“As we linger over Vanessa Winship’s photographs of rural schoolgirls in Eastern Turkey, it is as though a thousand faces appear, from generations past, present and future. The face of this child’s grandmother, that child’s sister, the faces of their children’s children, faces from our own childhood, faces from the work of Arbus, Mark or Disfarmer, faces from a fairytale, faces we know and faces we could never comprehend. We are disturbed by their proximity; we mourn their distance.”
From the foreword to the book Sweet Nothings by 8 editor Max Houghton
During the decade Winship lived and waorked in and around Turkey, her eye was often drawn to the dresses worn by schoolgirls in the region. Always blue, across every village and town, the uniform was a symbol of the Turkish state. Yet tiny details – a lace collar, an embroidered message – defined the girls as individuals. Girls in rural Eastern Turkey have frequently been denied schooling, with traditional values prioritizing work in the home over education. In addition, long-term, low-level conflict between the state and Kurdish separatists has disrupted life in the area. More recently, the Turkish government has become attentive to the situation, with record numbers of girls attending classes.
“I wanted to make a series of portraits of these girls on the borderlands. Knowing their status I wanted to give a small space for the girls to have a moment of importance in front of the camera. I hoped the symbol of the uniform, the distance in repitition, and the austerity of the landscape would represent one thing, but I also hoped more than anything, in the expressions of the girls’ faces, to draw attention to the idea of these young girls poised at the moment “just before”. The moment where possibility lies, a time where the presentation of self teeters into conciousness.”
About Vanessa Winship:
Vanessa has lived and worked in the Balkans and Turkey for almost a decade. In her imagery, she focuses on the junction between fiction and reality, exploring ideas around the concepts of borders, land, memory, identity and history. Her work has been recognized internationally: she is the recipient of two first prize World Press Awards and was exhibited in the annual Photographic Portrait Awards 2007 at The National Portrait Gallery, London, and in 2008 received the Godfrey Argent Award for best black and white image in the same award. She is currently the holder of the Sony World Photography Awards, Photographer of the Year. Her first book The Black Sea was published by Mare in September 2007. Sweet Nothings is published in the U.K by Foto8.