From Russia with Love: Annie Murkina

Annie Murkina is a film photographer from Saint Petersburg, Russia. Her images capture otherworldly, dreamlike scenes that are both magical and atmospheric. She likes to experiment with her film processing techniques in order to really push the tangible side of film, and the connection she has to it. Her exploration of the harsh, physical world around her is conducted in such a delicate and loving manner, resulting in beautifully romantic images. I spoke to Annie about how/when her experience with analog began and the palpable elements of the film process that she has become so enamoured with.

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Could you tell us a little bit about your background with photography, and where you live/grew up?

I grew up in Saint Petersburg where analogue photography is not a rarity: every now and then young fellows are trying Soviet cameras like Zenit, Smena, LOMO, etc. To me, it all started with getting my first regular Zenit at a flea market when I was 15. Alas, I gave this up quite quickly, as my photos were completely spoiled because of the camera’s malfunction: I did not have a clue what should I do with this monster back then. Later on, after seeing some works of our local photographers, I was inspired to get another camera of better quality. Still, the results seemed quite boring and unsatisfactory; until a friend of mine opened my eyes to the fact that I am in the middle of the development of my own style. I have also discovered that those photographers inspiring me are not only talented but also hard-working. Thus, a year ago I have started shooting film again with all tenacity and focus on the result. I can say that the hope in talent and happenstance is lost; now I only believe in thorough and frequent work.

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What do you enjoy most about the process of working with film?

I was asked about this often and actually have no idea how to explain what I feel. Perhaps, this is because I am a kinesthetic learner: I like touching materials I am working with, feeling and hearing film’s movement re-winding it, feasting my eyes on my camera and lens; shine. Moreover, film appears to be a special conductor between me and an object of shooting. It is quite a weird feeling being able to catch a piece of reality, which lives quite a long time as a tiny roll in my fridge. For reasons unknown, it is really important for me to keep myself inside the tangible reality, being able to touch my art, feel its physical weight and smell. Still, this is not a principal choice – it is all about feeling comfortable right here and right now.

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You have a great eye for settings/locations which lean towards creating a mysterious mood in your work. Are these places that you’ve just stumbled upon, or do you go out to find them before shooting?

Thanks! Choosing a location seems to be the hardest shooting preparation part, so I look for them beforehand. I moved from my hometown to Kyiv a couple of years ago, so it’s getting even more complicated, as here it’s all new to me. However, there are not that many pictures of mine taken in “special condition” these are absolutely gorgeous and insane Kyiv Crematory or mystical Pavlovsk settlement, home of the Russian tsars. Nevertheless, inspiration and improvisation always bring the best results: a home-made fibre cloth studio, investigation of local environment, trying to visually catch more than yet another hurrying someone. The only important condition in my photographs is the absence of sharp architectural lines and the presence of natural elements. I am getting really tired observing buildings and always look for something smooth and ethereal, something flowing.

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Do you have a favourite image or series? And if so, could you tell us a bit about it and how/why it resonates with you?

There are several photographs – the foundation and the beginning of my artistic experience – those are still my absolute unbeatable favorites. I was shooting my muse and my soul mate; this also was my first filmsoup experiment. After developing in lab, it appeared that its emulsion is almost completely destroyed, so I decided to scan its remains only in six months – the results turned out to be magnificent. It is hard for me to rationalize this process and my own feelings about it, to be honest. I feel a constant need to make art and sometimes even can’t sleep because of all the ideas in my head.

I am not trying to create another world, but only to catch the inner vibes of this one. All these images I am getting are visual representation of the unconscious of mine, looking forward to appearing in the tangible reality. My task is to create the best condition for this phenomena to happen. Photography is the ability of picking out what’s most important. Moreover, working with the most important people gives the best results.

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Who or what influences you and your work?

Back when I just started this, photography was a tool for capturing pleasant moments of life for me: travel shoots, going out with friends etc. This did not satisfy me, when suddenly I met experimental analogue photography. Later on, I learned about other artists: Ellen Rogers, Laura Makabresku, Gundula Blumi, Nadja Sveir, Polina Washington, and many more. Today, I am impressed and inspired by works of little-known artists working with medium format cameras and using darkroom techniques. 

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How do you see your work progressing in the future, and what are your goals?

I am now in search of a specific direction for myself – I would like to keep working in a certain style. But still, I love diversity, so it is quite hard for me to follow one genre. Also, I hope to explore medium format and darkroom techniques soon and start shooting mother nature exclusively. Maybe I get my driving license to travel around the country in search of hidden places.

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Images © Annie Murkina
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To see more of Annie’s work: www.flickr.com/photos/murkina/
Instagram: www.instagram.com/annie.murkina

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