Daria Minina, a talented local photographer whose recent works featured in several underground magazines in Europe, is a bright new face on the city’s creative scene. She spoke to Prospekt Magazine about finding inspiration in Siberia, the image of the seductive Slav, and photographing independent women.
When did you discover your passion for photography; where did it all begin?
When I was around 13 and still lived in Siberia, one of my close friends introduced me to Afisha magazine. Oh Jesus, it turned my whole world upside down. Afisha used to be an informative magazine about the cultural life of Moscow and St Petersburg. I fell in love with its old-school aesthetic images almost instantly. Catchy, minimalistic, and taken with a very bright flash – they exposed Russia from an unusually vibrant perspective that I’d never come across before. Deep down, I wanted to be a part of this bohemian Afisha lifestyle too, and that’s why I started to shoot using my father’s cheap Japanese Skina SK-555 camera. One of my secret dreams was to move to St Petersburg and help Afisha with content development. This dream remained unfulfilled and, sadly, the paper version of the magazine doesn’t exist anymore.
Looking through your works, it becomes evident that all them convey a particular statement and set of ideas. What does photography mean to you in general and what do you aim to say through the art of photography?
In recent years, photography provided me with a unique opportunity to meet many inspiring personalities I wouldn’t have connected with otherwise. Taking pictures is always a good way of getting acquainted with interesting people. As for me, photography is about representing the world in any way you prefer, yet capturing existing places, objects, and people. This craft, however, is all about choices: you can focus on nature and butterflies, or pornography – it’s always up to you and it also says a lot about your character. Quite frankly, I’m very realistic by nature, that’s why lifestyle and documentary fit me just perfectly.
Where do you find inspiration?
Other photographers’ works, art house movies, and my own life experiences. Once again: I’m not someone who goes to the Hermitage and then produces a great series inspired by the Dutch Renaissance. I must somehow “feel” my idea in a very precise way to come up with a new project. Yet the best way to get inspired for me is to visit the latest photography exhibitions in ROSPHOTO, Erarta Gallery («Centre de Gravité» last summer was outstanding!) or spend hours in the FotoDepartment library. I really enjoy this whole adventure. The only thing I can say about my photography now is that I tend to shift my priorities from an underground lifestyle to more important social and political issues.
“I feel the responsibility to show that our new generation is cultured, ambitious, and fun”
One of the most prominent themes in your works is slavism, especially Slavs abroad. Why do you find it so fascinating?
Oh, that’s a good question. I’ve never been particularly interested in the so-called ‘Slavism’. To be frank, at times I even felt ashamed of being born and raised in such a controversial and messy country like Russia. Consequently, I blamed my patriotic father, who had lived in Riga and Berlin for eight years but didn’t wish to stay there. Later on, being a Slav suddenly became cool. Ulyana Sergeenko introduced a new sophisticated image of a Slavic woman, drastically different from the cheap “Natasha from Russia” stereotype. Somehow, Gosha Rubchinsky succeeded in making the image of the gopnik seductive and irresistibly attractive worldwide. Therefore, while studying abroad, I also felt the responsibility to show that our new generation is cultured, ambitious, and fun.
Another significant aspect of your art is a strong female voice that you expose in your photography. Is it done on purpose?
This recent switch is connected to the events in my personal life. In fact, my peers have always known me as the least feminist person in the world. This year, however, didn’t go very well for my circle of girlfriends in terms of relationships. So, these dramatic events unconsciously chipped away our confidence and affected my switch in photography as well. Exploration of the image of a single independent woman was something that fascinated me a lot this summer.
Who is your favourite photographer and why?
There are many. I’m going to go patriotic on this one and give you some local names. I really admire the Russian old school of documentary photography, such as that produced by Sergey Maximishin and Georgy Pinkhassov. Recently, I looked through the summer edition of Polka magazine and ran into Aleksandr Gronsky’s “Schema” project. Some of those pictures were taken on Vasilevsky Island, by the way. This series is a bright example of good and thoughtful Russian photography. As for lifestyle & more media-oriented artists, Sasha Mademoiselle and Alexey Kiselev, staff photographers at Afisha magazine, have undoubtedly influenced me a lot.
Where do you think the art of photography stands in modern Russia?
On the level of professionalism – definitely somewhere on the edge… In the country, where economics and law faculties are still considered the only paths to success, it’s usually hard to explain to your family why you would like to pursue studies in this ‘not-so-promising’ field. Consequently, we have a generation of really talented young people taking gorgeous pictures but not really able to fully grasp their craft. In addition, we don’t have a strong tradition of national photographic institutions, contests, or festivals. I really hope that this state of affairs will change in the nearest future.
Photography: Daria Minina.