More than 250 students at 58 colleges will have their work on the theme of ‘Fake News’ published in a Sixth Form Colleges Association exhibition.

Today has seen the launch of this year’s SFCA virtual showcase of photos and artwork by students, with the exhibition running from 1 July to 22 July.

Association chief executive Bill Watkin called it a “celebration of the arts and a recognition of the excellence in sixth form colleges.

“But it also highlights how young people feel about having to navigate the vast amount of news and information that is available in the modern world, and at the same time, to discern what is the truth.

“Art has always played an important role in social and political commentary, and the students featured in ‘Fake News’ have shown they have the talent to communicate their feelings about this important subject in a powerful and effective way.”


Sixth form art targets Boris, Trump and body image

A number of pictures in the exhibit focus on misinformation around Covid-19, but also address themes such as body image and newspaper coverage, and include images of British prime minister Boris Johnson, former US president Donald Trump, and Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg.

This year’s participants included Coulsdon Sixth Form College A-level photography students Maia Francis, Casey White, and Phoebe Newman.

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Covid deniers by Maia Francis

Maia’s piece, ‘Covid Deniers’, features a photo of her face split into two halves. One half is photographed in black and white while she is wearing a mask plastered with public safety messages from the Covid-19 crisis.

The other half is in colour, with no mask, just the words “’covid 19 isn’t real’ covid denier” [sic].

Francis said she was trying to highlight “the difference of what people have been saying during Covid.

“So, you have the people that are abiding by all the guidelines, and then you have the people that say that it’s not real.”

White is featured in the exhibit with his piece, ‘Covid-19 fake news’, a grainy, black and white photo of him looking out of a bus window onto a collage of newspaper clippings on the pandemic. This includes headlines saying: “This is the year we will defeat Covid,” and “Death is all around us… so follow the rules”.

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Covid 19 fake news by Casey White

White wanted the piece to reflect how coverage around wearing masks and sanitising regularly “affects people’s health”.

Newman was inspired by the photographic collage maker Pablo Thecuadro for her piece, ‘Gender Issues’, which features one picture of a man seemingly crying with the words ‘toxic masculinity’ hanging over head.

To his left is a picture of a woman, her head split into three different faces above her shoulders, with a message warning against sexual insults all around her.

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Gender Issues by Phoebe Newman

“I was trying to get across the way the media portrays masculinity, can sometimes have an effect on like young boys and how they feel about themselves and the expectations of what they should be,” Newman said.

Whereas with the female piece, she wanted to speak out how the phrase “men will be men” can excuse aggressive behaviour for biology.


Exhibition ‘gives students a sense of the real world’

The college’s visual arts course leader Neal Vaughan said taking part of the exhibit, as they have for three years, is part of the learners’ experience: “We like to move learning outside of the classroom, to have industry links and employability.

“So this really does give them a sense of what it’s like in the real world, applying and going through the selection process for exhibitions.”

His students “really responded” to the fake news theme, he added, and enjoyed taking part.

Last year’s SFCA exhibit featured pieces by more than 140 students on the topic of life stuck at home in lockdown.

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