Exhibition Launch / Artists Talk at BLAST! Festival

Stories of Home by Jon Tonks and Polska Britannica by Czesław Siegieda


Saturday, 25 May 2019

Artist Talk: 3pm

Exhibition Launch: 4.30

former Poundland

Unit 3

Kings Square Shopping Centre

West Bromwich

B70 7NN

Photographers Jon Tonks and Czesław Siegieda talk about their respective projects, exhibited at Blast! Festival for the very first time, and offer a rare insight into the lives, customs and culture of the Polish and Central and Eastern European communities who have called the UK home since the Second World War. They are joined by guests - writer and film-maker Jane Rogoyska, author of Kozłowski: a new novel that explores the tragedy of the Katyń Massacre and the pain of post-war Polish exile; and Elizabeth Kardynal, Founder of EWA CIC Sandwell and participant and contributor to Stories of Home.

Jon Tonks / Stories of Home

Jon Tonks' exhibition is a portrait of the Central and Eastern European communities living in Sandwell, home to the biggest Polish population in the UK. The photographs were taken during a two year period against a backdrop of divisive geopolitical rhetoric following the 2016 EU referendum. Thanks to their generosity, the project also reveals much about the cultural identity and hopes and fears for the future of each subject. The series explores a question that reaches beyond borders: what binds a community to make a place home?

This project was commissioned by Multistory and supported by Creative Black Country

Jon Tonks is a British photographer living in Bath, UK. His work focuses on telling stories about people’s lives shaped by history and geography. He has been shortlisted for the Taylor Wessing National Portrait Prize three times, twice for the Terry O’Neill award and, in 2014, Tonks was presented with the Vic Odden Award by the Royal Photographic Society for his first book Empire– a journey across the South Atlantic exploring life on four remote British Overseas Territories. 

Czesław Siegieda / Polska Britannica

Czesław Siegieda was born in a displaced persons' camp at Burton on the Wolds in Leicestershire in 1954. From 1970 until the ‘80s, he photographed members of the Polish community based in The Midlands, portraying them as protagonists of a small 'theatrical world' in search of a lost spiritual homeland. Beginning with intimate views of his family members, he photographed the life and times of a community displaced by war and unable to return to their homeland. His subjects include daily life at home, religious festivals, Polish Saturday school, the Polish boarding schools, remembrance and commemoration.

Czesław Siegieda’s work displays a consistency of imagination and a profound understanding of photographic quality. Born in a Polish refugee camp in the UK, it is this dual perspective of both understanding the desires and pressures felt by a minority culture, and of his ability to give it a poetic photographic expression, which gives his work a distinct flavour and importance. 

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