Olivia Arthur is known for her in-depth photography examining people and their personal and cultural identities. Much of her work has illuminated the daily lives of women living in countries as varied as Saudi Arabia, India and across Europe. A more recent focus on large format portraiture has brought her work back to the UK. “For me, part of the power of still photography is the ambiguousness of pictures, the ability to give a hint about a scene or event without being too absolute,” says Arthur of her work.
Arthur was born in London and grew up in the UK. She studied mathematics at Oxford University and photojournalism at the London College of Printing. She began working as a photographer in 2003 after moving to Delhi and was based in India for two and a half years. In 2006, she left for Italy to take up a one-year residency with Fabrica, during which she began working on a series about women and cultural divides. Representation and the way we see ourselves are also areas of interest for Arthur. She explored these themes in her project In Private/Mumbai (2016-2018) about sexuality in India and through her ‘Portrait of a City’ commission about young people for Hull, City of Culture (2017).
Arthur’s work has been shown in publications including The New Yorker, Vogue and TIME magazine among others. She has received support from the Inge Morath Award, the National Media Museum, OjodePez-PhotoEspana Award for Human Values.
In 2010, she co-founded Fishbar, a publisher and space for photography in London, with Philipp Ebeling. In 2020 Arthur delivered a TED talk meditating on the evolution of the blurring line between humanity and technology. She became a full member of Magnum Photos in 2013, and the president of the agency in 2020.
Portait image ©Philipp Ebeling.