Vanessa Winship - Snow
Story by Jem Poster
Tritone & 4 Color Offset
7.5” x 9.85”
In Snow, Vanessa Winship’s latest monograph, we see that what’s not entirely comprehended is far more compelling than what is well understood. Perhaps that’s a truism, but it’s one that is rejuvenated and refreshed by each new and peculiar telling. This book is just such a revelation.
The origins of Snow lie in a commission (this from an artist who very rarely works on assignment, although Winship says she often approaches things “as if I have somehow been sent by someone”), but the photographer’s interest in what she found soon eclipsed anything that could properly be thought of as a “story.” So she made repeated trips to a particular landscape – and, notably, a particular season – in order to fathom what it was that had disconcerted her in the initial making of these photographs.
Winship is well known and highly regarded for her intimate portraits, but in Snow we experience a noticeable physical distance between the photographer and her subjects. What little the viewer can possibly grasp onto is the subtle repetition of the humblest elements of the earth. Collectively, the pictures come to embody the artist’s struggle to connect and to make sense of this place while ultimately acknowledging that she, like us all, is nothing but a stranger in this world.
This estrangement is echoed in a piece of fiction – by the poet and novelist Jem Poster – that’s woven through Snow. It tells of a female portrait photographer and her recalcitrant subject. But this character is not Winship, and the sitter is not someone in a Winship photograph. Poster’s is a fiction based on an imagistic construct – another beguiling layer in a complicated book that seeks always to expose the slipperiness of narrative and to destabilize easy readings.
Since 2005 Vanessa Winship is a member of Agence VU. After leaving Britain in 1998 she worked in long term projects in the Balkans and countries surrounding the Black Sea along with her husband, photographer George Georgiou. She is the author and subject of six photographic monographs, Schwarzes Meer (Mareverlag GmbH 2007), Sweet Nothings (Foto8/Images En Manœuvres 2008), she dances on Jackson (MACK/HCB 2013), Vanessa Winship (Fundación MAPFRE 2014), And Time Folds (MACK/Barbican 2018) Sète#19 (Le Bec en L’air / Images Singulières 2019) and a box set, Seeing the Light of Day (B-Sides Box Sets 2020)
She is the recipient of a number of awards, including two World Press Photo prizes, 1998 and 2008, Sony photographer of the year, 2008, and the Henri Cartier Bresson foundation prize, 2011.
She has exhibited at numerous festivals and institutions, nationally and internationally including the Barbican Art gallery in 2018, Sete, 2019, Cumbria, 2021 and her work is held in permanent collections including Henri Cartier Bresson Foundation and Tate Britain, along with many private collections.
Her first mid-career-survey show was held at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid, Spain, 2014.
With George Georgiou she teaches a number of photography workshops, and separately as guest speaker, reviewer, curator, editor and mentor.
Jem Poster is the author of two novels, Courting Shadows (Sceptre/Overlook, 2002) and Rifling Paradise (Sceptre/Overlook, 2006), as well as a collection of poetry, Brought to Light (Bloodaxe, 2001). His most recent publications are Edward Thomas, Prose Writings Vol. III (Oxford University Press, 2018) and (in collaboration with Sarah Burton) a handbook for fiction writers, The Book You Need to Read to Write the Book You Want to Write (Cambridge University Press, 2022). With Sarah Burton he runs an online mentoring scheme for writers, Between the Lines.
THE WASHINGTON POST
BRITISH JOURNAL OF PHOTOGRAPHY