Meet the Artists: Alex Blanco, Kristina Rozhkova, Kenji Chiga, Tayo Adekunle
Source: I first had the idea to dedicate this cycle of works to dacha life [country living] almost by accident, when I was already in the process of shooting. I had a literal stroke of inspiration. I had never had a dacha before, nor been exposed to any of the stereotypical things one finds in a Russian country house: woodturning stoves, antique trunks with old clothes in them, a family garden or fresh strawberries from the patch with cream.
In this cycle I have tried to achieve several things: explore the paradox of sifting through an old album of my own [cultural] memory, but simultaneously coming to terms with the fact hat I have no such memories. While I had certain associations, and my idea of country life was not a metaphorical tabula rasa, coming face to face with the realities of country life made my own preconceptions seem as though they were inversions, or reflections, as they might appear on an undeveloped negative.
With all my subjects, in Perm, Voronezh and in Leningrad Oblast I tried to come closer to understanding and capturing all the small joys of Russian dacha culture which I had never experienced before.
This cycle of works is an attempt to get intimately close to the metaphorical Other, to explore the limits of platonic friendship, to explore the connections between the Corporeal and the Natural, and ultimately to capture the essence of my generation.
In the euphoria of dacha life, I was able to understand myself in a new way, to be at peace and in harmony with myself. The feelings of loneliness and unease which plague both me personally and my generation generally were eased, at least for a time. My project is an attempt to capture the paradox of nostalgia for something which I have never felt or had, until now.
Meet the Artists: Alex Blanco, Kristina Rozhkova, Kenji Chiga, Tayo Adekunle
Featured in our first drop, these emerging talents – part of British Journal of Photography’s Ones to Watch 2021 – are shaping the landscape of contemporary photography. Now, exclusively via OpenSea, their work is available to buy as unique NFT editions of one
Each year, British Journal of Photography presents its Ones to Watch: a cohort of emerging photographers making outstanding work, selected from a list of over 450 nominations by the world’s leading artists, curators, gallerists, and academics.
Over the last decade, many of BJP’s Ones to Watch have gone on to lead distinguished careers. Some of fashion photography’s most sought-after names – Nadine Ijiwere, Rafael Pavarotti, and Micaiah Carter, for example – as well as artists revered by the world’s leading galleries, including Jun Ahn, Daisuke Yokota and Charlie Engman. In the eyes of the industry’s leading figures, these are the emerging talents who are shaping the landscape of contemporary photography.
This week, exclusively via OpenSea, 16 of this year’s talents are each selling a series of five images as unique NFT editions of one. Here, we speak to four of the photographers – Alex Blanco, Kristina Rozhkova, Kenji Chiga, Tayo Adekunle – about their work, and why they have decided to branch into the world of NFTs.
Alex Blanco (Ukraine/Brazil)
“Few can combine their talent for photography – their creative mind, their eye for detail – with a genuine vulnerability to the extent that Alex Blanco performs”
Erik Vroons, writer, curator and editor of GUP Magazine
Alex Blanco’s series, Meat, Fish and Aubergine Caviar, is a project about her parents’ life in Odesa, Ukraine. Blanco began the project following her father’s hospitalisation in 2016, which prompted a return to her childhood home. Her parents’ mental health issues and addictions had strained her family relationships since she was a child. As an adult, photography provided a mechanism to confront these past traumas.
Blanco’s five images for auction belong to this series, but also function as stand-alone pieces. “They speak for themselves, even when presented out of the context of the series,” she explains. “I also chose a balance… There is a still-life, a nude, a female portrait and a male portrait. I decided to present both black-and-white and colour photography, as the collision of colour and monochrome is part of the essence of my project.”
“This is an exciting opportunity for my artistic career,” reflects Blanco, who first read about NFTs this summer in Vogue Ukraine. “Apart from the financial reward, which is always important for an artist, the main benefits are exposure, and also the connection with a completely new audience.”
“Kristina has an impeccable talent for storytelling and narrative. She uses her lens to explore themes of memory and nostalgia, leaning on her imagination, texture and colour to form subtle expressions and drama in her images.”
Izabela Radwanska Zhang, editorial director of British Journal of Photography
A fascination with the body and whimsical yet precise process characterises St Petersburg-based philosophy student Kristina Rozhkova’s work. Born in 1996 in Perm, Russia, capturing corporeality compels her: “I like to think of the body metaphorically, as a signifier, and as an object in space,” she said, in an interview with British Journal of Photography. “I like exploring its plasticity, its physical limits, and trying to capture its movement in a still image.”
Rozhkova’s images are from a series titled Dacha, made during a summer spent in the Russian countryside at her friend’s summer house. “I tried to capture the intimacy and simplicity of the quotidian rhythms and rituals of that summer country life,” she says. “This selection best captures the themes that I wanted to explore in the project.”
“Kenji is one of the photographers who comes to mind when I want to present a visual narrative of contemporary social, cultural and historical issues in Japan to the world. His ability to visualise complex narrative structures is unparalleled.”
Yumi Goto, leading independent curator and publisher
Kenji Chiga’s images are from his latest project, OS – a colloquial abbreviation for one of Japan’s most infamous telephone scams. Presenting fictional crime scenes and fabricated portraits, the project investigates the phenomenon of this “invisible crime”.
“I chose two portraits of fictional people, made from my self-portraits, and three images I dissolved using water,” explains Chiga, who printed onto water-soluble paper – a material used by crime groups to destroy evidence – and distorted the portraits into abstract renderings. “I chose the portraits because they are fictional and therefore do not violate anyone’s rights, and because I am interested in the act of people buying portraits of someone. The other three are my personal preferences,” he says. “[I hope NFTs] will expand the scope of my production, and help me support the people who have cooperated with me so far.”
“Investigating cultural icons from her own ancestry, in this era of decolonisation, is very astute. Tayo’s use of photography as a medium to express is paramount.”
Zelda Cheatle, curator, editor, lecturer and consultant
Raised in Wakefield and now based in London, Tayo Adekunle’s Reclamation of the Exposition recreates 19th century photographs of sensationalised Black bodies – images that highlight the blurred line between racialised pornography and ‘scientific’ ethnography.
“Reclamation of the Exposition is very important to me as it talks about the sexualisation of Black women through a discussion on colonialism and colonial photography,” explains Adekunle, who has selected five images to auction from the series. “I chose these images so that more people could learn about the history discussed in the work.”
Adekunle uses her body as a tool, complicating the understood notions of artist, subject, viewer and maker. In these images, everything is subjective. “I think [NFTs are a] great way to be able to showcase your work internationally without the limitations of thinking how your pieces will fit into a certain space,” says Adekunle.