In symbolic pictures with a broad poetic vocabulary, the photographic artist and 2017 LOBA finalist, Viktoria Sorochinski, exposes her inner world during lockdown.
How are you experiencing the Corona-lockdown in Berlin?
After the first shock of the pandemic situation, I somehow ended up rather enjoying this time: without all the distractions that I’m used to having in my life, there is suddenly enough time and space to focus on ideas and projects that I have been dreaming about for years, and to turn my gaze inwards.
Also, being an immigrant all my life, I have gone through various difficult situations which required adaptation. These experiences taught me to deal with such situations creatively, and to find something positive even when everything seems hopeless and depressing.
You usually use a narrative documentary style to photograph other people. Due to the coronavirus lockdown, you yourself have become the object of your photography.
Yes, it’s true that the majority of my previous projects are about other people, families, relationships and cultures. However, it’s not the first time I’ve turned my camera onto myself. In 2007-2008, I already created a project titled The Space Between, where I photographed myself in confined imaginary spaces. In the past few years I’ve been thinking of getting back into the themes that I was exploring back then, and particularly focusing on my dreams, memories, reconnection to nature and my internal self. When the coronavirus lockdown happened, I suddenly realized that this is the perfect time to turn my gaze inwards.
Please tell us about your artistic process.
This series is being created in a very intuitive manner; with almost no planning, just going with the flow of the day and my feeling at the moment. Each day brings another state of mind and another inspiration. Sometimes, just walking in a park or on the street, I see something, and it leads to the next image. I like the idea of using a minimum of objects and props for this series, which is in fact quite new to my work. In my other projects, my images are very often loaded with objects, furniture, people, etc. It feels kind of refreshing and liberating to come up with images with no access to hardly anything. It makes the process more meditative and self-exploratory.
You use powerful symbolic imagery (the pomegranate, for example) in the Inside Out series. Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Working with symbols, is something that I was always drawn to, because I’m interested in psychology and mythology, and the impact of symbolic imagery on our subconscious, which can trigger responses and associations that lead to a deeper discovery of yourself and of others. I draw my inspiration from various sources, such as mythology, folklore, fairy-tales, and of course psychology. The Pomegranate is certainly one of my favourite symbols, and I have explored it in different ways in previous works. This is one of the richest symbols that appears in almost every culture and religion, and, as such, unites all those cultures as a representation of a kind of “collective knowledge”. Some of the common meanings of the pomegranate are: fertility, life, death, power, longevity, wealth, etc. I like to use symbols that have a universal meaning, because due to my immigrant background I am always searching for a kind of “universal language” through my imagery, that can connect and speak to people regardless of their cultural or religious belonging.
What feelings are you experiencing and want to express in these images?
This project is a journey of self-discovery. The coronavirus pandemic made me realize more than ever the necessity to reconnect with nature. We are constantly destroying our planet, forgetting about all the wonderful gifts that it offers to us every day, and forgetting that we are actually one with this planet. Perhaps this pandemic is a signal to us from the universe, to pause, reflect and change our attitude. I myself, unfortunately, have a very artificial connection to nature, because I have lived in big cities all my life. My only real, and yet imaginary, connection to nature is through my memories of the Ukrainian village where my grandfather used to live, and that I visited as a child. Therefore, in this series (which is also an extension of my exploration in The Space Between series), I am longing to rediscover my roots and my femininity through nature.
The interplay between light and shadow is very strong in this series. Do you only use available light?
Yes, I’m only using available daylight; and luckily very strong sunlight shines through the window in the room where I photograph, creating various shapes and forms throughout the day. I like to play with light and shadow, because it allows me to create a more dramatic psychological effect. And it allows me to create more depth and layers to the images. The interplay between light and shadow is, in a way, like the interplay between our conscious and subconscious mind.
Please tell us which camera and equipment you are using.
For this project I am very lucky to be using the amazing Leica Q2 that was generously lent to me by LFI and Leica Camera AG. I already used this camera for my recent documentary project Poltava Neverland, shot in Ukraine in 2019; and I must say that I’m absolutely in love with this camera! It has the perfect combination of compact size and easy interface with a very powerful sensor. I think using this camera has definitely affected my work in a positive direction, because I can be much freer and more spontaneous with it. And I think it handles contrasting light very well, as well as low lighting conditions.
In 2017 you were a finalist for the Leica Oscar Barnack Award. How did that impact your career?
Being a finalist for the Leica Oscar Barnack Award was definitely one of the greatest achievements of my career. It brought much more attention to my work, as well as expanded my professional connections. But I think one of the best outcomes from that experience, was getting to know the Leica team and developing further professional and also personal connections with some of the people. I feel genuinely lucky in getting to know so many great people working for Leica, and having the opportunity to get support for my projects, as well as having the opportunity to use Leica equipment. All those things definitely had a huge, positive impact on my professional and creative work. I love the spirit of the whole Leica team, because it feels almost like family.
More about Viktoria Sorochinski
Born in 1979, Sorochinski lived and studied in Russia, Israel, Canada, and USA prior to settling in Berlin, Germany. Since completing her Masters of Fine Arts degree at New York University (NYU) in 2008, she has had nearly 70 exhibitions in 21 countries throughout Europe, North and South America, and Asia. Sorochinski’s work is featured and reviewed in over 70 international publications including her monograph Anna & Eve published in Germany by Peperoni Books. She is also a winner and finalist of numerous international awards, fellowships and grants such as Arnold Newman Prize, Leica Oskar Barnack Award, LensCulture Exposure Award, Lucie Award, Magenta Flash Forward, PDN Photo Annual and Voies Off Arles Award among many others.
Besides her work as an artist-photographer, Sorochinski also teaches workshops all over the world and offers private consultations for photographers. Due to the Corona crisis she will now be providing online-workshops as well as online-consulting. For details and registration people can find all the info on her website.
To witness the progress of her new series, Inside Out, you can also follow her on Instagram.