"Georgia Georgia" by Yanina Shevchenko and Kyler Zeleny

Feb 19, 2016

Yanina is a a Russian-born photographer and curator based in Barcelona, Spain who studied urban planning and photography at the Moscow Academy of Photography. Her interests in photography and architecture are urban development, rural landscape and community.


Kyler is a Canadian photographer and researcher whose interests deal with contemporary rural issues and how geography extends identity and creates community.


The joint project “Georgia Georgia” is a photographic typology and an examination of links between two different geographic regions. The Eastern European nation-state and former Soviet country - Georgia, photographed by Yanina Shevchenko and the USA state - Georgia, photographed by Kyler Zeleny were chosen based on word-play as two supposedly different places bound by a tenuous connection— their name. The exchange worked so that each photographer would influence the other’s visual work. After each project was completed, a selection of images were compiled into a single narrative of a unified place not known to laterally exist.


Following we present the interviews we had with both artists:


am - Yanina, first of all thank you very much for your time and for your contribution to our project. What do you do at the moment?

YS - This January I have started the second part of the trilogy about Russia I have planed couple of years ago. It explores Russia from three different dimensions: length - its scale,  breadth - its past, and depth - its believes. The first part is my project “Crossing Over”. It explores the scale of the country. The new project it’s about history of Russia, its past.


am - What inspires your artistic work?

YS - I think the main drive behind my artistic work is curiosity. I learn so much during the process; I learn about the subjects, and at the same time I learn about myself. First comes the reason why I want to explore or tell a particular story, something has to intrigue me. Then I create the work.


am - Who are your favorite photographers / artists?

YS - I do no have a favourite photographer. But there are particular projects that I like a lot. For example, Alexander Gronsky “Norilsk”, Edward Burtynsky “Tailings”, Evgenia Arbugaeva ‘Tiksi”, Nadav Kander “Yangtze: the long river” to name a few.


am - How did you decide to collaborate for this project? What was the inspiration behind it?

YS - Kyler and I did the same MA Photography and Urban Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London. Our final visual projects explored the theme of a journey. We thought that since we have similar interests, maybe we should combine our creative visions and do a project together.


am - What type of camera and film did you use for “Georgia Georgia”?

YS - When we decided to create this project, one of the agreements was that both of us will use the same camera. Kyler already had Pentax 67, so I bought one specifically for Georgia Georgia. Since then I fell in love with this camera, I shot two more projects with it already.


am - If you could travel to one place and stay there for a year, where would you choose to go?

YS - I would really like to explore north more. So Iceland or Greenland. I’ve been to Iceland on a short trip, it became one of my favourite countries.




am - Kyler, thank you very much for your time and for your contribution to our project. What do you do at the moment?

KZ - I am a PhD student in a joint Communication and Culture program at York University and Ryerson University. I also work part-time as a teaching-assistant at York leading seminars of Communication students and as a researcher in the summer.


am - What inspires your artistic work?

KZ - I want to know things and I want to express the things I learn to others so that they might come to the same realization I have. Really photography for me is a way of storytelling, I mean a lot of people make that claim and I think that’s probably because its true. My interest in photography as it is related to academia (or when I use it within an academic setting) is as a way for the ‘common man’ to understand these large and meta-based ideas.


am - Who are your favorite photographers / artists?

KZ - I like a lot of photographers and don’t necessarily think in terms of 'favourites’, we live in a period where everyone is able to create high-quality work. The contemporary photographer I would say I respect the most is Alec Soth, his work and his ingenious with regards to how he goes about it. I also like that he’s innovative enough to start his own press and also do community initiates for youth, which is great. More historical names, I really appreciate the work of Stephen Shore and Robert Adams as well as the lesser known Canadian equivalents: George Webber, Orest Semchishen, and John Conway.


am - How did you decide to collaborate for this project? What was the inspiration behind it?

KZ - There is some friendly disagreement over who came up with the idea. I have an elaborate backstory that I think, proves it was my idea, but at this point it doesn’t really matter. I think Yanina and I share a mutual respect for the other, both in terms of the visual work the other produces but also the work ethic of the other. I think we also wanted to continue to push each other and create new work. Given our busy lifestyles and our distance (I was in Canada and Yanina was living in either London or Barcelona), it was difficult to find the time to work on a project, so a project that did not require us to be in the same space worked.


am - What type of camera and film did you use for “Georgia Georgia”?

KZ - A Pentax 67 with Kodak 100 Ektar film. We wanted to keep the technical measures the same. So I encouraged Yanina to buy the Pentax as an 'investment’ (they don’t devalue like digital cameras), and my understanding is that she likes it enough she uses it for other projects as well!


am - Favourite songs/bands at the moment?

KZ - Anything by Jake Bugg, or Andrew Birds - My Sister’s Tiny Hands, or Corb Lund’s My Saddle Horse Has Died, or The Crooked Brothers’ Up The Mountain…Really these are just songs that would accompany another project of mine (Crown Ditch and the Prairie Castle), if it had its own playlist.


am - If you could travel to one place and stay there for a year, where would you choose to go?

KZ - I have a list, but for a full year, I would like to live in New York, that’s still a dream.


am - What’s your favourite movie?

KZ - I have a long list of movies I enjoy, not one I could say was a favourite. Let’s say, for the sake of this project, the film is Paris, Texas, which in my mind spurred the project, this idea of building on place-names.


am - Are you planning any other joint project? Please tell us a bit of it.

KZ - In April we are travelling to Japan to visit a mutual friend so perhaps… Other than that, I’m not sure. This project is not necessarily complete, we still have some ideas for publications and exhibition. So in that regards the collaboration continues.


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