As a writer, I always find it interesting to see that the people I've worked with in the past are continuing what they do. It's like rediscovering them again after a few years—there's always something fresh to see but at the same time still so familiar. So you can imagine my excitement when I found an email from a photographer I interviewed for the magazine a while back. Dmitri Tcherbadji is a photographer based in British Columbia, Canada and I was fortunate enough to be able to connect with him via the magazine.
In his email, he wrote that he has a photo book about his personal work. He also asked if I would like to have a copy of my own. It's not every day you get an offer like this.
I picked it up from our local post office and opened the photo book for the first time. The first thing I noticed about it was the quality of the materials used. I'm not an expert when it comes to bookmaking but I can say that Dmitri used good quality paper in his book. The images pop out and look great even with all the grain from the film. The binding was also impressive, with no pages sticking out randomly. The bright red spine gives you something eye-catching to look at in the sea of blacks, whites, and greys.
Dmitri shared in his post on Analog Cafe that the photo book was about something that felt deeply personal to him: going back to his home country after twenty years of separation and the people, places, and feelings he left behind. I appreciate how honest Dmitri was when he wrote the sections of the book. He unearthed all the difficult and complex emotions from deep within and wrote about them for people to identify and connect with.
“I wish they would've left their home behind like my parents and I did, but their roots were too deep.”
That's a brave thing to do, especially since you never know how people will feel after reading your thoughts and feelings in a self-published book. There's always a sense of intrigue and anxiety when it comes to publishing personal content. Dmitri takes it all in and chooses to be honest with himself and his readers. It takes strength to do that—a strength that I personally appreciate.
Black-and-white photos fill the entirety of the 74-page book. In one article published on 35mmc (a site that you should definitely be following if you're a fan of film photography) he said that all the images were shot on various 35 mm films. Some were colored while some were in monochrome but all were given the same treatment in the final version of the book. The photographs are like peering into that strange world that Dmitri is trying to rediscover once again.
“At night, I went through the thick stack of art and old family portraits with my mom. It dawned on me that despite spending most of my childhood with my grandparents, I knew little of their past. They lived through World War II, years of Stalin's dictatorship and Soviet neglect. Still, the images I found from those years radiated youth, hope, and pride.”
The scenes are grainy, blurry in some areas, much like the author's childhood memories that were slowly pouring over from his mind to the pages. I loved how Dmitri kept on trying to piece these little parts of his former life together in an effort to fully understand what was going on during that trip. The hesitation is palpable but ultimately, the desire to comprehend and make something out of all the dazing encounters wins in the end.
One of the sections that really stuck with me was the one about Dmitri's grandparents. As a young child, everything does seem big and simple at the same time. All you wanted to do were the things that brought you fun and excitement. It's an innocent inclination of a child which is totally normal. Only by looking back at the earlier times, now with a new lens on life, do you really understand that there are things that you wished you had done and people you would have loved to connect more with.
Reading about all these musings and realizations was a sublime experience for me. It was a surprise encounter that definitely opened up a new perspective for me when it comes to looking at film photographs and the work of photographers in general.
I would like to personally thank Dmitri for entrusting this piece of himself to us here in the Lomography Magazine. "A table full of artists, and I'm the odd one out." I personally beg to differ, Dmitri. You belong to that table just like everybody else. You just have a different kind of canvas to fill.