Anastasia Tailakova is a lens-based artist, born in Samara, Russia. Her early work contemplates the inner trials and insecurities that are an inherent part of today’s adolescent experience. The mythical act of “growing up” becomes ever-delayed in an absence of rite-of-passage rituals and trustable guidance. Young people in Tailakova’s pictures are caught in a silent standstill, where the most active decision making leads to nothing but confusion, and the means to overcome internal barriers are nowhere in sight.

More recently, her photographs have addressed questions of temporal placement and the abstract “found”. Using rare, nearly forgotten cameras to achieve a subtle feel of the very recent past, she makes images that look like recovered memory recordings and induce a strong sense of nostalgia. While being modern creations, these pictures appear fragmentary and taken out of their native sequence, which is likely located somewhere at the advent of digital technology. They seek to join the rows of anonymous visual artifacts that have long lost all links to their factual origins. The photographer’s calculated approach to working with aged tools tempts us to suspend our disbelief and discover something old in something new.

Anastasia Tailakova currently lives and works in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Recently I found out that a friend of mine, Nastya Tailakova, runs a photoblog N/A (not applicable). The blog’s only description is: “lens-based shit”. After a few questions from my side I realized what stands behind this formula. Nastya’s photos are captured with  Kodak DC40 and DC120, one of the earliest cameras of years 1995 and 1997 – at that time I used to play a monochrome Snake game on somebody’s IBM, at best.

Camera matrixes are 0.38 and 1.2 mp., like most of the cell phones of the early 2000s, however, the images differ due to better optics and color information. It is hard to say at once what exactly is different about them. Utterly, they resemble VHS, or rather screenshots of a 1990s movie made from an MPEG4 copy. Eventually, we could do without comparisons, as the images encompass their own individual aesthetics.

Technologically stuck between two ephos – the outgoing era of film photography and the newcoming digital one, photos from N/A convey reality in their personal way: motionless people, landscapes hazed with a vague digital ripple, bright red and blue colors. As Nastya states, such images are associated with the mechanisms of our memory: we tend to capture past as blurred visual spots related to our emotional states, rather than as accurate hi-res images.

In the course of its manufacture, the gap between digital camera and reality has been shrinking. Low resolution automatically stood for low artistic quality. Yet unformed early digital images disappeared sweepingly, getting a backseat in the realm of our visual memory. 

Old digital photo cameras failed to become trendy, despite the aroused interest towards vintage. Anyone can get a Kodak DC40, an Apple QuickTake, a Casio QV-10 or a Sony Mavica FD-5 from E-bay, but it would much likely be a collector than a practicing artist. You will hardly find any images online taken with these cameras by a professional photographer. Normally, it would be an accidentally found floppy disk in somebody’s garage, but not a conscious artistic intention.

The medium is the message, especially in the case of lo-fi gadgets, where most of the artistic expression is committed to a defect. Nevertheless, Instagram and similar apps have made it hard for low-quality camera fans, for lomographers, especially. The charm of lomography has been replaced by an effect of over-enhancement, while, ironically, lomography itself is against enhancement – the image is supposed to be born by accident.

Instagram has cheapend the value of a vintage photo (for now, any filter risks to look tacky). New forms of this vintageness are harder to find, while our culture requires them to a certain degree. Nowadays, it is priceless to discover a Medium with a Message that doesn’t seem secondary. Nastya manages to do it. The message is transmitted via different wires, and it looks different indeed – not applicable enough to be cool. 

Text by Yakov Lurie