Tilda, May 2020// ©Christina Stohn
The Story behind the Portrait
This portrait belongs to a body of work called Tilda, a series I have worked on in my hometown of Freiburg since 2019. I have known Tilda, the daughter of one of my childhood friends, since she was one week old and have watched her grow up. By the age of two, all the blonde hair that had grown in since she was a baby fell out. Subsequently, it was discovered she had the rare auto-immune disease Alopecia Totalis, a condition where the body’s own cells attack the hair follicles. To date the underlying cause of the disease is not known and, so far, there is no cure.
As Tilda has got older, she started wearing different types of head coverings when she was playing as a means of creative expression. For Tilda, home is a place of comfort, a place where she does not always wear a head covering, where she is at ease enough to leave it off. When she does wear one, she prefers it to be pink, which is one of her favourite colours. When she leaves her home and goes into public spaces, headgear implies safety and protection for Tilda. She asked for a wig to be made and wears this frequently. This appears to be an additional layer of security for Tilda, an aspect that she otherwise finds in people familiar to her.
From the end of April 2020 as Covid-19 progressed, the German government made mouth and nose protection mandatory in all indoor public spaces. Many designers such as my long-term collaborator Anja Perišić started making their own masks for non-medical use. Anja is the founder of A.P. Monde, a zero-waste fashion label based in Antwerp, Belgium. As part of my support for her work in this difficult time, we started a collaboration where I photographed 20 of her masks with people local to Freiburg including Tilda.
Even though facemasks are currently not mandatory for children under age six, Tilda very much wanted to wear one. As she is growing older, her individuality is revealing itself and she has started to develop her own sense of style. As a result, she insists on choosing her outfits, favouring a mix of colours and patterns to convey these parts of her personality. It has become a new and important opportunity for her self-expression.
My portraits are mostly rather formal, often depicting people in staged settings where I kindly ask them to follow directions, to stand or pose in certain ways. However, during the sessions with Tilda, the approach became more so one of a chance encounter. My photographic approach has altered within this project; it is more collaborative and I photograph Tilda the way she wants to be portrayed and only when she is comfortable doing so.
Tilda asked for a wig to be made….this appears to be an additional layer of security for her
Christina Stohn grew up in the Black Forest where she trained and worked as a commercial photographer for Studio Gieske, specialising in interior and still life photography. She then spent eight years in London working as a photographic artist. In 2014 she graduated from the University of Westminster with a BA in Photography (First Class Honours). She also completed an MA in Integrated Design (Distinction), which encompassed both photography and graphic design at the HfK Bremen in 2018.
Christina is now based in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany. Working as a freelance photographer, she is commissioned for editorial work. Her personal portfolio is project-based focusing on themes of cultural identity with a particular interest in book design.
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