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Other ways of communicating: Alena Zhandarova
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Other ways of communicating: Alena Zhandarova

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Foto: Alena Zhandarova

I feel blessed to meet up (over email, but still) with yet another talented, young photographer. Alena Zhandarova, born in 1988 (same day as Jesus Christ, she adds), comes from the far east of Russia, almost on the border of China. Since her early childhood she noticed the ability in herself to search out the “other ways” of communicating with the world. After participating in a workshop five years ago, still holding on to this power, she fell in love with photography. It was the perfect instrument for bringing that special gift in her to life.

Today, she holds her own workshops and her photographs are exhibited all over the world. More recently at Aarhus Center for Contemporary Art, Denmark and at the Anzenberger Gallery, Vienna, Austria.

Curios to know more, I sent Alena a few questions. With the reply came some strangely staged, almost absurd portraits, and some well thought through answers.

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Floret: It’s fair to say that your photographs have a certain humorous/happy feel to them. In what way is this an important part of your practice?

AZ: I adhere to philosophy, that everything I do should be a continuation of myself. Only in this way it will be honest and impregnated. I believe, that despite of the fact that there are billions of people living on Earth, we all have out-and-outer predestinations, abilities and obligations before the higher forces. One of my objectives is to investigate the border between habitual and unfamiliar. I guide the attention to it because it’s a miraculous tool that we can use to change our picture of the world to be in motion, as this planet always is. That is why, perhaps, most of my photographs are looking absurdly and jocular. It’s hard to perceive the falling of engrained prejudices without smiling.

Floret: Where do you find inspiration?

AZ: It comes from above in appliance with some inner world changes or outside universe events. Recently I’ve been fond of bread baking and the study of planet structure.

Floret: When I look at your work, I can’t help thinking about Russia. Is your home country also a great source of inspiration to you? Something you’re conscious about when photographing?

AZ: Yes, sure. I’m in love with the old Russian interiors and try to involve them in my visual research. Even if there is another atmosphere around, I’ll try to reconstruct the space and make use of my imagination.

Floret: I know in at least one of your project you work with self-portraiture. Is it simply for the convenience of being your own subject, or is it some inner feeling you like to express?

AZ: Self-portraiture is my beloved sphere of research, which I by the way, continue to explore. It’s both very cozy to work with, and also lets out my inner feelings to see more clearly what is happening there. I usually practice a non-planned shooting, because it helps me to relay on the exact moment (the space around and my spirits).

Floret: You also told me you’re working on a new project at the moment. Would it be possible for us to have a little preview and some more information about it?

AZ: I’m working on several projects right now. One of them is a new path for me because of the theme and the technique. It’s a documentary research about my great grand father, who participated in the Russian-Japanese War in the beginning of 20th century, and was held captive in Japan for some years. He fell in love with a Japanese woman, but came back home, built a house, planted the elm tree and raised six children. I’m intrigued and inspired by this story. I don’t have a lot of facts, only some archive photographs with him and a Japanese hieroglyph on the back of them. For example, I found that the photo studio where he was photographed a century ago still exists. I want to go there and remake his portrait in the same pose and clothes. It’s a multilayer exploration, which I’d like to make into a book in the future. Visually the work is very different from my other projects, and it is still on an early stage, so I prefer to show you this later.

Floret: What’s next for you now? Any upcoming exhibitions or travel plans?

AZ: I’m looking for a residency in Japan and a grant to continue the project about my great grand father.

Floret: Can we end with three words of love?

AZ: Spirit, joyfulness and will.

To see more of Alena Zhandarova’s work visit her website and make sure to also check out her hand-made book, The City of Brides. It’s well worth it.

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