There seems to be little disagreement that the photographic landscape is in a period of fluctuation; less unanimous are the decisions around what the changes all mean and the right way forward. It is this uncertain, evolving environment that four young contemporary photographers are taking a hard look at in their latest group exhibition, We Are Changing. Lea Schlatter, Ryan Meta, Kate Syme, and Delena Nathuran have come to their unique photographic practices by different paths, but they are all united by strong creative vision and a curious, critical approach to their art. Lea Schlatter talks to D-Photo's Point-Shoot blog about arranging the inquisitive exhibition for this year's Auckland Festival of Photography.
D-Photo: Can you briefly tell us what We Are Changing is all about?
Lea Schlatter: The show is about four young photographers coming together to show an overlap in their processes and photographic styles, and in doing so creating some conversation about photography and the ubiquitous field that photographers navigate today.
How did the idea for the exhibition originate?
I was inspired to make the show after reading about This is Not a Fashion Photograph, an exhibition from 2009 that was curated by Vince Aletti, showing images from the International Centre of Photography's permanent collection. The show critiqued the pallid images that circulate within contemporary fashion photography by the re-contextualization of original non-fashion sources that inspire young photographers. The aim of the show was to draw attention to iconic non-fashion images as cunning devices, to be evaluated by a younger audience.
Your exhibition's description mentions the “current shift in the attitudes of this generation of image-makers” – how would you describe that attitude?
In a time where there is an overflow of visual stimulus, We Are Changing approaches a similar set of ideas as Aletti’s exhibition but from a different standpoint as young emerging photographers. Instead of showing our concerns for our medium and whether there is space to position ourselves, we are talking to an audience about adaptability via collaboration.
How did you and the three other exhibiting artists end up coming together?
The four of us, along with a great bunch of other people, were lucky to have met through the Kingsize Scholarship group last year. It was a great chance to get to know other photographers at different developmental stages of their careers. Kate is the documentary photographer, Ryan is involved in fashion and Delena and I are very fine art orientated, for now.
Were the works in the exhibition created as a unified project, or are there four discrete series from each artist?
I asked each artist to develop a recent work for this show, so yes, there will be four discrete series. However, during the process of developing the projects it was very important that there was a high level of communication between us. I wanted each artist to be heavily influenced by the rest of the group so that the collaboration would come through in the resulting photographs.
What sort of consideration has gone into the works' presentation?
Because we are talking about overlaps that are occurring between our works, it is important to set up boundaries. I want the resolution of each work to express each artist’s intentions from their original concept, therefore each is installed with completely different criteria in mind, resulting in one to several photographs in a series.
Can you tell us a little about your own works in this show?
Last year I was working on a series called Could You be More Specific? I made it while I was an intern at photographic studios and assisted professional photographers. Fascinated by this environment, I wanted to talk about the collaboration behind a photo shoot through my photography. The resulting photograph shows the awkwardness, conflicting personalities and creativity that exists in the space – especially in a shoot directed by an emerging photographer, where the talent and crew is also at the same level.
If you had to pick a favorite image from one of your fellow We Are Changing exhibitors, what would it be?
It’s a tough choice but I am very inspired by Ryan's fashion images. That is probably no surprise considering my source of inspiration for the show. As part of the Kingsize Scholarship group we often helped each other with our shoots. I helped Ryan a few times and one time he even asked to photograph me. This was an interesting request, but It was an enjoyable experience. Ryan is very good with models, something I don’t have much experience in yet. I definitely learned a thing or two from him in that moment.
What have you found most challenging in putting the project together?
Definitely keeping everyone together to work as a group, where we can assist and influence one another, keeping in contact as we are all busy working on our individual projects. I think we did well and I hope this comes through to an audience.
Finish this sentence, “I will consider this exhibition a success if…”
...the audience enters the space and gets a sense of the collaboration that went into the making of the show and also enjoy the photographs on a personal level.
How has the experience of exhibiting at the festival been so far?
I exhibited in Sampler last year, a third year show at Whitecliffe College, which was also in line with the festival. This is the first time doing the curating for an exhibition on my own though. The experience has been good, it’s a great time of the year to do it with all of the other great shows going on.
What else are you looking forward to checking out at the festival?
Oh, there are so many and so little time. At the moment I am particularly interested in seeing Melanie Tollemache’s photographs in The Locals, because of the way she is incorporating the community in every stage of the work, from the making to the final exhibition. Also I would like to see Emil McAvoy’s Reflections on Lily Pond, depicting his relationship with his mother while she was diagnosed with dementia.
We Are Changing runs from June 17–21 at the St Paul Gallery in Central Auckland, the opening takes place on Monday, June 16 at 5pm