2019 Joop Swart Masterclass

Introducing the participants (1/3)

The 26th edition of the Joop Swart Masterclass, the World Press Photo Foundation’s best known education program, will bring together 12 emerging photographers and five masters to exchange their knowledge and best practices on visual storytelling.

This month we’re featuring the 2019 Joop Swart Masterclass participants – six women and six men from 12 different countries – in a series of three articles to get to know them and their stories better. In the first of the series, we spoke to Hannah Reyes Morales (Philippines), Sofía López Mañán (Argentina), Zied Ben Romdhane (Tunisia) and Nikita Teryoshin (Russia).

Hannah Reyes Morales

“Through my project I’m challenging how survivors are portrayed in mass media, especially back home. Portrayals of survivors often exacerbate the stigma of having been assaulted.”

Credit: Hannah Reyes Morales

Hannah Reyes Morales is a Filipina visual storyteller whose work tries to document and understand what tenderness, love and beauty looks like amidst hardship. Based in Manila, Reyes Morales’ photography explores how resilience is embodied in daily life.

“Viewing documentary photography has always been my way of seeing spaces and contexts that are unfamiliar to me. Images help me understand issues; the photograph has been a bridge to me. Later on, as a practitioner, the photograph has been my way of asking questions - pursuing stories based on these questions and then taking photographs only to later on realize that I now have even more questions,” she explains.

Her project for the Joop Swart Masterclass looks at the long-term effects of the mass rape of young girls in a town in the Philippines, more than seven decades ago.

“What is it like when there is an absence of structures – such as justice, counseling – that support survivors? How do women create these spaces for themselves?”

Moving beyond the #MeToo movement, which she considers “instrumental in bringing issues of assault forward, but a very narrow, Western-centric perspective of how we [Filipinos] perceive healing and survival”, Reyes Morales seeks to explore the narratives of what is considered ‘victimhood’ and present alternative paths of healing and surviving. In particular, she focuses on the Filipino ‘Pagdadala’ burden-bearing model, which gains meaning by fulfilling a sense of belonging to a community of co-burden bearers through difficult times.

“Portrayals of survivors often exacerbate the stigma of having been assaulted,” she remarks. “Through my project I’m challenging how survivors are portrayed in mass media, especially back home.”

Credit: Hannah Reyes Morales

This year, the masterclass theme will be ‘Contrast’, focusing on how visual storytelling helps to unfold and distinguish the multiple layers and variations of a story. “I am hoping that our work as visual storytellers can somehow play a part, no matter how tiny, in helping people make connections amidst contrasting views.”

“Photography has always felt a bit of a lonely-making practice to me. While I embrace that, I have also learned through the years the value of community and feedback, of taking time to really think about the projects I work on.”

Sofía López Mañán

“How and why do we submit to a culture that prevents us from empathizing and connecting with everything that surrounds us? These are some of the questions that kicked off my project ‘No Nature’.”

Credit: Sofía López Mañán 

Having graduated in Fine Arts, Sofía López Mañán, Argentina, decided to incorporate photography as a means of expression alongside drawing, sculpture and painting, nine years ago. While her first projects reflected “a more personal, visceral and intuitive” approach, today she is attracted to stories that relate to that feeling of “silence prior to a great storm, that moment when one feels accumulated energy ready to be mutated into something still indecipherable.”

With a predominant focus on the deconstruction of the social being, López Mañán’s been moving around the field of environmental conservation for some time now. “Not to represent it, but perhaps to represent us. Nature is still a human interpretation. From the moment it is defined as such, nature is cultured and objectified, and it is no longer pure, beautiful or pristine. Unravelling this relationship between the "natural" and "unnatural" is what drives me today,” she explains.

López Mañán’s commitment to wildlife issues encouraged her to take part in the 2019 Joop Swart Masterclass – “a unique opportunity to be nourished by teachers and students from all over the world and absorb different cultures, experiences and ways of thinking.”

The idea for her 2019 Joop Swart Masterclass project came about a year ago, when López Mañán asked an ethologist what his thoughts were regarding the mass extinction of animals and plants in the wild. The unsettling answer she received - questioning the existence of concepts such as ‘virgin’ or ‘wilderness’ - made López Mañán deeply reflect on what society commonly refers to as ‘nature’.

“Does nature exist as we imagine it? Or does it not exist outside of our cultural construction? How and why do we submit to a culture that prevents us from empathizing and connecting with everything that surrounds us?”

These are some of the questions that kicked off her JSM project No Nature, which seeks to observe how we humans look at and define that otherness. “It is a project that wants to unfold the artificiality of what we call natural and finally question the ode to humans’ creation”.

“Nature and the artificial are two opposing words, yet what we call natural is artificial. It is in our relationship with the environment that I observe that we are unable to transcend our own human projections. Conservation is necessary today and that is irrefutable. However, the artificiality with which we try to reconstruct that wild ‘nature’ enhances that continuous separation between humans and the rest of living beings.” 

Credit: Sofía López Mañán 

Zied Ben Romdhane

“The project is about villages in the south west of Tunisia which are threatened by sand encroachment”.

Credit: Zied Ben Romdhane

Zied Ben Romdhane, Tunisia, started his career as a commercial photographer, switching to documentary photography in 2011.

Particularly interested in exploring social and political issues in his homeland, Romdhane’s 2019 Joop Swart Masterclass project plays out with the established duality between government’s decisions and people’s behavior.

“The project is about villages in the south west of Tunisia which are threatened by sand encroachment, such as Rejim Maatoug, Sabriya, Nwayel, and Fawar among others, where sand covers houses and palm farms. The establishment of those villages in the middle of the desert was a decision taken by the Tunisian government in the 70s to secure the border with Algeria, so they installed nomads in this region.”

While documenting the losses and destruction caused by the sand, Romdhane encountered “multiple contrasted visuals” which, he thinks, would reflect how “contradictory” Tunisian Government’s social policy turned out to be. 

Credit: Zied Ben Romdhane

During the masterclass, his project will take new paths, as he delves into the story together with his masters and peers. “The Joop Swart Masterclass represents a good opportunity for me to be part of a well-advised community with whom I can interact and shape my projects. The insights and the feedback provided by the people present in the Masterclass is, in my opinion, one of the most important steps to make my project as organized as I want it to be.”

Nikita Teryoshin

“I want to show different sides of contemporary Russia - the rise of patriotism, militarism and autocracy, but also of western values and, first and foremost, capitalism.”

Credit: Nikita Teryoshin

Nikita Teryoshin, Russia, describes his photography work as “street, documentary and everyday horror”. Raised first in St. Petersburg and then in Dortmund, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Photography, Teryoshin is currently based in Berlin.

For the 2019 Joop Swart Masterclass, Teryoshin is developing a project on his native country - “Russia at a crossroads,” as he describes it.

“The Russian coat of arms consists of a two headed eagle. One head is looking to the west and the other to the east, and it’s said that the own head is missing. I want to show different sides of contemporary Russia - the rise of patriotism, militarism and autocracy, but also western values and, first and foremost, capitalism”.

His project came about when he visited Moscow to take pictures during the Victory Day celebrations. “I was surprised in a negative way about how people seem to celebrate not only the victory, but also the war itself, using a pretty popular motto nowadays: ‘We can repeat it’”.

In his project, Teryoshin aims to represent Russia’s idiosyncrasies through different eagle heads, “which together form the country.”

When asked how the masterclass theme, Contrast, plays out in his project, he explains: “Multiple layers and angles should be part of a good visual story to show two sides of the coin and to let the viewer decide at last. Pictures and stories can otherwise be used as part of propaganda faster than you can imagine.”

“In the future, I hope visual storytelling will work less with iconic pictures, which we have seen enough of and know how they work, and rather become more conceptual, surprising and speak to the viewer in an intellectual way,” he concludes.

Credit: Nikita Teryoshin

The 26th edition of the Joop Swart Masterclass, our best known education program, will be held from 17 to 21 September 2019 at the World Press Photo Foundation in Amsterdam.

Chosen from the 245 candidates nominated in March 2019, the 12 participants in the 2019 Joop Swart Masterclass were selected by an independent, international committee. Meet the participants, masters and learn more about this year’s theme here.