Voidness : Photography of Maria Kokunova from Russia

About me and my relationship with photography. My evolution as a photographer : I was born in 1983 in Armavir, Russia and I currently live and work in Saint-Petersburg, Russia. I have a degree in philology, but since my childhood have had a haunting desire to express myself through visual language. I have been painting as long as I can remember and spent a lot of time in private painting and drawing studios studying the subject intently. But back in 2013, I, all of a sudden, found myself carried away by photography and since then I have realized that I can speak by means of this form of art. At first it was a game of composition, I was looking for most interesting and closest to me aesthetic fragments of reality.

I was mostly thinking in single pictures then. And started with learning from the masters of classical photography in private photo schools, educational institutions and workshops. But this year I got acquainted with the language of modern photography and was stunned by how the photographic medium has changed and the scope of the possibilities to tell stories that are not a report or a linear narrative. It seems I have rediscovered the possibilities of visual language for myself: from complex conceptual projects to poetic stories and revolutionary experiments. I think this is just the beginning. And I still have many new discoveries ahead.

My artist statement, preferences, methods etc. : In my works I focus on the process of self-reflection and searches for visual metaphors to be used for examining my life in order to translate the emotional and psychological state - the result of a deep personal experience – into some visual form. I view photography as a dialogue with myself and a way of meditative thinking. My works probes the theme of birth, fragility and transience of life. Instead of forcing myself into a formal framework, I prefer to concentrate on my own feelings, use various visual modes to capture the shades of my own emotions, the mood of the idea, the subject or the place to create a complete visual image.

I use different cameras, in my arsenal there is a full-frame digital SLR Nikon camera, an old Soviet-time camera Zenith-E, a digital film camera Nikon F 80 and Polaroid 636. This gives me freedom in my work. Knowing the possibilities of each of them, I can find an adequate form for my ideas to better convey the important nuances of perception of what I shoot in my works. Under some conditions a digital camera is absolutely indispensable. But, of course, I have a special affection for the film and the Polaroid, their materiality and spontaneous imperfections embarrass me mist of all, as they may turn out to be a real artistic surprise. But shooting on them does not guarantee success, a film, and even more so a Polaroid, require both a very attentive attitude and a special insight into the object.

I also liked to experiment with collage techniques, working with real photographic material, not in computer editors. I plan to continue to actively use these techniques.As far as I feel my creative process as a reflexive stream of consciousness, in my work I combine black and white, as well as coloured images, try collage techniques, mix everything and that web of images is as intricately made as a non-stop stream of thoughts which, at first, may seem chaotic, but it’s actually made in an associative way according to the rules of it’s own inner logic of which we may not even guess sometimes. I like to watch this process let’s say from a distance, just visualizing it.

My projects : Currently I’m working on a project that has become a visual expression of my experience of pregnancy and childbirth. In some way, it is an attempt to understand what has actually happened to me, going beyond the talk about maternity, it’s like a diary in which I set down my reflections about and strong impressions of that deep personal experience. It may continue and will then consist of several chapters. It happened so that it started with the beginning of a new life.

Project – Voidness : This project has become a visual expression of my journey to the motherhood: an embarrassing experience of carrying a baby in a womb and giving a birth to it. On my way to becoming a mother I was observing how my perception of the reality was changing, how something born by the nature itself, something wild and powerful had been awoken somewhere deep inside me. I had witnessed how an amazing feeling of being a part of some purely natural and well-regulated process had been developing. I started to spend more time in the country, which helped me to listen to myself, get ready for bringing a new life into the world and meeting it.

It was an amazing journey full of discoveries. During that year I had heard how pine cones cracked high in the branches, how overripe apples fell off from the trees with a muffled sound, the rattle of ants under my feet and the clinging sound of buds bursting into blossom. I could not even imagine that it might be so loud. While living that deep personal experience I had been pondering on what our conscience is and what makes up that other conscience living inside me. Where had it come from? Where is the line that divides us? Where is the border between the outer world and myself and why does it sometimes become so vague and start to glimmer? What does it all mean at all? What exactly did make me so perceptive to the things beyond words, at what point of that deep personal experience did it happen?

Photography has been and is now helping me to find answers, or being more exact, to go on putting questions more precisely. A visual narrative is a kind of emotional map for me which I use to find the way to my inner self.

My influences and favorite stuff : The greatest influence on me and my vision had had the ideas of Zen Buddhism. Actually, they did not just had an effect on me but back in my youth when I first got to know them I found that I, so to say, coincided with them in terms of my personal perception and my personal philosophy. As for the influence of art, it is difficult to single out one thing. I draw inspiration and try to nurture myself constantly. But if you want me to be specific, related to painting I particularly like the art of the Middle Ages and the early Renaissance, post-impressionism and the art of the East, also of the Middle Ages, absolutely alone stands –Japanese engraving and the art of sumi-e.

As for literature - books have been with me all my life, perhaps, the most passionate I feel about Russian classics, science fiction, magical realism and the stream of consciousness narrative technique. In music, perhaps, jazz and trip-hop. If we talk about cinema, it is art house. Well, and in regards to photography, I cannot help giving you some names, considering we have been talking about this form of art all this time. At some point the photographs of Sol Leiter and William Eggleston were a real discovery for me, the way they worked with color – amazingly picturesque. At the moment I’m really enticed by contemporary documentary and conceptual projects, and modern art photography, and there are so many names, some of them  Katrin Koenning, Rinko Kawauchi, Lieko Shiga, Daisuke Yokota, modern Japanese photography is a special subject for  me, that grasps my every emotion at the time.

Maria Kokunova : Website | Facebook


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