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Issue No. 17 - Enigma

Snappy Slumbers

Snappy Slumbers

Image above © Jana Romanova

Image above © Jana Romanova

Transitioning into adulthood can be precarious. We beguile ourselves into thinking our twenties will forever be carefree and exciting. But suddenly we’re hit by life’s realities as we watch our peers let go of any grandiose ideas about our twenties, to chase ‘realistic’ goals. Quickly, everyone appears to be charging ahead right into the future and that jaunty attitude we cherished for so long, is taken over by the competitive race to an imposed ideal adulthood. From gig-goers to furniture researchers, our friends’ progression to conformity can stress those of us still stumbling through adulthood.

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waitingbookpresentation13
Image above © Jana Romanova

When Jana Romanova found herself surrounded by friends with kids on their lips, she took to her camera to express her struggle. Children and parenthood prep had become central to most conversations with her friends. Her inability to relate to them as they go through this rite of passage, withdrew her from discussions. In an effort to discern her peer’s new life ventures, she began photographing couples in their sleep. Pregnancy discomfort, intimacy and affection, became the most essential ingredients to what was soon to become, Waiting.

She began photographing mummies and daddies-to-be, during the wee hours of the morning. The lighting changes according to the structure, color and orientation of their bedroom. Yet in each portrait, Romanova finds the right amount of natural light to soothe the closeness of the families pictured. The aesthetic tone is peaceful yet potent, hopeful yet sensible.

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waitingbookpresentation20
Image above © Jana Romanova

Interestingly, each photo is so distinctly different. It’s easy to assume that all couples look the same, or at least similar when they’re asleep, after all there are only so many sleeping positions. Yet, not a single couple appears share any similarities in their stance or interaction. The drowsy poses alter repeatedly, reflecting the vast interpretations of intimacy.Additionally, the many subtle differences in the subjects’ arrangements reflect the much less subtle differences in the nature of the family’s relationships.

One can spot more obvious, and much less subtle differences based on the bedroom’s aesthetic. None of the couples picked out the same sheets, beds or even the exact paint to cover the walls. Each portrait is exploding with trinkets and everyday objects, that celebrate the oneness of the pairs. The rooms are an expression of both their relationship and life in the city, both of which appear to be edited to the subject’s taste. The documentation of what could be considered to be such a banal and generic act, highlights the immensely variant personalities of the subjects.

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All images above © Jana Romanova

Romanova sought most of her subjects through emails. After contacting hundreds of couples, she finally found 40 couples - one for every week of the pregnancy cycle- willing to be documented at night. She often spent nights in her subject’s homes, mostly over the weekends when couples could sleep in, waiting for the 5am mark. Using a ladder to create arial views of the beds, she used the early sunrise to capture their suspended consciousness.

Both the angle, and the authenticity of her portraits, help squeeze in more information into the picture besides the couples and their slumber poses. Cell phones, picture frames, books and stuffed animals start to seep through the edges. Everything in the picture is representative of young families’ post-modern lives in the city. The expansive view provides us with a vivid understanding of new parents’ lives in Russia.

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waitingbookpresentation10
Image above © Jana Romanova

Of all the pregnant couple she reached out to, Romanova mostly only received responses from couples in their twenties and early thirties. A fact that is probably reflective of our generation’s ease and comfort with publicizing intimacy. The subtle backdrop that is Russia, unintentionally brings forward new ideas of the generational timestamps through the fall of the Soviet Union. The individuals featured represent the last generation born before the fall of Soviet Union. The infants they are bearing represent a generation that will only know of the rise and fall of the Union through history classes and books, completely untouched by Russia’s darker past.

The layout, and book production of Waiting, helps reinforce the notions of omniscience. In some sense the layout is traditionally minimalistic; the full bleed photographs are displaced horizontally against a white page. As one flips through the pages, there’s a sensation of movement, as though we’re dropping in on their languish through the roof. The effect is replicated through the whole publication, creating a surreal loop of bedroom dimensions.

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waitingbookpresentation
Image above © Jana Romanova

Waiting is an elegantly packed publication, that unravels its many layers and ideas as it transports us from one bedroom to the next. Despite, the intimate setting of the scenarios presented, the photographic work makes for such a tranquil read that we hardly ever feel intrusive. It truly is an experience worth jumping into.

Text by Mick Abela

Interview with Laura Kimpton

Alberto Korda at Sous Les Etoiles Gallery