The primary goal of the Tierney Fellowship is to navigate young artists working in the field of photography through the challenges commonly faced at the start of their careers. Since it was created by the Tierney Family Foundation in 2003, the Tierney Fellowship has identified emerging photographers who are then given a year to produce a new body of work. During this time, recipients are supported financially as well as technically through mentorship and guidance from seasoned experts in the industry.
A number of Fellowships are granted each year and in 2008 the Tierney Family Foundation established the Tierney Fellowship at the Market Photo Workshop. Considering the 2015 applications are now open, we decided to take a look back at the previous Fellows and the work they produced under mentorship.
Tracey Edser, the first Market Photo Workshop Tierney Fellow, was mentored by Mikhael Subotzky as she worked towards a solo exhibition titled Amelioration. The intimate and deeply moving body of work documents the complex social and personal realities of individuals recovering from addiction and substance abuse. “I began photographing some of the people I’ve come to know in the past two years, who’ve entered the recovery culture and embarked on a journey of hope and renewal…of amelioration,” Tracy explains. “From housewives hooked on codeine to college high-achievers hiding self-inflicted scars; there’s an intense human experience that extends across race, class and cultural divisions, and has so far gone largely unacknowledged.”
Tracy Edser, Amelioration
The second recipient, Simangele Kalisa, was mentored by Jo Ractliffe. Alongside work by Monique Pelser and Ariane Questiaux, she exhibited her body of work, Clothed at a Joint Tierney Exhibition at the Wits’ Substation Gallery.
Simangele Kalisa, Clothed
The third recipient Thabiso Sekgala (1981 – 2014) was too mentored by Mikhael Subotzky and his solo show Homeland was held at the Photo Workshop Gallery in April 2011. Based in the former ‘homelands’ – areas defined by the apartheid government to confine a people – Homeland is the culmination of over a year’s exploration of memory, place and interrelated self-imagining. With subtlety and sensitivity, the series considers how people develop place-related identities out of a notorious past and the complex ways in which people develop nostalgia for histories that could be considered illegitimate.
Thabiso Sekgala, Homeland
The following year the Tierney Fellowship at the Market Photo Worksop was awarded to Mack Magagane whose final project was a reflection of Johannesburg city by night – an extension on his previous work Light Hours. Mentored by Jo Ractliffe, Mack’s encounters took on a more intimate perspective for …in this city, a body of work which captures the momentary aspects of ordinary life in Johannesburg through brief encounters, transitory instants and fragments of narratives. Mack states, “I have constantly asked myself whether Johannesburg is like any other city, or a unique city of its own. What really makes Johannesburg? Is it the dark emptiness when night hits? Or the sudden energy when the sun begins to rise? Johannesburg’s day-to-day life can be interpreted in so many ways for me. When I started photographing I looked at familiar things: everyday imagery. But when extracted from their usual surroundings, I discovered these vignettes trigger an image of Johannesburg not usually seen or imagined. This new work seeks to give my viewers the possibility of something beyond the image.”
Mack Magagane, …in this city
Lebohang Kganye was the fifth recipient and her solo show, Ke Lefa Laka featured work from a year’s research into her family history using photographs, testimonies from family members and personal narratives. The three-part exhibition, which features two series: Heir-story and Her-story, as well as a re-worked photo album, explores concepts of memory, narrative, inheritance and storytelling. “Her-story-Heir-story is about memory, fantasy and identity formation and performance, a means for re-constructing my identity by reconnecting with family members both alive and dead and a larger family history. Through this process of attempting to trace my history, I have discovered that identity cannot be traced, just like the camera; it is a site for the performance of dreams and to stage the narratives of contradictions, half-truths; erasure, denial, hidden truths. A family identity therefore becomes an orchestrated fiction and a collective invention,” says Lebohang, who was mentored by Nontobeko Ntombela and Mary Sibande. “While these images record history, it is only a history imagined. I will choose which part of the fantasy to take with me and claim as my story.”
Lebohang Kganye, Ke Lefa Laka
2013/2014 Tierney Fellow Sipho Gongxeka produced Skeem’ Saka to create a dialogue around the portrayal of black characters in the television shows and gangster films of his youth, and how this has influenced contemporary black identity and fashion. “In this body of work”, says Sipho, “I photograph i-skeem’ saka (a tsotsi-taal term meaning a close friend or a ‘homeboy/girl’). I chose this title because it speaks about relationships that go beyond friendships. iSkeem speaks about a shared brothahood and sistahood in ekasi (a tsotsi-taal term meaning township)…My photographs are self-consciously cinematic, part accident, part choreographed/performed in order to highlight the relationship between the constructed image and its reference to ‘reality’.”
Sipho Gongxeka, Skeem’ Saka
Most recently, the Tierney Fellowship at the Market Photo Workshop was awarded to Matt Kay whose solo exhibition The Front openened on 25 March. Matt was mentored by Market Photo Workshop founder David Goldblatt in creating the series of photographs, which investigate the Durban beachfront as an ever-changing space and the people that frequent it. “This body of work,” Matt says, “was about looking harder at a space I thought I knew and understood. The harder I looked the more I realized that I understood very little about a place that clearly was significant to so many people in so many different ways. The beach has a strangeness to it that is constantly visible but only when looked for. This project finds relevance in that it is often the quiet and disconnected moments we see that stay with us and challenge our perspectives.”
Matt Kay, The Front
Applications for the 2015 Tierney Fellowship at the Market Photo Workshop are now open until Friday, 24 April at 12pm. The chosen recipient will have access to R30 000 to cover costs (travel, research, supplies) related to their proposed body of work. Find out more about the application procedure, eligibility criteria and candidate selection here.