F-Stop Magazine: How did you first become involved in photography and what led to you working in this medium as an artist?
Tatarinova Sofya: I started making photography 8 years ago. I did one photograph and gave it as a present to my friend, and I notice that every time she met me she spoke about this picture and remembered it. And I think if one person in the world remembers my picture it is worth doing it. So I went to one photoschool, then another one.
F-Stop: The current issue of F-Stop Magazine includes images from your project “Udmurtya”, can you tell us about this project? How did this project come about?
TS: I made this project near the Ural mountains of Russia in the region called Udmurtya.
I remember my first impression when I arrived there – wealthy villages and beautiful nature. I stayed at a neat house of a middle-aged lady, who lived all alone. One evening she told me the story of her husband, who hung himself after somebody stole their hay. She cried and she didn’t understand why he did it. I was deeply impressed. After it I learnt the stories of other women as well in different villages where i travelled.
I started making portraits of the widows and documenting their stories. At the same time I photographed the natural world around villages imagining it as possible places of suicide (because Udmurts are shamanists mostly hung themselves in woods), but not only that. I wanted to communicate the inseparable bond that ties the Udmurt to nature and try to find my own answer to the question: «why?». So in the series I go this way – not to show dead men, but showing what was around them and what they left after their suicide.
F-Stop: Can you discuss your process for making these images or your creative process more generally?
TS: As an artist, I am trying to find the space between reality and imaginary in the wildlife theme. I reflect on the problem of the spectator’s vision and perception, complex relations between viewer and the picture, correlation between what the spectator sees, his notion of what he sees and the original image.
I am interested in showing the scenes that could happen in real life by means of set-up photography. It is important to make a spectator look narrowly at the image and keep his attention, to arouse his imagination and make him believe in what he sees.
F-Stop: What were you looking to capture in the images of nature?
TS: Through it the spectator can imagine how the nature influence on Udmurts, who worship nature.
I am inclined to consider suicide as a manifestation of these powerful chthonic presence of archaic energy, which still lives in the remote Udmurtya.
I wanted to capture natural failure, a fatal failure, the hole in which other forces live, pulling the young and full of strength men inside. I am interested in atmosphere which are around this place and how it affects them.
F-Stop: What do you hope people see or feel or perhaps learn when they look at your photographs?
TS: I hope people feel this deep atmosphere or strong energy from these places which has an influence on inhabitants, especially men. At the same time I wanted them to learn these stories and see that the life goes on and the widows somehow cope with it. The widows are what these men left after their death.
F-Stop: Do you have a favorite image in this series? If so, which one and why is it the image that speaks to you most?
TS: My favorite image from Udmurtya series is the image with bench (above). I made this photograph in the mist – for me it symbolizes the Udmurt nature and mystic atmosphere there, which affects on men.
F-Stop: What photographers or other artists inspire you?
TS: My favorite artists are Jeff Wall, Gregory Crewdson, Stephan Shore, Thomas Demand, Erwin Wurm
For more of Tatarinova Sofya’s work: www.sofiatatarinova.ru