POSTCARDS FROM ANOTHER WORLD
Synchrodogs are Ukrainian photographer duo Roman Noven and Tania Oldyork who love nothing more than explore Planet Earth’s forgotten corners to produce their eerie dreamy portraits that seek to remind you that there is still a world out there and more than meets the eye.
Certainly in 2018: The Year of the Dog!
Why the name Synchrodogs?
Consider the name literally: “Synchro” because we both have the same thoughts, ideas and perceptions in life, and “dogs” most of all makes a nice explanation for why we love endless nature. And they are man’s best friend at the same time.
How did you meet and how did you first start working together?
We found each other on the Internet as we both had accounts on some photography website, which seems dead by now. This was 10 years ago. We are from two different cities eight hours apart by train. So we first met in a city in between. It felt so easy to shoot together that we never stopped.
You are from Ukraine. Are you still based there?
We travel a lot, but it is nice to come back to a place you call home. We have a wonderful flat with windows facing the lake and mountains, very suitable for working on ideas and projects in general.
What does the world need to know about Ukraine, other than it, perhaps, already knows?
Ukraine is a wonderful country! Totally safe in most parts, but the rest of the world only knows of that small part near the border with Russia that is caught in war. People are very open and kind. Sometimes brands want to collaborate with us and they come to Ukraine. When they enter the country they are confused and do not know what to expect, but when they leave they are always inspired by its raw and somehow naïve nature.
What’s the series Supernatural about? A reminder in these days of 24-hour-news that there is still a vast, mysterious, beautiful world out there? An incentive to go out and let go?
Exactly! It should inspire people to go deep into the unknown, explore the world, which is so much bigger than the cities they live in.
Is it an ongoing project?
Most probably not. We just came back home from a one-month motorbike trip across the Carpathian Mountains, where we were working on a new project dealing with the exploitation of nature. One month offers a huge experience. You get to know how thousands of trees are being cut weekly, all illegally, you see stuffed animals in every restaurant and mountain house, but you meet zero alive in the forests.
Once we even found a burning tree on a hill, as people did not put enough water onto the fire after cooking some food. So, we put it out using our feet and the little water we had left. People are so irresponsible with the planet, mainly because of a lack of education –not the education that teaches people to count and how things work, but the other one that teaches people to appreciate.
Where do you find these massive landscapes to drown in?
It usually takes us a lot of time and effort but when we work on a project we are very devoted to looking for the best place, which usually means the “almost unreachable place. We follow sand roads, get stuck with our jeep and build 10 meters of road out of the twigs and stones to start driving again, or we go through a canyon full of snakes to get to a dream destination, or we go by motorbike when it is too hard for the car to handle the sharp angles up the mountain. There is never an easy way to achieve the best results.
Dreams seem to be an important inspiration for your work. Can you tell us a bit more?
Some years ago we developed our meditation technique. While trying to fall asleep, we get a lot of ideas and visions that we note down. The first time, we staged them to become an art project in 2013. That is when we were nominated for the Pinchuk Art Prize and had to create a body of work to be exhibited.
Most photographers wait for the magic hour very early or very late in the day. You seem to love the hard bright light, and even the flash. Why is that? Does the brightness add a surreal quality?
We think we are just bright people. There is nothing gloomy or moody in our works, just the same as in our souls.
I thought punk was dead, and then I saw your series Misha Koptev. Love it. It is playful, colorful, daring, it is about doing a lot with a little. How is Misha these days? Is he still alive?
He totally is! He used to live in a Ukrainian ghetto city called Lugansk. Because of the war there, he moved to Kiev. Of course, his former life, his clothes made of bones and garbage were left there, and his friends moved to different places, so it is almost impossible to recreate.
Tell us a bit more about him?
Misha is a self-made man, a genius, a person with endless talent and no money. Living in Lugansk all his life he saw no contemporary trends, no magazines, no blogs. We remember him telling us he had to go to his sister to check email once every few months. So, he didn’t even have a computer or Internet access. This all made him create his own raw and brutal fashion, his own world, and he started doing these very provocative fashion shows, which were both hated and loved by the people who share our country.
These days, you also work for some big brands. Is that not hard sometimes? Or are you allowed a free hand?
Usually brands who decide to collaborate with us know our style and they would not expect us to shoot something that is absolutely not in line with us. But shooting a campaign or advertorial is not something where we have to demand total freedom. Because, first of all, it is a collaboration. It should be something between us and the brand. In other words, we should create something that we love, but at the same time take into account the brand’s needs and targets. And it’s not that hard. The key is transparency and communication. Then nothing comes as a surprise in the end.
What art or project really blew you away in 2017?
We were blown away by our adventures more than anything else! Only 10 days ago we were in Madeira: rainy winter mountains, walking in the clouds, literally! When someone asks us what art or art project we recently liked, we always feel a bit guilty that nothing comes to mind, as we do not like spending our time reading blogs or magazines. Life would simply pass by if we started doing so.
What does 2018 have in store for Synchrodogs?
We just shot a new project and would love to exhibit it in some great gallery. But the gallery has to find us first. We are always optimistic about the future but never make plans, as they always change within a month. But 2018 is the Year of the Dog. Fingers crossed!
INTERVIEWED BY PETER SPEETJENS