A Whole Skinny Chicken © Louise Hagger, from the series A Carp in the Tub, OpenWalls 2019 finalist
Food, religion and abandoned buildings. Our finalist photographers have been chosen for their nuanced interpretation of the theme
For the inaugural edition of OpenWalls, we asked photographers to respond to the theme Home & Away. From the thousands of entries, 50 shortlisted images and 3 finalist photographers have been selected to exhibit as part of a month-long group show at Galerie Huit Arles, coinciding with the 50th edition of Les Rencontres d’Arles.
Each of the selected images conjure a powerful and varied sense of place, incorporating themes of belonging, escapism and identity. Of the three finalist photographers – Gregory Michenaud, Louise Hagger and Urszula Tarasiewicz – one will be announced as the overall winner of OpenWalls 2019 at the exhibition opening.
Below, each photographer explains their interpretation of the theme, and how their chosen photograph reflects notions of home, or the act of being away.
Gregory Michenaud is based in Krakow, Poland. His OpenWalls photograph forms part of his ongoing series Yibbum, which follows the great grandson of a Yibbum child, who is in search of his identity. The Yibbum tradition obliges the oldest surviving brother of a man who dies childless to marry his widow, with the first born child being treated as that of the deceased.
The project is focused on the Hasidic community in Leżajsk, south east Poland, an important Jewish pilgrimage spot. Michenaud is interested in the impact that these marriage rites have on an individual’s sense of identity.
“Each year thousands of Hasidic Jews, mainly from Israel, descend on Leżajsk to visit the tomb of Rabbi Elimelech Weisblum, one of the founders of the Hasidic movement. They are his descendents, and they feel a sense of belonging here. Within the crowded barrack shown in the photograph, are many people who consider this space to be their spiritual home.
“The second layer to the project is that it follows the grandson of a Yibbum child. His identity as the product of a Jewish levirate marriage reinforces his desire to define himself foremost as a Jew.”
Poland-based photographer Urszula Tarasiewicz’s OpenWalls image forms part of her series Garden Street, which documents empty flats in Lodz, Poland, following the forced eviction of 150 families. Garden Street was the first residential complex for textile workers, and was built in 1880 to house workers in the new industrial city of Lodz.
“In Garden Street, I am looking for a concept of home in a place where there are no inhabitants, and no personal items. 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.
I am interested in what stays behind when personal belongings and people are gone. Is there still a sense of home? Garden Street traces the history of the street and its inhabitants, but also invites the viewer to use their imagination to fill the gaps left by its emptiness.”
Louise Hagger is a London-based food, drinks and still life photographer. She looks to food as a universal symbol of home and tradition, and its power to bring home with you wherever you go.
“This photograph, Whole Skinny Chicken, is part of a self-published book, which tells the story of my friend Victoria Granof, and her winter-long journey to adopt her infant son in Ukraine. It centres on the kitchen as the heart of the home, where we share our food and stories.
“Whole Skinny Chicken is part of a larger series, A Carp in the Tub, which attempts to capture Granof’s feelings during the adoption process. Food felt like the perfect centre for this story, as it associates itself so naturally with a sense of home, belonging and identity. Food has no language barriers that stop people engaging with it, and it brings people together, whatever their background. Food can also be restorative and transformative, it taps into all of our senses.”
The OpenWalls exhibition will run from 01 – 30 July at Galerie Huit Arles.The overall winner will be announced in the exhibition’s opening week.
You can view the entire OpenWalls 2019 shortlist here.