EPF 2011 Winner

Emerging Photographer Fund – 2011 Recipient

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Irina Werning

Back to the Future

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I love old photos. I know I’m a nosy photographer. As soon as I step into someone else’s house, I start sniffing for those old photos. Most of us are fascinated by their retro look but to me it’s imagining how people would feel and look like if they were to reenact them today… A year ago, I decided to actually do this. So, with my camera, I started inviting people to go back to their future.

It starts when I get together with my subjects and we choose the old picture. I go through their boxes and albums looking for an image that speaks about them. Next comes a bit of a photographic investigation: studying the lighting, the angle, the type of camera and lens it was shot with, etc. Then, from there, the search begins: internet auction sites, second hand stores, borrowing from friends wardrobes, cutting, dying, sewing, attaching, adapting, assembling, gluing, coloring, painting, renting rare and hard to find objects. This project requires a lot of improvising on the run and it involves searching endlessly for stuff in the streets of Buenos Aires. I guess I really like finding things. If I cant find something, then I make it.

Once I have everything I need, we are ready to go back to the future. I dress them up and put them either in the set I built for them or, when possible, back in the real location. Once I get the light right, I ask them to do that thing they were doing in the original photo. I am always amazed that they do it.

Its funny how what you do can show you who you are. I always thought of myself to be the opposite of perfectionist as I live in complete chaos most of the time. However, when I now look at these pictures and see the attention to detail in them, I have to question my self image…

This story has been published in Sunday Times Magazine (Spectrum).

Editor’s Note:

Irina will receive $15,000. from Burn Magazine through the Magnum Cultural Foundation to continue her project.

The EPF 2011 judges:

Trent Parke – photographer, Magnum Photos
Narelle Autio – photographer, Agence VU’
Maggie Steber – photographer, editor, teacher
Barbara Stauss – photo director, Mare magazine, Germany



Born in Buenos Aires
BA Economics, Universidad de San Andres, Buenos Aires, 1997
MA History, Universidad Di Tella, Buenos Aires, 1999
MA Photographic Journalism, Westminster University, London, 2006
Winner Ian Parry Scholarship 2006
Gordon Foundation Grant 2006
Selected for Joop Swart Masterclass (World Press Photo Organization), 2007

Related links


Emerging Photographer Fund – Finalists:

Dominic Bracco II
Michael Christopher Brown
Zhe Chen
Laura El-Tantawy
Daisuke Ito
Tushikur Rahman
Benjamin Rusnak
Daria Tuminas

Emerging Photographer Fund – Honorable mentions:

Walter Astrada
Victor Cobo
Maurizio Cogliandro
William Daniels
Marc Davidson
Alvaro Deprit
Rian Dundon
Matt Eich
Ryan Gauvin
Robin Hammond
Tom Hyde
Sebastian Liste
Alberto Lizaralde
Nicola Lo Calzo
Guy Martin
Gabriele Micalizzi
Karen Mirzoyan
Jane Moriarity
Isabelle Pateer
Emily Schiffer
Valerio Spada
Andy Spyra
Anastasia Taylor-Lind
Munem Wasif

64 Responses to “EPF 2011 Winner”

  • Well deserved. Congratulations.

  • DAH

    wow…totally humbled…honestly…

    these sculptures were always for sylvia but maybe now they can help others in some small way to put a human face on suicide and depression.

    i think she would be proud…

    and again to IRINA…


  • Congratulations Marc, so glad that you chose to share your sculptures here, and agreed on the powerful effect they can have for others. My best wishes. Peace.

  • Thanks for the list.. looking forward to see the work.. 14 of the names are not new to me.. one of them I was hoping would have been among the finalists, ’cause it’s the only one I know personally and of whom I knew would submit, not because the others’ work is less good or important..


    as we wrote earlier, all of the 30 honorable mentions and quite a few of the ones who came close (about 50 others) are to be published on Burn…Marc, i would not have recommended a link here just because so much better for our readers to see it as an essay on Burn…kills the surprise….in any case, we will still of course publish…

  • Brilliant,innovative idea.

  • I just ran across this work:
    Makes this whole thing seem kind of depressing: such similar work, but the one that came second gets more recognition.

  • c.l.e,

    Are these two bodies of work really the same, though? Ms. Tibbs’ project is obviously a Photoshop cut-and-paste of recent self-portraiture into old photographs (not to diminish the work), whereas Ms. Werning goes to great lengths to actually recreate the physical scene in the original photograph.

    IMHO, the fact that Ms. Tibbs is using only self-portraiture suggests that it is more of a personal journey.

  • I didn’t say they were the same. I said they are similar. Each artist presents a series of diptychs where the image on the left is a vintage photograph and the image on the right is a contemporary person in the same vintage scene. The effect, in my opinion, is strikingly similar in spite of the differences that you’ve mentioned. The projects have the same conceptual conceit and even share a number of graphic similarities. The link I posted is the original, the Burn EPF person is the late comer. This is like when a hipster band comes along and makes an overproduced cover of a classic. Does anyone remember when Alien Ant Farm covered Smooth Criminal? It’s like that- yeah, yeah the new one is more polished in a contemporary, digital kind of a way, but to say it’s better because of the studio work is, at best, a matter of opinion, at worst, an embarrassing example of our tech-loving disposition as photographers.

  • SPOOKY…… So so spooky.. like ghosts rising from nowhere. all those questions we ask when we come face to face with identical twins… On the flip side .. So so BEAUTIFUL.. reminding us of our own individuality. of our preciousness. Works on so so many levels… Profound is how I found it on first viewing and profound it remains..

    May you come up with more ideas like this.. Move us more..

  • wow,what an idea…exlne work.very refreshing.congrats to Irina Werning.

  • Deutsche Bahn uses pictures of Irina Werning’s Back to the Future in their campaign for 20 years Bahncard. Congratulations Irina!

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