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?
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.
Alexa Vachon is a Canadian born, New York educated, Berlin based photographer and photojournalist who works on assignment for various international publications and on long-term projects focusing on gender identity, women’s rights and human rights. Much of Vachon’s work explores contemporary queer culture and identity, including projects about queer pornography and queer identity in Berlin. Her current work includes a long-term project with and about a football team for young refugee women in Germany, where she steps away from queer culture and focuses on identity and belonging in the refugee community. The project, Rise, will be released as a self-published book in October 2018. Vachon has received numerous grants for her work, exhibits her images often and works for various international magazines and newspapers.
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.
The winner of the audience prize will receive a gift package from our friends @Otherwild!
Enter the photo competition:
|1.||Take an original picture or use a picture you took earlier, and make sure you have the right to publish the picture. If there’s another person but you in the picture, make sure you have written consent that you’re allowed to publish that picture. Write one or two sentences, why you picked the submitted picture. Only one submission per PERSON PER competition.|
|2.||to submit your photo: send your picture, one or two sentences about the picture, your country and your name and age (if you want) to the art department via email OR upload it below.|
|3.||On the 1st of June all pictures will be uploaded and you can invite your friends to vote for your picture for ten days.|
|4.||The winners will be announced during the week after the 10th of June. Prizes for all four winners will be ANNOUNCED THIS WEEK.|