10 minutes with Nadia Sablin

Interviews with Photographers December 10, 2012 8:33 am

When did you first know that you wanted to be a photographer?

I fell in love with photography when I was seventeen, taking classes at a community college.  I spent more time in the darkroom than doing anything else.  It was so addictive — just one more print, just a little bit better!  Of course now I much prefer shooting and printing is something I have to do.  I don’t think I called myself a photographer until well after I graduated with a BFA in photo.  It seemed so boastful, such a privilege to be a real photographer!

 

Nadia Sablin

Nadia Sablin

Nadia Sablin

Nadia Sablin

Nadia Sablin

Nadia Sablin

Who were some of the first photographers that inspired you?

Mary Ellen Mark is someone whose photographs I immediately admired.  I have a love/hate relationship with Diane Arbus’ work.  She was incredibly brilliant, but some of her images are so cold.  I was completely floored by Salgado’s Migrations exhibit at the George Eastman House. The images were gorgeous, heartbreaking, and there seemed to be no end to them, each as good as the next.

 

Nadia Sablin

Nadia Sablin

Nadia Sablin

Nadia Sablin

Nadia Sablin

Nadia Sablin

 

Can you tell me a bit about your series, Two Sisters? How long did you spend photographing your aunts at the house that your grandfather built? Is it an ongoing project?

The project is a series of photographs detailing the lives of two unmarried sisters, my aunts, who live in Northwest Russia. The two women are in their seventies, but carry on the traditional Russian way of life, chopping wood for heating the house, bringing water from the well and making their own clothes.  As they get older, they are less and less able to perform the grueling tasks of running their small farm and must rely on financial help from their relatives.  My photographs of them are a meditation on aging, family and a sense of belonging.  The house in which Aleftina and Ludmila live was built by their father.  The rugs are weaved by their mother.  They contribute to the home as well, with new wallpapers, hand-sewn curtains, quilts and lace.  Handwritten recipes are folded to contain seeds for planting, or rolled up balls of stray hair.  My photographs include portraits of the sisters, moments of their interactions and still lives in the home and garden.  Their environment is as much a character as they are themselves. The house smells exactly the same as it did when I was a child, like burning pine cones and old books.  

 

Nadia Sablin

Nadia Sablin

Nadia Sablin

Nadia Sablin

Nadia Sablin

 

What would your dream assignment be?

I would love to have an in-depth assignment that allowed for time to learn about my subject and experiment with different approaches.  I often photograph people I just met and never see again after 15 minutes together, and I always appreciate an opportunity to really get to know more about them.

Nadia Sablin

Nadia Sablin

Nadia Sablin

Nadia Sablin

Nadia Sablin

Nadia Sablin

If you could go back ten years, what advice would you give yourself?
 
To shoot more, to “waste” film, to make bad pictures and to learn from them.  In my early twenties I spent two years in Ukraine in the Peace Corps.  I shot maybe 100 rolls of film the entire time.  I look back now and see all the unexplored stories I could have photographed.  I will never again have that kind of access to that community for so long.  At the time, I was very wary of exploiting my friends and neighbors.  But now I know telling stories and making portraits for people doesn’t have to be a negative action.  The act of photographing is a form of communication that can be performed with kindness.

 

(Nadia is based in New York. See more of her work, here)

1 Comment

Leave a reply

required

required

optional