Zaklina Anderson is a photographer based in London. In her work No one could save me but you Anderson combines double exposures of both the figure and landscapes to explore cultural displacement and the memory of war.
What is your background in photography — how did you get into it and what are your main interests?
My grandmother sold a cow in order to buy a camera for my father. My mother was one of the first female photographers to have her own studio in Serbia. Later, my parents moved to Slovenia, and established themselves as leading printing experts.
I grew up surrounded by photography. I had decided early on that I wanted to be a photographer, and signed up for a Secondary School of Design and Photography at the age of 15. I fell in love with fashion photography, and I still remember seeing Richard Avedon’s photographs for Italian Vogue. As there was no way to continue my studies at home, I moved to Chicago to pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree. I started out as a commercial photographer, but when I moved to Paris to get another diploma, I started photographing nudes, which led to the fine art exhibitions.
I came across your work No one could save me but you at FIX Photo Festival and was immediately drawn in to the work. Can you give a brief outline of the work and where its title came from?
This artistic work is inspired by the political events that ended up in dividing Yugoslavia and resulted in a horrific civil war. It deals with identity, belonging, memory and loss.
I photographed this series after a difficult time in my life, a challenging couple of years. I was looking for a new series to do, but struggled with getting started, so I set myself a goal of doing a triptych, which resulted in a proper series. The mood of the photographs reflects my state of mind at the time. But it also connects with the deeper issue of my history.
The title is from a song I had in my mind when I took a first photo that started the triptych, it was something about a dark and stormy mood that connected the project.
You write that the work “explores the displacement and memory of war, portraying a sense of loss and mourning for a space and time now past.” I find a real sense of nostalgia and longing in the images that make me pine for a place I’ve never been to. Can I ask how the use of double exposures came about?
As I started to explore photographing landscapes after focusing on the body for so long, I didn’t quite know how to view my landscapes, which seemed very vast and empty, so I experimented with double exposures to be able to include a figure and be more comfortable with the image. Also, the image of landscape on its own didn’t produce the feeling I always look for, which is a sort of melancholy loneliness. I found that I could achieve that feeling and also create a story within the image by using more then one image, either by double exposure, or collage. I always kept my nudes very subdued, because I wanted them to appear as an afterthought.
When we think of grief we often think of the loss of a person. Can you describe the feelings felt in mourning for a cultural identity, and how does the absence of a country impact on a person’s identity?
It has a great impact on a person. One of the first questions we are often asked is “where are you from?”, and for me that question is impossible to answer. I was not aware of how many of us were actually affected by this collective wound, as I tend to call it, but generations of people became “orphans” because what was their homeland was erased from a map. What used to be one nation with shared values turned into hatred and distrust.
Slovenia used to be part of Yugoslavia, and just as I was coming of age, the system collapsed and the country divided into separate republics. This was traumatic for many because a lot of families were from different parts of the country and were now at war. It was hard watching my parents come to terms with their loss of this identity, as we are defined by the place we grew up in. Now that I’m a parent, I struggle to explain to my children my roots.
What is the significance of the landscapes and figures chosen?
There’s a theory in photography that says every photographer always takes the same photograph, over and over again. It is the same here. I’m constantly looking for a certain feeling of empty space and particular light, and my contact sheets look almost exactly the same, spanning over decades!
It might be an innate need to get that one perfect shot that makes us go back to the same place and try to capture its essence.
The work from this series is quite different from those on your website which are primarily nudes. What was it that prompted you to begin working on this project?
This series is a result of a wonderful collaboration I’ve undertaken with Laura Noble, my mentor. We discussed techniques and artists, which made me look at my own work differently. More importantly, she raised the question of “why?”. Why does photography matter to me and what is driving it?
What are you working on next?
My next project is trying to answer a simple but complex question, “Who are you?” I want to look at my family history more closely, because only with passing time have I realized how special my family was and is, and how I continue the family tradition that started more than 50 years ago. When I was growing up, the family stories and anecdotes, always revolving around photography, seemed so banal but now I realize just how special and forward-thinking both my parents were. I want to pay tribute to them and to my aunts and uncles and cousins who were and still are involved in photography.