ON PHOTOGRAPHY, PERSONAL GROWTH & DRUNK SEARCHING JUNKIES
What did you do before you came to Bali?
I had a pretty cool career, I worked for the government in Russia. I started with social policy and surprisingly ended up in police force. I had a pretty structured schedule, I knew what would happen in 5 years and what will happen in 10 years. I was married and I had a dog. But some changes came, I broke up with my husband and then I was offered a new job which I didn’t want to take and I actually quit.
At that time I didn’t know what to do, that was just before the winter Olympics in 2014 in Sochi and that’s what helped me.
I took a project and worked in the media centre at the Olympics, I met all these people from all over the world and I realized I can communicate with people from other countries and I actually loved it. And the same time, I started snowboarding (I was 26 or 27). I kind of got addicted, and when the snow started melting in April I decided to go to Bali to learn how to surf.
I used to do photography as a hobby and so the idea that I would shoot in the water came to me in Russia, so I took a camera with me and I brought a plastic waterproof bag to take photos.
What was it like working in Russia?
I worked for a special group responsible for preventative drug use – I was talking to young people and school students about why you shouldn’t do drugs.
I was the "good cop" who gently explains what happens in the legal system if you do drugs. That was not only one thing I did, because I was a woman and I got a rank I also drug searched people.
On my first time body searching a woman, in my head I thought it would be a beautiful girl in a nightclub in a glittery dress and I would gently ask her where are the drugs are. But in my first one it was a junky lady, she was very dirty and I thought I might get a disease from touching her but I did everything and honestly it wasn’t as scary as I thought.
What are you doing now?
I found this interesting way to expose my first printed works (an exhibit called ‘Dark August’) at this really cool event called Black Market in Bali – it’s all about underground arts and styles.
It’s really cool. The last one was two years ago and I was there as a visitor, my boyfriend at the time was there performing but this year we will be there together both as artists. I’m super happy about it. I made it.
The one thing that bothered me in our relationship was that he didn’t believe in me and he wasn’t interested in what I was doing. He adored me like a doll but I was like ‘dude, I don’t want to be there. I don’t need that'.
How is it working at a surf photographer in a male-heavy environment?
It is a bit hard. Firstly, mostly boys don’t believe in you. The guys, the surfers that meet you just see your Instagram and they don’t believe in you.
I am facing this situation right now, I am shooting with a guy who works as a photographer in Mentawais, he wants to share his work load with another photographer and he chose me. We were talking about the job and then randomly he asked me ‘am I married?’.
What do I need to think now? Should I say ‘fuck that shit!’ – should I loose the job to prove to him I’m not a cute girl, I’m an ambitious surf photographer?
But it’s not always like that. Thank god!
Have you ever taken drugs?
That’s interesting question. When I started this work I had never tried alcohol, cigarettes or drugs and the only man I had ever been with was my ex-husband. I can’t say that I was planning on being that straight. I still have not tried alcohol to this day.
What’s your style?
With my photography, I am mostly concentrated on person and personality. The personality of the surfer and his emotions, his facial expressions, his movement.
If he moves soft, that’s amazing, that’s what I really like. Before my photos were like single images, now I am going into that direction that I want to tell stories, maybe super short stories.
Now that I am in that space with other surf photographers – you start following the rules to say what your images should look like to get more likes on Instagram. But I am not a male surf photographer and I really believe in my artistic side and want that to show up in my photos. I really want to show surfers’ personalities.
I will always include a picture of the surfer after the wave has passed – to capture the moment is so hard and usually you can’t focus that fast.
This photo (below) reminds me of Mickey Smith’s film The Dark Side of the Lens, that’s my inspirational source. That short video touches my heart every time I watch it and I end up crying.
If I watch The Dark Side of the Lens on my own, I am crazy crying. I found the script and I think I will learn it by heart, I will cut out quotes from that and use it all my life.
What did you get up to yesterday?
(Among other stuff) I was talking with a friend, laughing about the time I met Craig Anderson, I didn’t know who he was and sometimes I can be a bit sceptical about surfer dudes – so I literally asked Craig Anderson ‘how you actually make money? Do you have a job?!
He told me ‘I have some savings. Do you remember that brand Quicksilver? I used to surf for that brand but it’s not that cool so I stopped’. No ego. I definitely respect that guy a lot.