Texas is known for its resilience, strength and sharpshooters. Throughout the Lone Star state’s history, Texas women have become recognized and renowned for these traits. Now, photographer Teodora Pogonat follows in their footsteps.
Through January 26, Austin-based Pogonat’s solo exhibition, The Pink Parachute Project, is at South Austin’s Art for the People gallery. A former electrical engineer, Romanian-born Pogonat decided to switch to photography after becoming disillusioned with the sexism, machismo and lower pay scale for women in engineering.
Embracing her new-found career, she embarked on a mission to spread the word about women’s worth through photography. Her newest show explores women’s issues and strengths through symbolic environments. In her photographs, Pogonat uses an actual 30-pound, pink 1967 British parachute throughout the series to symbolize the struggles and gender issues women face throughout their lifetime. The images explore women’s uphill battles and strength when confronted with various disparities, even as they are expected to appear graceful, feminine and owning their beauty.
Pogonat recounts some of the many stories she heard from her models. “I had women who’d been assaulted, others who had to raise themselves yet managed to graduate from college on their own… Women who immigrated, facing nothing but hardship—-treated as objects and put out on display. I had women who left safe corporate jobs for entrepreneurship yet faced inequality in every aspect of their life.“
Coupled with the poses during the shoot, that were for some a balancing act, after hours upon hours of lifting their parachutes, “the models were physically challenged not unlike the mental, emotional and financial challenges they faced in their own lives,” says Pogonat.
Given the scale and location of her shoots, there were many organizational and physical challenges, says Pogonat. However, the biggest challenge of The Pink Parachute Project came down to communicating her abstract vision into a concrete reality. She also has a clear vision of what she wants us all take away from the exhibition: “I want people to find a piece of themselves in these photographs, a piece of strength and beauty.”
The launch in Austin is just the beginning of a national tour including Denver, Miami and Los Angeles. Many of the current women’s movements and political statements expressed in the #Resistence or #MeToo rallies leapt into the consciousness of millions and then fell into a media black hole after each outrage and protest. Pogonat’s goals with The Pink Parachute Project are to nurture a consistent persistence in the hearts of women, and to foster the message to never give up on expecting equality.
Cover photo: “Conquering.” This image illustrates that women can take control and change the direction of the narrative. While women face many issues on a daily basis throughout their life (in all directions and in all aspects), women do not need to bend to the wind and allow it to direct their life. While the wind can pull women back, they can take control of the parachute and their destination by focusing on their strengths. Photo and description: Teodora Pogonat
The Pink Parachute Project is at Austin’s Art for the People gallery through January 26, 2019.