Interview with Irina Petrova
BIFA 2021 Winner, 1st Place, Professional Science category, “Creatures From Another Dimension”
Q: Tell us a bit about your background? How did you discover your love for photography?
I’m Irina Petrova, an internationally published and award winning photographer and artist. I specialize in wildlife micro-photography and science fiction inspired installations organically integrating living and artificial entities. A unique feature of my work is I prefer to use retro manual focus lenses to share the wonders of the world. I won a substantial number of awards and prizes, including BIFA 2021 in science category, winner of FEP Awards 2021 Nature Golden Camera and ND Discovery of the Year in category Nature 2019.
I can’t say that I fell in love with photography from the first sight. In the beginning I used a camera for my blog to take clear shots of insects. I found my passion for photography only after buying old soviet manual focus lenses MC Jupiter-37A and Zenitar-M. I saw the world from a very different artistic point of view. The first thing is that I love that each vintage lens has its own signature and the fact that lots of the greatest photographers of the past have used the same kind of lenses to take shots like I use today.
Q: What was your last work and how did the initial spark of inspiration come about?
I’m an affiliated artist at the Unconventional Computing Lab (Bristol, UK https://uncomp.uwe.ac.uk/about/), I take photos for the project called “Fungal Architecture” (https://www.fungar.eu/). Fungal Architectures is a new cross-disciplinary research project that seeks to develop a fully integrated structural and computational living substrate using fungal mycelium for the purpose of growing architecture. I’m so happy that I can be a part of the project, which can change the future of our planet for good. I think it’s the best inspiration for work.
Q: You were awarded Professional Science Photographer of the Year 2021 for your otherwordly work, Creatures From Another Dimension. How did the idea for this project come about? Can you tell us a bit more about the technicalities of this project?
People are often afraid of insects. The insects are akin creatures from other parallel dimensions or sci-fi movies. The insects’ physiology, superpowers, and the way of life are different from that of humans. The negative images of insects’ photos are more fantastic than the portraits of insects themselves. I tried to show the true essence of beings from other dimensions using negative images of the original photos.
This project is a series of macro portraits of insects taken with two retro manual focus lenses, manufactured in 1982, connected by a filter ring adapter.
Each image was made by the focus stacking of a few tens or hundreds of shots. The purpose of this project was to show common insects from an unexpected perspective. That is why all insects were from my native South Ural, the place no one would expect to find exotic, bright species.
Q: What genre do you enjoy creating in the most and why?
My passion is creating conceptual photography using casual objects or just toys. I like to make stories, create scenes and then bring them to life. It’s very exciting. Sometimes I create my stories from nothing, having only water and a match or just an empty eggshell. I like to make objects myself, painting and creating them takes a lot of time, but it’s well worth it.
I have conceptual photos based on global ideas and problems. My project “The X-Files. Ecological Disaster in an Industrial Wonderland” is designed to draw attention to the problems of human influence on the environment, such as changing the genome of living organisms in order to obtain certain benefits for humanity, the effect of radiation on the growth of animals and plants, climate change issues and environmental pollution. It is like the surrealistic world of Alice in Wonderland, which can unfortunately become a reality one day soon.
Sometimes I just like to create something using word play or take my favorite figurines and start to playfully create a scene following my childhood dream of bringing my toys to life.
Q: What does winning this award mean to you?
This award holds a special place in my life, I’m so honored to get it. It’s proof to myself that my work is worthy and it’s needed by the public. This award is the greatest inspiration to work harder and create more photos. Photography changes people’s life, it has definetely changed mine, like this award.
Q: What would be your dream project in photography if there would be no budget limits and you could travel anywhere, photograph anything/anyone?
Well, my dream photography project is taking photos of scientific research in space and I’d like to take photos of organisms, which were in space as well. I think it’s incredibly interesting.
Q: What would be the one advice you would give to novice photographers?
Believe in yourself and in what you do, be honest to yourself, your audience, because people feel the fake ideas in art, they can’t resonate with something you don’t believe in yourself. Never stop dreaming and creating.
Q: Are you working on something new right now? Can you tell us a little bit about it?
Yes, I’m heavily inspired by microcosm of slime mold and fungi. I’d like to show the artistic nature and ways of communication of those amazing organisms. Both of these are interesting, especially the first one. For example, slime mold Physarum polycephalum, can solve mazes, mimic the layout of man-made transportation networks, etc. It does all of this without a brain or nervous system. Very impressive, right?