As mentioned in our previous blog post, Christina Stohn was a speaker at the Bank Street Arts symposium, New Pastoral Paradigms: Explorations in Landscape and the Self, on the 23rd July. We caught up with Christina to find out more about her involvement in the symposium, what she discussed during her talk, and any advice she could give to other photographers participating in a similar event. See below to find out more.
How did you get involved in the symposium?
Jesse Alexander, photographer, writer and lecturer, apparently came across my work by “happy accident”, as he calls it. In May he approached me to see if I would be interested in participating in the symposium Pastoral Paradigms: Explorations in Landscape and the Self that he was organising as part of his artist residency at Bank Street Arts in Sheffield. The central question for the symposium was, how can photography be used to articulate the complex relationship between place and individual and collective identities.
Sum up your talk – what were the themes you discussed?
First I discussed how my career in photography has evolved. Then I talked about four bodies of work that I have been engaged in: Sehnsucht (Yearning), Entwurzelt (Uprooted), Paradise Lost and The rumours are true. The first three series, which are about the countryside, are autobiographical and metaphorical. The latest project, The rumours are true, is an excursion into the city of Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. In this case the landscape is a record of place, seen from a documentary gaze. However, it still deals with issues of displacement.
Could you tell us some key quotes from your talk?
Sehnsucht (Yearning): “This body of work stems from feeling homesick and is an exploration of space; where one landscape seems to end and another one begins.”
Entwurzelt (Uprooted): “This refers to the loss of a sense of belonging but also the possibilities for renewal and change.”
How did you find constructing your talk? Were you given any guidelines to stick to, for example?
As I knew that it would be mainly students from the Open College of the Arts in the audience, I referred to projects that I had produced as part of my BA and MA courses. I put them in chronological order starting from 2012, the second semester at the University of Westminster, up to my latest project this year at the University of the Arts, Bremen.
Initially Jesse and I had a conversation via Skype. The presentations were intended to consider how contemporary landscape practice has shifted from its pastoral and pictorial traditions and embraced more nuanced and personal approaches and narrative strategies. He encouraged me to talk about whatever I wanted to – from either a theoretical or practical orientation. Although the symposium was about landscape photography, he suggested I incorporate topographic images with individual portraits to have a broader narrative of the place, as the place involves people.
Did you stay to watch the other speakers? If so, who was your favourite and why?
I absolutely enjoyed spending the day with all the other speakers and the audience.
I suppose all of us are drawing on memories in the representation of place with personal and historical narratives. Even though we had the common theme of examining space, after all each of our practice is very different: varying from a conceptual approach to snapshot aesthetic. I can honestly say that all the works fascinate me.
You should check out the other speakers’ websites:
Hanna-Katrina Jędrosza - hannakatrina.co.uk
Jesse A. P. Alexander - jessealexanderonphotography.com
John Umney - johnumney.co.uk
Michal Iwanowski - michaliwanowski.com
Any advice for photographers hosting their own talk?
Structure your presentation in advance, taking account of time. Check how your images fit in with your talk.
Anything else you’d like to include.
Firstly, I would like to thank Jesse Alexander for the invitation. Andrew Conroy at Bank Street Gallery was a wonderful host – providing the space as well as treating us with a delicious lunch buffet. And last but not least, Gareth Dent, principal at Open College of the Arts, for sponsoring the event.
We are currently thinking of putting an exhibition together.