New East Digital Archive

A Russian photographer gazes at our excessive consumption — and what we throw away

Like a visual magpie, Russian photographer Daria Piskareva gives discarded and unloved objects a new colourful lease of life — questioning our own overconsumption in the process.

26 June 2020

Daria Piskareva’s day job requires her to wake up early. It’s also given her the opportunity to see St Petersburg while it is half-asleep, delicate, and full of unlikely treasures. She splits her time between St Petersburg and Pikkolovo, a small village in the Leningrad oblast. “St Petersburg and I are a total match,” she says. “It’s enigmatic, frivolous, and fluid.”

The objects she finds on her early walks inspired her series The Rudiment — Piskareva’s tribute to the relics of our recent past. “I found a broken TV in the middle of a field once, and it made me feel extremely sad. It’s strange to see objects of the past discarded so soon, as if time is passing quicker than before.”

In her still lives, Piskareva explores the correlations between the objects, drawing on a kaleidoscope of references from fashion editorials to art photography. She enjoys randomness but doesn’t like to overcomplicate her images. “Harmony is key,” she says. “Simple objects photograph best if paired with colour and shapes.”

Besides creating colour-coordinated compositions, her photos of everyday finds, such as roadside waste, are intended to urge people about reducing the amount of waste they produce. She tries to get this message across via the Insta hashtag #seizethewaste. “I am inspired by the scale of Russia, but I’m really daunted by the amount of waste I encounter everywhere,” the artist explains.

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Urban still lives are Piskareva’s signature form of expression, but the principles she applies here — including simplicity, natural light, and engrossing colour — can also be found in her portraiture. She began by photographing her friends as a way to overcome her shyness. “Portraiture was a way of socialising for me. It really helped me realise how much I love people,” she admits. “It took a lot for me to break out of my shell. Sometimes we become slaves to the limits and fears we set for ourselves, but they have nothing to do with reality. Photographing strangers helped me confront some of those fears.”

“Sometimes I use myself as the subject,” she adds. The changes she’s been through as a photographer and as a person influenced a series of self-portraits. “I recognise myself only in my self-portraits.”

Although Piskareva’s photography is deeply influenced by the aesthetics of the 90s, and films from this decade, like Brother by Aleksei Balabanov, it also flirts with the glamour of commercial photography, to draw attention to our excessive consumption.