From Terminus Riga (c) Iveta Vaivode
Having established herself as one of Latvia’s emerging talents with her surreal take on fashion photography, Iveta Vaivode decided to up sticks in her late twenties and move to England to study at the Arts Institute at Bournemouth. But she was never far from home, returning to complete her final year project, Terminus Riga, which explores the capital city via its intertwining tramways.
Her aim was to produce a series of photographs unlike conventional narratives, combining the portraits and landscapes she shot along the way with the more stylised approach she brought to fashion. “I thought Terminus would be a topographical representation,” says the 31-year-old, who is now living back in Riga with her photographer partner and their four-month-old baby. “But somehow it became more personal.
“One thing I learnt in England is that it’s not the story you’re working on that’s important, but how you do it,” she says by way of explanation of her new direction, which is more documentary in feel, but less concerned with capturing a record of a city rather than a more personal account of its atmosphere.
“I’m not concerned with reality, I don’t believe that photography can be that objective. We try to compare photography with our own reality, but it’s completely different. That’s something I learned from Stephen Shore, that photography’s weakness can be its strength.”
She was hesitant returning to shoot in Riga, which has undergone so many changes since embracing capitalism, not all for the better. “Now it’s neither Soviet or European, it’s a visual mess. My feeling for beauty has something left over from when I was a fashion photographer, and I found it difficult to photograph. So I try and find something unusual, something that looks mundane, and with the help of photography I can reveal its magical nature.”
And in Terminus the magic emerges, whether in the night glow of a Russian banya, or the interlocking arms of girlhood friends, huddled together in the woods of Riga’s hinterland. “I’m distant, I’m not trying to steal anyone’s soul. In that picture I’m not saying anything about those particular girls, it’s more about the idea of teenage friendship. I remember myself at that age and that picture is representing me in a way.”
And that’s the trajectory she is going on, now that she’s mellowing and focusing more on family. She’s giving workshops at the Photography School of Riga, and her latest work touches on her new role as a mother. “I’m not searching for ‘interesting’ stories out there anymore, I’m looking at what’s closer to me.”
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