Tatiana GulenkinA | Things Merging and Falling Apart
Tatiana Gulenkina’s Things Merging and Falling Apart is an enthralling series of photograms (prints created without the use of a camera), that reveal a momentary confluence of fragile textures, intrinsic momentum and organic reactions. With this technique, Tatiana desires to “capture not a decisive moment, but a time lapse, a movement or transformation.” Tatiana’s images defy the notion of scale, simultaneously appearing microcosmic and macrocosmic. Her work with photograms aims to celebrate the impermanence of the momentarily-frozen image in relation to the reality it represents. - Editor
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What brought you to photography?
I've been painting and drawing since I was little, and my dad is an amateur photographer who used to develop film in our bathroom, so my early childhood memories are associated with a distinct smell of stop-bath. In college, I first majored in computer science but quickly switched to fine art, and gradually photography became my primary focus.
Who are your photographic influences?
I've always been interested in the way photography blends with other art forms – sculpture, performance, installation, etc. Andy Goldsworthy is a good example of that. He mostly works with temporary structures that are nonetheless well-documented, and the final results can be presented as a photo exhibition and a book. Liz Deschenes' current show at ICA Boston is amazing - she developed a dialog with the architecture of the building and the picture frame, just like she did in her installation for the 2012 Whitney biennial. And of course other experimental photographers such as James Welling and Wolfgang Tillmans are a huge inspiration.
Tell us about the steps and processes that go into making your photographs.
Photograms are created without the use of a camera. Objects are arranged on a sheet of paper in complete darkness, then the paper is exposed to the light and processed in a darkroom - as it would happen with a regular print.
I often use organic materials such as seeds, plants, sand, hair, and suspend them from the above, or sometimes in liquids. Multiple sheets of glass help to create a layering effect, and so does intentional moving of things around during the exposure that can sometimes reach a few minutes. I have some control over the color palette and shapes but I always leave room for happy accidents. I pretty much set a starting point, and then the image develops according on its own trajectory. There is a lot of experimentation and frustration in the beginning since the exposure times and filters are constantly changing but eventually I get into a zone and work more freely.
What does being a photographer bring to your life?
When I'm working, it definitely helps me to get into a nice clear headspace. Some photographers set up their shots very deliberately, some rely on the chance effects, but regardless of the technique, to be a good artist, one has to be fully present with the subject. It makes me feel very alive - and always curious about how this next thing will look as a photograph.
What is this project about?
This series consists of type C contact prints (photograms) created in a color darkroom.
My interest in cameraless photography came from a desire to capture not a decisive moment, but a time lapse, a movement or transformation of fragile objects caught on a light-sensitive surface. One of my inspirations was to watch the making of sand mandalas that take days of intense labor and, once completed, are destroyed without any regrets as a symbol of impermanence. Essentially, even the most beautifully composed image fails to represent reality because it’s trying to hold on to something that’s impossible to grasp.
I started off working with recognizable objects that after long darkroom manipulations often would turn out looking completely abstract yet more appealing to me; physically acting on paper surface, they became tangible imprints of ephemeral emotional states. At some point, I realized that it’s more of a collaboration between me and my subjects since they became active participants in this process. Instead of imitating the illumination and depicting formal qualities, these images challenge the expectations and capture the light itself; they bring viewers’ attention to the performative nature of creative process and elaborate on chance effects and intuitive states of being.