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Irina Yulieva

The Russian photographer Irina Yulieva (1978) got carried away with photography when she was only 12 years old. At that time she used an old Soviet camera to take photos of friends and relatives, later developing films and copying images in her uncle’s lab. However, during teenage period the interest in photography was lost. Around 15 years later she started taking photographs again, studied photojournalism in St Petersburg and on top of everything got married to a photographer. Significant, that Yulieva continues examining the same themes that she considered important in her childhood and her perception of the world is as innocent and unpretentious as through a child’s perspective. In the photo series Tender Age she has photographed her daughter and her daughter’s friends, whereas in the series Country Yulieva has documented the relatives and acquaintances living in the countryside. At the moment Tender Age can be seen at the Russian contemporary photography exhibition in Tampere in the framework of the Backlight photo festival.

How did the series Tender age start?

I began shooting Tender age in 2009. At that time my oldest daughter was 13 years old and it was very evident that she was in the process of transformation. I think this is an interesting age – children are very beautiful and seem to be fragile. I just observed my daughter and took pictures of her.

In what way your interest in child’s puberty age recalls your own experience as a child?

While shooting, I immersed in this atmosphere to a great extent. It was very easy, as I remembered myself at that age. When I was a teenager, I thought I was the “ugly duckling”, but now I understand that at that age the whole world is only starting to open up and everything is still ahead.

The technical manner in your projects is similar – all photographs are black and white, they have been taken in snapshot aesthetics, leaving date marks on. Can you comment on your choices?

When photographing, I mostly use point-n-shoot film cameras. While shooting, I cannot think of the technical parameters of photography, I simply have no time to do it. When I take photographs, I rely solely on my feelings. I am very quick to react to gestures, movements and emotions. Therefore I need a camera that likewise does think and reacts quickly. I like to take pictures of people in a manner that makes one think that I am in close relationship with them.

You have also been photographing Russian countryside. What are the biggest differences between the people there and the people in big cities such as St. Petersburg, where you yourself are coming from?

Despite the financial, social and cultural challenges, the people in the province are very simple, open and hospitable. I feel more comfortable with them.

What will be your next project?

Now I want to take a series of myself, though I am not fully aware how it will look like. Perhaps it will be a series of self-portraits.