press release

Kunsthal Rotterdam presents a selection of modest portraits in black-and-white of schoolgirls from eastern Anatolia made by British photographer Vanessa from 2003 onwards. They either pose alone or together with one or two other girls and are looking into the camera’s lens expectantly. The girls pose unaffectedly, standing there with drooping shoulders, waiting for the photographer to take the photograph. Each of them is somewhat shy, yet nevertheless self-conscious. The girls portrayed by Winship in and around the school buildings reveal the very first signs of awakening puberty.

Pure Winship chooses to portray the children in the exact same way every single time: frontally and at full-length. Moreover, each frame is made at the same distance. Due to this all the girls become similar each other. Clothing and pose further attribute to a sense of congeniality. All girls wear dark blue school uniforms with small white lace collars and refined embroidery, as is obligatory in all state schools in Turkey. The dresses, high-necked and with long sleeves, look rather old-fashioned as a result of which the girls seem to belong to times long gone-by. The way they pose is pure, innocent and natural. They stand before the photographer motionlessly and gaze at her expectantly. Insecure as to at which moment exactly she is to take the photograph they squeeze each other’s hands or show a faint smile.

Sweet Nothings Eastern Anatolia, which encompasses various nationalities, cultures and religions, is situated in the borderlands of amongst others Georgia, Iraq, Iran, Armenia, and Syria. In this region many families keep their daughters at home. Attending school is a privilege not many of the young girls have. It is in fact extraordinary that the pre-teenagers portrayed by Winship do go to school. Nevertheless, the question remains whether they will not relegated to housekeeping directly after leaving school. These girls are “Sweet Nothings’. ‘Sweet Nothings’ is an expression that is used to refer to the honeyed words one says to one’s beloved, straight from the heart, but insignificant and innocent - as these girls, and more specific, their futures are considered to be.

Vanessa Winship For over ten years British photographer Vanessa Winship has lived in several countries in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. Between 2003 and 2007 she lived in Turkey. In Turkey she has worked on several photo series on the lives of people living in the borderlands alongside the Black Sea. The resulting publication entitled ‘Schwarzes Meer’ has won several prizes. In 2008 Winship won the first prize at the World Press Photo contest for her ‘Sweet Nothings’ series.

Publication ‘Sweet Nothings’ was published by Images en Manoeuvres editions (ISBN 9782849951293).

Sweet Nothings
Vanessa Winship