Blood is thicker than water

Arina Starykh


Moscow, Russia

For as long as I can remember, in my family women were bigger than men. I never knew my father; my grandfather died when I was five years old. Both of my great-grandfathers went missing in the war. Even now, my grandmother, who lives alone in her country house, is more often visited by her daughters.

Everything that happens in the house and around it happens only thanks to women: beds are made up, soups are cooked, clothes are washed, Orthodox traditions are followed. Because of the constant work and household chores, the women of my family did not have the opportunity to look intently into themselves. They never talk about how they felt, how they experienced important moments in their life. But their personal things, as well as the place where they lived, can tell me a lot more.

I also wanted to capture their faces, but they stubbornly turned away from the camera again and again, so only backs and blurry figures left in the pictures. But this vagueness appeals to the collective memory so many Russians have about spending time at grandmother's country house. The same images from childhood, tastes, smells, sensations immediately pop up in the head.

To include my self-portraits in the project about the women of my family and this old country house means to recognise the value of being their descendant, to put myself on a par with them, to share their joys and sorrows. To appropriate a piece of this big story, to find my place and understand what it's like to be them, to be with them, for them and after them.

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