Dewi Lewis Publishing,
The prodigious and award-winning photographer Danila Tkachenko, with Restricted Areas, is in its second, lucky, publication. The volume was published in 2015 (in Italy by Peliti Associates, developer of the award European Publishers Book Award), and collects a series of shots taken during three years of shipments along the whitewashed boards of Kazakhstan, Bulgaria, up to the Arctic Circle. The shooting of several off limits areas, now silent, industrial and military cities of the former USSR, symbol of the Cold War and of the most ambitious regime technocracy. The Muscovite Tkachenko worked on the project every winter for three years, traveling through more than 15,000 miles, and each time waiting for the right moment to shoot with his Mamiya after identifying the location of interest.
Having some familiarity with the places, the author gives evidence of a bare fact, which covers his body and consequently its physiological reactivity: Tkachenko grandmother lives in Ozersk, a village built around a plutonium factory. Part of the factory was blown up in 1957. Since 2012 Tkachenko began to think about the tension between the promise of technology and the havoc that often it cause. It is technology designed for war and what now remains of it, whole areas into disuse, dozens of secret cities that housed the most sensitive military and scientific programs of the government. “It ‘was the inspiration for the whole series,” says the author. What remains is assembled in a catalog of objects (real? miniature?) the punitive instruments of power in Russia: the largest diesel submarine, elements of space missiles… all that aspired in the sixties to conquer the world literally pointing to the ‘occupation of any scenario: from the depths of the sea to the remote cosmos. And so experimental aircraft, interplanetary satellite dishes, huge submarines were designed…
The series «Restricted Areas» has received numerous awards, among them: Emerging Photographer Fund 2015 (1st prize, grant), Foam Talent (publication and traveling exhibition), Lensculture Exposure Awards (1st award Series), and European Publishers Award for Photography, which resulted in publication of a book «Restricted Areas» in 5 languages. Publications of the series include: BBC Culture, The Guardian, IMA Magazine, GUP Magazine, British Journal of Photography, National Geographic, formulas tested in praise of a successful volume. Although the title is neither winking nor exotic, these places are reproduced with that adamant elegance that only the neatness of the snow can suggest. So images democratically have a milky light: it is the immaculate expanse, the white mantle that, like a blanket, wraps them all, narrating however, in stark contrast with their hypnotic tones, one of the blacks chapters of Russian history. It is in the suddenly acquired silence of these places, and by a solid and compact beauty, that human horrors are explained. But in the icy tundra monuments made of wrecks and carcasses hide a swampy nature, more steeped in water, and so they peep out, emerge to defrost the horrors of the Cold War. just like things that suffer a bleed and flood shapeless, so these painful story segments run from their atrocities and Danila return them to their mite, flexible and more purely aesthetic slope: a powder passed over the horror, that if removed we remain alone, each one with its own scare.
The project is exposed at Fotogalerie Friedrichshain during The European Month of Photography Berlin 2016 (September 15 – October 29) and is presented a deeper perspective on «Restricted Areas», complementing it with archival material and additional data, cultural and historical references to the objects in the series.
Valentina Isceri: You are born in the “Autumn of Nations”. 1989 has marked many destinies in the history of Soviet Russia. In this work you felt involved by birth? Danila Tkachenko: Yes, to some measure it is true. All generation that was born in the early 1990 was growing with sense of living on ruins of Utopia.
Valentina Isceri: What is your personal life and family compared to these places? Danila Tkachenko: This series is connected to my history of my family. My grandmother still lives in a restricted city, and my grandfather was working there at the nuclear plant, several years ago he died of illness which most probably was incurred by radiation. The project of Restricted Areas actually started after I visited my grandmother again, and learned about the whole story of the town. It made me reflect a lot about the role of technical progress in the history of humanity, and its future.**
Valentina Isceri: What is your personal life and family compared to these places? Danila Tkachenko: This series is connected to my history of my family. My grandmother still lives in a restricted city, and my grandfather was working there at the nuclear plant, several years ago he died of illness which most probably was incurred by radiation. The project of Restricted Areas actually started after I visited my grandmother again, and learned about the whole story of the town. It made me reflect a lot about the role of technical progress in the history of humanity, and its future.
Valentina Isceri: Restricted Areas has been exhibited and curated by Davide Monteleone at Galleria del Cembalo, famous Roman space, along with two other exhibitions: Stella Rossa of Rozalija Rabinovitch painter and Nel chiuso dell’Urss of Sergei Vasiliev. What were you think the visual “bridges” with the two artists? Danila Tkachenko: It was a great honor for me to be exhibited together with such authors. Certainly I consider them close to me. Rabinovich imagined the beginning of Utopia and the belief in it – this is the essence of the whole Russian Avant-garde. Vasiliev showed the prison culture which became the part of national identity after numerous political repressions of people who didn’t agree with the Government. In my turn, I show the ruins of the utopia after its end.
Valentina Isceri: What was your main inspiration that led you to map these constrictive places? Danila Tkachenko: I was inspired by the utopian idea of building of ideal State of future, and impossibility to achieve this ideal. Also It’s my critic of technical progress that could lead to the destruction.
Valentina Isceri: In addition to the technical difficulties due to unfavorable climatic conditions but strongly desired, what were the other restrictions in photographing inaccessible places as well as prohibited and maybe even dangerous? Danila Tkachenko: Yes, some places were difficult, but I had the good snowshoes and I always was faster than the guards if there were any. The most difficult was waiting for good weather for the shooting. It often took days and weeks until it was snowing and the conditions were suitable for a shot.
Valentina Isceri: You tell me some anecdotes happened while shooting or the particular some pictures to you deares? Danila Tkachenko: It’s hard to choose something especially interesting – process of shooting resembles regular working days (joke). Once I had to wait for a while, until the weather gets well for shooting, and I was staying with Nenets (an ancient northern people). They fed me frozen fish and let me ride on reindeers (you could find picture of the settlement in the attachment). As to the favorite pictures, I would say that I don’t separate the series into different images. What matters for me is the whole body of work and the idea and stories behind it.
Valentina Isceri: You tell me some necdotes happened while shooting or the particular some pictures to you deares? Danila Tkachenko: It’s hard to choose something especially interesting – process of shooting resembles regular working days (joke). Once I had to wait for a while, until the weather gets well for shooting, and I was staying with Nenets (an ancient northern people). They fed me frozen fish and let me ride on reindeers (you could find picture of the settlement in the attachment). As to the favorite pictures, I would say that I don’t separate the series into different images. What matters for me is the whole body of work and the idea and stories behind it.
Valentina Isceri: How long did it take for the documentation, exploration, travel and recovery? And after such vicissitudes or meetings it is growing awareness of the book project? Danila Tkachenko: It took about three years to make the project in total. The most time I spent at the computer on internet, searching for these places, also the time of shooting depended from weather, not from myself. Apart from this, I had to visit certain locations in autumn – to prepare the landscape, removing the obstacles (bushes and small trees), to create the ideal landscape. On the other hand, the final series includes only part of objects where I traveled – in some cases, the result was not satisfactory so I didn’t use the material. The book turned out brilliant, I’m very grateful to Mario Peliti, and Davide Monteleone of course, for creating it as such a beautiful object. I don’t know if it reveals new perspectives on the project, but surely it’s a good way for presentation of this series.
Valentina Isceri: Would we talk of the experience of the book, the choice and the relationship with the publisher and the other actors involved? Danila Tkachenko: When I made the first book Escape I spent lots of time for its production, was making many sketches and samples. I was discussing it with publisher Hannes Wanderer (Peperoni Books) all the way through the process. The book is beautiful, I am only not sure about the cover – it is very glossy and commercial in my opinion, and I can see it now, after a while. For the book Restricted Areas I won the European Publishers Award, and took much less part in the process of working on the book. We were discussing everything, of course, especially important issues as cover, text, looking the layouts and making corrections. Many decisions were made by the publisher himself, and the result stunned me as beautiful and just as it should have looked like.
Valentina Isceri: Nadav Kander with “Dust”, Tamas Dezso with “Notes for an Epilogue”, Sasha Rudensky with “Remains”: know their photographic projetcs and do you think there may be points of contact, not just “semantic” between them and your work? Danila Tkachenko: Yes, I know these projects and probably there are some points of contact, these stories are also connected to Post-Soviet history. But they are not very interesting for me personally, I don’t really like to look at work of other photographers. As one writer said, he was taught to write by other arts. It’s the same for me, I rather like to watch films and follow other fields of contemporary art.
Danila Tkachenko (b.1989, Moscow) is a visual artist working with documentary photography. In 2014 she graduated from the Rodchenko Moscow School of Photography and Multimedia, in the same year he won the World Press Photo 2014 with the project Escape. In March 2015 he finished the project «Restricted Areas» which received worldwide recognition, including prizes, shows and publications. At the moment Danila Tkachenko is working on two projects which are being shot in Russia and China. Danila Tkachenko is represented by Kehrer Gallery (Berlin), Cembalo gallery (Rome), Pechersky gallery (Moscow).
Dewi Lewis Publishing
Number of pages:
With a text by H.G. Wells and a map of locations
Issued in 5 versions: English / Italian / German / French / Spanish