28 September 2019

Ayline Olukman on the Importance of Exhibiting Your Work

28 September 2019 - Written by PhMuseum

The French artist speaks about her experience at this year’s Verzasca FOTO, where she had the opportunity to exhibit her work as the winner of a 2018 Women Photographers Grant prize that we offered in partnership with the Swiss festival.

View of Ayline Olukman's solo exhibition during Verzasca FOTO 2019, Sonogno, Switzerland.

Our grants program is much more than just awarding monetary prizes to help fund your projects - it's also a vehicle to create new connections and reach online and offline audiences. Since 2016, we've partnered with various festivals - among which include Cortona On The Move, Organ Vida, Verzasca FOTO and PhEST - to offer solo exhibitions to selected applicants. Last year, from the 2018 Women Photographers Grant submissions, Verzasca FOTO's curatorial team selected Ayline Olukman's series Psyche for a solo show that was presented a few weeks ago. Here, you can read more about her experience and keep in mind that by applying this year, you will be considered for a solo show at Fotografia Europea.

Hello Ayline! Your work was noticed as part of a PHmuseum initiative aimed at empowering female and non binary photographers. Why do you think it's still important today to have a conversation about gender equality and what actions can be undertaken to shrink that gap?

It's very well known that there are still fewer women represented in museums, galleries, and exhibitions, not only in photography, yet talking about arts in general. I personally believe that it's quite sad to still have the need today to raise women artists and photographers at the same level of the other practitioners. I think that someone can get unhappy by having those kinds of very specific awards, but we have to recognise that we still need to fill the gap and, in order to push that forward, we need these kinds of positive initiatives. At least for now.

The conversation can be applied to what is the general role of women in our society, what a woman should be or could be. It is actually a very deep topic that can be extended to all the minorities. I believe art should be one of the first fields to show the way, so having open tables, constant discussions, and treat the issue as a problem can lead to potential changes.

Ayline Olukman giving a guided tour of her solo show during Verzasca FOTO 2019, Sonogno, Switzerland.

At some point in their career photographers can face the challenge of putting their work out there. What do you think about the importance of showing a project in a relevant platform? And which are the differences between online showcases and physical exhibitions?

I believe it is very important to share publicly your work once you feel ready. It can give you positive inputs that can help you to develop both as a person and as an artist. There is also something very satisfying from the act of making something that can be seen not only online. I do think that every photographer is working with that goal in mind, and holds the wish that their images could be seen by a wider audience at some point. Producing work is the first necessity and hunger someone should naturally have. Yet, I don’t consider showing the work as an endpoint of the process rather as a phase that each project needs to face.

For me, being a painter working with photography, an exhibition is a great way to put my things together. It gives the work a meaning and offers a reading of it. I really value the texture of an image, as said, coming from a pictorial background. Feeling the actual surface of a physical photo is fundamental at some point to truly appreciate the work. In a physical space, also the conceded time is different, people visit a gallery or museums as a conscious decision, surfing on the web instead can be quite passive sometimes.

What do you think of having been selected through an online open call, rather than receiving a "normal" invitation? And how has it been the curatorial collaboration with Verzasca Foto?

I perceived it as a very democratic process. The jury will select you just on the base of your text and your images, so I think that all the participants can have similar chances.

After that, it was quite easy to work with the curator. It felt it as a very organic process. I proposed the first edit and then I worked together with Alfio Tommasini, the Artistic Director, to adapt my work to the place. My project has a strong link between the physical and the inner presence. Showing it at Verzasca FOTO Festival has been giving it a powerful reading, enhancing the direct link with the environment surrounding this specific location.

It was very interesting to see images inside the landscape. Especially considering that in my project there is a very important notion of skin, and what it represents in any natural surfaces - like waters, stones or trees. So putting the images as they were a skin of the landscape, or the village’s houses, has been a very satisfying and pure process.

La Mue, Book Spreed and Cover, Ayline Olukman, 2019.

You also had the opportunity to present your recently published book about that work during the festival opening weekend. How do you think the project results in a book form instead?

I have commenced thinking about the book form for the project when I began to believe the series was starting to feel important. The book is an influential medium thanks to its intimate feature. I wish people could have a physical and personal connection while holding my volume in their hands. The process was similar to giving birth. The satisfaction is high but there is also quite a lot of pain involved due to the decisions you take, or not take. An exhibition can give you a spark of the work, while the book stays and you can always go back to it as many times as you want. So the difference again is not only about the reading of the work but also about time.


This content was created within the context of the PHmuseum 2019 Women Photographers Grant. To learn more and apply, please visit Those who applied to the 2019 Mobile Photography Prize are granted a 20% discount on every submission.


The final deadline is set for 10 October.

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