Oscen reflects back on some of our favourite summer events!
Held at Silo Park earlier this year, the concept is simple: leave a photo and take a photo. Features Editor Sherry Zhang headed along to the event to have a chat with Mariya Jackson, the event producer of Photo Laundry. The event included a free workshop with photojournalist Chloe Lodge called “The Art of Storytelling”. Thank you also to Cat, Katie, David, Tasman, and Shivaun and her husband for sharing with us their favourite photos.
If this has inspired you: remember that even though summer is over, and self-isolation has brought us indoors, creativity and community doesn’t have to stop! Photographer Cat Atkinson is bringing us a smartphone photography workshop on Sunday 19 April 2020 at 1pm as part of Oscen’s The Unlockdown online festival over 18-20 April.
Mariya Jackson: Event Producer of Photo Laundry
Photos by Sherry Zhang
I started holding Photo Laundry in 2014. It started out as a very tiny event!
The original event started in St Petersburg in 2010, so it’s already been ten years since the event went from there to different countries. Anyone can hold the event in their own community as long as you say what it is about and who started it. There are all these different stories as to how you take something and build something… a community around it!
How was the workshop before with photojournalist Chloe Lodge?
It was really good. We had 20ish people! And we were so lucky to have her offer to teach.
For the workshop, they had to grab a picture and say why they picked it. It’s not about the skill of photography or anything judgemental – more about your personal relationship. It doesn’t have to be about the photographer’s story, but about the story you create in your mind.
Have you taken any photos to keep yet?
Ah, no I haven’t… because I’ll have all the ones at the end. [Laughs] The ones that haven’t been taken.
What do you like about photo laundry events? You’ve done it for 6 years now. What makes you keep holding them?
I love the diversity, I love outside events. I also host the Art Street Fair too. And the concept is the same. It’s about the accessibility of art. You don’t have to go to a gallery and you don’t have to search for a particular photographer. You can just hang out here and meet new people. It’s about breaking down the barriers.
Yeah, sometimes I feel intimidated by visiting art galleries.
[Laughs] For sure, you walk in and everyone stares at you like, are you going to buy something?
Would you go bigger with the event?
I’d love to set up an instant print, so people take photos on their phone and perhaps participate in challenges. However, I like that so far it’s relaxing and no one is forcing you to do anything. For example in Russia they have someone leading the day, but… I’m not a really social person so I like to just set it up and enjoy the sun. People can easily join, flow in and out. It really just runs itself.
What’s your background with photography, with art?
I wouldn’t call myself a photographer. I mean, I enjoy it! [Laughs] As for my background, I’m originally from Kazakhstan. I was 18 when I immigrated. There’s no way I can get rid of my accent even if I tried.
I mean…who wants a Kiwi accent anyway?
[Laughs] I do! For ages, I wanted to blend in but then I realised I didn’t have to.
No, definitely not!
I like bringing my family here, too. Showing them what they do. At first, they didn’t understand. [Laughs] They do now. Before, it was just a hobby — event managing — but now they understand I do it for my job. And I like that my hobby is art-related.
This one’s mine. I took this photo when I went on a cute date with this girl in the winter gardens. And I remember feeling all these things. I really wanted to hold her hand but I didn’t really know what to do, so I took this really tender photo of holding hands with this plant. It was one of the first times I went out with my film camera. If I take it on film, I’ve captured it forever. It has a lot more weight than digital. Whenever I look at it I mostly feel good, but also partly just remember, “Oh man I was so nervous that day.” I like photos when you know the story behind them a bit more.
It’s been a few years now that you’ve been doing Photo Laundry. Why do you keep coming back to it?
Just for the inspiration. All the different levels of photographers you see and meet. You see work you normally wouldn’t see necessarily. You determine what you see in your own little bubble of Instagram feed. Whereas here you can see anything — you can see your next favourite photographer! It’s also local, which is very cool! With Instagram, you don’t necessarily know where they’re from but knowing most of these people here are probably based in Auckland is very cool.
What have you taken and why?
I like cool softy focus-y stuff. It’s like someone else’s memory. This is probably taken on a specific day, and they probably have really fond memories. I thought… I’m going to take this even though I don’t have the memories.
This just looks like a frame from a movie to me. It’s just so cinematic. I actually saw the person putting it up and I was just hovering over it, knowing I was going to immediately take it… but I didn’t want to be that person.
We actually took this into the workshops to talk about why we like it. Everyone had something different to talk about. Someone liked the background, I talked about the orange and blue, someone was talking about all the lines. It’s just so interesting how such a simple photo can have so many different responses.
Last time I was really nervous taking photos, but this time… [Laughs] I’ve also been talking to a lot of friends who are artists and other than exhibiting, there is no real way to get your work out there. So this is nice! Yeah, making art can be really lonely sometimes so it’s nice to have this community.
For sure! You make it and then you chuck it into the world, and “I hope you like it!”
And it’s such a fine balance of “I hope you like it”, or am I just making it for other people?
I’m taking this one because this photo is actually taken with the same camera as mine! But with a different film stock, and someone totally different. Which I thought was cool. There’s a few other ones too… a wider angle of the same car. I’m a little new to this film camera so it’s cool seeing what it does with other film stocks. I’ve left a polaroid because conveniently I’ve got my friend over there with an instant. The problem with these film cameras is that it takes a while to get the photos, and print it all out.
You’ve left a photo of yourself! Why did you swap it for this photo?
Yeah we had a polaroid with us so… [Laughs]. Well, this guy’s just got a saxophone. He’s basking in the sun. He’s enjoying his life and nothing’s stopping him! I enjoy the positive energy.
Have you taken any photos?
No, I didn’t prepare for it this year! I came last year, though, with my friend Crystal, but this time I’ve just been taking photos of the ones I like. My favourites are… hmmm… I like the puppy ones. I like how it’s focused on the puppy but it’s hidden behind the bushes. And the sunshine coming through.
How about you David?
Oh, ummm… I guess I’m into cars. Yeah, I like this car one, especially the contrast. You’ve got this lay model one, and then you’ve this one that actually gets people’s blood going. So you’ve got a desirable one, and then you put them together…
This is an english essay level kind of analysis
[Laughs] Yeah, the recontextualisation of the whole thing.
I’m quite a keen photographer. I’ve been to quite a few of these the previous years, but this is the first time I’ve brought a few of mine! There’s still two of me left. This is one is in St Mary’s Bay. It’s a very old, decrepit house. I climbed up around the house to take a few photos.
And what photos have you taken?
I’m thinking of taking this one, of the derelict Waiwera pools. The guy who took this photo, I follow him on Instagram and Facebook. There is a group of people who take photos of decrepit buildings!
The other ones I’ve taken… my husband’s got them, here he comes! This one of an elderly woman shopping… it’s got a funny saying… a bit risqué for an older woman. This one’s probably my favourite.
I like coming here because you can talk to lots of different people.
We talked to the photographer of this kingfisher – she’s got a series of bird photos. I particularly like kingfishers. I’m also connected up on Facebook with birdwatchers. While I don’t go out of my way to birdwatch, it’s cool learning about it. Also I’m excited that the native birds are coming back to the city, and I’m dead keen about them doing something about the rats and stoats. And I’m really sorry that at some stage before I was born the Huia was lost. Because when I was very young, my grandparents had lots of cases of native birds that had been taxidermied. And I’m sure there are Huias there. I’m feeling a bit guilty about that… so we really can’t afford to lose anymore.
This one, Shivaun likes the textures, and I find it quite funny the seafood monsters have attacked the land monsters. I’ve dived and tried to eat kina… it didn’t work. You have to go out a certain time.