As we prepare to host the 10th edition of Photo Scratch, we catch up with Hotel Elephant member Hanna-Katrina Jedrosz to discuss the power of peer review. Artists, makers and creative entrepreneurs often work independently in their studios or 'on the job' in whichever weird and wonderful locations their work has taken them. Although pursuing their passions and ‘living the dream’ - being an independent creative can at times feel isolating, whilst bringing a self-initiated project to fruition can sometimes feel daunting.
Hanna is the co-founder of Photo Scratch, the peer review event which brings together documentary photographers to discuss works in progress. We chat with Hanna about why she created Photo Scratch, her committed for the event to remain forever free and how beneficial it has been for all that take part.
The 10th edition of Photo Scratch takes place at Hotel Elephant, Spare Street on Monday 10th July 2017.
What is Photo Scratch?
Photo Scratch is a night for new ideas and work-in-progress from documentary photographers. It’s an opportunity for documentary photographers and artists working within the documentary field to understand how their work is perceived and gain valuable insight into how to take their work further with the benefit of other people’s outside eye.
For spectators Photo Scratch is an opportunity to meet the photographers, preview projects, offer feedback, and engage in conversations about photography.
The format of the night involves a group of six to eight photographers previewing a project in an incomplete work-in-progress state. These photographers are selected in advance based on applications. Each photographer is given a wall space to display their work in any way they see fit (rough prints, contact sheets, annotations, captions, text, projection etc.). The audience, comprised of other photographers and people within the industry, or anyone with a passionate interest, are then welcome to discuss the work and leave written feedback for each project. This valuable written feedback is then kept by each photographer for future reference.
The night is free for all to attend, but booking is required via www.photoscratch.org
Why you decided to set up Photo Scratch and what is your background?
Photo Scratch came about because Hotel Elephant very generously offered some free space in the basement at the old site to studio users for exhibitions or workshops. I’ve had a studio with Hotel Elephant at a number of their sites over the last few years, and at the time of this offer I was regularly meeting up with photographers I knew, on an informal basis, often at the pub and sometimes at my studio. We would sometimes share projects we were working on and end up doing informal crits, making suggestions and giving some honest feedback whilst also catching up/ lamenting the state of the the world of work/ putting the world at large to rights. So the idea of Photo Scratch came about as a way of expanding this idea to become a larger get-together of photographers. We borrowed the idea of the scratch night which is something that exists in the theatre world, and has been developed over many years at the Battersea Arts Centre. We reinvented the concept for a photography audience. It is a chance for photographers at many different stages of their careers to meet, discuss and have open dialogues about their practice in a supportive environment, in order to make meaningful connections, and hopefully stronger work.
My background is in performance and acting, before I shifted towards image based storytelling. My personal work has focused recently on the European continent, exploring the relationship between people and place and historical pathways. I try to connect stories from the wider world to personal experience and moments of feeling very close to something, even if it’s very far away in time or space.
Photo Scratch is co-organised with fellow LCC alumni Phil Le Gal and we are lucky to have core support from a number of brilliant people including Sian Hughes, Carl Bigmore, and Siyuan Wang.
How has Photo Scratch grown since you started?
We held the first Photo Scratch in January 2016 and since then we’ve had an ever increasing number of people attending and applying to show work. We’ve also had a growing number of editors, picture researchers, curators and agents, as well as many photographers walk through the doors. It’s been wonderful to see how keen people are. There seems to be an appetite for this kind of informal but constructive get together.
A hugely positive but unexpected angle to what we’ve been doing is the reaction we’ve had in relation to the mental health of individual photographers. I think any solo practice can have moments of isolation and vulnerability. Coming together for an event like Photo Scratch gives a sense of community and a network which photographers can be part of, at no financial cost to them. In this article Grant Scott discusses the deterioration of a sense of face-to-face community and social spaces for photographers since the decline in the use of dark rooms. Along with other brilliant initiatives like The Old Girls Club and Photo Forum, Photo Scratch has become an opportunity for working photographers to get together, share their work and experiences, and chat shop.
What are your plans for the future?
In 2016 we ran Photo Scratch every other month at Hotel Elephant, with an extra Guest Edit pop-up at Ugly Duck Gallery in collaboration with the LCC and Max Houghton. In 2017 we have thus far run Photo Scratch quarterly at Hotel Elephant’s beautiful new Spare Street site, which has given us a little more time to take on other pop-up editions.
We operate on a voluntary basis at the moment, purely on our own unpaid time, so quarterly is what we can currently manage on top of our own work. We would love to expand and are exploring if funding might be something we can get to make it sustainable. We are adamant that it will always remain free to be part of so there isn’t a financial barrier to getting involved.
Can you give 5 tips for setting up your own peer review event?
- Find a space.
- Find some people who work in roughly the same field as you. Perspectives from further afield are refreshing and insightful too.
- Be constructive with and open to feedback.
- Try to stay focused on the work at hand. Ultimately it is down to the individual to take or leave suggestions they receive about their work.
- Remember to bring snacks.
Emily Woodhouse Director at Hotel Elephant talks with Hanna-Katrina Jedrosz co-founder of Photo Scratch.