Projects

Through Photography I explore and document themes I am intuitively drawn to. My personal projects bring me to unexpected places without and within. They allow me to discover new perspectives on life and death, on spirituality, on cultural identity and change, on the significance of memory and loss, on what it means to be a woman in a male conditioned world. I also love working with Clients, helping them to communicate their stories and work through photography and graphic/book-design or short films.  

The Nun’s Path

A personal project exploring the lack of gender equality in Theravada Buddhism, the oldest and most traditional of the 3 buddhist branches.

In the eleventh century, Sri Lanka was conquered by the Colas of southern India, who destroyed the monasteries and eliminated the monks and nuns. In 1070, Sri Lanka invited monks from Burma to restore the order of bhikkhus, as Buddhism had disappeared in India by this time. Unfortunately there were no surviving orders of Theravada nuns anywhere to find. It was however rule that ten nuns were needed to ordain a new nun, and so ordination of bhikkhunis was no longer possible, and so there has been no fully ordained order of Theravada bhikkhunis since that time.

Nuns are called Dounji, in Cambodia, their status is far lower than that of the monks, since they are not ordained monastics, but simply laywomen who’s tradition began with older woman taking up residence in the temples to serve the monks, assimilating the rules, shaving their hair, dressing in monastic white cotton and living by the buddhist precepts.

To be a nun is not easy I learn, while visiting the group of 50 Cambodian nuns who live in the Andouck (turtle) pagoda outside of Battambang, Cambodia along with a group of 100 monks. 

While lay women’s support has been beneficial to maintain institutional Buddhism over the centuries, such valuable support has sadly been unavailable for the female path. The role of women in Theravada Buddhism has primary been to support the monks on their spiritual path, with money and food donations, and also as servants, working as food-preparers, cooks, cleaners, gardeners, spiritual guides, teachers, carers, and so much more.

Not being allowed proper ordination has made it difficult for nuns to find guidance, wisdom and confidence on their path to enlightenment. Most buddhist nuns in Cambodia see their role as the servant, the humbleness demanded of them seems like a meditative practice, however, often I cannot help but recognize that this humbleness is not equally required of male practitioners. If the Buddha taught that the same path leads women and men to enlightenment, why than are women and men offered so very different paths? And why has there never been a female Buddha? I learn that a woman has to be reborn in a male body to have the chance to gain enlightenment. 

We don’t need husbands!

The Mosuo People are one of the last matriarchal minorities in the world. Their confidence, family-structure and the strong female role which they have kept alive for thousands of years despite encountering political difficulties in communist china, is what makes them so unique.

The Mosuo way of carrying out relationships is simple and un- complicated. ‘Relationships between a Mosuo Woman and Man only relies on Love and Loyalty’, so I am told, ‘we don’t have any expectations towards each other, therefore no disappointments, when there is no more Love and Loyalty, there is no reason to stay with each other any longer. We don’t need men to take

care of us or our children, our way of life allows us to enjoy love without conditions or expectations.

The Land of Revolution

In 2006 towards the end of my BA in digital Media I decided to spend my semester abroad in Cuba. I brought a beautiful 80 year old Rolleiflex and a few medium format films with me, not knowing much about the camera nor being able to develop the negatives while there, I allowed myself to simply explore and observe. The Project turned into a Book and a short film. This was my very first documentary Project and what I loved most about it was that I had no idea what I was doing and so photographing became a meditation. 

Memories of a beloved Place

When the Berlin Wall came tumbling down, and changed the world, an indirect and largely unknown consequence of this event took place, the disappearance of a central-European minority – a minority that Mona Simon belongs to. The Transylvanian Saxons are a German population group living in what is today Romania. . Over the course of the centuries this region first belonged to Hungary, then Austria respectively to Austria-Hungary, finally becoming a part of Romania in 1918.

1990. Mona Simon is ten years old. In this Year almost all Saxons leave Romania, approximately 850 years after their arrival, migrating “back” to Germany.

A whole people collectively decide to virtually disappear. 

Mona’s work deals with exile and remembrance and takes place in the midst of an individually, as well as collectively painful context – that of the vast disappearance of a nation. To give this work the title of a Tchaikovsky piece „Memory of a Beloved Place“ alludes to the 19th Century nostalgia of a paradise lost, a paradise in Eastern Europe which the artist sets out to find some 20 years later. Her approach can not be anything but clearly different, as the means of expression are when comparing photography to music or even poetry, such as Baudelaire’s poem „le vert paradis des amours enfantines“(“The green paradise of childlike loves”). Language and music can breath new life into the past world, yet memories cannot be photographed. At most, the origin, the place, where the memory was formed, can be shown in its present materialistic state and the souvenir is embedded in this reality. Photography as such, therefore, demands and cultivates a permanent dialectic between memory and reality.

Caldarari – Transylvania‘s traditional Gypsies

Romania has the largest proportion of Gypsy people in the world. It’s estimated that two million people or 5-10% of the population are Roma. Romania joined the EU in 2007 but many gypsy customs are outside of EU regulations working on hundreds of years of tradition and ritual.

My Project shows the Caldarari gypsies, a community who has settled down on the brink of a former saxon village in Transylvania. They have built enormous houses to demonstrate their wealth to the rest of the world but also to each other. Every Caldarari has the surname Caldararu which means tin or coppersmith. The Caldarari work in the same handcraft since many hundreds of years, they make their money from forging buckets, kettles, pots and boilers for distilling alcohol.

Like many Gypsy Communities the Caldarari live in a rigorous patriarchal society, property will always be inherited by sons and childhood engagements ensure that their children remain in the caldarari community, therefore girls usually leave their families in a young age to get married to the son of an adequate Family. School education does not mean a lot to them, as the most important value and foundation of their culture is to be good in their traditional hand trade, which they won‘t learn at school but from their families, as they say.

The missing Code

The Missing Code is an artistic project which stems from the encounter between two personal itineraries, of the photographer Mona Simon and the writer and gender expert Cova Alvarez.

18 women, 8 Cambodian and 10 foreign, have participated and shared the stories of their life journeys.

The result is a collection of constructed self-portraits and poetic texts, inspired by the interviews that create a map of life pathways, choices and self-perceptions.

We will understand who woman are, when the world stops telling them who they should be.
Rosa Mayreder, (*1858-1938)

The Dignity Project

MEN ARE LIKE GOLD,
WOMAN ARE LIKE CLOTH.

A common traditional saying
in Cambodia, meaning that gold can be washed clean of dirt while never losing its value, but cloth will always bear stains. The scars and bruises from the past merge into the skin of a golden canvas highlighting and visualizing the beauty and resilience of each woman beyond a broken victim’s lost faith and despair from humiliating domestic violence.

Plants

Portraits

Animals