Art in Mancunia: Shona Sterland
By Bella Jewell
Most of us have undergone a break-up. Whether messy or amicable, these life events can seem emotionally monumental before the pain begins to subside. It is this subject that second-year photography student, Shona Sterland, has chosen to document in her latest project.
After the collapse of a four-year relationship, Sterland decided to find closure through the medium of photography; “I made a book comprised of images taken on a 110 film camera I bought when I was with my ex and revisited some of the places we went together.”
The minimalist and blurred images evoke a painful emptiness that many of us can identify with, in fact Sterland describes how she “started the book with dark images and journal entries from the start of [her] breakup which showcase [her] emotions.” The photographs are occasionally paired with a single journal entry, which powerfully verbalises the sentiments of the viewer; ‘I wish I was dead’, ‘I miss you, I miss us’.
However, as our emotional state processes post-break-up, so does the tone of the photography and text, it is a real insight into the human condition. Sterland describes how “as the book goes on, the images become lighter and so do my journal entries.”
The obscure images and scrawled entries are punctuated by screenshots of text exchanges with Sterland’s ex-boyfriend. The inclusion of these messages, Sterland explains, make the work “relatable to many people who are facing something similar,” and forges a powerful connection between artist and viewer. Sterland, therefore, has achieved a work which is both deeply personal, whilst also representing a universal human experience.
Sterland summarises this artistic process as “both heartbreaking and cathartic” detailing how it helped her achieve “clarity and closure” — the endpoint we all pursue following the fragmentation of a relationship.