Katerina Belkina is a Russian visual artist and photographer. Her work principally focuses on portraiture of modern woman – a free and liberated woman. Most of the times Katerina puts herself in front of her camera and shoots amazingly beautiful images that look like paintings from a very seasoned artist. She’s a very skilled digital artist cum photo manipulator and with her husband (and manager) Karsten Meissner she tries to weave different symbolic elements in her images. Karsten is a German Art Director of the Moscow-based creative agency, Leo Burnett. He has worked with some of the biggest world-wide brands like P&G, Kellogg’s, Nestle, Coca Cola, Fiat etc.
In her works, Katerina shoots her subjects engaged in various activities. Her minimally dressed female figures at first appear very vulnerable but they look convinced and determined. They seem to be searching for an identity of their own. There is a discomforting calm spread throughout her photostream and this creates some unease in viewers. Her world look drastically post-modernistic where she projects herself as an alien force in a human form. Katerina’s work is indeed a befitting commentary on our changing times. Most of the photos here have been taken from her new series “Light and Heavy” and an older one “Empty Spaces”. Some PDF booklets about her works have been added to the post at the bottom. Here’s our Q&A with Katerina Belkina:
I was born in Samara in erstwhile USSR, i.e. Russia in 1974. I studied in Samara to become a designer but it didn’t help me at all. What we learnt there was like cutting letters from the foam or plastic, and how to paint an even backdrop. It killed the creativity inside me completely. It was way back in last century. Now I believe more in self-education and family education we can anyway learn something interesting and useful for us if we have a wish. So, my interest is in studying all the time something new by myself and try different things in the field of art. As an artist I understand that I am not going to live forever so I prefer to concentrate on getting the skills to improve myself constantly.
With photography I was more lucky. I got the knowledge of photography from a photo-academy and did a lot of practice on my own to acquire all sorts of technical skills. I started taking photos at the age of 14 and the move to shift to serious photography took a long time… still feels like I’m in a learning phase. I can never tell anyone when one turns into a fully professional photographer. I hope now and in the future to be professional but I really love to work like an amateur who’s excited over small achievements. I don’t like to call it a work, but it’s not a hobby either. That’s my life and being in my world. It may sounds weird, but that’s me.
I represent myself as an artist in a wide sense. For me photography is just a medium like painting, drawing or other. However, I like to use photography as a basic for my works. This form of art was always interesting for me. Photography cannot be compared with any kind of art. Photography allows the viewer to make the story by himself, depending on his/her life experiences, talent to see and the sensitivity, in contrast for example to the cinema, literature. But from the other side it keeps the factors of reality.
I always choose a topic that could be interestingly for me at the moment. Then comes the process of deep thinking. In the beginning the ideas are usually vague are abstract. After a while they begin to gather shape: I choose a subject, try compositions, color combinations and details. After that I make some sketches. I always have a plan… how and what to do in front of the camera, but I like to let some improvisations come later in the process. It makes the result interesting and sometimes unexpected.
Currently I am working on a new series. The working title for the moment is “Light and Heavy”. The series will comprise 10 photographic artworks and a short film. I was inspired by my hometown, Samara. My relationship with this city is very strong, but it is not linked to the real city but rather with the dreams of my past. Our view of life is very strongly connected with the place where we live and the place where we grew up. Samara is an average Russian city and a place of contrasts with everything standing opposite each other all the time. Life is hard and yet easy at the same time. In my thoughts I’m going back to this city of youth and strength, desires and moving forward. So this is the “lightness” of my dreams. In fact, the reality of that city as it was then for me is long gone. The idea that I cannot go back means this city has a special place in my mind. It’s a place of lightness, almost soaring flight. Conversely, the likelihood that I may have to live there day after day, to repeat the same routine week in, week out, turns it into something heavy, horribly intrusive and chilling. So I’m a dreamer – I prefer to keep only lightness in my memories, but I have also kept little details such as foggy backgrounds and monumental constructions which reflect the “heavy” side of being in this world.
I am always interested to know what’s going on in the world of contemporary photography and modern art. In the past, photography was an opportunity to keep something in mind, to move a story in time. Now photography is more like a mean of communication, a type of art language and more. It is a sort of rapid communication from a distance. Together with the internet it becomes a matter of an instant.
And to speak of my style, I’m mixing photo and digital painting in special proportion: I’m still standing in reality, but I like to change it very delicately. My task is not to divert the viewer into a fantasy, but give him/her an opportunity to look at reality from a different angle and perspective. The feeling that I search for is like that of a dream. I take a set of elements of life, and add to them a wide range of options.
To sum up, I’d like to tell your readers that my new series “Light and Heavy” is currently in the process of finalization. I’ve planned to organize a premier exhibition of photos in Berlin in the beginning of 2015. For this we need a curator and/or a art historian or both who can help us in composing some short introductory essays or articles about the theoretical concept of the series. Anyone willing to become part of our work may please contact us through our website to discuss the propositions.