5 young european photographers to follow
From the refugee crisis to the suburbs to women's rugby: we celebrate the commitment of the young guard with the European photographic festival Circulation(s).
Laurent Kronental, Souvenir d'un Futur
Why did you choose to focus on Parisian housing estates?
First I wanted to document the people who live there, but when I began to photograph their daily lives I started to focus more and more on the buildings. The idea was to explore the past of the place, its future and present. I wanted to highlight the generation of elderly people who started living in those buildings when they were made and to draw a parallel between the aging of architecture and that of the human beings housed within. These neighbourhoods are often marginalised, their inhabitants side-lined. However, these buildings are more futuristic than ever—more than La Défense, the modern financial district of Paris. You could never say what era these buildings belong to.
Is your creative process political?
People often ask me that question, but I don't feel like answering it, I prefer not to address a topic that I don't control. It is an artistic approach that speaks about elderly people and urbanism, but I never wanted my images to be political. These neighbourhoods are often portrayed through social issues that are real. But I wanted to offer a different way of tackling those places and give another perspective, to challenge the viewer. It's important to keep these neighbourhoods, to renovate them and to rethink them.
What are you working on now?
The series on social estates is still on-going. I've been to many other areas, but the images haven't been published yet—eventually I'll gather them into a single book. Meanwhile, I'm working on a second project focusing on the inside of buildings, which will complete my series. It takes a lot of time because I work with film and I have a 4x5 darkroom where I develop large formats. On the human side, finding seniors willing to pose and engage with me is a long process too.
Stefanie Zofia Schulz, Duldung
Could you explain what ''Duldung'' means?
Duldung is German for "toleration". For this photographic series I regularly visited the inhabitants of Germany's largest housing centre for refugees and asylum-seekers. Most of those I photographed were people with a "tolerated" status. Their residency has to be extended every three months and they could be sent back to their home country at any time. It's the worst status you can get in Germany. The only difference between it and being a 'paperless' person is that you're registered with the government and you get a roof overhead and the most necessary things for daily life.
My focus was on children and teenagers who are growing up there or who were born into this situation. For most of the young people the camp has become their home, they speak German, they go to German schools, but they're not accepted and maybe won't ever have a future in the country where they are growing up. I was searching for strange, almost surreal moments to find an equivalent for this absurd situation and to express unspeakable feelings in my photographs. The reception centre for asylum-seekers is on the edge of the small town Lebach-Jabach in south-western Germany near the French border. Officially, a refugee may stay here for a period of up to one year, until he or she is assigned to another more permanent location. During my time in the "Lager" (as the inhabitants call it) I met people who have been living there for more than 14 years.
How does politics impact your work?
Politics, or rather its impact, is omnipresent in our lives. As a community we fight for it and at the same time we have to watch out for it. My photographic interest starts where the consequences of misguided politics enter our private daily life. When I show the intimate feelings and emotional states of ordinary people it seems at first view private, but on second viewing they are political pictures. My new work deals with mental illness, which seems private. But did you know that single parents in big cities suffer twice as much with depression than those with a partner and intact family background? There's obviously a lack of political action.
Who are the girls in the photo?
Sania is 13 years old, and her sister Tiana is 12. Their family came from Serbia two years ago and applied for asylum. Roma people from Serbia do not have political refugee status, so Germany rejected their request and gave them temporary permission to stay, which has to be extended every few months. Their father got permission to work as a garbage man. He suffers from sleep apnoea, at night he needs a breathing apparatus or he could suffocate. His wife raises the five kids. In Serbia both of them were beaten because they refused to vote for a politician. The father lost an eye. Sania and Tiana are their oldest children and have to help their mother with babysitting and housework. Another reason to keep them home is because men in the camp sexually harass young girls and even boys. Caught between worried parents and traditional values they fight for their freedom, like other girls their age. But instead of going out to a party, it's a big deal just staying outside until 7 pm.
Carlos Alba, The Observation of Trifles
Could you tell us a little bit about your project—where did the idea come from?
It came from a hand-drawn map of the area that my landlady gave me when I first came to London. I decided to use it as a starting point for my personal project. The work is about a foreigner who comes to London and following small signals, meets people and finds his own place in the city. I´m combining objects (signals) with photographs because it draws you into the work in a physical way and adds a sense of intrigue. When I arrived in London I didn't know much about the city. I had never been there, I didn't speak English, but somehow I needed to connect with the city and start a new life. So I decided to go out and take pictures with negative film and a medium format camera. I used to work as an editorial and commercial photographer in Madrid, but I was sick of shooting digital and working to deadlines...so I moved to London to give myself the opportunity to work on my personal photography. Three years later and I'm really happy that I've found the balance between personal work and commissions.
What's the story of the couple in this photograph?
I found the love letter/drawing on the street close to my house. When I arrived home I imagined a story behind it. I couldn't find a name on it but I thought the possible owners were teenager lovers, so I researched secondary schools near the area where I found the paper. I went to the local schools but I didn't find the lovers. One day I was looking for objects and suddenly I saw this couple under a bridge. They were sharing a cigarette and kissing each other and I decided that they must be the lovers I was looking for, so I told them about my project.
Why are found objects important to you and your project?
I found the objects in the area where I live, East London. I've found negative films, ID photographs, notes, drawings, rulers, jewellery, playing cards…they're like small treasures. When I had a good amount of objects I edited them down to the ones I considered most important for some reason or another. Then I did some research about each object and with this information I looked for the connection with local inhabitants. The objects are important because they help me to find people who I want to take pictures of, those who I want to meet.
What do you want people take from your work?
For me this project was like a game, so I want others to play the game too, and enjoy it. I did this project as a therapy because I needed to fall in love with photography again and to be honest with myself.
Alejandra Carles-Tolra, The Bears
When did you start The Bears and why?
I started the series in 2013. After spending a couple of years working on my series Fall In, photographing Reserve Officers' Training Corps cadets in Boston. While working on that project I learned about the experiences of women in a male-dominated fields and became very interested in photographing women in those situations. I had recently moved from Massachusetts to Rhode Island when I found out about Brown University's women's rugby club. I began researching the team, their history, the group identity and the sport. Soon after that I began attending their weekly training sessions and games, photographing the girls regularly. The title of the series refers the university's mascot, as well as the strength of the animal—paying homage to the mental and physical toughness of these women.
Why did you choose to focus on these women in particular?
While being part of an intellectually demanding environment, these students also decided to play a very physically demanding sport. One that introduces them to a community that not only challenges them to push their limits as athletes but strengthens them physically and mentally. I am drawn to portraying these young women who joined the team not only to play the sport, but as a way to be introduced to a community with a strong identity, where they can find an identity of their own.
How is the duality of masculinity and femininity reflected in your work?
Rugby has a complex identity that is often simplified, and hence the identity of those who play it, especially women, is often also simplified. Women playing the sport are commonly given a masculine stereotype. But what does it mean to be a rugby girl? Is there such a thing as a rugby girl? Or are they just girls who play rugby? Through my portraits I aim to bring a broader understanding of their identities, and what it means to be a woman who plays a male-dominated sport. The photographs enhance the dualities that define the sport and the athletes: violence and grace, weakness and strength, masculinity and femininity.
Tell us about the girl in this photo.
The portraits in this series aim to shine light on individual identities. The athletes, such as Joanna in this image, are captured in isolation from the group and invite the viewer to examine them on their own. On the other hand, the close-up photographs of their interaction in the field highlights the performance these individuals partake in as a part of the group. The woman in this photograph is Joanna Chatham, a 21-year-old student studying cognitive science with a focus in computational linguistics, who plays a flanker position in the team. In this photograph she was watching a Brown vs. Dartmouth game.
What message do you want people take from this series?
Through these photographs I aim to bring a broader understanding of female identity. I believe these women play an important role in challenging what it means to be a woman, and specifically what it means to be a female athlete. I hope my photographs challenge preconceived ideas about the construction of female identity, while celebrating the perseverance and strength of these women—which I believe plays an important role in challenging the understanding of so-called masculine sport, and pushing the boundaries of female identity.
What you working on now?
I am currently working on a new series in the UK that focuses on a group of people—mostly women—who have a shared passion for Jane Austen. These "Janeites" have found a community in which they can collectively celebrate the work of the author and her time period, dress up in Regency period clothing and revive Austen's words in the 21st century.
Borja Larrondo and Diego Sanchez, Aquellos Que Esperan
What does Aquellos Que Esperan explore?
It is a long-term project that uses documentary photography for storytelling. It's a multi-format project and a work in progress, documenting daily life in the suburbs of industrial cities with specific characteristics, for example those that were developed in the 50s or 60s and are inhabited by migrant people who first lived in slums.
Why did chose to focus on those sites?
Today these areas lack identity. Having been forgotten by institutions, their future is uncertain. However residents still have a feeling of belonging to these places. We started the project in 2012 in Orcasur, Madrid. We documented this neighbourhood for two years with the support of Fotopres La Caixa. In 2015, supported by Circulation(s) Festival and Centquatre, we went to La Courneuve in France to continue the project, comparing the neighbourhood with Orcasur.
What coming up next for you?
Last year the series was shown in the CaixaForum in Madrid and Barcelona and will be shown this June in Zaragoza, and we are currently working on two publications.