‘Territorial’ group show

I am currently part of a group show titled ‘Territorial’ at The Banks Space gallery in Adalgate East, London E1, the gorgeous gallery that belongs to The Cass/ London Metropolitan University

This is an exhibition that I have curated, selecting and presenting my work and that of 5 other contemporary photographer as part of London Photomonth.


The idea behind this show is to present work of contemporary photographic practicalness whose work is concerned with concepts human geography, identity and territory.

The show opened on 20th October with a well attended private view, and it will continue till 12th November. It’s open Wednesdays to Saturdays (shut sun-mon-tue).

There will also be 2 artist talks on 27th of October and 3rd November at 6pm, open to the public.

Working on this show whilst also preparing my solo show at The Stone Space gallery has been tough, especially due to the lack of funding – unfortunately funding for the arts in the UK seem to have miserably shrunk! To go around this issue, I printed everyone work with a white border and used it to pin the images to the wall, avoiding frames.

On the private view night the show was well received and I received positive feedback about both my work and my curation, of which I am very pleased.

I presented a selection of images of my series ‘Borderlands’ including some new images that I had never shown before, such as an image showing the Danube overflown (border Croatia-Serbia) and a portrait of an orthodox priest (photographed in Psarades, border Greece with Albania and Macedonia, last summer).

My work on show at The Bank Space

My work on show at The Bank Space



Other artists included Ania Dabrowska, who showed a combination of 3 different series which includes both portraits as well archival images, collage and landscape as well as “passport books”. Her work deals with issues of identity, migration, belonging and homeland.

Ania Dabrowska ' work on show at the private view

Ania Dabrowska ‘ work on show at the private view


Other artists include Yiannis Katsaris, presenting images of prayer boxes “EKissakia” on the roadside of Greece together with a new video piece composed of found family footage from the 80s, and Paul Greenleaf who is showing his work ‘Correspondence’. In this series Greeleaf has worked with found-postcards, rephotographing the location as it is today. The images are showcased with the original postcards, and the writings at the back of the postcards compose the titles. I approached Paul Greenleaf to take part in this exhibition as I found interesting his visual correlation between past and present, as well as how carefully he had curated the shots, matching the focal length used in the original postcards to that used in the new landscapes. He also exhibited 3 pieces of ambient music.

I also included 2 large scale images from the series ‘Sandlings’ by Alastair Bartlett, an ex student of mine at University of Suffolk.  His work is shot in 5×4 and beautifully presents landscapes of the Suffolk countryside which the photographer has selected based upon his childhood memory and personal attachment to that territory.

Alastair Bartlett series 'Sandlings'

Alastair Bartlett series ‘Sandlings’

Also part of the show is Christos Koukelis, an award winning photographer who has shown one of his first works titled ‘The Hill’. Photographed over a period of many months in 2000, this series focuses on a man made hill, constructed on top of a dried lake. It shows not only the passing of different seasons, but the human impact on the territory, as the vegetation has been burnt out and the lake dried up to make space for farmland and this hill. We don’t know the reason why it’s being built, but it’s awkwardly perfect symmetry stands out against the roughness of the natural landscape damaged by humans.

Christos Koukelis work 'The Hill'

Christos Koukelis work ‘The Hill’





‘Borderlands’ Exhibition at The Stone Space gallery

I am currently having an exhibition at The Stone Space, a lovely gallery in Leyton, London E11, as part of London Photomonth.

The exhibition opened on 6th October with a well attended private view, followed by my artist talk on 8/10. It will be open till 30th October, opening days Thursdays to Sundays (shut mon-wed).

The gallery is a non-profit space run by artists and volunteers, and it’s a small but excellent space, with a large window on the road.

I have exhibited a selection of 9 images in different sizes, plus 2 large maps. I showed a selection of images from the corpus buffer zone/serbia-croatia/serbia-romania border.

It’s the first time I combine my photographs with maps: these maps are scans of the maps that I use when I walk along borders, which I often use to write down notes. The maps become integral part of my practice and I collect them as precious reminders of the borders visited. I scanned a selection of them and printed them of Sticky-Tex, a vinyl paper that sticks to the wall but can be removed and re-used, and combined different scans to print  a long 60x250cm print.

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check out The Stone Space post about my exhibition here!

Very pleased with the results, and very happy to have been part of London Photomonth


Exhibition! My work “Borderlands” on show in the cloister of the Badia Fiesolana, European University Institute, Fiesole, Florence. I tool part in the annual conference of the project “EU Bordercare” , I am working on this project as collaborator. My work will be on display through July 2016.



exhibition at Badia Fiesolana, Florence. part of the EU Bordercare project

exhibition at Badia Fiesolana, Florence. part of the EU Bordercare project

photo 3 photo 4 photo 5

all images printed on Canson paper


Since 2012, Paola Leonardi has taken analogue photographs of people and places along the land borders of the European Union, narrating life at the edges of Europe. Her project juxtaposes the concepts of geographical and political Europe. The series focuses on the connection between people and territory, the significance of transnational and transcultural identities, and the relevance of European identity to concepts of home and belonging, memory and territory.

In the summer of 2003, I travelled by train between Slovenia and Italy. Coming into Italy, the train stopped for a passport check at an empty ground, 110 meters of bleak concrete paving – an empty space standing between the two countries and curiously seeming to belong to neither. When my turn came, the Italian guard joked, suspiciously, that I looked too fair for an Italian. But he’d let me in, he said, since Slovenia would join the EU the following year anyway.

He wasn’t too wrong; my grandmother had come “from the other side”: her family left their native Istria in WWI, and she was born a refugee in Switzerland before they settled in Italy. We called her “the Jugoslavian grandmother.” My family’s history filled my imagination with faraway lands and people. In 2011-2012, I started thinking of photographing along the borders of Europe, following the border lines on a map.

I mainly travel on foot, sometimes I use public transport, and I have also cycled and hitchhiked. Slow travel has allowed me to meet people, and get a better idea of places and lifestyles. The borders tend to be depopulated and not touristy, so people most often welcome me. On the other hand, I risked hypothermia along the Finland-Russian divide, and the Turkish soldiers in Cyprus were rather hostile!!

On the Serbia-Croatia border, the Croatian inhabitants showed me where they had hidden from invading Serbian soldiers in the mud of the Danube’s bank. A lady whispered to me, “I am a Serbian, but don’t tell anyone; they don’t like me here.” In Serbia, a Croatian family said they were hoping for both countries to be in the EU. In Cyprus, people cried at my photos taken in parts of the island their families had to leave after the 1974 invasion. On the buffer zone, people on both sides invited me to their homes, and spoke of how they wished for a country without divide. On the Romanian-Serbian border, I spent a day with a Hungarian shepherd, who had walked down from Hungary: he couldn’t to write, but was able to use Facebook. In Greece, some elders warned me against crossing on foot into Turkey; “it could be dangerous, they hate us.” Their Turkish counterparts said exactly the same! In Finland, I met a man who needed a visa to travel 25 kilometers into Russia to visit his cousins, and identified as both Russian and Finnish saying, “I don’t care what governments say, my family belongs to both places.” For the most part, people have responded well to my project. My feeling is that there is a common European identity, but also a strong identification with the other side of the border.

exhibition at Badia Fiesolana, Florence


A selection of my work will be on show at the Cloister of the Badia Fiesolana, Fiesole, Firenze. Opening on 27th June the exhibition will be visible during the month of July.

I will be in Florence 26th-29th to take part in the EU Bordercare conference and during summer I will begin my photographic collaboration with this anthropological research, photographing in Greece.

history, borders and future projects!

Today 24th April 2016 is the recurrence of the 101 years Armenian Genocide. I have lived in Armenia and it is a country that is part of my artistic development since 2011.

In 2011 I walked along the borders of Armenia (east and west) as well as Nagorno-Karabagh , as part of my project Neverland, a series concerned with the concept of homeland. I have returned to Armenia, and I am currently developing 2 photographic series there. I am also hoping to return in 2017 to progress my projects.

image from my series "Neverland"

image from my series “Neverland”, produced thanks to the support of Arts Council England, Armenian Centre Of Social Studies ACOSS and European Cultural Foundation.

Armenia is a small country tucked in the mountains of the Caucasus, rich in art and culture. It’s culture, lifestyle and approach to art is very similar to that of southern Europe (I felt very much at home!). It’s history is tainted by the genocide of 1915, when almost 2million Armenian living in the Ottoman Empire were killed. It’s an history of survival and it is interesting how the armenian sense of identity is strongly transmitted through language and oral history. Although most European countries, as well as Russia, Canada and most South-American countries  recognise and condemn the genocide, Turkey remains in denial of the historical facts. Read an interesting article on the Huffington Post on how the US have so far not officially used the word “genocide” in fear of offending their allied Erdogan. The denial of history is bizarre – can you imagine Germany denying the holocaust? Of course not, coming to term with the horrible mistakes of your own past is fundamental for the development of  a modern nation. Today is remembrance day and the genocide is remembered all over the world: most notable the Pope, George Clooney and the Armenian band System Of A Down are taking part, just like the previous year.

This event is interesting for various issues connected to art and cultural representation: recently I was talking to fellow artists whilst discussing my work, and they all expressed their concern on how politics forcefully prevails on culture, for example how the musical project Aghet that comprises musicians from Germany, Armenia and Turkey has seen the support of the EU being withdrawn on orders of Erdogan.  I find this news particularly disturbing as this project is sponsored by the European Cultural Foundation, which has also supported my work (please note: the European Cultural Foundation is above politics and still fully supports the project!!). How can the EU dismiss cultural projects privileging political demands?!?

The borders of Armenia which I have photographed, are protected on the East side with the helpf of Russia, which fhas formed a buffer zone to prevent a turkish attack. Traveling along the borders of Armenia the locals’ the general opinion  was that they wanted to be in good terms with Turkey, but to achieve this it was necessary to have recognition of the historical events. To the west, I walked along the borders and stopped for sometimes in Chambarak, a small town in which the majority of the population was born far away and was subject of a forced population exchange: the majority of the inhabitants were expelled from Azerbaijan at the fall of the Soviet Union, a period in which Azerbaijan systematically begun to attack it’s own citizen of Armenian ethnics. Forced population exchanges were carried out between Armenia and Azerbaijan in that period. I then travelled to Nagorno-Karabagh, a self declared Republic with a peculiar history: as a self-confessed border geek I am passionate about Nagorno-Karabagh, also knows as Artshak!

image © paola leonardi photography

image from my series “Neverland”, produced thanks to the support of Arts Council England, Armenian Centre Of Social Studies ACOSS and European Cultural Foundation.

Nagorno-Karabagh is a little gem, with breathtaking mountains and a bizarre history:

Nagorno-Karabagh has always been a territory inhabited by a vast majority of Armenian ethnics, with minorities of Russian, Kurdish and Azerbaijani. However Stalin – with his crazy ideas – incorporated it into Azerbaijan, so Karabagh became an autonomous region within Azerbaijan. At the fall of the Soviet Union, Karabagh demanded to be Armenian and Azerbaijan refused, and a war broke out. Despite being outnumbered, the civilian resistance and the Armenian army managed to win and become independent. There has been a fragile truce for over 20 years till few weeks ago Azerbaijan violated the treaty and launched an unprovoked. It was horrible to hear that friends were bombed, civilians targeted and children and elderly people were among the victims. It is also very sad to see how little is knows about this conflict in Europe, and the few articles I found in newspapers were often misrepresenting the situation.

The will of the people of Karabagh to affirm their identity  is based on the right of nations to self-determination, and their resistance, often a civilian resistance, resonates the stories of the italian resistance that my grandmother used to tell me.

At this stage of my artistic development I have completed various projects connected to concepts of human geography and self-determination of identity and how borders affect our concepts of home and belonging. As much as I try to stay away from politics, this proves sometimes impossible  as the line on the map is hardly ever established by the common people; often borders are established with disregard of those who inhabit them.




“Privet Germania”

an interesting photographic project by Ira Thiessen published on The Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/world/gallery/2016/mar/30/ira-thiessen-privet-germany-russia-people-caught-between-in-pictures the project is titled “Privet Germania”

“…Ira Thiessen’s photographs explores the complex issue of national identity and belonging. Inspiration comes from her own experience: in 1990, when Thiessen was seven years old, her family moved from Kyrgyzstan back to Germany, the home of her ancestors…”

I finf Thiessen’ exploration of identity very interesting as it depicts the transcultural and transnational idea that my project is based upon