Petra Stenvall / TjejLand – A new creative platform for international women photographers
TjejLand is a creative project space founded in 2014 by Petra Stenvall, inspired by the idea behind a syjunta (Swedish word for sewing circle). Such circles were common for women to meet and socialize during the early and mid 1900s. TjejLand’s vision is to act like a social meeting place and create a curative, creative platform showcasing female photographers around the world. As TjejLand celebrates the launch of its first publication, The Photographers, Photomonitor speaks with Stenvall to learn more about the background and plans for this compelling and timely project.
Christiane Monarchi : I’m interested in this project for its highlight of current photography made by women, in fact several whose practices I’ve also featured here on Photomonitor. ‘Women in photography’ is an area that seems ever-topical, from books, exhibitions, blogs and coming up, a women in photography conference at Tate Modern later this Autumn. Could you tell me a little bit about where TjejLand has come from?
Petra Stenvall: I myself have a photographic background and graduated from London College of Communication, BA (HONS) Photography, 2012. When I grew up I was surrounded by strong women that had various interest in the arts. Both my grandmother and mother are very skilful weavers, together with other women from my town they have a weaving community. In a town house attic they have a little studio with a few weaving looms and together they meet up, create individual and collaborative projects and sometimes go on field trips together.
This is something that has stayed with me and I always knew I wanted to try to create something equal to it, but instead of a room above a town house I created TjejLand, which is an online platform as well as a biannual printed publication.
CM: What was the impetus for you to create TjejLand, now?
PS: Last year, after two and a half years out of school, I was sitting and looking through a famous online platform featuring both established and emerging artists and found that most of those featured were men, which got me thinking. At the same time I was studying Art History and reading Linda Nochlin’s essay, ‘Why have there been no great Women artists?’ I believe women are under-represented in photography so I guess I just felt it was time to do something about it and I started to sketch on what was going to be TjejLand’s first publication.
CM: Your first issue TjejLand: The Photographer is curated to include a compelling lineup of current names that are familiar to the London circuit – including photographic contributions by Clara Bahlsen, Eva Stenram, Esther Teichmann, Eva Vermandel , Hanna Putz, Joannna Piotrowska, Marianne Bjørnmyr, Tereza Zelenkova and writing from these and other creatives including Amy Knight, Evita Goze, Geiste Kincinaityte, Maisie Skidmore, Sharon Boothroyd and Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa. A definite feminine presence unfolds on the pages amidst prose, image and essays. What is in store for future issues of TjejlLand?
PS: I have great plans for TjejLand and hope to find both the time and money to do it all. TjejLand 02 is coming out in December with great names and this time I have broadened the scene and included Asians and American artists. You will also be able to read in 02 a collaboration feature with Unseen Art Fair which will showcase some of their up and comings. TjejLand Instagram is growing in numbers each day as every week a new female photographer is taking over and posting their work. A potential project in Stockholm is coming up in early 2016 where TjejLand will collaborate with a curator to create a TjejLand space for a month…so yes the future is looking very exciting!
CM: How do you plan on growing TjejLand, and is there room for a male presence?
PS: After publishing TjejLand’s first edition, a few of the collaborators got in touch and said how much they enjoyed it and that they had created new contacts. As many of the photographers featured in TjejLand and on TjejLand’s Instagram come from various countries, together with their help we have spread the word about TjejLand which has lead to sales in Australia, Europe, South America, Canada and USA, hopefully Asia will pick up soon. This is what TjejLand is all about, supporting each other and creating a big “sewing circle”. Even if I will not feature men I had Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa from The Great Leap Sideways write an article about Joanna Piotrowksa, and I have quite a few men following TjejLand on Instagram and buying the publication. As Sharon wrote in The Photographers intro, ‘Men are included in this process.’ Feminism is not solely for women, just as TjejLand is an inspiration for all.
CM: What was most important to you about the design of the first issue, and will others have a similar feel?
PS: To be true, TjejLand 01 was a testing ground as it is a self supportive project I could not be too picky with the layout. I always knew I wanted to have a nice flow in the magazine and feature artists whose work looked good together. I see TjejLand as a small gallery where I am the curator. I asked writers whose work I knew about or that the photographers tipped about, this made it easier as they got full freedom to write as there was already trust there. TjejLand 02 will have the same feel, but I have worked on the layout a little bit more and played around with colours, binding and fonts.
CM: Would you like the TjejLand project to spill over into a physical space and curated exhibitions?
PS: YES! Haha you can tell my enthusiasm. As I mentioned earlier this is potentially happening in Stockholm later this year, keeping fingers crossed. No matter what, I will always want to run the magazine but of course it would be great to support the artists more and to also meet eye to eye and have events, talks and exhibitions.
CM: Are you part of any social networks with a focus on women? I am interested to learn more, it seems to be a popular idea on social media at present.
PS: Apart from being active with TjejLand 24h a day I do follow a few women groups on twitter and do also love Makers which has a great selective of video interviews with women in various fields.
CM: Thank you Petra and we look forward to issue 02 with interest in Winter.