We are constantly bombarded with fairly awful news from around the world. Things feel less certain for a lot of people than they did even 3 or 5 or 10 years ago. So what are you going to do about it? What now? What now for you as an individual? What now for your family or community? What now for your place of birth or the place you call home? Can you find a way to use photography to share a complicated emotion? To convey uncertainty (or certainty)? How do you want to be remembered in this time and place? Or what do you want to remember? What makes now, now?
Photo by Alexa Vachon
Submit to TQU’s photo contest.
TQU’s photo competition: Every month a different topic, chosen by a different judge. What Now? is the topic of May’s photo competition, chosen by Alexa Vachon.
MAY 2018 ◼︎◼︎◼︎ What now? ◼︎◼︎◼︎ Alexa Vachon
In 2016, Vachon published her first book called what we do in the light, an exploration of feminist pornography. In 2017 she published Shaking the Habitual – The Show, documenting life on tour with The Knife on their last European tour in 2014.
TQU: You were born in Canada, studied in New York and later in Berlin and have been taking pictures in many different places around the world. How do you think the experiences in these different places reflect in your work?
Alexa Vachon: I traveled a lot growing up, thanks to my mom’s career. My parents never had the chance to travel until they were adults and it became a passion that they passed onto me. It is definitely the one childhood experience that influenced me the most and so it just always felt possible. My work is most clearly defined by the people and their surroundings in the images. So although I have somewhat of a distinctive style, I hope that the environment I’m in is reflected in the images – if not literally then in a non-tangible way. I aim to be influenced and inspired by the places I go and the people I meet and I want my photographs to reflect that, not just my view of them. I think of my portraits as collaborations; even if I’m directing a subject, I’m using their story as a jumping off point. It’s important to remember your power when you approach someone with a camera, whether it’s a stranger in a new country, or a neighbor down the street. You’re asking them for something, so take the time to listen to what they want to say.
TQU: A lot of your photography centres around women and queer people, but also others who are often assigned marginal positions by society. What do you find most interesting about these topics?
AV: I’m hyper aware, especially in the past few years, of my place and privilege in society and as a photographer. I do think it’s important for photographers to question their motivations and to be aware of how others can interpret their work. Most of us come from a place of wanting to do good, but it’s not always that easy. I’m tired of seeing a lot of things in photographs that we’ve all seen for years and years – mainly “important” men, doing “important” things in “important” places. I, and many of my contemporaries, are interested in redefining “important.” In the last few years of showing my work of international women football players, I’ve seen first hand how important representation is. People deserve to see themselves depicted in media; it has the power to confirm someone’s place and belonging in a community/culture/country/wherever they may call home. Freedom to me means freedom of movement. And I’m sensitive that many people do not have that luxury yet need to establish rights and a home in a place they may not have chosen to live in. I’m drawn to people who may or may not already have a significant public representation because I’m interested in seeing stories that I haven’t seen before and learning from people I haven’t heard from before.
TQU: Is there something that you learned by experience that you wish you had known before you started as a photographer?
AV: EVERYTHING. Ha. I was really lucky in that I had wonderful mentors from a very young age and always knew I wanted to make photographs. But making photographs is (sadly) such a small part of being a photographer. It takes dedication and devotion and obsession and desire and an ability to run your own business while trying to challenge yourself creatively. The reality is that you probably won’t get one magic lucky break that will open all of the doors for you. But there can still be lots of little breaks and small openings and gradually, hopefully, you can figure out how you fit into the enormous world of photography. It doesn’t have to be a career to be extremely fulfilling and there are countless ways to share your work nowadays (if you want to share it).
TQU: What is the theme you picked for this photo competition and why?
AV: The theme I picked for you guys is “What Now?” We are constantly bombarded with fairly awful news from around the world. Things feel less certain for a lot of people than they did even 3 or 5 or 10 years ago. So what are you going to do about it? What now? What now for you as an individual? What now for your family or community? What now for your place of birth or the place you call home? Can you find a way to use photography to share a complicated emotion? To convey uncertainty (or certainty)? How do you want to be remembered in this time and place? Or what do you want to remember? What makes now, now?
See more of Alexa Vachon‘s work.
How it works
Choose your photo(s)
Take (an) original picture(s) or use one or more from your archive – make sure you have the rights to publish the picture(s). If there’s another person other than yourself in the pictures make sure you have written consent that you’re allowed to publish their picture.
Write one or two sentences to explain why the submitted picture is relevant to the topic/why you chose the picture(s).
Submit your photos
(Only one submission per person allowed per category – the last submission will be counted)
All winners will be announced on the 10th of June, 2020.