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Youngblood Editions 2012 cover

Lynette Letic interviews Raphaela Rosella.

Last year’s winner of QCP’s Youngblood Editions Raphaela Rosella answers some questions in regards to her background in photography, her Honours projects and future plans.

What attracted you to study and practice photography? Was it an interest that developed over time?
I can’t remember what attracted me to the practice, but from a young age I always wanted to be a photographer. My earliest memories would have to be from primary school when I saved up for my first point & shoot film camera. At this time I went to Nimbin Primary School & I remember telling my mum I wanted to go to Richmond River for High School, which is in Lismore (30km away) because they taught photography. But It wasn’t until year 9 that I choose photography as an elective.

Raphaela Rosella 'Nunjul' 2012

Raphaela Rosella ‘Nunjul’ 2012

You hold a Bachelor of Photography with a major in Photojournalism and you completed your Honours in 2012. Have you pursued any particular projects or endeavors since the end of last year?
Since finishing my Honours I have continued visiting Tammara & Nunjul and I stay in contact with Rowrow. Rowrow lives in Moree so it’s a lot harder for me to see her. I don’t see our collaborations finishing any time soon, they may just evolve into a bigger & longer project investigating a broader scheme of issues affecting young women.

What motivated you to pursue ‘You didn’t take away my future, you gave me a new one’ and how did you initiate the project?
Once I finished ‘We met a little early, but I get to love you longer’ for my Bachelor of Photography I felt I had only just touched the surface of these issues. Tammara’s story in particular I felt wasn’t finished.

I think it was the moment that I sat next to her hospital bed after she had Tamika and realized just how isolated Tammara really was. She was nobody. Her mum, her sister, her dad, nobody was there for her.

Despite her transient circumstances I continued to visit Tammara and her family, and we decided to continue telling her story. From this I started my Honours research project ‘You didn’t take away, my future, you gave me a new one’.

Raphaela Rosella 'Tammara' 2012

Raphaela Rosella ‘Tammara’ 2012

What were some of the challenges you may have faced while producing this highly personal body of work?
My biggest challenge would have to be changes in format that required adjustments to my approach, and finally the incorporation of audio. However as I changed my digital 35mm SLR for a medium format camera (with a waist level finder), I found my presence to be less intrusive. It is a vulnerable experience inviting someone into your home, and in a strange way I think I returned that vulnerability by sharing my anxieties about having to learn how to use a new camera with Nunjul, Tammara and Rowrow.

What have the responses been like towards ‘You didn’t take away my future, you gave me a new one’? Do you feel that you have achieved your intentions with this particular project?
I have received a lot of positive feedback, however the other day I was asked ‘Do you feel your work can be used to educate other girls who may be in a similar position or ‘at risk’ of teenage pregnancy?’ I guess after receiving this type of question I feel I haven’t achieved my intentions for the project. I don’t seek to prevent teenage pregnancy nor do I seek to argue the oversimplified narratives of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ mothers. Instead, it is hoped that the project can serve as a platform to show the complexities of each woman’s lived experience, and challenge conventional views of young mothers through recognising the validity of their (often misunderstood and stigmatised) choices.

What were some of the key experiences of 2012? It is evident from your curriculum vitae that you had quite a busy year, from attending a workshop with Magnum photographer Alessandra Sanguinetti during Les Rencontres D’Arles, to joining Australia’s leading documentary collective, Oculi.
Yes, 2012 was an amazing year! Attending Les Rencontres D’Arles & join Oculi would have to be the highlights but really collaborating with Tammara, Nunjul & Rowrow was the most fulfilling. I can’t thank them enough; I treasure their friendship and participation and I am forever grateful that they allowed me into their lives.

What projects are you working on this year? What are your endeavours for the near future?
Now that I am living back in Nimbin and I’m expecting a baby I plan to continue investigating relationships between class, stigma and gender among women experiencing ‘disadvantage’. Focusing closely on issues such as the cyclic nature of poverty, domestic violence and the unnecessary/forced removal of children from their mothers.

For more information on Raphaela Rosella, please visit her website.

Lynette Letic is an emerging artist based in Brisbane.

1 Comment

  1. July 2, 2013  3:33 pm by Jagath Dheerasekara

    Congratulation Raphaela on this beautiful strong body of photography (I wished I had the opportunity to listen to the audio as well). Thank you Tammara, Nunjul and Rowrow for sharing your stories. Images are disarmingly simple, refreshing and loud. They are moving and dignified. Through the images, I could relate to both the young women who went through and going through a challenging experience and the photographer herself. Photographs show Raphaela’s ability in dealing with such a complex theme with sensitivity and sensibility. This body of work (images of which are loaded with texts), in my mind, can be a powerful tool to engage those who are at risk as it attempts to bring a complex topic to the discourse through a different path. I already shared it with my daughter.

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