“I first began experimenting with cameraless techniques in a colour darkroom in 2010,” says Russian photographer Tatiana Gulenkina, who is based in Washington DC. “I originally thought it would be a fun side project but I ended up falling in love with the process. There is something magical about working with your hands.”
In Things Merging and Falling Apart, Gulenkina, who last year was shortlisted for Photo Boite’s 30 Under 30 Women Photographers competition, creates photograms, but instead of placing objects directly onto a light-sensitive surface, she suspends them above it, submerges them in water or oil, or moves them around during the exposure.
“In the past, I used anything from plants and live organisms to springs, ribbons and cardboard cutouts,” she explains. “I’m not trying to portrait a particular object, and I’m obviously not the first one to come up with this concept.”
In one image, Gulenkina placed a flower in a small tank of water on top of light-sensitive paper, for example, letting the stem unravel. “You can sort of see a bud in the middle of the frame with small bubbles around it,” she says. “Light shining through water creates beautiful shades. Instead of depicting formal qualities, the images challenge expectations and capture light itself. They bring the viewer’s attention to the performative aspects of the creative process.”
Gulenkina worked on the project for four years and fine-tuned her process as she went along. “Naturally, there was a lot of frustration in the beginning, and I went through a thick stack of paper before figuring out the right exposure, but I learned to let go and to work more intuitively,” she says. “At some point, I realised that what I’m doing is a collaboration between my subjects and me, since they are active participants in this process.
“I have always been interested in the way photography blends with other art forms – sculpture, performance, installation,” she adds. “Photography is not necessarily about picturing things anymore. In my case, it’s more about the actual process of making.”
See more of Tatiana’s work here.
First published in the April 2014 issue. You can buy the issue here.