Interview, Polina Washington -
From Darkness to Light
Polina! The concern of the artist is the expression, and the deeper you get into your experiences, the expression becomes almost impossible. Do you think you have been able to express as vividly, or all the mediums of expression ultimately fail to describe it?
I do believe that feelings are the only true language for communicating not only with people but the whole universe too. So trying to express my experiences, I try to express emotions on the surface of the image. You know, sometimes you can hear a melody or watch a movie and just feel some very special truth - this is it. Like you’ve just understood “everything” but can’t even frame it in words in your mind. It’s an understanding on the emotional level. Reaching this level is really hard because we grow up being too stoned from our feelings. And for sure it’s really really hard to express everything you want just through the image. But I see it as you just put a seed in the ground. You put something into your image that grows up as a beautiful tree. Some will path and won’t even notice your wonderful creation, others will see your tree as something else - as a future furniture, f.e. It also can turn as a bush or not even grow up at all. Your experience is a seed, but not a result. You always will be “connected” with it, no matter the way it turned.
Generally, we cannot accept darkness because it goes against our intrinsic nature of being light, but one needs to accept the day and the night too. How have you moved from darkness to light?
I met people who preferred darkness. I can even say I did the same, but unconsciously. It’s always a question of choice - how do you prefer to see the world and what do you want it to be like. It always changes the decorations around your life. My way to the light was a discovery - I had no idea life can be quite opposite. I was sick and that period gave me an understanding I had to change myself. Between me “from the dark” and a previous me - a huge abyss, a huge work that is not done yet (and won’t be finished until the end of my life, I guess). But I’m grateful to choose this way - this is the road to the education and discoveries, the road to the absolute love. Living on the light side is getting the best from your life full of opportunities, beautiful people, and places. There’s no “darkness” in the world actually - it’s a creation of people. Everything in the world is full of light and love, even the night - with a million bright starts.
If I look at all your recent works, I see that you have been slowly and slowly creating from the heart. Is it difficult to open yourself to existence, and how important is it to open up for an artist?
I think this is the most important. Many years I had been running away from the reality, denying everything around me. I didn’t want to exist in such a place, so I had to imagine my own. But being alive - it’s being right here and right now. If you run away from your real life - don’t wait it will try to catch you up. We make decisions all the time - no matter do we realize it or not. All of them have their own consequences - “you always get what you want”. Existence and creation - are two very common activities. The whole life itself is a creation - each second we create ourselves and the world around.
..and where do you want to lead the viewer and yourself through your photographs, to the reality or just a fantasy? Are you concerned whether you lead someone in silence or an emotion?
Earlier I wanted my viewer to welcome the imaginary world - a hidden place somewhere deep in the woods where they could “connect” or feel nature as a part of their existence. Those relationships were my main idea but later I felt being very isolated because of the path I’ve chosen. For sure, the connection with Nature is very important, but it shouldn’t deny the rest World and other people. For me, it was an escapism and at one moment I decided to get out of this. I began working with my emotions and accepting everything around. That’s why my images become more and more simple with years - I’m charmed with a beauty of an ordinary moment, I do believe that “the truth” we are all looking for is not hidden somewhere far away - it’s here, right behind us - we just need to open our hearts and feel it.
Now, could you talk to us about why you chose the visual side of things, and of all, why do you choose the film format in the age of restlessness?
Actually, I do not have any strict rules to shoot only film - I use any medium, it doesn’t matter what instrument you use to express yourself. I also love digital and sometimes shoot even on my phone. Earlier I did a lot of multi exposure shots. And I can say that there’s no comparing between m.e. on film and digital. The film creates those combinations very poetical, very unique. That’s why I’ve been choosing only 35mm film. But I also love to have a little mystery, especially it’s fascinating while traveling - to shoot and not to see the result. And after you come back home and develop rolls, you’re lucky to experience your trip again.
To tell the truth, I have no idea why I’ve chosen to express myself using visual language. I always felt being unsatisfied with words to express my thought and ideas. It sounds so beautiful in your head but definitely, there should be some talent to transfer it into the speech. Also, photography freezes time, I’m a bit quivering about my past - I love to remember some moments, and the image helps me to get into the memory so deeply. For example, in January we were on Bali and spend a month there. Now I just need to have a glance on the picture from those trip and I can smell the flowers of the island, feel the warm wind and hear the ocean waves. It’s an absolutely amazing feeling.
Do you usually start with a story or an idea first, and how are the various film treatments a part of your presentation?
I never try to imagine my series or even photographs before - I drift. Images help me to understand and explore the world around, so I listen carefully. But anyway pictures always appear to be different, but mostly it depends on the period in my life. “Dvrkvisions” series was my first work - I never thought to create a series but now I can mark it as a finished direction. I used multiple exposure techniques and began experimenting with film soaking - it could help me to escape the reality of the image, to create a more mysterious world. “Bloom” series was very experimental. I wanted to try to avoid the main object or hero on the image, to “paint” my photographs like abstract painters. I’d been using the same techniques but more experimenting with soaking - to go deeper and deeper into the fantasy. Side by side goes “Wishful thinking” and “No visions” series - a time of breaking my old model of life and the way of thinking. First of all, it was a period of huge changes in my life - absolutely like a new page, denying escapism. So I became interested in creating very simple images, using m.e. just from time to time. No soaking effects or something - an attempt to catch the moment as it is - very authentic. The main idea is that I just resonate to the world around me and that’s how all those series appear.
I can imagine that there must be more to how you design the colors and the light for your photographs, how do you work with that?
I always work with colors on post-production (but yes, sometimes images happen to be “ideal” for me after scanning). As I studied as a director of photography, I know how strong colors effect on a viewer. For me, the process is like a painting. I change or “move” colors to find the best combination. I know some photographers say that if you shoot film, it’s senseless to do any post-production work but I totally disagree. It’s very important to get from the image exactly what you want. If you have an instrument to make your picture look better - why not to use it?
Very often you do double exposures, is that a part of a psychedelic presentation or a more sustainable way of highlight this relative reality?
As I already mention, multi exposure technique was a very important instrument in dvrkvisions series - it helped me to create my imaginary world. Connecting two or more images I could get something visually new on the image. Now I do it mostly as a habit - I really love this technique, you never know exactly what you’ll get and I love the game.
Since you have been meditating lately, how has that changed your perspective? As a photographer, and also as a human being.
First of all, I became emotionally more stable. Now if I feel anger or scared I’m able to “watch” my emotion from the outside and ask myself: “Does this emotion identify my personality? Do I want to feel it? Do I like it? What is the reason why I feel it? So it doesn’t go through me only as an impulse. I examine the situation so can have a possibility in future to avoid being stressed by the same situation. Meditation really helps to wash your brain, body, and soul. Things look so clear and calm after the practice. As meditation helped me to change myself, for sure it changed my way of shooting. Any changes in my personality cause changes in my art. So I can say it’s connected.
With all that, What’s one thing you would suggest an aspiring photographer?
Don’t shoot trying to guess what a viewer will like. But shoot something that resonates with you and only you.
Interview with Polina Washington