EHA

EHA is a photographic series featuring my mother, portrayed in a number of unusual situations, poses and attire with a slightly unsettling, cinematic feel. The series began in 2015 and is ongoing, having since become something of an international phenomenon, almost with a life of its own.

The real Eha was born in Estonia in 1950, before moving to London with myself and my son, just before the dawn of the new millennium. Widowed, suffering from epilepsy and lacking great command of English, she stayed tightly involved in family life. Then, in 2015, Eha began to suffer from depression and life became bleaker. Beyond the procession of doctor’s appointments and medications, a new focus was needed and, after a chance spark created one day by staging a photo to celebrate a new haircut and wearing an unusual-looking hat we’d spotted in a charity shop window, the EHA project – almost accidentally – was born.

Eha was a natural model from the outset. She had studied fashion construction when young and has retained a skill for and curiosity about dressmaking. In real life, as the project progressed, she became visibly more confident, engaging more readily with strangers and taking increasing pride in her appearance. The story became an unusual form of therapy enacted through acts of the imagination, where the exhibitionist personae we created helped bring the real Eha back to the surface.

Today, my mother’s depression and medical treatment are ongoing. It’s important to stress that though the project brings us an immense collaborative joy, it’s not a magic wand, serving to tie up all loose ends. At the same time, it has become intrinsic to her life and our relationship. It encircles us and keeps us safe.

The public success of the series began when two images from the series were selected as part of the Taylor Wessing Prize in 2019 – from a total of 55 in the exhibition, selected from 3,700 entrant photographs. Coverage since then has run from the book ‘Portrait of Humanity’ to national newspaper The Guardian in the UK and national television and print media across Scandinavia, in my native Estonia and as far away as Australia. Exhibitions and competition placements have included representing Estonia at the Visages d’Europe in Paris and being included in Life Framer, The American Photography Open and The British Journal of Photography’s ‘Portrait of Britain’ series. Its most recent dedicated exhibition at Museum of Photography Tallinn in Estonia, becoming the Museum’s most-visited exhibition since 1990.

Eha is very much an active player in the collaboration and, in spite of her health issues, her wonderful sense of humour is definitely a key ingredient of its appeal. When I was a child, my mother was full of plans and activities, from sewing to choir-singing to organising theatre trips. She hasn’t disappeared and this photo series continues to celebrate her rich life.

Awards

2021

Portrait of Britain - Shortlist

Muse Photography Awards, Fine Art Portrait - Gold Winner

The Independent Photographer Emerging Talent Award - Second Prize

2020

The Independent Photographer Portrait Award - Editors Pick

Portrait of Humanity - Shortlist

2019

Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize - People's Pick Second Place

Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize - Shortlist

American Photography Open - Shortlist

Portrait of Britain - Winner

Life Framer "Open Call" - Shortlist

The Independent Photographer Portrait Award - Editors Pick

ShutterHub "Time to Think" - Shortlist

Bedford Park Photography Competition - Winner

2013

Thames21 Annual Photography - Shortlist




Exhibitions

2022

Solo Exhibition EHA -  Estonian Pavilion at EXPO Dubai 2020

2021

The Independent Photographer Annual Exhibition - Milan, Italy

Solo Exhibition EHA -ambulARToorium - Kasepää, Estonia

Visage(s) d'Europe - Paris, France

Solo Exhibition - EHA -Museum of Photography - Tallinn, Estonia

2020

Portrait of Humanity - Space (Altitude 36300m)

https://www.facebook.com/BJPhoto/videos/portrait-of-humanity-in-space-film-premier/639550946745112/

ShutterHub "Time to Think", Festival Pil'ours - France

2019

Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize - National Portrait Gallery, London

"Pile ou Face" - Maison de ma Region Carcassonne, France

Life Framer "Open Call" - Officine Fotografiche, Milan, Italy

Portrait of Britain - JCDecaux’s digital screens across UK

Life Framer "Open Call" - Project Place, London

ShutterHub "Time to Think", Festival Pil'ours - France

Bedford Park Festival - Group Exhibition, London

2014

Group Exhibition - 1 America Square, London

2013

Thames21 Annual Phototography Competition - National Maritime Museum, London