Picturing Berlin with Valentina Culley Foster

Valentina Culley-Foster pictured in front of her exhibit 'Berlin Wall Trail: Space in Flux.' (valentina 10 10 13.jpg)
Valentina Culley-Foster pictured in front of her exhibit 'Berlin Wall Trail: Space in Flux.' (valentina 10 10 13.jpg)

Derry based photographer, Valentina Culley Foster, is to exhibit her work in London this month.

Valentina’s project, entitled ‘Berlin Wall Trail: Space in Flux,’ will be displayed at the Brick Lane Gallery from October 23. Having been invited to participate in the Picture Berlin five week artist residency, Valentina undertook a number of ‘pop up exhibits,’ seminars and guest lectures in August.

This project was then shot following that placement. A total of ten artists participated in the Picture Berlin workshops. Valentina was the only UK/Ireland contributor, others traveled from the United States, Australia and Italy.

“Everyone had very different backgrounds and we discussed life as much as art,” explained Valentina. “It was a really different environment compared to what I am used to. It was a very creative environment, everyday was characterised by an inspiring buzz. It was great to be able to engage with people’s work.

“I think I can say I learned a lot about life from the other participants and, being honest, I perhaps wasn’t expecting that. “It was the most inspirational environment that I have ever created work in, inspiration just seemed to bounce off all the participants.

“Picture Berlin also taught me a lot about curatorial practice and how to promote myself as a photographer.”

After the workshops Valentina then took two weeks to complete her own project.

“I was always interested in the idea of space in transition. I think the topic is very applicable to Derry and Northern Ireland so I undertook, what is best described as a ridiculous journey, to trace the former route of the Berlin Wall. “Many times I wondered ‘what am I doing?’ I kept getting lost along the route, which was full of insane landscapes, forests and near deserts. at times there was no one around for miles.

“And of course I would undertake the cycle in the hottest week of the summer,” she laughed. “Many images of the route will stay with me but perhaps none more so than the death strip. The seemingly endless sand pit, a former minefield which ran along the wall, has now been converted to play parks and such.”

The journey had many surprises for Valentina:

“The landscape has changed so much in the last two decades that many people couldn’t even recall where the wall had stood. I found that remarkable,” she said. “Climbing up an embankment one day I found a tiny little pice of the wall that had survived - that was a strange feeling as only one segment is said to exist today (at Bernaver Street) but here was a little pockmark of history.”

Valentina captured hundreds of images during her trek and 13 will now be displayed in London as her work continues to grow in stature internationally. Shortly after the exhibit Valentina will attend her graduation ceremony from the University of Westminster to collect her degree in Photographic Arts.

She is also the Pilots Row Camera Club representative on the Northern Ireland Photographers’ Association. Where she is arranging a local NIPA showcase as part of the Culture celebrations.