Love and Anguish by 27 year-old Russian photographer Kristina Borinskaya is a series of self-portraits, part staged and part not, in which she’s either alone or with her partner. “The point of departure for this project is love, with all its contradictions. I started working on Love and Anguish in 2018 mainly to express and process the things that were going on in my relationship and in my life in general. Having lived through the divorce of my parents as a child, I’ve always asked myself: what keeps two people together, and what drives them away? what does it really mean to love someone? These are the questions I try to find an answer to through this work. Over time I’ve also begun to explore the artist-model relationship and the power struggles it implies. In this regard my challenge is to embody emotional equality and reinforce the vulnerability of the human form: instead of following the traditional construct of representation where ‘male’ and ‘female’ are usually conceived as opposites, I chose to combine and subvert the hallmarks of refined femininity and masculinity.”
Love and Anguish, and more generally all of Kristina’s work, is deeply influenced by the work of Russian poet Anna Akhmatova: “I’ve been obsessed with it since my teens—I still often carry a pocket book of her poems. Through her work I’ve understood that one person’s private world has the ability to reveal a collective experience. She helped me realize that there is no such thing as a perfect human relationship, because we’re all full of doubts, fears and expectations. In spite of this, this imperfect relationship is the only thing that matters. This is the keystone behind my inspiration for Love and Anguish: I wanted to create something that transcends the personal into the universal.”
Poetry also influences the way Kristina creates her pictures photographically: “I often think about the images of a certain body of work in terms of a melody or a poem: what does it sound like? how does a certain image resonate if I put it next to that other one? In this sense, color is very important to suggest a spiritual essence alongside with an objective experience. Although I construct the story of each image with care, it is only by putting one image next to another that the whole narrative unfolds. I like the tension between staged and spontaneous photographs; I expose myself and my real-life partner as vulnerable individuals in order to arise doubts in the viewer as to whether they’re looking at a ‘real’ or ‘constructed’ picture, although the staged ones are created after feelings and situations I’ve actually experienced. The contribution of my partner in the making of the images is essential since it takes a lot of trust and patience on his part to understand my intent and help me perform it.”
Kristina hopes that, although her photographs speak of her story, viewers can relate to them personally: “While creating Love and Anguish, I was aware of the fact that the pictures speak about me and my experience, but I didn’t want to dwell on this aspect only. I wanted them to also work in the direction of the viewer’s experience. For this reason, I chose to keep the identity of the subject hidden in some of the pictures, and even in the images where the subject is clearly seen, my intention is to capture an emotion and not a personality.”
“As someone who speaks four languages, I have found that a spoken language is often limiting as it can’t convey everything that one perceives” Kristina says about why she photographs. “I like to think of photography—and visual arts in general—as a universal language with no limits, which can be understood by anyone and always offers new creative possibilities. I am interested in photography because it allows me to make decisions, explore the medium’s infinite possibilities, create narratives that are raw, intimate and authentic.” The main influences on Kristina’s practice have been Boris Mikhailov, Bertien van Manen, Rineke Dijkstra and Sage Sohier, among others. “Outside of photography, I’ve been also inspired by Agnès Varda’s films and Alice Neel’s paintings, besides Anna Achmatova’s poetry.” Some of her favorite contemporary photographers are Jitka Hanzlovà (“for her sensitive and meditative approach to the subject”), Wolfgang Tillmans (“for his challenging, non-hierarchical way of looking at the photographs”) and Jeff Wall (“for his impressive mise-en-scène”). The last photobook she bought was Pictures from Home by Larry Sultan, and the next she’d like to buy is Handbook to the Stars by Peter Puklus.
Kristina’s three words for photography are:
Truth. Lie. Doubt.