Q & A with PhotoIreland’s Julia Gelezova

Julia Gelezova is the General Manager of PhotoIreland — a 360-degree support system and platform for contemporary photography and visual culture in Ireland. Julia talks about their new RELAY mentorship programme for Irish and Ireland-based artists.

The RELAY mentorship programme for the 14th edition of PhotoIreland Festival is open specifically for artists of the African diaspora living in Ireland.

What is the RELAY mentorship programme?

RELAY is a new artist-driven mentorship programme developed by PhotoIreland. It runs over a period of three months, and the resulting works are presented during PhotoIreland Festival. Each year, we invite a leading artist to act as a mentor and facilitator. For the first edition of RELAY, we invited artist Alice Rekab.

As part of the mentorship, the selected artists receive a stipend and a production budget towards their exhibition in the summer. The three-month mentorship takes artists through some concepts and references, helping guide their artistic expression in the making of new work, whatever that may be. This is in addition to practical teachings that the leading artist will share on how to navigate your career and practice as an artist.

The Digital Hub is kindly providing a shared studio space for the artists. They can use it to develop their work and meet with the mentor. The value of the studio is hard to put into words: studio spaces are crucial to artists, it is their workplace where they can focus. The artists we are inviting likely don’t have their own studio spaces, struggling to work from home, balancing their practice with their other commitments, and they may be travelling from outside of Dublin. This studio serves as a dedicated meeting point and somewhere to connect with the local community of other creatives currently nurtured by The Digital Hub, such as the Pallas Studio artists. To take advantage of this unique opportunity, RELAY will also host a studio visit day, inviting a number of local professionals to visit the artists, connecting with them and finding out about their work.

Who is eligible?

The call specifies 4 main criteria. RELAY this year is open specifically for artists of the African diaspora living in Ireland; it is for artists based on the island of Ireland, working in the arts at any level, who feel their practice is at a suitable stage to avail of this opportunity; artists must show a track record of a practice; finally, the artists must commit to completing the programme. It is a great opportunity!

RELAY is for artists who feel they are not receiving the same opportunities or visibility as their peers and for whom a mentorship would be of clear benefit. This isn’t only for emerging artists, but it could also be artists who are parents or those from underrepresented communities, and so on. There is no restriction on the age or background of the applicants, or their experience thus far.

Artists of all visual arts practices are invited to apply, from filmmaking, textile, painting, photography, sculpture, performance etc. PhotoIreland focuses on practices engaging broadly with representation, identity and the image, and with RELAY, we want to additionally encourage cross-disciplinary approaches. So we want people who wish to experiment and expand the ways in which they make their work and to cultivate new ideas on what they make and how it is presented or seen and experienced in the world.

Tell us a little about the programme mentor, Alice Rekab?

Alice Rekab is an artist we have admired for a while and the first person we thought of for the new mentorship programme. The topics in Alice’s personal works include complex cultural and personal narratives, centering around collaboration, which echoes strongly with our focus this year. Besides being a highly experienced and excellent artist, we saw how they engage with other communities through their recent project with Douglas Hyde Gallery titled Family Lines. This skill and understanding of the importance of social engagement was an important factor when we were discussing the leading artist.

Why is this type of programme important?

PhotoIreland arrived to the Arts in Ireland to excite diversity in the discipline, to open new opportunities for existing artists and support those emerging, to create exchanges with other countries, cultures and practices, and in doing so enrich the discipline and its appreciation in Ireland. RELAY is a specialised project and it comes to provide targeted opportunities that aim to facilitate broad representation in the Arts.

A key characteristic of RELAY is its trifold effect: the commission supports at once established and emerging artists; it connects intergenerational practices and ideas; it strengthens the fabric of Arts practice and its appreciation in Ireland, providing new engaging ideas to local audiences.

What is the application process and deadline?

We have made the application as simple and accessible as possible, with the sharp advice of Alice Rekab. It starts with a request for a brief description of the applicant and invites them to tell us more about their work, whether this is an extended artist statement or just a personal reflection of a few sentences. Then, some images, not too many, just four. We also want to see why the artist applied to this particular programme, whether they wish to develop a particular piece or receive some general guidance to their practice. We offer support to anyone wanting to apply, so everyone interested should be confident that they can submit on time in an informed manner.

What are you looking for in applications or what will make an application stand out?

When it comes to developmental opportunities, such as residencies, or mentorships like RELAY, we look first both to the consistency of the practice or the dedication of the person to developing their work, and their need for the support offered. This for us is always more important than outstanding or impressive work. After all, this is a developmental opportunity, not a competition.

What is the annual PhotoIreland Festival and when does it next take place?

Since 2010, PhotoIreland runs a festival to celebrate Ireland’s photographic talents, presents international practitioners and artists in Ireland, creates new avenues for cultural exchange and cooperation, and promotes a critical engagement with Photography in Ireland. Critically reinventing its format every year, PhotoIreland Festival continues to be a testing ground for artists and curators where to create new photographic work, and for Irish audiences to gain a broader understanding of the discipline.

PhotoIreland Festival is Ireland’s international festival for photography and image culture and this year sees its 14th edition, taking place in July and August primarily in The Printworks, Dublin Castle, with other venues to be announced. The launch will take place 30th June, so you can already pen that into your calendars. We will release the programme very soon, so keep an eye on photoireland.org and sign up to our newsletter or socials.

Who should people contact if they need more information about RELAY?

All the details about RELAY and the open call can be found on the News section in photoireland.org and we can be contacted directly at info@photoireland.org

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