In Conversation: Jerwood/Photoworks Awardees by Asiya Hussain

The gallery was buzzing with excitement on Saturday the 6th February as everyone was waiting eagerly for the arrival of two of the awardees from the Jerwood/Photoworks Awards 2015: Matthew Finn and Tereza Zelenkova as they would be discussing in depth their work with the Director of Photoworks, Celia Davies. Unfortunately, the third awardee Joanna Piotrowska was unable to attend the talk, but I’m sure that viewers were able to look at her work and elaborate on the context of her ‘self-defence forms’. Even before the photographers arrived, people were arriving at the gallery in swarms, eager to grab a good seat for the talk and looking around the gallery with great curiosity, re-capping their minds on the individual photographs. It also seemed like some had already chosen their favourite photographer amongst the three. This was evident when someone came up to me and said, “Well Tereza has my vote.” I suppose Tereza would be over the moon to hear that.

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The exhibition itself consists of three different projects from three different photographers. Even though each photographer is different in their style of photography, it is still amazing to see that all three of the awardees work uses the medium of black and white photography – it almost makes it look like they’re all connected. To make it a bit tricky for the viewers, it feels like the photographers made their projects quite abstract to some extent – not giving us the full answer about what it means or what it’s trying to tell us. I suppose that’s what makes it more interesting, it’s up to the individual viewer to decipher what is happening in each photograph.

Looking back at the Artist Talk of the day, more people were coming in as it was getting closer to two o’clock. Celia Davies lead the discussion between the three of them, asking them questions about their work and how they have come so far. I feel privileged in being able to listen to their discussion about their work as I feel I have a better understanding about their projects and what they represent. Celia began the discussion by explaining how this exhibition possesses a sense of self-consciousness within the different projects and represents a different journey within each piece. What I also found to be really interesting was when both Matthew and Tereza explained how the origins of their work is family orientated: for Matthew it was about the connection with his mother and uncle and with Tereza, it was about the connection with her homeland the Czech Republic and revisiting the natural landscape.

As the talk progressed, I felt that the projects by Tereza and Matthew began to have more clarity as they both explained the different elements within their work. With Tereza’s work, the main theme is the sense of identity throughout the landscape and how the landscape possesses numerous stories that have been passed on from generation to generation. Rather than have an individual story with each photograph, they are all connected in telling the same story.

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Matthew’s work, is centred around his family, this particular project being focused on his mother. His work has already proved to be quite empowering for some as you’re able to see the gradual change in his mother as her dementia becomes more apparent. They both explained how whilst working on their project, there was a great sense of nostalgia as they were revisiting their origins and were delving into elements that were quite personal.

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At the end of the talk, everyone was free to roam around once again and had the chance to talk to the photographers. I definitely feel that by the end of the talk, I had learnt more about the creative process of the projects and how they were able to reach their ultimate outcome.

For more information on the exhibition visit Impressions website here 

You can listen again to the In Conversation here

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