PDN Photo of the Day

Youth and Aging in Romania and France

Now in its 22nd year, the HSBC Photography Prize  offers young photographers a chance to show their images, publish a first monograph and produce new work. This year, Laura Pannack and Mélanie Wenger received the award. Their work is on view in a traveling show at Arrêt sur l’image Galerie in Bordeaux, France until December 9. Pannack is a British photographer who found inspiration for her series “Youth Without Age and Life Without Death” in a Hungarian folktale about the quest for immortality. As she writes in a statement, “This project is a response to my need to escape, adventure and roam in reaction to internal pressure I feel that time is moving too fast.” In Romania, she says, she found a culture connected to timeless traditions. Her images find and create mysterious moments that touch on themes of mortality and rebirth. As María García Yelo, the artistic advisor of this year’s prize writes, “A mixture between documentary shots and imaginary sets, the spaces, routines, people and objects she ‘lived’ among in a remote place in Romania and ‘brought’ us to see become a universal metaphor of the vulnerability of life.”

Mélanie Wenger’s series “Marie-Claude” documents the life of an elderly woman Wenger met in 2014 in Brittany, France. The woman invited her in to see her dolls, as Wenger describes in a statement. “In her home filled with mountains of junk I discovered a world I will never leave. It haunts me and fills me with joy at the same time.” After the death of her abusive husband, Marie-Claude found herself “alone with a very tiny 600 euros retirement pay, in a little house with no friends and no family,” Wenger writes. Suffering from dementia, Marie-Claude has built a world around herself that is both intriguing and repulsive to Wenger. She writes, “This old lady of 75 years old, an old woodcutter, fisherwoman and seamstress, endearing and scaring at the same time, that I am discovering is touching me, waking parts of me, looks a little bit alike my mother sometimes and a lot like me.”

Together, writes García Yelo, the photographers “with very rich visual imageries, force us to read several layers of meanings. We go from astonishment to overwhelm, from recognition to disconcert… When we finally understand, a deep melancholy invades us.”

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