A night for new ideas, Photo Scratch is an opportunity for documentary photographers to understand how their work is perceived and gain valuable insight into how to take their work further with the benefit of other people’s outside eye.
Who are you, what's your motto? I am Hanna-Katrina Jedrosz. I’m a documentary photographer and actor based in London. I also founded and run Photo Scratch at Hotel Elephant Gallery, in collaboration with photographer and colleague, Phil Le Gal.
I’ve never considered the idea of a personal motto before, but I remember reading a book as a child about a girl called Grace and her grandma would always tell her “you can do anything you set your mind to.” That has stayed with me.
Have you studied photography? What are your thoughts? In 2013 I finished a two year part-time MA in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at LCC. It was an excellent course with inspiring, knowledgeable tutors and for the most part a really wonderful, open-minded, international peer group. I had not studied photography before and felt out of my depth a lot of the time, but it was a challenging and rewarding process to go through.
A professional qualification, in my opinion, is not essential to being a photographer, or artist of any kind, but it does help. It gives you structure and opportunities that would be difficult to come by otherwise. In documentary photography I feel it is vital to have some kind of ethical compass and university or art school is a framework through which to train your ethical eye, through the conversations and debates you enter into and also through exposing yourself to lots and lots of photographs. In both my drama school training and on the MA course, that wider awareness and sensitivity of different perspectives and life experiences was constantly engaged with. “Why are you making this work and for who?” Also: “Why not, but why?”
What's your favourite style of photography? It was fashion photography that originally inspired me to be interested in taking photographs, but I think that was a purely aesthetic attraction more than anything else. My work is documentary for the most part, and now I look less and less at those idealised presentations of beauty. I’m inspired more by other art forms like music, poetry, paintings, theatre, film and the people I meet and the places I go to. I like to walk and talk and see where it leads. Photography is perhaps the way in which I’m currently engaging with the world, but it’s not the form I fixate on.
I’m keen on pictures where I feel transported to the moment. I also like it when photographs are projected and it feels like you’re walking into another environment. It’s exciting when photography can be used to articulate something which feels closer to a memory or an interior world. Drawing things into the present to be seen.
Can you tell us what Photo Scratch is? Photo Scratch is a night for new ideas and work-in-progress from documentary photographers. It’s an opportunity for documentary photographers to understand how their work is perceived and gain insight into how to take their work further with the benefit of other people’s outside eye. For spectators Photo Scratch is an opportunity to preview projects, offer feedback, and engage in conversations about photography.
The format of the night involves a group of six to eight photographers previewing a project in an incomplete state. These photographers are selected in advance based on applications. Each photographer is given wall space to display their work in any way they see fit (rough prints, contact sheets, annotations, captions, text, projection, etc.). The audience, comprised of other photographers and people within the industry, as well as passionate or interested members of the public, are invited to discuss the work and leave written feedback for each project. This valuable written feedback is then kept by each photographer for future reference.
Photo Scratch is also an informal networking night, a coming together of people in the industry to chat about their work and catch up. The night is free to be part of, and free to attend. It’s for anyone working in documentary photography and associated practices.
What were your initial aims and inspirations? Initially Photo Scratch was an extension of get-together’s myself and fellow photographers from LCC would arrange to catch up and sometimes share our work. Hotel Elephant Gallery, our home venue where I also have a studio space, generously offered studio users free use of the basement for exhibitions and workshops. Photo Scratch seemed like a good fit to use this space and expand the conversations we were having.
Inspiration for the night came from the scratch nights of the Battersea Arts Centre where theatre makers show a ten minute excerpt of their work and get audience feedback. Also Phil Le Gal, who co-runs Photo Scratch with me, had experienced a similar thing from a science group. Scientists met above a pub to discuss their latest scientific experiments and discoveries. We reinvented this kind of coming together of minds and ideas for a photography audience and came up with Photo Scratch.
Our aims have always been to simply get people together to discuss their work, and hope that this insight helps them be stronger photographers. We have tried to democratise the process and remove the financial barrier to getting feedback.
How long has Photo Scratch existed? We held the first Photo Scratch in January 2016. On 10th July 2017 we held our 10th edition.
What is Photo Scratch's biggest achievement to date?It’s not something we anticipated but the biggest achievement is the supportive community-network which has grown out of it. We set the date and time and organise the photographers, but it’s the people in the room each time that make it what it is. It’s a lovely thing that people return again and again, offering perspectives on each other's work and engaging in constructive conversations about their practices. Photography is a solo practice, but it’s so much about collaboration and engaging with the world and people around you.
What do you look for in a photographer who wants to get involved? Our focus is on documentary photography, in the broadest sense of those words and we encourage experimentation and innovation with the form. Photo Scratch is there for jobbing photographers at all levels, who are not currently in education.
The main idea is that the work shared at Photo Scratch is in an incomplete work-in-progress state, and the photographers usually have questions about their work that they need help in answering.
We like work where there is a clear idea, or question, or story. We are unlikely to accept an application that is a general set of portfolio pictures. It is not a portfolio review night.
Can you name some photographers and projects that have stayed with you from within the list of Photo Scratch participants? Every time we host Photo Scratch it always exciting to see the breadth of work that is shared, the great lengths so many photographers go to, the commitment they make to share the stories.There have genuinely been so many outstanding projects.
Habitus by Heather Agyepong is a really wonderful body of work. She combines portraits and video and there’s a really satisfying structure behind her use of coloured backgrounds, which is interesting to read about, but what I love most about the project is the simplicity of the portraits. By which I mean the act of looking and receiving is a simple process and feels full of life. They have an energy which feels rare. As though the people in her pictures are almost speaking to you. Heather showed work at Photo Scratch in July 2017.
In January 2017 a photographer called Elanor Marielle shared work at Photo Scratch. I always felt really drawn into her work from when she first got in touch with us, and I later felt a sense of shared experience in her project ‘Any Other Name’ about her brothers who have autism, and her family. My older brother has cerebral palsy after having meningitis as a baby. I see in her pictures the layers of her life. The chaos, the responsibility, but also the sense of play and imagination and energy and ultimately the simplicity of the love of a sibling who needs you.
How can people get involved? All information about Photo Scratch including how to apply and when the next one is can be found at www.photoscratch.org
On Instagram and Twitter @Photo_Scratch
Give one tip to new photography graduates. Trust the value of your own voice and ideas. And make lists of ideas as they come to you to refer back to when you're looking for inspiration.
What does the future hold for Photo Scratch? The future holds many good things for Photo Scratch. We are delighted that so many people want to be involved. We have even had conversations with people in other cities and countries to take Photo Scratch further afield. We’re always on the lookout for meaningful partnerships so we hope to be able to accept these offers soon. Myself and Phil currently run Photo Scratch on a voluntary basis, on top of our own freelance work and projects. We hope to secure funding so we can grow and offer greater opportunities to photographers.