We’re proud to show various artworks of the following artists in this exhibition: Fotografiepolak, Belgium Real heroes never sleep!!! During the COVID-19 period, Fotografiepolak had the chance to capture moments in the
We’re proud to show various artworks of the following artists in this exhibition:
Real heroes never sleep!!!
During the COVID-19 period, Fotografiepolak had the chance to capture moments in the Antwerp University Hospital. These times at the frontline were hard to witness but very important to capture. “Real heroes never sleep… Yet, trust them, because they save lives! So much respect for all the working heroes in the hospital!” Fotografiepolak
Fotografiepolak’s style of photography is rooted in photojournalism. They have traveled a lot around the world in order to capture “real life moments”, however, the artist specializes in wedding photography. Fotografiepolak’s creativity is noticeable by the way they play with light, moments, and locations. Fotografiepolak is working very hard, however, has a lot of fun creating beautiful images. They are trying to grow every day, which is why they still follow a lot of workshops from top photographers. During these times and because of the lockdown, they have returned to their first profession as ER nurse. The University Hospital of Antwerp asked Fotografiepolak to capture moments during this extraordinary situation in everyone’s life. “Belgium is fighting very hard against COVID-19 and for moments like these, I am proud to be a nurse and a photographer. I can be meaningful during these bizarre times in my two professions… I love my job!” Fotografiepolak
Gloria Oyarzabal, Spain
Woman Go No’Gree
Empires, by nature, embody and institutionalize differences, both between metropolis/ colony and colonial subjects. Imperial imaginary floods popular culture. Gender categories were a kind of bio-logic “new tradition” that colonialism institutionalized in Yoruba, Igbo, and many African cultures. The infantilization of women as part of the Western patriarchal system was also exported with the colonization of the mind, configuring a state of vulnerability, facilitating dependency. In 1987, more than a decade before queer theory, Nigerian writer Ifi Amadiume wrote Male Daughters, Female Husbands, freeing the subject position of “husband” from its affiliation with men, dislocating sex, gender, and sexual orientation. Can a daughter be considered a son? Can a woman take another as a wife, openly complying with the requirements marriage tradition imposes on the groom?
At a time when gender and queer theory are partially stuck in an identity-politics rut, these theories warn against the danger of projecting a very specific, Western notion of difference onto other cultures and questions the concept of gender itself. Oyèrónkẹ Oyěwùmí, another Nigerian feminist writer (The Invention of Women: Making an African Sense of Western Gender Discourses) attributes the biologizing of difference to the primacy of vision in European intellectuality, basing its hierarchies on binary distinctions: Male/ female, white/ black, homosexual/ heterosexual. Stereotypes are anti-truth. Beauty norms are often measured with Eurocentric values, white beauty narratives, and ideals of beauty (thinness, youth) that are strongly racialized. Whiteness is reinforced as the norm, “otherness” becomes something fetish and “exotic”. Erotic, sisterhood, motherhood, marriage, tradition, domestication… all these aspects, with their own lights and shades in each society, should come out on the same level in order to compare. Can we assume social relations in all societies are organized around biological sexual differences? Beauty canon, modernity, stereotypes… and can we decolonize feminism questioning the Eurocentric gender categories in a universalistic and trustable manner?
Gloria Oyarzabal is a Spanish artist-photographer with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from UCM (1998), who diversifies her professional activity between photography, cinema, and teaching. She is co-founder and programmer of the Independent Cinema La Enana Marrón (The Brown Dwarf) in Madrid (1999-2009), which was dedicated to the diffusion of author, experimental and alternative cinema. Oyarzabal graduated in Conservation and Restoration of Art in 1993. She lived in Bamako, Mali for three years, developing her interest in the construction of the Idea of Africa, History of colonization-decolonization, new tactics of colonialism and African feminisms (2009-2012). After her Master’s degree in Creation & Development of Photographic Projects at Blankpaper School of Photography (2014-15) her work has been shown at Organ Vida (Zagreb, HR ), Format (Derby, UK), Fotofestiwal (Lodz, PL), Athens Photo (GR), Lagos Photo (NG), PHE PhotoEspaña (ES), Thessaloniki Photo Museum (GR), Bitume Festival Lecce (IT), Encontros da Imagem Braga (PT), Odessa Foto (UA), Kaunas Foto (LT), among many others. In 2017 Oyarzabal was selected for the artistic residency Ranchito Matadero Nigeria-South Africa, where she developed her latest project about African feminisms in Madrid and Lagos (NG). That same year she won the Landskrona Dummy Award, which allowed her to publish her first photobook, Picnos Tshombé. In 2018 she was the winner of the Encontros da Imagem Discovery Award, the Community of Madrid Grant and got a PHmuseum 2nd Honorable Mention. In 2019 she won the Images Vevey Dummy Award, the PHOTO IS:RAEL (IL) Meitar Award for Excellence in Photography, the PHOTOMED PRIZE and the FOTOFESTIWAL GRAND PRIX (Lodz, PL).
Huang Qingjun, China
Following his belief that everybody has their own captivating story to tell, the photographer Huang Quingjun decided to photograph a group of interestingly looking people in 2019. This particular project was a sub-branch of Huang Qingjun’s main project Family Stuff for which the artist spent 16 years photographing a total of 102 families.
In his Family Stuff project, Huang Qingjun asked families to gather all their earthly possessions and display them on their yards in front of their homes. Once all of their belongings were neatly laid down on the grass, the artist began to photograph the family members in the midst of all their family stuff. These people show Huang a great amount of trust by displaying their family’s belongings in front of his camera. Huang’s approach was to capture a natural smile and expression on people’s faces. The result was a series of portraits displaying his hosts surrounded by their family belongings in which the artists intended to not only express their emotions but at the same time to depict their living status.
“I believe every personal belonging must have a special connection to the owner”, Huang noted. According to the artist, the family stuff that is clearly documented in his images is penetrating the viewers’ gaze. He believes that without it, the audience would have completely ignored some of the material content displayed in his pictures or think very little about it. His aim was to use these photographic images to interfere with our consciousness. Every part of the project is a testament to the faith and condition of life, evidence of those that have either adapted or remained unchanged during the modernization process. Family Stuff finds the logic of our existence through visual enlightenment, confirming the particular presence of China under the grand global change.
Huang Qingjun (b. 1971) is a professional photographer and contemporary artist from China who has been creating photographic art for 26 years. In 1998 December, the artist joined the China Photographers Association and currently lives and works in Beijing. Huang Qingjun’s most known projects are Steam Locomotive (1992 to 2002) and Family Stuff (2003-to present). Online Shopping Family Stuff and Homeless People’s Family Stuff are two special series of works that originated from the project Family Stuff. Huang’s works have won awards such as the 2015 China International Press Photo Contest, 2015 London International Creation Competition, 2016 MIFA Moscow International Foto Awards, and many more. Various international media, such as the New York Times, Bloomberg, and Wired, have also covered these works. BBC interviewed Huang and his works three times. His works have also appeared in magazines and albums such as Architecture Boston, Business Insider, GEO, Chinese National Geography, Discovery Cultural Geographic Monthly, Guardian Weekend, China Daily, Chinese Photography Magazine, Grazia France, Dutch Weekly Magazine, Vrij Nederland, Dutch Financial Daily, Family Photography, etc. Some of his selected works appeared in textbooks published by Oxford University Press and National Geographic Learning, a division of an educational company called Cengage Learning.
Sasha Maslov, Ukraine
Ukrainian Railroad Ladies
Ukrainian Railroad Ladies is a series of portraits of women who work as traffic controllers and safety officers at railroad crossings in Ukraine. These women spend the majority of their long shifts enclosed in the little railway houses built along the tracks specifically for them. The series studies Ukrainian rural and suburban landscapes where the exteriors of these railroad houses play a prominent role. The project depicts the intimate details of interiors of these houses and invites the viewer to meet the Railroad Ladies themselves. Ukrainian Railroad Ladies is also an exploration of Ukrainian mentality, trust and challenge to the existing system, and why this profession still exists in the 21st century, given the almost full automatization of railroad crossings in Ukraine and around the world. It is a study of the anthropological and social aspects of this particular profession and the role and importance of the railroad in Ukraine in general. The country has been consumed by political turmoil: A war in the East and loss of its territory to an aggressive neighbor, never mind the endless corruption and permanently troubled economy. In Ukraine, people pay little attention to the women they see from a train window, standing and most often holding a folded yellow flag (a sign to the train engineer that all is well on the tracks ahead). The yellow flag is a symbolic sign of assurance and trust. Although the country and the world are consumed with much larger issues, the people with folded yellow flags play a big, yet silent role in Ukrainian everyday life. In the storm, it’s often hard to see the lighthouse. Ukrainian Railroad Ladies are that lighthouse. They are a symbol of certain things in this country that don’t change, standing firm in the present as a defiant nod to the past. Unfazed by the passing of trains and time, they are here to stay.
Sasha Maslov was born in Ukraine in 1984. Inspired and taught by his father, Guennadi Maslov, and later his teacher and mentor, Oleg Shishkov, he became an aspiring young photographer who now resides in New York City. Sasha works in editorial photography and is best known for his social documentary projects based around Eastern Europe and especially in his native country.
Chimera Singer, United States
Tourists and Landmarks
The urge to document experience is shared across the globe. Tourist attractions are landmarks that are defined and created by the repetition of movement, poses, and of photographs. When looking at images of tourist spaces in friends’ selfies or on billboards, we employ an inherent learned lack of trust in images. Most of us assume a healthy perspective of optimistic skepticism. Unlike early ideas of photography as reality, today we do not consciously see images as the reality of visual experience. Because we all take photos every day, we actively employ methods to “better” our images. We recognize that images of expanse and beauty, like those of Icelandic waterfalls and beaches, are often, though an authentic depiction, created through intentional exclusion. In these two sets of images, Chimera Singer focuses her camera on the subjects most often excluded in these photographs: The other tourists and practical man made objects. The first set of photos were taken during multiple trips to Iceland. In these photographs, Singer documents the tourists, but removes their cameras in order to prompt the questions: How does the act of photographing shape the tourist experience? What do tourists omit in framing their photos? What do these various inclusions/exclusions reflect about humanity and how we document the tourist experience?
In the second set of images, Singer photographed scenes at landmarks on US Interstate 40. Rather than focusing her camera towards the tourists themselves, Singer is drawn to the objects that tourists exclude from their images. She too admits to omitting them. The excluded objects become landmarks in their own right as they become symbols of how we adorn marked “scenic points” as well as how we curate depictions of these scenes through exclusion. With these images, Singer points to our learned distrust in photographs, by creating awareness of the subjects neglected in tourist images.
Chimera Singer is a nomadic photographer who currently resides in Los Angeles, California. She graduated from the University of WA in 2014 with a BA in Interdisciplinary Arts, in which she studied Photomedia and Post-Humanist studies. She works primarily as a commercial photographer; her work can be seen in Elle UK, Warner Records Press Kits, and LA Downtowner. In her personal work, she explores the dynamics of visual portrayal and prompts viewers individually and collectively in order to engage critically in how they interpret and interact with imagery, challenging assumptions, and norms of photographic portrayal.
Kamil Matziol, Poland
The project Hidden Subject is a series of photographs depicting Kamil’s self-portraits. In each photograph, the only evidence of the artist’s presence is a red pneumatic air release with which Kamil connects to his camera by releasing the shutter. It is also a tip for the viewer where to find the subject of photography/self portrait. With this kind of action, the artist attempts to draw the viewer into his game, based on one basic principle. The viewer must believe that he really is there. For as long as people trust him to be the author, Kamil’s intentions are fulfilled.
“Trust is knowledge and faith in action. It is the fulfillment of our expectations towards the object, the subject. The medium of photography has a special ability to distort the truth. Photography owes the power to visually fabricate and re-narrate its subject matter into a seemingly truthful story even though the reality is often contradictory. People strive for trust, people need hope. Meanwhile, they are being continuously cheated.” Matziol
Kamil Matziol’s statement photographs serve as a testimony for the existence of a point in space that is constantly changing. They enable observation of something invisible and ephemeral. By taking photographs he equally enables himself to depict a sense of reality that has already passed. In his personal opinion, people themselves form an image that somehow reflects on an interpretation of reality. Kamil is fascinated by the fact that viewers tend to trust what they see. They often identify their own experiences with the stories they observe in images which ultimately affects and redirects their thoughts in a certain direction. The artist attempts to create photographs that reflect that sum of feelings. His projects consist of a series of images in which the main subject matter are human beings and their existence. He chooses to create those situations that are not always comfortable or functional. Kamil is also interested in the consumption nature of existence and its production effects as well as the change in the proportion between objects and people. In his work, the photographer seeks the answer to the following questions: How did humans find themselves in the environment in which they create, and what gives meaning to such principles. In order to answer these queries, Kamil has adopted an artistic method that requires him to continuously recollect and reproduce situations based on conceptual elements.
Arnold Grojean, Belgium
KOUNGO FITINI (Minor Issues)
This project focuses on the lives of Bamako’s street children, a growing phenomenon in West Africa, and has been realized through three journeys to the capital of Mali. Trust has become a notion extremely delicate in the street environment. Indeed, the survival state predominates and it can be very dangerous to trust anyone. These outcasts of society have also lost trust in society itself as well as for most of them, in their own mother. Paradoxically, this work would not have been possible without the trust that the children put in the photographer. The community of street children is an unapproachable world, an entering of which requires the permission of the chief and is only possible after a long and immersive presence in the area. This trust has grown throughout the first stage of the project, during which Grojean spent 6 months organizing workshops, in which he taught the children to use some analog cameras and encouraged them to express themselves and their reality through the photographic and oral medium.
The second stage emerged two years later when Grojean decided to also take pictures of the street children in their living spaces at night. This part of the project has only been possible thanks to the whole process of trust established between the children and the photographer. The result of this work, created throughout several years in close interaction with the children, takes form in ten different booklets: One booklet containing the pictures Grojean took of the children, eight booklets made of pictures and texts created by the children themselves, and a lexicon of contextual details about Malian culture and definitions of the words used in the children’s comments.
Arnold Grojean (b. 1988) is a Belgian artist who studied photography at Le Septantecinq, a college of visual art in Brussels. He currently works between Belgium and Mali. Arnold discovered West Africa for the first time in 2007 and realized most of his artistic work in Mali. KOUNGO FITINI (Minor Issues), his main artistic project, was realized together with the street children of Bamako and received several prizes such as the Roger De Conynck prize in 2015, the Mediatine prize in 2017, and the Contretype prize in 2018. It was voted a favorite by professionals at Visa pour l’ANI in 2017 and has been exhibited in numerous galleries and art institutes, including the Parisian gallery Fait & Causes.
Elena Kollatou and Leonidas Toumpanos, Greece
Where we do not belong
The Nord Stream 2 pipeline has triggered geopolitical disarray in the Baltic Sea and has created Allies and rivalries among the bordering countries. Nord Stream 2 is a project that results in geopolitical disarray, since the business between Germany and Russia has the potential to profoundly impact the Central European geopolitical scene, challenging the security of many European countries and deepening economic inequality among them. Eastern European, Nordic and Baltic countries consider that the pipeline will make the EU reliant on Russian gas and thus giving away too much control to Russia while destabilizing Ukraine by depriving the country of gas transit fees; at the same time, Northern Europe and Germany believe that the economic benefits outweigh this issue. With this controversial project as a motive, Elena and Leonidas departed on a journey along the Baltic coastline in order to reveal the secrets, trace the bonds and track down the conflicting matters that this Sea holds. The findings were simultaneously concrete and vague; non-descriptive situations represent the quotidian space of the people that inhabit these countries and who act as political mediators between East and West. Layering different realities in a single image imparts this ambiguity since the individual depictions only fragmentary succeed in representing the real. Ripped images are constructing a visual tale and inviting the viewers to draw their own conclusions.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY Elena Kollatou and Leonidas Toumpanos are a photographic duo working collaboratively on long-term projects. Together, they participate in group exhibitions and publish their work in international magazines and websites. Elena holds a BA(HONS) Degree in Photography and Film from Edinburgh Napier University and Leonidas a Masters in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography from the University of Arts in London. Their practice focuses on investigating energy and society related topics, researching a project in depth before proceeding to make pictures. Together they explore the possibilities of representation and our relationship to reality, approaching subjects with a fluid documentary style, following varied ways of production and process-based interventions with the aim to raise questions to the viewers. They are also organizers of Athens Photo Scratch, an event that showcases photography projects in progress.
Tom Atwood, United States
Kings & Queens in Their Castles
Kings & Queens in Their Castles has been called one of the most ambitious photo series ever conducted of the LGBTQ experience in the USA. Over 15 years, Atwood photographed more than 350 subjects nationwide, including nearly 100 celebrities. With individuals from 30 states, Atwood offers a window into the lives and homes of some of America’s most intriguing and eccentric personalities, by photographing them at home in their trusted private spaces. Modern-day tableaux vivants, the images portray whimsical, intimate moments of daily life that shift between the pictorial and the theatrical. Alongside creatives such as artists, fashion designers, writers, actors, directors, music makers, and dancers, the series features business leaders, politicians, journalists, activists, and religious leaders. It includes those who keep civilization running, such as farmers, beekeepers, doctors, chefs, bartenders, and innkeepers. Some miscellaneous athletes, students, professors, drag queens, and socialites. As well as a cartoonist, barista, poet, comedian, navy technician, paleontologist and transgender cop. Also showcased are urban bohemians, beatniks, mavericks, and iconoclasts, many of whom blossomed in the 1960s and 1970s but seem to be slowly disappearing.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY Tom Atwood’s recent work has focused on portraits of people at home. He has shot over 100 luminaries including Hilary Swank, Julie Newmar, Buzz Aldrin, Mark Wahlberg (Marky Mark), John Waters, Don Lemon, Tommy Tune, Meredith Baxter, Greg Louganis, Barney Frank, George Takei, Todd Oldham, Edward Albee, Ross Bleckner and Leslie Jordan. His second book, Kings & Queens in Their Castles, was recently published by Damiani. The book won multiple awards including First Place in the International Photography Awards (book category) as well as a Lucie Award (book-other category). Atwood won Photographer of the Year from London’s Worldwide Photography Gala Awards, as well as first place in Portraiture. He won first place in Portraiture in the Prix de la Photographie Paris. And he was included in the National Portrait Gallery’s Outwin Boochever Triennial (Smithsonian Museum). Atwood’s work has exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery, George Eastman Museum, Annenberg Space for Photography, Griffin Museum of Photography, Center for Fine Art Photography and Museum of Photographic Arts, as well as at galleries nationwide, most recently ClampArt in NY, Steven Kasher Gallery in NY, Louis Stern Fine Arts in LA and Farmani Gallery in LA. Atwood has a Bachelors from Harvard University and a Masters from Cambridge University (England).
Cop Shiva, India
Street as Studio
A migrant’s relationship with the city is a fragmented one. The harsh metropolis of Bangalore can be a difficult landscape; one that offers no easy solution to the primal need to belong and one that accuses immigrants as non-trustable. Portraits constitute an intimate genre within photography. There is the sitter who is besieged by his own cultural context. Props and postures serve as aids in the business of posing and presenting a persona to the camera lens. Studio photography allows for a fusion between the persona and a given landscape, often a painted and representational backdrop that permits wish fulfillment. The photographer composes the frame; eliminates the extraneous, while retaining the essential. The portrait is captured as evidence to an ephemeral truth. The afterlife of the mise-en-scene is etched onto film, its only other trace remains as a memory. Cop Shiva seeks intimacy through the lens of his camera, which becomes a receptacle and records the everyday lives of the city’s resident migrants, who come here in search of a livelihood. Shiva has engaged with them over months, and only after gaining their trust, he invites them to pose for him.
The aim of Street as Studio project is to increase their sense of belonging to the city and the community that he and his camera represent. He further aims to emphasize their position in the whole scheme of the things a metropolis represents. The backdrops, referencing the studio tradition, are outdoors, specifically, the murals commissioned by the city’s municipality to “beautify” the streets: Garish paintings of heritage monuments, exotic animals, gods and goddesses, and spectacular landscapes – all of which stand in striking contrast to their lived reality as a secular and cosmopolitan working citizenry, struggling for recognition and in search of intimacy. Shiva asked these real-life vernacular characters to pose against these murals in order to create intimate portraits.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY As an artist, policeman, and migrant, Cop Shiva seeks intimacy through the lens of his camera, which becomes a receptacle and records the lives of the people at the fringes of society. Reaching this point is an ongoing process and his experiences as a farmer, police officer, art coordinator and artist have helped him build the right mindset and focus on his practice. Negotiating all these different aspects of Shiva’s life has allowed him to construct a personal narrative that is shown throughout his work. In 2001 he migrated from his village to join the India Police Department. Moving to Bangalore was challenging but also gave Shiva the opportunity to pursue his artistic career. In 2007 he joined the art collective 1Shanthiroad, one of the leading Indian contemporary art institutions, as artists’ coordinator, which gave him the opportunity to work with more than 100 established and emerging Indian and international artists.
Shiva’s practice documents the complexity of rural and urban India, focusing on people and portraiture as a genre, and is fascinated by the idea of masquerade and the roles people play in public and private. His portfolio includes portraits of urban migrants, people of alternative sexuality, street performers and others living in the hinterland of urban and rural conflict. Cop Shiva is represented by Gallery Sumukha and Art Heritage Gallery in India. He has been awarded grants by Prohelvetia-Switzerland and the Swedish Art Council, and was a finalist for the 2016 Robert Gardner Fellowship in Photography at Peabody Museum of Harvard University.
Anton Ivanov, Russia
Trust in Peace
The project Trust in Peace depicts the people of Syria, the country that has been torn apart by destructive and violent conflict since 2011, and how they all do their best to come back to a peaceful life. Photographer Anton Ivanov had numerous conversations with local citizens; both those whose fates were disfigured by a lasting military conflict and those who were lucky enough to escape, but still had to face destructive ramifications of war. However, the photographer saw something more than just tragedy in Syrian people, whether it was a disabled sapper from Scalbia or a girl named Sidra from Aleppo, who has to walk on prosthetics. This terrible disaster is hard to ignore or hide. It may seem surprising what photographers see in these people and, what is more, they fix on the film the very powerful feeling of hope for their possible return to a peaceful life. During his visit to Syria in September 2019, Ivan visited places that were just recently the centre of military conflict as well as areas that, fortunately, have not been touched by the war. He made a number of black and white analog film shots with a Hasselblad camera in Scalbia, Hama, Aleppo, Homs, Sednayah, Maaloula, fully destroyed during the war city of Kornaz and in Damascus, its suburbs as well as other parts of Syria. The name for the project Trust in Peace was not created from the very beginning, but only after the first shots were printed and first impressions from the visit settled. The title was influenced by fragmented impressions from numerous meetings and conversations with simple Syrians, the majority of whom were not broken and have not yet lost their faith in humanity. These people have not given up their own destiny and look into the future with hope. This project will not only preserve the unbelievable fragility of the surrounding order of things, that can be destroyed in one minute, but will also represent those people that have faced such disasters and, despite all misfortunes and miseries, still keep a positive perspective for a peaceful life.
Anton Ivanov has been producing black and white film photography for more than 15 years. He has participated in a number of exhibitions displaying analogue photography in Russia, Germany, France, Japan, USA and Italy. The artist is one of the founders of the Art of Foto project and runs an art gallery in St. Petersburg that carries the same name. Previously, the photographer participated in workshops on manual printing and toning with companies Heiland Electronic and Moersch Photochemie in Germany and in the master’s class Black and White Fine Art Printing by John Sexton in the USA.
After developing his films, Anton manually prints black and white photographs on silver-gelatin baryta paper in the darkroom. In his opinion, this is the best way to convey the artistic value of his work, so that the viewer fully understands the feelings and ideas that were with him at the time of the shooting. Anton’s photo expeditions include Journey to Russia in 2013 and Disappearing Tribes in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea in 2017. The artist climbed the Elbrus mount with the flag of the Art of Foto gallery and a large format film camera (13×18 cm) already twice in his lifetime. The result of these photo expeditions was a personal exhibition Elbrus, Two Peaks curated in 2019.
Yolanda del Amo, Spain
The project Refuge explores the refugee crisis through a sociological prism by focusing on the integration of migrants in Germany after the massive influx in 2015. To confront the images widely seen in the media portraying mostly only masses of migrants or refugees in camps devoid of individuality, Yolanda turns her camera to what happens behind closed doors. The artist chooses to photograph those Germans and refugees who live together under one roof; for example, families who have taken in a minor, couples who have formed romantic relationships, or flats shared by several roommates. The foundation for these new domestic constellations is a sense of trust between Germans and migrants. In its core lies not only the openness to negotiating differences in people’s day-to-day routines but also the acceptance of unfamiliar foods, cultures, and religions. The discourse about immigration often characterizes refugees such as invaders, victims, or heroes.
In Yolanda’s photographs, she breaks away from these archetypes and portrays migrants as regular individuals who perform domestic activities with their German roommates. Rather than looking at otherness, Refuge focuses on the togetherness of those individuals who build trust among each other and learn from one another at eye-level. This photo project focuses as much on the German hosts as it does on the refugees. The artist focuses on Germany because of the extraordinary role the country has played in the refugee crisis by accepting astonishing numbers of migrants, more so taking into consideration its history. Refuge offers an optimistic and hopeful perspective on the phenomenon of migration that has previously polarized German and many other societies. Stylistically, Yolanda chose to create staged photographs in order to raise questions about the social constructs of identity, family, home, and gender. Furthermore, trust is an essential part of her own creative process too. The artist works with a large-format camera and her images are a result of a real collaboration between herself and the participants who generously share their stories with her, trusting that she will protect their identity and use their images respectfully.
Yolanda del Amo is a Spanish-born, New York-based photographer. Trained as a mathematician in Germany, she left behind a career in the corporate world to pursue one in the arts. At the core of her practice is a focus on individuals through a sociological and psychological prism. She explores how people across generations, genders and countries are connected and uses photographic composition to illuminate the influences that shape us as individuals and as social beings. Her solo exhibitions have been held at Centro Pablo de la Torriente Brau in Havana, Hudson Franklin Gallery in New York City, and Light Work in Syracuse, New York, among others. Her work has been included in over 50 group exhibitions at venues such as the Addison Gallery of American Art in Andover and the National Portrait Gallery in London. Yolanda’s work has received multiple awards, such as a commendation at the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition 2009 organized by the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC and the second prize at the Salón Nacional de Artes Visuales 2005 in Buenos Aires. Institutions that have supported her work through grants include the Fundación Arte y Derecho in Spain, the Jerome Foundation and the Spanish Ministry of Culture. She has been a resident artist at the Terra Foundation for American Art in Giverny, France, the Spanish Academy in Rome and the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris. Yolanda del Amo works as an Associate Professor of Photography at Ramapo College of New Jersey.
Maria Lax, Finland
Some Kind of Heavenly Fire
Maria Lax comes from a small town in Northern Finland, surrounded by a vast, sparsely populated wilderness. Most pass-through this town on their way to someplace else, without ever knowing that it used to be a hotspot for UFO sightings in the 1960s. Unaware of this history herself, it wasn’t until she read a book by her grandfather that she learned of the incredible stories about supernatural events, bravery, and the struggle against hardship in what is largely barren land. Already suffering from dementia, Lax’s grandfather was unable to answer any of her questions, so she went looking for answers elsewhere. Lax turned to the people who had seen the mysterious lights and went through newspaper archives and her family’s photo albums from that era. The UFO sightings coincided with a time of great struggle in Northern Finland. In search of jobs, people flooded from the countryside to the cities, leaving abandoned houses scattered across this harsh, yet beautiful landscape. It is no wonder that the UFO sightings embodied fear of the future, with the unknown and the inexorable shifts in lifestyles and livelihoods going on in society. Some reacted with fear to the mysterious lights, others took them as a sign that they were not alone.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY Maria Lax is a London based photographer, originally from a small town in Northern Finland. She is known for her use of color and for seamlessly blending reality and fantasy in her work. Lax’s background in cinematography shines through in her strong use of lighting and experimental camera techniques. Her work has been exhibited worldwide and published in The Guardian, British Journal of Photography, WIRED, American Suburb X, and Financial Times among others. She was one of the winners of the British Journal of Photography’s Female in Focus award in 2019 and her project Some Kind of Heavenly Fire was shortlisted for the PHmuseum Photography Grant 2020.
Reiko Ishida, Japan/Norway
In the Isolation series, Reiko Ishida used photography to investigate their own thoughts connected to isolation. Ishida tries to describe their fear for the unknown, but also their hopes and dreams for the future. For many years they had trusted someone. This mistake has caused them to live in isolation. This series represents the backside of trust.
Reiko Ishida was born in Tokyo in 1987, moved to Norway in 1988. She is a classically trained pianist and a self-taught photographer.
Dorota Stolarska, Poland
It’s Always Summer There and Nothing Changes
As far as Dorota can remember, her grandparents lived in the same flat and for all those years, nothing changed there. Even many years after they both passed away, the flat remained the same. The same furniture, curtains, and souvenirs. Although the artist has never lived there herself, the flat became for her a symbol of her inviolable and strong relationship with her family, part of her identity. In 2019, the flat was renovated and put up for sale, and for Dorota it felt like she was losing part of herself. After the renovation nothing looked the same, it was just an empty space with white walls and no history in it. In this empty flat with only a few pieces of furniture left, Dorota decided to train her memory by recalling her childhood plays. Starting with hide-and-seek, through recreating the artist’s fascination with chair and armchair constructions, she ended up changing into her grandma’s clothes. Dorota devoted a lot of attention to all personal properties that belonged to her grandparents, trying to place them in their original positions. While browsing through their souvenirs (souvenirs brought from exotic countries, such as letters sent from the furthest corners of the world, modern furniture) the artist realized that she had never asked about her grandparents’ background. Also, she has never wondered why the flat is situated downtown among the embassy and government departments. As a child, Dorota was unaware that this was not very typical for Polish houses but as she grew older, she learned that it was due to her grandfather‘s involvement with the communist party. It was not a secret but nobody, even her grandmother, knew what was his part in it. The artist soon realized that the history of her family was built on secrets. Among these white walls, she felt uncertainty and lost trust in her memory. She couldn’t recreate the past from the pieces in the same way they were before. That is why the photographer decided to utilize all of her grandparents’ belongings and created something new, surreal sculptures and situations.
The photographer Dorota Stolarska (b. 1986) was born in Warsaw, Poland. She holds a graduate degree in Cultural Studies from the University of Warsaw and Photography from the University of Arts in Poznań. She also holds a Ph.D. (cand.) in Fine Arts from the Academy of Fine Arts in Łódź. She is a graduate of the seventh edition of the Migawki project (2015) organized by the Association of Creative Initiatives “ę”. Dorota draws her artistic inspiration predominantly from versatile sights of her homeland, Poland and the country’s vastly changing landscapes juxtaposed with its harsh history. In her works, she uses various media. Her photography works and photobooks have been shown at exhibitions in Poland and abroad.