New East Digital Archive
New East Women

Picturing Alice

This is what it looks like when your sister is your artistic muse

True sisterhood means more than a straightforward familial connection — it’s in the empathy and mutual support between women. In the case of Russian photographers Kati (who goes by the alias Turkina Faso) and Alice Turkina, the sisterly bond has also proven to be a powerful catalyst for creativity. Kati has been photographing her younger sister for the last decade, producing an expansive body of work touching on youth, memory, and belonging.

Based in London, Kati is a graduate of the Fashion Photography MA at the London College of Fashion, whose work with her sister has run alongside her fashion industry experience.Alice remains central to her more personal projects. In Used Good, she explored her sister’sand her friends’ obsession with vintage clothes, while Not Existing Diary, is dedicated to their grandmother.

Turkina’s book Me and Them: Back Home with Alice, is shot in Yessentuki in the Russian Caucasus, where both sisters grew up. Playfulness, sincerity, and affection are palpable in Turkina’s photos — strikingly so, given that these images are not based on shared memories. With a 14-year age gap between them, their lives have been spent at a remove from one another; their most prolonged contact has been during Kati’s visits to Yessentuki to arrange photo shoots with her sister.

For this project, the photographer wanted to recreate her own childhood memories through Alice, shooting her sister in wild fields and provincial streets. Even though these photos capture the essence of the place so well, like all memories they are misleading and magical. Here the sisters talk about their relationship in their own words.

All my childhood I dreamed of having a sister (or a lamb), but I only got one once I had left the city to study abroad. Our age difference is 14 years. At first, I couldn’t figure out how to connect with a 10-year-old. I thought it might be easier with a camera rather than with words.
— Kati

I think our friendship is so strong because we’ve always lived in different cities and so really make the most of the time we spend together. Then later Kati started photographing me, and her visits were an exciting adventure every time.
— Alice

Our collaboration usually starts from my sketches and abstract ideas, and then we develop them together. The exception is the book about our grandmother, Not Existed Diary, which we worked on together. It’s a story about Soviet restaurants, table layouts, and strong matriarchs.
— Kati

Sometimes we just get up early and go to the mountains, chasing the beautiful light. Before the shoot we look around for weird garments, but often it all happens spontaneously.
— Alice

For me, Back Home with Alice is a story about youth and how we sometimes rush through our lives without noticing the magic around. I wanted to return to my 14-year-old self and did so with the help of my sister. I look at the photos and see myself and hear the sounds of my street, when I was young and careless.
— Kati

I guess you don’t really feel that you’re “growing up” until it’s already happened. I’mstill growing up, and only now starting to understand the advice I was given by adults when I was very small. Now I catch myself trying to prevent other people from making mistakes, even though I realise everyone has to learn from their own experience. And you get fewer advantages when you grow up, like free cookies and the kids’ play rooms in IKEA.
— Alice