Project

Colorless Days: What to Do If Your Office Work Burdens You

A mayonnaise-seasoned salad, Christmas tree decorations on the ceiling, and a water cooler — for her project Colorless Days, Tatyana Palyga captured the life of the office where she used to work. She told Bird In Flight how she managed to break the circle and why it is not scary.
Tatyana Palyga

Photographer. Born in Russia, lives in Czech Republic. Completed a FotoDepartament course on photography, participated in the international workshops and ISSP, Foam magazine, Markus Schaden & Frederic Lezmi workshop residencies. Has a BA in Plastic Arts: Photography from Paris 8 University. Currently studies for her MA at UJEP in Czech Republic. Founder and member of a publishing collective Zoopark Publishing. Exhibited her works in Denmark, Italy, Portugal, Great Britain, and Russia.

— When I studied photography in St. Petersburg, I needed to shoot a graduation project. At the same time, I was working at the office 9 to 5, five days a week. I made futile attempts to find my theme, but most of my life was occupied by work.

My mentor Anna Fedotova told us: “Choose whatever is closest to you. What excites you, what makes you high.” But where and how would I have look for such a theme if the work occupied almost all of my time and all my energy? “So photograph work,” Anna suggested, to which I listlessly replied that it was very boring and nothing ever happened there. And this was what I started to photograph — the fact that nothing was going on. Boredom and my despair, the feeling of time that slips through my fingers, the absurdity of office life.

It was officially prohibited from taking photographs at work, but I think nobody was just taking me seriously. I wandered around with a point-and-shoot film camera, and my colleagues saw this as a harmless hobby. Such an ‘unprofessional’ camera allowed me a certain freedom. Later, when I looked at the resulting photographs, I realized that the snapshots with flash were exactly what I needed to document the mundane office episodes.

I wandered around with a point-and-shoot film camera, and my colleagues saw this as a harmless hobby.
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After the university, I worked in different spheres, but each time it was at the office — in total, about five years with breaks. It is hard to say whether my career was going in the right direction, but anyway it got unbearably boring to sit in one spot and perform the same tasks daily.

It may sound absurd, but the economic crisis that happened in Russia at the time helped me decide to make a change and take a step forward. ‘Optimization’ was happening everywhere, people were laid off daily, and at some point it was my turn to have my position ‘optimized’. I refused to transfer to a different department and voluntarily agreed to leave — with a financial compensation in my pocket, of course. I realized it was my chance to take up photography for real, my now or never moment. I keep telling myself that if anything goes wrong, I can always go back to the office.

It got unbearably boring to sit in one spot and perform the same tasks daily.

This decision was brewing for awhile, that’s why I sighed with relief when I finally left. Diving into the unknown was scary, but it was a right thing to do. I dreaded to think what would happen if at some point I will have to sit at the office for five days a week again, staring at the monitor and printing documents.


I received a lot of feedback for this project, and I was especially glad when I heard from people who were not related to photography. My book is called Colorless Days which I published in a small number of copies, and with my private funds based on this series was often purchased by people who were currently working or used to work at an office. This was how much some of the moments were recognizable: salads on plastic plates on the office table, holiday decorations, reluctantly hanging from the ceiling. I like it when my photographs make the viewer smile, even if sadly.

After I left the office I worked as a freelance photographer for several years, while taking a course at FotoDepartament and working on personal projects. Then I entered the university and left for the Czech Republic.

I did not remain without work — I just changes the sphere. It was new, difficult and exciting at the same time.

I did not remain without work — I just changes the sphere. It was new, difficult and exciting at the same time. I did something that I have never tried before, I learned many things on the go. And it, of course, was much more interesting than my former job at the office.

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