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Photography - issue #2

Zina and I

Ukrainian photographer Antonina Savytska shares an intimate portrait of her relationship with her aunt Zina, documenting her response to Zina’s death from cancer.

From childhood I loved my aunt Zina very much and, at the age of 13, after another scandal at home, I packed my things and went to live with her. Since then, her house has become mine. She encouraged my love of creativity and I admired her: under her influence my taste was formed. In those days,she worked as a photographer at the Ivan Franko Theatre in Kiev, and often took me to performances. I began to borrow her camera and take pictures of my friends, myself, and my surroundings.

In April 2018, Zina suddenly began coughing. At that time she was preparing to leave for France. She was very tired and wanted to go there to take a break from her day-to-day life. She had bought a new camera to play with on the trip. A week later,she discovered thatshe had stage four cancer. The trip was postponed forever.

Over eight months I watched her illness and tried to capture my experiences with a camera. She did not allow herself to be photographed, but once agreed to a session wearing a hat. The subject of my research was my own condition, attempting to understand the concept of life and my inability to stay in the moment, wishing life would develop differently.

It seemed stupid to me that she was not able to go to the doctor’s office without waiting in line. She became unable to cope with the absurdity of human nature as one by one her friends recommended that she could cure herself simply by changing her way of thinking, and often she was angry and yelling at me.

When she was no longer there, I began to notice how I was copying her mannerisms in my way of speaking, moving, and expressing emotions. Looking through her archives, it is amazing how much the subjects that caught her attention are the same that catch my eye when I hold a camera in my hands now.

In these photographs I undress myself to the viewer in an attempt to become vulnerable and show my relationship with my aunt Zina as it was, as Isee it.

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