Local photography exhibit to be featured at Southbank

Tannum Sands photographer Elena Korotkaia on location in Svalbard. Pictures: CONTRIBUTED

Many of you took the opportunity to witness the wonder of Tannum Sands photographer Elena Korotkaya and her magical experience capturing Winter on Svalbard in her exhibition at Blue Mirror gallery last year.

Elena has now received funding through the Regional Arts Fund and has had her exhibit, ‘Svalbard: the land of dreams’ invited to be featured in the

Queensland College of Art and Design Grey Street Gallery at Griffith University in Brisbane’s Southbank.

Svalbard: The land of dreams is a photographic collection exploring the natural landscape and fragments of Russian past on Svalbard – a remote Norwegian island located in the Arctic Ocean.

The exhibition features unique shots of a Russian ghost settlement Pyramiden. Literally frozen in permafrost and time, this place became out of bounds following tightened relations with Russia after its invasion of Ukraine.

A self-taught photographer, Elena shares with us how her journey to Svalbard came about.

How did you feel when you found out you were accepted?

When I just started out as a photographer my dream was to study at Queensland College of Art, Griffith University. However, life took an unexpected but lucky turn and I got a very exciting job in the arts industry. I continued to pursue photography in my spare time.

When my first solo exhibition ‘Svalbard: the land of dreams’ was ready for showing, I had a daring thought that I could apply for it to be shown at QCA.

QCAD Galleries accept applications from students, alumni and external artists every year but I seemed to miss the intake every time, as I became a busy new mum. I finally applied in 2022 and was thrilled to find out I was accepted.

I remember squealing when I read the good news. But as I summed up the costs of taking my exhibition to Brisbane, I realised I would need help.

I applied for arts funding several times. There are lots of selection criteria and overall the process is very competitive. My first two applications did not succeed.

Despite feeling down and hopeless after unsuccessful outcome I decided to give it my last shot.

So when I received the letter from the Regional Arts Fund notifying that funding had been approved I felt my heart jump out, then I rubbed my eyes and looked at the screen again to check that what I saw wasn’t a dream.

It has not been an easy process, but I feel extremely grateful that there is support for regional artists like me.

What needs to happen between now and the opening – what you need to prepare?

I have been working closely with the Gallery on exhibition presentation, promotion and related events. Official opening will be held on Thursday 15 February.

I am currently in the thick of the art process, experimenting and designing different art activities to go along with the exhibition.

For all of this fun stuff to happen I will come down to Brisbane and install the exhibition myself in one day! It is probably as daunting as it sounds, and I have been feeling the jitters a lot lately.

Where are you hoping an opportunity like this may lead you with your future? Any other trips planned?

I hope that the photographs in ‘Svalbard: the land of dreams’ create a wonderful experience for the Brisbane crowd but also for my work to be seen by peers and art curators. I will present my Artist Talk and casual Meet the Artist sessions to get to know my audience better and find out their thoughts on the exhibition.

I will work on touring this exhibition to regional galleries in Queensland and beyond.

As a mum of two very young kids I would not dare to plan any trips in the nearest future. However, my biggest dream is to come up with a meaningful arts project and apply for the Australian Antarctic Arts Fellowship.

Svalbard: the land of dreams exhibition will be showcased at the Grey Street Gallery, QCAD Galleries, Griffith University, South Brisbane from 13 to 24 February 2024.