In this interview, Irina Chernikova shares her passion for analogue photography and experimentation and gives us a hint about the workshops she will host at this year's edition of Experimental Photofestival - EXP.22 (Barcelona, Spain, July 20th-24th).
Hi Irina, could you introduce yourself to the readers of our Online Magazine?
Hi, I’m Irina Chernikova. I am a self taught artist and I am passionate about photography, cinema and all visual arts in general. I live in San Francisco, California and I do economic analysis for work. Photography and art is my second job and hobby and I try to spend more and more of my time doing it. I was born in Russia, back when it was still the Soviet Union, but have been living in the United States since I was 12 years old.
Tell us about your photographic background. What is your story? When did you start photographing?
I never received an academic training in photography, but I was always doing something with art and learning to create things on my own, doing online tutorials or taking some art classes just for fun. I started doing photography about 10 years ago, when I got my first DSLR and decided to learn how to properly use it and learn all the manual settings. I discovered how I can experiment with the camera to create something cool and different (e.g. double exposures, long exposures, etc). Then in 2015, I came across a 35 mm film camera and I decided to try it. Since then, I have been completely in love with the analogue photography world. I develop my own film and have a home darkroom set up for printing from my negatives. I continue to explore all the possibilities with the analogue techniques, I believe there are no limits in this domain!
On your website you state "I like to deconstruct reality and build something other from it. Sometimes the other world becomes a reflection of this world, other times it becomes something entirely new." Can you explain more about this concept?
My artistic process involves deliberate alteration and distortion of reality either through multiple exposition, scratching or otherwise altering the negative, traditional or light painting of the image, or various chemical or light alterations during the darkroom printing process. The final result is not necessarily fiction. Sometimes it becomes an expression of this reality, a broader experience of our world. Other times it becomes a creation of something new, perhaps something we can only imagine in a dream or in a science fiction story.
In an undeniably digital era, why do you chose analogue photography?
I like to explore the boundary between physical and virtual reality, the real and the unreal, ephemeral and permanent. The analogue technique is part of that exploration. I love working with physical media: film, paper, chemistry. At the same time, the digital era allows us to connect and also alter this unreal and virtual territory. Both processes are important today. I like working with tangible things because it makes me think of archiving, memory, history and patience. Analogue photography teaches me how to be deliberate, preserving and patient with changes in the fast paced fleeting digital era.
You will be participating at the upcoming edition of EXP.22. Can you tell us what activities you will be hosting?
I will be doing a workshop on experimental digital 3D art, which is the first time I am presenting a digital art form at this festival. In addition, I will be presenting my analogue portraiture project, where I used different experimental analogue techniques on portraits to create a series for a zine I will be presenting. I will talk about the process of combining various techniques to create a final project and the main ideas behind it.
Who or what inspires your work?
I find a lot of inspiration in cinema, science and literature. Cinema gives me visual inspiration, while science and literature gives me conceptual ideas. Of course, I am also inspired by many contemporary artists on social media and love going to art shows and exhibits as well.
Do you have any interesting projects or collaborations planned that you would like to share with us?
I want to build on the project I have been working on with experimental portraiture. The pandemic has slowed this project significantly, due to quarantines and social distancing, but I want to continue experimenting with actors and models to make more experimental darkroom portraits.