Bleak yet colourful. Near but detached. Simultenously stark and vague. Hanna-Katrina Jędrosz’s photography is full of odd contradictions, which might be why they tease your curiousity so. Satisfyingly, the stories behind the pictures turn out to be just as interesting as the works themselves.
Hanna-Katrina’s background is in European Theatre, but photography naturally found its way into her life. ”It may seem like the two are worlds apart, but theatre and documentary photography are often hoping to achieve the same thing to communicate a story. To me, clear similarities are that both practices comment, reflect, respond to and provoke the world around them.”
Hanna-Katrina’s project ‘I Feel Every Stone of the Road’ became the catalyst for going into photography. ”I have always had an interest in photography before deciding to make it a significant part of my work. Whilst at drama school we did a lot of devised plays, I found that I always tended towards visual ideas. My note books would be full of image cuttings and photographs, the text would come later. When I discovered a diary that my Polish grandmother had kept whilst held as a prisoner of war at the age of twenty after the Warsaw Uprising, an idea kind of unfolded out in front of me.”
At this time, Hanna-Katrina was looking for a Masters degree. Having seen several memorable graduation shows at the Photojournalism and Documentary Photography course at the London College of Communication, she decided to take photography to the forefront of her work. She would use the course assignments as a part of the photographic investigations her grandmother’s diary had sparked.
”I found the diary in a box in the attic at my father’s house in West Yorkshire, nearly a decade after my grandmother died. It was written in Polish (which sadly I do not speak nor read), but it felt like an opportunity had been placed in my hands. It was in 2011, around the same time as the London Riots and what came to be known as the Arab Spring, and the ideas of revolution and uprising that were apparent in her writing (and in the stories she had told me as a child about the Warsaw Uprising) felt very timely and relevant.”
The stories in the diary lead to a photographic journey spanning three years. Travels to and photographs of the places mentioned in the diary, sometimes completely transformed and sometimes eerily recognisable, were ultimately compiled into an installation where the photographs were shown along with excerpts from the diary, as well as Hanna-Katrina’s own travel notes from the project, read aloud by Hanna-Katrina herself.
The work was exhibited in POSK Gallery, a Polish cultural hub in London, and Hanna-Katrina feels the biggest achievement of the work is the response she recieved from many visitors.
”Sometimes this would be because they too had a grandparent or parent who had fought in the same war, sometimes in Warsaw, or they would have no literal connection to the project but had recognised something in it that they identified with and felt it was important to tell me. These were people of all ages from many different backgrounds. My grandmother was someone who was very generous with and interested in people, so it seemed appropriate that her story should instigate people returning to me with their own stories.”
To Hanna-Katrina, this project hasn’t really ended. If possible, she would like to present the work as a book, where parts of the original diary can be shown alongside the photographs and with the audio track accompanying on a CD.
For her upcoming project, Hanna-Katrina hopes to provoke the same responses and conversations – this time on the subject of severely disabled people.
Recognising that, like in theatre, listening is one of the fundamental acts of photography, Hanna-Katrina’s answer to what her ultimate goal would be is admirably low-key. ”It would be nice to answer this question with something imaginative, but I’m going to say something functional. My ultimate goal is simply to be able to keep working, to earn a living, to continue to communicate and have conversations.”