tatiana grigorenko – missing link [EPF Finalist]

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Tatiana Grigorenko

Missing Link

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Emerging Photographer Fund – FINALIST (number six of eleven)

My parents fled the Soviet Union in 1976, where they had been dissidents, their families persecuted and imprisoned many times over. They ended up in New York, political refugees with no nationality, and there I was born: an American citizen to stateless parents, with my mother proudly holding up my infant head for the picture in the family’s first US passport.  I grew up with one foot in an imaginary country: a country defined by the Russian I spoke at home, the food I ate, the songs I listened to and of course, the stories my parents told– but a country, nonetheless, that could never have a real physical existence.  My parents were too scared to ever return, even for a short visit.

Haunted by this incomplete picture, I set out to meet the imaginary country face to face. Armenia, Georgia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Estonia, Russia ….  Everywhere I go, I meet dozens of new faces, and in each one of them I recognize women I could have known, men I could have loved, places that could have been familiar. I am chasing a phantom: rather than finding the country my parents had told me about, I am meeting the self/selves I could have been.

An invented self-portrait, a fictional autobiography, unfolding in a country that no longer exists ….

These are images from a long-term project that I hope to complete with an EPF grant and eventually publish as a book of images juxtaposed alongside text culled from personal journal entries.  The final result should, of course, serve as testimony to the aftermath of the break-up of the Soviet Union, but I hope that the viewer will also, by sharing the author’s own experience, question the very notion of how we define ourselves.


Tatiana Grigorenko was born in 1980 in New York City. After a brief stint as a professional ballet dancer in New York and Paris, she graduated from Amherst College in 2003 with a BA in Fine Arts. She is currently pursuing her MFA in photography at Yale University School of Art.  She lives and works between New York, New Haven and Paris.

Tatiana’s work has been exhibited in New York City (Thomas Werner Gallery), in Paris, France (Galerie Bailly Contemporain), in New Haven, Connecticut (Yale University Art Gallery and Green Hall Gallery), in Amherst, Massachusetts, in Treviso, Italy and in Carmel, California.

Tatiana was recently named a 2009 Emerging Photographer by the Magenta Foundation and has received numerous awards and fellowships, most notably from the American Society of Media Photographers, the National Geographic Society and a grant from the Thomas J. Watson Foundation for her project ‘Missing Link’. She has completed residencies at Fabrica, the Benetton artistic research center and at the Eddie Adams Workshop and has taught photography at the International Center of Photography (ICP) in New York.

In addition to her artistic work, Tatiana shoots for the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, Redux Pictures agency and the Bloomberg News agency, among others.  Her work appears in publications internationally.


Related links

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Editor’s Note: Please only one comment per person under this essay.. Further discussions should take place under Dialogue..

Many thanks… david alan harvey

41 Responses to “tatiana grigorenko – missing link [EPF Finalist]”

  • Engaging work. As someone who embarked on a similar project in Czechoslovakia, after the Velvet Revolution, what I miss here are the incongruities between the people you picture and the “new upper crust.”

  • It would be intriguing to have a comparison between the fictional autobiography, and the actual autobiography. I hope you get to continue your work!

  • I watched three times this essay, still I cannot get it completely. I don’t see a fictional autobiography here: the proposed images are not particularly “intimate” imo, nor particularly engaging from a merely aesthetic point of view, they seem instead the typical images we expect to see from former Soviet Union. Other authors, dealing with same places/situations (M.C. Brown, Simon Roberts, Bendiksen), provided more personal (authorial) view than Tatiana’s essay.

  • Congratulations Tatiana on be selecting as a finalists!

    The question of identity is an important one, also a project my wife is engaged with. She’s originally from Moscow, and is now involved in a long term project that looks at also what constitutes identity and self. The irony is that Russians themselves who remained in the Soviet have struggled with this idea profoundly, both historically and recently, particularly the generation of late who have had to bridge the chasm between the life they knew prior to the collapse and ‘re-birth’ of Russia. this question is true for Russians who emigrated and remained in the diaspora, but also, profoundly so, for Russians who left the Soviet but have since returned (many of whom are stuck in an emotional and psychic limbo), as well as the Russians themselves who remained in the Soviet. Some have prospered, the overwhelming have not, and the relationship between this and the new/young generation. It’s a subject rife for exploration and one that still hasn’t be adequately explored…for outsiders (non=Russians), Jonas’s book was a great beginning, just Jason’s wonderland is a great addition, so too Sergie Maximishin’s 20 year work…..you might want to check out Marina’s work too :)

    Again, congrats on the nomination and best wishes for continued success with your project.

    all the best

  • I’m afraid I just don’t get it. I know this means something to you personally, but it’s just a bunch of photos to me. Nothing wrong with trying to connect with your history personally. Nothing wrong with photography as therapy. But I see neither outstanding photography nor a connection I can make to the essay. I don’t even see how filling the space between the photos with personal journal entries would interest me.

  • Tatiana

    Congratulations for being in the top 11. No small honour.

    Your photographs are beautifully executed.

    I’m a little worried that they seem to mostly depict decay and hopelessness. Maybe the former Soviet Union is all decay, and hopelessness, but I doubt it. I have not been there so can’t comment on that with any authority. Maybe that has been the extent of your journey there, or perhaps you are seeking it out. It does unfortunately mean you join a chorus of others exploring the same thing.

    Good luck with the award, and on your journey.

  • very well crafted images, aesthetically well thought out and balanced. Extremely well exposed and framed.
    So why am i wondering where the soul is in them? They are clearly documentary in nature and yet they somehow ‘feel’ like an art project in parts. no doubting her talent as an image maker but,i dont know, something, for me, isnt there.

    NOTE. 15 minutes later
    Had to go back and run it all again a few times, let some sit a bit to figure out how i felt.

    It felt like looking at specimens in a lab, thats what it felt like.
    I wonder if thats an intentional part of the aesthetic? detachment, professional/cultural curiosity?
    Number 15. Prostitute, scars, suicide attempts. A horrible dead end road to be on, yet i cant see a sign of that in the portrait.

    Tatiana. this is only my attempt to explain ‘my’ feelings when viewing this work and how i experience it. You obviously have a real talent with a camera, and seem to be doing just fine, so please dont think this is any way a criticism of you or what you do. I speak only about the images that are in front of me.

  • First, congratulations for reaching the final ten! Given Burns increasing readership it is certainly a great achievement.

    I felt the majority of the portraitures lacked intimacy. I realise that you may not have known these people personally, but the expressions and gestures of the people all had a lifeless quality about them. It almost felt as if they were mannequins or props with their bleak surroundings as backdrops. I’m a little confused, but I realise that this is perhaps the point, ‘an invented self-portrait, a fictional auto-biography’, so the images and faces that we are seeing are infact your first time reaction to the same environment? Their expressions reflect how you were feeling as a first time visitor? So, you are not documenting their lives, but they are a mirror of you?

    Infact, the expressions on their faces bugged me, because they all shared this similar expression and it seems as if all of those countries you visited have been painted with the same color. I realize that everyone has different experiences, but when I visited Estonia and Ukraine as part of a backpacking experience, the place was more alive. From what I saw the people filtered more expressions on their faces and I didn’t find that it was this lifeless place as portrayed here. Sometimes people travel with unwanted baggage or pre-conceived notions of what people and countries are like and this can confound or prejudice the ultimate experience. I feel that this happened here.

    I also felt for a project this size there weren’t any photographs that stopped me in my tracks. Like for instance – wow! How did the author capture that moment? I believe that a project of this size should have a at least some standout photographs and unfortunately that wasn’t evident here. Maybe its just me, but I love when a sensitive photographer captures an unguarded moment that perhaps a normal person wouldn’t have recognised or had the insight to capture on film/digitally. Having those kind of photographs present in an essay separate good from exceptional.

    Sorry, but I think the reason that this essay garnered attention was because it was in places that are evidently so different from western society, hence it had that exotic feel about it. It was more about the location than the moments.


  • Rafal Pruszynski

    It felt to me like a monotone buzzer, this essay. Its like the life and energy has been sucked out of everything, the people, the places. There was never a change in tone, a high, it all seemed so down. Is that fair? I mean, is that accurate? Im from a country in the former Bloc, and I dont see this as a true, or even close apporximation of that part of the world. Even looking at Akhalin, I could see the variety of emotions, of people, of landscapes. It wasnt all a depressing downer like this. Im from Poland and while one could certainly find these sorts of depressing scenes there, to make an essay and present it as the entire truth would be, at the very least unfair. Im sure that the same can be said of the places visited for this essay. I think this is a very narrow viewpoint and I feel that the author went with a preconceived idea and made reality fit that preconception. Thats fine, for a conceptual art essay, but for reportage?

  • Sorry, I just don’t “get it.” I have nothing against the photos, but the sequencing, and style of images makes zero sense to me. I’m originally from Estonia, and I don’t understand why those two photos were included and what they play in your “imaginary” self-portrait. I may be uptight (as many Estonians will be when you mention “Russia” in the same breath) but I don’t see how Estonia fits in with these other countries, either in culture or language? We are not a Slavic people, nor do we speak a Slavic language (except the Russian which were forced to learn in school, but trust me, you would never hear Russian spoken between Estonians or at home). Perhaps I would need more explanation as to what part Estonia plays for you? Then again, if you need to explain it….

  • I guess it is a style and way of thinking made popular by sites like facebook, etc …….probably the new face of journalism. I am not too keen on where it is going i but I have to live with and accept this new attitude to communication.
    Nothing special in this essay except it will put some noses out of joint especially people from the old soviet bloc. In the end the essay is somewhat pretentious.

  • A project of the first order. It bridges reportage and art and I love the concept. Best of luck Tatiana.

  • missing link..
    something does seem missing…
    my favorite..
    strong in story..
    but I felt
    something missing…
    to engage me..
    some really pretty individual images,
    quite lusicous as prints,
    I imagine…
    I want the images
    to speak to me,
    tell me a story,
    or let me create my own…

  • I have now viewed the essay three times, allowing several hours to pass between viewings. I’ve read Tatiana’s introduction and her resume which is pretty impressive. And I’ve also read the comments posted prior to mine.

    I share the feelings of many that this essay lacks a sense of intimacy. I would go further and say that it portrays a sense of disassociation and alienation in the faces of the people, and a bleak disintegration of place. But instead of seeing these as a criticsm of Tatiana’s work, I see them as integral to what she describes as her life of being neither “here” nor “there,” of being the child of “stateless” parents.

    I do not see this work as “therapy” as Jim implies, but as a solitary exploration of what it means to be a person without a sense of home. From what I see thus far, I doubt if Tatiana is going to feel any more connected to her roots after completing this project than she did before. But I’m not sure that’s the point. Perhaps she just needs to express what she is living both internally and externally through the medium of photography, a medium that she uses well.

    I don’t know why but to my eyes this essay has Magnum written all over it. It will be interesting to follow the development of Tatiana’s career. She’s certainly off to a strong start…

    Congratulations, Tatiana, on being named a finalist in the EPF.


  • DOPE….real…

  • I agree with those who see lack of inimacy, but simultanously it is quite good piece of documentary photography. Maybe because issue is hard to show in series of photos? Identity is not something what is simply to define… and capture with camera in hand for sure.

    Anyway, congatulation Tatiana I enjoyed you essay a lot.

    BTW my sister’s name is Tatiana :)

    good luck

  • Courageous and ambitious project. A long term project, at least I think, takes may re-sittings. You will benefit from viewing what you have done so far and from re-editing and then re-defining what those edits are about. From what is here I see no opinion being shared by yourself. The portraits are all based around juxtaposition between the subject and a tv image or clock. This though is not actually saying anything; too objective, too obvious I think. A portrait begins with the person not the situation. This is a very difficult thing to do and is rarely seen in this age of photography. Your imposition on these people is obvious, I think. The other shots without people are like 14 and the baby doll arm are to documentary in that they are witness photographs, they say “look the way this is” (slightly pretentious) where an Eggleston would say “now do you understand” if you get me. From my experience of doing a long term project you will generate the opinions and attitude to further this project while looking back at what has been done not while you are taking the pictures. At the moment every good picture I take knocks out 2 or 3 previously good pictures, sometimes a really good picture will set me back a couple of months! Don’t be afraid to risk your style in pursuit of your convictions. Potentially you are in a situation to take this much further but I think you need to push it more, and don’t let the money work you do or that world influence you.

  • “In between” style for an “in between” story.
    I rather leave an “in between” comment:

    I have simpathy for Tatiana personal research, and some of the photos are quite evocative even if uncertain in quality. The point that I see coming forward though, is the implosion and progressive fragmentation of communication, typical of our time.

    Many artists and photographers tend to recover to somewhat of personal, where, because of the personal nature, it’s difficult to apply any judging guideline. One of the above comment mentions a “facebook” characteristic in your story, as to say: “Hi, here is me with my issues, thoughts and dreams….”, I couldn’t agree more.
    What would happen if photography, specially documentary photography, would become this? We would have a pool of story where each photographer would speak to him/her self. A big party in a large room where instead of getting to know new people and chatting along about things, we would really talk only to ourselves.

    Don’t get me wrong. I am convinced that we are free to express what we want in the way we feel, but…

  • I enjoyed this essay. Over the last few years I have come to ‘know of’ the nations depicted, seen them on the news etc but I have never travelled there and the images offered some insight. I was intrigued by the subject matter, the alienation and disengagement, depression and decay but I’m left wondering if this is all there is – it feels like a deliberate selection of a wider experience.

    It seems like this is very much a work in progress; I don’t see any sense of an identity either forming or recovered in these images. What is more evident is disorientation and passive observation. Perhaps this is the experience of the ‘homeless’ – I’d like to see how the journey unfolds and whether Tatiana begins to situate herself in the work as it develops.

  • This seems like another conceptual project of self exploration that is very static in terms of photographic technique and subject matter. I guess I’m seeing that austere image of the ex-Soviet Union (that we see so often), photographed in a non-dynamic way (not sure if that’s a word). I’m more touched by Jonas Bendikson’s photos, Gerd Ludwig’s or even those of Michael C. Brown (other EPF finalist). They go beyond posed pictures which to me really capture the soul of a place and its people.

  • I agree with abele, Jim Powers, voldemar.

    I appreciate your effort in doing this photography and wish you success in completion of this series. There are several great single pics in the series.

    best, dietmar

  • for the first time an essay was not only turned, but ‘saved’ by an artist’s statement. i’ve made a mental note of that, but maybe it’s not so surprising or ‘saving’ at all.

    the ‘fidelity’ of the images is poor, low-lit and well-lit alike. Since print is the final destination, how much further would the fidelity erode if taken to the final visual state? Better yet, why is the image quality this poor in this day and age if you are using anything other than a camera phone, especially in well lit areas?

    the ‘merit’ of any individual image is poor. Almost every single image seems like a correct answer to a compositional question, but even without any ‘incorrect’ compositions none of images rises above ‘average’ with regards to ‘finalist’ talent level.

    the coherence of the images and the image captions feel forced. It lacks the real balance of highs and lows to make it a convincing, compelling, or remotely real. If instead the images are meant to be ‘lucid’, well then it’s too concrete, too dyadic and too predictable.

    the implementation of the idea is a border-line cliché. Western Europe seems to be the new Mecca for fine-art ‘documentary’ish’ photographers: it’s no coincidence that two of six finalist have chosen both the ‘area’ and also two of the finalist have chosen to apply their own personal feeling and belief systems to arrive at their own personal shape of visual message they wish to share about Western Europe.

    the results are Night and Day with Michael Christopher Brown’s being visual poetry where we love both the mood he reveals and are enchanted with the people and the place; and we also can’t help but feel some love for Michael for having that kind of heart to be sensitive to those kinds of images, images that are both soul-destroying and uplifting. We want Michael to go other places and feel those place ‘for us’ so we can see them through his eyes.

    What kind of heart do you have Tatiana that you’ve decided to paint numerous countries with a woe-is-me self-portrait? How much do you expect us to fall in love with these places in any ‘compassionate’ capacity? And how could we ever fall in love with you enough to want you to take more pictures for us to see? How much did you look past a believable ‘healthy’ human condition to cement this dismal unbalanced portrait? More so, how much did you hunt to find this ‘portrait’ you wanted to portray? Your shot list must have looked something like this:

    “Hmmm… (7.) Prostitute, (8) Suicide Candidate, OH!! Bonus, I got (7) & (8) in one shot! Now if I can just find a pimp I’ve got shot (9) nailed. Wow, wicked cool, Now this is really western-block material!”

    this rant is a long time coming possibly because i’m a bit ashamed of the audience appeal of the demise of Western Europe for photography projects. Maybe it’s simply because i’m still a bit ashamed that in the 80’s my class mates had t-shirts that said ‘Kill a Commi for Mommy’ and not knowing how sinister that humour was I wanted my own shirt just like it back then.

    back during the cold war there was a lot of psychological conditioning going on, we saw it in our movies and we saw it in our music videos. i can’t help but think it seems now like a dark shade of gloating that we all want to see evidence of the demise of the once super-power as if to see it dying will complete some universal, current day Icarus myth.

    anyway, the idea of illuminating a place by showing social contrast is clever. The ability to create a visual story not unlike Gwyneth Paltrow in Sliding doors even genius. i would support anyone that could give us this infected sense of duality, with the plot thread being a small dose of ‘how lucky some of us are’ by showing us how easy it would be to be born on the other side of a border.

    but as good as an idea as this is, and it is very good, the implementation of this idea by you Tantiana just makes me think that more investment in you making this kind of project happen would lead to more of this insipid approach and this approach makes me think that you are sitting in the seat of a better finalist candidate.

    I appreciate that’s a harsh sentiment, but you’re a finalist, when everything is said and done you are still a finalist and no body can take that away from you, I’m sorry for you that being a finalist does also carry with it a higher degree of scrutiny, but I consider it honest helpful feedback, so i don’t feel that harsh.

    i’m really looking forward to David’s post-mortum evaluation of this selection as i will surely be experiencing a quantum leap in perception to discover that the perception i have right now is at all myopic.

  • Congratulations

    I am a big fan of your work

    You touch me and I hope you will go to win !

  • T. Great work, I really like the power of colours.
    As David B. said, is like Jonas work “SATELLITES”, pictures from the former Soviet union.
    But I admire the contact with women that you had, and maybe what you could live if you were in Russia instead of moving to the US.
    Very personal projet, great therapy

    Just keep going!


  • Tatiana
    It makes me feel uneasy seeing your work because it is (for me) exactly what it must feel like looking for something. anything. it’s discordant. it’s fragmented. it’s disarry. what are you looking for?
    that’s what i feel like seeing this work. so it seems true to me. in a small part, like a travel nightmare with little direction. I mean this in the kindest way. it’s not like something you’ve made and it’s in a showroom window. it’s the process and it intrigues me. i want to see what is important to you and what you’ll find next. i purposely didn’t look at your other work; i wanted to experience this alone. in some ways it reminded me of Jenn Ackerman’s with the screaming faces…the bolting and helter skelter…yours in a quieter vein, but darting nevertheless. as you search, i’m confident you will be able to find the paths, the connections you are seeking. congratulations on making it to the final 11.

  • An interesting piece of work, Tatiana. It touched me very much. From my own experience I find it very difficult to photograph people and places I know very well. The problem being the absence of distance between the subject and the photographer. Looking at your series I thought that photographing people and places we don’t know yet look to know better is equally difficult. The distance between the subject and the photographer is rather big. What makes this essay work for me is the intesity of the search for your own (cultural) identity when you described yourself as “an American citizen born to stateless parents”.

    However, what struck me was the way you see the post-Soviet reality. I find it somewhat influenced by other people’s perceptions. Visually it makes me think of Luc Delahaye’s “Winterreise” in particular. Emotionally it was probably inflienced by your parents’ own attitude towards the Soviet Union which they fled. I hope through this photographic project you will find the answers to the questions that seem to be of utter importance to you.

    Good luck in your journey to locate the place(s) where you belong and congratulations on being selected an EPG finalist.

  • Outstanding work. Continuity through what is missing. Very subtle.

  • I absolutelly agree with Rafal Pruszynski (and i’m also from the former Bloc – Czech Republic). This photo essay shows only one side of the coin. I don’t believe that these places (countries) are so dead, without life and emotions. For me it’s not objective reportage about former Soviet Union, i can only see pictures of some ruined/abandoned houses and expressionless people. But maybe this was Tatiana’s intention – show only the sad part of (her imaginary) life in post-Soviet states to make bigger difference in compare to her nowdays life in US.

  • Tatiana, I do not feel that applying many words to what is at heart a visual and emotional experience (even if the emotion is “lack of intimacy,” as some commentators have decried) does anything other than detract and obscure that heart. I was stunned by most of these comments. Patricia Lay-Dorsey uniquely expresses exactly my reaction: that the point is the lack of connection, the lack of identity, the lack of intimacy. The singular young women in bleak landscapes and interior scenes… this is obviously, to me, the difficult-to-express-in-words essence. And I think you are doing a magnificent job. The photos speak for themselves. Which is to say that exactly the “criticisms” of the commentators IS your point; so therefore you have achieved your goal. That some would like to see more life expressed, based on THEIR experiences of these countries, is totally irrelevant. You are doing YOUR project. I applaud you and wish you well in this competition.

  • identity does not equal intimacy. Interesting self-portrait.

  • Patricia has a good handle on this essay. It does seem disconnected and bleak, but we must assume that this is what Tatiana wants to achieve. The colour palette is desaturated and mixed with flash, not to my taste but, again, intentional by the photographer.

    So does it work? Not for me: perhaps it’s just too personal. The photographer states “I hope to complete with an EPF grant and eventually publish as a book of images juxtaposed alongside text culled from personal journal entries.”. I would have liked to see how this would work with examples from journals already collected and would imaging that the judges would too.

    Tatiana, congratulations on being in rarified company!

    Best wishes,


  • I would just like to ask what the heck “Joe” is waffling on about? Talk about a pretentious frigging critique!

    You are supposed to be critiquing the girl’s work, not showboating your supposed grasp of the English language.

    Could you tell me what “dyadic” means?

    The whole thing sounds like sour grapes to me.

    Tatania, your work is perhaps not in the same league as a couple of the other essays, but that does NOT mean you don’t deserve to be amongst them.

    Well done, and good luck.


  • There is no soviet union anymore things have changed drastically since then. Moreover, countries like Estonia, Lithuania or Georgia have never really been typical representatives of soviet union. Unfair and mistaken essay as well as the concept in general. Sorry.

  • What I see in Tatiana’s work is difficult to reconcile. I read a wonderfully well thought statement about the work, then I read her bio, look at her commercial and news work and then I’m confused.

    Obviously this is personal. All of the images are fairly well executed. But I yearn to know the “inside story”. I’m not accustomed to looking at images over and over to try to understand them, but yet I must. This work has been deemed worthy of consideration for an EPG!

    I see abandonment, I see neglect, I see people waiting, existing. There’s not a future, the present is grim, cold. It’s not hopeless because I see no hope only existence. As an auto-biographical fantasy it’s a bad dream.

    I think maybe this is too personal for me to understand. It doesn’t explain anything, It does not right a wrong. So I guess the only way to find out what all of this means is to wait until Tatiana completes her journey. Win or loose I think we all will eventually see where and what her journey concludes.

    Phew, I’m exhausted.

  • Photographing the former soviet union is almost becoming as clichéd as mental institutions these days!

    I felt nothing from the pictures, the statement intrigued me, but I felt no connection between the two.

    I’ve no idea how infantile this project is, but it is far from anything I believe the photographer actually wanted it to be… I could be wrong?

    “rather than finding the country my parents had told me about, I am meeting the self/selves I could have been.”

    I’m not sure if this is the case? I don’t actually know what the parents told stories of but, given the imprisonment and persecution I don’t think it could have shed a nice light on it. One problem I have with this project at this stage is that the connection with russia and the opinion of it is possibly more warped than that of westerners with their anti commi crap.

    The other problem is that I don’t care where it’s going, I’m not interested in the book with the journal entries, I just don’t care. But if the pictures were better, if the background information were I might.

  • i thought the images were technically beautiful, especially the overall ‘tone’ of the piece. as far as an essay is concerned, i feel as if i’m left hanging with no conclusion provided for me or possibility to establish my own.
    congratulations though! you should be proud of your work and to be amongst the top 10 is no small feat!

  • I am frankly astonished at the tone of some of the comments here. Not only do they devolve into diatribe and personal attack, they fail to address the photographs, either technically or thematically.

    The photographs in this essay are simultaneously spare and lush. They balance rich explosions of color with an exactness of composition that is striking in such a young photographer. Emotionally, they balance on the perfect point between despair and beauty, and speak hauntingly of their coexistence. Having grown up in landscapes of similar desolation and poverty, I appreciate the photographer’s courage to look at them unflinchingly. To frame them, yes, but not to aestheticize them. There are plenty who will document the well to do, or give the standard pull-on-the-heartstrings contrast story. This essay allows these people and places to stand on their own, without explanation or apology. To the commentator who asks what kind of heart the photographer has, I’d suggest that his own heart is the one malfunctioning. Anyone who can look at these pictures without feeling, has probably not lived or significantly encountered this kind of life. To demand that the photographer make their suffering ‘accessible’ or ‘moving’ strikes me as perverse. Why should their lives be turned into emotional fodder for consumption?

    No, the photographer does not draw a final conclusion for us. No, she has not made the lives of her subjects ‘accessible’ to us, for the truth is, for most of us this kind of daily diminishing of expectations is not accessible. Grigorenko does something better. She let’s the people and places stand for themselves. Unvarnished. Not concerned with pleasing us, telling us their feelings, or making us their best friends. Nor does she make them the cause for a heart jerking emotional appeal. To me, this indicates more respect for her subjects and their daily lives, not less.

    In the end, these pictures are not only technically excellent, they also accomplish something that indicates maturity of vision – the ability to sit with what is ambiguous or uncomfortable without trying to make it be something else.

  • Well done Tatiana for being one of the chosen few.

    Your concept is interesting. It is deeply personal. I wonder is it too personal though. Photography, more so than written word can yield the truth – an unbiased visual of a moment in time. However even a moment captured on a strip of chemical film or digital sensor may not tell the truth. Your existence could have been anything really. Your fate you determine along with circumstance and location. Having looked at your essay a number of times over a number of days I surmise that your parents former existence isn’t a missing link, reality, or truth at all. I suspect that you don’t actually have a missing link. You are a product of what you are(hope you can follow me). You are fortunate to have had parents who escaped a situation. That very act negated any link to the places and people that you visited in respect to yourself. Perhaps a missing link for your parents(?). Your essay to my comprehension of the subject is thus simply a record of people and places in a certain part of the globe which happens to be the former areas which your parents once existed in. I apologise if I haven’t just ‘got it’ but maybe these thoughts are useful for you to contemplate and reassure your own understanding (even if my interpretation is wrong).

    The photography is technically sound – you obviously wouldn’t be on display if it wasn’t. It is a genre which others may not like or get. I’m not overly engaged with the location shots. The people portrayed at the locations are interesting though.

    Good luck in the selection process.

  • Very nice job! I love the colours.

  • I like it. Like the rhythm, appreciate the odd repetition, and get a sense of the self that could have been (perhaps both for the photographer and the people themselves).

  • Hi from Moscow. There is no story here, and no sense of a place – as it is all over the place. Her parents, being dissidents, likely hail from Russia, may be Ukraine, from a metropolitan area, but the work has been shot mostly in the rural Caucasus, with a smattering of Estonia (a nice place, if there are any) thrown in for no good reason. All wrong places for our hero to seek an alternative identity. That said, I liked the pictures, she is an artist.

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