Museum - Open today 10:00 ― 18:00
From the 13th of September The Fotografiska gallery in Tallinn, situated in Telliskivi creative city, will open its doors to Kirsty Mitchell’s fairyland. The magical exhibition “Wonderland” is a world of dreams, which almost embraces the audience as Fall brings darkness, and where magical creatures, forests, plants have a captivating and moving effect.
The exhibition is Mitchell’s five-year-long project that started in the Summer of 2009 – a few months after her mother’s tragic death due to cancer. It became the photographer’s way of escaping the harsh reality to her childhood’s fairy tale world. Characters from the artist’s imagination got to roam freely in front of the camera in a forest that was near her home. It is a story about overcoming a very deep grief.
“The artist Kirsty Mitchell’s touching story has an influence on all of us to escape reality to a colorful wonderland, where magic and reality meet. In Fotografiska Tallinn you can see over 70 artworks, which can also be found in her magnificent photo book “Wonderland”. We believe that it is going to be a powerful visual experience in our Fall exhibition set,” says Maarja Loonets, the co-founder of Fotografiska and the exhibition’s manager.
Mitchell’s story begins as a young and successful fashion designer, who studied art history and had a very close and loving relationship with her mother. As Mitchell’s mother was an English teacher, she had a big passion for literature and she loved reading to her daughter. When her mother gets diagnosed with a brain tumor, the daughter’s world collapses and her grief becomes like an ancient woodland, which surrounds the woman’s home in an English countryside.
The photographer plans and prepares her pictures with great detail and designs outstanding costumes and requisites – this could take months. Still, every element is a tribute to mother, which is related to the daughter’s memories of the books from her childhood, with a connection to grief in adulthood and a re-found spiritual connection to nature.
With a small team of models, a make-up artist and her husband, she builds beautiful shooting location in the forests for her photos. Every photo has both drama and character, which transmits a rich fantasy world, but at the same time is relatable in spite of the fact that the characters are created by the author.
“We went to the forest as planned, because it always felt as if mother had been with us. This meant that regardless of the weather, the snow storms and defying the rainfall we let happen what was supposed to happen. I felt that my photo project just had to be done. It was like escaping in the middle of the day to a place that felt deeply meaningful to me,” describes the exhibition’s author Kirsty Mitchell.
Mitchell’s project included blogging, where she wrote about both her grief and her photography-related activities in the forest. This way the artist received attention from people, who could relate to her experience and understand what she was going through.
Many publishers were interested of cooperating when she wrote the book “Wonderland”. “At one point a well-known person in the publishing business contacted me. He recommended for me to publish the book personally and raise the funds neccessary by crowdfunding. This way it was possible to work with the best designers and printing houses,” says Mitchell. She adds that with the help of her husband, a Kickstarter campaign was started. “We were pretty excited to see, if anyone is interested. Suddenly the campaign started growing, more and more people wanted to contribute.”
The project received the neccessary funding within just 24 hours and “Wonderland” became the most well financially supported photo book in the history of crowdfunding with 344 000 British pounds. The book’s first print was sould out within two months. The result was a high-quality photo book that does credit to both paper and design. A book that shows photography from its best side and enables the daughter to pay tribute to her mother. Everything that child carrying Mitchell had planned, worked perfectly. Two days after delivering the books to the contributers of the campaign, on Christmas eve 2015, Mitchell gave birth to her first child.
But the story does not end here. Eight months later the new mother is diagnosed with breast cancer. At exactly the time when she was in Italy printing the second edition of her book.
“I focused on just getting along and put all my energy to recovering from my disease. Now, years later, I’m free from illness and I feel that I have a lot of creativity waiting to get out. I know how healing it can be when you express the most hidden feelings that you have, whether it’s in words or some other creative process. It is extremely satisfying to share it with others.”
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