Jackie Nickerson’s Field Test series presents humans captured by alien objects.


A figure is sat with their knees up, completely enveloped by a fleshy coloured, stretching material. Gaffa tape is wrapped around their covered legs. Another person stands in a ploughed field; black bin bag-like material such as  is wrapped around their head and seems to be floating in the wind. These are two of the many unsettling, striking images from Nickerson’s recent Field Test series.


Art critic Aidan Dunne says that “Field Test reflects a contemporary reality in which the autonomous human subject is a compromised, problematic entity.”

Nickerson gained a name for herself thanks to her social documentary work photographing Zimbabwean farm workers in 1996. She soon transitioned from black and white to colour photography. Keeping with the subject of African farm labourers, she started to emphasise the materials and the crops her subjects were carrying and used, rather than the people themselves. This is a trend she has continued to explore, she accentuates it to an even greater extent with Field Test. The materials attached to the subjects in this series are what are known as “ag plastics”, such as soil fumigation film, irrigation drip tape/tubing, and plastic plant packaging cord. She’s also worked in fashion and magazine photography, and has taken portraits of Lupita Nyong'o, Kanye West, and David Attenborough for publications such as Vanity Fair and Time magazine.

Field Test is described as “a photographic examination of the conflicting field between external forces and hyperconnectivity.”

The images in Field Test present human figures, mostly heads, literally wrapped up. They have an aura of claustrophobia thanks to the fabric ties that appear to be keeping the various materials in place, keeping the people from escaping their clutch. The inclusion of the “ag plastics” also highlights concerns regarding pollution and resources. Nickerson herself has said that this series “addresses new kinds of stress and commodification, the environment, speciesism, the waste, the pressure, the mandatory compliance, the lack of privacy. I guess you could say it has a universal identity, like a collective smothering.” Field Test is available as a book, out via Berlin based publisher Kerber Verlag.

Text: Nicholas Burman

Photography: Jackie Nickerson