girlhood and adidas tracksuits in rural russia

Photographer Kati Turkina is exploring contemporary Russia and female identity through personal, visual stories.

by Anastasiia Fedorova
13 June 2016, 10:00am

Kati Turkina aka Turkina Faso is one of the emerging fashion photographers who are trying to push the boundaries of classic editorial. She tells personal documentary stories and turns the most mundane surroundings into unique and surreal sets. The second part of her project Back Home With Alice: Me and Them was shot in her native Russia with her younger sister as a model, and explores the world of sisterhood, Russians' infamous obsession with adidas and how much adolescence has changed in the country since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

"Back Home With Alice is based on my memories from my childhood and teenage years," she explains. "I came back to my hometown, Essentuki in the North Caucasus, and tried to imagine Alice if it was me 15 years ago. It is not some kind of precise reconstruction of photographs or particular moments, it is a narrative, real memories mixed with experience becoming something new in my head and in these images. Actually my sister lives in the same house, walks to the same places, she has even similar interests. So it is kind of a fake documentary about her and me together".

The project is a unique take on Russian girlhood from someone who's been through it herself, and a great example of the female gaze photography emerging in the country now. The perspective Turkina suggests is mischievous yet non-sexualised, fuelled by the empowering energy of sisterhood. "I've been working with my sister since 2009, it makes me feel that I have someone to be really close to me and this intimacy when we are work together is amazing," she says. "I don't want to be a teenager again, but I really love this moment when you are exploring your own past in the present, with no regrets, just as a spectator, and you use your experience in different way. For me photography is a time machine and a magic trick".

At the same time, Alice is not the only character in the story -- contemporary Russia and its settings and obsessions also play an important part. The Northern Caucasus in the South of Russia is a region of breathtaking mountain landscapes, a society with rather traditionalist views and its own authentic perspective on style. Turkina focused on two obsession: her sister's love for Russian rock groups (if you look closer, they evoke Gosha Rubchinskiy's latest designs) and the regions overwhelming obsession with Adidas, both real and fake. "The North Caucasus is a mix of different cultures and this region has specific fashion and street style. Girls are usually extremely dressed up and polished, wearing high heels with a lot of make-up - and men prefer to wear what they perceive as 'cool' clothes: diamonds, red loafers with red socks, mixing classic shoes and sporty pants. Adidas sportswear is incredibly popular in the region. I suppose there are a lot of fakes, you can find tonnes of these in the local market really cheap. You can see almost everyone wearing Adidas trackpants, t-shirts or even full look tracksuits with white socks and flip flops - all from Adidas", Turkina laughs.

The presence of Alice, sometimes seemingly alienated in the picture, turns the gritty surroundings into what could be a film set crafted from Turkina's memories: from trips to the local shop to a school fight in the local sports stadium. While working with her sister, the photographer experienced deep kinship and connection but also had a chance to see the difference between her early post-Soviet generation and the teenagers of today.

"Despite the crisis in Russia and the moment when it seems you should just drink and dance, there are teenagers who are more and more about playing sports rather go out and drink cheap beer as we used to do after classes. Alice is so conscious and it seems her generation has completely shifted interests. When I was her age I was just thinking about going out with some guys or drinking in some backyards. Alice was born in the same environment, but she is very intelligent, plays sport, read a lot of books and when I speak with her I feel that she is much more responsible and interesting as I used to be at her age", she says.

"We have amazing Russian film about my generation titled Everyone will Die, and I Will Stay. It was exactly how we used to live. I was watching that movie and seeing myself, my friends and our horrible reality in the rundown post-Soviet Russian region. Alice has nothing common with this I am so happy for her."


Text Anastasiia Fedorova
Photography Turkina Faso