Polina Karpova. 38

The purpose of this series of pictures is to study several issues connected with photography, above all the mnemonic and affective dimension of the photographic image, and the problem of authorship: it is not really a question of who takes a photograph, but of what appears in it. In other words, in a photograph we always encounter a certain surplus—say, an unexpected or unwanted detail; a look, the way a gesture congeals into pose—that tempers even the strongest authorial control.

In 38, I re-enact or re-construct photos I had taken earlier, but this time with me posing as the model, and my model playing the part of the photographer. The idea was to convey, as accurately as possible, the original photograph—from framing, lighting, mise-en-scene, right down to pose and the minutiae of facial and bodily expression.

Naturally, it is impossible to arrive at an identical photograph. The longer one looks, the more differences one perceives, until the moment one must realize that—while all the elements in the image declare their sameness—literally everything has changed, including us. As it turned out, it was much easier to reconstruct the atmosphere, disposition, the feeling of that moment, than to control all the messy details of reality. And yet there is an aspect to the pictures that paradoxically defies the discriminating eye. I have realised that the viewers find themselves at pains to distinguish between myself and my model, that we seem identical, like twins.

What seems important is the fact that my model and I are close friends, and so this series becomes in a way retrospective, or rather emblematic, of our relationship. Maybe it has something to say about the closeness of real friendship, where, over the years, one approaches a state of transparency that borders on identity, but that is always threatened by severance.

But hey, above all, we played.


Polina Karpova (1992, Ukraine) completed a bachelor’s degree in history of art at the Kharkiv State Academy of Design and Arts. Her adventure with photography started in 2009. Two years later she became a member of the Ukrainian photographic alternative, and in 2014 – a member of the national society of photo artists of Ukraine. At present she is an independent photographer based in Kharkiv.