Irina Rozovsky was born in Moscow and moved to the US in 1988. She received her BA in Spanish and French from Tufts University and her MFA in photography from Mass Art in 2007. She lives and works in Boston.
Where do you find you are most inspired to photograph?
‘I think most about shooting when I am driving home from work but don’t actually have my camera. When the scene from the window is shifting quickly, I enter auto pilot and pictures begin to percolate in my mind so violently that it’s a wonder I am able to get anywhere without crashing the car. I suppose for me the state of mind is more important than the place in regards to making photos. I like to think that a picture can be made anywhere, of anything…that it’s up to me to want to see it, to catch it. But being in new places certainly helps shake things up too’.
Are your photographs of young lovers in Russia moments that you happen upon or are they conceptual?
‘The Young Lovers came out of observation and confusion. When I got to Russia I was amazed at how people on the street held themselves: their postures, the way they walked, used their hands, and gestured. I found older people to be very stiff and upright, despite being worn and tired. It was like the remnants of the old regime was still in their bones. In contrast, the young people compensated with a demonstrative public slack, upping the pressure to appear relaxed and modern. Their parents would never lie down on a public lawn, so they feel like rebels for doing it. I never assumed that Moscow would be the City of Love but I have never seen so many couples in any one place. It was like Noah’s Arc, with everyone paired up and the city’s parks and benches standing in for bedrooms. But for some reason even these make out sessions seemed somewhat stiff, or posed, like they are imitating what they just saw in a movie’.
What camera are you using?
‘Lately I’m using a Hasselblad. I picked up the square wondering if it could give a sense of roundness. It’s strange to me that the lens is circular but all the formats are so angular. I guess square is closer to round than any of the others’.
Are there any contemporary Russian photographers that you are really loving now?
‘I think Russia is a photographic hot zone, particularly mined by photographers from abroad. Photo safari. So many outsiders have photographed in Russia that there is often an overlap here or there. Hands down, the most beautiful and complicated photo voyage through Russia that I’ve seen is sadly not by a Russian photographer (Luc Delahaye, Winterreise)’.
You left Moscow when you were young. What are you hoping to find when you return to shoot?
‘This summer (2008) was the first time I ever returned to Moscow, exactly twenty years after we left. The two solid images in my mind before the trip were the wallpaper in my grandmother’s bedroom and a Luc Delahaye photo of people bustling in bluish snow. Somehow I never made it back to our apartment, and in the middle of July it’s impossible to imagine the city covered in snow. Instead, the whole two week visit was spent in a state of heightened shock and distress. The images I took were completely unpremeditated, and off the cuff, a direct response to being there and then. The only thing I was hoping to find was familiarity–I was very worried that I wouldn’t recognize a thing. I guess in the end, the familiar was there, bundled together with the strange, the darkly funny, and the sad. I could not make these photos again, as the novelty will not be there. But I hope something else will take its place’.