Bristol’s Centrespace gallery will host a solo exhibition by London-based photographer, curator Lola Paprocka, whose publication Blokovi was awarded first prize for Unveil’d Photobook Award 2016. Shot mainly on medium format, the project is a photographic series exploring the New Belgrade apartment blocks and their residents during 2015.
“The conversation started with my friend, Mima Bulj, who wanted me to capture her hometown from the perspective of an ‘outsider,'” Paprocka tells BJP. “Mima was born in Belgrade and lived there till she was eight years old, before moving to New Zealand with her family. I was born in Poland before moving to the UK in my late teens, so we have always shared a feeling of being stuck somewhere between the Eastern and Western worlds.”
“The book combines both portraiture and images of Brutalist estates – both are real interests of mine,” says Pabrocka. “I was keen to include some social documentation in there too, to capture spontaneous interactions with strangers on the streets. But, these social interactions would always come secondary; the Brutalist architecture would inform the overarching narrative.”
At first, Paprocka says photographing people was difficult because of the language barrier. “My partner, Pani Paul – also a photographer – was the one who encouraged me to approach total strangers,” she says. But once people began agreeing to having their picture taken, the project quickly gained momentum. Paprocka says she also met some people through friends, and was often then introduced to more friends and family.
“Everyone was friendly,” she reflects, “and surprisingly, no one refused to have their photo taken. The only challenge was to build up the confidence and take the first step.”
For Paprocka, the strongest portraits are achieved “when you can feel that the person is comfortable and confident in the way that they’re being portrayed.” She says: “I always try to talk to people a while before taking their picture, learn a few things about them and make sure they feel empowered. I don’t take advantage of situations, instead I try to make sure it’s a nice experience for both of us.”
While the majority of images in the exhibition are from Blokovi: Novi Beograd, published by Palm Studios in 2016, the show will also highlight more recent images from Belgrade and a trip she took in the Balkans a couple of summers ago.
The talks programme includes four speakers: Max Ferguson (Splash & Grab and Port magazine); Izabela Radwanska Zhang (British Journal of Photography); Max Barnett (Pylot magazine); and Lola Paprocka (Palm Studios), covering photography and journalism online and in print. It takes place on Saturday 21 April 2018 from 12:00-16:00 at Centrespace gallery, Bristol, UK.
Founded in 2014, Unveil’d works with photographers to produce exhibitions and events alongside a programme of talks and workshops to share ideas. unveild.co.uk