19 April 2022
19 April 2022 - Written by PhMuseum
The Polish photographer shares her experience after her project Fading Senses was selected through last year's open call and exhibited at our International Photo Festival in Bologna, Italy.
Ligia Popławska's project Fading Senses was discovered through the festival's open call and now she is on the jury to select new projects to present at the coming edition, together with fellow photographers Silvia Rosi and Alejandro Chaskielberg who also exhibited at the festival.
Her work began from a personal experience of losing her sense of smell which transformed the way she perceives the photographic medium. At the same time, she went through ecological grief after a tornado devastated her beloved polish forest and its ecosystem. From then on she started to research climate despair, environmental anxiety, and perception in relation to their influence on our well-being and brain mechanisms. “I started Fading Senses with quite an abstract idea, to photograph the disappearance of senses. My focus was not only on the physical matter but on the emotional state of someone who goes through sensory deprivation.” Soon after that, she discovered the concept of Solastalgia, which she explores in this series together with the feeling of human disconnection to the natural habitat. “I produced most of the work at the beginning of 2020. Since travelling was impossible I worked primarily in the area of Antwerp, where I live. I focused on photographing the illusory stability and protection of various places like homes for the visually impaired or center for acrobats, some also connected to anthropocentric thinking like the space of a zoo or socialist architecture”. For her, it was fascinating how during the pandemic losing a sense (smell or taste) became such a common condition, allowing her project to resonate with a larger public.
Showcasing this body of work while it's still ongoing, and reaching a much larger audience, has allowed Ligia to realize how universal and personal it is at the same time. "For me, being one of the photographers who exhibited at PhMuseum Days 2021 Open Call was like an injection of self-confidence and support, it opened new perspectives to further my artistic development and brought a lot of attention to the project. From the beginning, I worked closely with Giuseppe Oliverio and Rocco Venezia, respectively the Director and Curator of PhMuseum. Together we had a couple of video calls where I presented my work. We exchanged ideas regarding the presentation and discussed my stay in Bologna. I also had the freedom - she continues - to add additional ideas related to the project like the smell and soundscape installations, and a research book, which were included in the final presentation”.
Coming to Bologna was also part of the positive experience. "The festival offers a rich program of artists and publishers talks, interviews with special guests, and concerts by night. I am truly grateful for meeting so many interesting people, the creative exchange, energy, and just for having the best time. And especially I am grateful for the generous and warmest hospitality of the PhMuseum team. It was also a pleasure to be officially welcomed by the Cultural Department of the City of Bologna and enjoy the city's beauty, which no surprise is called the capital of the tastiest Italian food."
We ask her for some advice for future applicants and she tells us about the importance of a good text that compiles your project well. “If possible, consult the text with someone who knows your project. By applying you give yourself a chance to let photography specialists see your work and notice you. In the case of PhMuseum Days, you are guaranteed international recognition, exhibiting your work among the best contemporary photographers and reaching a broad audience, as well as spending a charming weekend in sunny Bologna."
Images from Ligia Poplawska's exhibition at PhMuseum Days 2021 © PhMuseum
Ligia Popławska (1994, Poland) photographer, and art historian based in Antwerp, Belgium. Working with the intersection of art and science, she creates visual narratives analyzing parallels between senses and memory, emotional states, and conditions of the present. She explores fields like psychology, neuroscience, and biology to find a basis for her speculative photographic storytelling and olfactory works. Graduated with an MFA in photography from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp (2020) and a BA in art history from the University of Gdańsk (2016).
PhMuseum Days International Photo Festival is an event taking place in Bologna, Italy that brings together photographers and photography lovers across nationalities and styles. The inaugural festival opened in September 2021 under the theme A New Beginning attended by more than 4000 visitors. The new edition's open call presents a jury panel composed of Silvia Rosi, Alejandro Chaskielberg, Ligia Popławska, and the PhMuseum Curatorial Team. The theme is Today is Yesterday's Tomorrow, meant as an occasion to reflect on the strong moment of change we are living. The Early Bird Deadline is set for 21 April, the Regular Deadline for 12 May 2022. Learn more and apply at phmuseum.com/d22.