Your picture could star in Luton exhibition to mark International Women’s Day

Catrine Val's photo of 'Zoe'. As You Change So Do I, Luton Culture.
Catrine Val's photo of 'Zoe'. As You Change So Do I, Luton Culture.

An acclaimed artist is inviting Lutonians to be part of a thought-provoking exhibition for International Women’s Day (March 8).

From January 17, Departure Lounge’s Storefront gallery will be converted into a photography studio and women who live or work in the Luton area are invited to be photographed for the exhibition wearing the clothes they feel best communicate who they are.

A spokeswoman said: “Bute Street-based gallery Departure Lounge and Luton Culture have invited acclaimed artist Catrine Val to create insightful new photographic and video portraits of women living and working in the Luton area – a snapshot of what it is to be a woman in 21st -century urban Britain.

“Inspired by Luton’s unique diversity, and by the fluid relationships between the town’s many communities and cultures, Val’s exquisite portraits focus on the important part that clothing plays in personal and cultural identity.

“Based on the question ‘Who are you, and who do you want to be?’, Val elevates the daily fashion choices made by Luton’s women to the level seen in the pages of Vogue or Marie Claire and encourages them to re-imagine themselves and their place in the world.”

Val also has a particular interest in workwear and uniforms and the extent to which they limit the ability to express personal identity, and she creates multiple portraits of sitters to reflect these different aspects of their daily lives.

Following on from some highly individual initial photoshoots on location in Luton in December, participants may also be photographed in local locations important to them, creating a literal portrait of Luton as an important context and backdrop to their lives and identities.

The exhibition will evolve as more sitters are photographed, culminating in a closing viewing of the portraits at The Storefront on International Women’s Day, Friday March 8.

Caroline Wallace, As You Change, So Do I Project Co-ordinator at Luton Culture said: “We are excited to be working with this highly skilled international artist. We know from similar As you Change projects, such as ‘Mother and Child,’ that both the artist and the community working on the project benefit hugely from this type of collaboration.”

Matthew Shaul, Director of Departure Lounge, said: “As we approach the conclusion of As You Change So Do I, this project in particular seems to be doing everything that public art in Luton should be doing. Catrine has produced simply breathtaking images of women in the town, which completely reimagine both their own and Luton’s identities.

“We hope that they will inspire yet more of Luton’s women to participate in the process of reinventing themselves for the camera.”

Based in Kassel, Germany, Catrine Val is internationally recognised for her many series of contemporary photographic portraits and self-portraits, which engage with female identity.

Her remarkable photographs compare favourably with luminaries of the fashion world like Mario Testino and David la Chappelle.

Artist Catrine Val said: “I believe the human figure and how we present ourselves - the clothes and adornments we choose - is a window on the soul. Working with a diverse spectrum of women, my project in Luton will illuminate women’s love, beauty and wisdom, which is often obscured by the daily struggles to negotiate society, and the world of work. As an artist I straddle straight documentary photography and staged portraiture, seeking women’s essence – authenticity, the ability to think for themselves, be themselves and negotiate the multiple overlapping and simultaneous identities modern life asks us to assume.”

Organised by Luton Culture and Departure Lounge, The Changing Room is the latest project presented as part of, As You Change, So Do I, a three-year programme of public art events funded by Arts Council England’s Luton Investment Programme. As You Change, So Do I provides artists with a platform to make new public works in response to Luton’s unique industrial and cultural history.