Anastasiya Rudenko’s 10 Favorite Photos

At the request of Bird In Flight, Russian photographer Anastasiya Rudenko chose ten photos from her archives and told the story behind each one.

Anastasiya Rudenko age 33

Freelance photographer. Born in Kazakhstan, lives in Vologda, Russia. Has a higher education in technical sciences. She was a finalist for the Magnum Expression Award in 2011, winner of the Canon Female Photojournalist Award in 2015 and of the “Young Photographers of Russia” contest in 2013. Has been published in Interview, Lens Culture, British Journal of Photography, Russkiy Reportyor and other publications. Has exhibited in Russia, Europe and America.

The main function of photography is documentation and you can’t separate the two, no matter what disputes arise over the photograph and its eventual fate. I always believed that photography happened accidentally. I took my first photo around age eight. It was a photo of my dog.

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I carry this photo around like it’s my business card. It was, however, taken with negative emotions, which is also sometimes useful.

I was on a business trip to Siberia, based in Novosibirsk, and I had to make a trip to Kemerovo to take pictures of one of the characters in my material, a person who never seemed like he would give me consent to do it. When it seemed like I had finally cracked him, I hitchhiked there in a rush. We discussed the shoot that was set for the next day and, by evening, I wasn’t sure what to do in a strange, bleak city, so I went sightseeing and to look for a hotel. To make a long story short, I’ll say that Kemerovo is the most terrifying and depressing Russian city that I’ve ever been to, and that the character for my story even refused the photo shoot again. I was very angry at that city and took this photo upon my departure. Then I caught a ride and sped off to Novosibirsk.

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I made a wish on this picture.

I was stuck for almost a week in Novosibirsk for the exact same reason: the subject of the story didn’t consent to the photo shoot. At some point I got bored and in the evening, on the way home from the movies, I saw 22:22 on the street clock. I made a wish to find some action to shoot. After walking 50 meters, I saw a fight break out between two friends at a cafe. There were screaming girls around them. After they made up, I continued walking and thought, “Well, ok, that’s all the action”, and then suddenly a bunch of guys came from around the corner and beat up the two friends. I offered my phone to the beaten-up friends in case they needed a picture to show the police, but they didn’t want it.

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I love dogs and I have a lot of them. When I was younger I had a lot at my parents’ house, and now I just keep them in my photos. Every time I look at this photo I remember that I’m just like Cheburashka: a simple person who gets a helping hand from others around.

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I have a favorite country – it’s Thailand. When I went there for the first time, I was like a monkey with a machine gun – I photographed every stone along my way from all angles and immediately produced a series. It was just before I became consciously engaged in photography and may have even triggered the process. After the second trip I brought back a pack of photos that were simply good, and I even brought them to the Rodchenko school, although I was told that “travel” wasn’t serious work. After my third trip, I brought back one good picture – this one. (When I say good, I mean that I’m not afraid to show it to my photographer friends.) Now, I don’t bring anything back.

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In 2011, I traveled through a third of Kazakhstan in search of nomads and couldn’t find them anywhere. They say that Kazakhstan has become too wealthy for that sort of thing. This photo shows another failed trip to the mountains towards the nomad dream. The owner of this car got it in exchange for a glass of hashish. We managed to race around the Kazakh steppe for five kilometers, holding the doors with our hands so that they wouldn’t fall off. The car stalled and pushed through twice, but the third time it stalled completely. It was good that there was a village nearby. I love going with the flow and not getting discouraged when something doesn’t come together because you have the opportunity to take pictures that you didn’t expect.

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I bought a medium format camera in order to be like all the respectable photographers. Like many of them, I believe to this day that as soon as I buy myself a new gadget or add-on, my life and my photos immediately change and I achieve long-awaited glory and success. It was a Fuji 6 x 4.5 with an autofocus.

Being in my favorite and native Orlovsky Oblast, I wanted to shoot a portrait of one old lady, but the camera stopped working. I got upset and hung the camera around my neck. At some point in time, the camera took the picture itself and I found out about it only after developing the photos. It’s the only successful picture I took with this camera.

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I love this photograph because it was inspired by this girl Anya. It is from a series about life in neuropsychiatric orphanages. Getting to them is difficult, and when you get there you’re only given a little time, from ten minutes to a few hours. In these moments, a brainstorm intuitively erupts and you’re thinking, “What to do, what to do?” You run around a building with painted walls and fluorescent lights in a panic, attempting to extract a masterpiece. Anya isn’t able to speak coherently, but she gestured to me and even demanded that I take her picture, so I wanted to make it something beautiful. That’s how I got this shot.

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This shot is from the same series. I’m not always satisfied with photoshoots and I don’t even like to look through the shots immediately. They might be lying around my place for a month or for years. I dug this photo out after about two years, and during this time something changed inside of me and changed my views on this picture. I like this photo for the fact that the rest of the patients at the boarding house saw this man as a sort of funny fool, but here I can see him as a man.

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I want to finish this how I started it.
This picture for me is everything rolled into one: my favorite people, a self-portrait, and the northern lights, which I had always wanted to see, but this year it came directly to us. For me, photography is the most important thing: it’s an opportunity to create images for a family album and for the memory of your loved ones.

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