The intent of some kind of photography – reportage photography for example – is to bring out a condition, a statement behind the shoots, even in a provocatory way. What did you wanted to bring out from GRANDmothers project?
I was looking for a way to visually express the pressure felt by women to become mothers by a certain age. It’s something definitely palpable in Russia, but also present across the world. It’s an important topic to address, but I wanted to do so in a fun and lighthearted manner.
The Women that you shooted lived both in the URSS and in the contemporary Russia. What did it mean to be mother in the communism and what does it mean to be mother in the Putin’s Russia. What is the mother’s and the women’s role in this country?
It’s an interesting question. I had my son at the age of thirty and in the USSR I would have been referred to as an “Old Mother”. There’s still very much this idea that women have to be mothers in order to find a purpose in life. Equally, older women are not expected to be going to be active by themselves, for example going to the theatre or going to restaurants by themselves. This is the kind of mindset that I feel should change.
The GRANDmothers project seems to be useful in the meaning of a continue interrogation around the sense of beauty, about the beauty standards and canon coming from accurate advertising and stereotype models. What do you think about that?
The whole project seeks to play with our perceptions. What do we find beautiful? What is old? I simply wanted viewers to question whether they felt uneasy seeing these photographs, and if so why. It’s a conversation that I want people to engage in.
Russia continue to keep several patriarchal dynamics in its society. What does it means exactly to be mothers in old age in Russia, what is the social condition of these women? Have they the right to be mothers, to access to the health care without any judgment or trouble?
I’m currently based in London, which is probably why sharing GRANDmothers was very important to me. I can see the difference between the two cultures and I wanted to share this level of empowerment I have as a woman in the UK. Obviously there’s still plenty of work to be done there too, but there’s definitely a more dated mindset in Russia when it comes to how women are viewed and what we can achieve.
The russian traditional values are very strong: between these is the tolerance of domestic violence. In this way the “putinism” get closer some pieces of the russian society historically conservative. Do you think that abuse and violence is a real background for the women represented in the GRANDmothers project?
This is not something I was addressing with GRANDmothers. The whole concept behind the production came from me, with the aim of looking at ageism – not abuse or violence. It’s a view on how as an older woman, you should be able to act and dress however you wish.
How about that you are a woman and a photographer coming from the contemporary Russia? Is GRANDmothers a statement of solidarity for women?
I define myself as a surrealist feminist. That means that I address topics that are close to my heart as a woman, but I do so with a hint of surrealism behind it. The leading question for my work is “what if?”. What if women could become pregnant when they are older? The topic is very current, but I explore it in my own way.
Anna Radchenko is an award-winning director and multidisciplinary artist from Moscow, who now resides in London. Her specialisations are short films, music videos, commercials, mixed media editorial projects and art installations. Graduating with a distinction in MA Fashion Photography from London College of Fashion, Radchenko’s films have been selected for the world’s major fashion and short film festivals including London, Berlin, Los Angeles and more. In terms of vision, she uses surreal ideas to create content that is both optically arresting and memorable. Anna is represented by Kode Media in the UK.