New East Digital Archive

Tree Lover: one Muscovite’s ode to the fragments of nature that survive the urban wilds

15 February 2021

Looking for new experiences in mundane urban settings is a challenge which has faced many of us in a year marked by the global pandemic. Photographer Daria Senicheva found her escape in a patch of Moscow’s wilderness: her project Tree Lover is both an ode to this creative journey and a snapshot of young Russians’ complex relationship with nature.

“During the lockdown of spring 2020, my point of view shifted away from the online world, which had become more and more taxing,” Senicheva remembers.“A park just outside of Moscow Ring Road became not just a place where I could walk, but a way with which I could interact with nature. I even did an exhibition about it in my garden with objects I found in the woods.”

Senicheva primarily works with photography, while also integrating elements of collage and sculpture to explore how emotions can be channeled through objects and textures. The all-encompassing vision is apparent in Tree Lover. It’s a journey into the world which relies on dreams, memories, and cultural archetypes, while also taking the viewer into the uncharted territory.

Tree Lover is Senicheva’s collaboration with fashion designer Lorin Mawhee and model Misha, who took on the role of a wanderer. “I wanted the character to channel the feeling of being lost in nature, of not understanding its purpose. I love the jacket Lorin Mawhee designed, it reminds me simultaneously of my grandfather in his village, and of oversized, trendy pieces from the catwalk,” Senicheva says. “The themes Lorin used in her design overlap with my idea: recreating an archetypal Russian person, an image which is not contemporary but still rings true.”

The image of nature Senicheva created is dark, uncanny, erotic, and tactile. It is familiar to so many Russian people in big cities, where nature exists in little pockets just off motorways or by tower block estates. These places can be incredibly poetic and for many young people remain their only connection with the natural world, a source of mystery and longing they can’t quite place.

“Today’s cityscape reminds us that we are part of nature, alongside all of the technological updates we insert into it. But these days, who can truly find comfort after leaving the city?” the photographer wonders. “I am old-fashioned in that sense. I feel drawn to nature, the countryside’s open space and its inhabitants. I think I am going to feel that pull until I finally move out there.”