Hi Sara, we were amazed by the photos of the Way Home Russia, can you describe the project, what is it about?
The way Home Russia, together with the brother project, The Way Home, Mexico is about researching.
The both are obviously about these two countries, Russia and Mexico in themselves in matter of society and culture in the widest term of it, but because I’m not orientated into photojournalism, I began these two projects with the ambition of covering the whole country to portray the identity and keeping it in personal a diarist approach. Ive photograph in the streets, through the cities, portaying strangers or friends. The project which now im editing for a book, is like dancing between a documenting narrative of the culture, encounters with people, the discoveries that a travel can bring and the personal pages of a diary.
Is there a meaning for the name “The Way Home”?
The Way Home. I came up with this title because of a picture I took in Teriberka, the final destination of the first journey in Russia. Teriberka is a small fisherman settlement in the Arctic Russia. I was walking home (the motel I was staying, but I was calling it home in Russian anyways) after a day photographing. The road was roughly excavated through the ice and it was directing towards a frozen rock mountain. I remember that moment being extremely strong emotionally. I was very enthusiast about what I was doing, amazed by the environment around me and by the meeting with lovely people with whom I shared some tea and vodka, and by being so far away from everything I knew, in being free in all this but at the same time afraid to ruin the whole project if something was going to crash or being wrong or being missing terribly the country and friends. That landscape was definitely representing all this love and fear in a picture. Its powerful when you find out how much we can be in pain or in happiness. So that’s why I decided to call it The Way Home.
Did you learn something unexpected from this project?
Everything started with the fact that I have an insane curiosity for the world and for humanity, I need to know how people live here and there, how is life, how civilization deal with the nature around, what’s the mentality and the traditions in different parts of the world. Books, movies and journalism are definitely not enough. So The Way Home is the discovery together with an introspective research of who am I, what is life, what is the beauty, what are the struggles, how to full fill our time, how humanity share and communicate. Its a way home inside, its answering, for a temporary period, to those questions and also researching outside, being actually in the present and see clearly how the world is doing. I’m not hunting for the perfect country to live or where to become old, I just want to follow this genuine curiosity.
All of us, I believe, have these questions, I’m dedicating time and work to them and sharing the result. There are some very strong points in common and of difference between human beings, from all around the world. I’m attracted to this tension of unifying and contemplating the whole planet both as individual and as part of a species that appeared on earth six million years ago. I stood, lately, that I’m drag into always considering a wider prospective.
How long did it take and how did you approach the people we see in your photos?
The first part of The Way Home, Russia, took 4 months everyday photographing with a digital camera but I’m still working on it and the plan is to be back and travel all around the country, so the time is pretty indefinite. In these 4 months, 2 in Moscow and 2 traveling the way to Teriberka I slept over peoples places. I asked around to friends of friends until I had a chain of connection that was covering all the cities I’ve been, so I could always find a place to sleep and to contact people to hang out or to portray in their home.
Did you use film for this project?
I started and I am still photographing in analog, but in Russia and Mexico I used a digital camera because of the amount of pictures I wanted to take and because of the weather conditions, where a beautiful Contax T3 wouldn’t survive for more than 2 hours.
How did you approach the people we see in your photos?
I learned that everything you can imagine is possible to do, and its exiting (I love challenges), or in a more deep and philosophical way, experiencing pretty harsh and wild places in Russia and Mexico I could really experience the strength and the glorious beauty of nature. I learned that time when you feel extremely alone like nothing before and the wild nature was just speak out loud its own identity. I loved to be confronted with the environment. I definitely learned about the inner connection we can build with the outside our body and our mind. I learned is meant to be like this.
Do you have some photographers you are inspired by?
The only and most important photographer that I consider inspired me is Nobuyoshi Araki. At the same time when I started to really taking pictures, I also met his work. In this delicate moment a serious car crash happened so life, death, love and photography crystalized in this very specific time and this is still the flame burning in me. Of course in my path there are always new photographers that inspire me but the special connections are just a few. Nan Goldin and Jacob Aue Sobol for whom I’ve had close relation for a couple of years. I had my education in photography in Denmark so the whole scene of Nordic Photography was something at that time (3 years ago) I felt close to my language in photography. So I guess it was a good starting point in the photography journey and then of course life goes on and everything change.
Do you have a future dream project?
What I image in the future as a photographer is being able to work with as many ways is possible, until I feel is the right thing. Spacing from digital photography or film photography, from high contrast black and white, to darker pictures or flashy bright colors. Now Im discovering some medium, large format and 3D analog cameras.
All these aesthetic are beautiful and definitely represent a specific stage of our path but I don’t want to be stuck or be known just for one kind of photography. I love to keep changing if it need to be.
This goes also along with the fact that I don’t think the camera, film or format we are using matter. I am looking into what you can feel through a photo work, not how you technically did it. We are all so free to change shape of what we are doing and its beautiful being able to keep this freedom, following our own research.
Hard question: how do you describe yourself as a photographer?
As a photographer I think I’m pretty simple and maybe a bit monotone. Right now I’m in a place where I’m trying to find and photograph something that give the worth to live and give a great moment of happiness. I just started to look at youth, growth, love and life in a different prospective and I find it really beautiful. In the simple life I’m living in Copenhagen, there are pretty many things that touch me. The ambition is keeping the eyes and the stomach for those things and continuing to discover the world with photography and at the same time I decide to study astronomy, so I will look up as well to research into the universe.
Sara Zanella website