An emerging London fashion photographer uses her sister to revisit her own childhood in the wilds of Russia
Kati Turkina, a London-based fashion photographer with a huge following in her native Russia, spent her teenage years in Essentuki, an industrial city of 100,000 people ringed by mountains in the North Caucasus.
Essentuki is often referenced in the poetry of Alexandr Pushkin, but it’s barely known by anyone outside Russia.
It’s home, Turkina says, “to the biggest mountain in Europe – Elbrus. It is a beautiful area, but so poor and wild now. In the past, men from the mountains could just steal a girl, and that was that. Now it is more peaceful.”
Turkina has a more peaceful life now, as well. Her teenage years were, she says, “so full of intensity and adventures and new things.” She describes herself as “a wild, small woman, covered in piercings, against everyone, in such a hurry to live.”
“I was just crazy,” she says. “I started to drink alcohol, and was only interested in boys and going out. I had good marks at school, but they told me I had a lot of behaviour problems. I would make my teachers cry.”
For Turkina, the most vivid memory she has is “leaving home, starting to live my own life, starting to take responsibility for myself.”
Now a postgraduate student at the MA Fashion Photography course at the London College of Fashion, Turkina splits her time between London and Moscow.
Photography has not always been her sole purpose. She first left home to study medicine. Then, in 2011, she graduated from Moscow’s Institute of Journalism and Literature, building on a degree from the Institute of Contemporary Art in the same city.
She came to London two years ago. For her MA dissertation, Turkina photographed her sister Alice for a project titled ‘Me and Them, Back Home with Alice’. It is, in a sense, a revisitation, “a spirit of my past,” a photography series “based on memories from my childhood.”
Turkina, who photographs under the pseudonym Turkina Faso, has photographed her sister, who is now 14 year old, for the last ten years.
Alice, her sister, “is a completely different person. She is more calm, responsible, she can cook, she helps our mother. She is so strong and smart.”
Returning to Essentuki as a grown woman, Turkina’s series were “precise reconstructions of particular moments of my most formative years.”
Using her sister as a muse, Me and Them orientates fashion with portraiture with landscape, resulting in expressionate statements of femininity and independence juxtaposed to the beautiful, feral environs of Essentuki’s natural plains.
Horses are chased, rivers swam. Shoes and handbags are flung amidst untamed grass. Cornfields are lit as Alice runs through, trailing a red cloak.
Turkina’s pictures capture “when a child is not a child anymore, but not an adult yet,” she says. “The period of youth, desire and dreams. She believes in magic, but at the same time she grows. It’s an unstoppable process.”