It's one thing to shoot a series of photographs, travelling thousands of miles across icy terrain is a different thing altogether. Danila Tkachenko is the kind of photographer that sticks to his guns when he has a vision in his head. He stays no matter what the shooting conditions are and to make sure the work is done and done well. We visit again some of his contemporary work and get a bonus by being able to talk with the award winning photographer about his work, musings, and stories behind his different series.
Hi, Danila! Welcome to the Lomography Magazine! Please introduce yourself to our readers.
Hi! Shortly, I'm an artist from Russia who works with documentary photography.
Who is Danila Tkachenko when not shooting? What do you do on your down time?
Now I'm shooting almost all of the time since I have many ideas for my next projects. Actually, photography isn't only shooting – it's also a hard work on the post-production period and thinking and writing the texts for concepts. But I love travel and listen to music like everybody else. I do that when I'm tired and want to relax.
Tell us about how you discovered photography. Was it always something that was innate and natural or learned?
I never was fond of photography until 2009 when, by complete accident, I shared my flat with a girl who was a photographer. Since then I got interested in photography and some later started to study in the Rodchenko Art School in Moscow where I was introduced to the different media and realized that photography fits me more than anything else.
How would you define photography?
I consider photography as the most avant garde medium in the world today and I have some reasons to think so. The photo is free from narrative unlike cinema and literature and at the same time it uses images from the real world. The photo has many ways for self-representation, It can be shown on the internet, on walls, on magazines, books etc. None of the other media is capable of that. Photos are very quickly consumed. I shot my first big project – Escape – for three years but the people have seen it for 5 minutes and it’s one of the main characteristics of the contemporary world.
How does your professional work differ from your personal photography?
I treat the photography as a tool, I don't feel the difference between my professional work and my personal practice. The difference can be expressed in the choice: some photos are for the public or for series and some of them aren't appropriate.
In what area do you think you feel most comfortable in?
In any, the main thing is how this area must be charged for the set task. In fact it doesn't matter for me. I can hire the additional photographer if I have the technical problems.
What’s your favorite subject? Where do you draw your inspiration from? What fuels your creativity?
It could sound banal but my answer is 'the world around us' for all three questions. I try to work with the contemporary issue even if I tell stories about the past. I could refer to the themes of the history because I feel it's actual now and the contemporaneity is still working in those schemes.
How do you come up with your concepts? How do you stay creative?
The main driving force is the curiosity and some exciting moments in my life. I try to immerse myself into them and find the acceptable plastic image for the dialogue and the story.
Is there a formula you follow in your creative process?
I think no. I try to stay free from any formulas.
How would you describe your style in five words?
Minimization (of the instruments), concentration, accuracy, simplicity, distance.
In your opinion, what are the characteristics of a good photograph?
I think that good photograph is one that works well with the context. It's the most difficult process to make the photograph express the idea in the right way.
What’s your favorite photograph? Why?
I don't have my favorite photos I look at them as worked off material.
What camera/film/accessory setup do you use in your professional and personal work?
I used a Mamiya 7 with closed aperture and long exposure with a standard tripod for 'Restricted Areas.' For the trips to the distant places I need the car, it's almost all I need.
If you weren't a photographer, what would you be?
A pizza boy
What’s the story behind ‘Restricted Areas?’
Once I visited my grandmother who lives in a closed city which was secret in the period of USSR. The first Soviet nuclear bomb was developed there. I learned that in 60s there happened a nuclear disaster but this accident was classified. Quite a vast territory was contaminated, and people who lives there have various chronic diseases because of this accident. The first shot in my project was made in this city.
What was your inspiration in creating that series?
I read and thought much about the breakup of USSR. I consider this attempt of creation the ideal state as utopia in the wide sense. This is the metaphor of the post-technological apocalypse when technological process doesn't always lead to the happy future.
You expressed your sentiments about technology and ruin in ‘Restricted Areas,’ do you have other ideas that you want to communicate in those photos?
I hope yes. It's important for me to feel that my work isn't locked in only one expression but has many interpretations. It has one main theme but this theme is too wide and when you try to speak about it you have to speak about many other things too.
Please talk us through your experiences in creating your different series. What was going through your head during those times? What were you aiming to capture with your camera?
Well, my work is the sequence of the failures during the process of finding the image as a medium. Only patience and time can help to reach the result. For me the photography is a way of communication with the world around me, the attempt of the search of the reality. This is a constantly transforming dialogue. I'm trying to concentrate and get to the point.
Your thousand mile travel to your destinations must have been overwhelming. What did your journey and process teach you? What was going on in your mind while you were sitting in the blistering cold, waiting for the right moment to take your photograph?
I didn't feel anything special, it always were just common working moments. I felt cold or hungry so I had physiological senses mostly but never dramatic.
What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome when you were shooting your different series? How did you manage to get past by them?
My impatience and nervousness, physical tiredness. But I tried to keep myself in the hands.
Are you planning to create more photographs following ‘Escape’ and ‘Restricted Areas?’
No. The project and expression is done. I don't feel that it's necessary to add images, it can lead to the expression will become fuzzy.
What project/photograph holds the greatest meaning to you? Would you mind sharing it with us?
My favorite work is the Black Square by Kazimir Malevich. It's an absolutely accurate contemporary work.
Any photographers/artists that you follow religiously?
I like Damien Hirst, Ukraine artist Arsen Savadov, Ilya Kabakov, Santiago Sierra, and Richard Serra.
Being a recipient of multiple photography awards, how did you respond to the attention and the accolades? How did the experience contribute to your career right now?
I like it. It allows me to relax and feel free to create something else.
How do you think people should handle success and failure?
In the same way.
Any upcoming projects? Please talk about them.
Now I'm working on three projects, two of them are almost ready and soon will be published on my website. One of them is tied with the theme of the fire and Russian revolution. During the production of the second one I shot about 70 people.
We would like to thank Danila for this opportunity to feature his work and learn more about his process. We would also like to acknowledge Ilya Formin who helped in translating our interview questions and graciously attending to our email correspondence. You can see more of Danila's work on his website.