Aunties is a series detailing the lives of my father’s two unmarried sisters, who live in a small village in Russia. Having spent their youth working in big cities, after retirement the women have come back to their childhood home. Alevtina and Ludmila are in their seventies, but they are choosing to return to the traditional way of life in Russia, chopping wood for heating the house, bringing water from the well and making their own clothes. The vegetables the sisters harvest in the fall and the berries they gather in the summer supplement the meager pensions on which the elderly subsist in Russia.
My photographs are an exploration of two women’s reliance on each other, ancestral tradition and land as a means of survival. The house in which Alevtina and Ludmila live was built by their father. The rugs were woven 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. The meticulously weeded garden sprouts flowers among the strawberries and onions. Their rural environment is as much a character as they are themselves. The project is a meditation on aging, family and a sense of belonging.
My memories of spending time with my aunts as a child play a large role in the images, following the rituals that have come down from several generations and which are becoming lost in much of Russia. Photographing for seven years allowed my images to grow more intimate and less deliberate with time, moving away from a directorial approach of re-interpreting memories to collaboration with my aunts on the creation of new ones. The resulting photographs are a blend of observation, performance, and autobiographic exploration.