I’m glad i recently got to talk to photographer Ethna Rose O’Regan, who is currently based in Ireland and Berlin. Ethna runs a series of artists talks in a relaxed, salon style atmosphere called ‘Beyond the Ring’, and these meetings take place in Berlin Neukoelln.
PiB: Ethna, could you tell me how/when you got involved in photography, and what photography means to you?
It was accidental. A while after dropping out of my Science degree, I started a course in Sound Engineering. One of the modules was Photography. The tutor, Terri, regcognised that I have a good eye and encouraged me to build a portfolio and apply for college. With time and the sage advice from good friends, I got my BA degree from the Dublin Institute of Technology in 2007.
Since then, I’ve been doing a self initiated Masters. Part of which one could argue is organizing the ‘Beyond the Ring’ talks. I enjoy the idea of bringing people together in an informal and friendly environment to look at work and share their thoughts. There’s a lot of good work out there to learn from and it is a real pleasure to host these gatherings, beyond the ‘ring- bahn’ of Neukoelln.
I’m not quite sure if I can pinpoint just yet what Photography means to me but my dearest friend once said to me that Photography saved me. That it saved my life is quite a big statement, but in hindsight, when I reflect on how my life was going, there is a certain truth to her observation.
What are you currently working on, and do you already have a next project in mind?
I’m currently in the process of making a bookwork, of which the working title is ‘Within reach’. It’s a photographic dedication to the victims (documented and undocumented) of the Berlin Wall, using landscape photography taken in and around the ‘Berliner Mauerweg’ – a walk and cycle path along where the wall once stood – to reflect upon the circumstances under which they died.
I am also looking to expand on the ‘after magdalene’ work I made. This work has yet to be shown in Ireland.
What advice would you give to a photographer at the beginning of their career?
Seize every opportunity even if it doesn’t fully excite you at first, as that experience may inform your work in other ways at a later date.
Don’t be too discouraged by rejection, it can be about timing and luck so be patient and stay true to the work.
Last but not least, stay curious.
Is the medium photobook important to you, if so why, and which photobooks have had the greatest influence on you?
The photobook is, of course, one of greatest ways in which to show ones work. I love the tactile nature of leafing through the pages of a photobook and letting the story unfold. One can do this at their own pace and simply enjoy it. There is a beauty in this way of discovering work that is both personal and unique to the medium of photography.
Earlier influences for me were the seminal Robert Frank’s ‘The Americans’ and Nan Goldin’s ‘The Ballad of Sexual Dependancy’. Now with so many interesting photobooks (both published and self published) being made over the last few years, there is an influx of wonderful ideas and different ways of telling stories in an ever increasing amount of amazing books.
The photobooks that I am greatly intrigued by at the moment are ‘Astres Noirs’ by Sarker Protick and Katrin Koenning, ‘el porque de las naranjas’ by Ricardo Cases, ‘Beyond Here is Nothing’ by Laura El – Tantawy, ‘ZZYZX’ by Gregory Halpern and ‘Museum Bhavan’ by Dayanita Singh.
The most memorable feedback/comment you received on your work so far?
‘Hello Ehtan. I’m glad I had a chance to review these photographs. They have a wonderful intelligence to them, they are nicely composed and they provoke compelling questions.’
Could you please choose one image from your portfolio and share the story behind it?
This image titled ‘Everything is within reach’ was taken at the cemetary on Karl-Marx-Str. in 2014. At the time I was involved in a visual banter on tumblr [(it's kind of like) telephone] with a group of Irish photographers and I was looking for an image to respond to the previous photograph but was totally stumped. I was about to give up and then walking down Karl-Marx-Str I spotted this shadow play.
What would you want your tombstone to say?
Well, I don’t intend to have a tombstone but if I did it would state the wise words of Oscar Wilde…
’Life is too important to be taken seriously’.
PiB: Dear Ethna, thanks a lot for this interview!
For those of you who are curious to learn more about the ‘Beyond the Ring’ series of artist talks, have a look on PiB!
The upcoming talk by Alexander Gehring will take place on January 25th 2018 (and unfortunately all places have been booked by now). Works by Alexander will on exhibited in the group show “Monsters & Ghosts“, opening on January 27, 2018 at the P7 Gallery in Berlin-Mitte, and in a solo show at pavlov’s dog (also Berlin-Mitte) from March 15 – April 2018.
Also save the date for the next Beyond the Ring artist talk on February 22, 2018 by photographer duo Hahn+Hartung!
In case you’d like to stay informed about future Beyond the Ring artist talks, feel free to sign up for PiB’s weekly E-Newsletter – or order your annual subscription of PiB’s bi-monthly published print issue – the PiB Guide! : )