Mariya Kozhanova (1986) is a photographer from Kaliningrad. Her works are focused on young women, their identity transformations and life in Kaliningrad – a region, where soviet and German cultural heritages meet. One of the most outstanding Mariya’s projects Declared Detachment is about young women, who dress up as Japanese animation characters. These anime characters seem incompatible with the space they are located in – soviet kitchens, refurnished living rooms and yards of housing blocks, consequently revealing identity clash in contemporary Russian society. With this series Kozhanova participated in Kaunas Photo Festival this year, where she was awarded a residency and, thus, several months to live and work in Kaunas.
How did you turn to photography?
I was always interested in visual arts. And once I found out that by using a photo camera, there is one more way to share life’s windfalls. So I started to capture beauty and magic filling our world.
All your works deal with the identity of young women. Why does this subject seem so attractive to you?
My project Declared Detachment presents a group of young people in their late 20-ies who were born in the times of “identity gap”. They find their own way and identity through Cosplay, which stands for “Costume Play”; a mass-culture entertainment that has Japanese roots. It offers people an opportunity to express themselves, their dreams and wishes, helps them to deal with modern sexuality and find like-minded people. But the most important thing I am finding in this project is the fact, that it lets you become any of your heroes.
Why for Russian photographers it is so important to talk about Russian identity?
I think the question is much deeper and it comes down to a topic why for people in general it is so important to have an identity. In the end, what kind of an identity is not that important. Why do we need to belong to something? Why do we need so much something to believe in and to follow? We live in a global world where everybody can choose anything from anywhere and it gives us so much freedom. My work is just a local example of global tendencies.
Can you briefly describe photography scene in Kaliningrad?
It is cosy and small. With already some history behind and a long way to go.
You won an artist’s residency in Kaunas. What will you do there?
Let life surprise us.