So a couple of Questions recently put to Vanessa Winship:
HOST: In the forward to your book Sweet Nothings, Max Houghton says "As we linger over Vanessa Winship's photographs of rural schoolgirls in Eastern Turkey, it is as though a thousand faces appear, from generations past, present and future." I know that you have mentioned to me that often people, yourself included, see people they know in the girls in the pictures, can you tell me more about that?
VANESSA: When I met with Max to collaborate on the text for the foreword I mentioned to her something about how the images had struck me as I’d begun to process my plates and making my contact sheets.
How I had seen in the faces of the girls, faces of people I knew, my friends daughter, my sisters friend, my friend from primary school, the girl in the printing house, the list goes on.
Friends and colleagues and even people who I met along the way, have commented on their own personal sense of connection to these images, a recognition of an expression, a mood, an identification of something or someone close
And yet when I made the images I saw only the girls themselves as they stood before me. I saw their flesh and blood and emotion. I saw the moment before and the moment after; the images themselves become the moment in between.
There is something in the two-dimensional image itself, i.e. the photograph, that allows us to see both who is in front of us, and also to be taken somewhere else, a trigger of a memory from our own histories, and or from our fantasies.
Photographs are a wonderful alchemical amalgam of all of these things; this is their true beauty.
The photograph is almost the fictionalized truth of all these elements.HOST:We have discussed the fact that people have quite varied reactions to the photographs, as in some people find them quite haunting and ghostly, Whereas others find them quite the opposite, more calming and nostalgic... What do you think it is in the pictures that give such varied impressions and reactions?
VANESSA: I think it’s simple really. I suppose what I’ve created kind of bucks a trend of some contemporary portraiture, and I also do consider my work to be contemporary portraiture, which has until fairly recently, favoured what seems to be passive expressions, very often the subject appears lost in their own world looking off into the middle distance, disconnected if you like…perhaps a reflection of the societies we live in?
Why people’s emotions are varied, is probably because the expressions and emotions on the girls faces themselves are varied.
We all make are own choices in who and how we want to identify with people in general, and is this case, with the girls.
These images feel raw in that they show complete and direct openness, of emotion, and vulnerability without contrivance.
In a way they take you by surprise because at first they all seem the same, because of the structure of the repetition and the uniform. But once you are caught by their expression and body language you are caught, captivated to stay and wonder at the details, to ask questions perhaps, it is as if the are insisting upon your acknowledgment of their existence.