Originally from Khabarovsk, Russia, Anna had never been to the United States before being accepted into the MFA in Photography program. She says everything she knew about the US came from looking at works by her favorite photographers: Lee Friedlander, Robert Adams, and Richard Misrach. We caught up with Anna to see how her experience in the MFA program and life in the United States has influenced her work as a professional photographer since graduating in 2015.
I see that you have experience working in interior design and editorial photography in Russia. What motivated you to move to the U.S. and pursue your MFA at Lesley?
I was lucky to have quite interesting and creative jobs in Russia that I enjoyed, but it was never enough. What I really wanted to pursue was art. The only way for me to dedicate myself fully to the subject that truly interested me was to get out of my routine, move away from everything that was familiar, things that I liked and people I cared about. To break out of my comfort zone so to speak. And it worked.
What was your experience with alternative process photography before you entered the program?
In 2010 I attended a photography festival, where one of the exhibitions was of alternative photography. I had never heard of anything like this. I was so impressed, I Immediately ordered chemicals for one of the simplest processes – cyanotype. Later I met another photographer interested in historic photographic methods. There were only two of us in my hometown and together we began to learn and experiment with different processes. Three years later I happened upon an online ad about the MFA in Photography program at Lesley and had no doubt that that was the program I needed to be in.
What concepts or processes did you experiment with while in the program? How did this experimentation inspire or inform new work?
I primarily worked with the platinum/palladium and silver gelatin processes. In the Advanced Alt Pro class I had the opportunity to observe other processes that fellow students were working with. What I liked the most about hand-printing processes is the tactility, the way an image and material blend together and become a whole – a piece of art. Working for hours in the darkroom and the alt pro lab on producing a physical photographic print I began to think how its materiality could contribute to our understanding of the picture. I was interested in how else to manipulate an image using physical characteristics of the photograph and how to make these characteristics a conceptual part of my work and not just material. That's how I came up with the idea of folding my photographic prints and then taking pictures of these new paper-models, where folds, shadows cast by the folds, and new perspectives became a part of a new image.
What are some of the most valuable tools or ideas that you gained from your education?
I definitely mastered my technical skills but what is more important is that I learned how to articulate my ideas clearly and to put them in the cultural context.
Did you have any particularly strong mentorship relationships with faculty? How have they helped to guide your professional growth?
All professors I studied with and even those whose classes I never took were extremely supportive. At any time I could ask for their feedback or advice, which helped me in finding my artistic identity and learning to think critically about the work of others as well as my own.
In addition to required classes and seminars I did two independent studies with program director Christopher James, so he was the one who had to listen more than others to my chaotic thoughts mixed with emotions and was able to distill a grain of truth from them. I can not be thankful enough for his (and other faculty’s) patience – having a discussion with me was not an easy task when I could barely express myself in English. Christopher has helped me with any question I could possibly have before I arrived to Boston, during the program, and after graduation. Without his constant support I would have not been able to make it.
What types of projects are you pursuing now?
My ongoing project is a continuation of the work I began while in the program. It deals with my own images of architecture re-observed as sculptural representations that are intended to stimulate a dialogue about the meaning of a photographic object and architecture itself. Akin to the idea that a photograph is a proof of a past event, architectural ruins are used to re-construct the look of an entire building or a city from a remaining fragment. But to do so we can only use our imagination and conjectures. I use a similar approach creating realistic images of paper-models that are just slightly off to question the veracity of what we are looking at.