24 April 2018

Who I was, Who I am, Who I will be? Who knows?

24 April 2018 - Written by Colin Pantall

Christian van der Kooy's Anastasiia, she folds her memories like a parachute, is a poetic riff on the constancy of love set against the uncertainties of national identity. You choose your memories and your memories choose you, and you fold them like a parachute.

© Christian van der Kooy, from the book Anastasiia, She folds her memories like a parachute

Anastasiia, She folds her memories like a parachute is a book of a love affair mixed with the history of Ukraine. It’s a book of memories then, a book about the past, and how the past is defined by the present.

The clue to its construction is embedded in the title (a line from a poem by Joseph Brodsky). It’s a great title for a sophisticated book, one that contains within it the notion that the past is something that is with us all the time, that is not something in the past as we know it but is very much something we construct as time goes by.. We reinvent our past with every moment, with every word, with every image. We unfold it like a parachute, and let it take us down gently into the onward rush of the present. The past, if you like, is ahead of us.

© Christian van der Kooy, from the book Anastasiia, She folds her memories like a parachute

Memory is a fabrication in this scheme of things, something we choose to create, something that makes the story worth telling, something that softens the blow. This book is an attempt by Anastasiia to define to her lover (the author) what it is to be Ukrainian, culturally, emotionally, and visually.

The memories are told through images, while the words of Anastasiia recount her emotional ride through the romance, and the words of the narrator, Christian van der Kooy, tell the story of more distant people and place. It’s a book of a love affair that starts with the erotic jolt of a first glance outside a metro station, that then folds into the history of Ukraine, a history that since its latest reincarnation in 1991 has been contested by successive generations, by regional power struggles, and by outright war.

© Christian van der Kooy, from the book Anastasiia, She folds her memories like a parachute

The main images start with an overview of Kyiv, of flats, red-tiled villas, and more modest homes rooved with corrugated iron testifying to the social as well as physical landscape. Then we move into a series of relaxed images of the city. There’s a portrait of Lucian, a thoughtful-looking man in a homemade helmet from the Maidan demonstrations of 2014, a paralysed dog with wheels where her back legs don’t work, a man sleeping in a field of beaten down weeds, the quiet inertia of parks in Odessa, a crowded beach in Crimea, and a man in hammer and sickle swimming trunks with a double crucifix round his neck.

Everything is still and slightly out of kilter, made to fit, made to look as though it is ordered and ‘belongs’, though beneath the surface nobody is quite sure what fits or what belongs. That’s as it should be, because nothing ever really fits. One image shows a group of people gathered around a small patch of grass. It looks like a party of some sort, but with nobody quite sure what is happening or what is going to happen.

© Christian van der Kooy, from the book Anastasiia, She folds her memories like a parachute

What happens is the turmoil of 2014 and the resulting separatist conflict with Russia. In the light of this, the relative certainties of pre-war national identity are hinted at but largely unseen hyper-politicised nationalism. Kyiv is painted in the national colours of yellow and blue, histories, loyalties, meanings are redefined and all of a sudden the only thing left to cling to is the emotional bedrock of the relationship between Anastasiia and Christian. This is all that’s left because this is all that ever was, and that’s all that ultimately matters. It’s love that’s won, and this love is the memory that is folded like a parachute.


Anastasiia, she folds her memories like a parachute by Christian van der Kooy

Concept and photography by Christian van der Kooy

Edited by Iris Sikking, Christian van der Kooy, and Rob van Hoesel // Design by Rob van Hoesel

Softcover with cloth spine // Full-colour // 160 pages // 21 x 27 cm // € 32.00



Christian van der Kooy is a Dutch photography currently living and working in The Hague. In his photo essays, covering different areas around the Black Sea and the Caucasus, van der Kooy investigates the characteristics and habits of the people, and the history and topography of the region. Follow him on Instagram.

Colin Pantall is a photographer, writer and lecturer based in Bath, England. His latest book, All Quiet on the Home Front, focuses on family, fatherhood and the landscape. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

Written by

Colin Pantall

Reading time

5 minutes

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