Your photographic work often draws from ancient fairy tales and myths. What is it that draws you to these stories?

To me fairy tales and myths are what we first encounter in our childhood that is not from “this reality”, but from the world of fantasy. This is what forms us in many respects. But sometimes, as adults, we are not aware of how much fairy tales have influenced us. If we lift our heads from the routine, then the impact becomes very obvious. Mythical archetypes are everywhere. They have massive influence on modern cinema, TV series, theatre, and literature. In many ways they form our cultural code. And if you want to get to the roots of your own or someone else’s cultural code, you must plunge into myths and fairy tales. I am passionate about studying and depicting people and their cultures. To me, all this is an anthropological study.

 

Dali specifically takes on Georgian pagan mythology, and juxtaposes this mythology with contemporary Christianity and patriarchy. What do you hope the message people will take from the project is?

Now, I don’t want to say anything about faith, religious people and their objects of worship. But the church in the history of mankind, besides its positive role, plays a negative one too. And, in a sense, the flaws of modern society and modern human relations are shaped by some rules, postulates, and restrictions imposed by the church. For me, the story of Dàli is in many ways an example of how we have drifted away from some of our initial cultural codes. And also a story of a change in attitude towards women, especially in patriarchal religious cultures.

 

 

So what came first? Your reflection on this problem? Or the the project triggered a set of thought about this topic?

In my projects I always try to start with a positive message, and with what inspires me. What first attracted me in the legend of Dàli, is that she is the spirit of the forest. And I have strong connection with the forest and nature. Spirits of the forest as a mythical archetype inspire me in all cultures, in all their numerous manifestations. Initially Dàli was a story of a guardian, an entity that takes care of the forest and represents wildlife. And only later is Dàli transformed from a deity into a beast, by the hand of the church. This transformation added to my original sensations and made them more multidimensional. It made the story deeper.
Limited Edition Print Dali by Andrew Kovalev

Dali took almost a year of planning to put the project together. Share with us a little bit about the creative process and what goes into planning a photography project like this.

Dali is the first episode of the series based on Georgian fairy tales. Now I am working on a few others. But, as for the actual working process behind Dali, in many respects it was a lot of waiting for the right moment. It’s like a complex mechanism with a lot of moving parts. I needed a model that would agree to such project. I needed the right team, I needed equipment, I had to come to a visual style and a meaningful message for this story. A year went into planning, gathering materials, looking for locations, putting all the right people together. And when everything happened, it took one month to actually produce the series .

 

This is the first project in which I created with my own hands a mask. Designed and constructed a character with the help of my friend and assistant Timur Ivanov. This was my first experience of this kind: an entire character design.

You chose to use 4 x 5 film for this project. Can you tell us about your decision to use film instead of digital like some of your past projects?

I experiment a lot with different media. And I came to understand that those media influence not only the visual quality of a photograph, but also theapproach to work. And for me, a 4×5 format camera is a tool that makes me think a lot more about each frame. This is a very slow tool, it is difficult to handle and requires a lot of time and attention. You can’t do 30 duplicates, you can’t even make 15 just like that, easily. With Dali we shot 7 frames on 3locations and then 4 black and white pictures in studio. In general, my artistic approach is that I try to control almost everything, build details up, leave little to chance. In this sense, a 4×5 camera and respective film are a way to discipline myself even more, and devote even more attention and time to the frame, before I make it. We did not make any backup shots on a digital camera, all in.

What was the most difficult part of this project for you? And what has become the most valuable thing?

In many respects, this project took us to the levels where we had never been before. Both, in the sense of preparation, creating a complex character, and in the sense of our working conditions. We shot in the mountains, during winter. A difficult condition for a naked model. By the way, Irina Petrova is my hero.  It was very stressful as well, because it was necessary to handle everything quickly — build a frame, figure the lights, operating the 4×5 Sinar, which, as I said, does not give you a margin for error. But in the end, the outcome justified the efforts.

What’s next? Are you planning on doing any further projects in Georgia?

There is a myth about the spirit the guide of souls from our world to the outer planes. This spirit is depicted in the form of a large white wolf. This plot possesses me right at the moment. Now, when I already have the experience with Dali, I want to take it to the next level. A more complex set and character design, a scenario. I would like to do this no longer at the level of photography alone, but take it to the level of cinema.

 

We would like to thank Andrew for taking the time to share with us the inspiration behind his project. Prints from this series are available as editions of 30 in our gallery. If you are interested in purchasing a print please contact us or visit our online gallery. International shipping is available.


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