Whether it’s with a classic camera or simply with her iPhone, Ukraine-born photographer creates proof of her incredible talent.
Last week we helped promote Alina Rudya's exhibit in Berlin. “Persons Unknown: Portraits of the Lost City”is still ongoing. If you know where Kleiner Salon is in Berlin and you’re within the area, better catch the exhibit before it concludes at the end of the month.
Alina studied photography at Lette-Verein School for Design and the University of Artsin Berlin. While she has been a Berlin resident for the past four years, the 28-year old photographer hails from Prypyat, Ukraine. Pripyat is now a ghost town, the ghost town where she was evacuated after the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster that happened on April 26, 1986.
Despite being the talented artist that she is, Alina was kind enough to answer a few questions and hopefully inspire all of you.
Hi Alina. Could you please share with us how and when you got into photography?
My father was a nuclear physicist but also an enthusiastic amateur photographer. We had plenty of Kiev’s and Zenith’s in our apartment as well as a huge enlarger. I started taking pictures when I was around 13 – that is when I started traveling a lot. I seriously started considering photography as my passion at around 16.
Do you shoot only in film or do you also shoot digital? When do you use film, when do you shoot digital, and why?
I shoot both film and digital. I prefer film for its quality and also sense of surprise, when you develop a film. I don’t own a digital camera at the moment, but I am a passionate instagrammer. =) But when I work on assignments, I mostly work with digital camera, since film photography is quite an expensive pleasure nowadays.
What inspires you to shoot? What are your preferred subjects?
I wouldn’t be authentic, if I say that the world around me inspires me. I love traveling, and my visits to different countries, new people, places and stories always serve as a serious inspiration. I have quite a cinematic view, so old and new movies with beautiful cinematography also inspire me.
Any photographers you particularly admire?
I am fond of photographers, who are able to tell a story with a single shot. Documentary photographers like James Nachtway or Sebastião Salgado are good examples. Also I like photography which edges with painting. I really admire Sarah Moon for her dream-like polaroids and Sally Mann with her view-camera pictures – she is able to capture the whole essence of youth and childhood in one image.
What cameras and film do you use?
I own a Nikon FE and F65, a Holga, Lubitel, Agfa Clack, point-and-shoot Olympus Mju-ii. Sometimes I work with a Hasselblad. I am not a huge fan of middle-format or view-cameras, because of their bulkiness and immobility, but recently I am considering projects using a bigger format than 35 mm. As for film – it ranges from really cheap color film from the local drugstore to black-and-white grainy high ISO films- my personal favorite is Ilford Delta 3200.
How would you describe your photographic style? Do you follow a set of rules when you shoot?
I used to take very romantic dreamy photos before, but recently I tend to do more realistic narrative series. I mostly only use natural light for my pictures. Some would describe my pictures as melancholic. As for rules – I don’t really have any, other then trying to get the best light possible.
Tell us about a body of work or projects that you’re particularly fond of.
My two recent projects Prypyat mon Amour and Persons Unknown are very important for me, because both of them are dealing with my personal history and my past. They are very different by the subject-matter and form of execution, but they both evolve around the city of Prypyat (Pripyat) – the infamous ghost-town, abandoned by its inhabitants after Nuclear accident in Chernobyl in April 1986. My father worked at the station and we lived in Pripyat. We were evacuated from it the day after the accident to never came back.
“Prypyat mon amour” is a series of self-portraits taken in my old Prypyat apartment and surroundings. It deals with self-reflection, loss and one’s identity. "Persons Unknown” is a portrait project, based on found material – I took black and white pictures from my family archive and enlarged people from the background in order to made a project dedicated to the inhabitants of the ghost-town.
I am very proud that “Prypyat mon amour” was featured in one of Germany’s biggest online portals Spiegel Online.
Also, one of my mobile photography projects – Small man in a huge world won 3d prize in the International Mobile Photography award this year – it was shot with an iPhone and I used Instagram , because I like the analogue Lomo effect its filters offer.
Any cool projects you’re currently working on or exhibits? Any links to promote these? Where can fans admire more of your work?
I am currently working on an analogue project which revolves about stereotypes about Eastern-European women. It is also self-portraiture. I am going to Kiev for two weeks to finish it- I am bringing my Olympus Mju ii. It has to do a lot with dress-up, kitch and bad taste. =)
Also my project “Persons Unknown” is exhibited in Kleiner Salon in Berlin till 30th of September. https://www.facebook.com/KleinerSalon
Do you have a dream project? Could you tell us about it?
I have a dream project, which I was thinking of for a long time. It is a portrait analog project, which is quite hard to organize physically, time-wise and logistically. I hope I will find time and courage to pursue this one.
What advice would you give to aspiring photographers?
Patience and hard work are very important in photographer’s life. With the development of digital technologies, where everyone is a photographer, many people don’t invest much time in research, preparation etc. Everyone wants to snap a shot, upload it to Instagram and become famous overnight. Nevertheless, talent and good eye are not always enough. If you want to create something great, you need to invest your passion, time, hard work and also some knowledge.
Any last words?
I think practice is a key to better pictures. By practice I don’t mean shooting your food with a mobile phone, but carefully choosing your subjects and try to get the best out of the situation. This is why analog photography is so good – since you usually only have 12 to 36 frames to shoot, you carefully choose what and how you photograph, instead of snapping bazzilion of random shots, hoping that one you will get right.
While her photographs are proof of her talent, Alina Rudya is a living testament to the truth that whoever you are, wherever you come from, or whatever past you have, you are entitled to the beauty of the world and the privilege to capture and preserve it as a memory. Our experiences can make or break us, and in Alina’s case, her past was instrumental in molding the talented individual she has become.