Winner Award Newcomer 2016: Clémentine Schneidermann
Winner of the Leica Oskar Barnack Award Newcomer 2016 is Clémentine Schneidermann for her series „The Unbearable, the Sadness and the Rest“. She receives 10,000 euros and a Leica M camera and lens.
The Parisian photographer moved to Abertillery in South Wales just a year ago. She had already completed her studies in Newport and, within the framework of a residency, began to deal more intensely with the living conditions in the region. The landscape is delightful, but the area is burdened by enormous economic and social problems. Since the final coal mines were closed down, the South Wales Valley communities are suffering a post-industrial crisis. The series shown here presents an unusual stylistic combination of documentary, portrait and fashion photography.
Q: How long did you work on the series?
A: I have been living in the South Wales Valleys and taking pictures there for ten months. I was mainly in the Blaenau Gwent area but most of the images were taken on two estates: Coed Cae and Swffryd.
Q: How would you describe the situation of the places you went to?
A: Since the closure of the steel works and coal mines in the area during the Thatcher era, the region has been struggling to attract new activities and new investment. Therefore, the economy is battling, and you can understand why people end up losing hope. It is even more difficult for the children growing up in this environment as they can be very isolated from the rest of the world.
Q: Is that why you focus on the children?
A: Yes, I wanted to collaborate with the children. I worked closely with a youth club in an estate called Coed Cae. I set up a location, a date, models and a stylist, just like a fashion shoot assignment. The day of the shoot was stormy, rainy, extremely windy, probably the worst day you could pick to photograph children wearing designer and fragile clothes outside. But as a result, the images were what I was hoping for: tender, silly and slightly dramatic. In the future, I’m hoping to involve the children more in the picture-taking process.
“With both a magical spirit and visual complexity, I am looking for a new way to represent these communities.”
Q: How were the first reactions to your photographs?
A: The people from the South Wales Valleys suffer from how their region is represented in the media. They have the feeling that journalists only come for one day and then show the worst aspects of the region: alcoholism, drugs, poverty, which perpetuates a terrible image. By living in the region for almost a year, and building a relationship with the community, I tried to overcome the barriers between outsiders and insiders. All my images have been published as a free supplement to a local newspaper, The Dynamic, distributed all over the region in shops, gas stations, pubs and community centres. I think that these photos are very different from what they are used to seeing – and some people might have been surprised, but so far the response has been positive. I tried to show the brutality of the area but also the tenderness. There is also a lot of humour in the photos, which helped to tone them down.
Q: What are your planes for the future?
A: I recently started a PhD at the University of South Wales, and I hope to be able to keep working with these communities in the Valleys.
Born in Paris in 1991, Clémentine Schneidermann discovered photography on the streets of Paris at the age of 16. From 2009 to 2012 she studied photography at the Centre d’enseignement professionnel de Vevey in Switzerland. Between 2012 and 2014 she completed a Masters degree in Documentary Photography at the University of Wales in Newport. Here she also photographed the series with which she applied for this year’s Leica Oskar Barnack Award.