From the project 'Dream is Wonderful, Yet Unclear' © Maria Kapajeva, Gallery of Photography Ireland.

Join Photoworks Director Shoair Mavlian and Maria Kapajeva in conversation at 4.30pm BST on Thursday 21 May via Zoom.

The closure of public institutions due to the COVID-19 pandemic has meant a number of cancelled launches and exhibitions including that of Maria Kapajeva’s exhibition Dream is Wonderful, Yet Unclear, the first solo showing of her work in Ireland. Photoworks Director, Shoair Mavlian will be in conversation with Maria to discuss the project, her book, and wider practice.

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This exhibition was organised as part of A Woman’s Work, a project funded by Creative Europe to examine the nature of women’s labour through photography.

Using a multidisciplinary approach, including archival elements alongside her own images and installations, this project considers the history of the community surrounding a textile mill in Narva, Estonia, now closed, where members of the artist’s family once worked. Kapajeva spent her childhood at the mill, drawing patterns and dreaming about becoming a fabric designer like her mother. The story of this one small community is further set in the larger context of post-industrial cities worldwide as the loss of their former roles leave them seeking new identities.

The title of the exhibition is borrowed from the lyrics of March of Enthusiasts, from the Soviet movie The Bright Way (1940), about a female weaver making an idealised journey from peasant to heroic worker. This line of the song was later censored because the word ‘unclear’ was seen as raising doubts about the Soviet project. The idea of a wonderful dream is intended as a common thread throughout the exhibition, but so too is the lack of clarity that characterizes our memories of the past.

Drawing on aspects of her mother’s work, her own unrealised childhood dreams and the failed ambition of industrial collectivization, Kapajeva underlines the complex relationship between personal and public memory that together form our historical narratives. By including a range of different voices and approaches, she indicates that these histories can never be straightforward, but are shaped by multiple, often conflicting forces.

Alongside the exhibition, Kapajeva will launch her new artist’s book Dream Is Wonderful, Yet Unclear, which is an extended version of the project. It is being published by Milda Books, Latvia, with the kind support of the Estonian Cultural Endowment, the British Council in Estonia, A Woman’s Work/ Creative Europe, and Gallery of Photography Ireland. As a result of current circumstances this launch will now take place virtually.


Maria Kapajeva is an Estonian artist, who works in London. She received a BA in Photography from The University for the Creative Arts, Farnham, and an MA in Photographic Studies from The University of Westminster, London. Her work was internationally exhibited, including most recently: Latvian Museum of Photography (2019), CBS Digital Art Space (Denmark, 2019), RIBOCA Biennial (Latvia, 2018), Kaunas Photography Gallery (Lithuania, 2018), Narva Art Residency (Estonia, 2017), WOAK Gallery (Poland, 2017), Detroit Oloman Gallery (USA, 2017). Her video works have been shown at Luminocity Festival (Canada, 2018), Next Film Festival (Romania, 2017) and Berlin Feminist Film Week (2016). In 2016 she received a Gasworks & Triangle Network Fellowship to work at Kooshk Residency in Tehran. Kapajeva’s first artist book You can call him another man, published by Kaunas Photography Gallery, was shortlisted for Aperture Photobook Award 2018.

Learn more about Maria's work See more of Photoworks virtual conversations

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