To view the original images, click here.
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Happy February 2016.
Here is an update on my recent work and goings on.
Britain’s Wealth Divide
Last month BJP magazine (British Journal of Photography) published a ‘wealth’ issue, including my recent work on Britain’s billionaires.
The work marks the occasion of the UK now having the highest number of billionaires per capita in the world — set in the context of growing wealth disparity.
With 104 billionaires in the UK, the top five richest families are wealthier than the bottom 20% of the population (12.6 million people) — which is the number living below the poverty line in the UK.
The issue also included my series, ‘Foot Soldiers of Capitalism’, a series of portraits of estate agents selling multi-million pound apartments in Tower Hamlets, one of London’s most deprived boroughs.
See the tearsheet in greater detail here.
Apartment £5.75 million. From the series Foot Soldiers of Capitalism.
I have also added a new ‘tearsheet’ page on my website, showing other published work, here.
For those that missed it on Channel 4 at the end of last year, here’s a link to watch my short film about video-gamers, Screenagers (9 mins).
Responding to new research about how much ‘screen time’ is healthy for young people (and everyone else), Channel 4 asked me to attend the UK’s largest video-gaming convention.
For two days I was immersed in a potent soup of teenage hormones, energy drinks, and non-stop gaming. Far from stereotypical ‘loners’, I found a group of people searching for identity and a sense of belonging.
Watch the film here.
I have also added a new ‘film’ page on my website, showing other films and trailers here.
in this land
The Paper Journal published an interview about In This Land — my on-going work on Israel/Palestine.
See it here.
Jimmy Page in FT Magazine
I recently photographed the legendary rock guitarist Jimmy Page for FT Magazine.
See portraits on
my website here.
I’m giving a talk at Mostyn Gallery (North Wales) on 6 February to accompany their History Series exhibition WAR II.
More info here.
south africa
My recent project South Africa — After Mandela was awarded the Popcap‘15 — International Prize for Contemporary African Photography, and was exhibited at outdoor sites during the LagosPhoto Festival, Nigeria.
The project looks at how — twenty years after the end of Apartheid — South Africa remains one of the most unequal societies in the world.
View the project on my website here.
the family
I photograph a British family on the same day, in the same place, under the same lighting, every year.
It seems impossible I’ve been alive long enough to do this, but the project (and the boy in the photo) has now reached its 24th year.
I’ve just posted the latest image on my website. View the complete series here.
love me
As Love Me continues its international exhibition tour, Eminente magazine recently published the work, focussing only images taken in Brazil.
See the tearsheet in greater detail here
See the complete project on my website here.
Thanks for reading, and for your support if you have been involved in any of these projects — as a viewer, commissioner or friend.
Please visit and click ‘Like’ on my Facebook artist page for occasional updates.
To see more, visit my website
To contact me directly, click here
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I have made a short 9-minute film for Channel 4.
It will be screened tonight, during the 7pm Channel 4 News hour (between 7.10 - 7.40pm)
Responding to new research about how much ‘screen time’ is healthy for young people (and everyone else), Channel 4 asked me to attend the UK’s largest video-gaming expo to make a short film.
For two days I was immersed in a potent soup of teenage hormones, energy drinks, and non-stop gaming. Far from stereotypical ‘loners’, I found a group of people searching for identity and a sense of belonging.
©Zed Nelson 2015
After today it can be viewed on Channel 4 ‘Catch-up’.
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During the last year I have explored subjects defined by economics: South Africa’s inequality, the UK’s widening wealth-gap between rich and poor, and the election of a radical left-wing ‘anti-austerity’ government in Greece.
I’ve also made a short film about the British political party UKIP, whose finger-pointing rage blames immigrants and the EU for, well ... just about everything.
I recently completed a project about North Wales — a reflection on a place steeped in tradition and fading industry, struggling to find its feet and re-invent itself in contemporary Great Britain.
North Wales — an exhibition
I currently have an exhibition at Mostyn Gallery (2 May — 5 July 2015) — part of a commission to reflect on North Wales, alongside four Welsh poets.
North Wales is a strange and beautiful land. A place that once had a strong identity — now diminished along with the slate and farming industries.
See the images on my website here.
Greek Voters
When the radical left-wing political party ‘Syriza’ won the vote in Greece, supported by a nation worn down by harsh austerity measures demanded by the EU, I talked to a cross-section of Syriza-voting families about the Greek crisis and their hopes for the future.
Published in the Guardian Weekend magazine, UK.
Full article here.
South Africa
My recent project on South Africa has been selected for the Popcap ’15 - International Prize for Contemporary African Photography — to be exhibited during Art Basel, Switzerland, and the LagosPhoto Festival, Nigeria.
The project looks at how, twenty years after the end of Apartheid, South Africa remains one of the most unequal societies in the world.
View the series on my website here.
Britain’s Wealth Divide
Over the last months I’ve been working on a series of portraits of estate agents in multi-million pound apartments in Tower Hamlets, traditionally one of London’s poorest boroughs.
Penthouse apartment. £3.5 million. Tower Hamlets, London.
Tower Hamlets is also home to the glass and steel towers of Canary Wharf, London’s new capitalist hub of banking and commerce.
These images are set against a backdrop of staggering wealth disparity — soaring property prices, the growing wealth of a city elite, and a local community trapped in economic crisis.
Mark. Queen Victoria Seaman’s Rest hostel. Tower Hamlets, London
The Family Project
I photograph a British family on the same day, in the same place, every year. The project has now reached its 23rd year and continues to become ever more fascinating.
View the complete series here.
Earlier this year I made a short (11-minute) film for Channel 4 news about UKIP’s Spring conference in Margate. It turned out to be a bizarre and entertaining affair.
If you missed it and would like to watch it, view it online here
More information, here.
Migrant Boat Tragedy
There has been much in the news about desperate migrants risking everything to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe. For those of you who didn’t see my film on the subject screened on Channel 4 at the end of last year, it can be viewed here.
The Marshes
I’m making a film about the weird and wonderful Hackney Marshes, collaborating with filmmaker Pinny Grylls. Too early to release footage as yet, but watch this space.
For specific updates on the film, visit and ‘Like’ the film’s dedicated Facebook page.
Love Me (published by Contrasto) has now sold out
A Portrait of Hackney sold out its first edition, and a second edition is now available in bookshops (including all achingly trendy hipster cafés across east London), or direct from the publisher, below.
(I’m increasingly concerned that instead of reflecting on the rapid gentrification of Hackney, the book may in some way have been co-opted by that very process. But that’s another story.)
Order the book online here.
Order the collector’s edition here
Thanks for reading, and for your support if you have been involved in any of these projects — as a viewer, commissioner or friend.
You might want to visit and click ‘Like’ on my Facebook artist page for occasional updates.
To see more, or contact me, visit my website
Happy Summer 2015 (and if you’re in the UK, don’t forget to vote).
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This is a short newsletter to announce two things:
First, a 30-minute film I have just made for Channel 4’s ‘Dispatches’ will be shown on Tuesday 24th June at 11pm, on Channel 4.
It can also be viewed after that date on 4oD here.
The film tells the story of a migrant boat that capsized within sight of an Italian tourist beach, resulting in the drowning of 360 people.
It is the inside story of a terrible event and its aftermath — told through the testimony of the survivors.
Sea off Lampedusa
After fighting to stay afloat for hours in the water before rescue came, the traumatised survivors were held in a detention centre for months before finally escaping. I followed Fanus, an 18-year-old Eritrean, on her clandestine onward journey as she navigated the illegal immigration route out of Italy into Northern Europe.
Guardian Weekend cover
I wrote an article about the event, published as an 8-page feature in the Guardian Weekend magazine in March.
Read online version here.
After leaving Eritrea, Fanus was kidnapped in the Sahara desert and held for three months. Her family were forced to pay $3,000 for her release. In Libya, she boarded rickety fishing boat packed with 550 people. It capsized and sank half a mile off the coast of Italy. She had never learnt to swim, but survived by doggy-paddling and holding on to floating corpses until morning came.
In Italy, a man accused of her kidnap was arrested and charged. Fanus was detained on the island of Lampedusa as a witness. Desperate to make it to Northern Europe, Fanus burnt her fingerprints off, and paid smugglers to help her continue her journey. I followed her until she arrived in the country of her dreams.
View a 2-minute trailer here.
The film came off the back of my Photoworks-sponsored residency in Rome, where I developed and researched a project focusing on migration across the Mediterranean. Info here.
Second, my new book has just been published.
A Portrait of Hackney
The book is a personal reflection on Hackney as it goes through an extraordinary process of change and gentrification.
A Portrait of Hackney - limited edition version
Collectors’ limited edition
A Portrait of Hackney - standard edition
Standard edition
View a sample of the book here.
Order the standard edition here.
Order the Collectors limited edition (in clothbound box with a signed print) here.
View my general work on my agency website page here.
If you got this far, thank you. You might want to click ‘Like’ on my Facebook artist page for occasional updates.
Happy Summer 2014!
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Roman Holiday
Somehow more than a year has happened since my last newsletter. My time been dominated by grappling with two complicated photographic subjects; migration and the ongoing drama of Israel and Palestine.
As a consolation for the seriousness of it all, I was awarded a three-month residency in Rome in Spring – with a large studio, a courtyard with a fountain, and free pass to the city thrown in. (Has anyone seen the recent film, The Great Beauty? Highly recommended.)
But in penance for my good fortune, I returned to London during the sunniest summer in living memory, where I sat in front of a computer for 8 weeks in a darkened room, editing the material I shot in Rome.
I have now emerged, blinking in the light.
My residency at the British School at Rome was sponsored by Photoworks – who awarded me a research fellowship designed to encourage the development of a major project. The resulting work in progress is a documentary film, focussing on an ill-fated migrant boat journey across the Mediterranean that ended in tragedy and controversy. (This issue has sadly just become headline news, with the latest sinking of a migrant boat off the coast of Lampedusa.)
More information and Photoworks press release.
I drove to Italy and back in my increasingly battered car - a 2,500 mile odyssey loaded up with equipment – in order to meet and interview the survivors en route.
Pop-up studio
Conducting the interviews under specific lighting and sound conditions, I learned by trial and error how to convert a hotel room into a pop-up film studio. Here is a ‘before’ and ‘after’ image of one unlucky hotel room in the Netherlands that underwent my special ‘conversion’ technique.
Read my blog about my Rome trip here: Part 1 · Part 2.
In This Land
In This Land
Earlier this year Noorderlicht Gallery (Netherlands) premiered my exhibition, In This Land, an ongoing project about Israel and Palestine. The series explores the turbulent history of the region, and how it has created a siege mentality in contemporary Israel that has locked it into a vicious cycle of conflict.
In This Land - installation view - Noorderlicht Gallery
In This Land - Newsweek Japan
Newsweek, Japan, recently published the series.
In This Land project on my website.
A small print-run limited edition book is planned, but was delayed by my Rome adventure. I am currently seeking a new publisher to handle the project (after realising how ‘eventful’ a printing process can be). To reserve a copy (without obligation and subject to confirmation of price) send me an email, and I will notify you when details and publication date are finalised. More information about the book can be found on the website.
In This Land book
In This Land - BJP magazine
BJP magazine recently published the series.
Glastonbury portrait
I am working on a project about Glastonbury - an area of Britain that attracts a disproportionate number of people in search of spiritual enlightenment or an alternative lifestyle. All are united by the belief that Glastonbury has an unexplained energy that attracts them to the place. In the coming spring you will find me dancing naked with Wiccans, Pagans and Druids. Watch this space.
Love Me
Love Me
Love Me the exhibition continues its tour. In a group show at the Centro del Arte Contempraneo de Cadiz, Spain, and late this summer in a solo show at the Cortona Photo Festival, Italy (alongside a solo show by the great Joel Meyerowitz).
Love Me was hung in an old, disused hospital, which gave it a great, unsettling atmosphere. It received 13,000 visitors (which is amazing as Cortona is a medieval town 100 miles from Rome).
See me attempt to explain Love Me on Danish TV (in English).
Buy the book on Amazon.
Love Me project on the website.
The Family
The on-going project where I document a family’s growth – photographing a British family on the same day every year - has incredibly reached its 21st year. It is planned to continue for another 20 years.
The Family - Psychologie magazine
Quest Psychologie magazine (Netherlands), recently published the series.
The Family project on the website.
Hackney portrait
My Hackney project continues, and you can still find me on my favourite street corner in Shoreditch on sunny afternoons, capturing the joyous absurdity and cultural collisions of my local borough.
Hackney – A Tale of Two Cities was recently exhibited at the Casa de Artes, Portugal.
Neil Burgess wrote a very nice review of the Hackney Project, here.
Hackney project on the website.
Thanks for reading, and for your support if you have been involved in any of these projects - as a viewer, subject, commissioner or friend.
For more regular updates:
— visit and ‘like’ my official Follow on Facebook Facebook page
— visit my website: www.zednelson.com.
Happy Autumn 2013.
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I've been meaning to do one of these for a long time, but time flies by, so here, finally, is an update on my goings-on, and an invitation to peruse my newly updated website: www.zednelson.com.
You can also visit (and perhaps 'like') my official Follow on Facebook Facebook page.
New work
Hackney - Tale of Two Cities
Hackney - Tale of Two Cities
My new series Hackney - Tale of Two Cities is being exhibited at the London Festival of Photography this month (1 – 24 June), and then, after that, a series of portraits from the project at a Troika Editions show, at Photofusion Gallery (27 July – 7 September).
The Hackney series has now been added to my website.
Recent work on my website
South Sudan - Birth of a Nation
Nominated for the Prix Pictet Photography Prize 2012
South Sudan - Birth of a Nation
Africa's largest country has officially split in two. The Republic of South Sudan is the world's newest nation, achieving independence following Africa's longest-running civil war.
Zed Nelson's acutely observed environmental portraits reveal the new power structures of South Sudan’s inexperienced ruling elite. Capturing an unsettling mix of optimism and brooding menace, we go behind the scenes with those who help create and exploit a brand new country. Newly appointed government ministers, diplomats, UN chiefs, World Bank representatives, Chinese entrepreneurs, national beauty queens... everyone contributing to and feeding off the birth of this fledgling nation.
South Sudan - DAS cover and Guardian Weekend Magazine spread
The story was first published in the Guardian Weekend Magazine, DAS Magazine (Switzerland) and D Magazine (Italy) - in a collaboration that allowed me to spend several weeks in what turned out to be the most expensive African country I have ever visited (it cost $125 a night to sleep in a steel shipping container).
The South Sudan series is now also on my website.
The Family
Images from The Family
The Family series is now in its 20th year and getting interesting.
I began this twenty years ago. I had an idea – based on time-lapse photography – to photograph this couple together on the same day every year. I planned the photography sessions in a formal, almost scientific way. Each year the picture was made on the same date, against the same backdrop, under the same lighting. This way there are no distractions, only the miracle of growth and the changes of time and ageing.
The Family in The Guardian
Guardian Weekend Magazine
See all the images on my website.
Other news
Dolly Parton
My image of Dolly Parton (shot during a commission for the Sunday Times Magazine) was selected for the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2012
See more portraits on my website.
Dead bird
My cat caught four birds in the course of the year. One sadly didn't make it (and was immortalised on 5x4), but three were rapidly rescued, rehabilitated, and went on to lead happy lives.
Love Me
Love Me, the book, was nominated for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2011.
Consider buying the book?
It's available on Amazon (for £20), although stock is running low.
"Zed Nelson's magnificent Love Me... is a brilliant and disturbingly acute series... A benchmark photography book."
Conscientious by Joerg Colberg
"A truly poignant and beautiful body of work."
Graham Letorney, Visura Magazine
Love Me
"We refrain from questioning the status quo, because we associate what is popular with what is right."
Alain de Botton
In a series of compelling images, Love Me explores how a new form of globalisation is taking place, where an increasingly narrow Western beauty ideal is being exported around the world like a crude universal 'brand'. The project spans five years, and involves photography in 18 countries across five continents.

In Love Me, Zed Nelson has produced a powerful body of work that forces every one of us to question our own place in a culture that compels us to constantly judge, and be judged, by our appearance.
Love Me exhibited at Impressions Gallery, Bradford
The solo exhibition of Love Me is now touring in the UK and abroad.
In the UK it has so far been exhibited at the Impressions Gallery (Bradford), the Ffotogallery (Wales), Side Gallery (Newcastle), and is currently on show at the Durham Art Gallery until 24 June 2012.
Internationally it has shown in places as far apart as Denmark (Oksnehallen) and Australia (ACP). The next international Love Me exhibition is in Norway, at the Perspektivet Museum, Tromsø, from 10 October 2012 to 28 January 2013.
Love Me won several awards including First Prize book award in the International Photography Awards (USA), First Prize in the Pictures of the Year competition (USA), Judges' Special Recognition in the Best Photography Book Award, and a World Press Photo Award for Contemporary Issues.
The series was published widely in international magazines, across 170 pages so far.
Love Me on my website.
That's enough for now. Thanks for reading, and for your support if you've been involved in any of these projects, bought a book, twittered, tweeted, facebooked or otherwise engaged.
Happy summer 2012.
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