Viktoria Sorochinski: „Lands of No-Return”

Finalist 2017: Viktoria Sorochinski

Viktoria Sorochinski has been exploring the countryside surrounding the Ukrainian capital of Kiev for over ten years, for her ‘Lands of No-Return’ long-term project. She goes there in search of her family roots and of childhood memories. Along with the local inhabitants, life, culture and traditions are also disappearing. The photographer talks about her ideas and her memories.

“The first time I realized that I wanted to photograph the villages was when I visited Tarasovka where my grandfather and great-grandmother used to live. At first I was interested in photographing just this one village, so my project was titled ‘Tarasovka’. I had a strong nostalgic connection to this place, and then I saw the miserable conditions it was in and that time seemed to have stood still there, as if technological progress had never came there.

It is so sad to see that the once vibrant life no longer exists, that it is mostly only elderly people living there, and that they are slowly disappearing along with their homes. There are barely any shops; usually only one, which doesn’t have much to offer. Not to mention the lack of medical help or supplies.

„I think this series had a different purpose for me than my other work from the beginning. It was not about sending sublime psychological messages or playing with fact and fiction, it was about commemorating these people and places that are about to disappear.“

The young people have migrated to the cities because there’s absolutely no work in the villages, and if they stay they usually just become alcoholics, because there’s nothing to do but drink. Some of the older inhabitants are luckier than others, as their families come to visit once in a while, bringing them food and other necessities. There are many, however, who are forgotten even by their families. They are really too old to work the land or keep farm animals, but they still try to do so, because that’s their only real source of food. All of this pushed me to work on this project. I started to do research and talk to people, and it turned out that this was the general situation of rural life in Ukraine.

I first started photographing these villages in 2005–2006, and I’ve been back several times since then. In 2009, when I returned to Ukraine various times, I continued photographing the villages, until I finally understood the approach I was looking for: I wanted to create straight forward portraits of these people, and of the homes with which they have become one. I feel that these people have had such a hard life, and they have so much history and tradition behind them, that they just have to be remembered: their faces, their gazes, their hands, their homes and their lifestyle. They have to be commemorated before they disappear forever.” 

Viktoria Sorochinski

Born in Ukraine in 1979, Sorochinski lived and studied in Russia and Israel, before acquiring her BA of Fine Arts at Concordia University, Montreal, Canada, in 2006, and her MA of Fine Arts with a focus on photography at New York University in 2008. Her work has been exhibited in 16 countries around the world, as well as published in over 50 international publications. Her monograph, ‘Anna & Eve’, was published in Germany by Peperoni Books in 2013. Sorochinski is also the winner of several international competitions, fellowships and awards, including the LensCulture Emerging Talent Award 2016 (USA). She has been living in Berlin, Germany, since 2013. 

Portrait © Andrej Glusgold