Elvira Kolerova is a Russian photographer, currently based in Berlin, Germany. Her work is an ultimate statement about an atmosphere created in the frame, the feelings it evokes, and the state of mind it contributes to the person pondering on the end result. Alienation and distance from the surrounding life that seems unfamiliar and obscure are emphasized in the Outland series. Elvira explores the concept of the uncanny inviting a viewer to join the process of analyzing one’s feeling and thoughts that come to life from engagingly perceiving the visual realm. Are we that distant from the unfamiliar? At which point do we decide to be detached as we are empathetic and understand the other’s passions, emotions, feelings, and suffering.
Elvira speaks about her favorite film directors and the reminiscence she found of her series with the 16-17th century painters.
Elvira has an M.A in American Cultural Studies from the Humboldt University, Berlin and has finished a course in Photography from the Neue Schule fuer Fotografie, Berlin. Elvira’s works have been featured in numerous magazines and offline publications and books. Her recent exhibition took place in EMOP Berlin 2018, German’s photo festival.
"I AIM TO EXPLORE THE CONCEPT OF THE 'UNCANNY' AND ITS VISUAL CONSTRUCTION, AND ALSO FEARS, DARKNESS, AND LONELINESS".
Hi Elvira, tell about Outland. What is it about?
With my long-term series 'Outland' I aim to explore the concept of the 'uncanny' and its visual construction, and also fears, darkness, and loneliness.
Yet, all in all, 'Outland' does not necessarily have a story behind it. It is rather about the gaze, visuality, and emotions that the photos provoke, as well as my own emotional experience of producing these pictures. I enjoy the moment of being alone with the motif I am photographing. There is some kind of a magical, mysterious connection.
What is uncanny for you in its meaning and the way you address the concept with this work?
Uncanny is a concept that is not easy to define. It can be many things: an unsettling atmosphere, alienation, darkness, a strange, uncommon experience of the ordinary, something unpleasant, or a secret that one does not understand. All these aspects interest me.
For me, the 'uncanny' first of all means a feeling of discomfort without knowing what exactly evokes this feeling.
Black and white palette has many shades which eventually highly affect the end product and the feeling it assists to create. How do you approach production and post-production?
All my photos for the series 'Outland' were shot on 35mm film. After the photos have been scanned, I usually desaturate them and make them darker. It is astonishing how the imagery changes when there is less light. I intentionally hide some part(s) of the original picture in the darkness or make them hardly visible to create more uncertainty.
What is the main feeling or question you wish a viewer will be left after seeing the series?
There is no particular feeling (not even an uncanny feeling) or reaction I expect from the viewers. I rather wish that my photos stick in people's memory.
What is the meaning for you of the themes you chose to address like the winter forest, countryside, and religion that is a background to the composition?
I believe there is something mysterious about these places, they are simultaneously romantic and frightening, familiar and unfamiliar; and the boundaries between reality and imagination are blurred. This is what 'Outland' is all about.
"I NEVER KNOW THE RESULT BEFORE I SCAN THE FILM, BUT I MOSTLY HAVE AN INTUITION ABOUT WHAT WILL WORK OUT".
Which film directors inspire you?
I mostly like experimental and underground filmmakers of the past: Kenneth Anger, Takashi Ito, and Frans Zwartjes. But I also like Tarkovsky and Żuławski.
What was the most unexpected occurrence for you while working on the series?
While working on the series, I once noticed that many of my photos remind me of the pictorial art of the 16th and 17th centuries: Pieter Bruegel, Francesco Guarini or Gerrit Dou. So I decided to deliberately imitate this imagery.
What was the main challenge to photographing at night?
Analog night photography can be a challenge for sure. But I got accustomed to taking pictures in the darkness. This is probably my favourite part of the work. I never know the result before I scan the film, but I mostly have an intuition about what will work out and what will not.
What will your next project be about?
My next project is actually an experimental short movie shot on super 8 film. And a photo book.