Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Conversation with Nadia Sablin

Still Life with Yellow Hummer from Alehovshchina ©Nadia Sablin

Aunt Lucia with Currant Jam from Alehovshchina ©Nadia Sablin

I stumbled upon Nadia Sablin's work through an announcement for the latest issue of Fraction Magazine. I quickly looked at the link and found myself drawn to her work. Minutes later, I was looking through her entire website, noting all of the photos I'd love to own. I am held captive by the elegant quality of light in her interiors and the world that she introduces. There's a sense of honesty or maybe directness that I really enjoy and hope you will too.

Machine Still Life #5 from Machines and Men ©Nadia Sablin

Tractor Mechanic from Machines and Men ©Nadia Sablin

Nymphoto: Tell us a little about yourself

Nadia Sablin: I was born in Leningrad in the USSR, and moved to the United States when I was twelve. I finished high school in Cleveland, Ohio, and college in Rochester, NY. Since then, I have returned to Eastern Europe again and again to work on projects.

Anya as a Sphinx, Odessa, August 2008 ©Nadia Sablin

Three Soldiers, St. Petersburg, June 2008 ©Nadia Sablin

NP: How did you discover photography?

NS: During my first year at art school, I took some extra photography classes at a community college. When I realized I was spending more time in the darkroom than on my drawing and painting homework, I ran off to RIT and got a degree in commercial photography. I worked in the industry in New York for a few years but couldn’t find any attachment to what I was doing.
I didn’t really start shooting until I joined the Peace Corps in Ukraine. Everything and everyone around me was so unique and magical, that I spent more time photographing my students than teaching them English.

Slavic and Andriy from From the Mountains and to the Sea ©Nadia Sablin

NP: Where do you find inspiration?

NS: I am a voracious reader, always looking for a quiet corner where I can slip into whatever novel I am reading. As a child, I spent my summers in the village, where the most exciting events were cows returning from pasture and fresh bread delivered to the store. I escaped boredom by hiding in the attic for days and reading everything I could get my hands on. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Haruki Murakami and Mikhail Bulgakov have been heavy influences on my work. Their blend of poetry and magic with history and everyday detail is what I strive for in my photographs.

Still Life with Radio from Alehovshchina ©Nadia Sablin

Aunt Lucia on her Bed from Alehovshchina ©Nadia Sablin

Still Life with Candy and Cigarettes from Alehovshchina ©Nadia Sablin

NP: How did this project come about?

NS: Until 2008 I had never returned to Russia, nor seen my family. I had made plans to go many times, but always got cold feet at the last minute. For some reason it always seemed so significant that I should go. Last year I finally got my paperwork in order and made the leap. I returned to a different country than I remembered, and it was that disconnect between reality and memory that prompted me to start recording my aunts’ lives. My family’s history permeates the house where they live. I walked around the village where my father grew up and heard stories about cousins, uncles and distant relations that I’ve never met. By collecting these stories and photographing new and old memories I feel I am recording the history of a larger magnitude than that of just one family.

Still Life with Hat and Jacket from From the Mountains and to the Sea ©Nadia Sablin

Man with a Lighter from From the Mountains and to the Sea ©Nadia Sablin

NP: What's next?

NS: This summer I am returning to Russia again to expand on my work and maybe start something new. In the longer term, I am currently working on an MFA degree, which will allow me to pursue my other passion – teaching.

Ilya in his Living Room, Moscow, July 2008 ©Nadia Sablin

Yanush with a Pregnant Cat from From the Mountains and to the Sea ©Nadia Sablin

Thank you Nadia. To see more of Nadia's work, visit

1 comment:

nina corvallo said...

Thank you Rona and Nadia. Nadia, I was unaware of your work until today. So glad I discovered it! It is great work and very moving.