Image: Julia Fullerton Batten
The RPS Women in Photography Magazine
We are not a genre These are our stories We are the discussion that drives a greater awareness of the importance of women photographers past, present and future
Membership to the WIP group is available exclusively to RPS Members
WIP Committee Chair: Teri Walker WE ARE Assistant Editor: Alice Chapman WE ARE Production Assistant: Poppy French WE ARE Editor Vacant (Teri Walker interim) Website & Facebook: Sue Wright Social Media Projects: Irina Petrova Member Advisor Julie Derbyshire Social Media Instagram: Vacant Treasurer: Vacant
The RPS Women in Photography (WIP) Group's objective is to facilitate the celebration, education and collaboration of female and female identifying photographers
2022 All rights reserved on behalf of the article contributors No part of this publication may be reproduced or copied in any form without the express written permission of the RPS Women in Photography Group Editor and the copyright holder
Visit our website for more information about who we are and what we do: www.rps.org/womeninphotography
24 Mal a tête by Dr Lucy Morley Williams WIP Member
44 The Absurdity of Pregnancy and Motherhood by Jena Love
47 Capturing Everyday Drama in B&W
Interview with Athena Carey, ARPS RPS Member
63 "Wherefore Art Thou?" Ask not Where, but Why by Alaa Abu Naji
75 My Beautiful Launderette by Dee Robinson WIP Member
by Antonina Mamzenko
69 Playing to Win
84 Paintbrush Making in Pakistan by Charlie Calder Potts
Interview with Eloisa Sanchez
Photographing a Community
14 Beauty Hunting: Photography as Therapy
Interview with Frankie MacEachen
Interview with Celine Marchbank
Interview with Aleksandra Karpowicz
79 In the Throes
36 Let's Talk About Sex
In This Issue
17 A Conversation About Photography
28 A Stranger in My Mother's Kitchen
Interview with Olga Karlovac
53 Women in Colour: Anna Atkins, Colour Photography and Those Struck by Light by Ellen Carey
58 Self-full: Women's Self-Portrait Photography by Claire Raymond
Interview with Jenny Lewis
We hope you enjoy this issue. Please let us know if you have any comments or would like to propose an article for future magazines by emailing wipchair@rps org
Teri Walker Chair, RPS Women in Photography
Welcome to the September 2022 issue of WE ARE Magazine
Our online SELFIES exhibition closed on 31 July, however, you can still view the 50 images we exhibited on the WIP website at www rps org/wip selfies/ We asked our four winners if they would share their work and stories with us. We're delighted to be able to feature those here for you now. Finally, in what I think is a fitting close to our SELFIES project, author and scholar Claire Raymond's essay explores the use of the self portrait by women in photography
I would like to begin by thanking all of our WIP members who entered our Magazine Covers Competition. We had a great response with more than 50 images entered. Our members then had the difficult challenge to vote to shortlist five of those The magazine team selected the final two photos to use Congratulations to Julia Fullerton Batten and Heidi Alexander whose amazing images feature on our front and back covers.
From the Women in Photography Group
I once again find myself in awe of the talented women photographers who have given their time so generously to share their work and stories with us A huge thank you to all of them on behalf of the magazine team and Women in Photography group. I find it interesting how many of the featured interviews and articles speak to how they use photography to explore the many facets of womanhood: giving birth; ageing; the complexities of sexuality; themes of connections and belonging; coping with mental health; and dealing with grief Beautiful and inspiring!
The Bursary will be awarded by a selection panel including photographer Joanna Vestey; creative producer and curator Sebah Chaudhry; Women in Photography Chair Teri Walker; and Hazel Watts, Director at Spectrum Photographic
Applications taken through 30 September, 2022
The Winds of Change, Villa Farnese Caprarola © Karen Knorr
The RPS Women in Photography Bursary
In addition to the £3,000 bursary, the recipient will have the opportunity for 1:1 mentoring sessions with leading women photographers
Between 70 80% of photography students around the world are women, yet they account for about only 15% of professional photographers. This sharp decline from education to working photographer can be attributed to an ongoing lack of gender parity within our industry, among other factors
Project Dates: November, 2022 31 July, 2023
The Women in Photography Group, with the generous support of our Honorary Chair Karen Knorr HonFRPS, is offering a bursary to support a female or female identifying post graduate student (student on a photography course) in the development of a post graduate project upon leaving university The funds may be used for any project related expenses At completion of their project, the recipient will present a body of work to the RPS Women in Photography Group (i.e.; exhibition, photo essay, documentary, etc ) and work with the Society to share their project
Eligibility: Female Identifying Photography Graduates (graduated after 31 August, 2017)
Applications Open: 1 30 September, 2022
Bursary Award Date: 1 November, 2022
Jenny Lewis, Britannia Leisure Centre One Hundred Years installation Photo by Ellis Parrinder
Photographing a Community
Jenny Lewis is an award winning portrait photographer living and working in Hackney, London. Her trilogy of published works (One Day Young; Hackney Studios; and One Hundred Years) celebrates the people and community that she calls home.
Jenny talks to WE ARE Magazine Assistant Editor Alice Chapman
How much of that hesitation was a financial consideration?
Working as a printer at Metro, and then becoming a photographer, I didn’t have the confidence to be an art photographer; that title didn’t sit comfortably and I was nervous of the sound of it Even though I’d done an art degree, I didn’t understand how to get into that world. So, I took pictures and got paid commissions working for magazines, record companies and publishers
100%. I could barely pay my rent at that time so I couldn’t make stuff because I was driven to I had to make it work financially So that’s 20 years of taking pictures for other people which does dilute your style but you learn a lot because you have to fit into that magazine for instance to ensure you get the next job A lot of doing editorial photography was driven by having to survive, wanting to be taken seriously, proving to my parents that I could make it work, be independent.
Thank you so much for sharing your story and work with us. How did you get started in photography?
What do you think makes a good portrait?
When you have that physical reaction that you just want to know more about that person; that you can relate to that person. I like to photograph people in their own homes so you start to imagine what their life is like and there’s little clues all around the room; the colour of the chair; the feel of the space they’re in You know they’ve created that space over their life, they’ve chosen those things so you see these
glimpses of their personality and it sets your imagination off and you just start imagining stories about their life From one still image, your brain can go down this amazing imagining of never ending possibilities of who that person is. People is what I’m interested in. Some portraits stay with you for so long and you don’t know why, they just become ingrained into your visual library and you never let go of them That just feels like a really natural place for me to be. I get so much enjoyment from taking portraits.
Liana and Archer, One Day Young, © Jenny Lewis
I have been an editorial photographer for nearly 25 years I did an art degree in painting I moved to London and got a job with Metro as a printer and that became my apprenticeship in photography, where I was developing rolls of film every day That’s where I saw portrait photography, fashion photography, advertising and that was my two years of being flooded with images. Having done painting, working in the lab and being surrounded by photography is how I started rather than doing a degree or studying it. I lived it in my 20s which was incredible. I suppose that’s when I first found that I had a real visceral response to portrait photography That’s the area that interested me instinctively
It wasn’t until I had kids and was in my early 30s that the work started to slow down which was frustrating I started to feel invisible, irrelevant as Pictures Editors weren’t calling so regularly and I felt I was slipping away from what I loved This space made me really think for the first time about why I wanted to take portraits. I’m now grateful for that gap in work, because it really forced me to think about what I wanted to do, why I wanted to do it and what message I wanted to tell I wanted to make images to express how I was feeling at the time, to respond to this feeling of being left behind, and represent how incredible women were; visualising the transition into motherhood that I had just been through As I was going towards birth, I was surrounded by quite negative stories around birth. I felt flooded with fear; that it would be difficult and painful Actually, I had an empowering birth I thought that if I had known that it could be a positive experience it would have been quite helpful. I felt I needed to tell other people. So I
How did your first project One Day Young come about?
Hazel and Rudy, One Day Young, © Jenny Lewis
thought I would take ten pictures of people the day they have their baby, see if they felt as I did and I would pitch it to a weekend supplement I thought it would be a quick thing I realised when I started taking the pictures that it was such a momentous and special moment that I was capturing These women had no self consciousness; they were just their honest, true selves It was so interesting to see this in action. There was no barrier between the camera and the person I was fascinated that total strangers would let me in their house the day they had a baby You could feel something in the air I would look at the portrait when I got home and I often felt it was the best portrait I had ever taken It meant something to me, that message of what I was trying to say of empowerment and giving other women confidence was realised in an image. When I showed them the image, they felt seen; not just as the mother of the child The pictures weren’t of the babies They were of the mothers, the women, and their moment of triumph and transition into motherhood. There’s a shift in their self whether it’s their first baby or their fourth
Nicola and Jemima, One Day Young, © Jenny Lewis
I photographed 150 women over the course of five years All within 24 hours of the birth back in their own homes Those were the only rules The project wasn’t a reflection of the type of birth they had (whether natural, with drugs, a home birth, or a c section) but it was the endorphin drenched woman I was capturing The timescale was so important After 24 hours something seemed to shift back to normality. It wasn’t a quick project at all. I ended up working on the series for five years I was learning so much as I was doing it As well as creating the project, I gained confidence in my vision and in my intention by repeatedly capturing the same moment. Working on the series really developed my practice as a photographer; everything began to click into place as I believed in the work
I photographed anyone that wanted to take part. They just had to get in touch and say they wanted to do it As an editorial photographer, you go in cold There’s no sort of journey to that point whereas all of these women chose to become part of this series; they wanted this moment captured A lot of my projects are about me finding my tribe, whether that’s motherhood, a creative family or a community; it’s about finding where I belong. That way I am photographing as an insider rather than as a voyeur. Even with One Hundred Years I was capturing every age 0 to 100 but they had to live in Hackney I am part of that community, so I have a connection already; a trust as we’re all part of the same tribe
Shenelle and Arissa, One Day Young, © Jenny Lewis
I had been spending so much time with mothers I was really interested in other ages I wanted a different conversation as well as a different picture I wanted to connect with older people and teenagers and people in their 20s. I wanted to know what was going on with them Since publishing the series I have begun to realise I was reflecting on mortality My dad had been ill and a couple of friends my age had died, I think I was fearful of what was coming next. I’d been shaken that we don’t all get the chance to reach old age The vulnerability of the human condition felt very real I wanted to investigate how to navigate this next chapter. Photography is so often self analysis; you’re always just trying to figure out what’s going on in your life By talking to a ten year old and a twenty year old, it helps you remember joy and laughter and spontaneity and silliness which is still a part of you, but you’ve buried it a little bit. It challenged my
preconceived ideas of what ageing would feel like And to be honest, when I started it, I did think that my pictures would get a little more beige in tone throughout the book But it’s not linear There can be trauma and joy at any stage in life There are peaks and troughs and anything can happen to anyone at any moment.
How did your One Hundred Years project develop?
This is the first book that I’ve added words to the images After the first two books, I realised that I was getting more out of the projects than my audience because I wasn’t sharing the conversations and the conversations were really incredible With One Day Young, I deliberately didn’t want at book of birth stories I just wanted the impactful images and you to be left with a feeling. With One Hundred Years, I found the words that they would speak were quite different from the images I thought it was really important to break down assumptions and let you in a little bit; to focus on one thought for each person.
Herb, 00/100, One Hundred Years, © Jenny Lewis
One Hunded Years
My boyfriend is now 28 years younger than me I became frail six or seven years ago and Terry said to me, "I will never leave you. I'll always make sure you're alright." We've never lived together, but every night he rings and says I love you '
'I've got a past alright I married a gangster, he thought he was Humphrey Bogart, used to wear a white mac I was 21 at the time, in too deep to get out
He went to prison for ten years the day after my son was born. Sometimes I'd fold up a £20 note in my mouth, and when I visited him I'd kiss him and pass it to him in his mouth
100 years old
Renee, 100/100, One Hundred Years, © Jenny Lewis
Hackney Studios is an entirely different project to the other two books in that you didn’t select the people to photograph. Each person you photographed nominated the next person for you to shoot. How did that come about?
That was reinvestigating my own feeling of being lost; the transition from motherhood back to work. I started One Day Young when my second child was six
To be honest I was left very much to my own devices by Hoxton Mini Press on all three books I didn’t want a casting agent, I wanted to choose who I wanted to photograph I didn’t even know why I was choosing people sometimes. I find social media unhelpful to use as a call out as people on social media aren’t necessarily the people I want to photograph I’m often looking for the hidden characters and the under represented. My kids are so embarrassed by me.
months’ old. By the time he was five and going to school, I felt lost and wanted to find myself creatively. With Hackney Studios, I photographed artists in my community in Hackney and each one suggested who I could shoot next. I had no idea who I was going to photograph but I suppose I was creating this tribe of creatives that I could be part of We’d always talk about how you make it work, what is the creative life, the juggle between commercial and your own work and this need to create all the time. So it was 150 conversations about being a creative which I needed to hear This was edited down to 40 portraits for the book. As with my other portraits, in Hackney Studios, you can start to imagine what they do, how they work, from the clues of their process in their studios as well I loved how the project broke down the hierarchy of the art world Fiona Banner for instance didn’t suggest an established artist, she suggested her assistant People would suggest a mentor they had at college or an assistant or someone who had been working away in their bedroom for forty years Painters are seen next to a costume designer, a drag queen next to an animator, the established next to the unknown I saw that authenticity and integrity were being celebrated over being well known, that following your own path is a choice and that’s what I needed to hear What came out of that project was five years of conversations that said it’s OK to follow your instinct Do what feels right for you
Fiona Banner, Hackney Studios, © Jenny Lewis
Walking down the street I’ll just talk to people. I saw this guy at the lido three times before I was in the right mood but couldn't go up to him in his Speedos, so I was waiting outside. The third time I saw him I just couldn’t let it go. He’s David at age 75 in the book. A lot of the ages I had more than one person and I had to look at what worked I couldn’t have four women in a row for instance or several difficult stories together. I over shot so I could edit people out to create a rhythm for the book
How much did the publisher assist in the project?
Regents Canal installation One Hundred Years, © Jenny Lewis
How does that feel to see your work that way?
www.jennylewis.net @ jennylewis
see it; people who wouldn’t otherwise see it To have all the hundred pictures up in a leisure centre for the next twenty years in the community that they are part of, is just like the final piece. I didn’t realise I was lacking that final connection to the audience and who the work is for It’s so exciting to get messages from people saying that they love the pictures at the canal installation they are just walking past and wouldn’t perhaps normally engage with photographs so it’s great they get the opportunity in this public space It’s made me think that I never took the time to get that public audience for One Day Young after I published the book and I really would like to see it in a hospital or women’s centre that’s my goal You can’t empower women if they don’t see it
I’ve just done a project of school leavers, which again is looking at a transitional phase of their lives It’s funny how you start to see a repetition in your themes. I made this work in my new studio space which I love! I still work outside the studio, but having this space is wonderful and has helped my work transition from editorial to these personal projects. For the last year I’ve created eight large scale installations of One Hundred Years, three of them are permanent I wouldn’t have done them if I didn’t have this space to put them on the wall, make mockups of them - the work has gone quite sculptural now. Having the space and investing in myself is also a huge step in having confidence as an artist and committing to carry on making work in this way moving forwards.
Amazing! It’s so good. One of the best things about it being so massive and on public display is that people
What are you working on now?
Images ©Antonina Mamzenko
by Antonina Mamzenko
Antonina Mamzenko is a Russian-British photographic artist. Her work is focused on documentation of human experience, exploring the themes of identity and belonging; trauma and recovery; and the human connection with nature In 2022 Antonina’s work was awarded Arts Council of England funding Her work has also received numerous accolades, including the 18th Julia Margaret Cameron Award for Women Photographers, and has been shortlisted for The Portrait of Britain award in 2021 and 2019 It has also appeared in a number of national and international publications, including British Journal of Photography, The Sunday Times and Digital Photographer Magazine, and included in a number of group exhibitions in the UK and abroad, most recently in the Summer Exhibition 2022 at the Royal Academy (UK), Perfectly (im)Perfect exhibition at the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts (USA), and Despatch exhibition at New Forest Heritage Centre (UK), among others Antonina has a law degree and MA in cultural industries management from the University of Greenwich, London.
Beauty Hunting: Photography as Therapy
started walking in a local nature reserve.
A “nature reserve” is perhaps an overstatement. Molesey Heath is nothing more than a former gravel pit tucked behind rows of houses nearby, with 44 acres of abandoned land where nature was allowed to take over; an unkempt expanse of rough grassland and deep tangles of blackberry bush as far as the eye can see, making you disoriented, every turn of the path looking the same as the other It’s not pretty by any stretch of imagination and yet it is where I found beauty and peace. I felt certain affinity to it, and kept going back again and again.
The start of the global pandemic coincided with a personal crisis coming to a head in my own home: I was in the process of untangling myself from a decade long co dependant relationship with an alcoholic. We were forced to spend the first 10 months of the pandemic together in a tiny house, barely speaking, and without access to our usual coping mechanism busying ourselves with work I was in a state of deep anxiety and depression My world was crumbling around me and it felt like I would never be able to take another photograph ever again. To get out of the house and out of my own head I
“What is the antidote to the terribleness of the world? It’s beauty hunting: the key to survival "
www mamzenko com @mamzenko
I took my first images there as a way to get back to myself, find the traces of identity I’d lost through the years of emotional trauma and abandonment that comes from living with addiction in the family There was no method in the madness as I was making images intuitively, pointing my camera towards things that caught my eye, experimented with different techniques, noticed the mud under my feet and the birds mid flight, and witnessed how the changing light affected the unremarkable landscape around me And with that, I rediscovered myself
It didn’t take me long to realise that these almost daily walks have soothed my soul and allowed my healing process to finally begin The monotony of them, trudging the same unremarkable paths over and over again, forced me to notice things I never noticed before, to pay attention, to clear my head
The resulting body of work is a collection of over 100 photographs, exploring themes of isolation, emotional trauma and dealing with addiction within the family. As a visual diary of sorts, it charts my healing process as it draws parallels between the rhythms of the natural world and the cycles of recovery, exploring how our connection with nature can aid in healing generational wounds of addiction
A selection of these photographs, along with accompanying text, is being published as a book at the end of 2022. Visit Antonina's website for more information and updates about the publishing process
This practice what I now call Beauty Hunting has become my meditation, my coping mechanism, a way to quiet my mind, and a tool for my ongoing recovery
Photos © Athena Carey, ARPS
A Conversation about Photography
Which photographer or photographers first inspired you to pursue photography?
Thank you so much, Nathan: for your friendship and guidance for the many years that we have known each other, for asking me a very long time ago to do an interview, and for your extraordinary patience in waiting for me to finally be ready
me her little Kodak camera. I spent that summer adventuring through Switzerland, France and Italy, and very thoughtfully capturing what I considered important moments Every evening, my Godmother forced me to write in a journal, which I hated, but I believe this also influenced my photo decisions. Most often the photos captured the very same people, events and places that I wrote about This shifted what might otherwise have been random photo snapping of a nine year old towards something more complex storytelling.
The following interview with award winning photographer Athena Carey is an excerpt from an article that appeared in November 2021 on Conversations About Photography with Nathan Wirth and has been reprinted with permission The full article can be read at the Slices of Silence blog
Photography began for me from the far side of the lens. I was the first grandchild, and my paternal grandfather was an avid amateur photographer. My shift to the camera side of the lens came at age nine. Just before departing to spend the summer in Switzerland with my Godparents, my mother handed
In my childhood, my exposure to photographers didn’t extend beyond my family. As such, I was free from almost all creative direction. I made images of whatever piqued my interest. The only limits I had were financial My budget for film and developing was meagre at best
First of all, thank you for taking the time to answer these questions and share your images. I have been, for many years, trying to gently persuade you to do an interview with me and I appreciate the effort and time it takes to complete one. Let’s begin with the obvious question: when and where does photography first begin for Athena Carey?
• Shirin Neshat
Time for an abstract question: where do you think inspiration comes from? Do you think your development as an artist primarily comes from having done the work and continuing to put in the time or, perhaps, does it come from some mysterious place that we can never quite understand (and, thus, we should cultivate gratitude for when it does arrive)? Or, of course, you may have an entirely different idea. Your thoughts?
Many and none. There are many artists whose work I see and admire that is very different from my own I don’t actively try to emulate them but I know my appreciation of their work quietly influences my own So many things and experiences do.
These three do not directly influence my work, but I would like to share this small handful of female photographers Their work is exceptional and meaningful.
I think my development as an artist and my inspiration for work are largely separate from one another I see my development as an artist as the result of a massive amount of work both theoretical and practical. It is ongoing, hopefully until my last day. My inspiration, however, is more an infusion of what I am exposed to both actively and passively and what I am, which is fluid These two are woven or dissolved together and my ideas grow from this agar Nonetheless, I do think gratitude is important. I am immensely thankful for the privilege of having the means and the time to create
Are there any photographers that you have discovered in recent years that are currently inspiring the directions you are taking your work?
• Zanele Muholi
• Aïda Muluneh
Most often, yes I know what I intend to make Even if it is not a fully formed visual, it is the essence from the place or subject to which I wish to give form. Sometimes though, I go completely off the rails and do experimental things, letting the process dictate the results as much or more than my own conscious intentions It’s a bit like dancing naked in the rain with wild abandon Or should that be cycling?
When you sit down to process an image, do you already know what you are going to do, or do you discover it as you process? (I am assuming you sit down though I sometimes have this funny image in my mind of a person processing an image while they are pedalling on an exercise bike).
What inspired you to formally study photography? If you are willing, I would love to hear about the degree you earned, what you studied, and how those studies have influenced your work?
For quite a few years now, you have taught many others how to develop and shape their own photographic pursuits. Why do you think you first chose to do this? And, now, how have your formal studies contributed or even changed how you teach?
I had reached a point where I wanted more from photography (and myself), and I wanted to be involved in something larger than my own practice First, I completed a Photography BA in Geneva, and after that, I earned a Masters of Fine Art (with distinction) in England. The two programs are dramatically different and both have helped shape the photographer I am now
My Masters of Fine Art is from The University for the Creative Arts in England Being an art school, their approach is very different They focus heavily on the meaning embodied in the work. This was not a new concept for me but it was expected at a much higher intensity I spent two years heavily engaged in research and image making, and in presenting and defending my work to many tutors and visiting artists
My BA was earned at Webster University in Geneva, where I now teach. The program exists within the Media Communications Department and its focus is on history, practice and communications Much of the program was reinforcement of my existing practice but certain parts helped me to see photography from
a new perspective.
It was a sometimes painful deconstruction and reassembly of my approach to and relationship with photography. I finished the program a very different photographer
I began teaching photography in Malaysia, in 2005. Through the years I have taught people all around the world elementary and high school students, university students, professionals, and retirees It has all been hugely fulfilling to me There is such a delightful sense of purpose attached to sharing knowledge. Seeing people make progress in their creative endeavors makes me very happy I feel privileged to be a part of those journeys
The two biggest changes my degrees have caused in my teaching are 1) I am able to teach at university level now with an MFA and 2) I include more theory and history in my lessons Without a doubt, I am a more effective teacher now
As a landscape photographer, how has the evergrowing threat and reality of climate change contributed to how you approach your work? Do you ever wonder if the work you have already done, are doing, and will be doing might end up being a chronicle of how different the world will someday look? When you photograph nature, do you look at it with pure wonder or do you feel a tinge of sadness because you know it is likely going to be very different?
I have a series of photographs of submerged trees that I made on the South Carolina coast. I spent several days alone in the area, camping and visiting the trees very early each morning. These trees are gone now swept away by an enormous storm
The rational part of me knows many of the places I photograph are threatened, but I still look at nature with wonder and delight. Perhaps this contributes to the somewhat surreal nature of my works? Your
Another thing that weighs heavily on me is the damage caused by over tourism. This has led to my making changes in how I work as a tour leader, how I title my photos and how I share photos online I feel I owe the places I visit whatever protection I can offer
And now to bring the discussion to a conclusion … where do you wish to take your work next? Do you have any specific goals that you wish to achieve?
I take a lot of creative license with reality, using processes like infrared, long exposures and camera movement, so I doubt my work will become a true chronicle but I do still think a lot about climate change
works have a similar surrealness. Where (not technical process) do you feel yours comes from?
If you had asked me this a couple of years ago, my answer would have been very specific I had three well researched and planned projects that I was about to start work on. Then the pandemic tore those plans apart. In the time that has passed, I have quietly thought about other things, shifted what I do, shifted again, questioned so much about photography, about what I want, about life in general For now, I am without a hard set photography plan This is odd for me and I find it both splendid and terrifying. I have put aside my planned photo projects and am just enjoying what is here I am doing conceptual work in the studio when the mood strikes me I am visiting new and old places without the pressure to photograph them in any meaningful way. I am trying new kinds of photography like astro and wildlife and I am flying a drone I think perhaps, I am in a phase of personal growth, like a plant leafing out to collect more sunlight before creating its next blossoms www.athenacarey.com @athenacarey
Many years later, with a new fancy phone and a Fujifilm XT3, (used interchangeably) I cannot imagine my life without photography It is an ongoing catalyst for expression, creativity, campaigning and reframing what it means to live with mental health difficulties, with acceptance. As with Gestalt it is not who I am, it does not define, it is part of a network of self that I am now proud of, rather than shamed by prevailing societal prejudices.
by Dr Lucy Morley Williams
Noodle Head © Lucy Morley Williams
When you stray from the usual and “normal” mental knots and jolts to the system in response to life’s vagaries, it is profound, disturbing and unforgettable. As a developmental psychologist, and, having worked across all disability groups for years, I was well versed, knowledgeable and a real nerd with a passionate interest in the inner and outer worlds. My bread and butter Here I was, the “professional” turned client How is that for empathy?
There are very real benefits of making images certainly high quality camera phones mean it is a pursuit that is more democratic and accessible Crucially, when not well, with a phone I was able to create an image that I loved and did not require any technical knowledge or aesthetic preferences I was delighted and captivated by the extraordinary beauty of the flora and fauna, the intricate beauty, engineering, and variety of my willing subjects; it was healing Equally, it opened purpose and possibilities: hope. Something that I think is relevant to any individual/group who might not consider photography and creative expression an option Or indeed that they have experiences of life that is of equal value and worth and can be a meaningful contribution to our cultural life
loss, in a chasm of distress
Yet I consider myself fortunate as I had and have a framework of understanding that’s more than just intellectual, and the protective function of being a practiced meditator This latter skill furnished me with a “satellite delay”, a space between my experience, an awareness In hindsight, it was more a sliver of refracted light, but it prevented me from loss, and at
“Change background effect” was the instruction, so I did. Reader, with that simple tweak, I saw an image that captured and conveyed my immediate experience of my mental health The image is basic, and my initial reaction was to flinch, it was uncomfortable. Yet I still remember that powerful sense of catharsis; I saw myself, my first self portrait
The very act of being me in the world became such hard, hard work; no respite, no comfort breaks. To articulate this is difficult, and I take medication, sit pretty on a waiting list for more therapy, and I still have cyclical episodes. I continue to learn how to work with my mental health, neither denying nor catastrophising
Mal a tête
Of course, it is often manifested by anxiety and depression, and perhaps a product of the restrictive limitations of what is deemed “nature” in and of itself? Mental distress is not always pretty, feminine, quiet, and there is fear, indeed repulsion, directed at women who express their distress in other ways Note how much horror is expressed in the media when women transgress in terms of violent crimes; it is somehow “worse” and the levels of expressed repulsion heightened
How Many Psychiatrists Does it Take? © Lucy Morley Williams
As a woman I notice a trend in terms of the portrayal of women with mental health difficulties, reflecting the continued influence of embedded sexist and misogynistic tropes, institutionally, structurally as well as on an individual personal level. It is like carbon monoxide poisoning, you don’t necessarily know it is happening, but it is deadly The prevailing stereotype (not always consciously realised) is that mental distress in women is passive, depressed and anxious shrunken, weepy, damp and dank (I confess that when I am in a black hole of sorrow, I do think I might be the first person to be plagued by rising damp!). It is akin to the cultural imperative that women need to be small, thin, to accommodate and not take up too much space.
I want to be part of a movement, which I have dubbed for myself “reclaiming the shadow”. Not to be confined to being the subject (or object) but the director/producer/subject Who is holding the camera? Whose interpretation, whose demonstration of being has precedence? It is about agency, it is about standing up and out, without fear or favour. This is not about being “consulted” it is about taking the lead and working in collaboration The caveat is that it is not about waiting for permission, or being invited; it is a given that different voices do not have to justify having a platform. So often we conflate opinion with fact, that there is a truth, a point of view that is valid and rational, and all else that deviates viewed as secondary or inferior. This is the experience of all of us who tick other boxes in the identity parade
I share my story as I want to be part of challenging and changing the narrative around mental health. I believe that those of us who experience mental health difficulties are in fact incredibly mentally strong. This is no oxymoron or paradox. Currently, there is a great deal of important and life affirming work that proactively challenges the stigmatisation of mental health issues There is more
Mal a tête © Lucy Morley Williams
be difficult, and the perennial fear about a decline in standards or the fabricated story of “wokeness” when questioning what has been, what is a worthy subject manner, how to present this and by whom I am a big fan of the word “and”, not so much either/or and false dichotomies. The RPS has the potential of being a platform for greater inclusion, diversity and equality This requires a proactive approach, a willingness to go out and engage, to do things differently, to ask questions and listen
Joy, wonder and playfulness; creativity as a living ongoing process rather than limited to a fixed end product As someone who is in awe of those with innate artistic talents, this outlet, the gift of photography, is most wonderful. The camera phone or DSLR, is my instrument of choice The ability to play and the sheer versatility of this medium is immense, and I hope I always retain a childlike sense of wonder and possibility There are clearly images that “do exactly what they say on the tin”, more documentary and contemporary, that interact and have their place with the quirky and surreal
There are infinite ways of seeing the world, many hidden vistas, internal and external that are available, and have such power and beauty. Many adventures, stories and discoveries when photography is harnessed for multiple purposes forms Change can
Not all photographs are made equal Yet if the image maker considers their offering to be a work of art, or significant and meaningful to them, then that is what it is in that moment and beyond For some, this is all it needs to be, a hobby, a record and for others, photography is an ongoing revolution and a vocation. If any other person experiences humour, pleasure, a new perspective or any one of the myriads of responses to the image, that is a bonus. Even dislike and repulsion are an invitation the question is will you accept?
There is also light
So forget about images that are all Elizabeth Barrett Browning swan-song in sepia. The power of symbols and images is that they can bypass the cognitive mind, they are visceral and immediate My self portraits say so much as to the kinaesthetic, the experiential. Yes, as words, all is open to interpretation I like captions, sometimes with a question mark as they pose a point of view, and different perspective; a cue for “what do you think?” Not a cheat in my opinion, Composition has the same effect of drawing the eye to a certain aspect of the image. Whether this works or not is dependent on the viewer It is about starting a dialogue and opens the option of a space where the specific and the universal are part of each other, not existing in parallel or separate. This is one aspect of the conversation between the image maker and the image viewer
I have always been drawn to that which lies beneath, the residues and flotsam and jetsam left behind by people, the marginalised, the broken and the overlooked Truly, I am the best at lurking around alleyways, fascinated by rubbish and skips and building sites! There is a delight in wanting and striving to create beauty, balance and serenity out of that which is not usually considered a subject Equally, a powerful medium for social justice, campaigning and constructive change that benefits the whole
Shadow Dance © Lucy Morley Williams
Falling on Deaf Ears? © Lucy Morley Williams
A Stranger in My Mother's Kitchen
Images © Celine Marchbank
Poppy: I met Celine through the Kickstarter fund she set up for the publishing of A Stranger in my Mother’s Kitchen I was drawn to the warmth and beauty I saw in her images which often depict domesticity and the home, a photographic subject I am very interested in The book in itself is a unique artefact It feels like no art book I’ve ever read before When you turn the pages it feels like looking through someone’s personal and much treasured possessions, finding notes and recipes tucked between pages But the book is more than just a snapshot of memories, it is an exploration into grief but also joy and discovery that can be made after one of the people closest to you dies
Celine will be selling copies of her new book A Stranger In My Mother's Kitchen and her previous book Tulip as part of the BOP 2022 PHOTOBOOK FESTIVAL Saturday 8th & Sunday 9th October She will be signing books at 3pm on Saturday the 8th
We Are Magazine Production Assistant Poppy French talks to Celine about the recent publication of her book A Stranger in my Mother’s Kitchen The photo book is a five year exploration into the grieving process told through photographs, writing and her mother's recipes
Celine Marchbank is an award winning British photographic artist based in London Her practice explores everyday life, fascinated by the quiet details of domesticity, with a particular interest in home Her work has been published and exhibited nationally and internationally Celine is a lecturer in Photography on both the BA (Hons) Photography at Falmouth University and the MA Photojournalism & Documentary Photography at London College of Communication (UAL), and a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts (RSA)
A Stranger in my Mother’s Kitchen is not your first book about your mother. Following on from your tender portrait of the last years of your mother’s life in Tulip. Following her death did it feel like a natural progression to produce a book about grief?
and emptying As I was packing all her stuff up, deciding what to keep and what not to, this was when I started to discover her hand written recipes and this was the point when the idea of food came into it I wanted to learn to cook her recipes At first I did have the idea to create a cookbook with all these, and that was what my first proposal was But I also started to make trips to places she or we had connections, to retrace her life At first I saw all these different strands mainly as personal exercises for me to make sense of the loss and feel more normal again, I did not connect these all at first as the same body of work
I realised this later, I can’t actually remember when, I think it must have been when I first started to show some of the work I had a pop up exhibition and I mixed the writing extracts with the food images to experiment and test it out with people who did not know the work. It seemed to work, and so I did further work in progress exhibitions and the work then started to evolve into one. I say to my students that you may not really understand what your work is about until you have to stand up and give a talk about it or show it to an audience, and that is what happened to me.
A Stranger in my Mother’s Kitchen started not as one straightforward work with a clear output idea i e ; a book, it wasn’t even one body of work then It was a collection of different exercises at first Writing had become a really helpful process for me; I had been writing on a personal blog all through the making of my Tulip work, discussing my ideas and thoughts around death and dying After my mother died I continued to write, which became about grief This went on for a few years, around five I always saw this as more an exercise for me to try to understand my own grieving process, a kind of therapy to get it all out. Once it’s out of your head and on paper you can see it, and understand it a bit more. At this stage I did not directly see a connection between the writing and the images I was making. The images I made started right after my mother died, in her house, and as we started to clear it up; mainly of her objects dotted around the house or rooms as they were changing
Your mother was an artist, creative and great chef. What did her creativity and her ways with food teach you about your own practice?
Keep things simple and to the point She hated pretentiousness and snobbery Two things that exist quite freely in the art world but that I hope my work isn’t! I feel I don’t overcomplicate my images; there is a straightforwardness and honesty to my work, she taught me that
The work and book has taken place over a ten year period. I made the work between 2011 2016 and then from 2016 onwards have been playing around with ideas for the book The earlier years were painful, perhaps why it took so long to make, but also the grieving process isn’t quick You don’t recover after a few months and all is back to normal; there isn’t any normal once someone so close to you dies. So the work took as long as my grieving process was, which was around five years
I feel that people who make incredibly personal work aren't so much making work to help them, for me anyway I don’t, but rather the making of the work is the process of healing or understanding I didn’t make the work to help with my grieving process, but rather it was my grieving process
How have you found creating this book has helped with your own grieving process?
Yes it does, and it is so important to telling the story in book form. The book was designed by Loose Joints, I had been working on this with Lewis and Sarah since 2019 I think. After a few failed attempts to do the book myself, (I designed and produced Tulip solely by myself; I was a designer before I became a photographer), I knew it wasn’t working. The book just wasn’t doing what I wanted it to I commissioned Loose Joints as every book I picked up whose design I liked was either designed by them or Lewis at his previous role at MACK books They came up with a fantastic design idea which allowed every other page spread in the book to become a pocket to hold the actual recipes The recipes sit inside pages waiting for the viewer to take them out if they wish, to cook from or to just hold an exact replica of the original handwritten recipe of my mother’s This was one of the challenges I asked them to solve; how to get the recipes into the book to become an important part of it and to keep them as close to the originals as possible ie not to just print them on the pages Their solution works so well
A Stranger in my Mother’s Kitchen has an unusual and unique design. Could you describe what the book looks like?
The front cover is a text written by my mother about food, her thoughts on it It starts with “Cooking is not a contact sport!!” She hated macho chefs and also chefs that touch your food all the time. If anyone has worked in a kitchen before they will know what I mean.
There is a white paper tip-on on the cover that partially conceals some of the text, inspired from a waitress pad, it works like a big Post It note, you can peel it off and stick it back on again so you can read the text underneath It may eventually fall off completely and that doesn’t really matter I had to assemble some of the final production elements of the book myself at my studio, so I single handedly stuck all these 700+ tip ons on myself!
I found this text along with clippings of her restaurant reviews from numerous restaurants she ran, and her recipes. I really wanted to use this text somewhere. The designers proposed this front cover and I loved it straight off.
And could you tell us about the front cover?
Collaboration! I worked with a lot of different people in the process of making this book The editing process was a very long and challenging one For the images I asked a photographer friend to help me after I got to a point and could no longer get any further It’s so important to get external advice with an edit, I always do. For the text I met a writer who wanted to work on the project with me, I gave her all the five years of my writing about grief for her to propose what she felt worked. I always felt sorry for her having to slog through all that but she loved it. She was the perfect fit to work on this work with me, she just really got the work and her suggestions were so valuable. She was the one who encouraged me to have the diary entry text, as it wasn't in the first dummy of the book. It works so much better and helps form the narrative. The final edit for the recipes took some time too. I spoke to my mother’s fellow chef friends for advice, I asked people to share cooking/cheffing tales about my mother’s food and made a decision from that Though some recipes I just kept in purely because I loved the pieces of paper
I think one of the most beautiful images in the book is of the field of sunflowers with their heads
This was actually one of the last images I made for this work I was in Italy I had traveled to Rome, a city we lived in when I was eight to ten years old as my mother had a chef job out there I had not returned since then I spent a week on my own wandering around; visiting places, restaurants, and the food market that we used to visit. It was a week of really vivid memories. It was in either 2015 or 2016, I had made many trips to other places before then, but this trip felt different; it didn’t feel sad. I think a day or two before I left I went for a drive out to a lake we used to go swimming in outside Rome. As I was driving home through the country, surrounded by sunflower fields, I stopped the car to make a photo. I realised every single flower was pointing away from me and it summed up how I felt about grief. That life is going on over there, in front, but you are stuck at the back, not quite sure how to get back to the front. When I looked at the image I realised I properly understood grief now, or my grief at least. It wasn’t as painful as it once was; I felt a sense of release. I knew then this was the last trip I would be going on for the work I knew the work was coming to an end and it felt right
turned away from you. Could you tell us about that picture?
What was the process of editing such personal work like and how did you settle on which images, diary entries and recipes to include?
Recently you have had your first child, congratulations! How will you share your mother’s legacy with your son?
a bit more about that coexistence?
I feel many things coexist together in my life; sadness, happiness, fun, laughter. I have faced a similar comment a few times when I have met people for the first time: “You are not how I thought you’d be from your work”. They never really explain what they mean, but I have taken it to mean I am not a sad person in person. I have a good sense of humour, I like to poke fun at things, to laugh, and perhaps I do not come across as serious enough for the work I make But this is what I mean about coexistence; you can have multiple emotions going on at one time I can be making work that explores painful grief and then go to the pub with my friends after to have fun They are completely different processes and exist in different worlds for me
The work is where I explore the sad emotions, not in my everyday life This is what I meant earlier when I said the process of making the work was my grieving process and not a process to make my grieving easier My work makes me feel something, and hopefully others too, and that is the point of it for me celinemarchbank com
Although this is a book about the extreme pain of grief, there is joy in this book through the images and memories. I think this is connected to how you talk about the idea of coexistence. With life not having to be black and white. Could you talk
Thank you, good question! At the moment I have no idea. All I can think about is how do I stop him from crying, how do I get him to sleep and when is the next feed due! He is only four weeks old so I have some time. Saying that, I did think the other day that I look forward to when he is a few years older and I can start teaching him to cook There is an image at the back of my book of me aged about four years old cooking in my mother’s kitchen; that’s the legacy I want to share Cooking is something I take great pleasure in doing, it also keeps me healthy and well My mother was so adamant that everyone should cook, that cooking and good food should be something we all get to enjoy and not just the ones that can afford it (this country still has a real issue with snobbery and class with food which is a shame) I want to share the joy and skills my mother taught me with my son
A great diversity of over 500 people from a range of social backgrounds, genders, sexuality, and ages appear in her work She often performs and models for her own art, exposing struggles and personal journeys of healing She sees her art as an empowering platform of expression for herself and the communities she works with.
Images © Aleksandra Karpowicz
WIP Chair Teri Walker interviews Aleksandra for WE ARE Magazine.
Karpowicz holds a Master’s Degree in Political Science from the University of Warsaw and graduated with distinction in Photography from the University of the Arts London
Aleksandra Karpowicz is an award winning artist working with video, photography, and performance In her art she explores themes of relationship to body, psychology, sexuality, and identity, and how those aspects of human nature are expressed and oppressed in our society and politics.
Let's Talk About Sex
How did you develop from being a child who always had a camera to becoming a professional photographer?
I would go on trips with a roll or two of film. I had 72 pictures for two weeks so I had to think carefully about what I wanted to photograph to make sure I had enough film to take pictures throughout the time That was such a nice mindset
even though I was taking photographs all the time. While I was still living in Warsaw, I was a member of the photography group that would meet every Saturday and go to really weird places, from squats to abandoned buildings, spending hours taking photographs of what we found. That increased my interest in photojournalism. When I came to London, I decided to study photography at the University of the Arts London I thought in the beginning that photojournalism was the direction I would go, however, while studying I discovered studio photography which became my new obsession. I really loved exploring a completely different way of working with people Being in a close environment with someone created a completely different dynamic between photographer and subject I found it fascinating because photographing someone in a very intimate space, making them feel comfortable, was a completely new skill for me For a few years I spent all of my time in the studio and barely took photos of anything else After finishing the last edition of the ‘Let’s Talk About Sex’ project, I finally came back to the outside world. Although my work has still been focused on people, nature became a more significant part of it
Why did you become a photographer?
I started taking photographs when I was seven, when I got my first camera It was analogue of course I discovered that I love taking pictures and my only subjects were people. In the beginning I was taking pictures of friends and family but over time I also began photographing strangers It became obvious that I have a great interest in humans When we went on school trips, all my friends came back with pictures of mountains and seas I never had any landscapes I only had photos of my friends. Becoming a photographer became a natural medium of expression later on in my life, as I’d been taking photographs since I was a kid
For many years it was just a passion and a hobby I am a political scientist by degree I studied politics
In 2015, the first part of the project won two awards in the National Open Art Competition, UK; one for Best Portrait and another for Visitors Choice. It felt really wonderful when the artwork was shortlisted from around 5,000 submissions and then chosen by the public In 2016 I continued working on this project and went to America to photograph the people there. It was very interesting comparing conversations between people in the UK and the US In America people seemed a little more open when talking about sex
Where do you get your project inspiration from?
It’s always been people. Humanity is incredibly diverse and interesting, it’s an endless source of inspiration By living in London I come across so many different individuals, cultures, religions, sexualities, and backgrounds Everyone is unique, so there is always a new story to be told.
It’s a three year project where I interviewed and photographed a great diversity of 300 people who shared their thoughts and stories on sex and sexuality Over that time I created three large lightboxes presenting a collage of portraits
Your Let’s Talk About Sex has been a big project for you. Tell us about working on that.
The photoshoot involved participants engaging in the psychology of role play They were allowed to portray any character they wished I gave them the freedom to not be judged for who they are, they could just play and explore. Their choice of character did not necessarily portray their own sexuality, but did
however reflect a subconscious alter ego When people told me who they wanted to portray and what emotions they wanted to show, they often opened up and started telling me who they really are and why they chose this particular role. It was often a fascinating self discovery
The youngest participant was 12, she came with her mother, and the oldest was 80 Those people represented different ages, backgrounds, genders and sexual orientations: it was extremely diverse I mainly held castings online but if I met people who I found interesting, I would ask if they’d like to be part of it As the project became more popular, I was giving a lot of talks about it Quite often people approached me afterwards asking to be part of it The project kept going and looked like I could work on it forever. After making a film Definition of Sex which presented 8 out of 300 interviews form this project, I finally made decision to end it It was a very deep and healing journey for many people, including myself I participated in this project not only as a photographer but also as my own model. My self-portraits are part of each edition of Let’s Talk About Sex.
How did you get such a diverse group of people to sit for you?
The project was inspired by the work of Alfred Kinsey’s famous research on human sexual behaviour His two books Sexual Behaviour of the Human Male (1948) and Sexual Behaviour of the Human Female (1953) were revolutionary back then, and still eye opening even today The conclusion of the books is that our sexual behaviour depends on two factors. The first one is biology our age, gender or sexual orientation The second one, much more interesting, is social this comes down to our background, our parents, our religion, how religious we are, do we live in city or countryside, who are our friends, our education, our parents education etc. All those things apparently can matter much more than our biology Most people do not fully express their sexuality while being limited by social norms, values, morality, and the expectations of others.
How did you develop the concept for the project and bring it to fruition?
I am not very good with cold, so I had to do some serious cold resistant training. With a help of my friend in Poland, I used a lot of Wim Hof methodsbreathing and cold showers. I was amazed to see the effects when I finally went to the Arctic I could walk bare feet on the snow or make an angel with almost no cloths on It proved that we can do so much with our minds.
protection by connecting with our ancestors
You have begun to work outside the studio with your Women at Home and Liberation of Flight projects. I was particularly drawn to your Seiðr project because of the symbolism, the strong feminine energy and the pagan ritual aspect coupled with the beautiful northern lights. How did this project come about?
Seiðr is a magic that was practiced by the female Vikings in the iron age era Our performance was inspired by these rituals while we asked for the
It was a truly incredible, two week journey to the Arctic Circle where we did a performance of Seiðr
The production took place between the Full Moon and the New Moon, and was done in collaboration with Northern Shots Tours in Norway
Are you working on any projects now?
I am working on a new film called They Knew No Storms which tackles a human relationship with fear. The title comes from a quote from a terrifying Polish lullaby that my mom sang to me Last year I participated in a very intense, facilitated session when I used accelerated breathing to increase awareness of the self as well as to cope with trauma from the past. Such hyperventilation releases chemicals in the brain and alters the state of mind similar to taking psychedelics but all done through breath work During that session I met my own fear
The new film is about showing this journey of meeting my fear and anxiety, understanding what the fear is, what are its roots and how to overcome it Through this project I want to talk about the pandemic of a mental health crisis we are currently facing. I strongly believe that as a society we need to talk about the impact Coronavirus and lockdowns had on our minds, and how we can not continue living the way we do The majority of the team involved in this project are neurodivergent and/or practitioners in the wellbeing sector.
12 Hours Later We Both Have a Diaper © Jena Love
by Jena Love
The Absurdity of Pregnancy and Motherhood
Recovery Supplies © Jena Love
In my project, The Absurdity of Pregnancy and Motherhood, I am questioning the implicit societal, materialist, and gender norms that broadly shape the lives of women within an American consumerist context Employing the languages of conceptual, documentary, and typological photography, I have created docu staged scenes within my own home to craft a personal narrative of maternity and parenthood that holds widespread implications for families My work peels back the romanticism that surrounds pregnancy and motherhood to reveal the abject the messiness and physicality of human life, often considered private and unmentionable.
Woven through the overarching narrative of this project, which begins with a birth announcement and
continues through the “fourth” trimester (the 12 week period immediately following the birth), I interspersed investigative vignettes among a series of selfportraits and still life images. These typological studies act as markers, reminding the viewer of the realities of daily life with a new child and include: manifestations of spit up on clothing; the diverse shapes of filled diapers; and the countless iterations of commercial products manufactured for babies. Implied within the series are my own observations of the ways in which the expectations of pregnancy and motherhood formed through exposure to social media and parenting groups, to advertising campaigns, and to culture at large do not prepare one for the realities, and absurdities, of pregnancy and motherhood
Left: Still no Loose Blankets in the Crib Below: Fashion
gender to reflect and call out society’s reductionist use of colour blue and pink to signify the complexity of gender identities. Through my work, I allow the viewer to engage directly and openly with the imposed structures, rhythms, and expectations that are typically unconsidered and unseen The viewer is led to question their own complicity and reinforcement within these systems, and to consider how much mental and physical space these absurdities have unconsciously taken up in their own life
Throughout the project, using farce and exaggeration, I satirise and name these absurdities and norms, presenting them as obstacles that occupy the physical and mental space required for human life, activity, and identification of self My work makes the implied explicit Within otherwise typical domestic scenes and spaces, based in the reality of daily life, I introduce elements of the surreal to highlight and exaggerate the typically unspoken expectations of consumerism, gender, and social conformance and performance The surrealist tropes include an over abundance of consumer goods filling a home, and the comical disparity between the amount of space occupied by a new baby and that occupied by all of its things I have strategically included clinical language and imagery regarding
© Jena Love
Images © Olga Karlovac
Capturing Everyday Drama in B&W
Olga and Meike first met via Skype in January 2021 and eventually in person when Olga was able to travel to London to catch the last couple of days of her solo exhibition at Willesden Gallery last July Olga has since been invited to show with the Croatian Embassy in London and to participate with Photo| Frome, a new photo festival celebrating international photography in rural Somerset. They continue to speak regularly via video link This interview is an edited summary of their many conversations
My work is less concerned with depicting a specific space and more about capturing a mood. My approach is led by intuition rather than scouting for locations or premeditating staged scenes I spend most of the year between Zagreb and Dubrovnik, so it is only natural that most of my photographs are set there Having said that, the ‘escape’ series also includes one of several shots taken during a longer visit to London It is not singled out and appears alongside others taken in Croatia, as it fits into the book’s narrative as a journal of my life at the time
The simple explanation would be that I am very much a night owl
Black and white suits my practice best, I like the contrast between the two extremes; they add strength and emotion. The style developed intuitively and is the result of unplanned experimentation. My process starts with a mood that is within me; these feelings are hard to put into words but can be reflected in a moment, or they relate to a scene playing out before me. That’s when I pull the trigger, often from a moving car or tram, through windows or in mirrors
Olga Karlovac was born in Dubrovnik and lives in Zagreb. Capturing the drama of the everyday in her work, both towns feature prominently in her photography that form the basis of her self published series of books
Meike Brunkhorst is a German born Londoner with a passion for all forms of creative expression Her marketing consultancy 'factor m' was born out of a desire to challenge prevailing hierarchies and help redress the balance in favour of artists and makers, especially those from underrepresented backgrounds
You have exhibited internationally and attract followers and collectors around the globe yet seem to photograph exclusively in Croatia. What role does your heritage play in your work?
In the Mirror, Self portrait © Olga Karlovac
That makes sense, most of your photographs seem to have in common that they are taken at night, in autumn or winter, during heavy rain –conditions associated more with London or Hamburg than with a Mediterranean town. Most importantly, you shoot exclusively in black and
white with very little gradation.
I know that an image is successful if it brings back the smell of rain or petrol, the sound of footsteps, the comforting warmth of tram radiators, etc And even more so if it evokes an emotional reaction in the viewer, if the photo’s energy transports you to places of your own and feeds your imagination.
Escape © Olga Karlovac
Photography came to me naturally and very quickly without much planning I learnt some basic technical stuff from books, but mainly developed my personal style through experimentation. I discovered how photography provided a powerful release for dealing with stress and internal conflicts as a way of expressing difficult emotions without having to explain them in words.
What made you decide to be a photographer? What inspires you and your art?
I had an early introduction to photography as a child, I remember admiring my grandfather’s old analogue cameras My father then gave me my first camera at 13; a Canon T70 which was a really expensive present in former Yugoslavia Later I was always saving money for additional lenses for that camera. When I started university I stopped shooting and then didn’t pick up my camera again until about ten years ago I haven’t put it down since and always carry it with me.
I would say that my journey to photography has been a very personal one, following an impulse that came from within Which is probably why I find it difficult to name other photographers as inspiration. I am mainly influenced by writers and poets, and I admire many contemporaries I have met along the way
This realisation was a breakthrough moment that led to my first experimental photobook in 2016 I never planned to make this available to the public, I just looked for a way to save my memories of an important time in my life, and I just knew that this archive had to take a physical form The response from others was extremely positive and many people seemed to resonate with what I tried to express, so I decided to take the plunge and pursue photography full time
You obviously hit a nerve with your photobooks. The first editions of before winter (2017) the disarray (2019) and escape (2021) completely sold out! A lot has changed in the meantime, how have world events affected your work?
Having taught myself what it takes to self publish, I started before winter soon after that first experiment in 2016 At the time I didn’t plan to make more than one book, but while I was shooting I just had to keep going and started working on a follow up which became the disarray. As I carried on I instinctively knew that the project would have to become a trilogy, and escape then helped me through the pandemic
On a personal level, the three books are a very private record of life before and during lockdown. I remember when taking escape to the printers, the entire plant had just tested positive and everything was shut down Despite delays and restrictions I was able to launch each book with a series of exhibitions, and I am very happy that my work resonates with a lot of people from around the world
Haunting Lady from the Past © Olga Karlovac
Running Man © Olga Karlovac
Most of my audience is based abroad and I am grateful for social media Instagram in particular played an extremely important role in my journey As an artist based in Croatia, it allowed me to reach people who may never normally have seen my work. Without social media I would not be where I am today My first London gallery contacted me via Instagram, and I was interviewed by a leading German newspaper who discovered me on the platform It would be ungrateful of me to complain about algorithms but I understand the frustration of many artists
After all, most art comes alive when viewed in person. The paper and print quality are very important too, which is why I have everything printed locally and never share digital files
From a practical perspective, being an independent artist has become even more challenging The cost of everything has gone up, from paper to transport charges, and the second edition will be slightly more expensive as a result I also have to scrutinise exhibition opportunities more carefully as the overheads can be prohibitive.
I much prefer talking about the poetic qualities of my work rather than technique and equipment used, but there is still a lot of emphasis on the latter. Most male photographers definitely beat me on the kit front! I mostly work with my trusted Ricoh GR I and II Even
though I have moved from analogue to digital a long time ago, I only use natural effects or filters.
Women are still dramatically underrepresented in the art world, especially when it comes to photography. What are your experiences and observations?
Rain in the City © Olga Karlovac
There also seems to be a massive gap when it comes to pricing, or to being selected in the first place in a competitive environment like that of an art fair
As my work is driven by intuition, there is a strong autobiographical element to it. A female view of the world therefore almost happens by default, just as Croatia provides the backdrop to my photographs as it happens to be where I live
As a woman photographer from Croatia without money or connections in high places, it feels a lot like swimming against the current.
www olga karlovac photography com @olga karlovac
© Ellen Carey, Crush & Pull & Caesura, 2021, Polaroid 20x24 Colour Positive Print detail
Women in Colour: Anna Atkins, Colour Photography and Those Struck by Light
by Ellen Carey
Her work is seen in hundreds of solo and group exhibitions (1974-2021) and is in the permanent collections of many photography and art museums, as well as The LeWitt Foundation and The Sir Elton John Collection
Ellen Carey (b 1952, USA) is an educator, independent scholar, guest curator, photographer, and lens based artist, whose unique experimental work (1974 2021) spans several decades She was named one of the world's top 100 women photographers by Hundred Heroines
Photography Degree Zero (1996 2021) names her Polaroid lens based art while Struck by Light (1992 2021) names her parallel practice in the camera less photogram, all experimental investigations into abstraction and minimalism in bold colours and new forms
© Ellen Carey, Crush & Pull with Hands & Penlights, RGB 2021, Polaroid 20x24, Colour Positive Prints (RGB) 70"Hx66"W
Her recent collaboration with Dunhill's Creative Director, Mark Weston in Identities, Dunhill's Spring 2022 men’s collection, is shown in a film by Frieze.
My question into the origins of colour photography asked where its women practitioners would be without the work of Anna Atkins (1799 1871) The British Victorian was the first woman photographer and the first in colour Her nature and botanical series used the cyanotype, a non silver alternative method, to make varied shades of Prussian blue in organic silhouettes exposed by the sun, hence the term 'sun pictures', a phrase coined by her contemporary, William Henry Fox Talbot (1800 1877), the British inventor of paper photography who ultimately described his paper negative images in 1840 as photograms contact printed from negatives for their positives or opposite mirror pictures Atkins had partnered the cyanotype process, invented by the English polymath, Sir John Herschel (1792 1871), a friend to both Atkins and Talbot. with Talbot's photogram. The negative-to-positive duality would become the foundation of photography
Now in 2022, I also see how photography’s earliest visual gender codes shifted dramatically between Atkins’ blue shades of her handwriting under and around cascading parrot feathers, botanic studies specimens, and sea weed floats and Talbot’s earthy, masculine browns to underscore their striking differences as contemporaries. Atkins' photo-book,
Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions (1843), pre dates that of Talbot’s and is the first photo book Her other firsts are her handwritten descriptions under and around her unique botanical images in the cyanotype-asphotogram transformed through the power of colour, her writing as word art literally transferred through drawing with light, and her standing as visionary precursor to the abstract and minimalist art movements.
© Ellen Carey, Crush & Pull & Caesura, 2021, Polaroid, 20x24 Colour, positive and negative prints 70"Hx44"W
Anna Atkins and her work not only pointed the way for contemporary photography and lens based art, her cyanotypes opened many windows into the visual world of multiple art movements. The recent discovery of tetrachromacy (from tetra signifying four and chroma for colour), confirms that women who carry this gene see more colours and are better at discerning them than men whose gender has a higher rate of 20 30% colour blindness This new discovery supports my theory that the recognition of women practitioners' historical and contemporary collective contributions in colour photography remain under exposed, to borrow a photographic term Colour blindness parallels gender blindness Seeing in this way of creating colour in the dark room, I emerge to experience the visual wonders of the daylit and the moonlit worlds of colour folded and unfolded by light and its shadow.
Colour photography appears to have a separate and unacknowledged history located in gender, beginning with the fateful, twin aspects of the female, Anna Atkins and her blue cyanotypes The art historian and scholar, the late Linda Nochlin asked “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” and I answer “We are here, Linda, in photography, in colour.” As a university, photo based educator, independent scholar, and a woman in colour, I am honor bound to bring to light these hidden truths as new facts, adding my own significant contribution to colour from my twin practices of Photography Degree Zero (1996 2021) in Polaroid and Struck by Light (1988 2021) in Photogram, with its experimental images in new colours with the use of photographic colour theory, or RGBYMC. My performance in the black box that is the darkroom folding, crushing, filtering, and creasing abounds with affinities to the Surrealist drawing game of the “exquisite corpse”.
Right: @Ellen Carey, Dings & Shadows, 2021, Colour Photogram, C Print, 24"Hx20"W
Claire Raymond is the author of nine books of feminist scholarship, most recently Photography and Resistance: Anticolonialist Photography in the Americas (Palgrave Macmillan 2022), and The Selfie, Temporality, and Contemporary Photography (Routledge 2021) Raymond teaches for the University of Maine, and lives in rural coastal Maine Before coming to Maine, she taught for many years at the University of Virginia. Her scholarship emphasizes decolonialist and feminist approaches to interpreting aesthetics and poetics. Raymond's essay, written exclusively for WE ARE Magazine, explores the use of the self portrait by women in photography
It is this core of beautiful fear, this awe, in their work that unifies these four disparate photographers of the 20th and 21st centuries. A feeling of awe that comes from facing what others fear in women, or as Cahun classified themself, a “third sex” (Cahun drew the term from Havelock Ellis), these photographers create with self portraits a refusal to adhere not only to a traditional gender script but more expansively a refusal to adhere to anyone else’s script. This sense of a singular, original gaze as the foundation of self stating is the thread that runs through these photographers’ stylistically different works They refuse to be self effacing. Instead, they repeatedly stage the event of facing, reckoning with, the self, in self portaiture.
In this short essay on women’s self portrait photography, I take up this vanishing word “woman” to indicate cis and transwomen artists engaged in the process of self-stating, of insisting on, of instating a self, a self that is a permutation of woman. Self portraiture becomes, in these photographers’ work,
the opposite of that destructive traditional value of woman’s selflessness and manifests instead as a practice of self fullness, of insisting on the centrality of one’s own embodied, mindful existence In self portraits by Claude Cahun (1896 1954); Ellen Carey (b.1952); Francesca Woodman (1958-1981); and Martine Gutiérrez (b 1989) we see the rigor with which self facing stages the place that is the self Cahun, Carey, Woodman, and Gutiérrez in self portrait photographs insist on themselves, state themselves, refusing to vanish just because others fear them.
Self-full: Women’s Self-Portrait Photography
by Claire Raymond
The word “woman” is at a strange juncture in 2022. Long used as an insult to cry like a woman, throw like a woman, talk like a woman, do anything “like a woman” meant to do it less well the word woman now faces a kind of soft extinction. The roots of this erasure of the word woman may stem from poststructuralist theory, such as French philosopher Jacques Lacan's scabrous argument that the word woman should be written under erasure because, he contends, women speak only by mimicking men. The erasure of the word woman also may stem from American professor Judith Butler’s influential argument that women cause our own suffering because we collectively submit to being named women But the urge to erase the category, woman, goes deeper. For most of Western cultural history, being a woman has meant being relatively powerless Coverture laws in the West codified woman’s erasure, as a wife was legally submerged into the person of her husband This historical elision casts a long shadow on cis and transwomen today, and on our conceptions of gendered identity as such.
was the field of their virtuosity and Claude Cahun played all sides, never settling into anyone else’s theory of self
Consider Claude Cahun’s lifelong practice of creating self portraits (a photographic version of Surrealism’s automatic writing) For Cahun, the act of creating photographic images of herself is an act of continually re-appearing, insisting on her own continued existence I refer to Cahun as a woman because Cahun did not so much reject this designation as rather change what it means The artist referred to themself as the third sex and it is anachronistic to describe the artist as transgender or nonbinary as we now use the terms, terms the artist never used Instead, Cahun was transitively gendered, refusing to stay the same Choosing the term neutre, Cahun celebrated the ability to shift and change. In referring to the artist as a woman I deemphasize the verbal straitjacket that Judith Butler’s theory of gender as trouble places on the word woman For Cahun, gender wasn’t trouble: it
Claude Cahun Que me veux tu?, 1929 Epreuve gélatino argentique, positif monochrome sur support papier (tirage original d'époque) , m. 0.18 x 0.23. Musee National d'Art Moderne Centre Pompidou Paris RMN Grand Palais /Dist Photo SCALA, Florence
In the context of the sexist ideology of the surrealist movement, Cahun was not seen as a major visual artist while alive but rather Claude Cahun’s fame as a creator of self portraits was posthumous, occurring after the artist died. It is in these auto portraits that Cahun commands the terrain of the artist, mythopoetically instating “Claude Cahun” as an artist in the very self portraits that have made their name Working with lifelong love and partner, Marcel Moore, Cahun refuses erasure, asking no one’s permission to continue to appear. In a world unwilling to see a woman able to move transitively between genders, Cahun’s body of self portrait work instates a visual mantra, Like no one else, I exist
Laura Mulvey famously argued that women are pressured to perform with a quality of “to be looked at-ness” while Judith Butler contends that we are women only because we submit to being named she/ her But photographers Cahun and Woodman show how reductive these formulations are To be a woman is to be watched by others always with a question of one’s desirability and availability for sex. It does not matter what you are named or how you perform If you are born biologically female (and don’t transition), you will be watched To be a transwoman is to come into this realm of surveillance, as Julia Serrano’s book Whipping Girl exposes. For ciswomen and transwomen alike, being watched as feminine subjects under surveillance of masculine domination is not contingent on performing femininity or naming oneself as feminine Surveillance falls deeper than these speech acts. It is this embodied epistemological trap that Cahun and Woodman address: how does one assert a self despite the erasure of oneself that one meets in others’ eyes?
Like Cahun, Francesca Woodman (1958-1981) created a substantial body of self-referential work, using herself as her own model Woodman produced much of her work while a student at the Rhode Island School of Design and this fact of history is not a diminishment of as rather an enticement to her self referential work. Redrawing the formal contours of the student role, Woodman asserted a realised self by ironically commenting on woman’s endless placement in the role of neophyte (as Griselda Pollock long ago pointed out, the phrase “Old Master” has such a different meaning than “Old Mistress”). Woodman challenges the boundaries of the self portrait She poses the question of how the body’s fragility and ephemerality map onto that nodus of intellectual desire that we call a self
The clear spiral in Self-portrait talking to Vince is a visual rhyme with the shutter cord seen in others of Woodman’s self portrait images
In Self-portrait talking to Vince, Woodman poses with a clear spiral running through her open mouth To compare her work, or Cahun’s, to contemporary selfie practice is to miss the key of materiality in their work. These are images deeply concerned with photographic materiality: the self as a material object, the gendered self caught in the nexus of how we (as subjects tinted feminine by fate) are seen as material objects, here doubles with the photographic medium
Francesca Woodman Self portrait talking to Vince, Providence, Rhode Island, 1977 5 3/16 x 5 1/8 in Gelatin silver print © Woodman Family Foundation / DACS, London
Woodman’s Self portrait talking to Vince places us at a slant to Woodman’s expressive face Her gaze finds us and locks our gaze while the dual sense of speech and silence the cord through the mouth suggests a struggle to be heard. Yet this struggle is counterbalanced by her insistence on asserting her voice in the self portrait Woodman’s contorted twist as if the clear sprial were yanking her mouth, the wideness of her gaze as she tilts the back of her head against a rough textured corner, suggest the compression of fighting. The self portrait is her voice fighting against silence She talks by taking her own photograph The self portrait is a mythopoetic vehicle that becomes her voice, articulating an insistence on self. The sense of movement arrested in the image is striking for a self-portrait, a genre that typically forges stillness
Assertion of self against erasure manifests brilliantly in the work of Martine Gutiérrez and Ellen Carey who
create self portrait photography as layered masks In their works, the self merges into, resists, and eloquently speaks through the mask Gutiérrez’s 24 carat gold mask, an image in the artist’s book of self portraits, Indigenous Woman, critically references colonialist plunder of Mayan gold Gutiérrez’s Mayan heritage is evoked to shape a mask that reveals the stunning structure of the artist’s face She presents, in this self portrait, Indigenous repossession of colonialist plundered gold, so that the self-portrait manifests a larger political claim to Indigenous survival She exists despite Western plunder of Indigenous American wealth She exists despite Western erasure of transwomen She not only exists but is exceedingly valuable: a face of 24k gold. Gold’s use in early photographic technology is also a crucial reference point of the image
Martine Gutierrez, Masking, 24k Gold Mask, p46 from Indigenous Woman, 2018 © Martine Gutierrez; Courtesy of the artist and RYAN LEE Gallery, New York
A formal self reckoning, self portraiture in women’s photography resists the erasure of women that our Western culture still desires, as we edge toward removing the word woman from our lexicon.
Ellen Carey Self Portrait, 1987, Polaroid 20 X 24 Color Print Unique, 24”H x 20”W (image) or 34”H x 24”W (panel); Private Collection and Courtesy of the Artist, JHB Gallery (NY, NY); Galerie Miranda (Paris, FR)
Ellen Carey’s 20 X 24 Polaroid self portrait similarly deploys a mask, albeit a mask not applied physically to the face but applied through developing and printing apparatuses, so that in this self-portrait the artist emerges as a super human figure, merged with the machine of printing. Repositioning references to Catholic notions of holiness stained glass windows the image invokes a mournful knowledge of these reference points’ defunct status Carey’s is a self portrait that almost cedes the self to the forces of
technological industrialization and yet, on the brink of this ceding, all the more fiercely claims the necessity of knowing oneself and defining oneself on one’s own terms. Her gaze, in profile, is resolutely self-assured.
The self portrait emerges from and manifests as a claim of self that resists absorption into others’ needs.
I think that this excerpt from Tolle’s widely published book The Power of Now captures the essence of Aljohara’s International humanitarian art where she attempts to deconstruct commonly accepted notions. After a necessary 20 year pause to her long spanning art career, Aljohara started a new chapter in 2018 in Saudi Arabia, her now chosen home, amongst Saudi Female artists who have been in the scene for a while such as Maha Malluh, Zaghrah Alghamdmdi, Lulwah Al Homoud or Tasneem Al Sultan and Iman Al Dabbagh, documentary photographers and photojournalists who, among much more projects, tackle women related issues
"Wherefore Art Thou?" Ask not Where, but Why
Taif, Khatib House, Lady’s Salon © Aljohara Jeje
such as the concept of shame and messy motherhood. In 3ieb (Arabic for shame) Al Dabbagh displays a personal narrative of what it was like to grow up in the restrictive times of the 90s in Saudi Arabia. Tasneem Al Sultan is an American Saudi storyteller photographer whose wedding photos capture sensitively the joy and beauty of international Muslim wedding ceremonies as well as the raw emotions and the humanity of the subjects Amongst such a vibrant society of artists, Aljohara has found her new hub for her deeply personal yet communityempowering pieces of art/photography.
“Identification with your mind creates an opaque screen of concepts, labels, images, words, judgments, and definitions that blocks all true relationships. It comes between you and yourself It is this screen of thought that creates the illusion of separateness … you are one with all that is.”
Recipient of the Best International Selfie from our WIP Selfies exhibition, Aljohara Jeje has made her home in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia where the influences of the Kingdom shine through in her art.
by Alaa Abu-Naji
Aljohara casually came to Saudi Arabia visiting her husband who was working in Riyadh at the time. Aljohara did not expect to meet open minded, critical thinking, curious and creative women in Riyadh Happily surprised, she wants to share with the world a truer picture of the reality of the lives of women in Saudi Arabia The dry history of Saudi Arabia is that the Kingdom had lived a long period of isolation since the assassination of King Faisal in 1975 which resulted in religious laws restricting the lives of its citizens, especially women For almost 40 years, women, as well as men, have faced barriers in performing sports, arts, and the activities of social life. This reality has changed recently with over 70% of the population being under the age of 35. Now, Saudi Arabia is a “Lit” place to be, where trends are created and where one can painfully feel “FOMO” from all the events and activities happening at the same time In Saudi, art’s future is being lived this second, meaning that the Grand History is created now
Aljohara found Saudi women misrepresented in the West, which inspired her to create /pə ˈfɔːm(ə)ns/ In /pə ˈfɔːm(ə)ns/ (the series’ title is the English pronunciation of the word 'performance ‘put in writing) one sees Portraits of silenced women in triptychs and diptychs. The piece is called Performance which indicates acting, entertainment, or an exhibition of sorts, but the images of the women provoke a feeling of stillness/repression creating tension. This tension is active enough to behold a performance that is alive This sentiment is descriptive of how Aljohara observed the women of Saudi Arabia. The women were greatly boxed, restricted, and marginalised for years However, this repression has culminated in great strength and expression. Now, it is summoned at the booming artistic venues Saudi women now have way more zest, vigor, and intelligence than ever imagined or expected from living previously in constrained conditions. Today, not even a cloud in the sky is limiting the Saudi Woman
Is the Sky the Limit?
Every time I tried to pin down the soul of her art… its essence, I saw a new thing in it rendering a new classification, then I realised that there are multiple layers of meaning in it This is what Eckhart describes in the excerpt as the minds attempt to label and draw concepts of something Aljohara’s art, and like any art, (we can surely say life in general since art imitates life and vice versa) should just be observed and whatever it speaks to us will be revealed to us
Asks Shakespeare’s Juliet. To the modern ears this sentence might evoke an image of a frightened Juliet deeply in love, looking for her beloved in despair However, in ancient times “wherefore” meant “why”, Juliet was asking - probably in a similar state of despair “Why you, Romeo?” Now, "why" is the type of question that arises from each piece of art Aljohara creates. Her art aims to incite curiosity and ask why things happen the way they do Aljohara’s art invokes daring questions such as her interactive art installation Chilling Climates ( Dutch artist expresses her global concerns through art at Jeddah exhibition | Arab News) of Alan Kurdi (the toddler whose dead body was found by the sea shore while seeking safety) asking the question of “why?” was he not saved, while Ishmael the son of Ibrahim was saved by God’s intervention? Aljohara dismisses the old sources of artistic inspiration; a “where?” deeply infused in many types of art, especially western inspiration, which sparks from expeditions to “exotic”
/pə ˈfɔːm(ə)ns/ Triptych 05 © Aljohara Jeje
“Wherefore Art Thou Romeo?”
places, or a deeply localised personal experience, to a wider question of why, why is something the way it is and why a life supporting alternative does not exist? In this insisting call for an answer the artistic expression becomes a direct call for action. “Why?” penetrates the essence of a situation for it does not label or judge but inquires with empathy and genuine care for fellow humans thus building a true connection between a piece of art and the viewer.
A viewer of Aljohara’s art might find it hard to classify, is it classic, spiritual, pop art, or is it activist/political?
philosophy as philosophy means the love of wisdom and art is a medium of expression for that wisdom that Aljohara has been seeking throughout her life traveling globally and within. The quintessential element of eclecticism is the heightened awareness of choice and free will Deliberate eclecticism serves to liberate art by giving the artist the anatomy to choose and finely select according to their vision. I have noticed that Aljohara found liberty in both perspective and execution. She has found liberty of perspective in her work The Devil is in the Detail where the cultivation of hope becomes necessary in facing the dreadfulness of the dying nature caused by wildfires, to see this and to be able to share such perspective truly embodies the power of art.
Cited work: Review of Eklektik Eine Begriffsgeschichte mit Hinweisen auf die Philosophie und Wissenschaftsgeschichte Journal of the History of Ideas, vol 59 no 1, 1998, p 173 182 Project MUSE, doi:10 1353/jhi 1998 0000
Jeddah, Khuzam Palace with Crown Prince © Aljohara Jeje
However, when it comes to technique, we have the liberty to attempt an explanation since the technique is not as subjective as meaning. Looking for example at her work: Shadows of the Past, Foretelling the Future I can see a footprint of Eclecticism Aljohara collages/overrides/combines Indian patterns found on the walls of abandoned the Saudi royal palaces over the picture of the palaces themselves symbolising the overlapping of time. In recent years Eclecticism has become, as Ulrich Johannes Schneider explains in his paper Eclecticism
Rediscovered, “increasingly attractive to late twentieth century thought in search of non dogmatic and non-systematic forms of philosophizing.” Now there is a direct relationship between art and
believe that this work in particular of Aljohara is a revolution in consciousness. We are not only connected geographically (horizontally) but also in our heritage (vertically); belonging happens in all ways
“Often you shall think your road impassable, somber, and companionless. Have will and plod along, and round each curve, you shall find a new companion.”
Chilling Climates (1) © Aljohara Jeje
For another impressive piece of work, called Holy Mountains I would like to quote The Book of Mirdad by Mikhail Naimy; a story of a man who took a journey up a mountain to find a book of prophetic wisdom after enduring a journey of extreme self relinquish
The eclecticism of tool/technique is apparent in her work Tellus Stabilita and Roads to Mecca where Aljohara employed medieval artistry techniques using clay, earth, stamps, silver, and golden foil (elements that are different in nature and tools of a different era) to create a long stand representing inter connectedness The fact that Roads to Mecca is part of the work mentioned earlier Chilling Climates might make one wonder if any connection at all between Ishmail of the ancient text and Alan Kurdi of our modern reality is existing Aljohara, through establishing a road of leaves invites her audience to use a rack to indirectly pave or cover the way between Alan’s body outline on the floor up to the roads of Mecca representing Ishmail on the wall I
Aljohara, using polycromia, a medieval artistry technique, painted Quranic and Biblical mountains such as Jabal Al Noor, Nibu, Adam, Uhud, and Musa each portraying the significance of the journey/event undertaken around All of them were painted with a striking blue and golden yellow, each had a different feature. Jabal Al-Nur had a cloud separating the mountain top from its base, pointing at the seclusion of Prophet Muhammed receiving verses of the
Holy Mountains Jabal Nur © Aljohara Jeje
Quran, unnoticed by the people. Pointing to the dual nature of the truth; not anyone reaches it (exclusive) but everyone can (inclusive) On that note, I invite everyone to check the work of Aljohara, it is truly an art that is inviting, heart warming, friendly, and yet in its abstractness, very direct and daring.
Images © Eloisa Sanchez
Professional photographer Eloisa Sanchez was awarded the Gold Medal for SELFIES as the only photographer who had both of their submitted images chosen by our panel to be in our online exhibition. WIP Chair Teri Walker speaks to Eloisa about her work and the challenges of being a woman photographer in a profession and country that is largely male dominated
Playing to Win
Hello Eloisa. Thank you for taking the time to be interviewed for WE ARE Magazine. What led you to become a photographer?
Hello, Teri Thank you for this opportunity
I started taking pictures at an early age Since I was born, my father always had a camera in his hands. He was that dad that was always taking pictures during family reunions, school events and holidays When I was around five he gave me my first 110mm cheap plastic camera I was self taught almost all the time, I grew up with photography as an unconscious natural “hobby” It was just playing by imitation
Your bio leans heavily towards your work being featured in publications and other media versus art galleries and exhibitions. Did you make a conscious decision to take your career in that particular direction?
After graduating with a degree in Architecture, I didn’t feel like that was the right thing for me but I didn’t really know what to do with my life. I fell into depression. My father again gave me a new semi professional digital camera as a gift I had no job so just to do something I started taking some photography workshops to try to feel better. Eventually I realised how much I enjoyed doing it so I took the decision to become a professional photographer
It wasn’t really a decision, life took me in that direction. Galleries and shows weren’t options either, actually Most photography schools here in Mexico teach with a focus on commercial / portrait / product photography so my first idea was having my own commercial studio. But I really didn’t know what type of photography I wanted to do for a living The only thing I knew was that I wanted to be a real professional photographer; it didn’t matter what I had in front of my lens. So when I came out of photography school, I was looking for a studio job and thanks to several coincidences, I got one as an assistant for commercial video shots for the Getty Images agency. Getty Images is a very sports / entertainment focused agency so eventually they asked me to learn to photograph sports At the beginning I was clueless. I found out that sports photography is very hard and specialised. I fell in love with the challenge though
You are a professional sports photographer which has historically been male dominated. Did you face any challenges with being a woman in that field? Has it changed since you first started out?
Yes, actually I was recently told that my start in this industry was in part thanks to a gender quota It bothered me at first but I’m very thankful now The change has had to be forced and we have to keep fighting and pushing until parity becomes the new normal in every aspect
from the activity they like to perform, just for being women Mexico is within the top ten countries with the highest rate of femicide in the world so the problem is much deeper and alarming than just labour issues, which are clearly permeated by this profound sexism.
Media, journalism and photojournalism have been in crisis for years and the opportunity to have a job that meets all your economic needs has almost completely gone The precariousness of the guild is worse than ever But that is another problem and another long talk haha.
As in every male dominated space I’ve been patronised, my capabilities and motives have been questioned and diminished, I've been harassed several times and been denied assignments because of my gender But I have also found a lot of support I am lucky that my work can speak for itself but I am also privileged for having white skin, economic support from my family and having been born in the country’s capital city where everything happens
There are tons of fellow women companions that struggle; suffering daily violence, being kept apart
Anyway, I do believe it has changed a little bit, especially abroad, in formerly imperialist countries
Here in Mexico there has been a major change since we started having a professional women’s football league five years ago. This league has open spaces for a lot of young women to practice and develop as sports photographers though there are no formal jobs for them yet. I work for the only sports photography agency (Imago7) that employs women photographers In total we are 50 staff members of which only seven are women
All of them especially the women pioneers that fought and created their own opportunities in a male dominated world that erased them from human history: Gerda Taro; Diane Arbus; Graciela Iturbide; Lola Álvarez Bravo; Lourdes Grobet; Mariana Yampolsky; Flor Garduño; Katy Horna and all the ones whose names were erased. They are and were warriors, they inspire me to continue to fight for me and for the newer generations to come.
Which photographers have inspired you over the years and why?
And, talking about sports photography, I try to learn from everyone but I admire Elsa Garrison, Lucy Nicholson, Carmen Mandato, Hannah Peters, Anne Christine Poujoulat, Julie Jacobson, Vladimir Rys, Adam Pretty, Hector Vivas, Francois Nel, John Huet, Al Bello, David Ramos, Atsuo Sakurai, Lars Baron, Cameron Spencer, Jonne Roriz, Ryan Pierse, Catherine Ivill, Ezra Shaw, Marco Bertorello, Michael Regan, Clive Mason, Bob Martin, Clive Brunskill, Kohjiro Kinno, Patrick Smith, Clive Rose, Mark Thompson, Mario Renzi, Walter Looss I’m missing so many but I have to stop now.
I admire every person who is able to do something extraordinary, things that I can’t do and try to achieve It doesn’t necessarily mean a photograph, I also admire the capability to lead a team, or being creative, being good with people, or good at speaking or doing business Photography is so much more than just the technical ability to take pictures
Thank you Eloisa, le deseamos todo lo mejor.
What advice would you give to women who want to become professional photographers?
¡Muchas gracias! Lo mejor para ti también
www eloisasanchez com @saudadelo
I would love to travel and to try doing proper astrophotography Also I would love to photograph the Rugby World Cup and the Women’s Football World Cup.
If you could shoot anything that you haven’t had the opportunity to do so yet, what would it be?
First of all prepare yourselves technically, in every way that you can Learn all the photographic techniques, history, art, learn languages, and watch movies. Learn to use your camera as if it is a part of your body. Prepare to compete in a world that believes you are not capable Be responsible and be professional in every aspect Have a lot of patience because this will not always work. Don’t be afraid to ask, learn from your mistakes, challenge yourself Don’t believe the world of likes and followers, but use it in your favour Also, you don’t have to do this all by yourself: lean on other women; share your doubts and knowledge; grow together; support each other Be kind and try to make this a better place for you and others
Images © Dee Robinson
by Dee Robinson
My Beautiful Laundrette
Dee Robinson was awarded Best Black & White Selfie for her Do I Sit Well self portrait She shares one of her projects with WE ARE Magazine.
A few years ago I was hunting around for a documentary project and happened to be listening to
I think like many non professional photographers I was a jack of all trades, a bit of landscape but didn’t have the patience to wait for the light; a bit of portraiture but never seemed to get the soul of my sitter; still life? I’m still trying I did however feel at home on the street, architecture and people doing their thing; it's like watching a play. I remember taking a workshop with Ali Baskerville and being told the five elements for a documentary project; set the scene, portrait, detail, action and decisive moment It was a light bulb moment, I realised that subconsciously I was always making stories with my camera, I was set.
a piece on the radio about launderettes one Saturday morning The first launderette opened in 1949 in Queensway and they reached their peak of 12,000 in the 1980’s, the figure in 2016 was around 3,000. I was surprised that there were so many and thought that I’d find out more After spending a happy afternoon on Google, The Boundary Community Launderette caught my eye and as soon as I walked through the door I knew that I’d found my launderette. They opened in 1992 and are a not for profit enterprise, funded by the Environment Trust and other charitable organisations and after talking to the directors I was given permission to photograph in the launderette.
Working in the confined space needed some thought, first off was dealing with the reflection from the steel machines plus the light coming into the launderette, and second trying to get a wide enough lens to capture the action. Allowing time is the most important element of all; waiting until you’re part of the furniture can take time, in my case about four months. The first time I was greeted with a cup of tea when I arrived I realised that I was now part of the scenery, exactly where a documentary photographer should be. The regulars were a mix of people. Those who were born and bred in East London and those who had recently arrived. On Mondays the launderette was busy doing service washes from the many local serviced apartments and restaurants. During the rest of the week it would be regular service washes together with cups of tea and maybe a little gossip. Over the weekend it changes again, very busy and usually a much younger mix, no tea, no gossip
The stories you hear, the lives you become a part of, the jokes, the dramas all shape the way you take the pictures, the sensitivity to those whose religion doesn’t allow being photographed or in some cases the opposite is true. Being accepted is the key, we talked, dogs, house prices, the changing nature of the area and why did I want to photograph the launderette anyway? Most days a few regulars would just come in for a chat, Maria, the manageress and Tina were the mainstay of the launderette, both had been there 20 years plus. They knew them all and were part of their lives. The launderette lived up to its name “community”.
In the Throes
In the Throes © Frankie MacEachen
SELFIES Best in Show winner Frankie MacEachen speaks to WIP Chair Teri Walker about her photography journey
I would say my work could be defined as storytelling.
How would you define your work?
Bertha's Rage © Frankie MacEachen
As a visualist, photography became that outlet and moving from one medium to another was a natural and seamless transition
This was very much the approach I took in the image Jekyll & Hyde for which I was delighted to receive the SELFIES Best in Show award from the RPS Women in Photography panel I wanted to show light and dark, good and bad, in one face at one moment. A well worn phrase is that every picture tells a story I strive to convey the contrast and deeper narrative that lies beneath.
An important aspect of my photography is using light to capture different emotions in one image My photograph Hidden Grief is an example of that. Taken with a phone at my late dad’s graveside on a sunny day, the shadow from my hat covered the upper part of my face but captured my emotional pain. I chose to accentuate that in the edit of the image with a face that appears perfectly content in the light but is broken in the dark
Why did you become a photographer?
As an actor onstage, my process focused a great deal on stillness; building a narrative from within What became more important to me, however, was finding an outlet for self expression and ultimately taking control of the medium I used to express myself I still wanted to create a character story but I also wanted to express my mind’s eye and present the world in the way that my somewhat darker sensibilities viewed it, whether that was portraiture, landscape or social commentary. I wanted to direct the subject and deliver the narrative through the stillness of a single moment
Contemplation © Frankie MacEachen
Killer Queen © Frankie MacEachen
From a very early age, I became immersed in black and white cinema, in particular the silent era, expressionism and noir I was very much influenced by the photography of Yousuf Karsh and Max Munn Autrey Their use of light and shadow to create mood, atmosphere and character fascinated me. As a young reader, I was drawn towards the Brontes, Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson I would always visualise dark forests, blustery landscapes and how characters like Heathcliff and Bertha would appear and how their mood changes could be reflected in different still moments.
My biggest challenge has always been learning the technical side of photography I remember my college tutor telling me that I had to bring my technical ability up to the same level as my creativity if I wanted to achieve my creative goals I took this fully onboard and have worked hard up skilling over the last few years. I tend to struggle with formal study due to the nature of my mental health condition but when I think back to when I attended my first photography evening class with a DSLR I barely knew how to work, and how I struggled to get to grips with understanding techniques that are now second nature to me, I realise how much I have learned as I go along
What are your biggest challenges?
Where do you get inspiration from?
I am still very much inspired by dark fairy tales, deep emotions, seasonal shifts and old graveyards These will always be reflected in my photography. Even in my springtime image Weeping Blossoms, I still manage to show a darker side of spring!
Hidden Grief © Frankie MacEachen
Soul of the Sisters © Frankie
Mental health is an issue very close to my heart as I
was diagnosed with Cyclothymia (a condition on the Bipolar spectrum) in 2019 I am very passionate about documenting the highs and lows of managing a mental health condition My recent self portrait In the Throes was taken during a particularly difficult low mood but I chose to capture and document the moment with the intention of opening up discussion on the subject The Bertha project marks the start of series of projects where I aim to put the inside on the outside.
As I mentioned, I am a Bronte Sisters fan I am currently developing a project inspired by Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. I have always been fascinated by the character of Bertha, the infamous madwoman in the attic I will be presenting a set of images which aim to humanise not only the character of Bertha, but also the complex emotions that a woman dealing with extreme mental health issues had to navigate whilst being locked away during the Victorian era. The image Bertha’s Rage is an introductory shot for the project
What projects are you working on now?
than any skill on my part My need to constantly record and retain makes a camera my perfect partner; capturing life at a click My approach to photography is in direct contrast with what I was about to learn in Pakistan; ancient techniques that require not only an enormous amount of skill but more importantly, patience
Paintbrush Making in Pakistan
Touchdown in Lahore at 3am on an already sweltering Sunday It was July 2021, Pakistan was on the red list and Covid was on the up I have travelled extensively for all of my previous projects but this, in the climate of Covid, and the solitary existence of the last few years, felt very different My hunger to learn, combined with the relief at finally having made it to Pakistan, meant that on this boiling July morning I was overwhelmed with appreciation. It was to be the most intense seven days of learning of my life and I would relish every second.
Charlie Calder Potts Studio © Charlie Calder Potts
The World was all Before Them, solo exhibition by Charlie Calder Potts, 4th 24th September 2022 Fosse Gallery, Stow on the Wold
by Charlie Calder Potts
Whether I’m relentlessly clicking away on my SLR in a bustling Syrian souk or carting my slightly cumbersome 1950s Yashica A box from base to base in Afghanistan, I am never without a camera. Photography has played an essential role in my work; not only as a means of gathering up information abroad to form an image library back in the studio, but also as a way of bringing a central character to a painted story; one that is entirely real. I am not a photographer I am a ‘point and shoot girl’ that relies on good fortune My photographs are a starting point to a painting; when, if ever, they can stand alone as a passable piece is due entirely down to luck rather
My previous projects include: sponsorship as an Official War Artist with the British Army in Afghanistan; private commissions in Iraq; collaborating with Persian poet Rosa Jamali in Iran (sponsored by the British Arts Council); and studying traditional Russian icon painting in the studio of Vladimir Bushkov in Palekh In 2021 I had the honour of receiving the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust Award and it is because of this that I found myself in Lahore on that humid July morning.
When looking at a traditional Indian miniature painting, it is obvious from its infinite detail that the making of this work is far from speedy. What is not obvious however, is the time consuming process of preparing the materials required to actually paint it My first day in the studio was a humbling one I thought, from my reading and research, I had a pretty good idea of the miniature painting process. I did not. Sitting on the floor of Heraa’s studio (barefoot and cross legged on the most beautiful silk Persian rug) she informed me that before we even start our miniature painting, we must first make the traditional white opaque paint base (safeda) and the finest
brush I would ever see (a kalam)
This project (sponsored by QEST) was to give me a week under the tutelage of Heraa Khan, a master of Indian miniature painting. Not only were we to have long days in the studio together, but Heraa was also to be my host I would be living with her and her family, her parents in law in the apartment downstairs and her young son giving up his bedroom in order for me to have a place to sleep. It would be a week of complete immersion, together with the most overwhelming hospitality I could not have wished for more
The safeda was essential to get right; with it I could go on to mix all the colours of the rainbow, storing each one in its own mussel shell the perfect container for a little jewel of pigment It was relatively easy to actually make safeda but also, unfortunately, relatively easy to mess up; the tiniest speck of dirt could contaminate the whole thing, rendering it useless Since it takes an entire week before it is actually ready to use, it’s not something you want to get wrong After I made mine, Heraa (in true Blue Peter style) then whisked out a perfect ‘here’s one I made earlier’ for me to use in the studio for my lessons that week. Finally, on my last day with her, I removed the delicate muslin cloth to reveal my finished safeda and expected to find a pure, opaque, beautiful white block of cracked pigment, just like Heraa’s. However, mine was pink. Heraa couldn’t understand what had gone wrong until I remembered I had been wearing nail varnish the day I arrived A molecule of my Rimmel ‘Double Decker Red’ was all it needed I now do not wear nail varnish when making safeda and scrub my hands within an inch of their life. First lesson learned.
By Fearless Winds Seek © Charlie Calder Potts
It is no exaggeration to say that my new brush opened up an entirely new world of painting possibilities; the
The making of my kalam was, thankfully, more successful than my safeda This is a truly magical brush created using materials taken directly from nature: a pigeon feather; gum Arabic; and some carefully selected squirrel hair Or, if you are really stuck for a dead squirrel, hair from a willing Persian cat, but only as a last resort as squirrel hair is apparently THE BEST. This brush is finer and stronger than any brush I have ever bought from an art shop in the UK. As I sit in total awe of my first homemade kalam, Heraa tells me with glee that it will last at least a year and will only get better as the tip becomes finer and more honed to my practice
Who Guards Her © Charlie Calder Potts
most resounding of which being the impact of colour when applied patiently, thoughtfully and most importantly, subtly. With my kalam I learned how to layer colour so delicate it appeared, at the first instance, to be only clear water with no pigment at all Traditional miniature painting teaches that you must not mix directly onto the palette, but instead, onto the back of your hand in order for your skin to absorb any excess paint. What you are left with is an amount of pigment that is almost invisible to the naked eye. The important thing is that however seemingly non existent this colour appears to be, it isn’t As Heraa said, it is in these essential subtleties that the story comes alive; real life is reflected through these edges and layers.
Til Time Grows Old © Charlie Calder Potts
www.charlie calderpotts.com @charliecalderpotts
In Afghanistan I learnt the gravity of bearing witness first hand: in Iraq the importance of human connection and a direct dialogue; in Iran the unparalleled gift of true storytelling and what it can communicate; in Syria how much and how quickly history and people, along with their stories, can be lost It goes without saying that these experiences have hugely impacted my craft and the way I work today. The same can be said for my time in Pakistan with Heraa Khan I learnt skills I have wondered for years how to achieve: a flatness of colour; the finest of lines; and how to make my own materials and tools directly from nature. During those first few days in the studio, Heraa impressed upon me not only the importance of materials but also the respect they demand She taught me a new reverence for the process of making itself, and I hope this most
essential lesson will be forever reflected in my practice
My solo exhibition, The World was all Before Them, will show my first completed series of work since Pakistan. The characters depicted are real; faces from the here and now photographed by me all over the world; from the streets of London and Lahore to the souks of Samarkand and Damascus The pieces are in a sense an immediate form of reportage; people captured going about their everyday; the routine of life Yet it is in their everyday that we find the timeless; echoes of stories from long ago, forever repeated and adapted, a reflection of humanity itself.
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