Counterparts: A photographic exhibition of the work of Mikhaila Jurkiewicz and Sarina Reisinger.
A grandmother’s praise at the opening of your exhibition is always special and Sarina Reisinger could not be more proud of the photographic achievements of her granddaughter Mikhaila Jurkiewicz. But Sarina was not only an onlooker at her granddaughter’s show ‘Counterparts’ she was also a participant, and to me, the opportunity to exhibit alongside your grandmother is beyond special.
Opened on the 31st of July at the ANU Photospace gallery, ‘Counterparts’ was a joint exhibition of the work of two artists created through one camera. Mikhaila inherited her grandmother’s 35mm Leica film camera in 2013 when she began her degree at the ANU School of art majoring in Photography. Like many well seasoned film cameras, Sarina’s Leica is very well travelled. A passionate documentary photographer, Sarina documented the people and scenes she encountered on her travels throughout Europe during the 90s. Mikhaila’s work, also documentary in nature, follows the intimate lives of the individuals within the local punk and hardcore music scene.
The diverse bodies of black and white photography are tied together by their strong narratives and by the technology that created them. Speaking to Sarina, she was amazed by the similarities between the two bodies of work, ‘They talk!’ She exclaimed, and talk they did. Presented in a chaotic and mesmerizing salon hang, the subjects from both bodies of works chattered away to each other in different tongues, from different generations, and representing different cultures.
There were remarkable conversations going on between works. My favorite was what I dubbed the ‘bongs and binoculars’ conversation between Sarina’s image of a crowd absorbed in watching the races with sets of binoculars, hanging next to Mikhaila’s crowd in her living room absorbed by their own instrument of entertainment.
Despite the fact that Sarina’s photos are almost 20 years old now she remembers the story behind every one of them. One of her images is a sneaky shot of a younger Woody Allen at a nightclub in Paris. She says that she went up to him afterwards and asked if she could take his photo, he agreed and said that she should send it to him when she got back to Australia to develop it. I asked if she ended up sending it to him and she laughed and said, ‘Oh no, he was very drunk. We were both very drunk.’ Many of the stories Sarina described were of far less amiable photographic encounters than that with Woody Allen. She recalls very grumpy and unwilling subjects, some asking for money and a few even chasing after her to try and steal her camera away. Street photography is no picnic, but then Sarina is a very tough grandmother of nine.
Mikhaila’s work comes from a far more personal environment. She has a close relationship with her subjects who allow her to document the most intimate moments of performances, parties, and hang overs that come with life in the punk and hardcore music scene.
Counterparts is a unique exhibition that allows the viewer to witness a very personal intergenerational conversation between the work of Sarina and Mikhaila. As is the case with most documentary photography, Counterparts reveals not only the lives of the subjects but also offers us a window into the colliding worlds of the two photographers who are tied together by blood, camera, and their love of people.
To see more of Mikhaila’s work: