THE Mentoring ProgramME


The Festival of Political Photography (PVF) has launched a mentoring programme for photographers and artists, aimed at supporting their work on long-term research-based projects. Of the 32 high-standard applications received through the open call for 2021, three photographers were selected for the inaugural programme: Naser Bayat, Shia Conlon, and Noora Sandgren.

The Festival of Political Photography wants to encourage photographers to engage in long‑term visually oriented research. Dedicated photography projects require both considerable material and intellectual resources from photographers. Often, a lack of professional feedback and limits to practical resources pose further challenges for photographers working independently. Therefore, PVF strives to provide professional support and practical resources to photographers working on longer-term projects.

The mentoring programme supports projects and photographers individually, in accordance with case-specific needs. In the course of the year, the photographers selected for the programme will receive professional feedback and support for deepening their examination of the topic, structuring the work, finding suitable pictorial form, and editing the visual material. In addition, selected projects will be supported with a working grant. 

The mentoring program is an independent part of the activities of the Festival of Political Photography and is realised with the generous support of the Patricia Seppälä Foundation.

Naser Bayat

“But what you
know is you have to continue, you have to have hope, and hope should be the last to die.”

Naser Bayat is a Helsinki-based photographer with roots in Afghanistan and Iran. For him, photography is a way to discover himself and the world around him but also a way to feel alive and see behind the rational mind. Photography taught Bayat to accept new experiences and emotions, to tackle difficulties head-on, and to seek answers and express them through photography. He sees street photography as furthering the language for talking with people and, going beyond this, of showing them what they do not see or do not pay attention to while they are drowning in routine day-to-day life.

Bayat’s photography project explores the meaning of hope among young Afghan people in Finland and Afghanistan. The ongoing negotiations involving the USA, the government of Afghanistan, and the Taliban in Qatar are important for Afghanistan's future, its people, and the younger generation. What the change brings might be worse than the present or the start to the better era people are hoping for. Bayat wants to hear young-generation opinions and feelings about these landmark negotiations. The project starts in Finland with young Afghan asylum-seekers, then continues to Afghanistan. How do young people there see the situation? Bayat hopes to give voice to the young people of his home country through the project. Providing a chance to visualise their thoughts and feelings can, in turn, bring the world awareness of the situation and its ongoing development.

︎ Website

︎ bayat.naser

Shia Conlon

“We are in urgent need of new, meaningful stories that give us back our agency.“

Shia Conlon is an artist originally from Ireland and now based in Helsinki. His practice utilizes writing, filmmaking, and photography to investigate how marginalised and traumatised people can regain control of their narratives through reappraisal of the past. He is interested in how power is entrenched through social structures such as gender, sexuality, religion, class, the family unit, and the state, and how these structures affect the people attempting to live and survive within them. His work explores how power can be reclaimed through the practice of 'witnessing': seizing the opportunity of speaking out over silence, actively looking as opposed to looking away.

Sites of Dreaming is a project documenting the process of hormonal replacement therapy in the experience of various transgender people in Finland. Through long-term application of a documentary-style approach, it will follow several individuals on their path through both DIY HRT and the system for transgender health care in Finland. This project, combining photography and writing, will culminate in a zine. The writing will include a personal essay about Conlon’s own process and interviews with the individuals photographed, alongside more general information about the trans experience in Finland. The zine will serve as an informative source of insight into the process of hormone replacement therapy and will include helpful tips for other transgender individuals on how and where to obtain support in their transition.

︎ Website

︎ shiaconlon

Noora Sandgren

“Monimuotoisuutta kuhisevan metsän seassa minuus on saanut kasvaa. Jatkumme toinen toisistamme ja toisaalta vieras asuttaa meitä mitä suurimmassa määrin.”

[eng. “Amidst a forest teeming with diversity, selfhood may be allowed to grow. We continue with and of each other while, on the other hand there’s a stranger inhabiting us to the greatest extent possible.”]

Noora Sandgren is a multidisciplinary visual artist who works with photography, installations, the text medium, and event-like elements. With her art, she has studied relationships between different materialities, the vibrancy and circulation of matter, and slowness. Her work is site-sensitive and often takes place in her home garden. Sandgren is interested in gestures related to photography, different modes of presentation, and cameraless photography as a point of connection with gentle anarchy. The emerging works are image prints that express coexistence and draw together the artist and the many others constructing the image.

Sandgren's photography project deals with the photographer's coexistence with the nearby forest of Helsinki’s Central Park. For several decades, Sandgren has been following construction projects that result from pressure for built-up areas along the edges of the forest. She has been observing the forest get gnawed away little by little. How can one deal with the loss of coexistence with a forest full of diverse life? With the project, Sandgren seeks to open prospects for the multi-species rhizome of relationships and the temporal condensations that human beings can so easily break in an instant. The project brings out the manifold non-human beings of the forest, with whom the experience of everyday life may come forth. The familiar home forest is teeming with strangeness hiding in one’s blind spots. Asking how to hear and see this with greater attunement, Sandgren's work emphasises experiential sensory knowledge. She ponders the non-human nature of photography, along with the possibilities for rewilding it. The shared image traces of the artist and those many other contributors to the forest reach out to expand the common notion of photography as time that is frozen and given sharp edges.

︎ Website

︎ noorasandgren