Originally from Moscow, but having lived and worked in Vientiane and Milan, Nina Koltchitskaia is a photographer and illustrator currently based in Paris. She uses her camera to capture the fleeting feelings and expressions of those close to her, before weaving in her own personal emotions with carefully layered colour and beautifully fragile left-handed drawings. The result? A portfolio of work imbued with an intimate, poetic quality indicative of youthful freedom and romance. She studied literature and philosophy at Sorbonne, before enrolling in Photography at the ICART Photo school; a background which influences not only her work but also the but also the language and ideas she draws on to inspire her creative practice…
Considering the raw, organic essence which exudes from each of Nina’s intimate images and delicate illustrations, it comes as no surprise that creativity runs in the family. “Coming from a creative family, it felt quite natural to follow the artistic path. Creating things, trying to transform what I feel and what I see into objects, words or images was always a part of me, and it evolved, changed and grew up through time.
I started taking photos when I was a kid. And my parents always encouraged me to draw, write and to listen to my imagination. They showed me how important it is not to be afraid to dream, to try different things, and do what I love. I admired my grandfather, he used to travel a lot and had an old Nikkormat (I shoot most of my photographs with it now) he always carried with him in his adventures. As a child, it fascinated me, and I always saw it as one of the highest forms of freedom.
“As for the Left-handed Lovers (my drawing/painting project), this was born around two years ago. Being right-handed, I never used my left hand to draw before. I wanted to create a new way to express my emotions, with no true technique but rather in more of a raw and spontaneous manner. One day, I decided to draw a portrait of my boyfriend, with my left hand. Being the hand of the heart, I personally found the symbolic nature of it to be quite poetic. The lines were fragile and delicate, and I decided it would be the best way for me to draw love. The most honest way.”
Nina’s varied body of work encompasses romantic illustrations, authentic moments captured in grainy film and, on occasion, refined painted creations. Over time, she has found that it is the experiments in combining these different components of her artistic practice which have resulted in work which feels richer and more complete.
“I eventually figured out a way to assemble all the facets of my creative self together – this work combines the strong, the fragile, the intimate….I like to keep trying new things, new methods, mixing new medias. I only shoot on film, so developing the films is always like a little surprise; I love that sensation.”
When it comes to drawing and illustration, Nina seeks to articulate feelings through her art; perhaps what she herself is feeling at that moment, or a memory of a feeling from a past time. Whilst this emotional translation from pen to paper is undoubtedly a deeply personal process, one that is made even more so by her decision to draw with the hand of the heart, she hopes that the drawings could also speak for any fragile and sincere emotions being felt around the world.
“I think that is what makes my drawings sometimes feel particularly intimate to people I’ve never even met. It’s like we are all frozen in the same time; here, on the pink paper, in my head, and elsewhere, everywhere. It’s like visiting the dreams of the others and offering them my own.”
In keeping with the incredibly intimate quality of her work, she looks for inspiration in the ‘letting go’, losing herself in the sincerity of the people she observes, the sounds she hears, the colours she sees. “To feed on all these sensations, to mix them with my own emotions, and draw on all of this to create. My inspiration mostly comes from life encounters, from the intimacy I create and share with the people I meet who interest me. I’m very much inspired by the people I’m close to, and by the man I love. They always beautifully bring out the creativity in me.”
When asked what she considered to be the landmark moments in her career, she notes, “There is nothing that’s more important to me, than knowing that through my art I have given a little bit of my universe to someone and that this has, even just for a second, influenced his or her life. I think that anything can be turned into something romantic. It depends on the way you look at things. Romance is very important for me. It drives my creativity, my senses, my dreams, my love story, and my friendships. Romance is one of the fundamental attributes of poetry, and poetry is what makes me feel alive, free. It’s very important not to be afraid to be fragile. To be sometimes weak, to be sensitive. Romance is also about embracing that.”
Recently, her Instagram feed has blossomed into a collage of beautiful, candid photography, speckled with charmingly irregular discs of colour. This exhibit of experiments is from a series she has titled Lefthanded Colour Capsule. “I really love to mix different medias when I work. I used to paint on my photos, mainly shapes of colour. With the photographs, I try to forever freeze in time the soul and the expression of the people I am photographing. Combining many of these images with the left-handed drawings - which are very insecure, intimate and fragile, almost accidental – allowed me to the perfectly combine the two very different sides of my work.
I developed the left-handed idea from lines to colours. I create gelatin cut-out shapes (with my left hand, of course, I’m always seeking for this accidental, magic form) that I then place on my photographs. Hence, I called it the Lefthanded Colour Capsules (#lefthandedcolorcapsule). For me, this transports my photographs to another time, another colourful dimension, like in a time capsule! I mostly do it on portraits, so that I can take the people I photograph in my time-capsule with me and make them travel through dreams and time."
No stranger to a collaboration (she’s done a few lovely series for Ppaper magazine, which are currently up on her website and worth a look), Nina has several new and exciting partnerships in the pipeline, so stay tuned.