Written by: Jorne Vriens
FOTODOK Take-Off #5 brought together 25 recently graduated photographers from around the world: from Mexico to India, and even a photographer who called in from a van while traveling through Eastern Europe. Thanks to the wonders of videoconferencing, they were all able to converge in the same virtual space. The goal of this gathering was to connect emerging artists with an international group of experts on photography or the workings arts sector.
The procedure was simple: after a brief round of introductions, the one-on-one conversations began. The experts listened and watched as the photographers shared their recent projects. After five minutes of showcasing their portfolio on screen, the conversation with the experts began. Some photographers had prepared specific questions, such as “where can I find funding for a research project?” or inquiries related to presenting their work, such as “how can I make my story even more relatable to a general audience?” Others simply asked for general impressions.
As the participants delved into the portfolios, it was clear that each individual brought a unique perspective and experience to the event. From exploring social issues to visualizing economic processes, the diversity and creativity in their approaches and experiences were on full display. The fact that their experiences differed only added to the richness of the event, highlighting the power of collaboration and connection in the practice of the artist. So, let’s take a closer look at some of the portfolios from this event.
Image: Remco de Vries
Diverse and Impactful Work
Remco de Vries has a no-nonsense approach to photography, capturing containerships on which rows upon rows of containers are stacked high. He meticulously classifies each ship by size, capacity, and emissions. Despite their size De Vries believes that these ships are often overlooked, although they have a great impact on the environment and our daily lives. In fact, he notes that nearly 90% of the objects around us have been shipped by these vessels. In an effort to engage a larger audience with his research into the heavy freight sector, De Vries sought the advice of the experts. His work sheds light on the crucial role that these ships play in our global economy and the urgent need for increased awareness of their environmental impact.
Image: Kush Kukreja
Kush Kukreja, an artist from India, uses a unique method to create abstract images that visually sort and understand the world around us. He drips polluted water from a river onto chemically treated paper, with the type of pollution determining the appearance of the resulting patterns. During a quick chat, Kush explained that he extracts the polluted components from the water sample, including compounds like sulfuric and phosphoric acid, which are harmful. The resulting images are a typology of the pollution in the river, highlighting the urgent need for increased awareness of environmental issues.
Throughout the online event, there were engaging group discussions centered on the life and practice of a photographer. Various topics were explored, with group conversations revolving around specific questions like “How can one maintain energy and excitement?” One participant shared their approach, stating that “keeping people informed about my work and discussing it with them, helps me stay excited.” This sentiment captured the collaborative spirit of the event itself. Other topics that were discussed included technology, education, and the significance of locality in photography.
Image: Olivia Morris Andersén
Olivia Morris Andersén, a Swedish photographer living in Prague’s, has explored local history by sifting through archives of photos that date back to the early 1970s. She combined these photos in an ingenious way, printing them on semi-transparent tracing paper to create a layered effect that captures the multitude of people that have inhabited the area over time. Olivia Morris’s work is a testament to the power of visualizing that which is no longer visible. After she presented her work, Morris asked whether her work needed something extra in order to be presented in a gallery setting. It was clear, however, that the depictions would not benefit from a gilded frame or any other adornment. Instead, the prints should be presented as the neighborhood itself is. Since authorities have neglected and wanted to demolish the buildings, the representation of the area could very well do without any frills. Yet, it remains a vital part of the city’s history. Morris believes that the neighborhood deserves a monument, and her work serves as a reminder of its past. As she puts it, “My work is mainly intended for the people who live in this area, I want to give them a monument’.
Image: Katerina Motylova
Remembering and documenting is an important theme for Katerina Motylova, a Ukrainian photographer and bookmaker. As the war in Ukraine continues, Katerina deals with the trauma and its many manifestations in daily life. When discussing her approach to capturing these histories in her work, Katerina explained that she primarily works with close friends, family members, or acquaintances, allowing her to document trauma in a sensitive way. She acknowledged that sharing these stories publicly is not always easy, but believes that it is important to document them and question the ethics of doing so. During our conversation, Katerina raised questions about the difference between photojournalism and artistic practice. She explained that for her, photojournalism is about delivering fact to the audience, without an opinion attached to it. Katerina’s work shows the discomfort of women, as she calls it. When discussing her approach, Katerina said, “I don’t want to add to the existing images of Ukraine in ruins, that. I’m tired of that type of reporting, especially since the war has been going on for 9 years now, since the invasion of Crimea in 2014.” She continues: “In my work, I aim to make visible the powerful forces that have deeply influenced the people of Ukraine, dating back to the time when they were made to believe in the promise of a Soviet utopia that once promised brotherhood, equality, and friendship. Due to the fear and repressions of the past, my own family’s history has been erased, leaving my parents with a sense of uncertainty about their identity and origins. Through my work, I hope to piece together the fragments of our shattered past, even though I sometimes fear there is little left to salvage.”
Sharing insights intuitively
During the one-on-one conversations many participants noticed a sense of shared vulnerability between the photographer and the listener. It’s not often that we get to see artworks that aren’t finished, so we don’t have a definitive statement to counter them with. Instead, the experts tried to think along with the artists and consider different options. The energy and movement of the artists’ practices were palpable, but the question remained: in which direction were they moving? It was a privilege to weigh and overthink different options, as we rarely have the opportunity to do so when faced with a finished work. In this case, the process was the subject.
The 12 minutes of speed-dating style discussions went by in a flash, but they had one clear advantage: the relative haste made everyone react both spontaneously and intuitively. As the clock ticked down, the pressure mounted to share those last few insights. It was an intense and energizing experience, even after nearly four hours of non-stop discussion.
As Blurring the Lines, founded by Klaus Früchtnis and Steve Bisson, aims to connect emerging artists with experts in the field of photography and the arts sector. This event was a testament to the fruitfulness of collaboration and connection.