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EPF 2011 Finalist

Daria Tuminas

Ivan and the Moon

play this essay

Ivan is the elder, he is 16. Andrey, nicknamed Moon, is the younger, 14 by now. The two brothers live in a distant village in the northern part of Russia. They are not like regular teenagers, and live in a fairy tale world, yet deeply connected to nature: they go hunting and fishing, can use a joiner’s chisel, play with ghosts at abandoned places, do not want to move to a city, and love nature. Mature and childish. Naive and enigmatic. In this ongoing project I want to show the mysteriousness of the world of these brothers.

The narrative in ‘Ivan and the Moon’ is neither chronological nor event related. It does not have a strict and one-way-to-read plot. All the images are connected to each other on the level of correlated motives and on the level of hypothetical story interpretations. Each picture is supposed to provoke some inquiry about ‘What is going on?’

Moreover, the two brothers are reflections of each other. Many people might even think that they are twins. The main corpus of works contains their individual portraits, so that it is no longer clear who is who. It was also important to show that the world around the boys is itself magical and their games and fantasies are consequences of being a part of this world.

My aim is to follow the brothers through their life (I met them at a folklore expedition) and ‘document’ things that are impossible to document: the world of a boy’s fantasies, ghosts, gods, spirits of specific places, magic itself. Such things usually can not be literally depicted. As J. Szarkowski stated in his famous work ‘Mirrors and Windows’: ‘most issues of importance cannot be photographed’. My goal is to try to photograph the ‘unphotographable’ side of the matter and challenge some formal criteria of ‘classical’ documentary.

Works from this series were published in several magazines (GUP, DigitalPhoto etc.); awarded with the first prize documentary at the Viewbook Photostory Competition, exhibited at several Amsterdam and St-Petersburg’s galleries, at Lodz Fotofestival etc.


I was born in 1984 in St.-Petersburg, Russia. I have always been interested in approaching photography in several ways. First of all, I am doing academic researches. I wrote an MA thesis about amateur photography at St.-Petersburg State University and for now I am a student at Leiden University’s MA program ‘Film and Photographic Studies’. I am also practicing writing critical essays on photography; and used to be the coordinator and curator of an International Summer School in Photography focused on the new language of documentary and journalistic photography. Currently, I am an intern at Foam magazine (Amsterdam), working in the editorial team. Finally, I also take pictures. ‘Ivan and the Moon’ is my first project.

102 thoughts on “daria tuminas – ivan and the moon”

  1. Looks like six nine of a tripod.
    thought out planned and very deliberate
    Very MFA…even slipped an unmade[ish] bed in there…points for that
    But ultimately dull and staid.
    I got the fairy tale angle angle without reading the text, but you would have to be Stevie Wonder not to.

    And I would disagree that these are NOT sequenced. Clearly they have been.

    Two photo based Masters studies and this is the first project???
    Maybe want to think about that less.

  2. My aim is to follow the brothers through their life (I met them at a folklore expedition) and ‘document’ things that are impossible to document: the world of a boy’s fantasies, ghosts, gods, spirits of specific places, magic itself. …………………. It would be a lot more interesting to see how the photographer matures and further loses touch with his own fantasy based mentality.


    sorry, but do not understand meaning of “six nine of a tripod” ? few mins later….oh now see you must have intended six nine ON a tripod…that makes sense of course..i woulda shoulda just fixed it, but now too late…


    the photographer here is a woman

  4. O K a mental slip, come hmmn it is about boys thinking ……….It would be a lot more interesting to see how the photographer matures and further loses touch with HER own fantasy based mentality.

  5. …….yea looking at my mistake on the comment …….. in hindsight it makes little sense as a 27 year old male photographer would have more than likely outgrown timid fantasies.

  6. We´ll, It´s my very first time writting here so let´s introducing myself before nothing:

    (I´m a spanish guy so I would like to apologise for my awful English)

    A friend of mine, recommended me Burn some years ago. At that moment I was really busy but when I had a quick look, I realized it was one of the coolest photography sites I´d found so I bookmarked it for coming back ASAP.
    Time passed and I didn´t find time enough to get as involved as I would like. From the begining, I found Burn and all the people behind it as a great meeting point for the photography and the pleasure of sharing knowlege, photography, points of view or projects.
    Each time I came back, I hardly had time for reading all the replies for each post. So here is the reason that had made me being “invisible” all this time.
    Nowadays something it´s sure: every time I came back to Burn I found a bigger community, lots of great projects and the warmth of everyone here. So nice…

    Ok, after this boring introduction:


    Congratulations for your project, as aliciavera said, love its poetry! also love its aesthetics and the atmosphere it shows!

    Good luck!

    JOHN GLADDY, (with all due respect):

    “I got the fairy tale angle angle without reading the text”
    Isn´t what photography is about?

    “Two photo based Masters studies and this is the first project???”
    Well, I´ve been working on commercial photography for a living for some years and I´ve also submitted for the EPF 2011 with my first documentary project. The fact is that while I was shooting comercials, I hadn´t found time enough for developing my own projects. Now, as a result of the crisis, I have time but no money…

    By the way, I don´t understand the meaning of “six nine of a tripod”

  7. You know you are going to get “art” when you see a line in the artist’s statement like this: ” All the images are connected to each other on the level of correlated motives and on the level of hypothetical story interpretations.”

    What the heck does that mean. Modern times.

    As a 27 year old female photographer, I’ll just “ouch” and leave it at that… ;-)

    I’m new to photography. I’ve been studying and practicing it informally for less than a year now. Yet, looking at this essay I see visual tropes that seem present in so many contemporary “art” and “documentary” photographs. This is surprising and undermines the potential of the essay for me – being primarily psychological and subjective in its nature, I would expect a strong personal vision from the photographer, but I’m feeling more that a lot of these images and the manner of sequencing falls into a checkbox criteria of visual referents. It feels cliched when set in a wider contemporary photography landscape. So it doesn’t feel like a strong personal vision at all. There is a sense of superficiality to the construct. And it is a superficiality that nods to fitting in with contemporary practice – this is at odds with the personal unique vision supposedly being presented.

    That said, there are some strong images here. I particularly like frames 1 and 6. But, overall, I’m left wanting the strong poetics of Parke’s Minutes To Midnight, while looking at the grammatically correct but senseless sentences of Chomsky. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colorless_green_ideas_sleep_furiously

    I think some conflate poeticism and incoherence. Conceptually, a structure such as used here demands a stronger commitment to a personal vision, and a stronger commitment to balancing stretching the limits of structure with a desire to communicate something substantive.

    This feels obtuse for the sake of being obtuse. Rather than obtuse to make a salient point. I think it fails within the terms of its own structure.

  9. No matter Jim …Framers Intent has explained it all in the same terms …………… And it is a superficiality that nods to fitting in with contemporary practice – this is at odds with the personal unique vision supposedly being presented.

  10. Hahaha, I’m just saying that I get the impression that the photographer started out from the premise “I want to make some arty looking photographs” rather than starting out from the premise “I really want to communicate X”. I also think that’s why there is a pretty tenuous artist statement that many a theoretician would look at and call BS on.

    There is a massive difference between “trying to be profound” and “trying to communicate about something that is profound”. The profundity in Parke’s M2M comes from his subject matter and flows through his response to it and his method of describing it visually. It isn’t something intrinsic to Parke. The essay above feels like the work of someone who wants to have that profundity ascribed to themselves at an intrinsic level. That enterprise is completely moribund.

    I actually feel I’m being a bit harsh here, because I’m attacking the photographer’s intentions. But I also suspect it may be valid. And I don’t believe that the arts exist primarily to propagate a convoluted sense of self for those who seek to build such. Seeing a work as naive in intention as this shortlisted for the EPF makes me question what the other submissions were.

  11. Will someone hand me over a white stick because I’m sorry I can’t see the elements of magic and fairy tale in this essay. I’m sorry this essay does nothing at all to me and that is quite hard feat it’s usually very easy to satisfy my tastes. Have to agree with John it’s ultimately a pretty dull essay I was expecting so much more after reading the intro…


    She has not yet been born:
    she is music and word,
    and therefore the untorn,
    fabric of what is stirred.

    Silent the ocean breathes.
    Madly day’s glitter roams.
    Spray of pale lilac foams,
    in a bowl of grey-blue leaves.

    May my lips rehearse
    the primordial silence,
    like a note of crystal clearness,
    sounding, pure from birth!

    Stay as foam Aphrodite – Art –
    and return, Word, where music begins:
    and, fused with life’s origins,
    be ashamed heart, of heart!

    Очень, очень красивый!!! :)) Обе работы является мощным, щедрым и определяется воображение человека, живущего среди тумана и тишины.:)))

    Beautiful, imaginative, maturely-realized work. In truth, I am a bit shocked by some of the reaction, particularly by Imants, considering the allusions here or the connection here to the great work being done by the brilliant Russian Conceptual Artist Leonid Tshkov…..

    To begin, each of us builds and constructs a world that is born upon the well=spring of our imaginations. This is no truer than with regard to children and teens, particularly those who’ve been caught off by both distance and information overload, instead finding nourishment upon the scale and architecture of their way to fit their own growing selves against the shelves of life.

    This is beautifully photographed, intimately observed, richly imaginative cinematic work. It is clear that Daria is linking her work to that of the great tradition of Russian cinema and documentary photography. What some here may not understand is that tradition within Russian art, and Russian photography to have a lively and interconnected relationship with Russian cinema. Pudovkin, Vertov, Eisenstein, Kalotozov, Tarkovsky, Paradjanov, German, Sokurov (to name of few) have had profound influences on the visual language of Russian photography (particularly post Soviet Union). I see clear visual connections here between some of them (Tarkovsky for sure who enacts the strongest influence on most young photographers/visual story tellers) but I see connection to to such Russian contemporary filmmakers as Andrey Zvyagintsev and Pavel Lungin. But more than Russian cinema, a very quintessential iconography is at play here that is mined both from the life of these two boys but also from much of Russian Literature.

    If there is a lyrical sense of the fairy tale here, and there is, it is also because russian literature is steeped in that nomenclature and particularly as it applies to the countryside, life at dacha/village, it is a pressing ripeness. Beyond the visual power and strength of Daria’s images, is something too more fundamental. I did not at all see this as a ‘contrivance’, an art student’s project to create, a la anna gaskell, a photographic interpretation of fairy tells (which would have work alone for me) but this is observational, lyrical work that begins and ends in the versmilitude of the life of both these boys and THEIR imaginative recreations of life….

    For in the end, we construct the world not through observation but through creation and reinvention. For some, like these brothers, that recreation comes in the manifest stories and roles, deaths and rebirthds, that they have given themselves…..for Daria, that comes from the discovery, photographic, emotional, of their inventions as prisms through which to investigate not only their life but her own.

    And then there is Tshkov…whose magnificent conceptual projects are a source of great great inspiration to me….and I see his own brilliance and poetry within the life of Daria’s story…remarkably different of course, but both are at the center of what it means to negotiate this far-flung and quickly disappearing life….and that is the luminous point of departure for each of us: imagination….


    “Ivan and Moon” is a beautiful, meditative and truthful work that gets at the life of two young men recreating from the stories inside them and around them a life far past the addled and jaded life of the grid….beautiful, luminous work.

    from one former finalist to another: Поздравляю вас! :)))



  13. Frames like 8, 11, 13, and 14 strike me as being what I’d call “stock arty photographs”. The series overall strikes me as being a bit meh, and when someone pursues a less strongly descriptive or linear approach (as is done here), then I think it is reasonable to expect a more powerful essay. When I see something shown in this way, I want to see something that requires being shown in this way to fully capture it or express it. I don’t get that in this essay at all.

    Mystery, non-linearity, hypothesis, and enigma shouldn’t be used to cover up for photographic/intellectual weakness. They should be used to show something that couldn’t be shown/shown better without those elements. This essay is a ‘cool and lo-fi’ title and a collection of mildly quirky pictures. Nothing more.

    And I should put my own name to this, given how critical I’m being. I look forward to anyone who wants to challenge my opinion, I’m willing to stand corrected if there is a persuasive counter-argument. I just don’t see it. It’s too easy to look at a series like this and call it “poetic” when what we mean is “fails to communicate intelligently”. The term poetic deserves to avoid that abuse, it’s too useful to us in describing things that actually are poetic to be lost to the vagaries of being polite.

    Sara T’Rula

  14. a very poetic essay. I like the pictures and the high standard theses pictures are following.
    good work, keep it up.
    could imagine a book with poems, or a novel with the pictures side by side.

  15. love all the different textures in the photos!

  16. Wow
    I am utterly taken aback by this. I felt this from the first photograph.

    As well as taken aback, I was taken back to my own childhood. So much of what is going on here feels familiar. I can feel again the child mindset, and the ability I had then to loose myself in my imagination, and in nature. I can remmember acting out stories, make-believe with sticks as swords, letting my mind almost believe. I remmeber times with my great-grandparents in their tiny home with the hiss of the kerosene lantern. My great-grandfather was a hero to me, and taught me how to carve wooden spoons and make whistles from aspen branches in the spring when the sap was running. I remmember visiting city cousins, and being surpised that they did not seem to share the same sensibilities. I felt sorry for them and thought their lives were excruciatingly boring.

    These photographs feel particularly familiar to me, as the northern Russian landscape looks very much like northern central Alberta where I grew up. I can smell the poplar and aspen, the grass, the mud, I can recognise the light, and in the absence of city noise, hear the insects and birds, and see the stars at night.

    These photographs are wonderfully poetic. From my perspective, Daria has gone a long way toward achieving what she is hoping to do. These are beautiful, powerful images. 9 and 15 are the only two which do not work as well for me. I love this, am very moved by it, and would buy a book in an instant.

    This seems to be one of those essays that people either love or hate. Probably a good thing.

    Congratulations Daria and good luck.

  17. Daria,

    congratulations for your work and thanks for taking us in this vast land of Elves and symbolism.
    reminds me of the Grimm brothers fairy tales, a time well before W/Disney world dominance…


  18. Every three to five years I consider going back to school to earn an MFA so that I can teach, but the thought of an art curriculum holds about as much appeal to me as unlocking the mysteries of proctology. Ergo, I am happily churlish and blissfully ignorant of some of the visual tropes and art school clichés that may have kept me from being completely mesmerized by this essay. The subjects are real: two somewhat feral characters suspended in a strange limbo between boyhood and adolescence wandering a forest world of their own creation with a mix of childlike innocence and an awakening blood lust. The photographer did not make these two boys up. She could have taken a straight-forward approach and given us a series of deadpan medium to large format portraits. She could have followed a linear trajectory by documenting every waking moment of their lives. Instead, she gives us this collection of eerie vignettes that allow us a small window into the inner lives of these boys. It’s fascinating – luminous and wondrously creepy at the same time. It reminded me of The Wasp Factory by Iain M Banks. I say, bravo!

  19. kateelizabethfowler

    There’s something so fantastic about trying to document a state of mind or imagination. In your photographs, the relationship between what is staged and what is candid really enhances the feeling of a created world. REALLY truly beautiful, wonderful and inspiring, Daria! Congratulations and I can’t wait to see how you develop! I adore this photo essay.

  20. The physical boys are real. But the photos seem posed and contrived. I’d really like to hear from the photographer about this. Are these scenes from the boy’s lives or creations of the photographer? Since it’s “ART,” it really doesn’t matter. But it would be interesting to know.

  21. I think this is a very good work with a few weak points that can be easily fixed. Although it may not seem so, it is an ambitious project, it would be very interesting to see how it evolves. My guess is it cannot hold strong for a very long run, the point has been made already. In fact, I think it has a problem frequently found in young photographers, lack of more rigorous editing, several images could or should have been edited out because it becomes a little repetitive.
    I know every image has a story and a lot of work has been put into it so it is hard to let them out. But believe me, less is more.
    I think there are many very powerful and beautiful images here and the world of the young boys is very well portrayed, the real and the fantasy alike. It is a great mix of straight forward and poetic language, something not frequently found. As a photographer, editor and printer, I get to see a lot of work by young and old artists and I’m always on the look for good surprises from the young people, this is one I like very much.

    Congratulations for what you have achieved here, yet, keep looking, keep finding and exercise a little on what one of the greatest Mexican essayists used to tell his students “write with both ends of the pencil”

    On a note to Burn. I would leave the artist statement after the images, I prefer to let the photographs do the talking first, is they are successful at telling the story, they are winners. Contemporary supports itself to much in the written statement and I think we should not need so much explanation, very often it ruins or determines the experience of looking at photographs because it limits the reading of them and how the viewer relates to then from his/her point of view and personal iconography.

    Thanks to Dave and all at burn, I follow, share and enjoy the publication all the time.

  22. Hello!

    It is Daria Tuminas writing.
    First of all, millions of thanks to Burn and to everybody!!!!!

    I have just seen the news and I am glad to comment.
    I am not sure that I can reply to everybody personally but really – THANKS TO EVERYBODY, for good words and for critique.
    Bob, отдельное спасибо ))) Вы очень точно все почувствовали, это невероятно радует и вдохновляет. Indeed, literature is of the great importance for me – I graduated from Russian literature department and was majoring in folklore studies )))

    Just several notes for the points of critique:
    I do not have any master education in photography. I studied at St-Petersburg School of Photojournalism for two years but it was just local courses, though they gave me a lot. There I was working on some assignments but they were extremely educational, study ones – I was really beginning and none of the works produced there could be called a solid project.
    Now I am studying at Leiden University at an MA programme Film and Photographic Studies which is completely theoretical (it means we do not shoot at all but study history, theory of photography and film). For the moment I am working on a theoretical thesis.
    Before that I had an MA and was writing my thesis (within the frameworks of folklore studies) on vernacular photography collages made by people from villages where I collected material and interviews in multiple field trips.
    Regarding the text – well, it is more descriptive indeed, just telling what one can see basically without words. As it is just a proposal for the project I consider myself having a right not to make this text the ‘last version.’ The pictures were made within a limited period of time, I am looking forward to continuing shooting and developing everything – the images, the text, the concept. It is obvious that it will not stay frozen through time. My perspective will change, the idea will change, everything will change, is not that the point of a long term project?

    All the best,

  23. There are a couple of nice images here, but I do not see a story. Looks like art for arts’s sake.


    “but the thought of an art curriculum holds about as much appeal to me as unlocking the mysteries of proctology” — Now that is funny.

  24. ” My perspective will change, the idea will change, everything will change, is not that the point of a long term project?”

    I agree with that entirely, and as a general rule for living.

  25. On second thoughts, not entirely, but generally yes. At the very least, continuous development is what we should be aiming for, imho.

    Still, I do fail to see this essay as a rigorously framed idea.

  26. DARIA,

    Congatulations on being the first finalist….Very much enjoy your work…. its poetry.. the soft color palette… intriguing…. I absolutely love images 1, 10, 17…. wonderful shots that capture tne environment of these distant villages in Russia… As you imply this is just the beginning of your long term project, I look forward to see it develop here… Again, congrats….

    Can’t wait to see all the finalists… exciting start….


    PS: DAVID/ANTON, despite Jim’s comment, I find that the soft color palette of Daria’s work goes particularly well with the new Burn “light” color design :):)….

  27. Daria :)))

    Спасибо за теплые привет. Да, я люблю свою историю. Мой русский язык ограничен, но жизнь моя глубокая связь с Россией. Моя жена является русской. Я сделал два фотографических проектах о России. Я прочитал много русских книг. У меня есть много русских друзей, и я не побывал в России много. В thruth, ваши истории напоминает мне о Гоголе. В частности: Вечера на хуторе близ Диканьки! :)))….Красивые и грамотные (и литературного) работы. Я покажу мою жену, которая также является сильным фотографом. :))

    Framer’s Intent….

    well, i don’t wish to pick a fight for you indeed should stand beside your perspective, but I do find your reaction a bit anemic (if my own is overblown). Again, I don’t want to offer too many ‘clues’ (or rather meanings that i see), but as I jsut told Daria, i think this story can be see, very clearly, within the tradition of literary and cinematic, russian stories. It feels very very much (and looks) very much like Gogol story, in particular his Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka….which contain some of his greatest stories (the pre-St. Petersburg ones)…and those stories (mileposts in Russian literature) contain just what this story accomplishes: the relationship between folklore, imagination and life away from the city: the inner life….Have a read, and you may be surprised….for one things about most russians, that i know, they know their literature…and this piece is straight out of Gogol…and as a poet, I do not use the word poetic superfluously….it fits here….as for the ‘rigorously framed idea’…if i suggest that ‘Ivan and the Moon’ can be read as just a sublime and powerful story as one from Gogol’s story about Dikanka, …..the funny thing is that, while admitting to having only studied photography for 1 year, your see Daria’s work thin in it both its rigorousness and it’s conception….i might suggest that maybe, just maybe, the mechanism by which she has studied and become a photographer, haven’t intersected yet with your own pursuits…a question of more rigorous study?….i wonder…..

    MonkeyPoint: Michelle, you are genius :))))))))))))))))))…..

  28. Read the books as as a kid, drew the pictures dreamed the dreams, retold the stories…………. unfortunately this folkloric style essay has been filtered with a bit of “deviantART ” mentality.

  29. the freshness of conceptual work, and the sharp edge of the moment, is lost when there is a wooden element.. even one photograph where the subject appears to look at the camera as though to say,
    “am i doing this right”.

    fluidity and spontaneous evolution seems to be lost – and rewarded – to high ideals.. yet without that “thing”..
    leaving a dry riverbed, rather than a gushing torrent..

    i like some of the photos.. i think there is pretension and embellishment in the text.. and i would like to see what a true lifetime photographing these brothers looks like.. because this could possibly be just one weekend.

    onwards :o)

  30. “writing about music is like dancing to architecture”

    .. i don;t like the statement.. with particular reference to documentary ways..

    seems familiar.. as do the photographs..
    with respect..

  31. burning*michelle

    i love it…i love the narrative and the mystery. i love that it’s conceptual…and i love that it leads me into wonderland and wanting more.

  32. hmm – yet – a work working towards what has worked for others rather than a work working towards a unique perspective.
    fashionable, for certain, yet dulled by repetition.. conceptual or not.. you know.. conceptual does not mean “landmark”.

    lovely individual photographs, yet few that are rare or unique.. more a selection mystified by text which can easily be unpicked within the context of contemporary practice – and how to “make a mark”..
    nice yet not staggering.. interesting yet fathomable..

    that’s not to say that easily read work is to be neglected.. just that in these days of the photographic industry supplying and informing itself with repetitive and pre-modeled imagery, it takes either a greater gimmick, a more idiosyncratic style or a particular urgent “issue” to win the grant.. and i don’t think that is here.

    art for arts sake, someone said..
    the next line is money for gods sake…


  33. Thanks again for good words!!!

    And David,
    I hope the text did not sound with a pretension accent. The thing is that I met the boys and their family 3 years ago in one of my field research trips. It lasted a month. We became big friends. I cam back the second year. Another month. But I was busy with my field work and did not have an idea to shoot this story. Then I came back the third year. For two weeks only. Already having in mind this particular series. Pictures are mainly made then. These boys, their family and the village – they are already my bigbig friends, basically, the idea of shooting boys came very slowly and smoothly and naturally. It was not an artificial outer decision. I also wish to know – how much time the shooting will last. I sincerely hope for as much as possible. Because something tells me that it is not just a ‘project’ for me. I have some personal issues, though I realize someone can be irritated by the reference to such a word as ‘personal’ in this context.

    it is extremely interesting in many ways to read all more or less negative opinions.

    By the way, I am reading comments, if anybody wants to ask anything – please, feel free. I would be glad to share what I can say.
    At least, I would do so – ask the author – before stating something regarding the intentions of a photographer, the reactions of subjects in the pictures etc.

    All the best,

  34. David,
    I am very happy for you!
    Because it seems you have plenty of free time and plenty of energy! )))

    Good luck!
    All the best for you,

  35. I enjoyed the pictures, which seemed to me to tell a work of fiction, more that of a short story vaguely written than a poem. The place looked familiar to me.

    I found #16 to be very jarring. I did not want to look at it at all, but I had to.

    Seeing as how, even now, following the various explanations, the tripod statement makes no sense to me at all, I will skip the philosophical discussions this go round and simply say,

    “Congratulations, Daria!”

  36. Jeezus people, what’s wrong with a little art now and then? While not perfect (and what is?) I find it haunting and beautiful in bits, and yes, like Bob has alluded to, very much in alignment with a lot of contemporary Russian cinema and it’s way of seeing, esp The Stalker, Freeze, Die, Come to Life, and so on…

    Anyway, I find some of the neg comments here to be a bit dis-ingenius and in some cases telling of the authors’ own work/hangups/possible jealousies? Lets keep in mind this is the “EMERGING” artist grant, so not all the work is going to be perfectly realized (though hopefully the winner will) and a lot of it most likely from young photographers just starting out (as Darius seems to be). So lets cut a bit of slack – which doesn’t say don’t offer a critique, but think about where you were once at, at now, will be, etc etc with your own work.

    Congrats for getting published Darius and best of luck moving forward with the project.

  37. I looked at these last evening, a couple of times, and they were the first thing in my mind when I woke up today. They seeped in while I wasn’t looking. I even had a little darkover–you know, that feeling you get after watching the movie “Donnie Darko.” (That’s compliment.) I find it difficult to match words to these images; they work on a different level. Sure-handed and beautiful. What’s not to love?

  38. Congratulations Daria on being an EPF finalist!
    Some really good photographs here, lovely light and mood. You say that you wish to follow the two boys through life and I urge you, if at all possible, to do just that. It is fascinating to see the passage of time on people and places although I doubt that the boys will stay in the fairy tale. A dragon lives for ever, but not so little boys. Unfortunately.
    That said, if you can repeat the quality of some of this work over a period of time you will surely have something special.

    Best wishes,


  39. BOB,
    I shan’t confuse open debate with picking fights – happy to discuss disagreements in opinion, it’s the only way to progress. I’ll respond more later, as I have some things to do, but I should say that although I have only studied photography for less than a year, I haven’t studied lightly, so I don’t think I’m merely anti-conceptual or anti-nonlinear. I studied philosophy, and I have a strong interest in literature and other arts. I’m very open to pushing the limits of structure, but I also feel that the further we push at the constraints of a medium or a traditional practice of that medium, the more we require a strong reason for doing so. There’s a massive difference between a Keith Jarrett solo and someone plunking away on a piano discordantly because they don’t know how to play harmoniously.

    In this essay, and in many other works where non-linearity, subjectivism, and mystery are espoused as key ingredients, I do question how true that is, and how much it is an excuse for not producing a stronger work.

    Anyway, more on this later, or I’ll be late for my meeting.

  40. are we really quoting “Puff the Magic Dragon?”


    ” I also feel that the further we push at the constraints of a medium or a traditional practice of that medium, the more we require a strong reason for doing so”

    BLASPHEMY! You can get banned from Burn for thinking such thoughts!

    “There’s a massive difference between a Keith Jarrett solo and someone plunking away on a piano discordantly because they don’t know how to play harmoniously.”

    Yes, one is playing and the other is crap.

    Of course to understand this one has to actually know what they are talking about.

    I agree with what you are saying.

  41. Pete, “are we really quoting “Puff the Magic Dragon?”” yes (laughing) – and who is Keith Jarrett?

    I love that dragon.

  42. Framer’s Intent:

    Glad to see that debate/discussion is not confused as bickering/fighting. the reason why i brought up the point of you having ‘studied’ photography for 1 year (as you wrote) is to benignly suggest that maybe your reaction to the work could benefit from an exposure to more ideas (photographic) that you’ve at this point delved into. Having studied both philosophy and art myself in universal, I have surprised frankly at your train of argument. Photography is a visual language and while it certainly does have a relationship (and can allude, delve, excavate, probe, ruminate) to other forms of expression and articulation (like literature, music, philosophy, story-telling, painting, filmmaking, etc), you MUST approach photography within the language and culture of it’s own making.

    Just the way (depressingly so) many here (as before) have shown a real insensitivity to cultural and linguistic differences when assessing the artist statements, so too it appears in your assessment of the work, visually speaking. As someone who works and teaches photographers and non-photographers whose first language is not English, I find it not only insensitive but patronizing not to be more sensitive to the expression of language being written by someone who is not a native speaker. There is a profound difference between the blather that often surfaces in artist statements in the art world (proctology as artspeak), a world i’ve been a part of for a long while now, and the vagaries of expression that come from attempting to explain one’s ideas in the sometimes choking tongue of a second language. Maybe it is because i am familiar with russian, am married to a russian, have alot of russian students, that i’m more sensitive to how often Russian thought transformed/translated into English might appear wooden or clumsy or stilted (wooden with ideas), but I can assure viewers that this is a problem of translation. Russian language, including contemporary everyday language, sounds much more ‘serious’ than English; when married to ideas, the chasm is even larger. When my wife first started writing letters in english, they sounded positively 18th century, but this is about vernacular and NOT about intent or a paucity of depth of thought. I wish readers and some commentators would be more aware of this….alas, we fail, often, in our awareness of others.

    As for your comparison suggesting that Darius is essentially ‘plunking awy on a piano discordantly because they don’t know how to play harmoinously”, that is really most unfortunate. Again, that is YOUR failing as a viewer not the author’s. Same stuff, btw, was said about Cage….let alone Coltraine, might i remind. I guess i fail to see Daria’s essay as non-linear or even conceptual, not at all. Conceptual photography is far far different in mode and essence. This IS documentary photography which takes its framework as the lives and behavior of two young men (freeze, die come to life is a great film, btw, that offers another corner by which to view this work, thanks Charles). Conceptual photography takes as it’s scaffolding ‘photography’ and works some other idea (constructional, aesthetic, philosophic, political, etc) as it’s goal, end. Here, the goal/end is about documenting the lives of these 2 men and in the process revealing their life and just possibly the inner lives of each of us, of boys just like them, of a particular cultural. If you were more cognizant of a certain Russian visual tradition (cinematic and photographic) or a Russian literary tradition, maybe it would make much more sense to you…maybe not.

    Does someone need to be versed in this to like or appreciate or connect with this work? Of course not. The photographs are intelligently photographed, sensitively composed (as to light, composition, color) and lyrically sequenced. I’m really at a loss as to what you require from a body of work, same with David B. As to pushing limits, Daria’s essay is far from form-pushing. If you look around at the work being done in the photoworld, there are a lot of photographers pushing, maximally, the boundary of photography. Shit, i know photographers who ‘make’/create their own negatives and never even use a camera. that is boundary pushing, for example. Daria’s work fits cleanly into a certain tradition of documentary work that find’s its relationship and its sisterhood to other forms of story telling, including the literary. If it fails for you, no amount of intellectual justification can resurrect that.

    You don’t like the work. You fail to see or feel its strength. You see it as pale.

    But, show me any photographic story (or book) that is linear, other than one done specifically chronological with a beginning idea and a race toward a culminating end. Mystery IS the key ingredient of all photography, just as it is the key essence of why we shoot to begin: to try to make sense of the places around…or inside us. Again, your questioning about the strength here as excuse-making is unfortunate.

    without sounding pompous (though i imagine i do), i would suggest that your questioning and your questions really have more to do with you, with your searching that with a viable criticism….given the ‘tradition’ of your bus photography, i can only speculate that the kind of narrative that may define Daria’s work is too abstract for your sensibilities…and that is totally fine….i would politely suggest you turn the questions inward and see where that may lead, aesthetically and critically….studying is not just about looking…but about working…and breaking away too….

    but maybe it’s just that I prefer Nu-zazz to the kind that Jarrett works in…and yet, as someone who prefers boundary pushing forms, i still like the traditional…..why is it never the inverse?…those most concerned with tradition rarely accept those who break with it….

    an irony i guess…

    no harm intended…

    all the best

  43. Daria, the story is in the pictures, that’s all you need.. loose the text.. I always first look at the essays/pictures, only read the statement (if at all) later.. here I did, wish I didn’t.. :)

  44. Bob B…
    It’s very funny because I was really entralled by the artistic statement it was so, so promising. I read the statement early Sunday morning and didn’t have a chance to view the slideshow until afterrnoon. There is nothing I wish more than to be knocked off my feet and kicked in the gut by an amazing set of images;my days are very very long I’m off work I wake very early and there is a limit to how much photography I want to shoot in a day and how many books I want to read in a week. So I really wanted to like this essay I love the whole concept Daria explains in her statement and I’m sure I’ve watched the slideshow a number of times more than most. I always try and open my mind when I don’t get an essay, I can assure you I’m the first one round here who wants to learn…but the essay leaves me very cold. I wish Daria the very best of luck and not a drop of jealously on my behalf.

  45. LOVE it, with a few exceptions but there will always be exceptions. I enjoy work and artists who think differently, especially in ways I cannot, and you do. I see this progressing over time into an even more extraordinary Russian Folk tale/epic. Congratulations and I look forward to the (r)evolution.

  46. Being the first EPF finalists is a bit of a double-edged sword. Of course you’re excited to be selected (and congratulations on that), but you’re also the victim of the long anticipation from everyone here. You will be exposed to a bit more criticism and praise than some of the others.

    I’m not sure I get these. They are so outside of my usual tastes, but I do find them haunting. I wanted to wait before I responded, just so they could sink in a bit,. Been thinking about them for a couple of days and am still intrigued. That’s a good thing.

    7, 9, 10 stick with me the most. Some images I can’t help but think I have seen them before from others (8, 18 23) and they seem a bit cliché.

    Nice work. Good luck.

  47. This type of work has a huge audience be it books, cinema, url blogs sites, computer games etc and it fulfills the role well and sits neatly within its own naivety. My only misgiving is that “My aim is to follow the brothers through their life (I met them at a folklore expedition)” is a dead end. An “epic” of this nature requires new characters to revive and enhance the original players, to highlight the changes that take place. There is a need for a complexity of personalities to pull such a profect off.
    On the other had if Daria has images of their every day lives she could weave both aspects into a intricate mosaic of realities. This is one way to satisfy the un photographable aspect she is trying to achieve.

  48. “Anyway, I find some of the neg comments here to be a bit dis-ingenius and in some cases telling of the authors’ own work/hangups/possible jealousies?”………… So who are these people seeing that you have cast dispersion on the personality of every person who has stated a negative comment. Charles are you willing to back the statement up? You know that requires names, reasons why a justification on your behalf otherwise it is just a nasty comment.

  49. I wonder if the images came from Slovakia, Tuva, Latvia, Germany etc would there be the talk about Russian cinema. Seeing that these images could have been taken in any of those regions where the national folkloric aspects of the past generations are still strong.

  50. I love the colors and the rosy cheeks. beautiful, haunting, magical.
    I’d love it to be a book. Congrats!

  51. PETE…

    now wait a minute..has anyone but you ever actually been banned from Burn? will i see you?? heading for d.c. tomorrow (wait, it is tomorrow!) ..going to bed…

  52. IMANTS…

    i must say i had almost the exact same reaction as Charles…not from all of the negative comments but from SOME of the negative comments just as Charles says…however, i do support the free press here and never expect everyone to like everything…boring boring…but there is a difference between a negative intelligent critique and what can appear as simply “why not me?”..maybe that is not what it is, but it can oftentimes seem so…particularly at EPF time..hey, human nature is surely human nature….and i am quite sure you know this as well…

    cheers, david

  53. Daria, I am in awe of this work. You have gone beyond where most of us go and are using photography to express fantasy, mood and mystery. I know that the subjects are aware that you are taking their pictures but, to my eye, there is no self-conscious posturing or artifice. It truly feels like these brothers live in a world of their own, a world you have somehow managed to capture with your camera.

    And I must say I love your use of dark, strangely lit settings. I know you have been studying the more academic aspects of photography but I sincerely hope you will continue to explore this way of working. You have a unique gift.

    And BIG CONGRATULATIONS on being one of the 10 EPF Finalists! You deserve it!

  54. I just don’t see any point in accusing people of sour grapes. People commenting seem to have quite diverse interests so within that context they all seem quite fair responses to the type of work being presented.

  55. IMANTS

    fair enough…in both directions….it is a discussion and it is what it should be …with points of view from all sides…there is zero dogma one way or the other at least from our side here…our ten finalists will represent all kinds of work with all types of motives behind it…there are simply opinions…at the same time it is still interesting to me that while i totally appreciated diverse interests, in fact celebrate the variety of interests here on Burn, am always surprised at the lack of tolerance for those who do something different from what they do ..it is always pretty clear from the get go who is going to like or not like certain types of work….it is not a bad thing..it is just of interest…it seems that at times some take it as an affront to what they do, IF another type of work is held high or up for discourse…it’s all good…your point is well taken…thank you..

    cheers, david

  56. The odd part about what is presented here is that photographically it ticks most of the boxes, dots the i’s and crosses the t’s so it isn’t that far removed from what the “photographer come commentators” deem as a good photographic skills…………..

  57. Akaky
    May 23, 2011 at 1:28 pm
    I was taken back to my childhood once. A nun hit me.

    i thought that this one should not go (n-un)noticed :))))))))))))))

    Maybe people who applied for the grant should declare that when commenting? I say that in jest. But Auden once said a negative review is also a chance for that reviewer to show off how much more intelligent they are than the person being reviewed, and so it is self-centred and egotistic. The flip side of that, of course, are those positive reviews motivated by showing off how educated one is by what is read in to a work. I’m not accusing anyone there, just observing a basic fact. All I know is that my own comments are generally motivated by a desire to examine my own thinking and test its validity than any attempt to curry favour or show off. It’s only by putting my own opinions out there and throwing them up against opposition, like Bob has offered here, that I can really check my own validity as a thinker.

    IMANTS – yeah, I do also wonder how strong the link with Russian cinema is, compared to other similarly folklore-heavy countries. That said, I’m not sufficiently versed in the cinemas of all of those countries to really know.

    I’m in a rush, so I will return to those. You’ve raised several strong points and I should address them properly.

    No doubt, I was rather harsh in my comments. I don’t however think that it is Daria struggling with writing a statement in a non-native language that I have a problem with. She seems to write pretty clearly and strongly that she is seeking to “photography the unphotographable” as it were. To be fair to Daria, she differs from the mass of MFA students positing a similar claim with their work by actually detailing some of the themes this involves for her personally. I ought to have given her credit for that, although I am suspicious of this MFA desire to “photograph the unphotographable” which I do take as a perfunctory attempt to “make a serious contribution to the medium” which is one of the requirements of a graduate degree. It smacks of “checkbox filling” to me.

    I don’t however think that documentary photography and conceptualism need be considered mutually exclusive, and this is a point I’d like to return to and expound upon later. I think here, as with many MFA students but also with photographers like Paul Graham, there is a conceptualism to the work in the attempt to play with the limits of the medium and say something about the medium itself as well as the things depicted. So, I’d treat it as being both documentary and conceptual in nature, albeit perhaps lightly conceptual.

    More later, must run, and this deserves a proper response. Good talking.

  59. BOB
    I also should say that my Keith Jarrett comment was meant more as a general point, and not directed specifically at Daria. It would be unfair and wrong to suggest that she has no grasp of the rudiments of visual language, you are completely right there. It was intended more as an observation of the kind of positive yet vague responses which could be motivated as much by ignorance as understanding. To most people ‘untrained’ in music, Jarrett solos and someone plunking around on a piano probably do sound pretty similar. But Jarrett’s brilliance doesn’t mean that the guy plunking around is also good, even if those ‘untrained’ listeners can’t tell much difference between the two. I wasn’t clear in the point I was trying to make there.

    I’ve got a ridiculously busy couple of days, but I do want to dig in to this when I can carve out some time to do so and get in to the specifics of what in her work doesn’t work for me.

  60. “telling of the authors’ own work/hangups/possible jealousies? ”
    well – hope that’s not the impression i gave.. not sure who did?

    i just think some of the contrivance is a little thin.. some of the images a little poor and don’t have faith in the artists statement..

    anyway – good luck to all :o)

  61. watched it again..

    the style of work i can very much enjoy..
    it contains interesting contemporary ‘environmental portraits’ which i particularly like.. could see in a weekend supplement from a commercial photographer and maybe that’s part of the issue for me?
    the subject matter – and intention to photograph over a lifetime – is unique perhaps.. the style, i think, is less so.

    photo 1 – photographers shadow – 2 – sunlight distracts…. these are acceptable quirks of course, yet for me it pulls me out of the suspension of disbelief which the work hopes to sustain.
    5 and 6 are gorgeous.. filmic for certain, yet familiar..

    with the statement i think the translation is utterly readable and well explained.. it does lend itself to the photos and perhaps i was being tough with “pretentious”.. i had intention to patronize or condescend..
    i apologize daria

    my problem is with the 4th paragraphs conflicting statements and the intention to ..
    “photograph the ‘unphotographable’ side of the matter”
    which i think is too common an intention – somewhat vague when applied to dream-like narratives..
    “challenge some formal criteria of ‘classical’ documentary.”
    for which i would hope work to be *more* experimental..

    i’m being pedantic, perhaps.. congratulations of course and good luck again.

    love cannonball addley.. adore mahavishnu orchestra..
    all that jazz.


  62. Okay, I’m *still* wanting to come back to this for more accuracy and depth (I hope) when I have time to reflect but, for now….

    Light colour palette
    Images of people between the trees
    Symbolism of people with antler bones
    Vacant almost-passive staring into space
    Man caught in the twine of a fisherman’s net
    Head obscured by a bunch of rags
    Is it suicide or is it floating off?!?
    Figure underneath the bedclothes
    Lack of eye contact with camera despite the images feeling obviously staged
    End with *vague* rather than *strongly directed* landscape images

    Any of these on their own, I could discount as an image within a series. Taken together, it feels contrived and weak. I should perhaps at this stage also state that I’ve recently lost a close family member where we really do not know the cause of death – it could be illness or it could be suicide. Quite frankly, both are equally possible. We’re still waiting on the inquest for an explanation there. So maybe with that one image I am genuinely overreacting in judging it as trite and pathetically attempting to appear “artistic”. But I feel confident that it isn’t a lack of photographic study nor personal circumstance that is making me feel that the combined series of these images has too many “popular tropes” to really be photographing the unphotographable, no matter what definiton/delineation is given to “the unphotographable” in this particular essay. For something that is supposedly “unphotographable”, I’ve seen far too many of these symbols and frames and styles of processing being used far too often before.

    When someone states that their purpose is to show mystery, or enigma, or photograph the unphotographable, or work in a non-linear way, I naturally expect to be more surprised by the visuals and combinations/juxtapositions thereof than I was here. It was too far predictable to function as something that claimed to be rooted in the unpredictable and unknown.

    BOB, I hope this goes some way to responding to your points. At the very least, I hope you’ll take it as an attempt to rectify what your saw an anaemic initial reaction. That was probably an accurate assessment. While I stand by my points, I also recognise that I should posted with more reference to the details of Daria’s essay, than talking in generalisations. Generalisations are, however, easier when you are starting out, as I’m sure you’ll understand. No joke, I enjoy being pulled up and called to answer, it’s vital to developing – putting opinions out there and refining them based on feedback and assessment of it; and I’m sure we’d have/we’ll have many an interesting discussion over a few beers. I don’t know if you caught mine and Thodoris’ posts on the Flak Photo group on Facebook, but I am genuinely seeking to learn more about Russia and Russian photography, having some small background in Russian studies/culture and also starting a project of my own about Russians (very different from this, I feel no competition here). Given your background, I would be very interested in your feedback on shots I put on my site in future, and any advice on people/places to check.

    Feel fre to mail anytime or kick me over on FB and, like I say, I’ll take another look through the comments after tomorrow when I have a chance to breathe, and shall respond to any points you’ve raised that I’ve missed out on here.

    I’m posting all I ever post here in total good faith – to communicate, build relationships, refine my own vision (through my own work and through critiquing others), and hearing everyone else. I think myself no gospel on anything. But if I hold back on voicing my opinion, I lose out on the chance to change it any. I never want to be standing still. You dig? If it ever comes off as being biting at times, I’ll accept that. I just don’t take easy to the practice of bullshittery, so I’d rather cause offence and apologise afterwards than comment in a way that gives anyone any reason to question my integrity. And hell, I love it when I put forth an argument only to have it tore down and for me to learn from that.

    The whole “how we perceive things: thing has me thoroughly fascinated. Including and beyond photography. It’s just with photography that I choose to practice a way of communicating through (or in spite of) W. V. Quine’s Gavagai. ;-)

  63. Meh. I meant to say that “t feels contrived and weak” because I’ve seen it in too many contemporary documentary and conceptual photo essays too often before. It stops being unique or a surprise when I’m confronted with it constantly.

    But I should possibly recognise that the point where I start quoting myself is also the point where I start losing the argument. Even if it is for a missed out sub-clause. ;-)

  64. Of course you know this, that I’m in general agreement with the hopelessly jealous untalented folk and the, in Bob’s words, “uncultured morons who don’t know their Gogol from a hole in the ground,” that this piece is hopelessly pretentious and cliché ridden. Sorry.

    And I’ll just go on to note that, even though I may be incapable of appreciating anything remotely different from what I do (whatever that is), it seems that many of those here most open to art photography are the most critical of this piece.

    But if I may offer a bit of constructive advice for the artist, I’d say pack up everything you learned about art and photography in grad school, put it in a box within a box within a box, then chain it up good and toss it into the deepest depths of the deepest ocean. Nothing sucks the life out of art like grad school. Is anything even close?

    I agree about number six though. Excellent photo.

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  66. “uncultured morons who don’t know their Gogol from a hole in the ground,”…..

    Michael, frankly, i not only never said that, but you should be ashamed to even imply that I consider anyone here in such a degrading way….

    shame on you michael….

    this whole discussion has been reduced to a kindegarden….and my defense of this work was just that, a defense, not an an insult to others…



  67. given the ‘tradition’ of your bus photography, i can only speculate that the kind of narrative that may define Daria’s work is too abstract for your sensibilities…


  68. I have visited the northern extremes of Alaska, a similar environment and seen the people and what the climate did to them, I could feel that in these pictures. On some pictures I felt a little lost but it could be that I just I’ve yet to put enough thought into it. Because I’m a Photographer too I don’t just glance at other people’s work and cast it aside, I go back and look again and again reminding myself that photography is a house with many churches and I learn something each time. It isn’t necessary for every note to be perfect, in fact scales have a dissonant chord which makes the next note sound much sweeter. I enjoyed “Ivan and the Moon”.

  69. I don’t think the kind of narrative in Daria’s images is too abstract for my sensibilities, regardless of the “tradition” of my bus photographs. I just think the visual employed is one I’ve seen far too often before (a criticism I also point at my own bus photographs, as it happens).

    While I appreciate well made photography, just as I appreciate well made painting, I also don’t feel the need to heap praise upon either. Thinking everything is wonderful just devalues the meaning of wonderful. When I’m looking at EPF finalists, just as when I look at e.g. Magnum photographers, or the Turner Art Prize, the cache of the title raises the bar and I expect to find something amazing. I didn’t find that in this essay.

  70. Hi Daria,

    I just wanted to say that this essay is one of the nicest pieces that I’ve seen in a long time. And it’s nice to see someone testing the limits of documentary genre and do it so well in a haunting, mystical story with such strong images.

    I saw it earlier this year when it won the Luceo scholarship and it made me sit up. It’s nice to see a longer edit – I get to see more of the photos :-)

    All the best and I hope you win


  71. Justin, “It isn’t necessary for every note to be perfect, in fact scales have a dissonant chord which makes the next note sound much sweeter. ”

    There is a lovely essay in ‘The Sun’ writers magazine this month which deals with dissonance (as opposed to discord).

    Framer “I just think the visual employed is one I’ve seen far too often before”

    I’m not sure what you are getting at here.

  72. Thanks again for all comments.

    Max, thanks, and yes, I was very happy to win the Lucie scholarship (Luceo is a different one), it will allow me to work on another long term project about Russia, not related to this one about boys.

    And a small comment about the education (again). I never had any grad school where I could study practical photography. What I have beeing studying is THEORY. With themes that are totally not related to my practice and hardly can be applicable to it. Studying theory has nothing to do with making own projects. Moreover, writing an academic article or thesis differs from writing a statement. etc. So, I do not have much to put ‘in the ocean’.

    It would be lovely from my side to reply to all comments, but unfortunately right now I have the period full of deadlines, so, I can just wish luck to everybody!

    All the best,

  73. Gordon,

    Thanks for the link, I read the article. I’m not only inspired by Photographers, I also rely on writers and musicians to reframe the ideas of my mind.

    Shine on,


  74. Hi Daria – congratulations on the EPF nomination. I think visually taking an audience into the imaginary world of someone else out there is really exceptional and requires someone with a really vivid imagination. Very strong work. Hugs ==> L.

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