Alena Zhandarova, One of the Most Expensive Photo Artists: “My Vision Has Always Been with Me — I Was Born This Way”
Born in Ivanovo, Russia. Studied fine art photography at the European Institute of Design in Madrid. Winner of LUCEO Student Project Award 2012 in the US, finalist of Encontros da Imagem Photo Festival in Portugal, Lens Culture Student Photography and PHOTOVISA festival in Russia. Artprice.com included her in the list of the top 30 most expensive artists before 30.
Alena, tell us about your childhood. You lived very close to the border with China, didn’t you? Is there more Asian influence there, do people walk backwards? How did you come up with such an original vision?
My childhood was the village, my grandparents, a stack of pancakes for breakfast, thunderstorms, lazy mornings in bed, and knee-long hair worn loose. My vision has always been with me — I was born this way, this was the way that I came into the world. I used to hide it from people, hide myself, and then I just let go and let it show. Photography helped me with this, it gave me an instrument that I took to.
When and how were you noticed? Which series was it?
It all started from an intensive course taught by Claudine Doury, where in a week I created a semblance of a series and roughly found my language. She believed in me, helped me and guided me, and I am very grateful to her for this.
What are your dreams about?
Usually a chase, or relatives who passed away.
They say that singer Roisin Murphy collects your works. Which works? Have you met?
Yes, it is true. Her collection includes photos from different series. We have not met.
What are you thinking about now? What are you studying?
I am studying matter, I am working with clay, and I am making vases with breasts.
Which of your photographs is the most like you? Are all of your works autobiographical in a way?
Every one of my series is honest. And each of them is about me in different periods of time. I can’t help making them autobiographical, otherwise it’s a lie.
You only shoot women, and only in interiors typical for Russian low-income flats. If you were tasked with photographing a man in a Dusseldorf interior, would you be able to do it?
Yes, I think I would.
It seems that your world is a cosy box with childhood treasures. Do you ever notice the bad stuff?
Just like all other people, I fight my inner demons.
Please introduce each of your series in a couple of words. When and how did you create them? What was their main task and idea? Did everything work out the way you wanted to? How much time do you spend on a series on average?
Each of the series is about the boundaries of perception of the world that interest me. Two of the three series are self-portraits. I could hardly see a complete picture from the beginning. I am a person who studies the world step-by-step, piecing together a puzzle. They say that a woman understands what she wants only in process, and I am one of such women. It took me about half a year for each of the initial series, and about four for the most recent one.