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Interview

Hanna Jarzabek: When I photograph, it helps me to cope with situations I deeply disagree about

text:
Futures Photography
Date:
March 11, 2021
“When I photograph, it helps me to cope with situations I deeply disagree about.” Carrying one with a series of interviews with the artists who joined our platform last year, meet today Hanna Jarzabek, nominated by Photo Romania Festival.

Hanna finished a Master’s degree in Political Science and worked on refugee reports for UN agencies such as UNRWA and UNCTAD. Since 2008 she is based in Spain where she works as a freelance photojournalist, combining her personal projects with the teaching of photography.  Her projects address discrimination and societal dysfunctions in western society. She also works on youth radicalization and the raise of right-wing movements in Europe.

Below, she talked to us about her inspirations and career:

The documentary photographer Adam Broomberg mentored five Futures Talents over the three months running up to Unseen Amsterdam 2019
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Can you tell us a little bit about your inspirations? Which themes do you often work with?

I started to work as documentary photographer really late. Before I used to work making reports for several UN agencies (such as CNUCED, UNRWA). During this time, I was taking some pictures on a side and with time I felt much more connected to photography than to my work as political analyst. I realized I really prefer this format to address issues I wanted to speak about. I thought (and still do) that photography could be a very powerful tool to shed light on complex subjects while provoking at the same time a more profound reflection. So, this is the important part for me – using photography as a tool to speak about what is going on around me, what I consider should be visibilized, changed, etc.  

My projects address discrimination and societal dysfunctions in western society, with an emphasis on themes such as gender identity and sexual diversity. I also work on youth radicalization and the raise of right-wing movements in Europe. Lately I have started to investigate the construction of national identity in post-Soviet regions in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union.

How do you see your relationship with the medium? How do you use photography to express your art?

I am a documentary photographer, and it gives me access to very divers realities that I would probably never be able to experience so profoundly in another way. When I enter people’s life I feel like if I was living a bit of it, especially when I share their home for some time. So, in the end photography allows me to live many experiences and types of life, let’s say, and I think it’s very enriching. I think it would be difficult for me to feel really satisfied with my own life without this possibility of meeting others and learning about their realities.

When I photograph, it helps me to cope with situations I deeply disagree about. Especially in case of discrimination or violence. I decide to do a project because this is what I can do about a given problem. It is not going to resolve it in a general way, but at least I try to shield some more light on it and maybe induce some people into reflection.

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Do you have any ongoing (or more recent) project that you would like to share with us?

After having finished the work about Transnistria I completed another project I started in 2016. It is called Patriotic Games and it is about the current situation in Poland: military radicalization of young people through public school programs, influence of radical catholic organizations and Catholic Church on public and personal life, growing homophobia and growing fight against women rights. Right now, I am working on another subject that is related to the situation of domestic workers and caregivers in Spain.

Last year was challenging in many different ways. How do you see this moment for your career? What has changed in your practice?

Last year was extremely difficult for photojournalistS and documentary photographers working as freelancers, which is my case. First of all, we had to face a lot of financial problems, already deep in our profession before. Secondly, as freelancers we had sometimes problems with access to places and information and it is the first time that I had to think about danger my work can produce for others, especially when I was interviewing and photographing people in places that could be contaminated and back home, I had to take some extra precautions not to expose my partner to any risk. All this of course have an influence on how you work, how you perceive the importance of what you do and how you evaluate the “costs” of it. On another hand, as for many other people, last year made me realize that nothing is stable, and you have to be prepared to reinvent yourself at any time.

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But last year was also important for the experience within Future, which was very enriching and interesting! Of course, it would be far better to meet in person, but unfortunately everything is changing now, and many things are not possible for the time being. I really appreciated the effort of all the organizers of the digital festival, too. There were really many great opportunities to learn, discover new artists and projects, exchanged opinions and suggestions. It’s something very important in our profession.

Can you share with us some of your plans for the future? Do you have any new project in mind?

I am working now on the project about domestic workers and caregivers. I obtain a grant from European Journalism Center that covered part of the work and I plan to continue to document and investigate this subject for the next at least one year.

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