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15th April 2019

Art in Mancunia: Shona Sterland

A cathartic and heart-breaking process of coming to terms with a breakup, Shona Sterland documents a universal experience in her latest photography project
Art in Mancunia: Shona Sterland
Photo: Shona Sterland

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’.

Photo: Shona Sterland

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.”

Photo: Shona Sterland

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.

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