From the series Garden Street © Urszula Tarasiewicz
Urszula Tarasiewicz is the first winner of OpenWalls, with a photograph taken from her series Garden Street
Poland-based photographer Urszula Tarasiewicz has been announced as the winner of the very first OpenWalls award, with her photograph of an empty flat in Lodz. The image forms part of the series Garden Street, a body of work documenting these ex-homes in Lodz, Poland, following the forced eviction of 150 families in 1991. Initially a residential complex for textile workers, Garden Street was constructed in 1880.
The area was built by Izrael Pozna ski, a 19th century textile owner working within Lodz. His factory became a city within a city, with amenities and streets created to house the almost 7000 people who lived and worked there. In 1991, after being positioned in Lodz for over a century, Pozna ski’s company was abandoned by those who ran it, and the area became a no man’s land.
“I am interested in what stays behind when personal belongings and people are gone,” explains Tarasiewicz of her work. “Is there still a sense of home?” Her series examines this by tracing the history of the street and its inhabitants, and asking the viewer to fill the gaps left by the emptiness. “In Garden Street, I am looking for a concept of home in a place where there are no inhabitants, and no personal items,” she says. “The things we choose to gather in our homes are an important aspect of defining our tastes, and they contribute to our emotional attachment to a place.”
Last year, Tarasiewicz entered the winning image into the first edition of OpenWalls, an open call for photographers to submit work responding the theme Home and Away. The 50 shortlisted images are being exhibited throughout July 2019 at Galerie Huit Arles, to coincide with the fiftieth edition of Les Rencontres d’Arles. Tarasiewicz was announced as the winner at the exhibition opening on 4 July, during the opening week of the festival. The other two finalist photographers were Louise Hagger and Gregory Michenaud, whose work also conjured a powerful and varied sense of place, incorporating themes of belonging, escapism and identity.
Tarasiewicz started shooting her winning project in 2014, when a major renovation of Garden Street began. The project, called 100 Tenement houses, aimed to relocate the residents still living there. “It was during this time that I began to document the empty flats,” she says. “I was stunned by the ruthlessness and coldness of these spaces that were once people’s homes.” Of the series winning OpenWalls, she says “It’s amazing that this story of a place in my tiny hometown is being acknowledged beyond it.”
This is your last chance to apply to OpenWalls Arles 2020! Submit your work responding to the theme ‘growth’, and you could be part of a group show at Galerie Huit Arles alongside Les Rencontres d’Arles 2020. Deadline: 25 July 2019 23:59 (UK time)